Friday, 16 May 2008

A Little Bit of Politics

A while ago, the German press was getting all het up about writers ignoring politics. They had forgotten Ulrich Peltzer's Teil der Lösung.

It is an excellent book, although I found it slightly too long. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember a vivid description of eyes meeting at a party that literally took my breath away. If I'd been wired up to a machine as I read, it would have been beeping frantically. It's a story about a romance between a journalist and a younger student. The journalist is one of Berlin's prominent "urbane Penner" - creative types living on the brink of poverty with very visible shared offices in Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte. The student leads a double life as a left-wing activist. And then there are the people around them - the university lecturer who provides the link between them, the activists, the intelligence officers locked in in-fighting. Lots of insight into the way their relationships work.

I found it a very good portrait of Berlin - say two or three years ago, before G8 in Heiligendamm. Gallery parties, anti-surveillance campaigns, Kastanienallee, Becks Gold. Actually, I'm not sure whether anyone really does drink Becks Gold in the book, it's just a vague feeling. The book was nominated for the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair, but Clemens Meyer won, as you may know. But Peltzer did win this year's Berliner Literaturpreis for "lifetime achievement", worth even more money and securing him a semester as a guest professor at the FU.

You can read an extract, translated by Martin Chalmers, at Litrix. I have no idea whether this is the kind of thing that interests English-language readers (and publishers), but I really liked it. I hope you do too.

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