Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Der heilige Eddy

I've just finished reading Jakob Arjouni's latest, Der heilige Eddy. And what a treat it was, of the quick fix, ignore your family duties, find a comfy corner and get stuck in, only surfacing to laugh out loud kind.

Holy Eddy is a busker, playing Clash covers with his mate Arkadi. Plus he's a small-time conman, relieving tourists of their wallets and coats and bitter middle-aged women of large sums of money. Oh, and he accidentally happens to - well, no, not actually cause but at the very least witness the death of Berlin's most despised multi-millionaire (the magnificently named Horst the Bratwurst King).

I won't reveal much more, because the ramshackle plot - with plenty of twists and turns but not an inch of superfluous material - is very much part of the fun. Suffice to say, there's a love story and a neat happy ending. The characters are swiftly drawn, but Eddy in particular sees through them all, playing a mental game of scissors-paper-stone as he guesses what people want him to think they're thinking and plays for the upper hand.

And the book is another of those literary love letters to Berlin I so much enjoy, with the action careering from Kreuzberg 61 to the Kempinski Hotel to Charlottenburg Palace and back again. It reminded me rather of Raul Zelik's Berliner Verhältnisse, another story of loveable losers in Kreuzberg. Zelik and Arjouni have in common that they fall into that unusual category of German writers who aren't scared to include "minority" characters. So here we have a Russian Jew who doesn't care about religion - except when he does - a rebellious Asian-American-Neukölln heiress and a thoroughly dislikeable "poisonous poof". And yet it doesn't read as if Arjouni were just ticking the political correctness boxes - more like the "minority" nature of the characters is essential for the plot and the book's aesthetic.

It's a teensy bit throwaway, I have to admit, but it captures that "Berlin as it is right now" feeling very well indeed. Not bad for a man who lives in the South of France, eh? And it's not unlike a Guy Ritchie film, only without the gory bits and flashy camerawork - if Guy Ritchie were ever to make a film over here, that is. A great little read to put you in the mood for springtime in Berlin.


Harvey Morrell said...

And the book is another of those literary love letters to Berlin I so much enjoy....I feel much the same way about Friedrich Ani and Munich, although Ani's works are a little deeper than Arjouni's.

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone, I mean everyone, say "the South of France" instead of "Southern France"?

Anonymous said...

Have you read anything by Renate Rasp?

kjd said...

No, sorry, Anonymous Two.

And thanks, Harvey. You're right, Arjouni doesn't always write terribly deep stuff. But there are times that's just what I want.

Anonymous said...

If you get a chance, try Rasp's Ein ungeratener Sohn (English: A Family Failure). It was published in 1967. Somewhat Kafkaesque.

kjd said...

Thanks for the tip!