What is it about January? Last year everyone was raving about Daniel Kehlmann's Ruhm. And this year it's Helene Hegemann's turn in the spotlight. It's like people need a bit of literary excitement in their lives to brighten up the cold, dull days.
And Axolotl Roadkill certainly gives us that. Just look at all the euphoric press reviews behind that link. So here's the hype: the writer is a 17-year-old filmmaker. It's about rich kids kicking around in today's Berlin. They take truckloads of drugs and go to clubs and parties and have dirty sex. Narrator Mifti is utterly fucked-up but refuses to get help. And there's no happy ending.
What's the big deal? The big deal is, it's really good. You can read it as a critique of a society that refuses to grow up - hence the axolotl of the title, which never emerges from adolescence. You can read it as a psychological portrait of an emotionally abused kid. You can take it as a pop-cultural definition of Berlin right now, Berghain and ketamin and all. Or you can just sit back and enjoy the language, which has already seeped into my vocabulary (sheetrock palace for a converted loft space, I'm loving it).
I've kind of shot my wad on the subject elsewhere, but I didn't want to ignore the book here. So this is just me saying: Watch the trailer. Believe the hype. Read the book.
Update: See this entry for more information and opinion on the plagiarism issue.
Update update: For my final word, go here.