Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Der Turm

So, Uwe Tellkamp's Der Turm has won the German Book Prize. I am slightly nonplussed, although it was no great surprise. My "impressionistic dismissal" of it based on the extract available (trans. Rebecca Morrison) was: "Everybody's raving. I'm snoring." And while I do appreciate that it's well written, I still can't summon up any enthusiasm for the book.

But - and this is a big "but" - I think it would be wonderful to see Der Turm translated. The subject-matter is something we insular Anglo-Americans really haven't bothered with in the past: everyday life in East Germany. Billed as a Buddenbrooks of the GDR, it's about that class that people from the West think didn't exist there - bourgeois intellectuals. And although the Stasi presumably plays some kind of a role in the 900-odd pages, the book is neither a sensationalist look at repression nor an example of Ostalgie. While we still source many of our ideas about the GDR from films like The Lives of Others and Goodbye Lenin, Der Turm is a more reflective, insider's view.

It has certainly garnered plenty of critical praise (see the Complete Review for an overview), although much of it has been along the lines of "so true to life, just as I remember it" - which won't work for readers from other cultures. But I for one hope it might just open the gates for other books by East German writers, from Clemens Meyer to Wolfgang Hilbig. I won't have time to read it though.

You can watch a charming little interview with Uwe Tellkamp at the FAZ lounge thing.

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