Archive for November 30, 2011

German Lit Month: my personal wrap-up

November 30, 2011 26 comments

Before starting my personal wrap-up, I’d like to thank Caroline and Lizzy for organizing such an event. It’s probably been a lot of work and I’m happy for both of them that it is such a success. BIG THANK YOU TO YOU TWO.

I have the feeling that German literature is more read in English-speaking countries than in France. At first, I thought it was just my being ignorant. Then I started digging. Caroline gave me names; most of the books are out-of-print and never made it into paperbacks. I was unable to find Effi Briest or The Marquise von O. by Kleist in pdf file when lots of classics are available. In my copy of Effi Briest, the foreword deplores that Fontane isn’t better known in France. This vision was comforted by my experience with German crime fiction, it seems nonexistent in France.

I have read eight different books; you can find the links to the reviews:

So it’s been a month full of discoveries. The best bookish discovery is Effi Briest, I had never heard of that novel before the event. I enjoyed reading other people’s thoughts about the novel. My best blogging discovery is Tony’s blog  I didn’t have time to read all the reviews I would have wanted to but I know have Kleist, Stemmer, Schnitzler and I ordered Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum.

On a personal note, I also learnt a few things about myself. My professional life has been shaken for a year now and I’ve been questioning my choice of a career for a few months. Am I sure I should be buried in figures all day long when what makes my heartbeat quicken has always been literature? But, like Kehlmann points out in Fame, “reading books isn’t a profession.”  So what?

This month unexpectedly brought the answer to that question. On the one hand, I’ve been reading professional literature again and on the other hand, I’ve been reading literature professionally. In other words, I’ve been studying for work and reading novels according to a schedule to meet the deadlines. Reading professional literature rekindled my interest for my career and I found myself totally unable to read the German books according to plan and meet the weekly deadlines. I am not good at reading on demand. I had chosen books I wanted to read, some were on my TBR shelf, some were on my wish list. The only one I didn’t have in mind before the event was Effi Briest and I’m happy I read it, it’s an excellent book. Someway, I found it hard to read them this month. I wasn’t exactly in the perfect mood for Hotel Savoy and I had to put aside books I wanted to read because it was German Lit month. (I’ve been dying to start that book about 19th-Century England since I received it). Nobody forced me to do so but when I commit to something, I respect the commitment I made. As a consequence, I’m not sure I enjoyed the books I’ve read as much as I would have if I had read them separately and in the right mood.

As an aside, my strong reaction against following the Effi Briest readalong, made me think about my personal history with literature classes. Again. There was no way I could make myself follow the Effi Briest readalong, read the chapters in due time and answer the questions. Just the thought of answering questions like for a school assignment made me cringe from it. I’ve been a heavy reader since I was 8 and I’ve always hated literature classes. If I had to shoot a movie about me and literature in school, it would be full of yawns, irritated glances and I can see myself bored in Grammar school and loathing the excerpts of Le Roman de Renart and the inept – so I thought – questions asked by the teacher. I see myself fighting internally to finish that bloody scene from Le Cid or the chapters of Terre des hommes in due time and sluggish hours when a teacher with a sleeping-pill voice tried to pull answers out of unresponsive students. I remember autopsying poems by Baudelaire or Eluard, killing all their beauty. I’m damaged when it comes to studying literature. I thought I was past that now; after all, the years are piling up quickly but being that thoroughly repulsed at answering innocent questions proved it be an unsolved issue. I’m frustrated and sad to discover I haven’t moved on as I thought I had. Well, let’s say there are bigger personal issues than that!

So, I’m better off dealing with figures at work and read for pleasure. And if I come back to German literature, I enjoyed most of the books I’ve read but it hasn’t been a mind-blowing experience. We’ll see how I’ll enjoy the new German-speaking books I’ve put on the TBR and that I’ll read according to my mood. I hope the other participants will also write their thoughts about this reading month, I’m interested in reading how it has been for them.


Categories: Personal Posts
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