Insomnia

It takes a writer with extraordinary talent to unveil light in the most sinister environment, and Ralf Rothmann has it.

The award-winning author’s most recent release “Das Haus der Schlaflosen”, a collection of short stories, has been met with unanimous acclaim. MDR Kultur praises the book for “offering everything his readership appreciates” and acknowledges his determination to end his tales with a clever twist in the plot.

Rothmann received the 2005 Heinrich Böll Prize and the Max Frisch Award in 2006. In 2003, his novel “Hitze” was published. Only one year later, Suhrkamp released “Junges Licht”. “Im Frühling sterben” (2015) and “Der Gott jenes Sommers” from 2018 are just two of the numerous more recent publications by the renowned writer.

Das Haus der Schlaflosen
By Ralf Rothmann
Published by Suhrkamp (www.suhrkamp.de)

When You Were Young

Stefanie Sargnagel is the dark horse of Austrian literature. Known for her excessive partying, she shot to fame thanks to the hilarious spontaneity of her Facebook postings. But now the Vienna-based writer admits that she recently dialled it down a notch.

“I wouldn’t call myself settled and well-behaved. But at a certain point, you just have to take care of yourself a bit better unless you want to die at the age of 40. Going out every night is just something I can’t do anymore,” Sargnagel, 34, told ZEITmagazin.

Sargnagel’s most recent release, “Dicht. Aufzeichnungen einer Tagediebin”, became an instant smash hit. The book – with is her first novel, underlines her brilliant storytelling skills as she writes about growing up in the Austrian capital. “Dicht” could help Sargnagel to finally reach the broader audiences – not that she was aiming at it.

Asked whether pals from the old days were mad at her now, she said: “Not at all. But some are pissed off about not being mentioned in the book.”

Dicht. Aufzeichnungen einer Tagediebin
By Stefanie Sargnagel
Published by Rowohlt (www.rowohlt.de)

Booked

A top ref has published a book about his job – and he does not shy away from wearing his heart on his yellow sleeve.

German Bundesliga referee Patrick Ittrich has teamed up with sports journalist Mats Nickelsen to offer psychological insight on the complexities and challenges of his profession. In “Die richtige Entscheidung. Warum ich es liebe, Schiedsrichter zu sein”, the 41-year-old also expresses his opinion regarding the under-fire VAR regulation and reveals whether refereeing is easier in deserted stadiums.

“I never particularly wanted to become a ref. As a child, I was hoping to become a footballer. I have to say I’m really happy now,” Ittrich told the Hamburger Abendblatt.

Speaking about what keeps him grounded, the referee revealed: “I’m working part-time as a traffic instructor at Hamburg Police. Explaining the rules and giving safety advice to kids helps seeing things in perspective.”

Die richtige Entscheidung. Warum ich es liebe, Schiedsrichter zu sein
By Patrick Ittrich & Mats Nickelsen
Published by Edel (www.edel.com)

A New Beginning

Germany was on its knees in summer 1945. World War Two was finally over and its

devastating effects were felt everywhere. While the atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht were expected to isolate the shattered country for a long time, its people got back on their feet to rebuild their cities.

“Wolfszeit” by Harald Jähner is a multi-faceted 400-page portrait of a decade of chaos and creation. Jähner demonstrates his profound knowledge as he writes about the prospering black market, the difficulties in establishing democracy and people’s desire for some uplifting news in the midst of food scarcity and demolished infrastructure.

Wolfszeit. Deutschland und die Deutschen 1945 – 1955
By Harald Jähner
Published by Rowohlt (www.rowohlt.de)

In the Red

A punk rock band frontman’s autobiographical celebration of British football and music has hit number one.

“Hope Street. Wie ich einmal englischer Meister wurde” by Die Toten Hosen’s Campino is not just selling like hot cakes. It has also found acclaim among reviewers who call it an “entertaining read” with just a few lows. Campino, born Andreas Frege, writes about growing up near Dusseldorf. In “Hope Street”, the outspoken singer and actor examines the divisive issue of anti-European sentiment. He looks back on becoming a die-hard Liverpool FC supporter – and mates with club manager Jürgen Klopp.

Die Toten Hosen recently also decided to cut a new album. “Learning English Lesson 3: Mersey Beat! The Sound of Liverpool” is inspired by British rock and roll popular during the band members’ adolescence and features songs such as “Hippy Hippy Shake” and “Respectable”.

“Hope Street” comes shortly after former Hansa Rostock and Hannover 96 coach Ewald Lienen’s compelling autobiography “Ich war schon immer ein Rebell. Mein Leben mit dem Fußball” and “Miro” by bestselling author Ronald Reng.

Hope Street. Wie ich einmal englischer Meister wurde
By Campino
Published by Piper (www.piper.de)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Books on the quest for identity and funny family tree expeditions have been released in abundance. Is Linda Zervakis offering anything new? Not really, but does she have to?

“Etsikietsi. Auf der Suche nach meinen Wurzeln” is a warm and funny family portrait. Always curious to find out more about her ancestors, the Tagesschau news broadcast presenter one day receives her mother’s old notebook.

Born in Hamburg, Zervakis goes on a journey through time to learn about her grandfather’s spell as a dockworker at Thessaloniki harbour which was dominated by thugs and the drug trade at that time. He eventually settled down on the countryside where life was tough for farmers.

“Etsikietsi. Auf der Suche nach meinen Wurzeln” not just tells from simple but great food and the movie star pipe dreams of the author’s mum. Zervakis does not shy away from confronting us and herself with harrowing World War Two atrocities and the surge of racist prejudices all over Europe.

Author and mum eventually fly to Greece where they receive a wedding invitation at short notice. Zervakis – a savvy writer who does not take herself too seriously – takes the opportunity to tell from Greek marriage bash custom– Speeches? Nope. Food and booze? Oh yes. And indoor fireworks. – but also from the day-to-day struggle of citizens to make ends meet after their government introduced another austerity drive to reduce the national debt.

“Etsikietsi. Auf der Suche nach meinen Wurzeln” is unlikely to go down in history as a milestone in literature. But it is – another – entertaining examination of nationality, mentality and the importance of family ties.

Etsikietsi. Auf der Suche nach meinen Wurzeln
By Linda Zervakis
Published by Rowohlt (www.rowohlt.de)

There’s a darkness on the edge of town

A mother who acknowledges that her alcoholic husband smashes the furniture instead of her face. Underestimated and even humiliated by her teachers just because of her timidity and her mum’s Turkish background. Growing up in the industrial suburbs with nothing to do apart from listening to Black Sabbath on repeat with her pals.

“Streulicht” by Deniz Ohde is arguably the most remarkable debut novel of the year. Unassuming and brilliantly evading any nostalgic tendencies, the young writer portrays a broken childhood whose traumas have been buried deep within for many years.

Streulicht
By Deniz Ohde
Published by Suhrkamp (www.suhrkamp.de)

Glory days, well they’ll pass you by

Would you want to listen to the chatter of elderly friends reminiscing about the good old days? “Goldene Jahre” – a 100-page dialogue of two lovely ladies running a petrol station in a Swiss valley – is a charming alternative to all those ambitious 400-page debut novels.

Arno Camenisch’s characters look back on politicians and film stars filling up, predictable car crashes by holidaymakers on icy roads and lovesick postmen.

None of the characters are being made look ridiculous. “Goldene Jahre” – which might evoke comparisons with Michael Köhlmeier short stories and Friedrick Dürrenmatt plays – is a beautifully written love letter to life on the countryside.

Goldene Jahre
By Arno Camenisch
Published by Engeler Verlag (www.engeler-verlag.com)

The Autumn Bookshelf

As the global Covid-19 crisis intensifies, several countries have been put on lockdown. Reading a good book might bring a little relief in such difficult times.

Eva Roman’s “Pax” has found wide critical acclaim. Her debut novel “Siebenbrunn” was published in 2014. Born in Aachen in 1980, Roman grew up in Augsburg, Bavaria. She now lives in Berlin. Wagenbach, the publishing company which released “Pax”, recently also presented German editions of novels by renowned Italian authors: “Der unschickliche Antrag” by Andrea Camilleri and Giulia Caminito’s “Ein Tag wird kommen”.

Nina Bußmann (“Große Ferien”, “Der Mantel der Erde ist heiß und teilweise geschmolzen”) has been praised for her spellbinding storytelling. Her novels always carry a decidedly sinister undercurrent. “Dickicht”, her most recent achievement, is a “challenging book full of brilliantly precise observations”, according to Deutschlandfunk Kultur.

As the release of “Bis wieder einer weint” coincided with Germany’s springtime lockdown, almost all events promoting the book were cancelled. “I started working on this book in 2013,” Eva Sichelschmidt, a Berlin-based novelist and owner of a cigars and whiskey store, told ZEITmagazin. “I’ve put my heart and soul into this book. I wouldn’t go so far to claim that it was all in vain but it very much feels that way.”

Speaking about the process of writing a book, Sichelschmidt explained: “It’s a bit like playing the lottery with unreasonably high stakes. You have to believe in hitting the jackpot. A pandemic is the worst. It panics us and evokes insecurity.”

Pax
By Eva Roman
Published by Wagenbach (www.wagenbach.de)

Dickicht
By Nina Bußmann
Published by Suhrkamp (www.suhrkamp.de)

Bis wieder einer weint
By Eva Sichelschmidt
Published by Rowohlt (www.rowohlt.de)