Hitchhiking: Twelve German Tales by Gabriele Eckart, Wayne Kvam (Translator)
First published in East Germany in 1982 and in West Germany four years later, this collection of short prose firmly established Gabriele Eckart in German literary circles (her poetry had earlier won the critics’ praise). Eckart’s stories offer a panorama of East German life: sharply drawn vignettes in which “the familiar, the all-too-familiar, takes place alongside the surprising and the bizarre. . . . Authentic sketches with delicate strokes, concise, to the point.”—(Aschaffenburg) Main-Echo. Although East Germany disappeared from the map in 1990, the experiences of the people who endured, evaded, challenged, and thwarted the socialist regime will long affect a reunified Germany. These stories are powerful and moving reminders of what conditions were like not so long ago. (via Goodreads)
Sketches is a precisely the word for this collection. That’s not a bad thing because they definitely evoke a specific time and place, but for the most part they’re not full stories. There is a certain amount of bleakness to these stories. I loved “The Tall Girl,” but the ending is just…bam, done, no happy ending in East Germany.
Genre: Short fiction with a little autobiographical fiction thrown in.
Why did I choose to read this book? I wanted to read some German fiction.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes!
Craft Lessons: One difficult thing about translations is that it’s hard to take away sentence level craft lessons. In this case, there’s not too much to learn structurally either.
Procurement: I think I picked up this book at a library sale. Maybe. Quite a while in the past.
Bookmark: Business card from Mercurial Musings
Misreadings by Umberto Eco
Satirical essays in which Eco pokes fun at the oversophisticated, the overacademic, and the overintellectual and makes penetrating comments about our modern mass culture and the elitist avant-garde. “A scintillating collection of writings” (Los Angeles Times). Translated by William Weaver. (via Goodreads)
These essays were originally published in the 1960s in Italy. As Eco notes in the preface, some changes during translation had to be made to make this collection understandable to an American audience, but there is definitely something lost between two continents and 50 years. Some of these essays, like “Granita” and “The Things” were pretty funny. “Regretfully, We Are Returning Your…” is pretty much every writer’s cringe-worthy nightmare as famous manuscripts are turned down by publishers for inane reasons. The second half of this collection really drug for me. I felt I didn’t know enough about the politics, literary and governmental, to really get the jokes. That’s always a barrier with satire.
Genre: Satire. What is satire? Fiction? Non-fiction? I’ve never thought about it before.
Why did I choose to read this book? I like Umberto Eco.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Eh…I skimmed toward the end.
Craft Lessons: Watch your in-jokes. In fiction, if the joke is dependent on a certain time or place, it might be funny to a later audience.
Procurement: I swear I bought this at UNL’s bookstore, but it has a half-price mark on the inside.
Bookmark: The same Mercurial Musings card.
Both work for the following challenges: