Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, March 16, 2015

Going to the Dogs - The Story of a Moralist by Erich Kästner (1931, translated by Cyrus Brooks)

I offer my great thanks to Max u for the gift card that allowed me to read this book

Going to the Dogs:  The Story of a Moralist by Erich Kästner is set in Germany in 1929.  (In my post read research I learned that he was the only author who showed up on a day when the Nazis officially burned his books.  Unlike many other such writers, he self censored his work and remained in Germany.)  The novel does a great job of showing us the growing poverty and despair in Germany in the last days of the Weimer Republic.   The main focus of the work is on the sexual behaviour of people in the era.  All sorts of once decadent activity becomes a way of escaping from the day to day misery of life.  Poverty eats away at self esteem and old style values.  The biggest spotlight is on the increasing sexual aggressiveness of women.  Prostituition becomes the dominant mode of interaction between the sexes.  In one of the all short chapters Kâstner takes us inside a brothel for women stocked with young men.  It was great to read of the sheer role reversals in this situation.  It is all very visually and at times funny at times horrifying.  In one horrific  segment a graduate student in his fifth and final year is told by an acquaintance that his dissertation, a work of literary criticism, has been rejected by his professor.  The man kills himself in despair.  We later learn that this was just intended as a joke and in fact the dissertation was praised as a work of genius and was to be published by the university.  

The sex scenes are a lot of twisted fun.   The characters are interesting and I could feel the poverty and despair eating away at the souls of all.   Of course know one in 1929 knew what was coming for Germany but Kastner has depicted a society ready for a change of any kind. 

Going to the Dogs:  The Story of a Moralist by Erich Kästner is very much worth reading, both for historical value and for sheer enjoyment.  

Erich Kästner (1899–1974) was born in Dresden and after serving in World War I studied history and philosophy in Leipzig, completing a PhD. In 1927 he moved to Berlin and through his prolific journalism quickly became a major intellectual figure in the capital. His first book of poems was published in 1928, as was the children’s book Emil and the Detectives, which quickly achieved worldwide fame. Going to the Dogsappeared in 1931 and was followed by many other works for adults and children, including Lottie and Lisa, the basis for the popular Disney film The Parent Trap. In 1933 the pacifist Kästner was banned from German publication and subsequently found employment as a film scriptwriter. After World War II , he worked as a literary editor and continued to write, mainly for children. (From New York Review of Books Webpage)

Mel ü

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