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

Friday, November 16, 2018

All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski- 2006 - translated from the German by Anthea Bell

Read so far during 
German Literature Month Eight 

  1. Once a Jailbird by Hans Fallada - 1947

 2.    The Loser by Thomas Bernhard - 1988

  1. Doctor Fausus by Thomas Mann - 1948

  1. The Rider on the White Horse by Theodor Strom - 1888

  1. “The Foundling” by Heinrich Von Kleist- 1811- unposted upon

  1. All For Nothing by Walter Kempowski 2006

All for Nothing by Walter 

Kempowski- 2006 - 

translated from the German by Anthea Bell

All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski shows us what it was like to be part of a once welloff Prussian family in the final days of World War Two.  It is January 1945, the Russian Army, thirsting for revenge, is rumored to be close to entering  Germany.  Everyone knows the war is lost but no one wants to admit it to themselves.  Ordinary greetings begin with a “Heil Hitler”, no one dares appear a doubter.  The estate used to provide a very nice living but now the workers are all in the German army, numerous already dead.  The father is an Officer in The German Army assigned in Italy.  The estate is run by Auntie, we never quite learn her connection to the Family.  There are two maids from the Ukraine, constantly screaming at each other in their language.  There is a Polish man working also.  In the time Poles and Ukrainians were viewed as inferior but still better than Jews, of course.  The wife is a great beauty, rather ethereal.  They have a bookish 12 year old son, being educated by a tutour, he is probably Gay.

As times goes on and the Russians  are getting closer, the road in front of the estate begins to fill with refugees from areas the Germans used to occupy.  A number of people seek overnight refuge and a little food.  We meet a very talkative Professor of Economics, who gives Auntie ration coupons, a Nazi Violinist, a Baron from the Balkans and even a  Jew.  I really liked the structuring of the plot around the stream of visitors.  We see things get worse for the Family and they decide to go stay with family in Berlin.  Everyone says what monsters the Russians are and of course they see Germans as innocent heroes.

It may not sound like it but there a numerous brilliant comic touches.  One of the Ukrainian maids gets pregnant and the family doctor tells her no activities that might jar the Baby.  She is observed frequently jumping down from chairs.
We see everyone is running scared but for The SS types and The Hitler Youth.  The Family has so far kept Peter out of the Hitler Youth.

All for Nothing belongs on your German World War Two fiction list.

WALTER KEMPOWSKI (1929–2007) was born in Hamburg. During World War II, he was made to serve in a penalty unit of the Hitler Youth due to his association with the rebellious Swingjugend movement of jazz lovers, and he did not finish high school. After the war he settled in West Germany. On a 1948 visit to Rostock, his hometown, in East Germany, Walter, his brother Robert, and their mother were arrested for espionage; a Soviet military tribunal sentenced him to twenty-five years in prison, of which he served eight at the notorious “Yellow Misery” prison in Bautzen. In 1957 he graduated high school. His first success as an author was the autobiographical novel Tadellöser & Wolff (1971), part of his acclaimed German Chronicle series of novels. In the 1980s he began work on an immense project, Echo Soundings, gathering firsthand accounts, diaries, letters, and memoirs of World War II, which he collated and curated into ten volumes published over twenty years, and which is considered a modern classic. 


Bellezza said...

My, you have accomplished a lot this month! I was glad to read two, and you amaze me with your list.

I saw the mention of tradition, and the “glory” of reading months that you and Tom were briefly talking about on his post, and I agree with you: there is something lovely about reading together with a common purpose. I feared the Japanese Lit Challenge held not much interest any longer, and yet Gnoe brought it up a few weeks ago. I think I will resurrect it in January. Would you like to participate again? Have you any suggestions for me? I miss it. I miss the way it brought so many of us together.

Mel u said...

Bellezza- for sure i Will join in again. I have a number of Jspanese books sitting unread on my E Reader. The book blog World needs traditions

Bellezza said...

Mel, I’m so glad! I agree that the book blog world needs traditions, and I look forward to reading Japanese literature with you and anyone else who may wish to join us. I’ll put out a post, probably in December.

Mel u said...

Bellezza- traditions Help create a community out of just a bunch of book blogs. Looking Forward to it.