Hot summer and old traumas: these books will get you through the fall

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The heating may not be on yet, because who wants to pay a huge energy bill? Then money for books is tight and that would be a shame. So we settle down with hot tea and a woolen blanket and read, for example, a graphic novel or an escape story.

A cult DJ as a comic book hero

“The Life of Vernon Subutex”, Virginie Despentes’ book trilogy about a Parisian record store owner who is driven out of society by digitization and ends up on the streets until resurrecting as a DJ guru, has achieved cult following in recent years. The novels spawned not only countless Spotify lists (of all things!), but several plays and a TV series across Europe. So now also a graphic novel. Signed by none other than Luz.

Renald Luzier, better known as Luz, is the cartoonist who accidentally escaped the terrible attack on the editors of the magazine “Charlie Hebdo” on January 7, 2015. On the same day, the first volume of Vernon Subutex and Submission by Michel Houellebecq appeared, two books that described and predicted the disintegration of French society. Luz has been living in secret places under police protection ever since. Despentes thought he was the only one who could translate her Vernon into a graphic novel, and she’s right. In sometimes gloomy, sometimes brightly colored images, with allusions to famous record covers and the flashiest orgasm scene on black cardboard, Vernon Subutex once again becomes a cult figure. For Luz, work becomes a rebirth: “Thanks to Vernon I was back in Paris, I knew all the characters in the novel as if they were friends from the past, I could listen to music again.” (lettuce)

If the forest doesn’t stop burning

It’s hot, an endless summer without rain. The forest is on fire and an app reveals whether you only dare to go outside with a mask because of the smoke. A spa town has become a forest fire area, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees every day, even in October. Here Iris stays in the now always empty hotel that she once inherited from her grandfather. One day a woman with a little girl shows up at the door and Iris takes them in despite the housing ban. But what brought the two to this place? Can the mother take care of her child? Is she as attracted to Iris as she is to her? Should Iris tell the stranger’s husband on the phone that the wife and child were actually staying at the hotel? Or did the two escape?

“Ewig Sommer” is depressing to read on hot days when the police accidentally set the neighboring Grunewald on fire. But you can’t put the book down either – Franziska Gänsler draws the reader right from the start in her compact debut novel. Perhaps the story was once planned as a dystopia. With the wildfires, alert apps, disillusioned climate advocates camping in the woods, and everyday life you have to deal with under difficult circumstances, “Ewig Sommer” is the book for the situation. The small private individual is shrinking in the heat of climate change, the climate crisis is losing importance in the face of private dramas. Every day again. (lettuce)

Write like Tolstoy. At least.


Swimming in a pond when it rains: learning to read, write and live from the Russian masters

€ 24.00

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Danger! This book is for nerds. book geeks. Those who dream of classrooms in old brick walls, where the leaves change color outside and the old radiator thumps inside as you wonder if Chekhov or Turgenev built their stories better. Or is it Tolstoy? George Saunders, the king of short stories and winner of the Man Booker Prize, has written a book for those who have not yet taken his creative writing classes at Syracuse University. For “Swimming in a Pond When It Rains,” Saunders competed against four Russian literary masters, explained why their short stories work so well, and then gave them homework.

So while it’s a real workbook, after just a few pages Saunders becomes a favorite teacher, especially when he shares his own failures in a witty and refreshing way. But he also shares some inconvenient truths for aspiring writers:

1. The writer we wanted to be isn’t always the writer we are. That’s what makes us unique. (Saunders himself wanted to be Hemingway and only became…Saunders.)

2. Authors who ultimately publish are those who are willing to revise their writing over and over again

3. Successful female writers are those who sit at their desks for many, many, many hours. (see 2).

You can spend a few hours reading this book. And last but not least, learn how elegant gendering feels when you just take advantage of the many possibilities to use the feminine form without making a big story out of it. (lettuce)

On the trail of an escape

When you hear the word flight, you think of Ukrainian women and children or people trying to reach Europe in boats. But many families in Germany have experienced a flight in their own histories, including that of Christiane Hoffmann, the deputy spokeswoman for the federal government. The mother family comes from East Prussia, that of the father from Silesia.

For “Everything We Don’t Remember”, Hoffmann set out alone and on foot, which her then nine-year-old father Walter took from Rózyna in Poland to Germany. Exactly 75 years later, he runs 558 kilometers. She remembers the nightmares of her childhood, when her parents’ escape stories became a threat to her own life, and she is in constant conversation with her father, who himself spoke only silently and always the same sentences about the escape. He was on the road for 40 days with his mother and other Rosenthalers. Hoffmann needs three maps to reconstruct the route.

Hoffmann tells the people she meets that she is following her father’s path. But above all she goes her own way, which brings her closer to the answer to the question of why she feels an inexplicable inner fear in the idyll of the parental home in Wedel near Hamburg. Hoffmann has learned Polish before and in the places his father left behind he meets other refugees who are trying to settle here. “You know desire, silence and anger,” Hoffmann writes about her family. “What you don’t know is sadness.” But these traumas continue to affect her life and at the same time they happen to other people. One cannot read Hoffmann’s book with its sensitive descriptions and self-examinations without knowing it. (sba)

Poke for a better understanding

Every now and then, Italian science journalist Francesca Buoninconti takes on a topic that then takes on astonishing proportions. In “Tierisch Laut” it is the communication of animals. She became curious during ‘bird watching’, or bird watching. Not only did she notice the chirping, grunting, or cooing, but also that grebes dance and exchange algae and aquatic plants.

Just as humans don’t just talk to each other, animals also have very different communication strategies that take place at a visual, auditory, tactile or olfactory level, for example. The wag dance of the bees may still be familiar to some. But that crickets nudging each other in addition to the intense chirping? And how do whales actually sing if they don’t have vocal cords? Or how do crocodiles do?

Sometimes you just don’t know, like with the crocodiles. But very often Buoninconti comes up with very interesting and insightful explanations that are extremely exciting even for non-biologists. It is becoming clear that communication in the animal kingdom is more complex than humans like to admit. Of course, there are also lies and shams. And often people disturb what animals are trying to communicate with their sounds. (sba)

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