whose quiet street goes back 100 years. I emerged clutching 4 books for 10 euros – all of them real finds. First Umberto Eco’s stunning 450 page On Ugliness (although my version was in German, Scribd gives me the full version here in English!!) which immediately goes into the short list I have of “beautiful books” (others include The History of Reading; The Embarrassment of Riches; and Bean Eaters and Bread Soup.
It was 80 years ago (10 May 1933) that the infamous “burning of the books” took place in Nazi Germany – an event which is still marked today. Volker Weidermann is a German literary critic who has published The Book of Burned Books which was my second purchase. The website I love German books noted 3 years ago that it -
provides portraits of every writer on a list compiled by the librarian Wolfgang Herrmann who drew up his list of books by 131 writers of “un-German spirit” for removal from public libraries. It was the student organisation Deutsche Studentenschaft that organised the book burnings around Germany, using the list to select the titles. The writers in question were communists, Jews, anti-militarists and feminists – in a few cases all of the above. The book burning had different consequences for many of them. There were those who went into exile, many of them dying far from home, those who resorted to “inner emigration” of varying degrees of hypocrisy – and some who adapted to the regime, openly writing propaganda for the Nazis. Many of them are still household names in a certain kind of household today, while others died in poverty and obscurity. Plenty of names would be familiar to English readers: Klaus Mann, Heinrich Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth. And Weidermann gives us some quirky details on these writers, such as the letters exchanged between Zweig and Roth and Heinrich Mann’s fading optimism in the USA.
And one man – Georg Salzmann – started in the 1970s to collect specimens of these books from flea markets and antiquarian bookshops, amassing a collection of 12,000 which he donated in 2009 to the University of Augsburg. I admire such obsessions!
My third book is actually a comic – the first I have ever bought (in any language). Der Bewegte man (I thought it meant the “aroused man”) appeared in 1987 was probably one of Germany’s first gay comic strips. The author - Ralf Konig - reminds me of Claire Bretecher and is now the country’s most famous “bande desseinist”. I won’t make the obvious comment about the meaning of “bander” in French!
My final bargain was a collection of short essays What do we want? by one Ingo Schulze who turns out to have interesting views about contemporary events, for example in this issue of Der Freitag which is a worthy German weekly.
It seems appropriate to end with this link to a marvellous table listing about 150 novels in the German language which Guardian readers recommended for a World Literature Tour, The equivalent French list is here.