The new sorrows of young W. – Ulrich Plenzdorf

IMG_3427 The sulky, sarky and irreverent Edgar narrates from beyond the grave as his father investigates his death. Edgar holds that common youthful belief that he knows better than anyone else and feels noone understands him or his potential while never seeming to really understand others himself. Knowing nothing about its context or the GDR in the 1970s, I read this as an amusing, confusing ‘trials and tribulations of an aspiring artist’ that was quite stark and just a bit odd. It felt as if the book was probably being very clever in a way I couldn’t quite understand. And it was. It turns out that the tale was a remodelling of Goethe’s ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, written a century before, and the original is repeatedly referred to and even plays a starring role as a nameless High German book that Edgar finds and keeps quoting from. Overall, it seems a quirky quick read that made me go find out a bit more about East Germany.

This quote is not typical of the slang heavy style but I loved the sentiment.

All the books suddenly looked like they were constantly being read by someone. You suddenly wanted to go and plop yourself down somewhere and read them all one after the other.

From: the local library

Read: February 2016

Felt: a general wry sense of amusement but slightly unsure of what exactly was going on. I think it could make quite a good play with a really bare set and a lot of ‘pretend this box is a boat’ involved.

Liked: Edgar’s grudging admiration of Zaremba – probably the most real and likable of all the characters.

Would recommend: if you happen across it. Don’t rush out to find it but if you stumble across it and you’ve a long train journey ahead then go for it. Or if you have any interest  or understanding of Germany in the 1970s.

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