Freitag, 12. Oktober 2012

The one with the book that always makes me remember my time in academic high school - MoFo Book Challenge #12 - Berlin Blues

Today's book always makes me laugh. Not even because of its' content, but because it always reminds me of my German intensive course teacher at academic high school, but I will explain that later.
The book was published as Berlin Blues in English and offers an intense glimpse into German culture: Herr Lehmann, the main character, is a born anti-hero. He is 29 (and turns thirty) and the most average person ever. He works as a bartender, drinks a lot, has no special or interesting hobbies or friends and even his short relationship is not one of those special or life-changing experiences. He just lives his life, without taking any real risks or chances, without searching for any kind of meaning or improvement. Quite the contrary: everything happens to him and life goes on the way it is. The chef he falls in love with asks him out and breaks up again, his friends make him do things and the fall of the Berlin wall takes place, too: but he does not act, he just reacts and by that avoids every escalation.
This might sound boring, but it really is one of the most interesting books to read. Because there are no heroes and no supernatural or extreme situations you get to understand the sense of life of a very special generation, in fact it is not even sad at all, it just exists - just like Mr. Lehmann and his friends. This book is filled with strange views, drunk but meaningful dialogues and people that just float through life.
(If you are already tired of reading you may watch the movie instead)

Now let me tell you why it always reminds me of my German teacher: When I went to academic high school I had German as an intensive course and besides reading books (like this one) we went to theater plays every two weeks. Our German teacher was quite young, I really cannot say but I guess she was about 35. So after the theater plays we enjoyed to invite her to take a drink with us (yes, in Germany we are allowed to drink beer and wine when we are 16 and everything else at 18) and we sat there for a while, talking about books, theater and life in general. She was a single, and I still think she was quite happy with that, but one evening we sat around a table and she asked us how we liked the new read "Berlin Blues". Everyone had a different opinion but in the end she stated that she chose this book, because she never read a more romantic scene than one occurring in that book. We were all wondering what she was talking about, but then she explained it: One morning they lie in bed and eat fried potatoes, talking about life in general and feeling cozy.

Maybe you have to get 30 something to understand the beauty of situations like that, but even today my first thought when it comes to that book is my (halfway) drunk, respectable German teacher telling us about the coziness of fried potato eating in bed. And I still cannot find a better parable on that book than this story is.

Fried Potatoes

3-4 potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
paprika, salt, pepper, carraway seeds, parsley
plant oil

heat oil in a frying pan, add potatoes & spices and pan-fry until all sides turn brown, then add onion and pepper and roast until onions turn gold


  1. I love your MoFo Book Challenge Idea, i actually thought about buying one or two of the ones you mentioned. Always looking for a good read ;)

    1. I could not wish for a better compliment :)

  2. you get to drink at 16?! don't kids act up when they get drunk (like I've seen in some countries where you can drink at the age of 17 or 18)?

    As a 30 something woman, I understand the romance of eating fried potatoes in bed and just talk about whatever :) The book sounds really interesting and sounds like my type of book to read.

    1. I don't know, I would say German drinking policy is a lot about learning to drink responsible and so is German drinking culture: Nearly every German adult drinks alcoholic beverages, but Germany has less alcohol addicts then most other countries. Drinking beer or wine is part of German food culture (even though many people don't drink on a regular base, (like me, I hardly ever drink)), it is no necessity, but a very normal thing to do.

      Yes, I do think children at that age are strange. But we have quite an interesting system: they are allowed to drink "softer" stuff like beer and wine and have to leave a bar/club/disco at 12 pm. When they start driving cars at 18 they already experienced how alcohol influences their senses. 16, 17, 18 is a very special age anyway... I guess children at that age can get alcohol when they want to. And I prefer to teach them responsibility. There is a special allure that comes with forbidden things - especially at that age. Friends of mine that traveled to Iran a few years ago told me about parties over there - everyone was drunk - really drunk, many people over there had an alcohol poisoning - this is something that does not even happen to German "youngster drinkers" very often.
      I guess Germans have something a very uncomplicated relationship with alcohol and that would make it hard to teach children otherwise, instead we try and teach them how to drink without getting into real problems.

    2. I know. I've seen a few of those "really drunk" cultures and ironically they try to raise drinking age to prevent that. I guess it's not the age but more of a culture or perception toward drinking that's important.

      Past several years, I heard lots of good things about German people/culture, but I'm adding another one to my list - responsible drinking :)


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