I had been struggeling a bit finding a book I could recommend this month, as I mostly read german books this past month that had not been translated yet (and I started rereading the Harry Potter series, but I guess there is no further recommendation needed for these little marvels). Nonetheless I am lucky that one book I read and that impressed me big deal got lucky and is available in english, so the book I recommend this month is the following:
This book is called Fame: a novel in nine episodes by the german author Daniel Kehlmann
Imagine being famous. Being recognized on the street, adored by people who have never even met you, known the world over. Wouldn’t that be great?
But what if, one day, you got stuck in a country where celebrity means nothing, where no one spoke your language and you didn’t speak theirs, where no one knew your face (no book jackets, no TV) and you had no way of calling home? How would your fame help you then?
What if someone got hold of your cell phone? What if they spoke to your girlfriends, your agent, your director, and started making decisions for you? And worse, what if no one believed you were you anymore? When you saw a look-alike acting your roles for you, what would you do?
And what if one day you realized your magnum opus, like everything else you’d ever written, was a total waste of time, empty nonsense? What would you do next? Would your audience of seven million people keep you going? Or would you lose the capacity to keep on doing it?
Fame and facelessness, truth and deception, spin their way through all nine episodes of this captivating, wickedly funny, and perpetually surprising novel as paths cross and plots thicken, as characters become real people and real people morph into characters. The result is a dazzling tour de force by one of Europe’s finest young writers.
I admit, this is not usually a book I would read, I have to blame a member of my bookclub, as she wanted us to read it, so I did and I got suprised. Daniel Kehlmann is quite hyped in Germany and is often named as one of the best post-war german writers, but the genre realism, or “magical realism” as Kehlmann writes, did never really speak to me.
Anyhow, as I said, I kinda “had” to read the book for my book club and I went on with it without really expecting much of it. And boy I got surprised!
Fame is not really a novel, it is a collection of nince interconnected short stories that all go around the topic of fame. All the short stories approach the topic from a different angle, some make you laugh, some make you tear up, some make you shake your head in disbelief.
As I said, the stories are interconnected, meaning that in one story a person might be the protagonist, but in another story he is only a supporting character. That allowes the reader to get to know the characters from different angles, from different point of views and that is so enriching. And though the book does not have many pages you learn more about the characters then in most 1000-pagers.
Now then another thing that amazed me and that tickled my brain is HOW these stories are interconnected. In one story the protagonist interacts with the narrator, meta-fiction if you like (this is always so confusing to me when authors do that) and in the next story the narrator himself is the protagonist of his own story. Fiction in fiction. In the next story you meet a character from another story of said narrator but in the following story that character is getting its own story again and suddenly is in the same story as the narrator and it is all so confusing. You start to wonder what is fiction, what is meat-fiction and it took me some time to figure it all out.
Loved that book. Read it. Readi it now.