German Literature Month 2019

Reading By Nov 15, 2019 4 Comments

November is a busy month in the blogosphere with Novella Month, Non-Fiction November and German Literature Month all competing for the attention of bloggers who are up for a challenge. And while I’m tempted to do a couple of posts about the first two, it’s German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline and Lizzy, that interested me the most.

I’ve never taken part before because I’m usually caught up in the madness that is NaNoWriMo but, as I’m not doing that this year, I’m free to take part in #GermanLitMonth for the first time. I’m hoping it’ll kick start a more regular German reading habit and help me salvage some of my dwindling language skills. I’ve a trip to Frankfurt coming up at the end of the month, which is just the incentive I need to give it a shot.

It’s already the middle of the month and I hadn’t posted about my book choices, so here they are in both English and German editions:

Berlin Alexanderplatz (Fischer / Penguin Modern Classics) – Alfred Döblin. This is Lizzy’s choice for the month-long group read-along. It’s been languishing unread on my bookshelf for far too long, so I’m excited to take part and finally tackle this beast.

01-02.11.19 Read as You please
The Wall Jumper (Penguin Modern Classics) / Der Mauerspringer (Rowohlt) – Peter Schneider. It’s 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, so it felt like a good time to revisit this short novel.

03-09.11.19 Ex-GDR week
Aller Tage Abend (btb Verlag) / The End of Days (Portobello Books) – Jenny Erpenbeck. I was fortunate enough to meet Jenny Erpenbeck and her translator Susan Bernofsky at a Hay Festival event in May 2015 where they signed this book for me, which I’m ashamed to say I still hadn’t read until this month. But as Jenny Erpenbeck grew up in East Berlin and fits into this week’s category of former GDR writers, I could include her and assuage my guilt.

10-16.11.19 Read as You Please
Das Siebte Kreuz (Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag) / The Seventh Cross (Virago) – Anna Seghers. Another book that I’ve had on my German shelves for a while now and the new Virago edition this year reminded me that it’s there, waiting to be read.

17-23.11.19 Goethe Reading Week
Die Leiden des jungen Werther (Anaconda Verlag) / The Sorrows of Young Werther (Modern Library, Random House) – Johann Wolgang von Goethe. I’ve never read any Goethe before but this is one of his more accessible works and a good place to start, apparently. What I didn’t know until after I’d decided to read it is that there’s a Goethe house in Frankfurt. He not only lived there until he was 17 but it’s also where he wrote this! I love it when book choices work their magic in this way and am excited to read it even more now.

Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. (Pushkin Press) / The New Sorrows of Young W. (Suhrkamp) – Ulrich Plenzdorf. I want to include this one for two reasons: it’s a satire on life in the GDR which seems to fit with the rest of this month’s reading and, as you can probably tell from the title, it references Goethe’s original above. I thought it would be an interesting companion read in Goethe week.

24-30.11.19 Read as You Please
An einem klaren, eiskalten Januarmorgen zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts (Fischer) / One Clear, Ice-Cold January Morning at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century (Maclehose Press) – Roland Schimmelpfennig. I have to admit that I want to read this book as much for the brilliant title as anything else but it’s also about a wolf crossing the Polish-German border and making his way to Berlin which also seems to fit with this month’s theme.

Angst (Rowohlt) / Fear (Orion Books) – Dirk Kurbjuweit. A thriller to end the month and this one promises to be terrifying because it’s based on the author’s real-life experience of being stalked and terrorised by a neighbour.

Those are my books for this month. I don’t know whether I’ll get through them all or not but I’m excited to give it a go. I’m attempting to read the original German and the English translation as much as possible and I’ll let you know how that goes. I’ll be posting individual reviews once I’ve read them and will update this page with the links to those as and when I do.

Drück mir die Daumen! Wish me luck!



  1. lizzysiddal says:

    Fantastic reading plan, Kathryn. I’ve read all but three (Berlin Alexanderplatz, The Seventh Cross and the one with the wolf). They’re all great. Reading Goethe and Plenzdorf together is something I’ve often wanted to do, particularly as Plenzdorf is one of my top 5 German novels ever! Enjoy!

    1. kath says:

      Thanks, Lizzie. I think it might be a little over-ambitious but I’m up for the challenge!

  2. BookerTalk says:

    Some serious reading here – hope you manage to get the pile reduced a little.

    1. kath says:

      Thanks, Karen. If I can do that, I’ll be happy. I seriously doubt I’ll get anywhere near finishing them all.

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