Synopses & Reviews
The question How German Is It underlies the conduct and actions of the characters in Walter Abish's novel, an icy panorama of contemporary Germany, in which the tradition of order and obedience, the patrimony of the saber and the castle on the Rhine, give way to the present, indiscriminate fascination with all things American.
"Walter Abish poses as an American writer, but he is surely German to the core. Even the frequent mistakes in German in this novel are obviously part of his guise, a device to throw us off the track. Mr. Abish has captured the modern German ethos as have few other writers. The Hargenau brothers, sons of a father executed after the 1944 plot against Hitler, represent the Wirtschaftswunder (Helmuth, a successful architect) and the anarchism (Ulrich, a writer who befriends the anarchists, only to betray them in court later). The story takes place in Brumholdstein, a fictitious town named after a fictitious philosopher who was all too silent during the Hitler years. A mass grave is discovered during some sewer repairs; what to do about it? Abish comes up with a quintessentially German solution in this astonishing novel." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
Ulrich Hargenau testifies against fellow members of a German terrorist group in order to save himself and his wife, Paula, and contemplates the nature of his German heritage.
About the Author
Walter Abish (1931- ) was born in Vienna but fled from the Nazis to Italy and later to Nice with his family while still a young child. They settled in Shanghai for most of the 1940s, and then relocated to Israel in 1949, where Abish served in the army and developed an interest in literature and writing. He moved to the United States in 1957 and became an American citizen in 1960. He's taught at several universities in the US, served on the International PEN board, and has won Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships.