Synopses & Reviews
is an ingenious, revealing, and delightful novel about the invention of a popular German sidewalk food. Uwe Timm has heard claims that currywurst first appeared in Berlin in the 1950s, but he seems to recall having eaten it much earlier, as a boy in his native Hamburg, at a stand owned and operated by Lena Brücker. He decides to check it out. Although the discovery of curried sausage is eventually explained, it is its prehistory - about how Lena Brücker met, seduced and held captive a German deserter in Hamburg, in April, 1945, just before the war's end-that is the tastiest part. Timm draws gorgeous details from Lena's fine-grained recollections, and the pleasure these provide her and the reader supply the tale's real charm.
German novelist Timm (Headhunter), who inserts himself as narrator and witness into the plot of this ambitious but flawed work, tracks down Lena Brucker, a blind old woman, in 1989 to verify the rumor that she "invented" curried sausage, a popular German food sold by much of the narrative, goes back to April 1945: then a humble 43-year-old food-service worker in Hamburg, has an affair with Hermann Bremer, 24, a German naval officer and deserter. Both are skipper, has been gone six years, while Hermann conceals the existence of his wife and infant son from his new lover. Writing in taut prose Timm probes the moral ambiguity pervading daily life at a time when ordinary people struggled to survive amid chaos and ruin. Neighbors spy on Lena, whose negative remarks about the Nazis are kept in a Gestapo file ("The Jews are human beings too," reads one of her recorded comments). When Germany surrenders, she is surprised and appalled by newspaper photographs of concentration camp survivors. Timm is trying Nazi totalitarianism to the "sweetly pungent anarchy" of modern Germany. To some extent he succeeds, as when he playfully inverts images of blitzkrieg and conquest: "Thus began the triumphal march of the curried sausage, starting from Grossneumarket, then to a stand on the Reeperbahn... Kiel, Cologne, Munster and Frankfurt, but strangely enough stopping at the River Main, where weisswurst held on to its territory." Still, modern German history is a lot of weight to lay on one spicy wurst. This clever novel tells the story of how curried sausage (a popular German street food) was created. The narrator is convinced that the delicacy was invented in his native Hamburg sometime during or after World War II, not in Berlin in the 1950s, as is commonly believed. His faint memories from childhood lead him to Lena Bruckner, the curried-sausage street vendor of his youth. He finds her living in a retirement home, and through a series of interviews, she slowly reveals the story behind the creation of curried sausage. And what a story it is! Weaving wartime intrigue, clandestine love affairs, black-market subterfuge, and life during the of the sausage while simultaneously mapping the effects of such diverse elements as war, love, and abandonment on the human spirit. A best-seller in Germany, this highly entertaining, powerful work will dazzle American readers.
"A best-seller in Germany, this highly entertaining, powerful work will dazzle American readers." Booklist
Here is what German author/narrator Uwe Timm uncovers about a popular German sidewalk food, curried sausage. Convinced the delicacy did not originate in Berlin, Timm tracks down its creator, one Lena Brucker, now living in a retirement home. Thus the tale of how curried sausage came to be is the romantic story of Lena Brucker's life.
An ingenious, revealing, and charming tale about the invention of a popular German sidewalk food by a woman who met, seduced, and held captive a deserter in April, 1945, just before the war's end.
About the Author
Uwe Timm was born in Hamburg, Germany. His first novel, Hot Summer, was published in 1974. New Directions publishes five of his novels, including the German best selling, The Invention of Curried Sausage, and the award winning, Morenga. After apprenticing as a furrier, Timm studied philosophy and philology in Paris and Munich. He is the 1989 winner of the Munich Literary Prize. He has been called an "extraordinary story teller" (The New Yorker) and "one of the best living German Writers" (Kirkus Reviews).Leila Vennewitz was the distinguished translator of Heinrich Böll and other postwar German writers, including Jurek Becker and Martin Walser. She won numerous awards for her translations. She died in 2007.