Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Have Not Yet Read Any Of Christian Kracht's Work

In 1983 I read a negative review of The Tennis Handsome, a novel by Barry Hannah, of whom I had previously heard nothing, in which the little there was of actual concrete description of the novel was so much more interesting than the reviewer that I read the book, and soon had read all of Hannah's books.

They are magnificent. The Tennis Handsome is the 4th of the 8 novels he would eventually write before passing away in 2010 at age 67. He also wrote 5 collections of short stories.

Some of the characters in Hannah's fiction are racists. I heard one radio interview with him, I think it may have been on Terry Gross' program "Fresh Air." I remember that the interviewer mentioned that the racist characters in his fiction had made some readers wonder whether Hannah himself was racist. Hannah responded that he attempted in his writing to portray racism as it is: ugly and ignorant and destructive.

That had always seemed to me to be his intent.

Christian Kracht is now 49 years old. He is Swiss and writes in German. So far he has published 5 novels, 3 books of travel writing, a screenplay, and a bunch of other stuff which I'm not entirely sure how to categorize. From 2004 to2006 he published the literary journal Der Freund, which won a couple of awards. Like Hannah decades ago, he's beginning to interest me now because of negative reaction to his work which strikes me as ridiculous. Just as with Hannah, if so many people who are so tedious dislike Kracht so much, he must be doing something right.

But I don't really know yet, because I haven't read any of his work. His last publication is Die Toten, (The Dead), published 5 days ago, a novel about German filmmakers early in the Nazi era who plan to make a horror movie in Japan.

From the amount of attention Die Toten is getting in some circles, you might think it was Amazon's #1 bestseller in Germany. It's #122. I can't find it at all on Amazon's US website, which surprises me. Anyway, #122 is a long ways from #1 for a book released 5 days ago, but Kracht has won several literary prizes including the Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis, which comes with 30,000 Euros, and for someone who's won the prizes Kracht has won before age 50, #122 is high enough on the bestseller list to upset a lot of German-speaking literary critics and literary bloggers. (Each of whom has not won anywhere near 30,000 Euros' worth of literary prizes.)

My reaction now is much as was 33 years ago, reading that stupid negative review of Hannah: I may not like Kracht's work at all. But there's no way that his writing is anywhere near as bad as that of all of these people dissing him. I believe I'm going to have to give Kracht a try.

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