Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Things You Learn About International Culture On Facebook

I can understand German, but that doesn't mean I always understand what German-speaking people are talking about. Far from it.

For example, just now, on Facebook, some German person I didn't recognize who is on my newsfeed for some reason I don't remember posted about 2 new novels by authors I hadn't heard of, Panikherz (The Panicked Heart) by Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, and Der goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove) by Heinz Strunk.

Literary prizes receive more attention in a lot of places, including Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg and German-speaking Switzerland, than they do in the US, so at first I wondered if Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk might be finalists in some annual prize given to published novels. So I googled the two fellows, and no such luck. Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk are what the Germans call "Entertainers." As you already know if you know more than one language, languages often borrow words from each other, and sometimes they change the meanings of the words they borrow. For example, the German noun "Entertainer" (all German nouns are capitalized) does not mean the same as the uncapitalized English noun "entertainer." Instead, the German, capitalized term means "asshole who is on TV much too much." The most successful and unbearable Entertainer in the history of Germany so far is Thomas Gottschalk. In the US, two examples of what Germans call "Entertainers" are Regis Philbin and Larry King: ghastly people who have attained dizzying heights of success simultaneously as authors, TV personalities and other things as well, for reasons I will never even want to understand. Oprah is an Entertainer. Trump, definitely.

Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Stephen Colbert are not Entertainers: they're all actually entertaining. Another way in which O'Brien is not an Enterntainer: he's in his 50's and he hasn't published any crappy books yet, although he easily could've made wheelbarrows' worth of big bills that way.

Imagine that Philbin and King were both several decades younger, but as popular as they are now, and that they had simultaneously published murder-mystery novels, and you'll have some idea of the current excitement in Germany over Panikherz (The Panicked Heart) by Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, and Der goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove) by Heinz Strunk.

(I'm pretty sure that Strunk's fictional golden glove has nothing to do with the several American amateur boxing organizations known as the Golden Gloves, but I'm not sure and I don't care.)

So after I'd found out who Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk were, I went to amazon.de., the German website of Amazon, looked at the latest bestseller list for books, and sure enough. So I returned to the Facebook thread where many people were discussing these two brand-new books, and left my own comment. I'll translate it into English for you:

"Stuckrad-Barre is at #1 on the bestseller list and Strunk is at #9, so Stuckrad-Barre wins. That's what this is all about, right? There's no need to actually read the crap for yourself."

That's what I said in German on Facebook to the fans of Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk, without having read a single word either of them has written, after having researched them for about 5 minutes. And I stand by what I said. The man who made the original post seems offended. That was to be expected and can't be helped.

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