Around The World Reading Challenge : Germany

The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Shalansky

Inge Lohmark has been employed in the education system for thirty years and is currently employed in a school that will soon be closing.

She lives and breathes biology and treats her students as specimens. A huge follower of Charles Darwin this is how she describes the children in one of her classes.

Right at the front crouched a terrified vicar’s child who had grown up with wooden angels, wax stains and recorder lessons. In the back row sat two overdressed little tarts. One was chewing gum, the other was obsessed with her coarse black hair, which she constantly smoothed and examined, strand by strand. Next to her, a tow-headed, primary-school-sized squirt. A tragedy the way nature was presenting the uneven development of the sexes here. To the right by the big windows, a small primate rocked, back and forth, open-mouthed, waiting only to mark his territory with some vulgar comment. It was just short of drumming on its chest.”

Set in the former East Germany which is starting to adapt to new ways only heightens Inge’s inability to do the same. She presents as bitter and cold and does not have a loving relationship with either her husband or adult daughter. I don’t think the reader really cares one hoot about Inge.

The language in this book at first appears stodgy, though the author has actually been very clever and written this short novel as if it were a biology paper.

Reviews of The Giraffe’s Neck, another nod to biology in that the long neck allows these animals to eat from the tallest trees, are very mixed. East Europeans see it as the next Modern Classic of German Literature and it is listed in the Top 100 German Books Translated Into English.

I admit that I probably under valued this book because of a lack of knowledge about German history and politics. Germany was not discussed in our house, and my father ( ex Bomber Command and Pathfinder Force) actually pulled me out of German classes in high school. Having said that this is one sorry affair. Nor did it provide any incentive for me to do any follow up reading to improve my understanding.

About The Author :

Judith Schalansky was born in 1980 in Greifswald, Germany. She has degrees in both history of art and communication design and works as a freelance writer and designer in Berlin. This is her first novel.

7 thoughts on “Around The World Reading Challenge : Germany

  1. Kevin Adams

    I saw two sides of former E Germany in the late 90’s/ early noughties when we played a couple of folk festivals out there.One in Leipzig, where you wouldn’t know the place had been flattened , the city centre was splendid (although the suburbs were re-constructed in that Soviet Communist concrete brutalist way). One night we played until the early hours of the morning and had to walk back through the city centre to get to our digs. I was a bit trepidatious, but need n’t have worried. Vibrant cafe culture spread across the pedestrian precincts with no hint of drunken 4am.
    Another year we played in Rudolstadt, a pretty German town with a schloss up on the hill and medieval streets. We said we’d like to revisit for a holiday and have a chance to explore. ‘Don’t’, we were told. The area was a hot-bed of neo-nazism and outsiders were definitely not welcome.


  2. Pingback: Around The World Reading Challenge : Germany – THE FLENSBURG FILES

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