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Amok Mama: Those dense, black barbed wire letters

Jacinta Nandi is really rubbish at reading in German. Nichtdestotrotz, here is her Amok-Mama-Book-Club-Recommendation.

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I’m really rubbish at reading in German. I’ve been living here for over 11 years and I still get a very specific headache behind my eyes when I try and do it for too long.

Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit. I can read B.Z., Berliner Kurier and Bild. I can read In Touch and Life & Style. I read those almost as easily as I read English. Actually, no, I read them the same as I read English, I glide through them, you know?

And I can also read celebrity biographies. Not quite as easily as English, but almost. I cried seven times during Daniela Katzenberger’s, and five during Sonya Krauss’s. Plus I can read those Julia books you can buy real cheap at the train station. I love them. They’re always runzeling their Stirns and then having ein Drink before Dinner. Then the bloke runzels his Stirn again, and then sometimes, at the Dinner, the girl brings herself in Verlegenheit but nichtdestotrotz (they say nichtdestotrotz a LOT in those Julia books you can buy real cheap at the train station) they usually fuck around chapter six. I also quite like Dr. Norden and those Mütterherz books, too.

I read a really good Mütterherz one recently, this woman was infertile after a horrific car accident and then it turned out her husband had had an illegitimate kid with a slag but then the slag was just being such a slag that the infertile women adopted the poor illegitimate kid and it was fine that she was infertile. I liked it because it was quite dark, really.

You can buy Dr. Norden and Mütterherz at the train station, too, but if you actually read them on the train people will actually laugh at you, like, actually in your face. It’s a bit annoying, coz they’re not that much more meaningless than Dan Brown or Harry Potter or Eat, Pray, Love, Wank or that godawful One Day bollocks-athon but you know, the covers are tacky and they’re aimed at grannies. I usually stock up on them when my son’s ill.

I’m quite good at non-fiction. I like those books about famous criminal cases and you have to guess if they’re guilty or not-guilty and then you turn the page and find out. I also do really enjoy those books where Muslim women suffer a lot and then they turn to Christianity. Überhaupt, women suffering and surviving and that. Quite enjoy a bit of that. Marriage turning into a prison, that kind of thing. Oh, and self-help. I can read self-help in German. Just about. It’s almost enjoyable.

I CANNOT READ PROPER NOVELS IN GERMAN THOUGH. By proper novels, I mean not Dr. Norden or Mütterherz or Julia. I cannot do it. I get a really specific headache in a really specific part of my brain and I just want to close my eyes and die, or at the very least throw the fucking book in the fucking dustbin. I feel like Sylvia fucking Plath: “Each time I picked up a German book, the very sight of those dense, black, barbed-wire letters made my mind shut like a clam.” I feel awful. I just can’t bear it.

It was the same at uni. I just couldn’t bring myself to read those books in German. I got through the whole of university by reading the English translations and then looking the quotes I wanted up and copying them out. I once did a presentation on Kleiner Mann, was nun? I’d only read the translation. And afterwards the lecturer called me into her office. She said:

“Jacinta, I put it to you that you haven’t read the book in German.”

I said to her: “Dr. Simmons, I resent that accusation.”

She said to me: “Don’t get precious, Jacinta.”

I said to her: “I read it in German, briefly flicked through the English translation to check out any bits I didn’t understand, and then re-read it in German.”

She said to me: “Jacinta, I put it to you that you’ve never even looked at the German version.”

I said to her: “I can’t believe you’re accusing me like this.”

She said to me: “Jacinta. I’m giving you one more chance to admit the truth. I know you’re lying. I resent your lying far more than your laziness.”

I looked at her. Hmmmn. She said, sternly: “Jacinta.”

I said: “Okay, okay, I haven’t read the German. I really liked it though, Dr. Simmons. It was really good. I just thought, I’d enjoyed it so much in English, why spoil it, y’know?”

She grinned at that. “You know how I knew?”


“She’s called Lämmchen in German. Bunny is a translation.”

I looked at her, gobsmacked. I stared at her. She started laughing.

“I think they shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” I said. “That should be forbidden.”

“So, you’ll have to do another presentation, Jacinta? On a book you’ve actually read in German.”

I sighed forlornly. “I’ll do Kafka,” I said. “It’s only short.”

As I left the room she called out to me: “I hate it, too. Reading in German. It’s really difficult and annoying.”

I nodded.

So, a boy from my Lesebühne has written a book. Actually, he’s not the only one. BUT his, it’s a proper novel and everything. That is a bit unusual. Usually the Lesebühne people just write short story collections, and the good thing about short story collections is you can have a mini-break after every three pages.

“Can I have a copy of your novel?” I asked. “For free.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But then you have to write about it.”

“Like a review?”


“How much is it if I have to pay for it?”






“Oh, okay, okay, okay. I’ll just review it, then. But give me two weeks to finish it, okay?”

“You can have a month – seeing as how you’re not a native speaker.”

But guess what? I read it in one weekend. It’s really good. It’s brilliant, basically. I raced through it. It was almost as much fun as reading English. It’s set in the near future – I think it’s the really near future – and this guy called Anselm Hagen is a courier and they’ve invented a teletransporter which can transport you from Berlin to Hamburg but there’s this Fehlerchen in the system which means if you’re overdrawn you get copied. And then there’s millions of Anselm Hagens running around Germany and the people who produce the teletransporter want to kill them all. And it’s really funny. It’s only the second proper novel I ever read in German – all the way through, I mean – without having to give up because of a barb wired headache. The other one was Schoßgebete by Charlotte Roche. I think that was rubbish now. (They both have car accidents in them though, incidentally. I do hope that’s not a sign or anything.)

After I finished reading it, I realized I couldn’t actually write a proper review of it, though.

“Do you want your book back?” I asked my mate. “Although I’ve folded down the edges. Maybe I should just give you the money. I hate paying for books by people I know, though. It’s really annoying. I hate it when the only thing I want to read in Hugeldubel is by Uli Hannemann. It makes me feel so stingy. But I actually can’t review your book, you know? It’s the second proper novel I’ve ever read in German. Imagine if you reviewed the second ever restaurant you’d ever eaten in, which was owned by your friend? It’d be ridiculous.”

“Oh, okay. Just mention how brilliant it is in your blog, then. Make it sound like you really mean it, and you’re not just saying it because we’re mates.”

“Or because I’m too stingy to pay for a copy myself.”


“I can write whatever I want, though. You won’t be able to understand what I’ve written. You can’t speak English.”

“Yeah, I will. I’m really good at reading in English, actually. I just can’t speak it.”



To be honest, I just can’t wait for the film to come out. S’gonna be fucking amazing.