Axolotl roadkill by Helene Hegemann

Axolotl roadkill by Helene Hegeman

German literature

Translator Katy Derbyshire

source review copy

Now Helene Hegeman is the voice of a new German generation of writers this her debut novel she wrote when she was just 18 she had already caught the eye in germany via her blog .It has caused a storm of controversy when it came out in Germany  ,even more when it was found out she had sourced some of the passages from another book on the berlin club scene .Any way she isn’t the first to use other writers work to help there book or the last I would imagine .So what has the voice of generation zero got to say ,this the first real digital generation grown up in mobiles and computers as thou they where part of them .

I grew up wild and I want to stay wild .It’s 3am and my partied-out body is sitting in a taxi ,submerged or death in its role as a victim .The driver telling  me about his son,who left his wife after ten years ,and about his own wife ,who is cheating on him ,and about god ,with whom he claims to have a pretty good connection .

From the forward and haven’t we all had these taxi rides ?

The book is the story of Mifti she is young in fact I picture her as the same age as Helene Heggmann ,as part of this feels like Heggmann has written about her own life in a way she was from a broken family and her mother died  .Anyway back to Mifti she is the youngest in a family by a long way all her siblings have grown up and left home and she is the last one at home and is a very rebellious teen . She has a huge problem with her mother that seems didn’t want Mifti well in Mifti’s eyes .So she discovered her most private thoughts have been read by her mother in her secret diary and descends into a scene of drugs clubs and sex .We see this through her own eyes and also via e-mail ,also each chapter is the title from a song or programme almost giving you a soundtrack to the book .How will it end .Did her mother want her ? Well these are all answered in the book .But I will give you one answer and the is the title of the book an Axolotl is a small amphibian that is popular as an exotic pet to keep because of its strange look and almost smile like face .Yes Mifti tuns into one in the course of the book .


Now this is a coming of age book,part of me had to draw my forty-year old self back to my own late teens and early twenties  to see if I could associate Mifti and the answer is yes ?(I always like to do this for coming of age although I have come of age would I like to do it now or then is what I always look to compare ) I could see her life ,in a way had  echos of my own, ok I never club in a big city that often  but I went of the rails a bit drank partied more than I should have done  and railed against my parents .Mifti is maybe a little  more extreme than mine, but I feel  her life would ring true with most modern teens .As for Hegeman borrowing parts of the books from other books or mixing it as she calls ,ok she should sort this before people discovered it ,but the book doesn’t read as thou it is stitched together and as she has grown up in an age of dance music which on the whole tends to sample and mix together other people’s work into something new .I feel this is the first in what maybe a great new voice in german writing but time will tell it is an accomplished debut by a young writer .She has also raised is this maybe the way fiction could go like dance and other media boring from other people’s work could we see Joyce’s books brought to a modern Dublin ?

Have you read this book ?

Do you see a future in people mix other people’s books ?

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tony
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 22:01:59

    No. I love German lit (and I follow Katy Derbyshire’s excellent blog), but I find the whole idea of this book simply wrong. I won’t be reading it…


  2. Caroline
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 09:17:17

    I’m afraid, I’m with Tony on this one. I’ve read quite a bit in the German press about her and was just not tempted anymore.


  3. Dan Holloway
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 11:03:38

    I have read this and whilst I thought it was ever so slightly long to maintain the power of such an intense voice, I think it is an excellent and exciting book. And I do think mixing is something we will see more and more of – I wonder how much we will see in the mainstream as opposed to self-published books, because publishers have legal teams who will be, for the foreseeable future, very twitchy about this


  4. farmlanebooks
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 11:06:33

    This sounds a bit weird. I guess most stories contain some elements from other books, but there must be a line where it becomes plagarism. I’m not convinced this book is for me.


  5. Chinoiseries
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 14:05:05

    I’m not familiar with the new generation of German authors. This sort of reminds me of young mainland Chinese writers living their wild lives, preferably unconnected to the past. I can’t imagine how an author would live down the discovery of theft from another book though. Was it the general gist that she took? Or certain parts? I find it difficult to reconcile myself with such practices, Stu.


  6. Trackback: Best of the world under 40 in English translation | Winstonsdad's Blog
  7. katyderby
    May 26, 2013 @ 10:51:12

    Coming very late to this discussion indeed, but just to answer some of the questions about “mixing”: Hegemann uses lots of quotes from lots of different books, interviews, private emails, song lyrics, that kind of thing, most of them modified. In the case of Airen, whose book she was accused of plagiarising, she took a number of quotes and modified them and used them mainly in two particular scenes about drug-taking, clubbing and casual sex. The problem was that she hadn’t told anyone that. From the second German edition on, all these quotes are listed at the back of the book.


  8. katyderby
    May 26, 2013 @ 10:51:57

    Oh, and her next book is coming out in August!


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September 2012


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