The Gordian Knot by Bernhard Schlink

The Gordian Knot by Bernhard Schlink

german title -Die Gordische Schleife

German Fiction

Translator – Peter Constantine

Well German lit month is drawing to a close again and I had hope to read this in time for Bernhard Schlink week ,but time went against me so I include it here .This is the third Schlink book I ve covered on the blog and the fifth I have read .I must say this is a change from the others ,Being his first novel is a radical shift in style it is a thriller ,written by him self he had earlier co written a novel .

“And to the nameless professor ,who tried to teach me how to cut through the Gordian knot ” he sat down “I reread the story about Alexander the great and the Gordian knot . it was just as the professor said many had tried to unravel the knot ,but Alexander simply cut through it with his sword .

The title is mention on the last page .

SO The Gordian Knot takes it title from a story of Greek mythology Involving a man who had became king and the gods gave him an impossible Knot to untie ,this was there to Alexander the great ,he cut the knot this giving to a phrase cutting the Gordian knot meaning thinking outside the box .Anyway back to the book it is a thriller we meet a translator Georg Polger ,he is struggling till a job turns up translating plans for a military helicopter .This all happens in the office of mr Bulnakov ,also in the office is Mr Bulnakov secretary Francoise .Well Georg and Francoise fall in love .But then he is shock to discover her one day copying the plans he has translated .Before he has time to confront her she has disappeared ,then a chance mention about a photo she had ,that he shows to friend he says is somewhere in europe he friend says no it is New york so he heads of to New York and find out who the women he fell in love with really is in real life .This is a novel about spies and people getting caught up in that world .

“It’s the cathedral in Warsaw where her parents were married ”

A short while later Georg’s friend asked to see the photograph again .

“it isn’t a particularly good one “Georg said .”She didn’t like being photographed ,so often took snapshots of her when she wasn’t looking .Though some pictures did turn out quite ….”

That’s not Warsaw .I know that church can’t think of its name it’s in New York.

First hint that Francoise isn’t quite what she seemed to Georg .



Well this was a real change from Schlink usual soul of the nation style fiction  .That said it was a page turner thou in the style of an airport thriller  or Holiday read ,well that isn’t quite  fair it is slightly better than them .In fact the two things in reading this I was most remind of was firstly Graham Greene Georg is a hapless guy caught up in a spy story but he doesn’t realise it ,rather like James Wormold in our man in Havana he is not the sharpest tool in the box .The other thing I was reminded of was the world of Alfred Hitchcock I felt Francoise is a classic femme fatale the sort women that frequently crops up in Hitchcock films and could have been played by Kim Novak or Eva Marie  Saint  .So this isn’t the most taxing or deep of Schlink books but it is a cracking read and great to see where it all started for him as a writer .Always nice see a publisher taking chance on an earlier book by a writer .

Have you read this book ?

Do you like to see writers earlier works translated ?


November 2012


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