Midsummer Night by Uwe Timm
Original title – Johannishacht
Translator – Peter Tegel
Uwe Timm is a name better known in German than English ,he is highly regard as one of the leading German writers of recent times .I had read him years ago with the invention of curried sausage ,so when a couple of years ago I was in LRB and saw this I decide to by it for a German lit month and this time round I ‘m reviewing it .Uwe Timm father died during world war to on the eastern front .He went on to study philosophy and German Literature in both Munich and Paris .He then went on to become a writer and has been a writer in residence .His last novel in German released this year had been long-listed for the German book prize (the German equivalent of the booker )
A magazine editor asked me if I would be interested in writing something about potatoes : the Peru – Prussian connection .Potatoes and the German mentality .And of course personal potatoes preferences recipes .Fried potato affairs .He laughed .” You’re interested in stories about everyday things aren’t you .eleve to twelve pages , you can spread it out ”
The bizarre article request that takes our narrator to Unified Berlin .
Midsummer night follows a journey to write a piece about potatoes for a newspaper .This article happens to be at the same times as there plans to wrap the Reichstag by the conceptual artist Christo .Our narrator discovers an east German has written a book about potatoes and the nutrition to be eaten .So our narrator heads into the night of Berlin and comes across a worker on a sex line ,arms dealers ,a designer and a drunk wedding party .He is also search for what his later uncles last words meant .So as over three days he sees all the city of Berlin has to offer .We see the melting pot that is Berlin post the wall falling this is 1996 and Bulgarian ,Poles ,old east Germans all mingle together as wee see the dark and light side of city life but also a large chunk of humour .
“They’re after me .”
“A gang of arms dealers .”There was a silence at the other end of the line I heard a faint astonished snort from Kubin , at any rate I decided the snort was astonished .”it sounds crazy ,I know “I said , “I’ve gotten involved in a really insane business ”
“Hogwash ,” he said .”You’ve boiled over with your potatoes ”
The insane days and nights lead to this incident in the book .
Now this is a book you don’t expect from Germany a comic novel ,Our narrator is a writer with writer’s block that has taken this bizarre article to try to kick-start his writing of a new novel .We get the city at its maddest Middsummer has always been connect with people going slightly mad and we see some drawn into a bizarre world .This isn’t the berlin of Alexander platz or Even Wender Wings of desire ( der himmell über Berlin) .But it is the berlin of the follow-up film to Wenders wings of desire ,faraway so close which is roughly set in the right time and like this book we follow a hapless chap round post communist unified Berlin fall in with arm dealers as well .Also the film has the same comic touches in this book are similar the woody Allen, like people being caught in strange situations .This book could have been a film by Allen if he had been touring Europe as he seemed to have in recent years at the time the wall fell he would have made a film similar to this .It’s safe to say I hope you all root this lost gem of German Literature out as the book its self and its writer Uwe Timm need a wider audience in English .
Have you read Uwe Timm ?