One of my Christmas gifts! It took me a while to read it, but I made it, my second completed book in German! Very proud of myself. Also I discovered or rather remembered that when I was learning English the first books I read in English were actually Grisham’s book, so also sort of crime/court fiction. It seems to be a pattern that works for me when I learn languages so I think I’ll continue.
As with all non-English books I read let’s start with the title: The Wet Fish, in the book police slang it means a cold case, and we do have here cold cases and cases that characters would like to move to that category. The book has an English translation: Babylon Berlin. It is the first book in the series about Gereon Rath, a young policeman forced to move from Cologne to Berlin. The story takes place in 1929, so we have here far right ready to blossom (not sure if it’s the right word, but let’s keep it) and kicking and screaming far left, as well as everyone in between and a crazy night-life. Our main character is young but already scarred by the war and by the unfortunate event that forced him to move from Cologne, yet he is also very ambitious and dead set on getting a place in Homicide Division.
Initially we like Rath a lot and side with him, only to become a little less convinced of his goodness as he makes his way to the homicide investigation team. He is not a hero in shining armour and not only because of his past but also because of the decisions he makes and things he is willing to risk an d sacrifice to get what he wants. I won’t describe the details of the plot so you can discover them for yourselves. But I did enjoy the setting, Kutscher really describes the city’s atmosphere between the wars excellently, all the tensions, violence but also crazy night life and people being in denial about things happening around them (though we have the benefit of hindsight, in 100 years someone may as well say about all of us that we were in denial). The book is over 500 pages long, so we can see that Kutscher gives himself time and space to develop characters, build the plot, but also allow our characters to roam the city and letting himself describe it as a living organism. I am sure that a lot of nuances escaped me, after 100 pages I was so engrossed in the plot that I gave up on the dictionary, which I think is a good thing in the long run, I finished the book and hopefully remember a few words by osmosis (Leiche and Zeuge come to mind as new ones, not sure when I’d get a chance to use them in real life, hopefully never).
For those of you who like to accompany the book with a visual there is also a series Babylon Berlin from 2017, I haven’t watched it yet, so cannot vouch for it, but I have some hopes.
Do you read in other languages? What is your trick to start and to continue?
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska