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Die Zeit-Bibliothek der 100 Bücher

by Fritz J. Raddatz

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Die ZEIT-Bibliothek der 100 Bücher by Fritz J. Raddatz
Suhrkamp Verlag (1980), Edition: 13, Broschiert, 448 pages

 The task: to select 100 books from the world-literature for this ‘library’, that was the task the editors of the literature section of the German weekly “Die Zeit” set themselves. The result was first published weekly from 1978 to 1980.
 The impulse for this task: to help young people to enter the world of literature as – in the words of Raddatz – each work opens in its own specific way a different dimension of this world they are growing into and, at the same time, can awake what is already latent in them: joy, curiosity, defensive reaction, critical abilities, that is, literature can help them finding out about and getting to understand their own complexity.
 The boundaries which were set for this task: narrative literature only; that excludes plays, poems, non-fiction; also only 1 book by each author to be chosen.. But these were taken as rules only so they were occasionally broken: – 2 works each by Goethe and Kafka, Beckett’s ‘Krapp’s last tape’, Heine’s “Wintermärchen”, Marx’s „Achzehnter Brumaire“, ... – but Shakespeare is excluded. The 6 members of the jury wanted to invite also disagreement: they are very much aware that others would have chosen quite a different selection.
 A unexpected but welcome result: as most of these here published interpretations were done by writers, not by professional critics, one finds often that their own personality and ways of working has been woven into the text.

The result is not a representative introduction to world literature: German is the original language of just under half (43) of the 100 books. That is perhaps not a surprise as German is the mother tongue of all participants: the members of the jury, the reviewers and the readers they address. I find a more serious shortcoming that the selection reflects almost entirely Western literature only. The “Bible” and “Thousand and One Nights” are the only two books originally from beyond, and of course the Bible has become the foundation of Western culture, so only one work is left. Those who are looking for a more representative selection of world literature in an accessible form should consult the Laffont-Bompiani. Dictionnaire universel des lettres.

Among the 100 books I find many old acquaintances and quite a few are hiding somewhere on my shelves. But there are a few authors I have never even heard of, like Lichtenberg or Moritz, and I am now curious to discover them. The essays are refreshing to read whether one knows the work or not because the writers are passionate about their chosen work and communicate their encounter with it. (IX-12) ( )
  MeisterPfriem | Sep 7, 2012 |
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