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Att dö om våren by Ralf Rothmann
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Att dö om våren (original 2015; edition 2020)

by Ralf Rothmann

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21311128,465 (4.04)6
"The lunacy of the final months of World War II, as experienced by a young German soldier. Distant, silent, often drunk, Walter Urban is a difficult man to have as a father. But his son -- the narrator of this slim, harrowing novel -- is curious about Walter's experiences during World War II, and so makes him a present of a blank notebook in which to write down his memories. Walter dies, however, leaving nothing but the barest skeleton of a story on those pages, leading his son to fill in the gaps himself, rightly or wrongly, with what he can piece together of his father's early life. This, then, is the story of Walter and his dangerously outspoken friend Friedrich Caroli, seventeen-year-old trainee milkers on a dairy farm in northern Germany who are tricked into volunteering for the army during the spring of 1945: the last, and in many ways the worst, months of the war. The men are driven to the point of madness by what they experience, and when Friedrich finally deserts his post, Walter is forced to do the unthinkable. Told in a remarkable impressionistic voice, focusing on the tiny details and moments of grotesque beauty that flower even in the most desperate situations, Ralf Rothmann's To Die in Spring "ushers in the pos -- [Günter] Grass era with enormous power" (Die Zeit)." -- "The lunacy of the final months of World War II, as experienced by a young German soldier"--… (more)
Member:hen_thor
Title:Att dö om våren
Authors:Ralf Rothmann
Info:Malmö : MTM, 2020
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To Die in Spring by Ralf Rothmann (2015)

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» See also 6 mentions

English (3)  Spanish (3)  German (3)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 3 of 3
This was more like a 2.5 for me.
I couldn't connect to this novel, no matter how much I wanted to. I have a soft spot for WW2 fiction, so I thought I'd like this more. The story itself is haunting in a way only real life can be. What do you do when you're a teenager recruited into Waffen SS during the very last months of the war? Some scenes were strong and unforgettable, as you would expect.
However, overall I couldn't connect to the characters and there was no structure whatsoever, so I read it almost like a non-fiction book. Yes, it has a very strong anti-war message, but I wish I could engage with it more emotionally.
The biggest thing I got out of it was how striking the difference is between generations who went through the terror of WW2 and the privileged generations today. ( )
  ZeljanaMaricFerli | Sep 8, 2020 |
Quite painful and heartbreaking to read but very well written. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Nov 6, 2017 |
Ralf Rothmann writes a dark anti-war novel about the devastation of war and the damage it does to people in TO DIE IN SPRING. This theme is not uncommon today. What gives this novel its power, however, is its intensely personal focus and setting during the German collapse in WWII. These contexts provide Rothmann with the opportunity to explore broader themes of guilt, responsibility, denial, and legacy. He makes his aim clear in the very first sentence: “Silence, deep concealment, particularly about the dead, is ultimately a vacuum that fills with truth.”

The devastating impact of war is often overwhelming and thus frequently manifests as silence. This indeed has been common in post-war Germany. Rothmann depicts it by adopting an unusual structure for his novel. The unnamed narrator is the son of a dying veteran, Walter Urban. Walter is an ageing alcoholic, who has been silent about the war and distant with his family. In an effort to learn of his father’s wartime experiences before his passing, his son asks Walter to write down his memories in a notebook. These are clearly too painful for the old man, thus leaving his son with only the barest skeleton of a story. The narrator fills in the blanks by telling a moving story that may be a reasonable facsimile of a common truth.

Walter and his best friend, Friedrich “Fiete” Caroli, are apprentice milkers in Northern Germany during the waning days of the Third Reich. Germany is running out of soldiers and needs everyone it can get. The fit teens are shamed into volunteering while attending a local dance filled with soldiers. Walter is assigned to a Waffen-SS supply company as a driver, while Fiete is sent to the Hungarian front. In his travels, especially in a failed attempt to discover his father’s gravesite, Walter comes to see the army as jaded, dehumanized, and desperate. He discovers for himself what he had been told: “There are more graves here than living people.” As a grim omen of what is to come, he also drives past the bodies of hanged German deserters, some with wooden signs proclaiming, “I am a COWARD.”

After being wounded, the outspoken Fiete becomes increasingly critical of the war only to be confronted by the prevalent Nazi mentality of denial and self-justification. He observes that, “This is a war for cynics, who don’t believe in anything but might makes right … Kick downwards, bow and scrape upwards, and massacre women and children.” Eventually Fiete embarks on a failed attempt at desertion with the predictable death sentence. The friends are reunited following Walter’s unsuccessful attempt to save Fiete. The consequences of Walter’s failed intervention are brutal and indeed unimaginable.

Using a spare and vivid writing style, Rothmann paints a dark picture of unrelenting misery and atrocity. But his sympathetic rendering of the friendship between Walter and Fiete provides a counterpoint, though a painful coming-of-age. The novel is reminiscent of Remarque’s classic, “All Quiet on the Western Front” but also bears similarities to Andrew Krivak’s more recent National Book Award Finalist, “The Sojourn.” ( )
  ozzer | Oct 26, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ralf Rothmannprimary authorall editionscalculated
Whiteside, ShaunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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De vaders hebben onrijpe druiven gegeten, en de tanden der kinderen zijn stomp geworden - Ezechiel
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Het zwijgen, het diepe verzwijgen, vooral als het om overledenen gaat, is uiteindelijk een vacuüm dat door het leven ooit vanzelf met waarheid wordt gevuld.
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"The lunacy of the final months of World War II, as experienced by a young German soldier. Distant, silent, often drunk, Walter Urban is a difficult man to have as a father. But his son -- the narrator of this slim, harrowing novel -- is curious about Walter's experiences during World War II, and so makes him a present of a blank notebook in which to write down his memories. Walter dies, however, leaving nothing but the barest skeleton of a story on those pages, leading his son to fill in the gaps himself, rightly or wrongly, with what he can piece together of his father's early life. This, then, is the story of Walter and his dangerously outspoken friend Friedrich Caroli, seventeen-year-old trainee milkers on a dairy farm in northern Germany who are tricked into volunteering for the army during the spring of 1945: the last, and in many ways the worst, months of the war. The men are driven to the point of madness by what they experience, and when Friedrich finally deserts his post, Walter is forced to do the unthinkable. Told in a remarkable impressionistic voice, focusing on the tiny details and moments of grotesque beauty that flower even in the most desperate situations, Ralf Rothmann's To Die in Spring "ushers in the pos -- [Günter] Grass era with enormous power" (Die Zeit)." -- "The lunacy of the final months of World War II, as experienced by a young German soldier"--

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