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The German Lesson (1968)

by Siegfried Lenz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1481617,470 (4.22)79
"Siggi Jepsen, incarcerated as a juvenile delinquent, is one day assigned to write a routine German lesson on the "The Joys of Duty." Overfamiliar with these "joys," Siggi sets down his life since 1943, a decade earlier, when as a boy he watched his father, constable of the northernmost police station in Germany, doggedly carry out orders from Berlin to stop a well-known Expressionist, their neighbor, from painting and to seize all his "degenerate" work. Soon Siggi is stealing the paintings to keep them safe from his father. Against the great brooding northern landscape. Siggi recounts the clash of father and son, of duty and personal loyalty, in wartime Germany. "I was trying to find out," Lenz says, "where the joys of duty could lead a people".--Goodreads… (more)
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» See also 79 mentions

English (6)  Dutch (3)  Danish (2)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Ich bin sehr beeindruckt von dieser so poetisch erzählten, bewegenden und nachdenklich machenden Geschichte.
Definitiv ein Jahreshighlight und ich freue mich, dass ich mich da "rangetraut" habe! ( )
  Katzenkindliest | Apr 23, 2024 |
4.25. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Dec 1, 2022 |
Given how funny, subtle, and rending this book is in translation, I suspect it is a minor masterpiece in German. As WWII home-front book from the point of view of a German student/delinquent, the tone is somewhere between Hans Fallada, Flann O'Brien, and Joseph Heller. Highly enjoyable. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
A wonderful book, brilliantly written. If you wonder how the Nazis managed to hoodwink the people, this is the book for you. The story concerns a young man, 10 years old in 1943 and his father, a local policeman who is a Nazi stooge. 'the young man befriends an expressionist painter who is told by Berlin to not paint and they instruct the policeman to prevent him from doing so.
Later in the book, the policeman attempts to lead a Volksturm unit of older people. The young man is probably run in by the artist himself for stealing. This is a very disturbed young man and he is clearly nuts as the book shows.Great descriptions of the North German coast/ ( )
  annbury | Mar 14, 2017 |
Thirty years after I first read it, this still managed to surprise me. Those who complain about deficiencies in the balance between the style and the political theme are probably right, but all the same, Lenz does a remarkable job of portraying the North German landscape and people in his big, flat, repetitive descriptive structures. There is a deliberate element of monotony, but it doesn't make the book boring; on the contrary, you're drawn in and made to look for the fine detail under the big grey skies.
What I didn't really take in the first time I read it is how ambivalent Lenz is in his treatment of the main story. We start off on Siggi's side, seeing his father as a misguided and obsessive "slave of duty" (I couldn't help thinking of the Pirates of Penzance...) but after a while we realise that practically everyone else, including Siggi, is the victim of some kind of self-destructive obsession too. We can put this down to the distorted moral universe of the Third Reich if we want to, but Lenz seems to leave it open. Is it the particular stubbornness of the Northern character? Is the world just like that? It's interesting that Lenz chose to set what people would see as his big wartime novel in a place that was scarcely affected by the war, and make the chief victim of Nazi persecution a painter of nationalist views who had been involved in Völkisch politics and was a Nazi party member himself for a while. ( )
6 vote thorold | Dec 30, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lenz, SiegfriedAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brix, BirgitteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coeta, LuisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graff, FinnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holmboe, LotteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaiser, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neubauer, Martinsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suominen, OiliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilkins, EithneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Für L. H. L.
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Sie haben mir eine Strafarbeit gegeben.
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"Siggi Jepsen, incarcerated as a juvenile delinquent, is one day assigned to write a routine German lesson on the "The Joys of Duty." Overfamiliar with these "joys," Siggi sets down his life since 1943, a decade earlier, when as a boy he watched his father, constable of the northernmost police station in Germany, doggedly carry out orders from Berlin to stop a well-known Expressionist, their neighbor, from painting and to seize all his "degenerate" work. Soon Siggi is stealing the paintings to keep them safe from his father. Against the great brooding northern landscape. Siggi recounts the clash of father and son, of duty and personal loyalty, in wartime Germany. "I was trying to find out," Lenz says, "where the joys of duty could lead a people".--Goodreads

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