Nov 22

AndersonMarchen

Andersens Märchen, by HC Andersen ★★★

Continuing my relatively passive exposure to the German language, I read a German translation of Andersen’s Fairytales. This was supposedly a fairly complete version of Andersen’s works, and so was rather long. Though this edition was translated about 100 years ago, it contains a number of archaic words for which the book occasionally provided translations. There were many fairy tales that were familiar to me, like the Ugly Duckling, and the Little Mermaid. The little mermaid story has only a passing resemblance to the Walt Disney version of the story. Many of the stories were a touch wearisome, being somewhat unimaginative. Andersen loved to put a brain and animus into common plants and objects, and would lead you through the adventures of their existence. So you follow the events that occur with a tin soldier, some plants like a fir tree, and various other objects. The book was wonderful reading, considering that it was not too complex of language for learning German.

Next on my German reading list is the 1001 nights or Arabian Nights. Already, it reads a little smoother than Andersens Märchen, even though most of the stories I’m not at all familiar with.

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Oct 19

Durch die Wüste, by Karl May ★★★★★

Durch die Wüste means “Through the Desert”, and is the first of many adventure novels published by Karl May, written at the end of the 19th century. It is an adventure story along the lines of Indiana Jones, and probably served as the model for Indiana Jones and other similar movies. The adventurer, Kara ben Nemsi travels from the North Saharan desert across Egypt, to Mecca, and ends with him preparing to enter Kurdistan, thus the sequel is Durch Wilde Kurdistan. I read the book in order to better understand German, and it was great at being about 98% understandable, with only a few parts completely passing me by. I’ll probably continue the novels, but the read is rather slow. It took me about 3-4 months to get through this book, and was read on my Kindle. The book is highly recommended for those learning German.

 

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Aug 05

Napola, Elite für den Führer ???

This film has been produced in English, but I unfortunately have only the German version. I was able to follow most of the speaking, though there were critical sections where I was totally unable to understand what was going on. Thus, my review may not be entirely accurate. It is a quasi-historical film (historical fiction) detailing a young boy, good at boxing, who is asked to enroll in a special school system that Hitler had set up to establish an elite system of education. This boy goes against the wishes of his parents to attend the school, and does well at first, until questions start arising. There is an unusually high attrition rate at the school, and certain classmates are treated in a very embarrassing fashion, such as the kid who occasionally has a problem with bedwetting. The turning point was when the students were asked to hunt down and shoot some young escaped Russian POWs. This led the star character to give up, and in the end get thrown out of the school.

Reading the reviews of this movie, many comment on how this film represents a resurrection of rethinking some of the crimes of the past Nazi regime. I’m not sure such an episode is worth re-thinking. The mistake made in this film is that they do NOT engage in a re-thinking, but rather, a re-creation or a re-invention of what actually happened. They imply that young Germans actually knew better, that they had hearts and souls that defied the evil of their elders and wished to correct those evils. One wishes that were true, but such is not the case in any epoch, in any time, in any place. Such is human nature to defy the elders, but in such a fashion as to generate an even worse ethic or morality. So, Napola doesn’t satisfy the wish for a therapeutic re-think of past sins. It excuses the past by claiming that the youth really knew better, and often did act in defiance of Nazi policy. A few did, such as Sophie Scholl, but most did not.

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Jul 09

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, starring Klaus Kinski, directed by Werner Herzog ?????

Herzog and Kinski made many films together, though the reportedly did not get along too well with each other. Most of their films will leave an overwhelming impression on you, and this film is no exception. Amazon reviewers either left it 5 stars or one star. I could argue both ways with this film. Kinski has to be one of the ugliest, brutish actors to ever hit the stage. It is amazing that he had such a beautiful daughter. His acting included almost no speech, and much of the movie is passed with silent imagery of soldiers marching through the Andes, or sailing down a tributary of the Amazon. Yet, the film tends to be very effective. It is quite a depressing film, where a expeditionary team of one of Pizarro’s army, attempting to find El Dorado, the city of Gold, ends up with mixed intentions and internal rivalry, ultimately leading to the destruction of the entire expedition. This is reportedly based on a true story, though I’m not certain as to it’s faithfulness to the historical narratives. The film was in German, though it is available in dubbed English, and could be enjoyed by American audiences. Don’t watch it as a film to lift your spirits. It won’t.

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Oct 31

Die Geschichte der Deutschen, by Guido Knopp ?????

This book, written in German, utilized many illustrations and simpler language for the school-level, which made it quite understandable to me. Knopp is a historian, who also works for the ZDF (I believe). Giving a history of Germany from the eyes of a German native, it made the story most fascinating, especially as he approached the modern epoch of the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany. The story begins with Karl der Grosse, and ends with reunifications, emphasizing both the triumphs and low points in the history of a nation. One gets the idea that, unlike France, there is a history of progression with the German people, that they have had to “re-invent” themselves many times out of necessity for survival, rather than cling to a past hypothetical ideal. If one could read German, this is a delightful read worth tackling.

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