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German for Travelers: A Novel in 95 Lessons Paperback – May 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566892236
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566892230
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,535,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Labiner (Miniatures) delves into the life of Dr. Jozef Apfel, a renowned German psychoanalyst who never solved the mysterious case of his patient, Elsa Z, in the years leading up to WWII. A few generations later, the doctor's Jewish descendants are scattered across America: Hollywood starlet Lemon Leopold; her psychiatrist brother, Ben; their romance novelist cousin, Eliza. When Eliza is summoned to Berlin by a distant aunt to delve into the family's past, Lemon comes along and winds up finding meaning in her life. Elsa Z's traumas are mirrored by the sorrows of generations of Apfel women, most notably Eliza, whose own recent past is entangled with Berlin. Labiner toys with both psychoanalysis and its history: Elsa Z's hysteria is reminiscent of Freud's Dora (she even has her own Herr K), and Dr. Apfel's triangular seduction theory ends up causing problems in his own love life. But while this intricate family saga has definite potential, it's thrown off course by the novel's frustrating structure, where seemingly random chapters devolve into pseudo-existential travel advice and Labiner's heavy-handed poetic intentions. (May)
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About the Author

Norah Labiner is the author of two highly acclaimed novels: Miniatures, an American Library Association Notable Book, and Our Sometime Sister, a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. She lives in Minneapolis.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Erika Dreifus on October 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
In 95 brief chapters, this novel acquaints us with an extended family and its secrets, past and present. In 2005, a letter from a woman claiming to be their great-aunt prompts Jewish-American cousins Eliza Berlin and Louisa 'Lemon' Leopold to travel to Germany. There, at the beginning of the previous century, their great-grandfather, Dr. Jozef Apfel, was a prominent psychoanalyst. The novel reveals secrets and traumas within the lives of the cousins as well as the truth behind their great-grandfather's most mysterious case, that of 'Elsa Z.' At various times, the reader will notice what seems to be the sparest of expository prose (the body of one chapter consists of a single twelve-word sentence); occasionally, there is a page-length paragraph; some sections particularly impress with their use of dialogue or detail. Although some readers may initially find it difficult to track all the characters, overall, the novel is extremely engaging, shifting in time and place with artful connections and literary grace. Chronology [included]. (This review originally appeared in JEWISH BOOK WORLD.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Linda C. Franklin on June 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found my first Norah Labiner book--"Miniatures" Miniatures-- at a thrift shop. I liked reading it so much that I ordered two others from Amazon. This "German for Travelers" is completely different in style, and perhaps some would say the structure is artificial or too intellectual, yet it suits my (new) reading style: slower! I think Labiner has both abandon and control; her mind conjures up -- seemingly effortlessly -- wonderful images, words and phrases, and she self-edits so well that I as the reader don't ever feel she has done something "clever" or show-offy. As a writer myself, I feel that i have met a true peer. This is a multi-generation story with well-sketched characters. They are sketched so often, in different ways, that you get to know them as you would a real person. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ms. Labiner is a precise and creative novelist. This book is very different from her previous two novels, but one realizes that similarly, every syllable is carefully chosen, as was the case in her first two novels. Each chapter has a special first person approach, and she skips back and forth in time aligning each aspect of the story and the characters as the two modern women seek to learn of their past and the meaning in it.

Norah Labiner is as skilled as any modern writer, and her facility with the language is often breathtaking.
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