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Comment: The item is fairly worn but continues to work perfectly. Signs of wear can include aesthetic issues such as scratches, dents, and worn corners. All pages and the cover are intact, but the dust cover may be missing. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting, but the text is not obscured or unreadable.
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How German Is It Paperback – November 17, 1980

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The question How German Is It underlies the conduct and actions of the characters in Walter Abish's novel, an icy panorama of contemporary Germany, in which the tradition of order and obedience, the patrimony of the saber and the castle on the Rhine, give way to the present, indiscriminate fascination with all things American.

About the Author

Walter Abish (1931- ) was born in Vienna but fled from the Nazis to Italy and later to Nice with his family while still a young child. They settled in Shanghai for most of the 1940s, and then relocated to Israel in 1949, where Abish served in the army and developed an interest in literature and writing. He moved to the United States in 1957 and became an American citizen in 1960. He's taught at several universities in the US, served on the International PEN board, and has won Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships. His experimental, cerebral works are not empty intellectual gestures but attempts to find fictional forms with which to express his reactions to the politically and socially unstable moment in which he was born and raised. Of his first book, Alphabetical Africa he wrote, "Feeling a distrust of the understanding that is intrinsic to any communication, I decided to write a book in which my distrust became a determining factor upon which the flow of the narrative was largely predicated."
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; First Edition edition (November 17, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811207765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811207768
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on September 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Walter Abish has a reputation for writing experimental fiction and much of his work is not all that accessible but this novel will appeal to readers of both experimental fiction and readers who like a solid plot and believable characters as the book treads ground familiar enough to appeal to the reader with a taste for tradtional novels and yet the psychologies studied are quite modern and so the reader of experimental fiction will find much to admire as well. Abish is an American and this book won the most prestigious American book award(PEN/Faulkner) in the year of its release 1981 but the authors that come to mind when reading HOW GERMAN IS IT are German or Austrian. The lead character is named Ulrich and any lover of German language literature will immediately think Robert Musil when hearing that name. In a way the book is reminiscent of Musil's Man Without Qualities in that its lead character is a kind of cipher without any real identity of his own, at least not one that is readily apparent. Abish's Ulrich is an author and throughout the book Abish has different characters in his book comment on how unreliable authors are. This is kind of a modernist joke but one that gains in resonance as the book progresses. Abish writes in a way that may remind some of Kundera but without the humor, and without the hip 60's sensibility. Like Kundera however he places his characters in very specific historic contexts. For Abish however there is a kind of delayed reaction as the present of the novel is the late seventies but the historic context still defining each character relates back to the 1939-45 period. The truths and obsessions that define the German character that was so very evident in those years have never really vanished is Abish's conceit.Read more ›
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The master journalist H.L. Mencken once wrote, "If you are against labor racketeers, then you are against the working man. If you are against demagogues, then you are against democracy. If you are against Christianity, then you are against God. If you are against trying a can of Old Dr. Quack's Cancer Salve, then you are in favor of letting Uncle Julius die. This novel is 23 years old; the Second World War ended over 59 years ago, yet the plot is still relevant today. It will be a long time before Germany as a nation, and the Germans as a people will be live apart from the legacy of Nazism and the atrocities and destruction that was wrought during those few years. While the descendents of the victims will continue to usurp the role of the victim, the descendents of the perpetrators will inherit guilt for the crimes, and then there are those who are not sure how they fit into this scheme from a historical perspective. The naïve, the disgruntled, the apathetic, and the nazis-new and old-exist side by side, this is the crux of "How German is it."
The setting of this story is a town that was once the site of a concentration camp. For posterity the camp has been leveled and a modern town has been built and named after Germany's most celebrated contemporary philosopher. The story surrounds a writer who is the son of a former high ranking German military officer executed for his role in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. While not a military story, this novel weaves through the daily activities of this man and the constantly reminders of the events past due to relationships both professional and personal, and a small band of terrorists, a very interesting plot.
Although written in 1980, terrorism is explored as a form of expression for the disgruntled.
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Format: Paperback
When should victims and their descents stop being victims and when do the crimes of our ancestors stop being our fault? This is territory of How German Is It = Wie Deutsch Ist Es by Walter Abish published in 1981 but set in the 70's when the post war generation were having to come to terms with their futures and the pasts it was built on. Abish is an American but whose family had fled Europe during the Hitler years.

The central character is Ulrich a writer who is the son of a former high ranking German military officer executed for his role in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. He and his brother a modernist architect are from the aristocratic elite who supported Hitler's anti-communist stance as a political necessity. We first meet Ulrich having returned to the new post war town and discover that he had been caught up with a terrorist cell who were imprisoned based on his evidence so he and his wife are free. This has serious consequences as it clear that his wife who leaves him believes in the terrorist cause as may one of his girl friends. His brother, Helmuth is helping to build the new Germany and is in cahoots with the Mayor and has a chaotic sex life causing his marriage to fall about. This again ripples through the novel and helps to shape the climax of the story.

A servant who saved the family in the fall of Nazi Germany lives in the new town and serves in the best restaurant and is known and loved by the two brothers. But it's clear in the web of relationships that build up that not all is as it seems. As the character's relationships build up a picture of who Ulrich is and why he must react in the final count in the way he does, we also start to discover that the new town is built on the ruins of a concentration camp and a willingness to try and ignore the past.
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