Kaltenburg: Book summary and reviews of Kaltenburg by Marcel Beyer

Kaltenburg

by Marcel Beyer

Kaltenburg by Marcel Beyer X
Kaltenburg by Marcel Beyer
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2012
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Hailed by The New Yorker as one of the best young novelists and recipient of Germany's most prestigious literary awards, Marcel Beyer returns with a brilliantly wrought novel that brings to life both an individual and a whole world: the zoologist Ludwig Kaltenburg, loosely based on Nobel Prize–winner Konrad Lorenz, and his institute for research into animal behavior.

Hermann Funk first meets Kaltenburg when still a child in Posen in the 1930s. Hermann's father, a botanist, and Kaltenburg are close friends, but a rift occurs. In 1945, fleeing the war, the Funks perish in the Dresden bombing, and Hermann finds his way to Kaltenburg's newly established institute. He becomes Kaltenburg's protégé, embracing the Institute's unconventional methods. Yet parts of Kaltenburg's past life remain unclear. Was he a member of the Nazi Party? Does he believe his discoveries about aggression in animals also apply to humans? Why has he erased the years in Posen from his official biography?

Through layers of memory and experience Hermann struggles to reconcile affection and doubt, to make sense of his childhood, even as he meets a woman with family secrets of her own.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. It is Beyer's complex interpolation of daily memories - sometimes fused or distorted in a Proustian vein - complete with highly detailed ornithological observations that give this work its exquisite flavor." - Publishers Weekly

"Award-winning German novelist Beyer (The Karnau Tapes) ranges over the decades from Nazism to communism to a reunited Germany to reveal our ability both to remember and to recast unpleasant memories in a more favorable light, and to show what people must hide in order to survive." - Library Journal

"This scattershot novel could have used some livelier scenes to ensure a richer presentation of its protagonist." - Kirkus Reviews

"Kaltenburg, a book as fine-boned as the birds that flock its pages, is a meditation not only on the observation of nature but also on the nature of observation, and the varieties and limits of memory." - Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"A masterly recollection of modern history." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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Author Information

Marcel Beyer

Marcel Beyer was born and raised in Cologne. The author of several novels and collections of poems, he has received numerous awards and was named one of the best young novelists in the world by the New Yorker. He lives in Dresden.

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