Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Review: Berlin Books - Russian Disco

The next installment of the Berlin Books is the highly entertaining 'Russian Disco' by Wladimir Kaminer - "Tales of Everyday Lunacy on the streets of Berlin"...

Russian Disco: Wladimir Kaminer

Russian Disco is a disjointed book. Fifty short tales of life in Berlin from Russian author, sometimes the stories over-lap, they don't seem to be in any kind of order, and sometimes you are just not sure what on earth Kaminer is going on about...

But that was probably the intention. After all, Russian Disco documents Kaminer's life in Berlin following emigration in 1990, in that period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the final collapse of the DDR. He moved into a flat vacated by an East German who had just upped and left. He spent time in a foreigner reception centre in Marzahn. He was an extra in a war movie, he meets more crazy people than you can imagine, and he tells all their (and his) stories with humour and a sense of chaos that suits the turbulant time about which he is writing.

Along the way Kaminer and friends began the now legendary Russendisko nights, an event that is also covered by the book, as well as beginning his media career that has led to this, and other bestselling books as well as newspaper columns including a regular spot in Zitty magazine. This journey, with diversions along the way including re-selling Aldi goods outside Lichtenberg Station and other money-making schemes, musings on Russian phone-sex and German citizenship, to sardonic observations about the Russian community in the city.

Despite the fact that sometimes the pieces seem too short (2/3 pages) and as a reader you actually want more, Russian Disco is a good, if quick, read. Kaminer is both smart and funny, and the translator has done a great job putting it into English.

Entertainingly chaotic.

Russian Disco is available, and there are a couple of other reviews, on Amazon, or if you are in Berlin, head to one of the English Bookshops in the city.

8 Comments:

Blogger BiB said...

Russendisko made me spit and fume and pull my hair out, I expect because of, as you say, some of the anecdotes being so short and you think, "Oh, was that it?" Or some are just too uninteresting, like the Turks in his Imbiss not in fact being Turks but being Bulgarian. Et alors? But I think why I found it so annoying was having seen Kaminer interviewed (and performing), I know he's funny and charming and intelligent, and I thought the book didn't reflect that nearly enough. Still, as you say, a nice, light read, and good practice for folk whose German isn't that good yet.

Keep up the public-spiritedness.

8:43 pm  
Blogger P. said...

Hi broke in berlin,

I have to say I guess I liked it more than you did! But out of interest, I have only read it in English. Did you read it in German? And was it different?

Of course, some of the stories are a bit pointless, but for someone who would have LOVED to have been in Berlin at that time, some parts are just great to read.

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

9:14 pm  
Blogger BiB said...

Yes, I've only read the original so don't know if the translation was any good, but the language is very straightforward, so hopefully the translator didn't make a pig's ear of it. I've heard a malicious rumour from a Berlin Russian that the brains behind all Kaminer's projects is in fact his wife, and - forgive the rampant scurrilousness - that she even WROTE Russendsiko. But Russkies love a conspiracy, so this could be bollocks. (Sorry, is swearing allowed?)

12:32 pm  
Blogger P. said...

I don't mind the swearing. Hopefully I won't get in trouble for the scurrilous rumours though!

One of my friends, who read the post and your response, agreed with you, and also said they never understood the hype around it at the time of its release.

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Anonymous Elliott Broidy said...

Great recommendation!

8:23 pm  

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