Thursday, December 09, 2010

Jakob Arjouni's Germany

Next up is Kismet, Jakob Arjouni's fourth novel about Kemal Kayankaya, a German private detective of Turkish descent.

The earlier Kayankaya books offer novel takes on the hard-boiled P.I. tradition, so I thought I'd bring back one of my earlier comments about Arjouni as I begin this latest book. The remark was part of a post about One Death to Die, a book I thought relied a bit too often on hard-boiled clichés but was full of interest nonetheless:
Better are Kayankaya's encounters with obstructionist officials, a more subtle way of portraying racism. Best is Kayankaya's searing verbal assault on a neighbor who he finds out supports a "moderate" right-wing party that doesn't want to kick Turks out of Germany but won't accept them either. The poor neighbor thinks himself humane and morally superior to Germany's "real" racists, and all it takes is two words from a furious Kayankaya not just to puncture his complacency, but to utterly shatter him. The words? "Heil Hitler!" Longtime readers of this two-day-old blog will recognize that this fulfills my top criterion for "international" fiction: It takes full advantage of its setting. Such a moment could not happen, or at least not with the same dynamic effect, anywhere but in Germany.
Here's the rest of that comment along with my other posts about Arjouni.
My edition of Kismet is published by Melville House. I had not heard of the company before, but it appears to publish a fine list of crime and non-crime books.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Ouch! Let's keep in mind that European countries face many of the same problems that the U.S. faces with illegal immigration. Here it's Mexicans; there it's Middle Easterners. Human reactions are much the same everywhere. If you're out of work or your taxes go up, you blame it on those you think take the jobs or free-load on the economy. It strikes me that this scenario could have played out in the UK also.

December 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Such a scenario could have played out elsewhere but without quite so powerful a punch line. Also, I'm not sure the U.S. or the UK have any immigrant groups, at least officialy, that occupy quite so equivocal position as gastarbeiter in Germany.

Still, a politically or socially resonant passage in a non-American crime novel will sometimes get me thinking about society or politics in America.

December 09, 2010  
Anonymous The Clandestine Samurai said...

A politically or socially resonant passage in an any-country crime novel will get me thinking about the ways of America, especially if something is being comfortably expressed in the novel that should be in common American media but isn't.

This novel looks awesome. Will check it out. But you said it was a 4th novel, 4th in a series or just the 4th piece of output from the author?

December 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Welcome back.

I may notice such passages in non-American crime novels simply because they constitute the bulk of my reading. But a fable effect may be at work as well: A story's apparent remoteness from my own reality may make it easier for me to notice deeper truths.

This novel is the fourth in the Kayankaya series, as far as I know. The author has also written a number of other books.

December 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But the "Heil Hitler!" passage is from an earlier book in the series, One Death to Die.

December 11, 2010  
Blogger Lauren said...

I like the books, but I could really do without the author's pseudo-Turkish identity - it's not necessary, and I know it puts certain people off - particularly because the author's own background is so establishment. Why not just tell a good story (and it's a fair representation of the role of Turkish people in Germany, though I have certain qualms), instead of trying to add fake authenticity?

December 12, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That criticism is of great interest. When I first read Arjouni, I thought he was Turkish, and I may have read references that said as much. Then I found out he was not Turkish. Very recently I found out Jakob Arjouni was a pseudonym, and even more recently I found out that his father was a pplaywright, if my memory serves me well.

I've always been a bit leery of crime authors who write in voices of characters from countries other than their own. Arjouni's strategy is an interesting spin on this. Why does this stance put certain people off Do those people tend to be German?

December 12, 2010  

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