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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Weather Fifteen Years Ago

by
Wolf Haas


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Weather Fifteen Years Ago



Title: The Weather Fifteen Years Ago
Author: Wolf Haas
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 224 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Weather Fifteen Years Ago - US
The Weather Fifteen Years Ago - UK
The Weather Fifteen Years Ago - Canada
Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren - Deutschland
  • German title: Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren
  • Translated by Stephanie Gilardi and Thomas S. Hansen

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Our Assessment:

A- : clever idea that works surprisingly well

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ A 4/10/2006 Rose-Maria Gropp
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 2/10/2006 Paul Jandl
Die Welt . 9/9/2006 Ulrich Weinzierl
Die Zeit A 28/9/2006 Hubert Winkels


  From the Reviews:
  • "Dieser halsbrecherische Trick hätte dem doppelten Haas gut und gern das Genick brechen können. Aber das Gegenteil ereignet sich; ihm gelingt ein virtuoses, irrsinnig komisches Glanzstück. (...) Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren ist die genialische Erfindung eines Genres; niemand erzählt mehr, zwei Personen führen Zwiesprache, verkabelt vom Strom ihrer Assoziationen. Aufgezeichnet vom Recorder der Literaturbeilage, handelt die hin- und herlaufende Rede über nichts Geringeres als die Liebe, und Wolf Haas ist der feinsinnige gangster of love, der den Leser zum atemlosen Mittun verführt. (...) Es ist schon wieder was passiert: Wolf Haas gibt der deutschen Gegenwartsliteratur die Lust am Text zurück." - Rose-Maria Gropp, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Es handelt sich nur um die besonders raffinierte Variante eines Romans. Wahrlich eine kühne, eine komplizierte Konstruktion (.....) Einzelne Motive werden scheinbar beliebig, in Wirklichkeit jedoch präzise kalkuliert aufgegriffen, das Netz von Verweisen erzeugt ungeachtet der Dialogform einen ungewöhnlich dichten Text. Gerade darin liegt das künstlerische Format des Wolf Haas: den Bereich der virtuosen Etüde zu verlassen, zum Ernst und zur Passion vorzudringen. Kurzum: zu erzählen, obwohl man nicht erzählt, im dialektischen Plaudern eine Welt und Menschen aus Fleisch und Blut zu erschaffen. (...) Wolf Haas' erster Nicht-Krimi ist ein poetisches Husarenstück. Er reitet eine furiose Attacke gegen eine Romanmachart, die er recht wienerisch als "üblichen Prosagatsch" bezeichnet. Haas hat -- das soll jetzt einmal ausgesprochen werden -- gewagt, was keiner so vor ihm wagte. Und er hat gewonnen." - Ulrich Weinzierl, Die Welt

  • "Das alles, und die vielen Winkelzüge dazwischen, ist nun schwer zu fassen und zu glauben, wenn man nichts über die Erzählstrategie des Romans weiß. Die ist einerseits so außergewöhnlich, dass man den Glauben an neue Formen des Erzählens wiedergewinnen mag, der einem von der Modernekritik ausgeredet wurde; andererseits so vertraut, dass man in ihrem Kern das Postmoderne-Exerzitium schlechthin entdecken kann. (...) Und so funktioniert der ganze Roman: Jedes ausgefächerte Bild, jede Szene, der ganze Plot kann für etwas anderes stehen (.....) Ein tolles Stück Prosa hat Wolf Haas damit hingelegt, im Wortsinn. Erstaunlich, wie dicht er die philologisch aufgezäumte Redesituation und die dramatische Geschichte zusammenhält, wie er rafft und zuspitzt und wieder loslässt." - Hubert Winkels, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren ('The weather fifteen years ago') is all about the telling, rather than the story. The story itself is a fairly simple one: daily for fifteen years the now thirty-year-old Vittorio Kowalski has been getting the weather-details from the Austrian village of Farmach where his family used to vacation -- and where as a youngster he fell in love with local girl Anni. He hasn't been back all those years, but he's memorized all the weather-details, and that lands him on a German TV quiz-show, Wetten, dass ... ? where contestants show off their peculiar talents (and being able to give the exact weather readings in Farmach for five randomly chosen days from the past fifteen years actually makes Kowalski that day's winner). His TV-success leads to a reunion with Anni -- and the circumstances lead to both ancient and new history being dredged up and made: secrets from the past are uncovered, and meanwhile Anni is about to get married to Kowalski's old rival .....
       But Haas does not tell this story like one usually tells stories. Instead he posits that he -- Wolf Haas -- has written a novel based on Kowalski's story (and called Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren, and with the yellow air-mattress on the cover ...). The Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren the reader holds in his hands is not that book: it consists entirely of a five-part dialogue between author Wolf Hass and a nameless journalist, a woman writing for a literary supplement. It's not entirely realistic -- what newspaper or magazine could afford to have a reporter spend five days on such a story ? and what author would put up with it ? -- but serves Haas' purposes well.
       What they talk about is the book, this Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren that Haas wrote, which slowly begins to take shape in the reader's mind as they discuss it. From the beginning they discuss it taking complete familiarity with it for granted, revealing bits and pieces from throughout the story that the reader initially can't really place -- until, eventually the picture becomes clear. It's not as easy as it perhaps sounds, with Haas playing more than one game here. So, for example, there's the tantalizing early mention of the kiss Kowalski gets from Anni, the kiss he's been waiting fifteen years for, but what exactly the kiss means, and the circumstances under which he gets it, are only revealed much later.
       Most remarkably, by allowing the story to unfold this way -- revealing bits and pieces from it, but not necessarily in chronological-narrative order -- Haas takes what is a pretty simple, almost banal story and makes it surprisingly exciting. The dramatic events from the novel would seem almost hackneyed if presented ... the way author and critic describe them as being presented in the (supposed) actual novel, but here the tension and excitement are much greater. By the end you're hanging on every word.
       The dialogue also offers more than the actual story, in that Haas describes how he came to write it, many of the choices he made, and contrasting the 'real' Kowalski (and other characters) with the fictional ones (as Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren is based on 'real' events, Haas having seen Kowalski on Wetten, dass ... ? and been inspired by his story ...). The journalist's take and comments also add more -- and allow for, for example, a variety of commentary on German-Austrian differences (linguistic and otherwise), as the journalist (like Kowalski) is German while Haas (and Anni) are Austrian. Writing itself -- the choices writers make, the words they use, what they leave out -- is constantly at the forefront here, too, yet it never seems too much just about the writing.
       "Verfremdung durch Realismus !" is how the Haas-character describes one scene he's particularly pleased with -- a Brechtian sort of alienation-effect through realism (i.e. shaking the reader up more by using realistic elements than imagined ones) -- and that's really what this work of fiction as a whole pretends to do (pretends, since it only appears 'realistic' (a sober, simple dialogue) when, in fact, it's all entirely fictional (twice over)).
       Haas' success lies in how well he pulls all this off. It sounds far more complicated than it is -- or at least than it reads. Like in an intricate well-designed machine all the pieces are in place, allowing for the smooth functioning of the machinery, to delightful effect. It must have taken great effort to put it together this way, but Haas managed very well.
       Good fun, and a good read.

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Links:

Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren: Reviews: Wolf Haas: Other books by Wolf Haas under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Wolf Haas was born in 1960, and is best known for his series of Brenner-mysteries.

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© 2008-2010 the complete review

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