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Nabokovs Katze

Thomas Lehr

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To purchase Nabokovs Katze

Title: Nabokovs Katze
Author: Thomas Lehr
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999
Length: 509 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Nabokovs Katze
  • Nabokovs Katze has not been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining and quite well written big book

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 13/11/1999 .
Der Spiegel A- 11/10/1999 Volker Hage
Die Welt B 27/11/1999 Ingolf Kern
World Lit. Today . Summer/2000 Thomas J. Hajewski

  From the Reviews:
  • "Was soll das alles ? Thomas Lehr hat mit Nabokovs Katze -- die taucht übrigens nicht auf -- ein dickes, verstörendes Buch geschrieben." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Lehr (...) hat mit Nabokovs Katze einen ganz altmodisch-gediegenen Bildungs- und Künstlerroman geschrieben, zugleich eine Education érotique -- mit einer Ernsthaftigkeit und Könnerschaft, die das Buch über die meisten Literaturtitel dieses Herbstes hinuashebt." - Volker Hage, Der Spiegel

  • "Ach, es ist ein ächzendes Vergnügen diesen Roman zu lesen, man ist hin- und hergerissen zwischen wirklich großartigen Passagen in einer cineastisch süffigen Sprache und eher studentischem Geschwätz." - Ingolf Kern, Die Welt

  • "Lehr's style in the novel is vivid, his hero's sexual encounters with many women erotic and sensual. Not only is the work presented from the perspective of a young German intellectual growing up as part of what is called "die Nach-68er-Generation"; its many references and cross-references to works and characters by other writers, philosophers, and artists are a key to the thought processes of a cinematographer as well as a novelist. (...) Nabokovs Katze is a fascinating, well-developed account of an obsession, an ironic study of male sexuality, and, as quoted in Der Spiegel "eine wunderbare Liebesgeschichte."" - Thomas J. Hajewski, World Literature Today

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:

       Thomas Lehr's novel is not, as one might hope, about Vladimir Nabokov's cat. In fact, it is about love and, to some extent, obsession. After experimenting with LSD the then still teenage central character, Georg, is hospitalized. Once released he wanders into a bookstore and purchases Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Out on the street again he bumps into Camille -- and both realize instantly, with the certainty of adolescent infatuation, that they are meant for each other.
       They are not even together for very long, as their relationship moves with typical youthful passion and then comes to an abrupt halt. Going their separate ways they continue to stay in touch over the decades that follow. Though Georg gets on with life, becomes involved with a variety of other women, has a successful career, Camille remains a continuing presence, an ideal that he is constantly drawn to.
       Georg undergoes several transformations through the novel. A chance one-night stand with an older woman (his sexual initiation) leads to another influential book being thrust into his hands: the woman gives him a book explicating Gödel's theorem. Georg decides to become a mathematician. He turns from indifferent high school student, condemned to repeat a grade, into an almost model student, channelling his energies into his studies, and especially his philosophical interests.
       Georg also has other interests, and plays around at making films with some of his school friends. Lehr confidently builds up the character, never forcing the development. Georg is, in fact, destined to become a filmmaker, but Lehr never imposes the career on him (or the reader), making it seem a natural but not inevitable choice.
       Some of Georg's early films are based on mathematics: one tells of Chandrashekar's voyage from India to England in 1928, as a young physics student, and the sudden understanding of black holes that came to him (the so-called Chandrashekar limit -- the idea that stars of a certain size must collapse on themselves). (Subrahmanyam "Chandra" Chandrashekar was finally awarded the Nobel Prize in 1983.) Another one focusses on mathematician Georg Cantor's last years. But behind these and his other films only one subject truly interests him: Camille, and it is a film of Camille that he ultimately hopes to make.
       Georg marries, but he is never entirely satisfied with this or his professional success. He remains in touch with Camille, and she continues to haunt him -- a first-love that he finds in many ways defines his life.
       Lehr is more successful in the first half of the novel, slowly shaping the characters (and specifically Georg). As they move into their careers -- and specifically, as they travel about (especially Georg's later excursions -- to Southeast Asia and Mexico) -- Lehr seems to lose some of his control, and the story is no longer as captivating.
       Set against the backdrop of Germany in the 1970s and 80s, Lehr brings some of the political and social colour of the time into the novel -- most successfully, perhaps, through Sartre. However, Lehr is more concerned with the personal relationships. He does a fair job with them, though there are definite longueurs. There is also a decent amount of sex and much has apparently been made of the erotic aspects of the novel in Germany. Other than that there is a fair amount of it, described in a variety of styles, it is generally unremarkable.
       The novel spirals towards an end in which Georg and Camille are allowed to speak in the first person, no longer presented through an omniscient narrator's interfering hand. Georg writes e-mail (and a film scene), Camille also writes a personal missive -- an odd and not entirely satisfactory way of tying up the book.
       Much of the book is well written, and much of it reads well. It is, fortunately, not an overly ambitious book: even when Lehr uses big ideas (Sartre, Chandrashekar, etc.) he does not emphasize them too much. Lehr is willing to work on a more mundane level, and this is the most appealing part of the book -- it is simply a love story, and generally it is as simple (and complex) as love is. Lehr does get carried away at times, but overall it is a solid effort.

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Nabokovs Katze: Reviews: Other books by Thomas Lehr under review: Other books of interest:
  • See the Index of German literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       German author Thomas Lehr was born in 1957. He has received several literary awards.

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