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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Eros

by
Helmut Krausser


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

To purchase Eros



Title: Eros
Author: Helmut Krausser
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 342 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Eros - US
Eros - UK
Eros - Canada
Eros - Deutschland
  • German title: Eros
  • Translated by Mike Mitchell

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Our Assessment:

B : an uneven story of personal and German history

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ D 4/10/2006 Edo Reents
The LA Times . 3/8/2008 Jim Ruland
NZZ . 7/10/2006 Rainer Moritz


  From the Reviews:
  • "Wenn man es positiv formulieren will, könnte man sagen: sehr schlechter Jakob Wassermann. Schwerer als die Kolportage wiegt der Stil, in dem sie dargeboten wird, Fügte-er-hinzu-Literatur über weite Strecken." - Edo Reents, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The problem here is that the inspiration for Von Brücken's infatuation is so fleeting and ephemeral it doesn't stand up to close scrutiny. Both novels -- the one Von Brücken imagines and the one the reader holds in his hands -- suffer for it." - Jim Ruland, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Gleichsam als Gegenstück zu Thanatos (1996) will er demonstrieren, wie machtlos ein Mächtiger ist, wenn er zum Liebenden wird. (...) Siebzehn Fassungen gingen, so Krausser, der Buchversion voraus. Und in der Tat ist Eros diese Kondensierung anzumerken. Ein Unbehagen bleibt nach der Lektüre dennoch zurück (.....) Es war keine gute Idee des Autors, mit Alexander von Brücken einen fast allmächtigen Zampano zum Helden zu machen." - Rainer Moritz, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

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:

       Eros gets off to a promising start, as a successful author is offered a very large sum to ghostwrite a story for a fabulously wealthy German industrialist who is near death. The story is to be a novelized version of Alexander von Brücken's autobiography, with a focus on his great lost love -- the obsession of his life. It's a tall order for a book, as the author learns:

     "It's not my place to judge you."
     "What ?! Why do you think you're here ? In order to judge me, that's why !" He sounded furious. "Your novel will be the verdict on my life
       So, in a secluded house where the reclusive magnate lives, the author listens to von Brücken's account in daily sessions over the course of a week. The bulk of the narrative is the story as von Brücken told it, with only occasional notes and comments from the author describing his time with von Brücken.
       Von Brücken's father was a factory owner, producing armaments, but Alexander describes his father as a fantasist-architect who didn't care that much for business. His position, however, meant that they survived even most of the war years in a great deal of comfort. The young Alexander fell in love with one of the local workers' children, Sofie. He couldn't hide his attraction, but it was considered inappropriate, and efforts were made to keep them apart. Still, he got his first kiss from her -- albeit at a price: fifty marks.
       Sofie was sent to the countryside, while Alexander's world collapsed around him as the war drew to an end. After an absence of some five years he returned and eventually took over the family firm -- and began making an enormous amount of money. But Sofie still haunted him, and he made a great effort to find her. Eventually he did (though given how much he poured into looking for her it's astonishing that he didn't follow the leads that eventually bring him to her much earlier -- it would seem like one of the obvious first steps to take).
       Von Brücken tries to sweep Sofie off her feet but makes a complete hash of it, and she says she wants nothing more to do with him. He immediately backs off completely (which is also a bit baffling), but keeps an eye on her -- or rather makes sure he knows everything about her life, and can try to help her when she needs it. With him a mix between guardian angel and creepy stalker/peeping tom, there's some fun to von Brücken's elaborate surveillance-scheme, but it's also a bit silly.
       Von Brücken's easy success (and the nature of his businesses) is hardly bothered with, but Krausser uses Sofie to chart German history from the 1950s through the 1980s. Politically engaged, she winds up on the wrong side of events and ultimately finds herself co-opted into the radicalised terrorist underground, pulling off bank heists to fund terrorist activity. With a drinking problem but an attractive face that the terrorists consider good advertisement on the wanted posters, she's soon the reluctant grand old dame of this movement. Eventually she's shoved off to retirement in East Germany, giving Krausser an opportunity to offer a quick tour of that country in its 80s-decline as well.
       Von Brücken does meet -- and 'save' -- Sofie several times over the years, generally trying to hide his identity. He continues to be hapless in trying to establish any sort of relationship with her while also keeping close tabs on every step she takes (which include a few with some of his underlings and his only friend), making for a very odd love/lust story. His passion sounds convincing, especially as he admits he doesn't even know what it is about her that makes him love her so -- even admitting: "She wasn't anything special, at least not then. Except for me." --, but that only goes so far.
       It's risky using an all-powerful figure like von Brücken, even as Krausser clearly means to show that even he who has everything in his power can still be thwarted by love. His wealth, and his ability to literally change the world at little more than the snap of the finger, is amusing, but it's also limiting, at least in a work of fiction. At least Krausser does not make Sofie a perfect woman, but despite her colourful life she's not quite that interesting -- as even von Brücken's obsession only goes so far.
       The book has the feel of a set of comic book adventures, the super-hero who has to hide his real identity coming in to save the damsel in distress, the woman he loves but knows he can never have, in episode after episode.
       Krausser's ghostwriter framing device does help a bit, in that it also gives another perspective on the by now pretty nutty old man (who is having his tomb built in the backyard), as well as allowing for the obligatory doubts as to the veracity of von Brücken's account, but he doesn't do enough with that either.
       Eros is a reasonably entertaining historical and obsessive romp, but in its larger conception it doesn't work all that well, the whole less than its parts.

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Links:

Eros: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of German literature

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About the Author:

       German author Helmut Krausser was born in 1964.

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© 2008 the complete review

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