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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Der Taumel

by
Libuse Moníková


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

To purchase Der Taumel



Title: Der Taumel
Author: Libuse Moníková
Genre: Novel
Written: (2000)
Length: 192 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Der Taumel
  • Der Taumel was first published posthumously in 2000
  • Moníková planned a novel of about 400 pages, completing about half of it before her death
  • Der Taumel has not yet been translated into English
  • With an Afterword by Michael Krüger

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Our Assessment:

B+ : promising, well-written novel of Czech life in the 1970s, unfortunately incomplete

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
taz A- 4/7/2000 Diemut Roether


  From the Reviews:
  • "Der Taumel ist eine Möglichkeit, sich noch einmal von dieser Autorin durch Prag, Böhmen und die Welt führen zu lassen -- um dann die Reise mit ihren früheren Büchern fortzusetzen." - Diemut Roether, taz

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:

       Der Taumel was the novel Libuse Moníková was working on at her death, a larger project meant to be her second major work beside The Facade (see our review). It tells the story of painter and professor Jakub Brandl in Prague in the late 1970s.
       As the title suggests, Brandl staggers and reels through the novel -- a plausible condition in the Czechoslovakia of the time. Brandl also suffers from epilepsy, though the attacks are only a heightened version of his everyday life.
       Czechoslovakia is not terribly ominous here -- more frustrating than anything else. There are freedoms -- a number of the characters have travelled to the West, for example -- and there is little terror of the contemporary authorities. The state, however, still intrudes: in several scenes Brandl is interrogated, though he does not know what (if anything) he is being accused of and what the authorities want from him. Similarly, he always has to show his papers and answer questions about his profession and destination as he goes to his atelier or the Academy of Arts, both located near the Ministry of the Interior -- an empty exercise.
       Brandl's art is his life; he has no real family, though he is occasionally a sort of father-figure. The models for his drawing class wander in and out of his home, eating his food, perusing his books. He good-naturedly (if somewhat tiredly) allows himself to be taken advantage of.
       Brandl's great love is art, his most important possession his many beautiful books. They inspire both him and others to conversation and story-telling, allowing them to look back both at history and their own lives and bridging these and the present.
       The books also lead to acquaintance with a young neighbour, Procházka, a man of many interests. Procházka is fascinated by some volumes Brandl received about Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, an enormous and well-documented scientific and cultural undertaking
       Stories lead to other stories in a number of fascinating asides, from Procházka experimenting on tin (which turns to dust at cold temperatures -- as Napoleon's soldiers found out to their dismay when their tin buttons pulverized in the Russian winter), to Brandl's marvelous recounting of Henri Rousseau's life. Some chapters go farther afield: Procházka has a huge iguana in his bathtub, brought back from Mexico by his friend Tereza, and she recounts how she came to bring it with her (and how she plans to bring it back). Another neighbour, Halina Potocka, describes her childhood in Poland in World War II, after she narrowly escaped being sent to Treblinka with the rest of her family.
       There are many episodes here, but they come together fairly neatly, as the focus on Brandl maintains the narrative thread. Only half finished, the story fades into the few fragments that are appended, revealing some of what Moníková had in mind next. Unfortunately, the end is not in sight, the larger vision only suggested by the finished half and the few additional pieces.
       What there is of the novel is polished, and it is a quite fascinating read. The episodes are strong, and Brandl and the others fully realized characters. The reader is left hanging, uncertain as to what becomes of them, but it is still a worthwhile read, a substantial part of what would likely have been a significant work. A bit more subdued than The Facade, it surely would have been of comparable significance.

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Links:

Der Taumel:
  • Hanser publicity page (German)
Reviews: Other books by Libuse Moníková under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Czech author Libuse Moníková was born in 1945. She moved to West Germany in 1971, and taught at the universities of Kassel and Bremen. She wrote in German, and won the Alfred Döblin Prize for The Facade. Moníková died in 1998.

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