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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Mr. Zed's Reflections

Hans Magnus Enzensberger

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To purchase Mr. Zed's Reflections

Title: Mr. Zed's Reflections
Author: Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Genre: Fiction
Written: 2013 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 171 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Mr. Zed's Reflections - US
Mr. Zed's Reflections - UK
Mr. Zed's Reflections - Canada
Mr. Zed's Reflections - India
Les opinions de M. Zède - France
Herrn Zetts Betrachtungen - Deutschland
Considerazioni del signor Zeta - Italia
Reflexiones del señor Z. - España
  • or Breadcrumbs He Dropped, Gathered Up by His Listeners
  • German title: Herrn Zetts Betrachtungen, oder Brosamen, die er fallen ließ, aufgelesen von seinen Zuhörern
  • Translated by Wieland Hoban

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Our Assessment:

B+ : clever, enjoyable, fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 17/8/2013 Friedmar Apel
Die Zeit . 19/9/2013 Ijoma Mangold

  From the Reviews:
  • "Was er seinem Publikum hinterlässt, ist ein Erbauungsbüchlein, mit dem sich der Leser auf intelligente, vielfältige und unterhaltsame Weise von seiner Zeitgenossenschaft erholen kann. Dieser neue alte Enzensberger gehört, sofern es das Wort und den Gegenstand noch geben sollte, auf jedes Nachtschränkchen." - Friedmar Apel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Es ist ein charmantes Maskenspiel, erkennbar inszeniert von HME, um die Zeitläufte zu kommentieren, ohne selbst zum Leitartikler zu werden. Eine sokratische Spielfreude belebt dieses postmoderne Weisheitsbuch, das Enzensbergers Ideal buddhistischer Tiefenentspanntheit mit Lust am Einspruch verbindet." - Ijoma Mangold, 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:

       Hans Magnus Enzensberger's 'Mr.Zed' is encountered in the park, where he spent many of his afternoons, slightly off the beaten track. He held forth some, like a small-time Socrates, engaging passers-by in conversation and offering his thoughts and wisdom to anyone who cared to listen -- as numerous people apparently did. A brief introductory section explains that a few regulars from his audience decided to: "share our conversations with a social environment that had never heard of Mr Zed", and this volume is the resulting collection, 259 short memories, episodes, and anecdotes centered on Mr Zed -- mostly his own sayings and responses, though occasionally the focus shifts to his audience as well. The pieces aren't entirely unconnected -- this isn't just a collection of aphorisms --, with some of the numbered sections following a chain of events or occurrences, but on the whole it is a varied grab-bag -- ideally allowing Enzensberger to comment on a wide variety of issues, both very general and more specific.
       Mr Zed is a mix of Socrates and Brecht's Mr. Keuner. "Anyone who needs a guru has come to the wrong place", he tells his listeners, and doesn't pretend to offer absolute wisdom; indeed, he's against absolutes -- which goes so far that, as Enzensberger nicely puts it:

If only for hygienic reasons, Z. changed his opinions more often than his shirt. As soon as they started to get black around the edges, he put them in the wash.
       The listeners do come looking for wisdom, but Mr Zed does his best to undermine their efforts: so for example, there's the time when he doesn't arrive at his usual time, leaving his followers waiting; when he finally does come he observes:
'Your reproachful gazes tell me all I need to know. You evidently want me to think for you.'
     But he was too lazy, he said, to do what people expected of him.
       By dressing up the exchanges some, Enzensberger avoids making this simply a collection of aphorisms (though much here can, in fact, be reduced to such). He emphatically doesn't want Mr. Zed simply to be an aphorist, at one point even at least having him pretend to be indignant when accused:
     'Did someone here call me an aphorist ?' No one seemed willing to answer this trick question.
     'What's that supposed to mean /' he exclaimed. 'That I provide you with calendar mottos instead of amusing myself, getting annoyed and arguing with you ? I don't have to stand for this.'
       Indeed, while Mr. Zed likes to give his opinion, he is drawn to engagement, as often as not giving his opinion or explaining how he sees things in response to a specific question or prompt.
       Enzensberger does have a nice touch with the pithy observation, and offers an often wryly amusing view. He'll discourse on money -- even in the technical abstract (he mentions money supply (M0, M1, M2), fiat money, etc.) -- but also make sweeping judgments such as:
Concerning art, Z. pointed out: 'No matter how urgently one advises young people against it -- it will be in vain.'
       And jabs are often both sly and full-body blows -- such as his (indirect) take on the contemporary fiction scene:
He wouldn't have a chance as a novelist, said Z. He not only lacked the patience and the talent but also his interest in marital crises, adulteries and divorces was quickly exhausted. He didn't even have an unhappy childhood to offer.
       Enzensberger is a confident old master who does this sort of thing very well, and Mr. Zed's Reflections is very entertaining. Along the way, Enzensberger manages also to be consistently -- if very gently -- thought-provoking, making for an eminently worthwhile read that is also very good fun.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 July 2016

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Mr. Zed's Reflections: Reviews: Hans Magnus Enzensberger: Other books by Hans Magnus Enzensberger under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger was born in 1929. He is best-known as a poet and essayist.

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© 2016 the complete review

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