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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Tupolew 134

Antje Rávic Strubel

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To purchase Tupolew 134

Title: Tupolew 134
Author: Antje Rávic Strubel
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004
Length: 317 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Tupolew 134 - Deutschland
  • Tupolew 134 has not been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

A- : effective portrait of lives and events

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ A 6/10/2004 Hubert Spiegel
Frankfurter Rundschau A 6/10/2004 Ina Hartwig
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 31/10/2004 Nina Toepfer
Die Presse . 21/8/2004 Christa Nebenführ
Der Spiegel . 28/9/2004 Claudia Voigt
Süddeutsche Zeitung . 8/10/2004 Christoph Bartmann
Die Zeit . 2/9/2004 Ulrich Greiner

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Tupolew 134 erzählt das wunderböse Märchen vom verlorenen Märchenglauben in der DDR. (...) Daß wir nie wissen können, wie es wirklich war, ist die einzige Gewißheit, die dieser faszinierende Roman vermittelt. Wenn Antje Rávic Strubel einen Thriller geschrieben hat, dann über die waghalsigen Abenteuer unserer Erinnerung, die funktioniert wie ein Kaleidoskop: Nach jeder kleinen Erschütterung zeigt sich sofort ein anderes Bild." - Hubert Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Wie Strubel es schafft, sowohl die Biographien als auch die Zeitebenen ineinander greifen zu lassen, ist kaum zu fassen. Sie verfügt offenkundig über ein perfektes inneres Timing, um ihr Material zu montieren. Messerschaft sind die Schnitte, irrwitzige Spannung entfaltet der Sog der Erzählung. Es ist ein durchaus dunkler Sog, durchsetzt von einer oszillierenden erotischen Grundspannung." - Ina Hartwig, Frankfurter Rundschau

  • "Die Eleganz dieses Romans ist aber trotz so mancher -- scheinbarer ? -- Erklärung ebenso unbestreitbar wie seine Intelligenz." - Christa Nebenführ, Die Presse

  • "Strubel erzählt die Geschichte dieser Flucht als ein Geflecht von Erinnerungen und Möglichkeiten. Sie zeigt, wie es gewesen sein könnte und wie subjektiv sich Geschichte im Rückblick darstellt. Das ist klug gedacht, und weil die Figuren sehr lebendig sind und die Atmosphäre der versunkenen DDR dicht geschildert ist, liest man das Buch gern. Strubels komplizierte Erzählweise strapaziert allerdings zunehmend die Geduld." - Claudia Voigt, Der Spiegel

  • "Trotz dieser Ambivalenz folgt man der eigenwillig erzählten Geschichte nicht ungern und gewinnt am Ende ein plastisches Bild vom untergegangenen Kontinent DDR, von dieser bizarren Mischung aus proletarischem Idyll und verzweigter Repression, Lebenslust und Muff. Strubel erzählt das mit verhaltener, aufgerauter Stimme." - Ulrich Greiner, 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:

       Antje Ravic Strubel's narrative is constructed on three levels: 'oben', 'unten', and 'ganz unten' ('on top', 'below', 'rock bottom'). She presents the novel as a shaft, pulling the reader in and down, moving between the three levels. Each centres on a different period from the past, all illuminating and offering insight into the central event of the novel, yet without making the picture complete. Truth remains elusive.
       The book is based on an historic event: the hijacking of a LOT flight on 30 August 1978, diverted from its planned landing in East Berlin to West Berlin. The central character is Katja Siems, a twenty-four year old who smuggled the pistol on board with which Lutz Schaper then threatened a stewardess. The bulk of the novel describes their life in East Germany before they take this step, the hijacking itself, and the trial in West Berlin.
       Strubel's approach -- a back and forth between the times, details only revealed piece by piece, short, almost staccato paragraphs -- is very effective. Events and motives do come into focus, but it's not a crisp, clear picture that emerges. Not everything is ascertainable or certain. Katja is taciturn and unwilling to reveal much of herself, whether to her parents, the men in her life, or her attorney. She goes her own way -- but others are affected by her actions -- in a very effective portrait.
       There's politics to the novel, too, but not of the simplistic sort. Katja and Lutz want to leave East Germany, but especially Katja's disillusionment isn't so much with the political system per se as a longing for a fundamentally different life. 1978 is also the year after the worst Red Army Faction crimes, and the hijacking to Mogadishu, while German-German relations complicate the case against these hijackers (prompting the West Germans to give the Americans jurisdiction, who then have their own ideas of how to handle this).
       Slowly the background is built up: the West German businessman, Hans Meerkopf, who became Katja's lover and who wants to help them flee the country, Katja's family and work-situation, her close friend Verona. Strubel nicely conveys the impossibility of capturing a life completely, of fully explaining what happened: lives are more complex, unknowable even to ones closest loved ones, -- and chance or any action can change so much in a single moment.
       Artfully constructed and written, Tupolew 134 doesn't satisfy with answers, but it's a compelling and often strikingly sketched account of a few lives from a certain place and time, a typically German tale that neatly bridges East and West. Occasionally the oblique approach can be frustrating, but on the whole it is an impressive success.

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Tupolew 134:
  • DTV publicity page
Reviews: Antje Ravic Strubel: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of German literature

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About the Author:

       Antje Rávic Strubel was born in 1974 in what was then the German Democratic Republic. She has written numerous books.

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