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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Das bin doch ich

Thomas Glavinic

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

To purchase Das bin doch ich

Title: Das bin doch ich
Author: Thomas Glavinic
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007
Length: 238 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Das bin doch ich - Deutschland
  • Das bin doch ich has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealing and amusing year-in-the-life

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 1/9/2007 Richard Kämmerlings
NZZ . 12/9/2007 Paul Jandl
Der Standard . 18/8/2007 Daniela Strigl
Der Tagesspiegel . 22/8/2007 Gerrit Bartels
Die Zeit A- 20/9/2007 Ursula März

  From the Reviews:
  • "Thomas Glavinic hat einen Roman über den Literaturbetrieb geschrieben. Es ist ein überaus kluges, komisches, interessantes, kurz: lesenswertes Buch. Wie kann das sein ? (...) So hat Das bin doch ich hinter seiner komischen Fassade eine ernste, existentielle Substanz. Der Roman lässt sich auch lesen als kleines, durchaus boshaftes Satyrspiel zum Einsamkeitsdrama des Vorgängers" - Richard Kämmerlings, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Was Thomas Glavinic erzählt, könnte banal sein, wäre da nicht ein virtuoser Umgang mit dem Komischen. Eine lapidare Sprache, die aus dem naiven Helden eine tragische Figur macht und aus den Umständen ein Fiasko. (...) (W)ohl ein Seitenstück. Allerdings eines mit schönster Ironie." - Paul Jandl, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Wir haben schon verstanden: Im Arbeitsplan des Autors ist dieses Buch ein Pausenfüller, auf ihm lastet keinerlei Erwartungsdruck, deshalb wohl wirkt es so entspannt und auf mühelose Weise sprachlich stimmig. Dass man sich beim Lesen genauso gut unterhält wie der Autor offenkundig beim Schreiben, ist beileibe nicht selbstverständlich und funktioniert auch ohne Wiedererkennungseffekt." - Daniela Strigl, Der Standard

  • "Ich ist hier kein anderer, aber doch ein so seltsamer Mensch, eine so interessante Figur, dass Glavinic über dieses Schriftsteller-Ich einen kurzweiligen, komischen und durchgeknallten Roman geschrieben hat; einen Roman, der tiefe Einblicke in die komplexe Psyche eines jungen, aber nicht unerfahrenen Schriftstellers verschafft. (…) Die Kunst dieses Romans besteht darin, vielleicht weil sein Autor befreit davon war, jetzt was ganz Großes, Bedeutendes hinlegen zu müssen, dass all das so flüssig, leicht und komisch bis zum bitteren Ende heruntererzählt ist. Und dazu komplett selbstironisch. Denn der Teufel steckt vor allem in Glavinic selbst." - Gerrit Bartels, Der Tagesspiegel

  • "Wer es liest, hat über Stunden hin zu lachen und merkt allmählich: Thomas Glavinic ist nicht nur ein Meister des lakonischen Irrwitzes. Er ist auch der Erfinder einer bestimmten Komikdialektik. (...) Sie hat eine Schwäche, die dummerweise auch ihre Stärke ist: die Lakonie. Sie kleidet die Erzählung in den Duktus des Undramatischen, Alltäglichen, Unerheblichen. Das kommt der episodischen Komik zugute, aber auch einem gewissen Spannungsverlust." - Ursula März, 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:

       Das bin doch ich barely sounds like fiction: Glavinic writes in the first person, using his own (often mispronounced) name, and the account closely follows actual events. It's a meandering 'year in the life'-account, and though there have been more than enough writers'-lives-novels Glavinic's has a couple of things going for it that make it more appealing than most. For one, it's not writing-obsessed: Glavinic does very little writing (or thinking-about-writing) in the book. Instead, what he describes is a not quite down and out writer's life, and while there's some space devoted to the obligations that come with that -- the readings he attends, the calls to his agents -- he is just as concerned with the more everyday: family (in particular his young son), drinking, the variety of people he encounters. From getting his car-tires changed to constantly confronting his hypochondria (he avoids looking at his testicles for over a year, for fear of seeing the tell-tale swelling that he's heard might be a sign of cancer -- and when he does finally catch sight of them again takes rather drastic action, just to make sure ...), Glavinic seems to be puttering through life, and it's the puttering he focusses on.
       In fact, there's a bit more going on. After making a splash with his debut, Carl Haffner's Love of the Draw, Glavinic's literary career has sputtered. No more translations into English, that's for sure. Indeed, as Das bin doch ich begins he is even without a German publisher for his ambitious new work, Die Arbeit der Nacht. And then there's that constant reminder that his career isn't going that well in the form of his good buddy Daniel Kehlmann. Kehlmann is that other Austrian prodigy, having churned out books at about the same rate as Glavinic -- but without, for example, ever getting one published in English translation. Now he's written a book called Measuring the World, and as Glavinic's account begins it's just made the shortlist for the new German Book Prize, and as Glavinic notes:

Jetzt hat er schon 25.000 Exemplare seines neuen Buches verkauft, und ich stehe ohne Verlag da.

[Now he's already sold 25,000 copies of his new novel, and I don't even have a publisher. ]
       It would probably hardly come as any surprise even to anyone who didn't know, but almost all of Glavinic's readers do: Kehlmann's book didn't win the prize but continued selling like hotcakes. The 25,000 copies was the tip of the iceberg, as it has gone on to sell over a million copies to date in German alone. The constantly growing success of Kehlmann's novel -- which Glavinic keeps being reminded of -- makes a nice counterpoint to his own efforts. He's less jealous than bewildered, and, of course, a bit frustrated that that's not him.
       Glavinic plays the difference up a bit: Die Arbeit der Nacht does find a publisher and becomes one of the most hyped books of the fall of 2006 in Germany, but Glavinic doesn't harp on much of this (or reveal how much he got paid for it, despite grumbling over money-woes at various points). Indeed, he chooses to emphasise disappointment: near the beginning of the novel comes the announcement of Kehlmann's book making the shortlist of the German Book Prize, while near the end comes the announcement of the 20-title strong longlist for the 2006 prize (for which Die Arbeit der Nacht was considered a lock); needless to say, Glavinic did not make the cut. (In a peculiar twist, Das bin doch ich has now made the 2007 longlist .....)
       Glavinic's friendship with Kehlmann is one of the many appealing elements in the book. Despite his success, Kehlmann always seems to be on call for Glavinic, texting back to him sometimes almost instantly, even when he's halfway around the world. Kehlmann's jet-setting success (and calls and messages from exotic abroad) contrast nicely with Glavinic's very grounded and often mundane day-to-day life -- though Glavinic at least tries to overcome his fear of flying (terrified, he hadn't flown since he was eleven years old), maybe a first step to becoming part of that international writers' clique.
       Glavinic presents himself as a fairly hapless soul. His hypochondria doesn't help, and he acknowledges:
Ich bin ein friedfertiger Mensch, aber auch ein Knecht meiner Idiosynkrasien.

[I am an peaceloving person, but also a servant of my idiosyncrasies.]
       And what idiosyncrasies they are. The relatively frequent over-consumption of alcohol doesn't help, either. And so Das bin doch ich is a novel of small misadventures and everyday encounters and routines. Maybe a bit too self-deprecating, it's still pretty darn funny, and for the most part Glavinic strikes the proper tone. The most impulsive guy you'll ever come across (including having an apparently insuppressible urge to send inappropriate e-mails when he's in a drunken stupour (the contents of which he has forgotten when he wakes up, left instead with just a bad, bad feeling about what he's done ...)), he makes a surprisingly compelling character: he manages to make even the description of something as ordinary (or what should be ordinary ...) as his train-trips voyages of the bizarre.
       It must be said that Das bin doch ich is very much rooted in the German -- and even specifically Austrian -- literary scene. Glavinic dwells on places, too; it's a restless novel (he's constantly on the move, even if often to little purpose -- or winding up not quite doing what he sets out to) and he does like to get down to specifics, right down to which restaurants and cafés he visits, and why -- a habit that is probably more amusing to locals than to those unfamiliar with these establishments. Many -- for all intents and purposes: all -- of the people who appear are real, and while the Jonathan Safran Foer-cameo at the beginning can provide a laugh for foreign readers, and many of the family-scenes are universal enough, some of this is feels very strongly of insider-account. Still, it should translate well enough, and serves as a fun companion-volume to both Kehlmann's Measuring the World as well as his own Die Arbeit der Nacht.
       Das bin doch ich doesn't move much beyond the everyday, but with its unusual (but not too quirky) protagonist and sure style makes for a very entertaining read. Worthwhile.

       Note: As a coda it's worth noting that Die Arbeit der Nacht went on to do quite well even without being in the running for the German Book Prize. And worth checking out: debut-author David Schalko's article in Die Zeit, On the road in der Provinz, where he describes his own no-budget reading tour -- and the Kehlmann-like text messages he gets from his friend Thomas Glavinic, enjoying a grander tour (for Die Arbeit der Nacht) at the same time: "SMS von Glavinic: »7.Auflage!«" ("Text message from Glavinic: '7th edition !'") or "SMS von Glavinic: »Englische Weltrechte verkauft!« Fuck." ("Text message from Glavinic: 'English world rights sold !« Fuck.").
       So things seem to have worked out for Glavinic -- though, honestly, he probably deserves to do better with this novel than Die Arbeit der Nacht: it's (slightly (and very differently)) less ambitious and, in its way, more successful.

       Additional note: Despite name-dropping all over the place, Glavinic choose not identify one prominent author by name, referring to him only as: "der größte Starautor der westlichen Welt" ("the biggest star-author of the western world"). Unlikely as it seems, the only one who fits the bill -- appearing in Vienna shortly after Foer (in the fall of 2005), English-writing but with an adequate command of German -- is Jonathan Franzen.

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Das bin doch ich: Reviews: Other books by Thomas Glavinic under review: Thomas Glavinic: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Thomas Glavinic was born in 1972.

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© 2007-2019 the complete review

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