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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Camera Killer

Thomas Glavinic

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The Camera Killer

Title: The Camera Killer
Author: Thomas Glavinic
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 157 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Camera Killer - US
The Camera Killer - UK
The Camera Killer - Canada
The Camera Killer - India
. Le tueur à la caméra - France
Der Kameramörder - Deutschland
L'assassino con la videocamera - Italia
  • German title: Der Kameramörder
  • Translated by John Brownjohn

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well-presented account of the unthinkable

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ A 4/8/2001 Sebastian Domsch
Neue Zürcher Zeitung A 12/4/2001 Karl-Marcus Gauss
Die Presse A 17/2/2001 Harald Klauhs

  From the Reviews:
  • "Die erschütternde Wirkung der Novelle beruht aber nicht so sehr auf der kunstvollen Konstruktion, sondern vor allem auf der Tatsache, daß der letzte Spiegel das Gesicht des Lesers selbst reflektiert. Am Ende steht die unschöne Erkenntnis, daß wahre Medienkritik immer auch Selbstkritik bedeutet." - Sebastian Domsch, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Doch hat Glavinic seinen eiskalt komponierten Roman mit solcher inneren Konsequenz zu Ende gebracht, dass wir nicht im fernsten glauben, es sei damit etwas gelöst." - Karl-Marcus Gauss, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Thomas Glavinic hat ein unangenehmes, zugleich aber spannendes Buch geschrieben, ein Buch, das mit literarischen Mitteln eine Gesellschaftsanalyse bietet, ein Buch auf der Höhe der Zeit, ein notwendiges Buch. Man sollte es lesen -- und nicht verfilmen." - Harald Klauhs, Die Presse

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:

       Thomas Glavinic's Der Kameramörder recounts in exacting detail the events of a few days in rural western Styria, in Austria. The narrator begins his account: "Ich wurde gebeten, alles aufzuschreiben." ("I was asked to write everything down.") He is punctilious, offering this carefully recorded account, one single paragraph extending over 150 pages detailing his and his girlfriend's experiences over an Easter-weekend spent visiting friends.
       The first details are a bit fuzzy: the narrator and his companion, Sonja, drive from their home near Linz (in Upper Austria) first to the vicinity of Graz, where they spend the night drinking with friends. The next day, after Sonja has slept off the alcohol, they continue to the house of Heinrich and Eva, with whom they then spend the weekend. Once the four friends are together, the narrator recounts in painstaking detail how exactly they passed their time.
       Heinrich and Eva live in a fairly rural area. Except for the neighboring farmer's dozens of cats that lounge around nearby, the setting is fairly idyllic. The four friends eat, drink, play some games. They pass the time comfortably, as friends will.
       A news bulletin brings a dose of unwanted reality: the police are searching for a criminal in the vicinity, the so-called camera-murderer of the title. He had somehow brought three young boys, brothers aged seven to nine, into his power, and forced two of them to climb a tree and jump to their deaths from it -- and he had filmed the entire scene with his video camera.
       As the day progresses more information is made available. The video camera -- and the video -- is found. The details of the crime are revealed. By threatening to do violence to the other boy(s), and the rest of their family, the murderer had forced the boys to climb a tree and convinced them to leap to their deaths. It is a horrific crime, all captured on tape.
       Initially the four friends get the news via teletext (Austrian hinterland television not being quite as quick to switch to live TV broadcasts of breaking news as media-savvy American networks would be). But reporters descend on the area as the manhunt intensifies, with cameras and helicopters following. It's the type of story that sells papers (leading publishers to issue Sunday supplements when they normally wouldn't have printed a paper at all) and glues viewers to their televisions. And then the video comes into the hands of a commercial television company and they announce their intention to broadcast it.
       The four friends debate watching the programme, but eventually they do. The narrator describes everything, from the various news reports to the debate about the ethics of showing such a horrible crime. They watch the broadcast -- or at least part of it -- and the narrator describes the horrific scenes as well.
       The crime dominates everything that happens in the area. It can not be avoided. And then it turns out that the criminal is thought not yet to have fled the vicinity, and the four friends watch the manhunt on television as it slowly circles in on the camera-murderer.
       It's an eery, cold book of media-fascination gone awry, of reality only being played out on the small screen. Glavinic handles the material well -- though it is ugly and occasionally highly unpleasant material. And the book presents an odd transposition of reality played out on the small screen related in words (in an almost painfully neutral, controlled voice).
       The end comes as it must. What does not come is even a hint of explanation for the camera-murderer's actions. That is part of the strength of the narrative, but ultimately also leaves the reader with a very hollow feeling.
       A cold but well-done exercise, oddly riveting if ultimately not entirely convincing.

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Der Kameramörder:
  • DTV publicity page
Reviews: Other books by Thomas Glavinic under review: Thomas Glavinic: Other books of interest under review:
  • See the index of German literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Thomas Glavinic was born in 1972.

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