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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Der fernste Ort

Daniel Kehlmann

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To purchase Der fernste Ort

Title: Der fernste Ort
Author: Daniel Kehlmann
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001
Length: 148 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Der fernste Ort - Deutschland
  • Der fernste Ort has not been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice, well-presented small tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Berliner Morgenpost . 7/10/2001 Hartmut Mangold
Die Presse A 2/2/2002 Susanne Schaber
Profil A 2/9/2001 W.P.
Der Standard . 15/9/2001 Nicole Katja Streitler
Die Zeit A (2/2002) Martin Lüdke

  From the Reviews:
  • "Für diesen Prozess des Aus-der-Welt-Tretens hat Kehlmann eine adäquate Sprache von großer poetischer Schönheit und Suggestionskraft entwickelt." - Hartmut Mangold, Berliner Morgenpost

  • "Daniel Kehlmann traut sich was, und er weiß, was ihm gelingt. (...) Kehlmanns Blick ist klar, die Sprache durchsichtig, präzise, kalt. Kein falscher Ton -- eine fast schon zu glatte, makellos komponierte Melodie, die Form und Inhalt stimmig parallelführt. Sie wirkt unheimlich: eine Etüde, perfekt gespielt. Und doch geht sie einem nicht wirklich ans Herz." - Susanne Schaber, Die Presse

  • "Kehlmann macht aus diesem kleinen Leben mit sicherer, ab und zu vielleicht mit zu routinierter Hand eine große, lesenswerte Geschichte." - W.P., Profil

  • "(M)it leiser Stimme erzählt, aber in einer bildkräftigen Sprache. Diese Erzählung, ebenso fein wie genau "gearbeitet", mit vielen versteckten Bezügen, häufig verdeckten Verweisen und sanft gleitenden Übergängen, lässt den unmerklichen Schwund an Realität kaum erkennen." - Martin Lüdke, 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:

       Der fernste Ort tells the story of Julian, a young Austrian man working for an insurance company. He has been given the opportunity to attend an industry convention -- a nice getaway to warmer climes in mid-October --, and even to make a presentation there, but he is hopelessly uninterested and unprepared. Instead of taking the last free time he has to prepare for his presentation he takes the opportunity to go to the nearby lake, for a swim.
       Julian is warned of the dangerous currents -- "Seien Sie Vorsichtig !" ("Be careful !") are the first words of the novel -- and told that someone drowned there the year before. He doesn't pay much heed -- and soon finds himself in a precarious position, lost, ridiculously, in the lake, unable to reach the shore again. He struggles, unsuccessfully. "Dann nichts mehr." ("Then: nothing.")
       When he regains consciousness he finds himself back on shore -- and realizes that this a perfect opportunity. He can escape his life, his meagre existence. He can just walk away from it. Everyone will think he drowned. He can start anew.
       Julian leaves his clothes on the shore and returns to the hotel. He can sneak back in unnoticed -- the only guests are the insurance professionals, all gathered for the evening's convention-events. He gets the basic necessities -- a set of clothes, some money -- to travel back home, where he plans to get the last essentials (more money, a new passport) and then travel on -- anywhere, as long as it is to a new life.
       It is not his first attempt to flee. Julian first ran away from home when he was eleven. With little success.
       Kehlmann describes this first flight, and the life that Julian wished to escape. The idea of an ultima Thule -- the farthest place of the title -- grabbed him then already. It is a goal, a place (and a mystery) to strive for. Especially for Julian, with his oh so mundane life both in youth and adulthood.
       How Julian came to work in insurance and wind up at the lake is also recounted. His is an unremarkable life, all the more so in comparison to his precocious and successful computer-expert brother, Paul.
       Julian went to university, and despite a general lack of enthusiasm, briefly found an opportunity there: a professor was impressed by one of his class presentations and wanted him to write a monograph on an obscure thinker, Vetering. Julian was flattered, but didn't want to sell himself out, not yet. "Er würde entkommen" ("He would slip away"), he was still certain, as ultima Thule beckoned again. The fates decided otherwise. He couldn't escape, and did sell out, writing the monograph. He failed here too: the work, a second-rate, hurried piece of weak scholarship, was shredded by those academic critics who concerned themselves with these things. And so Julian went to work for the insurance company, a job that his brother got for him.
       His final escape, pretending to have drowned, seems at first to go better than his previous efforts to find a new life. He returns home, gets his spare glasses (finally seeing somewhat clearly again), and makes plans to move on. But surprises turn up -- including brother Paul, notified by the authorities of Julian's disappearance and checking in to see whether he has shown up at home.
       The harder Julian then tries to escape, the more frustrating and confusing the obstacles in his way are.
       When he was in school:

... er lernte Latein, Physik, Biologie und daß das Weglaufen nicht half.

(... he learned latin, physics, biology and that running away didn't help.)
       The last was a lesson he unlearned again, too tempted by the dream of an ultima Thule
       His last attempt at escape isn't quite as straightforward as he thinks, though it is fairly obvious to the reader for most of the novel. He does reach the farthest imaginable reaches in his dreamy, blurred escape, only realizing at the end what it means.

       Kehlmann presents this small tale very nicely. He has a light touch throughout, despite the ponderous undertones that pull at Julian's story (like the undertow pulling at him). Kehlmann doesn't try to do too much with the story, allowing it to remain understated. He recognizes that in keeping it small and almost plain it is much more effective than if it probed deeply and constantly at every point. And still there is a great deal here, and Julian a convincing character.
       A nice, elegant, stylish, thoughtful little novel.

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Der fernste Ort: Reviews: Daniel Kehlmann: Other books by Daniel Kehlmann under Review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of German literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975. He lives in Vienna, where he studied philosophy and literature. He has published several works of fiction.

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