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DOT AND ANTON by Erich Kästner


by Erich Kästner ; illustrated by Walter Trier ; translated by Anthea Bell

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-78269-057-3
Publisher: Pushkin Press

An unlikely secret friendship leads to a scotched burglary and generous quantities of just deserts in this freshly translated caper from the author of Emil and the Detectives.

Related in a breezy tone, the story pairs Luise “Dot” Pogge, the impulsive daughter of a wealthy Berlin walking-stick manufacturer, with kind and canny Anton Gast, who is struggling to make ends meet by selling shoelaces while nursing his single mother back to health after cancer surgery. The two are kindred spirits despite their differing social stations. Dot is the sort who pulls her own loose tooth and also makes up words (“It looks a bit dilapissipated”), so off she marches to Anton’s school when she hears that he’s in trouble to buttonhole his teacher and explain why he’s so exhausted. Anton returns the favor when he discovers that Dot’s new governess Miss Andacht—“very tall, very thin and very crazy”— is conniving with her unsavory “fiance” to rifle the Pogges’ apartment. First published in 1931 and last available in English in 1973, the tale is presented here in handsome packaging with its original fluent line drawings, and it wears its age reasonably well. But the plot is rather subsumed by character studies. Following each chapter, the author tucks in ruminative remarks inviting readers to consider the rights and wrongs of what has just occurred, how such themes as duty and telling lies have come into play, why some people are just “nasty pieces of work,” or how life isn’t always fair. Sometimes it is, though, and here, while Miss Andacht ends up “in the soup” (and her fiance in prison), the grateful Pogges welcome Anton and his newly ambulatory mother permanently into the extended household.

A minor classic featuring a pair of intrepid protagonists, a comically suspenseful climax, and a mildly caricatured adult cast.

(introduction, postscript) (Fiction. 9-11)