GERMAN REQUIEM by Heike Doutine


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Behind the formal gimmicks--this young German girl's autobiographical novel is spliced with the political club meetings of a certain Rainer Gebhardt, cast in unreadable script form--this is a conventional Bildungsroman with a half-refreshing, half-annoying naivete about it. Heike Lane moves from the stinking rubble of the war to the suburbs of Hamburg where she encounters two varieties of middle-class worm: crypto-Nazis who screech about ""Nigger Jews,"" and the Social Democrats of Gebhardt's milieu who hate themselves for being petit-bourgeois and hate everyone who isn't. Heike goes through the mill of lesbian schoolmistresses, damp, clutching music teachers, the discovery of the Holocaust, and school punishment for insisting that Russians are not beasts. She charts the hypocrisy of professors who will not protest their colleagues' call for student demonstrators to be put in concentration camps, and the hypocrisy of the demonstrators themselves who will not refuse to take an examination under police guard. The hectic, fatuous meetings of Gebhardt's left-liberal club are carried off better than set-pieces like an encounter with a Polish girl who screams hatred at Heike, or a Jewish Communist who warns Heike against ""the fascism of the center."" Mavis Gallant's Pegnitz Junction (1973) is the peerless fictional evocation of postwar West Germany; girlish as this is by comparison, and ultimately smug in its indictments of smugness, it still shows spirit and talent.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners