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Funny, savagely ironic, Raw Material is a great modern European novel
What you are about to read is, in many ways, like nothing else you will have read before. To foist a genre on it, it's a picaresque, but what a crazed, leaping, unmoored and hilarious voyage it is. It opens in the spring of 1968, a time of socio-political upheaval and an atmosphere drenched in revolutionary fervour, in Paris, Prague, Vietnam, Northern Ireland. . . . The Baader-Meinhof gang is active; the Red Army Faction, too. Lady Chatterley's Lover and Last Exit to Brooklyn are in the dock, as is Oz. Our hero, Harry Gelb ('gelb'='yellow') is twenty-four and living on a rooftop in Istanbul with his partner in crime, Ede. Gelb is a struggling writer (struggling so hard that he's crashed through the garret roof and landed on the tiles) and a struggling junkie (is there any other kind?), a swindler, a rip-off merchant, a scammer, a thief. This is the 60s, yes, but there's no peace-and-love, release the doves, flower-power, incense-and-kaftan idealism here; Gelb is 'rapidly approaching the season of hell'. No sooner are we settled on that roof-top with him, though, than we're whisked away, with Harry, scooting across Europe, to a commune in Berlin, to Frankfurt, Vienna, back to Berlin, squat to squat, dead-end job to dead-end job, all in the company of an intensely observant and cuttingly incisive commentator, achingly aware of the terribly transitory nature of existence, the flux and the chaos of it, a breathless whirl of drugs and drink and women and doomed enterprises around the one point of solidity in Gelb's life: his heavy old typewriter, and the masterpieces he will write on it, one of which, Stamboul Blues, accompanies him wherever he goes, hawking it to various hopeless publishers in superbly comedic set-pieces.
The best book I've read since I came out of prison
Bukowski meets Withnail on schnapps. As beautiful a mess as the characters he wrote, Jörg Fauser's trawl through the anarchist squats of the 70s lays bare the seeds of Germany's new cool. While we were still making war films, Fauser ran with a generation intent on destroying the state and itself; through the voice of Harry Gelb his savage wit leaves no truth unturned in describing its most foibled and hopeless endeavour - decadent revolution. This book makes me wish I was there
Sad, funny, cynical and deeply authentic, it's the best novel of the period I've ever read
What you are about to read is, in many ways, like nothing else you will have read before. To foist a genre on it, it's a picaresque, but what a crazed, leaping, unmoored and hilarious voyage it is...[a] crazed cut-up collage of wanderings and wishes and the inevitable destruction of dreams. Tremendous
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