Tag Archives: Hitler

Kino by Jurgen Fauth

5th April 2012

*I received an egalley of Kino by Jürgen Fauth from NetGalley through the publisher Atticus Books.

“What do you call the power to turn your imagination into reality?”

(Kino, p. 50)

In Kino by Jürgen Fauth, Mina Koblitz, home early from her disastrous wedding and honeymoon, knows three things about her German filmmaker grandfather Kino: his own son cannot stand the thought of him; he made a horrible film; he killed himself. When she finds two cans of celluloid with one of Kino’s lost films outside her New York apartment, Mina calls on a film expert in Berlin, more to determine the monetary value of the film than anything else and hoping to possibly sell it. Instead, she begins to see that Kino was much more than he was made out to be – at the very least, his missing film Tulpendiebe is a sign that Kino once had a promising start. Unfortunately, Mina’s interest in Kino is slight compared to those who want Tulpendiebe for their own purposes.

Kino’s films are special, in part, because they have an odd after-effect. Once Mina sees the first film, she can’t unsee it, and the scenes replay themselves before her – literally. Same camera angle, same incidents, same lighting. Mina’s grandmother talks about this phenomenon because she once saw a man fall to his death amid broken lumber, the same scene having played out in Tulpendiebe: “[H]e called himself a visionary, and that suited him fine. He didn’t understand his power, had no idea how to control it, and he didn’t care. His movies set events in motion…It was extraordinary” (Kino, p. 120).

Presented as a dabbling, irresponsible artist by some and personally describing himself as a “conduit” of the images, Kino created himself in the bars and whorehouses of Berlin before the rise of Hitler and Goebbels. With his friend Steffen by his side, he assumed a new persona each night. Having lost a leg in a childhood accident, Kino finds women, drugs, and friends abound, particularly when Steffen dubs him a movie director. When Kino calls himself, instead, Kino – meaning cinema – it sticks, and as he says, the lies became truth as Kino goes from being an extra in Fritz Lang’s films to directing his own film.

Ultimately, the novel revolves around this idea of lies as truth. Since Mina learns of her grandfather first through her own father, then through Kino’s journal, and lastly through her drug-addled grandmother, the truth of Kino changes. Who he is and why he created what he did changes depending on who is being asked, and as Mina’s grandmother says about the films Kino was forced to make under Goebbels: “A screen doesn’t just show things, it also hides them. There was no truth in Kino’s operettas! They told splendid lies about gaiety and happiness when the reality was death and fear and destruction and oppression” (Kino, 125). But in a sense, those lies became the Germany many wanted to see.

Thwarted from fame in Germany by Goebbels and saddled with an unsupportive wife, Kino cannot fully realize his potential until it is much, much too late. When Kino is finally able to create a film without control after immigrating to America, he goes off the rails, and his friend and producer Marty tells Mina: “He turned it into something we weren’t ready for, using every trick he had learned….Twenty-Twelve contained bits and pieces from earlier stories, scenes pilfered from his other movies, and a strange private mythology. It was reality-warping and prophetic” (Kino, p. 150).

Kino is obsessive, working as a cab driver in LA, writing and rewriting scripts, picturing films in the dozens of red light changes he passes on the Hollywood boulevards, and pitching ideas when and where he can. For Klaus Koblitz, the man known as Kino, is deeply unhappy. As Uma, Mina’s grandmother pointed out about Kino’s operettas, film hides truths as well as telling lies. Kino’s life is much like this, and even at the end of the novel, the reader must parse the facets of Kino’s life to find some semblance of the man.

Funny at times but deeply despairing, Kino is a testament to the visionary but destructive power of genius and how such genius alters the world around us.

Pre-order your copy from Barnes & Noble here.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

1st June 2011

An American family takes a diplomatic post in Berlin as the storm clouds of World War II gather. The goal? Attempt to get Germany to pay back its debts from World War I. The result? Confusion and misinformation as the States and diplomats across the world try to ascertain Hitler’s true intentions.

In this newest work of nonfiction by Erik Larson, the Dodds are not the ideal diplomatic family: Dr. Dodd is a history professor whose sole goal is to finish his book on the Civil War in the States. His daughter is a promiscuous, married-but-separated young woman who does not quite know how to behave herself abroad. The powers that be don’t like the Dodds, but the family extensively documents the innocuous and not-so-innocuous moments beginning in 1933 and ending in 1937 when the Dodds leave Berlin.

Though the family was interesting (and they were/are), the most absorbing aspect of this book was understanding, through their eyes, a bit more why the world was not or chose not to be aware of what was happening in Germany. When the Dodds first arrive, the family is enchanted with Germany and its villages. Martha and her brother Bill take drives through the countryside and are impressed with the German people. Even after witnessing incidents of abuse and cruelty, they pass it off as isolated offenses. Dr. Dodd meets with other diplomats and sees hope in some figures in the Nazi party. He is much more concerned with living on a budget, though his assistants and the State Department begrudge his frugality.  However, as the corruption, spying, and infighting worsen, the Dodds feel the tension and terror and begin to attempt to warn those outside with little effect.

I honestly did not want the book to end. World War II fascinates me anyway, but I have not often found a lot of nonfiction or fiction dealing with the pregnant years after World War I and before World War II. Erik Larson’s genius is in finding smaller stories and tackling them, using them to flesh out the nuances with greater historical value.

jenn aka the picky girl

P.S. Check out my other favorite from Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City.

Other reviews:

Sophisticated Dorkiness