After the Rushdie experience, I was in need of a good palate cleansing. Usually I turn to crime! However, Daniel Kehlmann of Measuring The World fame was winking at me from the midst of the all things Germanic TBR. Yes, a good clean comic read would hit the spot quite nicely.
First things first, however. The title. Is it grammatically correct to translate “Ich und Kaminski” as Me and Kaminski? Certainly it sounds better than I and Kaminski. Changing the sequence to the grammatically correct Kaminski and I would insert a formality into the title that doesn’t exist. Lynne Truss, where are you when I need you?
Manuel Kaminski is an ailing recluse. Once mentored by Matisse, he almost made it into the major league of 2oth century artists. However, his time came and went and he retired to his mansion in the mountains.
Sebastian Zollner is a failing art critic. Strike that, he’s a failing human being. Delusional as to his talents. Desperate to make a name for himself. He decides that with Kaminski on death’s door, he’ll write a biography of the man in preparation for the interest that will inevitably follow once the obituaries have been published. He has little skill, tact or understanding yet he strikes lucky and uncovers a little known fact that he hopes will render his biography sensational.
The scene is set and the satire that follows is sometimes obvious. How low will a journalist go in pursuit of his career? How luvey-duvey and sychophantic can the art world be? Did Kaminski ever have talent or was his failing eyesight a ploy to engender interest in his second-rate talent?
Me and Kaminski is an early Kehlmann, translated to capitalise on the resounding success of Measuring The World. While it’s not in the same league, it is indicative of the Kehlmann greatness that follows. Roll with the punches and there are a number of scenes that are quite laconic. The female subsidiary characters are angry, colourful and entertaining. Spend the first half despising the journalist and then gleefully spend the second observing him being played for the fool that he is.