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Death in Rome Paperback – 20 May 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (20 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862075891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862075894
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Wolfgang Koeppen was born in 1906 and died ninety years later in Munich. A journalist for left-wing papers in Weimar Berlin, he spent the early Nazi period in the Netherlands, returning in the war years to work for the film company that produced Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'. He published five novels, two in the 1930s and three in the 1950s. Michael Hofmann was awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-month Club Prize for translation.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe on 31 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
Death in Rome is a profound and thought-provoking novel written in the mid-fifties. While set against the backdrop of Rome, the main theme is a portrayal of the early after-war German society. It is a remarkable book for several reasons. When first published, it was either criticized or, more commonly, ignored only to be praised a few years later by some of Germany's great authors such as Grass and Boll. Death in Rome was the third book of a trilogy, written by Koeppen in quick succession at the time - all addressing aspects of the "new" Germany. It was followed by 40 years of literary silence, except for travel writings and a short autobiography of his youth. Nevertheless, he is now regarded as one of the best German literary authors and his work has experienced a revival since his death in 1996.

The members of one family meet, more or less by chance, in Rome. The protagonists each personify one aspect of German society: the military, the bureaucracy, religion and art. Koeppen weaves the complex story around an unrepentant former SS man, a then and now middle-level bureaucrat, a young priest and a young composer. The latter two being the sons of the older generation. Symbolism and mythology meet the reader everywhere. The links between Germany and Rome are multifaceted, reaching well back in time. The main characters' names were selected for their meanings: Judejahn for the SS man and Adolf for his priestly son. Siegfried, his young, gay composer cousin, explores experimental music that was forbidden during the Nazi period. He also befriends a conductor and his Jewish wife who had escaped the camps.

There are different levels of connections between the different characters as they move in and out of focus of the story line.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Fly Me to the Moon on 4 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A chilling account of a Nazi family who accidentally meet up in Rome not long after WWII. The younger generation struggling to continue their lives after the Nazi stain, the older generation resentful but most certainly not full of remorse. The character of Judejahn being the most frightening of all. A man with no compassion or interest in humanity, still drunk on the power he once had and ready to commit further atrocities.

It's a fascinating book because if you ever wondered what happened to Nazis after the war, to their psyche certainly, then this book explains it. The younger generation struggles on disfigured by the Nazi regime but aware of it's evil and all against the background of Rome with it's imperial echoes. It shows that evil doesn't simply cease once a war is over but seeps out and continues to exist in another form.

Brace yourself before you read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
Death in Rome recounts a family reunion, of two generations of an extended German family, in post-war Rome. The present day events of the novel take place over a two day period, mostly at night. The four primary characters are Siegfried Pfaffrath, his father Friederich, his uncle Gottlieb Judejahn and Judejahn's son Adolf. The story is told in a mix of first person (Siegfried) and third person. But who are these characters, and what is the significance of their meeting? What role does Rome play in this story? Siegfried is an avant-garde composer, rebelling against his family and their traditions. He is in Rome for a performance of his work. Friederich, once a Nazi bureaucrat is now a respectable mayor. Judejahn, a former SS general, has been sentenced to death in absentia, and travels under a false identity. Judejahn has found a refuge in the army of an Arab state where he has easily exchanged being a Nazi for being a mercenary. Violence remains his primary driver. Judejahn's son Adolf is in training as a Catholic priest, but suffering a crisis of faith. In this novel, music, bureaucracy, arms and religion depict elements of the German soul. But distinctions between what might be good and bad within those elements cannot always be clear.

Siegfried exclaims: 'In my daydreams and nightmares I see the Browns and the nationalist idiocy on the march again.' Yes, I can understand why this book was ignored or criticized at the time it was published.

The interactions between members of this extended family, and their reactions to Rome, expose the extent to which they remain governed by the past. And not only their own individual pasts: each of the four elements (music, bureaucracy, arms and religion) has a past, as does Germany and Rome.
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Format: Paperback
This book tells the story of the post-war experience of two generations of Germans who experienced the Nazi period and the Second World War. The older generation was fully mature during the Nazi period and their children grew up and were young adults by the time the war finished.
The translator says in his introduction that Koeppen's reputation suffered, because although he was no Nazi he stayed in Germany throughout the period, and did not lay claim to the status of 'internal exile'. This book, together with his other post-war books, is critical of German society as represented by his protagonists.
The older generation comprise an unrepentant, domineering Nazi General, Judejahn and his brother-in-law, Pfafferrath, a weaker ex-Nazi who is now the democratically elected mayor of the town where he held office in the Hitler years. Their wives are sisters, and supportive of the men, sharing their attitudes, hero-worshipping and fearful of Judejahn at the same time. Each of them has a son, who was brought up Nazi and has since rejected their upbringing. Siegfried, Pfafferath's son, is a modernist composer, weak-willed and lacking self-confidence and his cousin Adolf is in training for the Catholic priesthood.
The next generation, who came after these youngsters, rebelled much more openly, producing the student phenomenon of the '68 generation, and the Rote Armee Faktion (Baader Meinhoff terrorists). The generation of writers who followed Koeppen included Grass and Böll, and they were respected for describing a post-war Germany, for the most part, which had made a break with its Nazi past. Koeppen shows the essential continuity between the Weimar period of nationalist Germany, the Nazi period and the post-war Federal Republic, which was supposedly denazified.
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