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Me and Kaminski Paperback – 3 Sep 2009


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More About the Author

Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and moved to Vienna in 1981, where he studied philosophy and literature at university. Fame is his sixth novel.

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Review

'The novel barrels along like a top-of-the-range BMW on a deserted autobahn ... The comedy has a touching, tender precision' Independent.

'Very funny ... Sparkling and consistently amusing comedy, by turns broad and sophisticated' Daily Telegraph.

'An accessible and humorous road trip into the worlds of art and journalism, satirising both' New Statesman.

'Witty, shrewd and smartly translated ... Delightful' Guardian.

From the Back Cover

Sebastian Zöllner, an underachieving art critic, has pinned his hopes of advancement on writing the biography of the artist Manuel Kaminski, a reclusive former pupil of Matisse. Inept, charmless, and with scant knowledge of art history, Zöllner is hardly the man to rediscover a lost genius of 20th-century painting. But he has made one crucial discovery about his subject: that Kaminski's long-lost love, Therese, is still living, contrary to what the artist himself had been led to believe.

Half road novel, half satire on the contemporary art scene, Me and Kaminski is a wryly humorous meditation on art, memory, and identity. It provides further compelling evidence of the exceptional talents of one of Europe's most exciting and gifted young novelists.


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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Me and Kaminski 27 April 2012
By Stephen Balbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
`Me and Kaminski` (2003) is a sophisticated satire by Austrian author Daniel Kehlmann. It's about a young biographer, Sebastian, who interviews a "famous" but old and near-death painter, Kaminski, so that Sebastian can publish an authoritative biography and - he hopes - become famous and wealthy. We quickly discover Sebastian is a hollow narcissist who cares only for himself ("Me" is first in the title) and gradually come to realize that Kaminski is even worse! Both use charm and guile to get their ways so the two together make for comedy. The trickster, Sebastian, becomes the tricked, by Kaminski, who gets Sebastian to drive him around, pay for things etc. The humor here is that among writers, biographers have a reputation as ambulance chasers and grave diggers, it's what hack writers do who can't do anything else, so we laugh at the comeuppance and turning of tables. Yet is Kaminski also a hack painter? His "fame" rests mainly on a few letters of recommendation and not his paintings which never sold well. Even the people in his village aren't sure who he is. It raises questions of authenticity, what is really important in life, the pretensions of the art world, image versus substance.

Overall I enjoyed the novel but it's probably not for everyone, it will take some thinking and appreciation. It's carefully written, not much is by accident, for example the hitchhiker, Karl Ludwig, infers that a painting is the work of the devil, and likewise it's hard to escape the Faustian nature of the story, is Kaminski really the devil who had made a bargain with Sebastian? There is more of this type of symbolism for those who wish to find depth beyond the surface story, it rewards contemplation which is the mark of good piece of art. Of course, that is the same thing the novel is about: like Kaminski's painting of mirrors facing mirrors, the novel is evaluating art while we the reader are evaluating the novel as art! In this 110 page book the word "mirror" is used 31 times, it's a reflection of a reflection. The American/UK book covers don't "reflect" it but the original German cover shows a mirror on the cover, it's unfortunate the American/UK publishers missed this central theme.
Drawn in 28 Sept. 2013
By Allen Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I did not expect to be sorry to see this book end. However about 2/3 in I found myself wishing there was going to be more left. The characters slowly captured me and finally held me more than the story and I liked them.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
this book is supposed to be wickedly funny . . . it wasn't 22 May 2010
By R. A. Frauenglas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Me and Kaminski", by Daniel Kehlmann, translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway (204 pgs., 2003, 2008). According to the dust jacket blurbs, this is supposed to be a "wickedly funny . . . firecracker of a novel."
On the back cover, one German reviewer wrote that he hadn't "Laughed so hard reading a new German novel for a long time . . . "
A book reviewer for THE WASHINGTON POST'S BOOK WORLD mentioned that Kehlmann wrote in a "lightly surreal style . . . with flashes of magical realism . . ."
I don't know what book those people were reading. I didn't laugh. Not even once. I guess German humor is very deep. It is so deep I couldn't find it. Was this a decent novel? Yes. It strikes at the pretentiousness of false pride, focusing on pretensions in the art world & how truth is bent by scoop seeking journalists.
In this book, conniving art journalists are being out-connived by the conniving artists they are seeking to scoop. Is that humorous? Perhaps. Yet, the writing is more deadly serious than sarcastically humorous. In the end, it's the reader who gets totally fooled by a great O'Henryesque finale.
If allowed, this book would be receiving 2.5 stars instead of 3. But, half-stars are not allowed.
Perhaps, in the hand of a deft director this would make a good comic movie?
14 of 29 people found the following review helpful
"Through A Glass Darkly" 16 Mar. 2009
By Stanley H. Nemeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant satirical novel, the bare events of its plot further enriched by the presence of both a poetic and a philosophical subtext. Its protagonist is a snoopy, narcissistic journalist, Sebastian Zollner, eager to make his "important" career in the art world by writing the biography of a once famous painter, Manuel Kaminski, now a recluse whose chief works were a series of mirror-image paintings called "Reflections.". The title, adroitly putting "Me" before "Kaminski" as it does, is the perfectly chosen open sesame into the self-absorbed character of Sebastian. Especially winning is the later tying together of Kaminski's art and Zollner's life, for author Kehlmann has Sebastian in a key moment look into a mirror and see only a stranger. Seeking the truth about his subject's life pure and simple, Sebastian in frustration discovers the persons he interviews about Kaminski contradict one another, and he is led to realize in a way the wisdom in Wilde's quip about seeing into others, that "the truth is never pure and rarely simple."

This novel bears a resemblance to Henry James' "Aspern Papers," a work featuring a similarly prying journalist who is brought at length to see, though from a less overtly philosophical perspective, his own emptiness. Zollner realizes after his fruitless quest for ownership of Kaminski's life an undeniable similarity to the experience of the follower of an Eastern sage mentioned earlier in the novel, the discovery that he finally has "nothing" and should even give that "nothing" up.

"Me and Kaminski" is a novel that has been carefully "written;" nothing in its series of interviews and madcap adventures is by chance. As such, it is a tale whose events are radiant with meaning, and, consequently, one which merits rereading.
3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Don't Waste Your Time Reading This Book 10 Jan. 2009
By William Shardlow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I only managed to get half way through this book, I simply couldn't stand reading any further. The lead character ("Me") is a vile and shallow journalist, which leads to a couple of mildly amusing incidents in the first few pages. But he really starts to wear one down after a very short while, and the humour gets very laboured very quickly. The other characters are equally unenlightening, and the whole book starts to drag.

You get a hint that Kaminski might have some redeeming qualities, but he disappears early on, and we get a horrendously kludgy sequence of interviews between "me" and Kaminski's vile acquaintances. So you get a one dimensional portrait of several uninteresting characters going on for page-after-page. That's when I gave up.

The language of the novel matches the characters -- boring and vapid. Maybe the translator is at fault, though she can be forgiven. It must have been boring translating the "adventures" of such a banal character.

The author completed a doctorate on Kant and the sublime, so you might have expected "me" to react in some way to the sublime in art. But all you get is "me" treating art analysis like an exercise in the lowest form of hack journalism. Which I guess is showing you the opposite of the sublime. But you don't get any hint of what the sublime in art might really be about. Maybe that's covered in the second half of the novel, but the total lack of sublimity in the first half made this seem unlikely to me. So I bailed.
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