Three Men on the Bummel
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In a German park I have seen a gardener step gingerly with felt boots on to grass-plot, and removing therefrom a beetle, place it gravely but firmly on the gravel; which done, he stood sternly watching the beetle, to see that it did not try to get back on the grass; and the beetle, looking utterly ashamed of itself, walked hurriedly down the gutter, and turned up the path marked "Ausgang."
But a lot of the time the characters seem mere decorations on a straightforward piece of travel writing, sometimes disappearing for most of a chapter - as for instance when the author describes the German Mensur tradition, in which students evidently competed to scar each other with manly wounds. Well worth discussing, perhaps, but out of place in a comic novel. And sometimes when the humour is present, it doesn't quite come off: for example, a lot of effort is expended in contriving a situation in which three drunkards end up sleeping in each other's houses; but the farcical opportunities are wasted as the episode simply winds up.
It remains a perfectly pleasant book, but it hasn't the modest perfection and warm-hearted charm of the earlier book. It's perhaps most memorable for its weirdly prescient remarks on 'the German character'; in particular:
In Germany today [pre-WWI] one hears a good deal concerning Socialism, but it is a Socialism that would only be despotism under another name.
The best chapter is actually the first, containing a spot-on and very amusing explication of marital politics.
Three Men in a Boat is justly famed for its wonderful ironic humour. Three Men on the Bummel starts off in a very promising fashion as the three decide they need a change and make preparations for a cycling tour of the Black Forest. The first few chapters are brilliant but when the three men get to Germany it all seems to tail off. There is actually rather little about cycling through the Black Forest and by the time the final chapters arrive they are not much more than Jerome K. Jerome's views of the Germans with little attempt at humour. The whole idea of the book just seems to run into the sand. Worth reading though just for those first few hilarious chapters.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love this book. There are episodes in it which on a first reading had me laughing until tears came - notably when Harris, George and J. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jane
This book has never achieved anything the popularity of Three Men In A Boat, which is a pity because it paints a charming and amusing picture of Germany (and Bohemia) just before... Read morePublished 2 months ago by OL