on 23 October 2011
Until he passed away, I'll admit I hadn't really heard of the German international goalkeeper Robert Enke. When I heard there was a book being released about his life I still wasn't that interested, simply because I never really knew the guy, as a player or a man.
I am so glad I ignored any previous misgivings or hesitation I had. This is a must-read book, and not just for football fans either.
Don't worry if you didn't know who Enke was, where he came from or who he played for. It's all covered and in detail too. Author Robert Reng was a friend and had in-depth access to Enke and his wife Teresa as well as Robert's personal diaries. So you know the author has his facts right and it shows in the style the book's written in. At times A Life Too Short reads like a work of fiction, it flows seamlessly from chapter to chapter and is never boring or repetitive. Despite dealing with the difficult subject that is depression, not once does Reng's writing become morbid or depressing itself. In fact the book really helped me to understand just how serious the illness is and how horrible it must be for sufferers. Enke certainly had an interesting life and a very interesting career. The chapter that deals with Enke's match during his time at Barcelona, when the Catalan side faced off against the small Spanish minnows Novelda is simply incredible. It is a harrowing piece of writing, you can literally feel Robert coming apart as the match turned in Novelda's favour.
It's not all negative though. As Robert experiences the highs that come with being a professional footballer, you feel like you're right there with him the entire time. Enke's years in Lisbon with Benfica come to mind, when he embraced the Portuguese culture around him until he felt right at home. There are just as many highs as there are lows in A Life Too Short.
This is a special book and I would recommend it to all readers of sport, football especially. It is easily one of the best biographies I've ever had the pleasure of reading and could quite possibly be the best football title I've read too. At the time of writing this, A Life Too Short has been long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year and it would be a crime for it to miss out on the short-list. I personally feel it should win the whole thing, it's simply that good.
Just go ahead and buy it, because A Life Too Short really is a powerful book. You won't regret it.
on 20 January 2012
I remember being aware of Robert Enke when he became Germany's goalkeeper, but knew little else about him until I heard about his death.
The fact that this book won sports book of the year made me notice, and I decided I would read it without knowing what to expect. I am glad I did, although it has effected me in ways I didn't expect.
I will be honest, I have been close to tears on many occassions while reading it, knowing the books end doesn't detract from the hope you feel all the way through that it will somehow be different. It makes you want to go back in time, find him, give him a big hug, and tell him it will all be ok.
If you have children, the chapters about his daughter and her passing I found particularly hard to read, and had to stop a couple of times to avoid crying. There is one photo of Robert holding Lara at the end of the football season that I stared at for some time.
As others have pointed out, the translation on very few occassions doesn't quite work, but this is such a minor detail that it is barely worth mentioning.
The book is a powerful insight, one of huge ups and downs, and I would recommend anyone to read it, it certainly doesn't make a difference if you like football or not. It is a personal story about a man with a talent, but an illness and how he and his family and friends tried to cope, and the eventual terribly sad end.
Read it, but keep tissues close.
on 26 October 2011
A couple of things before i continue
I suffer from depression i have been in hospital because of it and feel that i can add a review of context for this book.
Football is a passion of mine although i have lost some interest due to the money involved.
Having read a lot of books on depression this one spoke out to me the most.The author who was a friend of Robert really does explain the thinking of someone who is depressed,he is helped by the fact that Robert kept a diary of his feelings that he could not express to the world.The book tells the highs and lows of being a proffesional footballer and Robert had plenty of lows but his career was on the up when he took his own life.He had demons of failure he was worried if he told people he was depressed his adopted daughter would be taken away.Robert and his wife had lost their first child due to a heart defect.Through all that he was now the German goalkeeper but that means nothing when you have depression.This book is not sentimenal it just shows that depression can happen to anyone.I would reccomend this book most highly
on 6 June 2012
Firstly, I have never written a review, largely because I'm apathetic by nature and have never been compelled to do so. Then I read this book.
Incredibly well written, doesn't matter if you follow german footballers, football in general or even sport. I read this book and read about traits in Robert that I can see in myself as well as others, as I'm sure you will too, you then realise the fine line that many tread daily. This is what makes this book so gripping.
The cover of the book has a review that says "deeply affecting" - nothing could be more accurate. It is affecting - both negatively (it's a sad story!)and positively (exploring mental health and illness) making people aware and talking more freely about mental health - which has to be a good thing.
on 6 December 2011
I remember vividly being unable to sleep during the early morning of November 10th 2009, going downstairs and hearing about Robert Enke's death on Sky Sports News. Having suffered fom some of the symptoms that he felt (but without the public spotlight) I decided to buy the book in the wake of Gary Speed's death last week. This is a fantastic read. Highly emotive, well presented and several notches above most sports books. Thoroughly recommended.
There is a very fine line between the sensitive and the intrusive when issues such as mental health and suicide are discussed; this is a line which Ronald Reng is careful to tread in his review of the life and death of his friend Robert Enke.
On one level, the book presents a more or less linear narrative about Robert Enke's (always interesting) life and career. However, a subject such as Enke does not lend himself to a straightforward footballer's biography and Reng probes deeper, looking at Enke's ups and downs in the context of the profession he chose and the destiny to which it led him.
it would be very easy for a book of this nature to descend into standard "misery memoir" territory. However, Reng steers clear of that; while he pulls no punches in conveying Enke's level of disturbance, he is never prurient, preferring instead to look at the possible causes for Enke's problems. The people closest to Enke have clearly been generous in their assistance to the author and that bears fruit in the sensitive treatment of both the individual and the condition from which he suffered.
While the writing is clearly of a quality consistent with such a delicate subject, the translation lets it down from time to time, in that it does not seem to have been produced (or edited) by someone with the in-depth knowledge of football which would have produced a smoother rendering. That is however a very minor criticism. This is a work which I suspect will be held up in the years to come as an example of just how good sportswriting can be.
on 9 November 2011
This is a great story, moving without becoming too emotional. It really gets inside the life and untimely death of a decent family man who succumbed to depression. Could not stop reading it.
on 9 July 2012
An honest, sympathetic and balanced portrayal of mental illness that benefitted greatly from the cooperation of Robert Enke's family.
Because its a book where the reader knows there is no happy ending, it was often a difficult read and, even when Enke's life seemed to be on an even keel, there was a feeling of doom in the writing. What lifted that doom was the fact that the book was at least in part, a love story between Enke and his wife. Their relationship was beautifully chronicled and one is never left in doubt that Enke was adored by everyone close to him. In a way, that makes his suicide even more tragic but it also shows that mental illness is a cruel cruel thing.
Recommended wholeheartedly, despite its difficult and challenging subject matter.
on 11 April 2013
A good goalkeeper needs to be cool. He needs to ooze confidence and have a sort of authority and swagger about him. He needs to inspire his back four (or five if you happen to be Italian) and torment the opposition. As goalkeepers come, you wouldn't have found many better than Robert Enke.
Yet his name is synonomous with tragedy. A man who, to the rest of the world, was doing just fine. He had a bright future with the German national team and indeed in the Bundesliga. He was a goalkeeper with outstanding reactions and agility. He was intelligent. He had a loving wife and, after much hardship, a beautiful daughter. He had a good job at a good club.
So why, on November 10th 2009, did this 32 year old man step in front of a train?
There is something dark or sinister about Mental Illness. It's not like a broken leg or arm or physical damage which you can see and evaluate, but to steal the unhelpful legal definition it is a disease of the mind. A diagnosis, in my experience, elicits two reactions from people.
The first is one of distrust and sceptisism; this is the belief that there is, in fact, nothing wrong with the patient and that it's just a ploy to have some free time or an excuse for not doing more in life. The second is that the person is thereafter void of any credibility. This has its origins in Nazi Germany, where the regime would routinely use a diagnosis of a mental illness to discredit its critics or opponents. You can't win. Either you're not taken seriously, or you're simply not believed.
Awareness of mental health in the UK is very, very low. It's mention is often greeted with the aforementioned distrust by an ignorant people, poorly informed by a disdainful media. Some newspapers (such as The Daily Mail) routinely question any sort of diagnosis of depression in people they believe to be unworthy of help. Some see it as just an easy way people choose to get benefits.
For one reason or another I wanted to find out more about depression as an illness. `A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke' (Ronald Reng, Yellow Jersey) is a comprehensive and deeply moving insight into depression from the point of view of Enke, the footballer and the man. It documents Enke's life, his childhood and breakthrough into professional football. It refers to his time at Benfica, his nightmare at Barcelona and his time at Hannover 96. It explores his life, seeking the roots of the depressive illness. There are interviews with Moreria, Valdes and others about their experience of Enke.
All the time, this fascinating read is wonderfully sensitive but sometimes brutally open and frank about his very private battle with depression. We are left in no doubt that Enke is a victim of this elusive illness.
The book explores the torments of an often misunderstood condition, but to its credit avoids the temptation to collapse into a sentimental narrative about Enke. At the end there is no gloss, but rather the raw feeling of knowing a little bit more about Depression as a condition and the effects it can have on one man. Having followed his journey throughout the book and, in a sense, shared his stuggle, turning the final page gave me a numbness which was every bit liberating as it was haunting. I felt a desperate grief but also a profound sense of empathy with a deeply troubled but wonderful man.
A Life too Short is wonderfully written and is an outstanding tribute to Enke. If you only read one book in the next year, let it be this one.
on 27 March 2013
Let me begin by saying up front that I have bipolar disorder (manic depression) and so I know a thing or two about what Robert Enke must have gone through, but I also respect that depression is personal and the way it effects people and how sufferers respond to it are never the same from person to person.
I don't know anything about Ronald Reng but he clearly has a deep understanding of the depressive illness and how it can make people feel - not just the person with the depression (both physically and mentally) but the people around them, from loved ones to work colleagues and casual acquaintances. His fluid style means the book unfurls like a work of fiction, although we are of course, never left in any doubt that it is an all too true and tragic story.
Whether you like football or not. Whether you have heard of Robert Enke or not. Whether you can bring yourself to care about Robert Enke or not - please, please read this book.
I often feel myself bristle inside when I hear people talk about feeling so depressed, when they simply mean they feel a bit low or are having a bad day. It's not a problem, I tell myself, it's just a word. But that's the trouble, it is just a word, a word that people associate with that state of feeling a bit low. Bad days. We all have them. Monday morning blues. So the word has become diluted and this means that when someone is genuinely knocked out by clinical depression, people do question the illness - what's wrong with them? They'll get over it. Stop being so bloody selfish. Look on the bright side. As one reviewer has already said, he wanted to give Robert Enke a shake and tell him to snap out of it, there are people far worse off.
I felt Reng has done an excellent job of describing Robert Enke's depression as a medically recognised illness. Sufferers know that there are millions of people in the world far worse off than them, they realise that they have a comfy life compared to say front-line soldiers or African mothers walking miles for dirty water, so why do they feel this bad? Why can everyone else cope with life and they can't? And you sink lower and lower. Hate yourself more and more. Reng brilliantly lays out these thought cycles.
As I've said depression effects everybody differently. Mental illness effects as many people as cancer and yet it is still a taboo. A sign of weakness for all too many people. There is no universal cure, what works for one person will not even touch the sides of somebody else's problems. Robert Enke died believing that for him there was no cure. Anybody who thinks that a depressive will ever respond to a good shake should be made to read this book from cover to cover, that way Ronald Reng's gifted friend will not have died in vein.