German novels have been existent for almost 350 years and it is no doubt that they have been producers of quality literature through time. Germans have tackled almost all topics you could think, from history, philosophy, and even the aspects of being human. Reading them are surely worth your time since you would be able to learn a lot from the famous classics they have produced. Here is a comprehensive list of some German novels you should consider taking time to read.
The Quest for Christa T (1968) by Christa Wolf
This novel was a living evidence of Wolf’s own metafictional exploration. The novel was a compilation of sorts, letters, diaries, and other forms of written material that helped her discover a doppelganger that she claims to be haunting her. Upon discovering her own self, she was also able to conclude how the society both forms and denies the identities of the people in it. It also depicted how certain types of governance could harm the societies inside it. The plot may seem simple and common but the learnings you could get from this novel would exceed your expectations.
Transit (1942) by Anna Seghers
This novel provided a bit of an adventure by focusing the story on European refugees who wanted to escape from Nazi Germany and Vichy France by travelling through Marseille. As the title implies, the novel explains how the transit of these refugees went all the way to the south of France. Sometimes, the title attributed to this novel is “Transit Visa” as the story also featured how the characters managed to obtain the visas and paperwork they needed to be able to live.
The Glass Bead Game (1943) by Herman Hesse
Among the few German authors who had a different focus on the literature they wrote was Hesse. This novel explored art and literature. The main character was Joseph Knecht who has been able to live thrice but he does not see what his purpose in life is. While tackling this, the novel was also able to assess the place of art in the society at that time and how important it was for art to be physically present so it could be validated indeed as an art.
After Midnight (1937) by Imgard Keun
The Nazi party rose during the 1930s and no doubt, a lot of authors have used them as a subject to their novels. It was a famous subject matter as their presence have been dominant back then. This novel is a love story, focusing on forbidden love where the focus is on a young woman living in Germany experiencing the cruelty of the German government. Just to release her works which was forbidden in Germany, Keun even sought for her own exile. Eventually, this novel has made its way back to Germany and has become a blockbuster.
The Sleepwalkers (1932) by Hermann Broch
Broch was an Austrian and this work contains a trilogy. This novel was considered to be one of the masterpieces of modern German prose. The interesting thing about this novel is how Broch provided a look at the society from a viewpoint of someone who is deemed insignificant. The novel gives the idea that sometimes, history brings unpredictable changes which leaves everybody unprepared.
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1974) by Heinrich Boll
This novel was based on a true story during the height of sensationalized tabloid journalism in the west side of Germany. It depicted how media or the public in general has the power to destroy individual people’s lives. Katharina Blum is the protagonist in the story and at some point, she took home a man after going to a party. Later on, she faced murder charges of a journalist who was snooping around them. Indeed, the story showed how ruthless the industry of journalism is just to produce news that would need the guarantee to be read.
Berlin Alexanderplats (1929) by Alfred Doblin
This novel was set in Berlin and made use of several forms of print media from newspapers to street signs, and even pop music. This novel actually contributed to the booming of multimedia in the 20th century. It is said to be one of the most influential German novels in the world as it combined cinematic montage with playful narration and an honest view of what life is.
The Tin Drum (1959) by Gunter Grass
This novel is claimed to be the most highly acclaimed novel of post-war Germany. This novel is actually the first installment among the trilogy that he produced. The story focuses on a German family before who lived before World War II. The point of view in the novel is from Oskar, who was a young man confined in an asylum for the insane. The part of Germany in focus was Danzig. Somehow, this novel also served as a social commentary while Germany was focusing on its efforts to reconstruct its economy. Grass asks, “Who will have the willingness to look back?”