After reading Swiss author Christian Kracht‘s debut novel Faserland I was hooked. While not overly simplistic by any means, Kracht writes novels that are challenging for a German language learner but aren’t overly complex either. I’m a loyal reader, a loyal fan, generally speaking. If I like the book an author has written — or a the film an actor or filmmaker has made, or the music a musician has made, and so on — I’ll typically go explore more of their work. That’s how I found myself with Kracht’s second novel, 1979.
Set in Tehran just before the Iranian revolution in 1979, the novel tells the story through the eyes of a young man who is lacking direction in his life. The narrator, who is never named, has been traveling with his friend and ex-boyfriend Christopher, a picky and rather opinionated man with expensive tastes. But, unfortunately, Christopher is extremely ill. As the narrator merely tries to keep an eye on Christopher and make sure he doesn’t get into too much trouble, he begins meeting some rather interesting people. One gives him a cassette tape of a band he likes. Later, when he’s detained by the Iranian police, he finds out that it wasn’t music on the cassette tape. Shortly there after the narrator flees from Tehran, Iran. The second half of the book follows the narrator as he travels to Tibet and China. He intends to go mountain climbing but it doesn’t work out quite as intended after he’s detained by Chinese police.
Christian Kracht writes in chapters but they’re composed of many short passages combined. It makes it easy to pick up and put down the books. It also makes it easy to follow the story if your German is less than perfect. 1979 is a fascinating tale. It reads like a travel novel, a fictitious memoir and a historical novel when it’s none of those along. It’s also a story that is disheartening when you realize that, although it’s fiction, it’s not so far fetched.
This post contains affiliate links.