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Me and Kaminski: A Novel [Hardcover]

Daniel Kehlmann

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Book Description

Nov. 18 2008
From the internationally best-selling author Daniel Kehlmann, a provocative and wickedly funny novel about two unpredictable men–one an artist and the other a journalist, who together embark on an unexpected adventure with uproarious results.

Sebastian Zollner’s failure as a journalist is matched only by his personal failures: his girlfriend is moving in a new lover before Sebastian even knows he’s been dumped. Searching for the break that will redeem him in the eyes of his peers, he heads off on a wild goose chase into the mountains to interview the eccentric, legendary painter Manuel Kaminski, with the hope of writing his biography.

Kaminski is going blind and is living in seclusion with his daughter. He could be working on his next masterpiece or easing into his final days, and his inconsistent career raises the question of whether he has been a fraud or a genius. His artistic reputation hinges on any number of factors but most prominently on a definitive biography. Enter Zollner–who has no intention of writing a puff piece. He’s out to dig dirt and to force Kaminski to confront the legacy of his work. But the secrets he uncovers will lead Kaminski, and Zollner himself, to places neither of them ever expected to go.

With edgy wit and intelligence, Daniel Kehlmann dives into the problems of what is “truth” in our celebrity-crazed times and embraces the energy and humanity that lie beneath the pretensions of the art and journalistic worlds. A firecracker of a novel.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (Nov. 18 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030737744X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377449
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 11.6 x 18.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,343,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for MEASURING THE WORLD

"A masterfully realized, wonderfully entertaining and deeply satisfying novel. . . . Addictively readable and genuinely and deeply funny."
Los Angeles Times

"Kehlmann's lightly surreal style [is] a mixture of comedy, romance and the macabre, with flashes of magical realism that read like Borges in the Black Forest."
Washington Post Book World

"Elegant and measured in design and expression. . . . What distinguishes Kehlmann are quickness of mind and lightness of touch."
The New York Times Book Review

Praise from Germany for ME AND KAMINSKI

"Kehlmann is a consummate storyteller, assured in tone, with masterful control over the storyline. . . . Ravishing,"
Der Spiegel

"I haven't laughed so hard reading a new German novel for a long time. . . . This young author writes fiction with great refinement and sparkling wit. The plot is strong and the dialogue totally hilarious."
Frankfurter Rundschau

"Kehlmann has never given his satiric temperament such free rein. Me and Kaminski is absolutely his funniest book. And his most adventurous."
Die Zeit

About the Author

Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich and now lives in Vienna. He has received major awards for his work, most recently the 2005 Candide Award. He was the writer-in-residence at New York University's Deutsches Haus in 2006.

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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Me and Kaminski April 26 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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Drawn in Sept. 28 2013
By Allen Jones - Published on Amazon.com
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
3.0 out of 5 stars this book is supposed to be wickedly funny . . . it wasn't May 22 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
5.0 out of 5 stars "Through A Glass Darkly" March 15 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
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Waste Your Time Reading This Book Jan. 10 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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