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by Siegfried Kracauer, translated from the German by Carl Skoggard, introduction by Johannes von Moltke

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Siegfried Kracauer’s Ginster is the great World War I novel you’ve never heard of. Here, the sheer horrors are kept offstage, as in Greek tragedy, and merely reported from time to time. The setting is the German home front. Its Chaplinesque antihero—Ginster—spends the war gumming up the German war machine as he maneuvers to stay out of its clutches and save his own skin.

Which he does; however, there is a deeper struggle going on between Ginster’s dreamy self-absorption and the pitiless organization of society, war or no war. Ginster has no wish to do anything. Alas, his reveries are forever being interrupted by the demands of an other-minded world.

All the scenes of Ginster are well to the rear of the military action, yet with Kracauer narrating, military language saturates all aspects of civilian life in the homeland. Ginster’s nearest and dearest are so gung-ho, he feels that he’s at the front when he visits them.

War, the author seems to say, is merely ordinary life seen from the back instead of the front. As a new European war darkens our horizon, one no more expected than was World War I, Kracauer’s novel feels timelier than ever.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378145
Pages: 336
Publication Date:


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