Friday, July 28, 2017

Christian Kracht - Imperium (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2012) *

"In 1902, a radical vegetarian and nudist from Nürenberg named August Engelhardt set sail for what was then called Bismarck Archipelago. His destination: the island of Kabakon. His goal: to establish a colony based on worship of the sun and coconuts. His malnourished body was found on the beach on Kabakon in 1919: he was forty-three years old", is the short description on the back cover of the book. And the man actually existed. He had even a degrees in physics and chemistry from Erlangen University, and he wrote a book "The Carefree Future"in 1898.

In this novel, Kracht reconstructs the life of the excentric man, telling his arrival in New Guinea, the creation of his plantation, his local servants on the island, his interactions with the authorities and other Germans on the main land. Somehow it fails to make the person really come to live. Kracht depicts his main character with a kind of detached superiority, instead of really trying to understand the man's motivations, actions and ensuing insanity. At times it made me think of that other bad novel "The Confederacy Of Dunces", for the simple reason that the main character is stupid, and you wonder the whole time why a novelist would spend time to ridicule his main character. Why?

Kracht's writing is not bad by itself, and sure, no doubt Engelhardt's vision on life and on diet were pretty narrow, one-sided and doomed to fail, and even the author did a lot to bring historical facts back to us, the condescending tone kills what could have been a strong book.

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