What are the Elbphilharmonie staff reading at the moment? Here are some of their recommendations.
Tape recordings from the Mexican border :Valeria Luiselli: Lost Children Archive
What it's about: A middle-class American family travels to the Mexican border to make tape recordings of the Apaches – and encounters refugee children travelling in the opposite direction. What seems to be an intact family collides with the drama of the refugee crisis.
Why is it worth reading? »The book really gripped me with its vivid portrayal of the whole refugee issue. It makes the reader think about what humanity means in these times. Sad to say, such scenes occur every day on the European borders, so the topic is absolutely relevant for us as well. Valeria Luiselli describes the surroundings so vividly that you feel you're there yourself with a microphone in one hand and a recording device in the other. Especially interesting for me as a technician.«
The first chance event of our biography :Saša Stanišić: Herkunft (in German)
What it's about: »›Herkunft‹ (Origin) is a book about the first chance event in our biography, namely being born somewhere. It's about birth, and what comes afterwards.« Thus Saša Stanišić describes his novel, which was awarded the 2019 German Book Prize. His story applies to all of us, somehow: »It's a book about a fragmented family and the question of what belongs to me. In the story I say goodbye to my grandmother, who was suffering from dementia. It's a book about language and shame, about arriving and coping, about happiness and death.« (Stanišić)
Why is it worth reading? »Stanišić manages to explore serious issues in a self-ironic, almost vibrant tone. I particularly liked the language used and the different narrative levels: the boundary between reality and fiction gets blurred, but the feeling conveyed by the story remains the same.«
Absurd fun :Sebastian Stuertz: Das Eiserne Herz des Charlie Berg (in German)
What it's about: Charlie Berg has special abilities: he can smell the most delicate scents, but he suffers from a weak heart – an unpredictable combination. When his grandfather is shot dead and his old love from Mexico turns up, his world is thrown out of kilter.
Why is it worth reading? With more than 700 pages, this is the perfect book to switch off for a while. There are passages where the story comes close to sensory overload, but that makes it so much fun to read – that and the author's utterly dry and absurd sense of humour«.
Black religious satire :John Niven: The Second Coming
What it's about: A furious satire on religious America: »God returns in the best possible mood from his fortnight's holiday with the angels. How are the busy little creatures on Earth doing? Well, two weeks in heaven correspond to 400 years down on Earth. God set off on vacation in the Renaissance, and He comes back to find Himself in the year 2011. What did He miss? Two world wars, nuclear weapons, all manner of religious strife, digitalisation, the financial and the world economic crisis, the destruction of the environment, Twitter – and a disastrous decline in morals. He needs to intervene, that much is obvious. And none other than the Devil gives Him a brilliant idea.«
Tip: »Special recommendation: the audio book read by Gerd Köster!« (in German).
Menace from the depths of the ocean :Frank Schätzing: The Swarm
What it's about: A fisherman vanishes without a trace off the coast of Peru. A team drilling for oil in the Norwegian sea discovers a network of organisms hundreds of square kilometres in size. A frightening change is happening to the whales off the coast of British Columbia. None of these events seem to be connected with each other. A thriller about nature's global rebellion against mankind.
Why is it worth reading? »What makes the novel so special is that even after reading it several times, I don't know whether the story is science fiction or a possible future reality. It's incredibly close to real events.«
Just setting out on a walk :Rachel Joyce: The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry
What it's about: »I'm on my way. You just need to hang on a bit«, Harold writes to his former colleague Queenie, who is dying. But instead of posting the letter he walks past the post office, out of the town and just carries on walking, covering a thousand kilometres in 87 days, from the south of Engand to the Scottish border where Queenie is lying in a hospice. Our colleague Brigitta Graf adds: »Harold meets various people on his spontaneous pilgrimage who induce him to reflect on his own life. A tour through some of England's most beautiful landscape – food for thought with things to smile at.«
Why is it worth reading? »I'm surprised to say I had just the same experience as Harold. The book gave me the impetus to change my way of looking at things and adopt new positions – a desirable development in times of Corona, I feel.«
How James Bond saw the world :Ian Fleming: Thrilling Cities
What it's about: »In the late 50s the Sunday Times commissioned James Bond author Ian Fleming to travel round the globe and write about some of the world's most exciting cities. His impressions bear the mark of the war that had only come to an end 14 years earlier«, says our press colleague Jan Reuter. A report on Hong Kong, Honolulu, Naples and Hamburg. Celebrities, gangsters and geishas – a thriller writer takes a look at some of the world's most fascinating cities.
Why is it worth reading? »Hamburg particularly appealed to him: ›Here they still put up simple individual buildings instead of huge steel and glass constructions that ruin a city's character‹«.
For bookworms :Harbour Front Literature Festival
The Harbour Front Literature Festival runs until 18 October 2020, with authors from all over the world reading at 71 locations in the Hamburg port area – the Elbphilharmonie among them.