The Giraffe’s Neck
The Giraffe’s Neck
by Judith Schalansky,
tr. Shaun Whiteside
by Bloomsbury USA
After my happy review of The Dead lake, here is a second book from the IFFP longlist that I had to DNF. So here are just a few thoughts on The Giraffe’s Neck.
Again, these are just a few partial thoughts that cannot reflect upon the whole book, as I gave up.
At first, I felt an understanding with Inge Lohmark. She has been a biology teacher for 30 years, and she’s lamenting, with hyper sarcasm, about her students, their stupidity and laziness. It did ring a bell, believe me, with my own experience as an English teacher way back when in France. But after a while her repetitive caustic humor got on my nerves.
Yes, I agree we are certainly in a decadent phase of humanity, as far as culture is concerned, but lamenting over it is not going to help.
Now the unique characteristic of the book is that as a biology teacher, the narrator sees everything exclusively along the categories of biology. The vocabulary used pertains almost exclusively to that domain. For instance, a different word of that register appears at the top of each right page, to sum up what that page is about.
Some reviews I have read point to some deeper level further in the book, but this painting of a dying world did really feel more boring than a “nature morte” for me to keep going. And in the spirit of Inge, I hope you get that pun of mine, lol. Sorry you may need to be bilingual.
I promise you, the next IFFP book I will present is pure awesome!
Here is the synopsis to give you a larger view of The Giraffe’s Neck:
Adaptation is everything. Inge Lohmark is well aware of that; after all, she’s been teaching biology for more than thirty years. But nothing will change the fact that her school is going to be closed in four years: in this dwindling town in the eastern German countryside, there are fewer and fewer children. Inge’s husband, who was a cattle inseminator before the reunification, is now breeding ostriches. Their daughter, Claudia, emigrated to the U.S. years ago and has no intention of having children. Everyone is resisting the course of nature the Inge teaches every day in class.
When Inge finds herself experiencing intense feelings for a 9th-grade girl, her biologically determined worldview is shaken. And in increasingly outlandish ways, she tries to save what can no longer be saved. [Goodreads]
So far (follow its evolution after each of my IFFP reviews) my list in order of likes would then go like that:
- The End of Days, by Jenny Erpenbeck
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
- The Dead Lake, by Hamid Ismailov
- By Night the Mountain Burns, by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel
- The Giraffe’s Neck, by Judith Schalanski
- The Last Lover, by Can Xue
To know more about the IFFP and the IFFP Shadow Panel, please see the other posts in this category
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
HAVE YOU READ ANY OTHER GOOD RECENT BOOK
TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN?