I was sent some lovely emails today which came from the pupils and staff of the Maria Theresia Gymnasium in Augsburg, where class 11b have been reading Planet Germany as a set text.
This is, of course a moment of mixed emotions for me. To start with, looking back on my own school days, I wonder what I would have written at the time to the authors of most of the books we had to read.
To William Shakespeare, I’d probably have penned a stern note, requesting that he be less obtuse: “Dear Will, Come off it. I mean…Lend me your ears… what’s that supposed to mean. Huh?”
To Honoré de Balzac: “Sir, I would kindly request that you make any future novels around 300 pages shorter, as you have seen fit to write them in difficult French, especially in consideration of the fact that I have to complete my essay by Thursday and have been unable to wangle a copy of the Penguin translation from the school library.”
To Kafka: “The entire sixth form would like to request information regarding the psychedelic substances which so clearly played a role in the creative process…”
The pupils and teachers of the Maria Theresia Gymnasium, however, obviously take their schoolwork more seriously. Their teacher wrote:
Despite our initial suspicions that it might be one of those books which only deals in a superficial way with the most famous prejudices against the German like wearing “Lederhosen” or drinking beer, we soon realized that “Planet Germany” is different and gives also a different -but quite true- insight into the real German behaviour, such as the “grill mania”. The author has got extraordinary ideas concerning the topics she decides to write about.
Although the instructions not being very original and sometimes too full with enumerations, like the one of “The Life Expectancy of a German Pig”, the pleasant way these short stories are written and their length, makes everybody read on.
All in all, we, the MTG inspectors of the 11b J tested this book in the last few weeks and came to the conclusion that it passed with bravura!
Christian in 11b wrote:
The content is very interesting as you get to know the view of a English family living in Germany and their attitude towards several issues. After having read this book, you sometimes things from a different point of view. Ther are no intems or elements in the book, that I really dislked. My favourite chapter is probably “The live expectancy of a pig”, where the enormous meat consumption of the Germans can be seen very well.
The texts always make me laugh and are really written in a funny way.They treat typical human vices that are very common and which everybody knows.Like this you are familiar with the situations and you can share your own experiences.So while reading them, you connect the text with special situations and simply have to laugh. The language fits perfectly to the content and the way some phenomenes are described are close to reality. So the language is entertaining, too. Otherwise the texts don´t contain complicate words, but they are described by (very funny) expressions, so everybody is able to understand the content.
Another teacher wrote:
I have to tell you she really gets to the point of German habits and daily routines. The very personal way she describes “her” Meerbusch and the way how only a foreigner can make fun of the traditions of an other country is done quite impressive. She didn’t treat the typical German habits in a rough way, but develops a friendship with them by giving them a little smile. Only in some paragraphs she really exaggerates.
When I received all these emails, I was absolutely bowled over. How wonderful! Get this… literary criticism of my bemused ramblings on the quirks and foibles of the German nation. And written by Germans, who actually enjoyed the book – even though it was a school set text.
So I would like to say a big public all-over-the-internet thank you to the pupils and staff of the Maria Theresia Gymnasium. You have absolutely made my day. And I am sending you a special thank-you in the post.