The New York Review of Books has an absolutely terrific line of books under its imprint, culled from around the world, and many of them forgotten and worth remembering.

The most recent to come across my transom is Schulmp by Hans Herbert Grimm.  Originally published anonymously  in Germany in 1928, it made it’s appearance in English translation, by Maurice Samuel in 1929.  The NYRB edition, 2016, is translated by Jamie Bulloch, an Englishman, which while quite good does sometimes put a pebble in the reading road for American readers.  e.g . “school leaver’s certificate,” “potato clamp,” “they were magicked,” and “that could have gone pear-shaped.”

The overall sensibility, and especially the early chapters, is quite unlike the best known of all WWI novels, All Quiet on the Western Front, written by another German, Erich Maria Remarque.  Schlump is not dark and grim.  He is much more like “the good soldier Švejk, in the Czech novel of that name, (There is still a tavern in Prague with his name emblazoning the front,)  an anti-war novel that has us see army life, and even war, from the eyes of a good-hearted, simpleton.  Schlump is not a simpleton, though, despite his name.  He is a eye-fetching, physically able young man who seems to always be in a golden glow of his own outlook and the fortunes that brings him.

Even as the 260 page novel moves him from the first book in the idyllic paradise of the German occupied French country side to books two and three of the war itself, and the retreat back to a starving Germany — scenes though which it is harder to keep a whimsical note– Schlump, no schlump at all, manages to come out on the bright side of things, beguiling the girls in every town and tavern he passes through, managing to avoid hunger through charming war-profiteering and make it home to mama. Continue reading »

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