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Novel set in BERLIN, Germany (Fabrizio Collini goes to trial)

1st October 2013

The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach, novel set in Berlin.

OK, the reason I chose to read this book was for two reasons:

  • it was on the ‘recommended’ bench at Waterstones Bookshop, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (you can to follow them on Twitter), the book caught my eye; and
  • because I had had such a negative experience with the last book I read in translation, German to English (you can read all about my rants and misgivings here). I felt I had to reassure myself that it is still possible to read a good book via a good translation. Bingo. Thank you!

85 year old Hans Meyer is killed in Room 500 of the Adlon Hotel (famed by Michael Jackson dangling his baby Blanket, that is to say his baby called Blanket, out of the window some years ago) by 67 year old Fabrizio Collini, shot IMG_0588and then stamped in the face. A brutal attack by any standards. Caspar Leinen is assigned to defend Collini, who admits the killing without any quibble. And so starts the legal process, but the stumbling block is the motive. Collini remains tight-lipped, he is not prepared to say what drove him to such a brutal murder. For Leinen there is more than just his first trial at stake, he has personal connections going right back to the Meyer family, which threaten to fudge the whole proceedings.

Essentially a novella, The Collini Case is a taut read, that comes to a resounding end. Mainly set in Berlin, it trawls back in time and describes little vignettes of life around the city and around Germany.

Much of the story revolves around a seemingly iniquitous Statute of Limitations. In January 2012 (it says at the end of the book), just a few months after the original publication of this novel in Germany, the Federal Minister of Justice appointed a committee to reappraise the situation. The book is clearly a vehicle for the author’s ambition to reform the law, and at times the balance between storyline and the drive for change can feel a little skewed.

The format of this novel is short and sharp and is reminiscent of the kind of books published by Peirene Press. The Collini Case is, like their books, contemporary European literature that is thought-provoking, well designed and short. One of our archive reviews features one of their publications, also set in Berlin, The Mussel Feast – and both books complement each other, both add to the experience that is Berlin and both fit the Peirene Press strap line: “Two-hour books to be devoured in a single sitting: literary cinema for those fatigued by film” (TLS). Enjoy!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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