Saša Stanišić Is January’s Pick for 12 Germans in 2016


I’ve decided to start my year of German literature with Saša Stanišić’s Wie der Soldat das Grammofon Repariert. The English title is a verbatim translation: How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone. The book was originally published in 2006 by Luchterhand Literaturverlag in Munich and was shortlisted for the German Book Prize. Subsequently, the book was translated into 30 languages. The English translation (by Anthea Bell) was published in 2008 by Grove/Atlantic, receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews and winning the Weidenfeld Translation Prize. It has also been adapted for the stage and the radio.

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I will review the book on January 29 and would be happy if you read and reviewed with me. If you decide to spread the love via Twitter (or anywhere else), please use #12Germans2016.

About the Book (adapted from Goodreads)

Aleksandar is Comrade-in-Chief of fishing, the best magician in the non-aligned States and painter of unfinished things. He knows the first chapter of Marx’s Das Kapital by heart, but spends most of his time playing football in the Bosnian town of Visegrad on the banks of the river Drina. When his grandfather, a master storyteller, dies of the fastest heart attack in the world while watching Carl Lewis run a world record–setting race, Aleksandar promises to carry on the tradition. However, when the shadow of war spreads to Višegrad, the world as he knows it stops. Suddenly it is not important how heavy a spider’s life weighs, or why Marko’s horse is related to Superman. Suddenly it is important to have the right name and to pretend that the little Muslim girl Asija is his sister. Then Aleksandar’s parents decide to flee to Germany and he must leave his new friend behind.

About the Author


Saša Stanišić (born 7 March 1978) is a Bosnian-German writer. He was born in Višegrad in Bosnia in 1978 and came to Germany as a refugee of the Bosnian War when he was 14 years old. How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone was his first book. His second book, Vor Dem Fest (Before the Feast) came out in 2014 and won the Leipzig Book Fair Prize. The English translation (also by Anthea Bell) was published by Pushkin Press in late 2015. His third book is scheduled to come out in May 2016.

Interesting Links




  1. Hmm thx for the author’s bio — very interesting background. I’m curious about the novel for sure! Glad you are keeping me abreast of good German Lit this year. thanks

    • Thanks for the link! I’ll have to listen to the podcast this weekend. My very last purchase of 2015 was Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Do you happen to know it? I’m thinking of doing some Southern/Central European reading “soon.” Do you have any suggestions?

      • I have heard of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon but have not read it. It sounds very interesting. For contemporary Balkan/Central European lit I would highly recommend having a look at Istros Books, a small UK publisher From their catalogue you might want to consider Farewell Cowboy by Olja Savačević, Yugoslavia, My Fatherland by Goran Vojnović and a little collection called Death in the Museum of Modern Art by Alma Lazarevska. But, of course, I have yet to be disappointed by one of their books!

  2. I love the title and as I like reading german books, I am always on the lookout for more. I will look forward to reading about your experience with it

    • Thanks, Tom. If you like the title of the book, you should see the titles of the chapters. “When flowers were just flowers, how Mr. Hemingway and Comrade Marx feel about each other, who’s the real Tetris champion, and the indignity suffered by Bogoljub Blavan’s scarf” is the name of chapter 4.

  3. I knew his name seemed familiar to me – I have seen Before the Feast around somewhere but hadn’t put the two together until now (I haven’t read it, but I think it was a good review).
    Of course, I had no plan to read this book until I read this post. Then I thought I’d check my library to see if they had it. I didn’t think it likely, but guess what? It’s there. And I’ve put a hold on it. Isn’t that exactly the thing I’m not supposed to be doing this year? I’m going to blame it on you. 🙂

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