Looking forward to a Dan Brown novel is a curious psychological phenomenon, writes reviewer Matthew Dentith: Brown has never gathered accolades with respect to clever prose or complex characters. Indeed, until the publication of his third book, “The Da Vinci Code”, a Dan Brown book was merely something you wouldn’t feel guilty reading in an airport lounge. His new novel, “Inferno”, has all the stock Dan Brown features. Characters with distinguishing but unnatural traits (pustulant sores for one, female baldness for another), a daring damsel (with exceptional talents and, crucially, the ability to fall instantly in love with the protagonist), a conspiratorial cartel with no ethical compass and, finally, a hero in Robert Langdon, an academic who is more obsessed by the suits he wears than the courses he teaches at Harvard. So, how is “Inferno” as a novel? Well, it has all the standard set pieces you would expect: chase scenes, a succession of daring escapes and the obligatory chapter-long pieces of exposition. People swap sides and the sinister organisation, which is made out to be very powerful, also turns out to be comprised of very, very stupid people. And it has a protagonist who seems to have lost interest in the plots of his author.
A major portion of the poetry of Günter Eich (1907-1972) has, at last, been made accessible to an English-speaking readership in a new translation by Michael Hofmann. The judicious selection of poems gathered in the volume ('Angina Days', Princeton 2010) allows the reader to follow Eich’s development as a poet in detail. It is a journey which accompanies and reflects upon the personal, political and social issues of his time, the Cold War, rearmament, the German “Economic Miracle”, the Vietnam War, the suffering of the poor and oppressed. In his detailed review for The Berlin Review of Books, reviewer Axel Vieregg, himself a notable Eich scholar, offers annotations and footnotes, in an attempt to clarify some of Eich’s concerns that might otherwise be overlooked.
The Berlin Review of Books aims to publish high-quality reviews of, and insightful essays based on, important recent books published in any language, with a focus on non-fiction. While it will often approach contemporary debates from a European perspective, it is open to intelligent contributions from around the globe. Our goal is to promote honest and knowledgeable debate of issues of real significance; for this reason, we are committed to financial and editorial independence. The Berlin Review of Books does not normally publish fiction or poetry, except by invitation.