“Fame” by Daniel Kehlmann

“Fame” by Daniel Kehlmann   (2009) – 175 pages  –  Translated by Carol Brown Janeway

The word I would use to describe “Fame” by writer Daniel Kehlmann from Austria is ‘playful’  This is the type of book where the female main character of a story argues with the story writer about what is going to happen to her next in the story.  At one point she says, “You and your clever words, you can stick them up your ass!”

The subtitle of the book is ‘A Novel in Nine Episodes’ but these are really nine separate stories in which some of the characters float in and out.  Most of the stories are about people who are somewhat famous.  There is Miguel Aristos Blanco, the self-help writer who is “venerated by half the planet and mildly despised by the other, author of books on serenity, inner grace, and the wandering journey in quest of the meaning of life across hills, meadows, and valleys”.  There is Ralf Tanner, the famous actor who  “googled his own name several times a day, corrected the Wikipedia entry on himself that was riddled with errors, checked the casting in his films in various databanks, and laboriously translated the opinions of participants in forums about them in Spanish, Italian, and Dutch”.  (This story must have been written before Google Translate.)    Then there is the most obnoxious, pathetic character of all, an international fiction writer named Leo Richter who I suppose is a stand-in for Daniel Kehlmann.  This guy throws a hissy fit in front of his wife when their plane is a little late.  Of course all planes are always late, so he is constantly throwing hissy fits. 

There is one absolute stunner of a story in “Fame”, “Rosalie Goes Off to Die”.  This is one of those stories that will make you cry and laugh; it is poignant and funny at the same time.

“Fame” is a short book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet it contains a lot of wisdom.  From now on I will be watching for any new works of fiction by this young thirty-five year old writer, and I will read them as they are published.  Daniel Kehlmann is certainly a writer to watch.  I usually try not to use too long quotes from books, but this one I really liked.

    “People, even those closest to us who know us best, don’t notice when we lie. The cliché holds the opposite, that you always betray yourself somehow and begin to stutter and sweat when you utter a falsehood, that you sound odd, that your voice changes. But friends, it’s not true. And the fact that it is not true surprises nobody more than the liar. Besides even if it were true, even if your voice tightened, even if we did sweat and blush and twitch, none of it would give us away because nobody notices. People are credulous, they don’t anticipate being deceived. Who truly listens to other people, who concentrates on the chatter of his nearest and dearest? Everyone’s mind is somewhere else.”

 “Fame” is a playful fun trip.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Wonderful review! Kehlmann truly sounds like someone to watch out for… I will do so 🙂

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  2. Hi Birdy,
    “Fame” kind of reminded me of “The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachmann Both are separate stories and both are quite funny.

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  3. I would be very much interested in reading this having read and reviewed Kehlmann’s previous book Measuring The World. This sounds like a very different book – one to watch out for I think

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    • Hi Tom.
      I liked “Fame” a lot. I actually did read “Measuring the World” but at the time it kind of got lost in the crowd of the fine books I was reading and did not make so much of an impression.

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  4. Posted by Kelly S on December 5, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Great review! This sounds like a book I’d like. I’ll have to look for it next time I’m at the library. I’m currently reading “The Impressionists” and enjoying it.

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  5. Hi Kelly,
    Thank You, Thank You. “Fame” is a keeper. That’s “The Imperfectionists” by the way.

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  6. Posted by Kelly S on December 5, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    Oh, right! 🙂

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  7. I absolutely loved the quote here. Wow. That is just so true. Sadly. Lovely blog Tony! 🙂

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  8. Hi Soul Muser,
    Yes, that quote is really something. I was apprehensive that it was too long. Happy you liked it!

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  9. This sounds absolutely wonderful … I love books that play games, that are self-conscious about what they are doing. (When well done of course). How did you come across it? I’m not sure whether to be glad or not about that final quote!

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    • Hi WhisperingGums,
      There are two ways I get books to read. For some, I meticulously read all the reviews and plan so I get the book. For “Fame”, I was wandering in the local library and saw the book in the New Books section and got it on impulse. I did know that Daniel Kehlmann was a rising star

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