Now that I am off lectures for summer break I finally had some time on my hands to read a book written by a German author. As a student of foreign languages one has to read so much for university that you are concludingly likely to neglect your – actually quite awesome – national literary landscape. I wanted to read the book „Gang nach Canossa“ (Walk to Canossa) by Dennis Gastmann for a long time now for I have a soft spot for travelogues. I don’t mean endless descriptions of landscapes by that. A good travel novel takes you into the array of emotions of the author for only if you see the journey through his (or her) eyes it will become interesting. Otherwise you would simply read how a guy is traipsing along for hundreds of miles.
Gastmann threw together a colourful potpourri of travelogue, funny anecdotes, encounters with interesting people and historical background information. Adding to that a sarcastic bent, a rather unathletic wanderer and a hearty cynism mated with a nearly childish nosiness. The book is very well researched, but that is not surprising if one is familiar with Gastmann’s works as „With 80.000 Questions around the World“.
All in all the reader is presented with a very humane book with a sharp humour (somewhere between charme and gallows humour) that is divided into several rather short chapters which are easily read in between. An entertaining read that will make you smirk a lot and that is occassionally very wise. The story is rather simple but still exciting; a religion-sceptical journalist on the track of (German) Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV., waling from Hamburg to Canossa, Italy. Why, he doesn’t even know himself, but maybe he will find out along the way.
„This is where I go if I seek quietness“, says Mr. Bender, „and that is what I want to give you to take with you on your way: pause time and time again on your way to Canossa, then you will hear your heart. You don’t have to become Catholic, you don’t need to decide for a belief. But wisdom is gathered in the religions of the world and you should respect that.“
[Freely translated, uttered by a German clergyman.]
Folks, I am sorry but there doesn’t seem to be an English version of the book. :( If you are interested in this kind of literature please check out Hape Kerkeling’s „I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago“. Another great travelogue that I enjoyed immensely written by one of the best-known German comedians.