Schadenfreude, a Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For

Rebecca Schuman. Flatiron, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-07757-8
Schuman structures this disarming memoir around nine German words, including the eponymous schadenfreude (pleasure derived from another’s suffering), inviting the reader to enjoy her travails. She writes with hilarious candor about herself as an entitled teenager, complete with bleached hair and goth makeup, tormenting a German host family, and later as an assertive, vegetarian, chain-smoking 20-something sharing a loft deep in postreunification Berlin. Schuman relates her “metamorphosis into monstrous Eurotrash,” complete with clashing bright separates accessorized by multiple scarves, worn year-round, to illustrate Wohngemeinschaft, the German name for an apartment shared with someone who isn’t family. The concepts behind her selected German terms may be universal, but Schuman’s application of them is uniquely Teutonic as she weaves anecdotes with lessons learned to hilarious effect. Schuman’s journeys to Germany and her pursuit of further connection with her beloved Franz Kafka bring to mind another great travel memoirist, Geoff Dyer, writing about D.H. Lawrence. As Dyer does, Schuman entertains while relating her inner conflicts, personal and cultural hypocrisies, and overblown self-delusions during her decades-long struggle with the German language and those who speak it. Schuman’s engrossing book is a feast of honesty, humility and humor, all the hallmarks of great confessional literature. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2016
Release date: 02/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-250-07766-0
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