Author: Michael Holzach
Title: Deutschland umsonst. Zu Fuß und ohne Geld durch ein Wohlstandsland. [Germany for free. On foot and without any money, through a country of prosperity.] Time: 1980
Length: about 10 months
The outstanding one
Bad news first: I don’t think there is an English translation of this book available anywhere! Many of you will be missing out on one of the finest pieces of travel literature that has ever been published. This alone would be reason enough to learn German. This and Johann Gottfried Seume.
About the book: MH, a 33-year-old successful journalist, leaves the comfort of his Hamburg apartment and embarks on an epic journey. He is going to do a walk through Germany, spend months and months on the road with his dog and not a single penny to his name.
truthfulness = awesomeness
There are too many things that are awesome about this book: the truthfulness in the stories of the people MH encountered on the way, the beautiful and precise language (which might be a tad too journalistic for some), the insights on ecological and social problems, the physical feat of walking almost two thousand kilometers without any money, …
But what I liked MOST about this story, the reason why this has always been and will always be a perfect 10, is the fact that MH is free of all pretentiousness. Instead of polishing over his self-doubts, his faults and his weaknesses, he leaves them there, making them part of the journey. I think it takes a very bold and gifted man to be able to write a story like that.
Michael Holzach is not pretentious
I translated a short segment that I felt was particularly touching:
“Just yesterday my apartment was full of people, all of them good friends who wanted to dine with me on the occasion of my departure. (…) We were sitting on the floor, around a bed sheet decorated with flowers and candles, and we had mutton with macrobiotic vegetables and drank dry wine. Everyone got along great, only I felt abandoned. In the bathroom, I couldn’t even really cry, despite all of my self-pity; but once everybody had gone home in the morning, I ran all across the bed sheet and kicked the dishes and the salad bowl against the wall.”
Unfortunately, MH is not with us anymore. He died in 1983, in an attempt to rescue his dog, which had fallen into a river. It was the same dog that had accompanied him on his walk three years earlier. MH jumped into the water and died, while the dog made it out alive. Tragic man.
Epic, epic legacy.