Ich hab genug Deutsch – I have enough German to read the many one-star Amazon.de reviews of German teen Helene Hegemann’s first novel Axolotl Roadkill in their original versions. Most of them are not at all complimentary and ask why all the attention has been paid to the book’s exploitation of German grossness, ugly imagery and basically, teens doing self-destructive crap to themselves and others.
Basically, unapologetic Helene, who is only 17 years old and the daughter of Carl Hegemann, an “author, theater and film producer,” does not deny that large portions of her critically-acclaimed book were copied wholesale from a book called Strobo, a small-press book by a blogger named Airen. According to Helene, whose very-German publicity photo shows her holding a cigarette and glaring into the camera, she is sorry that she didn’t acknowledge “all the people whose writings helped me,” but that there is no “originality – only authenticity.”
Helene is my own daughter’s age, and I might like to think that I’m the mom with the most mother-teen daughter challenges, but I think Carl has his hands full with smokin’ (and I don’t mean “hot”) Helene. According to her German Wikipedia, Helene’s mother died when she was 14 and she now lives with her father in Berlin.
It’s yet another sign of the vast gulf between American culture and German culture that Helene has numerous pictures of herself smoking cigarettes and, while I haven’t combed Spiegel for slams, it doesn’t seem like anybody in Germany thinks anything of a 17-year old smoking and following the great tradition of German “degenerate” art and lifestyle.
This is her MySpace and most American parents would FREAK OUT upon seeing their child doing this – and again, I don’t mean Chris Crocker. “lovelyskizze” supposedly means “lovely sketch.”
Like this – Egon Schiele. This is far from the most disturbing Egon Schiele painting, but this bit of eurotrash classic is from 1914 – Egon Schiele and his wife Edith both succumbed to the 1918 flu in Vienna.
So, in one respect, this author is correct. Helene’s book does follow from German culture. More than many cultures, German art does look toward mashups; it has an endless fascination with death, sex, degeneracy and dissolution.
However, it still remains that much German intellectual thought also still responds to bullshit – the critical reviews are almost universally glowing for Helene’s book, and they’ll actually swallow feeble rationalizations like “there is no originality, only authenticity.”
It’s gross plagiarism, she’s only 17, she’s clearly careening out of control, and I give her less of a survivability index than Drew Barrymore at that same age. There’s no world in which plagiarism is “right.” And the thing is, between her and Egon Schiele – he did prison time for his own original work. She gets magazine covers and “internet fame.”