Walter Kempowski’s An Ordinary Youth: a Book Launch and Conversation

Goethe-Institut New York
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

An Ordinary Youth is no ordinary novel—if it even counts as a novel at all. Drawing on the visual and sonic material of everyday life in a northern German port city in Nazi Germany, Walter Kempowski describes in lucid detail the bourgeois world of his own boyhood by recounting the sights and sounds that comprise it: song lyrics, billboard advertisements, adventure stories, commercial products, family in-jokes, popular poetry, political slogans, and the everyday speech that surrounds him—at the cinema with raucous peers, in the parlor around the family piano, and among the “remedial” Hitler Youth to which he’s been assigned on account of his fractious albeit pampered nonconformity. Almost a memoir—though it foregoes all commentary on the past from the point of view of the present—this evocative document of an era suggests without reasoning out the complicity of the bourgeois class in the crimes committed in the name of a nation. 

Join us Tuesday, November 21st, at 6:30pm at Goethe-Institut New York, for a reading and discussion of Kempowski’s modern classic, in its first-ever English translation by Michael Lipkin, just published by New York Review Books. Lipkin will be joined by political theorist Corey Robin and BISR faculty Lauren K. Wolfe for a wide-ranging discussion of Kempowski’s life and immense archival literary project. The event is free and open to the public; please visit the Goethe-Institut event page to RSVP. 

Event Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30pm ET
November 21, 2023