Posts Tagged ‘Kemal Kayankaya’

The Kayankaya Novels by Jakob Arjouni

March 3, 2014

A few days ago I finished reading in a row all five Kayankaya novels, crime novels written by German author Jakob Arjouni:

  • Happy Birthday, Türke! (Happy Birthday, Turk!), 1985
  • Mehr Bier (More Beer — although it seems that there’s also a translation under the title And Still Drink More!), 1987
  • Ein Mann, ein Mord (One Man, One Murder — alternative title: One Death to Die), 1991
  • Kismet (Kismet), 2001
  • Bruder Kemal (Brother Kemal), 2012

These are hard-boiled detective stories (not really thrillers, although they are thrilling [thripping] in places) centering on the Turkish-born and German-raised private eye Kemal Kayankaya and set in the large German city Frankfurt (Main) and its surroundings. Although they feature prostitution, extortion and drugs, an important underlying thread pervading these books is the xenophobia or at least unease many Germans manifest towards immigrants. Except for his Turkish features, the protagonist is as German as the next (German) guy — he can’t speak a word of Turkish, rather can adopt Hessian dialect if needed (I wonder how that was translated … but dialects are of course a common problem in translation) — yet still people act weird or downright hostile toward him because they have difficulty categorizing him other than as a Turk and because they are unable to see Turks as ordinary people like them. By the way, the author himself is not Turkish-born or -raised or anything, contrary to what it says somewhere on Amazon.

These books are quite nice, funny and entertaining. The later books are better than the early ones (especially the first, which Arjouni wrote at the age of 21, seems slightly immature, the PI’s cynicism being a bit cheap). I like these books, but I must say I like the crime novels of Austrian writer Wolf Haas even better. They are more literary without being highbrow (yuck), they are funny and written in a distinctive direct-speech style (even more stylistically original is his non-crime novel Das Wetter vor fünfzehn Jahren [The Weather Fifteen Years Ago]; take a look). Start with Auferstehung der Toten (Resurrection, 1996), and then there are six more with his PI Simon Brenner, two or three of which I haven’t even yet read myself. Must do so some time.