2009-01-21

"Holiday in Germany" by Richard Brautigan

Fellow ELKs,
we proudly present our Short Story Presentation on "Holiday in Germany" (no, that's not showing off here, it's just that we're taken aback by that funny stanza by Iris :).
Please do enjoy :D

"Holiday in Germany" by Richard Brautigan



About the author:
Richard Gary Brautigan was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1935. Being raised by his mother and several stepfathers, he hardly had any contact with his biological father, who had abandoned him and his mother even before Brautigan was born. The experience of a shattered family and child abuse in his childhood had a big influence on his writing as he began writing poems at the age of 12. At the beginning of the 1950s he cut all ties with his family and settled down in San Francisco, California to establish his career as a writer. His novels were mostly read by college students thus his sudden fame through his society-criticizing novel Trout Fishing in America slowly decreased with the end of the student movement in the 70s. Although he kept on publishing various novels, short stories and poems with other theme subjects, he could never reach the fame he had with his first novel. Apparently that’s why he committed suicide in 1984. He leaves a series of poetry collections and various novels behind, often dealing with black humour, satire and parody which includes the short story “Holiday in Germany”.

Plot
“Holiday in Germany” is about two German boys on a bus who are on a trip through the US.
They are busy with chatting until they see a Volkswagen coming up next to the bus window they are seated at. The moment the two boys see the two girls in their VW, they boys can’t help but to stare at the girl on the passenger side all the time, which causes her to act in a nervous way like playing with her hair, although she doesn’t see the boys glaring. They lose sight of her twice because of traffic, but every time the Volkswagen and the girl reappear beside the bus they continue staring at her until she and her friend notice. The girls wave thus making the boys on the bus happy until the VW disappears taking an off ramp.

Narrator
The short story “Holiday in Germany” is told by a first-person narrator with a limited point of view.
He begins the short story by introducing himself, his financial situation and goes on with explaining what happened the day before on the bus he was on. The narrator only describes what he can observe from his point of view. He never tells the reader what the people he observes are thinking or feeling. Only an omniscient narrator would be able to do that.
The only time the narrator is omniscient is at “They were in America for a three-week vacation. It was almost over [...]” (p. 55, ll. 21) because the narrator himself couldn’t know that the boys were on vacation or how long they were staying. The boys only speak in German and the narrator does not seem to understand what they are saying. So if they were talking about their vacation the narrator would not have been able to understand them.
Also, the narrator comments on the other protagonist’s behaviour. He appears to make omniscient comments but he only says the ideas he got from the actions of the people around him: “They were healthy, normal sex fiends. “ (p. 56, l.1), and” [...], participating in the age-old Candy-Store-Sex-Window Syndrome. “(p. 56 ll. 20) appear to be comments from an omniscient narrator, but it must be pointed out that the narrator here is commenting on outward acts of the people he observes.

Stylistic devices
To make the story more visual and to give readers a better idea of what is happening in the story many stylistic devices are used.
One of them is the imagery “The German boys really had their faces pressed against the window now.” (p. 56, ll. 4). It underlines that the two boys love to gaze at beautiful women. Furthermore a few lines after that situation Brautigan uses a metaphor for the young woman sitting in the car next to the bus. He calls her „a perfect freeway Mona Lisa“(p. 56, ll. 24). This symbolizes the ambiguity of the half-smiling young woman, because the painting “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci has got the same ambiguous smile and nobody knows what it actually means.
Also, the “Candy-Store-Sex-Window Syndrome. “ (p. 56 ll. 20) is used to lighten up the situation by putting a candy store window on the same level as sex (or flirting). This sentence also makes the latter less serious and more playful, which the author wanted to achieve in this short story.
But the stylistic device, which is used the most often, is irony: „Too bad, there was no way they could get out of that bus and into the Volkswagen to meet the girls, but things like that are impossible.“ (p. 57, ll. 16) This statement underlines the gloating of the narrator, who just wanted to have a nice ride to Monterey, but then he has to bear with the boys.

Language
Brautigan uses a simple, familiar language in his short story. The narratopr doesn’t even mind making fun of himself: “Let’s put it up in front right now: I’m not an expert on holidays. I just don’t have that kind of money. You might even go so far as to say that I am poor. I don’t mind because it’s true.” (p. 55, ll. 1-5)
The use of irony (cf stylistic devices)and the familiar language makes the story seem more relaxed.

Interpretation and comment
Oddly enough, Brautigan named the short story “Holiday in Germany” whereas the story is about two boys from Germany going on holiday in America. We wondered why, but actually there are a few things that do make the holiday in America seem like a holiday in Germany: First, the two “American” girls in the VW – a German brand - are both blonde and at the first sight aloof. It takes time to “shatter[…] [their] cool.” (p. 57 l.8) although people say Americans are open minded to foreigners.
Asking somebody about the image crossing his mind when thinking of the adjective “German”, the respond will be: blonde. Germans are said to not be humorous nor open about their feelings. In contrast to that image, the two “German” boys are openly showing their interests towards the girls in the VW by having “their faces pressed against the window” (p. 56 ll. 4-5). To cut it short, Brautigan seems to have switched the typical character traits of Germans and Americans.
Considering that and the fact that he published his works after WWII, when Germans were prejudiced and even hated, Brautigan created a funny parody on Germans with his short story “Holiday in Germany”.

Sources:
http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b162/JstLykaWmn/brautigan.jpg (2009-01-20)
Barber, John F. "Richard Brautigan: Personal Background." Brautigan Bibliography and Archive. 17 Jan. 2009. 19 Jan. 2009 http://www.brautigan.net/biography.html. Web.

Brautigan, Richard. Holiday in Germany. Short Short Stories Universal. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2005. Print.

written by Lara and Sabi

Kommentare:

rip hat gesagt…

Oh, good! You used the NEW MLA format for your bibliographic details :) - at least for the book. How about the Internet material? I'll do the second one for you:

Barber, John F. "Richard Brautigan: Personal Background." Brautigan Bibliography and Archive. 17 Jan. 2009. 21 Jan. 2009 http://www.brautigan.net/biography.html. Web.

Sabi hat gesagt…

So that's how you do it :)
Thanks a lot, we'll edit it then!
...but why are there two dates, 17th and 21st - we looked it up on 19 Jan...?

rip hat gesagt…

The 17th is the date when the web page was last updated. That's what it says beneath the headline, in the line that starts with the author's name.
It's not always displayed as visibly as that, very often you can't tell at all when there was an update or when the content was put up first. Then you can't say in your bibliographic record either, of course. But if it's there, it is useful, because then you can tell how "fresh" the data are.

rip hat gesagt…

Oh, and the 21st was when *I* accessed the site.

Sabi hat gesagt…

okay, I finally understand :)
and what about the image data? Because...it's not like I know the contributor... :/