In Which I Spoil the Endings of 20 Classic German Books in 20 Seconds

The other day, I was watching Harry Potters 1-4 with my husband and his siblings (his mother retreated to the kitchen, proclaiming even HP 1 to be “too scary”; “Six-year-olds see this movie!” “I don’t care!” — the next day, she was put in charge of picking the movies and came home with a three-disc Meryl Streep box set), and at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, when Sirius tells Harry they will now be BFFs, I just started to bawl. Pregnancy hormones, for sure, but also: Sad! My husband looked at me like Wha? And I was like, “Sirius gets it! It’s so sad! Everybody dies! They all die!” He was like “Shut UP!” (he hasn’t read the books — I know, I know), but at this point I was on a roll: The camera cut to Severus Snape: “Gets it!” Dumbledore: “GETS IT!” Prof. Lupin: “GETS IT WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.” “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” But what could he expect, from Spoiler-Alert Schuman? Anyway, I am of the firm belief that if a film has been out for more than, oh I don’t know, five years, it’s your damn fault if you haven’t seen it.

Anyway, I decided Why stop with Harry Potter? So here is yet another Overly Specialized Listsicle. Use these Spoilers as replacements for actually doing your reading at your own risk.

  1. Faust, Goethe: Gretchen drowns their illegitimate child and then gets executed/”saved” for her trouble!
  2. Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), Goethe: He shoots himself, but since guns weren’t made very well back then, he doesn’t die right away.
  3. Ugolino, Gerstenberg: They all starve to death in the tower (cf Inferno, Dante).
  4. Emelia Gallotti, Lessing: STABBED.
  5. Die Schwarze Spinne (The Black Spider), Gotthelf: A woman is too lazy to baptize her kid, so Satanic black spiders roost in her cheek and then hatch and take over the town.
  6. Der Sandmann, ETA Hoffmann: SHE’S A ROBOT.
  7. Michael Kohlhaas, Kleist: He swallows the piece of paper that contains proof that he was right all along, and then he gets his head chopped off.
  8. Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag (Mozart on the Journey to Prague), Möricke: He gets there and Don Giovanni opens. Actually, I forgot, but since that is what happened in real life, I’m just assuming?
  9. Die Dreigroschenoper (Three Penny Opera), Brecht: There is a literal deus ex machina that “saves the day,” ironically.
  10. Der Proceß (The Trial), Kafka: Josef K. gets stabbed in the gut in a dark alley — and we never find out his “crime”!
  11. Das Schloß (The Castle), Kafka: TRICK QUESTION, motherfuckers — that book cuts off in mid-sentence!
  12. In der Strafkolonie (In the Penal Colony), Kafka: The machine kills the Officer, and not in a “good” way, and the Explorer flees in disgust.
  13. Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis): Gregor dies and his family live happily ever after.
  14. Die Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann: Everybody ends up miserable and/or dead; I haven’t read this book since college. Schopenhauer?
  15. Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice), Thomas Mann: Man mocks creepy old man; becomes creepy old man; dies creepy old man, Mann still closeted.
  16. Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man Without Qualities), Musil: Another trick question — this novel has no plot, and nobody, no matter what they tell you, has read past page 1500.
  17. Jakob von Gunten, Walser: Jakob and Herr Benjamenta gallop off into the desert together!
  18. Die Physiker (The Physicists), Dürrenmatt: The psychiatrist is the crazy one, and everyone else is a spy, except one guy who’s an actual scientist (and everyone wants his secrets to blow the world to Kingdom Come, because Cold War).
  19. Kaff auch Mare Crisium (Moondocks/Boondocks), Arno Schmidt: THE RUSSKIES EAT PEOPLE ON THE MOON. I REPEAT. THE RUSSKIES. EAT. PEOPLE. ON. THE. MOON.
  20. Herr Lehmann (Berlin Blues), Sven Regener: Karl has a nervous breakdown, and the Wall comes down.

2 thoughts on “In Which I Spoil the Endings of 20 Classic German Books in 20 Seconds

  1. Nibelungenlied: Hagen kills Siegfried. Kriemhild kills Hagen (and all her brothers). Hildebrandt kills Kriemhild. The End.

    Simplicissimus: There’s actually, like, 10 interconnected novels, they’re all 800 pages long (if you don’t go for the Reclam excerpts), and the payoff is not worth it.

    Kleider machen Leute: The tailor gets unmasked as an impostor, but he still gets married to the girl who was secretly in love with him for years, and they live happily ever after.

    Mutter Courage: Everyone except Mutter Courage dies, and she’s no better for it.

    Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum: Actually, this novel starts out by revealing how it ends, so never mind.


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