Morenga by Uwe Timm

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An exciting historical novel set in the early 20th Century, about a black African leader and a bloody civil war in German-occupied Southwest Africa. Morenga, an early novel by Uwe Timm (Headhunter, The Invention of Curried Sausage), engages the mind on many levels—historical, political, human. Set in German South West Africa in the first decade of the 20th century, it recounts the conflict between the colonial German Empire and the rebellious Africans of the Hottentot and Herero tribes led by the legendary Morenga. A daring and brilliant military tactician referred to as "the Herero bastard," he was fluent in several languages and by all reports a man of compassion, intelligence, and integrity leading his people towards freedom. Even though his revolt is suppressed and by the novel's end he is hunted down and killed, his importance as one of Africa's historic figures is assured.

Morenga has a fascinating story and Timm tells it with an ingenious mix of fact and fiction. Recounted through the eyes of Gottschalk, an engaging fictional military veterinarian, the narrative blends quotations from actual historic sources with gripping accounts of everyday life and military excursions. As he has repeatedly shown himself to be, Timm is a master storyteller, and his imagined scenes and characters are as real as the factual material he weaves into the story. The parallels between past events and later German history with its notions of the Untermensch (subhuman) and racial inferiority are subtly brought to mind while significant philosophical, political, and human issues are at play. Morenga is an intriguing novel of scope and significance and it has been well served by Breon Mitchell's fine translation.


About Uwe Timm

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Uwe Timm was born 1940 in Hamburg. He studied German literature and philosophy in Munich and Paris. In 1972-1982 he was co-editor of the "Authors Edition. He is the author of M"idsummer Night and "The Invention of Curried Sausage. He lives in Munich and Berlin. Breon Mitchell is Professor of Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature at Indiana University, where he is also Director of the Lilly Library. A Rhodes Scholar, he received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Oxford University. His areas of specialization include literary translation, Anglo-German literary relations, literature and the visual arts, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and Samuel Beckett.
Published March 1, 2003 by New Directions. 384 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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That contrast is succinctly stated in a scientific report alleging that Hottentot society cannot be civilized, because within it “competition is negated by the principle of mutual aid .

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Publishers Weekly

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This historical novel by Timm (Headhunter), first published in Germany in 1978, is an oddly fragmented montage that offers a compelling view of the title figure, a charismatic black South-West African who led the Hottentot and Herero uprising against the Germans after the Boer War.

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