Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Giraffens hals - en bildningsroman by Judith Schalansky

In a little village in the former DDR, a German, strict, cynical woman named Inge Lohmark is teaching a class in biology. She views the world in terms of biology. To her, the pupils are different species, whereas some of them have potential and the rest is eventually wiped out by the relentless, natural selection. Their genes, that is. The title refers to evolution and survival of the fittest. The longer the neck of the giraff, the greater possibility of reaching the leaves of the trees and surviving. 

Evolution is, according to the narrator, based on competition, which is of great importance, both to the main character and the pupils, but also to the ideology that has begun to grow in the German society. It's ironic that the strict Inge Lohmark - who despises the modern teachers, which, according to her, lack authority - herself symbolizes a species on the way to extinction. What does that kind of society do to the people? What do an ideology based on elitism lead to?

This is no easy book. It is comical, occasionally, but not easy. It has a serious tone, with rather dark elements when it comes to the mother - daughter relationship. The book also contains a lot of the educational fragments that the title promises. The teacher's view of life represents an interesting perspective of philosophy. The content is philosophical but the prose is objective in style, with short sentences. There's not much of a dialogue, and even though it would have been preferable, the educational monologue is interesting.

Lohmark is living in her own bubble, occupied with her biological views and unaware of what happens in her surroundings. Her knowledge somehow makes her blind when it comes to relationships. Schalansky makes everyday life connected to evolution. It's an fascinating perspective that will surely lead to interesting conversations.

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