Erwin Koch. 2007. Der Flambeur. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag. Frankfurt am Main.
Erwin Koch was born in 1956 in Hitzkirch, Switzerland. He’s a journalist and wrote for magazines and newspapers as e.g. Das Magzin, Der Spiegel and FAZ. He wrote many literary reports and received awards, such as the Egon-Erwin-Kirsch-Preis for the best report in 1989 or the Mara-Cassens-Preis in 2003 for his first novel, Sara tanzt (‘Sara dances’).
In Der Flambeur we learn about Siegfried Kuhn. He used to be a chef and his speciality was to flambé food in ever which way. And then he made an invention: he developed a soap that can turn oil into water. But the problem is, that nobody cares. Netiher do the environmental activists nor the public authorities. So Kuhn sees only one way to prove his invention’s effectivity by causing an oil accident himself.
So while waiting for the authorities to call him to ask for his soap we the reader is being taken on a journey through Kuhn’s life, starting from his birth. He grew up in times of war with food being more or less present in his life all the time as he lived in a butcher’s house together with his mother.
The relationship to his father wasn’t too well as he had been a soldier and not present during Kuhn’s childhood. Kuhn is then being sent to study in order to become a priest later on, but even though he is convinced on this career in the beginning, he fails and becomes a chef instead, fascinated by the art to flambé food.
The book itself is well written, yet extremely diverting. It doesn’t take too much time to read and unfortunately, the character developement stagnates on a certain level. Surely there is some sort of point in just developing the main charakter but it simply doesn’t happen. It takes a long time to find out Kuhn’s motivation in causing the oil accident and it still isn’t really clear (at least to me), why he started developing his soap at all. The end of the book is leaving way too many questions unanswered. The reader doesn’t get to know what consequences the accident has. Do they find out who caused it? Will they ask Kuhn to use his soap? What will happen to Kuhn? Will he be able to fix his life and live again or will he keep concentrating on his invention?
If this book is really a read being remarkably for Switzerland I can’t tell, as it could as well happen in any other (German speaking) place. At least I couldn’t see any specific points for it being Swiss. Nevertheless I would consider it a light but yet okay read that I wouldn’t keep anybody from reading.