What should non-native readers read in German?

Dmitry asked me:

Tyler, what else in addition to Thomas Bernhard would you suggest in German for non-native speaker?

Books in this category should be relatively short, modest in terms of vocabulary demands, and possess enough redundancy that you can miss some points and still know what is going on.  Plus it should be good.  Along these lines, I would recommend the following:

1. Friedrich Schiller plays.

2. Heinrich Böll novels.

3. Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Die Physiker, a play.

4. Various Max Frisch.

5. Herta Müller, from Rumanien but writes in German.  Her work comes across as quite flat in English, so the relative return to reading it in German is high.

6. Arthur Schnitzler plays.  And Brecht plays.

7. Strauss/Hofmannstahl libretti.  And Schubert song lyrics, for instance by Goethe.

I would stay away from Günther Grass, for multiple reasons.  There is much else I would recommend for other reasons, for instance Thomas Mann or Robert Musil, but not for the reasons listed in this post.  Or Bernhard Schlink fits the standards outlined above, except it isn’t really that good?  Remarque and Zweig maybe, but a lot of it is swill.  Michael Ende perhaps?  Martin Suter?  Christa Wolf seems like it ought to be easy when you view it on the page, but in fact it is fairly tough going.


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