Is someone worth a trillion dollars

One trillion dollars

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | Meeting from October 9th, 2001A math epic
Reference to a stranger / by Frank Schirrmacher

No review pays tribute to this man. No praise praises him. No tear breaks his books into their individual parts. To be frank: if you looked for him in the newspapers alone, you wouldn't even know he existed. His name appeared there exactly once in the past five years. The following question arises: How did the hundreds of thousands of readers who made his books become bestsellers in literary no man's land actually find out about him?

It was like this for me: For weeks, even months, the website of "amazon.de" listed among the best-selling books the novel by a German whose name meant nothing to me and whose book I hadn't read, although it was two years ago when hardcover came out. This book, of which hardly any newspaper took notice and which several publishers had rejected, has obviously eaten its way through the depths of a literarily undemanding public like a thin, greedy cutter. Because Andreas Eschbach's novel "Das Jesus-Video" is a thriller whose weaknesses a literary criticism like the current one could wonderfully scourge; whose strengths, yes, whose ingenuity, however, remain forever hidden from her.

It was "amazon.de", our bookseller or better: the plebiscite of his customers, which aroused the desire to get to know the books of this author - and in the end also himself.

Eschbach is: 1. an aerospace technician, who went from being a computer engineer to one of the most successful Arno Schmidt scholarship holders, and who reinforces this anomaly by the paradox of professing himself to Konsalik, which one has to regret because Konsalik is among the entertainment writers of the weakest is. 2. Probably the most promising science fiction and high-tech writer of the younger generation who has what it takes to become a German Michael Crichton, provided he is able to speak to Thomas Mann, to master the debord of his imagination .

Eschbach is an entertainment writer. But as he writes, including Hohlbein and Haefs, an absolutely exceptional case: he is an epic and a mathematician, that is, he is not only able to populate a literary cosmos, but also to keep it functional. The functionality of literature in entertainment literature is what is commonly called "tension". The riddle of the "Jesus video", which deals with the authentic video of Jesus Christ, gains this tension through the obvious absurdity of a plot whose rational explanation - as in Crichton's rather weak novel "Timeline" - takes the reader to the last Page holds its breath.

Eschbach's new novel "One Billion Dollar" is about the fact that, based on an ancient prophecy, a harmless New York pizza delivery man inherits a fortune of a billion dollars. One of his ancestors invested the equivalent of ten thousand dollars centuries ago, and the sum has grown tremendously since the Renaissance through interest and compound interest. Eschbach tells the story of Flounder and his wife the wrong way round. The wish is fulfilled; the palace does not become a hut either, but remains a palace. Everything is possible. Everything for sale. And what will happen now? The poor former taxi driver is supposed to save the world - unfortunately Eschbach doesn't do it under that.

Forty-one-year-old Eschbach's pretty idea does not work everywhere, and the shopping frenzy that the over-identifying reader goes through with a billion dollars soon loses its appeal, which is not a bad thing. But there is enough bizarre and imagination in this project to stay true to the narrator. Because Eschbach has carried out exorbitant research (not all entirely correct), combined business and economics with art history and computer technology: a rather wacky total work of art of our material dreams. But unfortunately also the ideal: there is a little too much do-gooder in the hero, a little too much romantic-idealistic Germanness. That will happen. Eschbach will learn that the cynical coldness of the American thriller writers is not only ideology but also aesthetics and that it is only in this way that it transforms the worldview.

There should be nothing more here than this reference to this author - an author who does not need the reference at all and who even wants to harm his readership in the end. But that describes the dilemma. Eschbach seems to be an extremely productive writer who is haunted by ideas and ideas - the fact that he is currently writing the serial novel for the "Sunday newspaper" in real time shows what courage he has. The cross-checking through the style, the Arno Schmidt side in his Konsalik soul, that would be worth a try: It could turn into something very exciting. Then he also knows that he does not have to answer the great world questions about meaning and being and the ultimate things. He has long since answered a much more important question with this thriller: the question of what to do with yourself on a dark, cold, cloud-tattered autumn evening: take Eschbach and read.

Andreas Eschbach: "One trillion dollars". Novel. Gustav Lübbe Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach 2001. 734 pages, hardcover, 46 DM.

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