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I'm Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
I'm Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago Hape Kerkeling, translated from the German by Shelley Frisch. Free Press, $15 paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-4165-5387-8 - JUNE

The 500-mile route along the Camino Frances, from the base of the Pyrenees to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, has afforded a sacred pilgrimage to Christians for centuries, and German comedian Kerkeling, somewhat whimsically, resolved to hike it. At 36, a self-described “pudgy couch potato” who suffered some health problems, Kerkeling, wanting to know who God is, set out along the route in the summer of 2001 with an overheavy knapsack only to nearly give up at the first pass. There are nearly 40 stops along the way (helpfully laid out on a map insert), and chapter by chapter, Kerkeling chronicles nearly every one. Pilgrims must get their credencial del peregrino (passport) stamped at official hostels, usually dreary bunk-packed dorms, as they go, but Kerkeling, a fastidious German craving privacy and hot baths, mostly chooses to stay in hotels. As well, he jumped into cars and trains whenever his feet were smarting. Encounters with other pilgrims enliven this travel account, especially the two English-speaking ladies who accompanied him toward the end; as they approached Santiago, they all felt emotionally uplifted. While the author is better known in Germany and his antics somewhat lost in translation, his emotionally probing narrative develops depth and a touching sincerity.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Yep. The "fastidious German craving privacy" writes a book about his every move which becomes the best selling book ever in German. No more privacy for Herr Kerkeling!
 

Deirdre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2007), Camino Francés (2008), Camino Portugués (2010), Camino Aragonés - from Lourdes (2012)
Aha! So this is the famous (or perhaps, infamous) book that brought the Germans in droves to the Camino! I was told it was incredibly funny - but I am with Kelly, rolling my eyes at the "dreary, bunk-packed dorms" - he clearly did NOT stay in them! haha They might occasionally have been packed, but in my experience, they were never "dreary"!!
Buen Camino,
 

Jacobus

Pilgrim since 2008
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés(2008,09 14)
Del Norte (2011)
Portuguese(2015,2017)
Inglés 2015
Fisterre (2015 17)
I'm 100 pages into this book and not really sure this fellow gets it. It appears (and he still has many pages to redeem himself) that he is simply out to "find himself" a nice bed, great meals and solitude...final verdict reserved until the end...
Buen Camino

Jim
Bu
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
Hape Kerkeling has been criticized for his Camino walk, but he has written one of the better books on the pilgrimage. Coelho and MacLaine make things up. I have never seen how the search for truth is advanced by starting with falsehood; Freud made up the id, ego, and superego none of which exists and cannot be scientifically tested. I do not begrudge people who find personal enlightenment through the imaginary, but I do not understand how others find a transfer of that knowledge. Kerkeling writes about what happens and how he reacts to it, quite well and very introspectively.

Hape (Hans Peter) does not like people, their snoring, their body odor, or their inane chatter. He avoids close contact with the hoi polloi by staying in hotels on every occasion but two, one unsatisfactory (though he finds one of two Camino friends), one satisfactory. He passes rather severe judgment on albergues in general and the people willing to stay in them on his image of them rather on the actual experience of staying in them over a period of time. He rarely sleeps well even in his solitary rooms, probably because he never thought of ear plugs. Refusing to use something as simple as the ear plug says a great deal about his ability to accommodate.

He walks, as most folks in this forum recommend, his way, including taxis, buses, and trains. That raises the ire of purists, but they should just deal with their judgment of others, for that is where the real anger resides.

His description of the way he internalized the pilgrimage sounded accurate and sincere. He did not do it my way, but he got to the same place. No doubt that is why everyone should do his own Camino. By the end he is having a pretty good time because he has found two friends. The friendship makes the Camino. He makes no apparent connection between avoiding albergues, where he would have met many more people, and the long period of time it takes him to find friends, proving you cannot get enlightenment from something you do not encounter!

He is not as burdened by celebrity as Shirley MacLaine, she was a much more international figure, but still has to keep it from intruding on his solitude. Once again, it is a case of a person making a life work of being loved, then resenting it when he is recognized.

Like most of us, he cannot resist a summing up at the end, so the last chapter is the worst part of the book. Think of the movie with a voice-over at the end. We have watched for two hours, but the director thinks we might have missed the point. Unless he was a bad director, we got it! Ditto Kerkeling.

If you do not like skeptical analysis, you might not like this book much. He gets to his religious conclusions without at lot of voodoo, but with a healthy understanding of synchronicity.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
This book may have launched a million Germans, but it seems like something out there is launching even more French! oolawee, there´s GANGS of them!

reb
 

lynnejohn

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2005), VDLP(2007), Madrid(2009), Ingles(2009), Sur (2011), VDLP(2011)-partial, VDLP(2014)
Mais oui! Gangs indeed!

lynne
 

surlechemin

New Member
Deirdre said:
Aha! So this is the famous (or perhaps, infamous) book that brought the Germans in droves to the Camino! I was told it was incredibly funny - but I am with Kelly, rolling my eyes at the "dreary, bunk-packed dorms" - he clearly did NOT stay in them! haha They might occasionally have been packed, but in my experience, they were never "dreary"!!
Buen Camino,

Don't forget: He did the camino in 2001. Since then, a lot has changed.
 
I've got this one on audiobook in German. I absolutely devoured it because it was one of the first things I had access to and was carving anything camino, but going back to it, it did piss me off at parts. His refusal to stay in the refugios is a bit strange and prissy, as is the constant whinging about things... but overall it's pretty decent.

Funnily enough, my favourite part was completely un-camino related. It was just his little thing getting up someone for saying that homosexuality is a private thing and that anyone who asks a public figure about their sexuality should be ashamed because it's personal... which he rebutted by saying sexuality isn't personal, but very public, after all, straight people are allowed to flaunt their sexuality almost everywhere...

Oh god, now I've even managed to start gay-rights parading here on the camino forum. I do get kinda carried away at times. Sorry!

EDIT: I don't get the scared-of-dorms thing. I'm looking forward to that the most!
 

Hermanita

Active Member
I ordered that book from my library and it has just arrived. I am looking forward to reading it.

I spent last evening with German friends who are here visiting their daughter and it was the topic of one of our discussions. My friend had just finished the audio-book in German. She will be sending it to her daughter after she returns to Germany.

I've heard mixed reviews on the book, but I am enjoying reading many Camino books and I enjoy all different views.
My German friends tell me that the author's humor is a bit different, so maybe that is the objections some people have.
 
Some of the stories he tells about people are pretty funny... I love the Austrian Woman who's constantly asking "gibt's hier irgendwo ein geschaeftrl?" It kinda loses it's humour in translation, but she's asking for a little shop anywhere. And all the time. Pretty funny in German.
 

Hermanita

Active Member
Well, I just finished reading Hape Kerkeling's book and thought it was one of the better Camino books that I have read. (and I have read many, of which Joyce Rupp's "Walk in a Relaxed Manner" is still #1 for me)

I can see why his book has drawn so many Germans to walk the Camino.
His stories are humorous and his characters are real life. And his camino experience is interesting and wonderfully told.
It is histerical and yet also spiritual.
I think the guy is a natural born character, and I guess his popularity in Europe proves that.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY....he dedicated his book to his grandma. That alone makes it a winner for me. He mentions her often in the book. It seems she was a driving force in his life. Anyone who has listened to the lessons their grandma offers is OK in my books!!!
 

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