Book review: fantastic tales from a bear & compulsive liar


“Die 13 ½ Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär” is a great book for fantasy fans who don’t love elves and wizards. Find out why it’s great for learners of German.

Author: Jim Peterson

“Die 13 ½ Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär” is the first book in a multi-part series by the enigmatic German author Walter Moers. All these excellent books take place on the imaginary lost continent of Zamonien. Taken together, the Zamonien books are the most original and exciting fantasy novels to come out of Germany since Michael Ende’s Neverending Story and Momo.

Generally, I’m not a fan of traditional fantasy – if it has knights, dragons, witches and wizards, I normally won’t touch it (excluding Tolkien, that is). But Moers books open up an entirely new, unclassifiable branch of fantasy that you have to read to really understand.

At just over 700 pages, this is a rather long book for a non-native speaker. Still, it’s a real page-turner with beautiful writing that even learners of German can appreciate. Plus, the text is frequently broken up by beautiful illustrations drawn by the author himself. So it’s long, but definitely manageable for intermediate to upper-intermediate learners. And think of all the exposure you’ll get to German!

The storyline covers the many “lives” of Käpt’n Blaubär, which paint an ever-more detailed account of the lost continent of Zamonien with each story. Being fantasy, there are many fictional creatures. Yet nearly all of them are unique beings borne of the author’s strange mind.

You don’t have to start reading the series from the beginning (i.e. Blaubär). If you want a darker adventure (alert: it’s fairly violent), start with: “Rumo & Die Wunder im Dunkeln”. It’s the 3rd book in the series and my personal favorite. The fourth Zamonien book, “Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher”, is the breakout book of the series that many, many Germans have read. I can only describe it as a fantasy-slash-declaration of love to books and literature.

Reading level: B2 – Upper intermediate

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

About Walter Moers

Walter Moers is perhaps best known for his (some might say low-brow) comics of the 1980s and 1990s. He is a very private individual who almost never appears in public. Moers has recently gained a large readership with his Zamonien novels, all of which take place in the fantastic world of Zamonien.

Bibliographic data:
Author: Moers, Walter
Book title: Die 13 ½ Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär
Publisher: Goldmann
Pages: 704
Price: €10.00
ISBN: 9783730602096

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