The German Crocodile : A literary memoir by Ijoma Mangold
In this compelling memoir of growing up different, Ijoma Mangold, today one of Germany's best literary critics, remembers his youth in 1970s Heidelberg and the new Federal Republic, and momentous visits in early adulthood to the USA and Nigeria.
His own story is inextricably linked with that of his mother, a German from the eastern province of Silesia, forced to escape as a refugee in the expulsions from 1944, and to start afresh in utter poverty in West Germany. His Nigerian father came to Germany to train in paediatric surgery but returned before Ijoma was old enough to remember him.
His reappearance on the scene forces a crash collision with an unknown culture, one he grew up suspicious of, and a new complex family history to come to terms with. Mangold explores many existential questions in this lively narrative; How does a boy cope with an absent father? What was it like to grow up 'bi-racial' in the Federal Republic? Was he an opportunist, a master adaptor who had over-assimilated? What is the relationship between race and class? And what is more unusual in Germany: having dark skin or a passion for Thomas Mann and Richard Wagner? Ijoma shares his story with its dramatic twists and turns, not forgetting the surprises he uncovers about himself along the way.