2010 Books in Translation Chick Lit

Bad Karma – David Safier

 Translated from the German by John Brownjohn

I receive lots of email pitches from publishers and authors asking if I’m able to review their books. Most are dull and uninspiring, so I was pleasantly surprised when I read the synopsis for Bad Karma. Perhaps it was because I’d had a glass or two of wine before reading the message, but I found myself crying with laughter. I read the email to the relatives I had staying at the time and they all ended up laughing too (although maybe they were laughing at me?!) I instantly accepted the review request and went on to do a bit of research about the author. I discovered that David Safier is a successful German screenwriter, having won many awards including an Emmy. This book became a best seller in Germany, selling 850,000 copies.

Bad Karma is a funny, but thought provoking book about discovering the important things in life. Kim, the central character, is crushed to death by debris from a Russian space station and due to the fact that she mistreated her staff, ignored her daughter and cheated on her husband she is reincarnated as an ant:

Krttx glared after the. ‘Stupid males!’ she snarled. ‘They’re totally useless!’

That, I reflected, was a remark you often heard from human females.

‘The only thing they can do is mate with the Queen.’ Krttx growled.

That, I reflected, was a remark you didn’t so often hear from human females.

I stared after the flying ants. I was so inundated with sensory impressions, I didn’t even hear Krttx cussing. Which was unfortunate, because if I had I would have heard her shout: ‘Move, or I’ll bite you in the backside!’

‘OUCH!’ I yelped and lurched into action again.

Kim then goes on to be reincarnated several times – coming back as a guinea pig, a dog and even an earth worm. The animal point of views were realistic and insightful, but also highly amusing. It was great to see everyday human objects described from the the point of view of tiny insects. The only downside is that I now feel a bit bad about spraying “the Great Mist” at them!

Kim slowly realises what a terrible human being she was and makes an effort to become kinder, building up her karma so that she can be reincarnated as as more intelligent animal. It was only while reading this book that I realised how comforting a belief in reincarnation is. I was surprised at how many important issues were raised during the course of such an amusing book.

This has to be one of the most original books I’ve ever read and I really hope that it is able to gain the audience it deserves outside Germany.

Highly recommended.



32 replies on “Bad Karma – David Safier”

That must be one of the most hideous covers I’ve seen this year. Nevertheless, it sounds like you had a great time reading it. I admit, your mention made me rather curious what had you laughing so much in that pitch email.

Iris, I agree. I’d never have picked up this book based on the cover. I almost included the pitch email in this post, but in the end I thought it gave away a bit too much of the plot for my liking and so didn’t. It was really just the madness of the plot that had me laughing. I have a soft spot for German humor 🙂

This is definitely a departure from what you normally read, and I love it! I also really like the idea of karma. Unfortunately, the people who are big meaniess and invoke bad karma would never read this book and get the hint.

Sandy, On the surface it seems like a big departure for me, but I’m not sure it really is. It has lots of deeper themes and that emotional connection I’m always craving. It’s in translation too – ticks almost all of my boxes with the added benefit of actually being funny 🙂 I hope you decide to read it one day.

This sounds not only hilarious but also thought-provoking. Does it strike you though, that the whole system of reward/punishment is based on the assumption that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and somehow ‘better’ than other animals?

Who says an ant is a lower life form than we are? And how does the hierarchy get decided, which animals are higher and which are lower? This seems highly unfair and probably arbitrary. Sorry, didn’t mean to rant there!

Marieke, I take your point about the hierarchy of the animals. I’m afraid I have no idea how the order is worked out, but I know I’d rather be a human than an ant! I’m sure they’ve got it all worked out 😉

I like the sound of this book. I always enjoy books that show things from an animal’s perspective, so even though I don’t believe in reincarnation, the idea is interesting to me.

Jeane, I love books written from an animal’s perspective too. Not many manage to be convincing, but this one really works. I don’t believe in reincarnation either, but this book makes me wish I did 🙂

Sounds cool! I love the whole idea of karma and reincarnation, not least because it allows me to worry slightly less about the possibility of hitting a little animal with my car. I once hit a possum on the way back from my friend’s house (I was on a bridge and couldn’t swerve), but fortunately my friend is Hindu so when I rang her up crying she was all like, “Don’t worry! It can get reincarnated as something better now!” 🙂

This sounds completely random and very funny! And the story looks like it would translate well into a film, the idea anyway, which makes sense. And the different lives would help with variation. Reincarnation appeals to me, not so much because it’d be another chance at life but because I love the idea of having lived during the history I love to read about!

Charlie, I hadn’t thought about the film aspect, but you’re right – this would make a great film. His screen writing talent is clearly visible and I’m sure it could be converted without changing the plot at all. I’m sure my children would love it. I really hope they make a film version now 🙂

This sounds great!! I’m going to keep an eye out for it. And I agree with you … the idea of reincarnation is comforting. If you mess up, you’ll have time to get to fix it. Love the ant name!

Jenners, I was impressed with the ant name. It was really funny when all the ants started teasing her for having such a stupid name (Kim) showing it is all down to what your used to. You wouldn’t expect ants to have the same sort of names as us either!

Carrie, Thanks for letting me know that it is released in the US fairly soon and for requesting it from your library. I really hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

I don’t usually thing “funny” when I think of German literature. This one sounds fun. Have you read a book called “Dot in the Universe”? It has a similar premise, the heroine is reincarnated several time in the course of the novel, forever trapped in a bad relationship with the same male. It’s darkly funny.

cbjames, I don’t think many people think funny when they imagine the Germans, but their sense of humor seems to align with mine. I have found several German films to be really funny and don’t know why I haven’t sought out amusing German books before – I’ll certainly keep an eye out for them now.

I haven’t heard of Dot in the Universe before, but will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the recommendation!

I always think about karma as I come from a Buddhist background (but my family’s not religious) but I don’t think I’ve read any fiction about it. It sounds really funny and I may just have to get a copy so that my whole family can read it!

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