(Der Schüler Gerber
) by Friedrich Torberg is the story of 18-year-old Kurt Gerber who is in his final year at the Gymnasium, an eight-year grammar school preparing for university. He is highly intelligent, but a poor and rebellious student. During the following months his teacher of Maths and Descriptive Geometry, Artur Kupfer nicknamed Almighty God Kupfer, makes his students and Kurt Gerber in particular feel his authority. At the beginning Kurt Gerber still takes things easy, but over time the pressure rises. Along with troubles in school Kurt Gerber also has to deal with his feelings for former class mate Lisa Berwald. Until the end the young man is torn between complying with the demands of Professor Kupfer and revolting against the terror of Almighty God Kupfer.
The entire novel is written in the idiom of its time that still has a touch of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy broken up only in 1918. Passages of stream-of-consciousness and of traditional third person narrative alternate. Especially towards the end Friedrich Torberg intersperses the text with mathematics constructing equations of life with great symbolic power.
Some may think that Young Gerber
is just another coming-of-age novel, but there’s much more to it than that. First of all, it’s a story about the abuse of authority that can happen any time and anywhere. It’s an impressive read of universal truth and thus highly recommendable.