Kulturbeutel column: upscale drinking literature

Jens Kirschneck’s novel "Schweine befreien" (Liberating Pigs) smells of canned beer and breathes nostalgia. A book for soccer fans in beer heaven.

There are counter beers galore in Jens Kirschneck’s canned beer paradise Photo: Andreas Ruttenauer

The morning after a drunken stupor, the only thing that helps is a counter beer. Those were the days when we used to go to the fridge in the morning, take a can of beer out of the fridge, go back to bed with it and think about everything that happened the night before!

We were young and could still put something away, otherwise we wouldn’t have immediately torn open every can we got our hands on. If you want to sink back into the beer heaven of your youth, Jens Kirschneck, editor at the soccer magazine 11Freunde, has written a novel from which the most beautiful beer haze rises to the nose even as you read it.

"Schweine befreien" (Verbrecher Verlag 2016) is a pre-can deposit crime novel set in the soccer milieu. This was, of course, different from today, a real milieu. In those days, ex-players and managers still had veritable gambling debts, and sinister advisors from the former Yugoslavia would sometimes take a firm slap in the face if something didn’t suit them.

Instead of a pool of sponsors, there were still those entrepreneurial types of real grist and double grain who wanted to lead a club that was actually too small for the Bundesliga to the very top and always had the last word in sporting matters, even if they actually had no idea about soccer.

Medicine balls and the can beer king

And so Kirschneck’s upscale drinking literature is also something like an encyclopedia for soccer nostalgics. Training is still done with medicine balls, and even the reporter from a small advertising paper is taken seriously in some way by the coach and players, even if they probably know that he is the uncrowned can-beer king of the town.

The story is set in the days when the motorcycle acrobatics squad of the local riot police performed their tricks during breaks in soccer matches. It was the good old days of professional soccer. The stadiums were not yet fully covered and at the games you remember, it was actually always raining.

Jens Kirschneck: "Freeing Pigs.". Verbrecher Verlag, Berlin 2916, 326 p., 14 euros

Is it really made up what happened to the sports reporter of a local advertising paper on the evening of perhaps the biggest drunken stupor of his life? In order to do some good after a lousy evening, in which his alcohol-laden tongue has been rooting around in a lot of the wrong mouths, he decides to stop an animal transport and free the animals that are ripe for the slaughterhouse.

In the process, he discovers the manager of the local professional club lying on the floor of the pig truck with his eyes closed. And even though it is somehow clear that this must be fiction, one can certainly imagine that this is a story like the good old soccer of yesteryear could really have written.

The great drinkers of soccer

Readers practiced in soccer nostalgia may think of the beautiful champion striker of 1860 Munich, the unforgettable Rudi Brunnenmeier, who at some point began to fight his way through Munich’s pub life. He thinks of the national team’s gambling sessions at the 1982 World Cup, of recalcitrant professionals, of course of Paul Gascoigne, whose escapades were laughed at for far too long before they were deemed tragic, and perhaps a bit of Stefan Effenberg.

Jens Kirschneck’s novel journey into the lowlands of player consulting, which takes readers to a slaughterhouse in Frankfurt’s train station district and very close to a Croatian war criminal, is more than a literary paninial album, despite all the soccer nostalgia. It is a book about the longing to belong, or at least to get a taste of a scene that one adores. That wasn’t necessarily easy in soccer, even in the canned beer days. With Kirschneck, it’s almost a bit tragic. Here’s to a counter beer!

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