I’m Off Then

I’ll start by saying this book was originally written in German by a famous German comedian. Needless to say most of the humour (if there is any) is lost in translation. It reminded me of a line from the movie, The Two Popes. Anthony Hopkins, as pope Benedict, says, “It’s a German joke. It wasn’t meant to be funny.”

This might not have been the book’s only deterrent. I also disliked the author, at first – he smoked, hitched rides, frowned on the hostels and spent a very long chapter outlining his rise to fame in Germany.

Slowly, however, I warmed to him. He really is sincere in his quest for a moment with God. He describes in detail his interior monologues, as he walks. Many authors don’t. Hape is genuinely searching. Others wait for something to “happen.”

The author, who is openly gay, took a while to find his Camino family. He eventually bonds with two female pilgrims. Both are well educated, well travelled and delightful companions. “I’m Off Then”, a journey on the Camino FranceĀ“s in the summer of 2001, is a compelling read. The translation to English (The story has been translated into 10 other languages) is really very good, even if the humour and subtle nuances might be missing.

Again, I would recommend this book, based on the author’s direct and honest approach to the meaning of a pilgrimage.

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