Hape Kerkeling

Camino de Santiago

Hans-Peter Kerkeling's "I'm Off Then"

the honest comedian

[note: I’ve been reading the German original]

The story: in the mid 2000s, Hape (Hans-Peter) Kerkeling, German comedian, actor, and TV host, finds himself in some sort of personal crisis. He decides to walk the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.

Even though this doesn’t mean he has to walk every bit of the way on foot (he calls himself a couch potato on page 2 and resorts to hitchhiking every once in a while) he eventually makes it to Santiago in about two months.

Hans-Peter Kerkeling’s lively Camino

The resulting book is extremely entertaining: Kerkeling writes in a charming down-to-earth voice and uses his talents as a comedian to make this particular Camino experience a very lively and funny one. Some of his depictions of other pilgrims actually made me laugh out loud.

Another thing that stands out is the fact that Kerkeling sounds very earnest when he is talking about his personal life and his ideas and worries. Here is a guy who has self-doubts, who hitches rides, and who refuses to stay in a refugio if it’s too dirty – and I loved him for it, because I felt that I could empathize with his weaknesses, and I respected his honesty.

esoterism leaking through

Sadly, there is still something wrong with this book: there’s some esotericism leaking through its pages. (I’m beginning to think that this might be a general theme in contemporary Camino literature.) Of course Kerkeling’s esotericism isn’t anywhere near as bad as that of Paulo Coelho or Shirley Maclaine (they’re in the All-star League of esoterics) but sometimes it gets a tad too quirky.

Here’s an example: right in the middle of his walking story, Kerkeling takes a time-out and recounts a „previous life“ experience in which he believes to have been a Polish monk who was executed by the Nazis. This might work for some readers, but it didn’t seem very interesting to me.

who might want to read this

Kerkeling’s feat of walking the Camino is okay. His storytelling and his writing style are both great (spoiled only by his esotericism), and his observations are fun to read.

If you’re looking for an honest book about the feat of walking, or if you are interested in the Camino, then by all means read this book.

Also read: Fritz Mühlenweg, for an adventure story from a different era.



Author: Hans-Peter Kerkeling
Title: I’m Off Then
Time: 2001
Destination: Camino de Santiago
Length: 2 months
Type: walking

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