The Brummstein

Written by Peter Adolphsen
Review by Ken Kreckel

In 1907, Josef Siedler descends into Switzerland’s Hölloch Caves searching for a gateway to the land of the “inner earth.” Instead he finds a strange rock emitting a humming sound. Taking a sample of this Brummstein, literally “hum stone,” he returns to Berlin, unwittingly sending it on a journey through Germany’s 20th-century history. The stone bears witness to the ambitions of the early century through the tumult of two world wars, the bleakness of life in East Germany and finally the reunited Germany of modern times.

This novella, originally published in Denmark in 2003, is part geology lesson, part study of modern history, but most of all a reflection on the meaning, or perhaps the lack of meaning of life, and the relative insignificance of individuals. Set against the enormity of geologic time, much of our own experience is seen as trivial, a mere “final coat of paint on the knob” of the Eiffel Tower.

Thought-provoking, this is a gem of a little book.