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Wolfgang Koeppen

An underestimated and too little appreciated German author.

Wolfgang Koeppen was born in 1906, in a small city called Greifswald. Having a restless childhood in terms of many relocations, he quit school before graduating because of financial reasons. This, however, didn’t keep him from secretly visiting lectures at the university, especially concerning German philology. Although wanting to be a director, he ended up being a prompter, usher, and actor.

Just as dramatic as his life has been proceeding, so was the situation in Germany. Having lived through two World Wars, Koeppen must have seen a lot of brutality and inhumanity. He manages, like nobody else, to process his emotions about these happenings in a trilogy of novels. The first of the three books is called Tauben im Gras (“Pigeons in the grass”) and describes the post-war situation in Germany.

Being published in 1951, the book displays snapshots of the lives of different people, whose personalities and current situations could not be more different. A wracked author and his wife, a drug-addicted actor, a poet, a former Nazi and an American soldier have to deal with broken marriage, addictions, traumatic experiences and the American soldiers in occupied Germany. As mentioned before, the book describes only a very short period of time: a blink in the lives of these people, whose destinies are somewhat connected. Some of their paths will cross, some of the characters will never meet each other.

What makes the book exceptional is that there is neither a main character, nor are there secondary characters. Every person in this book is equally important. Furthermore, unlike in other novels, there is no hero and no anti-hero. In fact, I would say, you can see the hero (good) and anti-hero (bad) parts of every character since some of them seem to fight against themselves.

What impressed me most, however, is how Koeppen can draw pictures in front of your inner eye. By using outstandingly chosen metaphors and beautiful symbolism, Koeppen can literally transfer you into another world.

Text written in April 2019.

Short bio of the volunteer:

Rebecca, 25 years old, from Germany and currently “the new one” in the Madeira Heritage voluntary program. Experienced and educated in social psychology, but still not able to read people’s minds. Passionate about (classical) music, interculturality, and other people.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth, and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing to a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.