Christoph Ribbat

Germany for a Season - The true story of Wilbert Olinde, Jr.

(German title: Deutschland für eine Saison)
ca. 272 pages
Christoph Ribbat
Foto: Christoph Ribbat
© Anna Weise

Christoph Ribbat, born 1968, is a professor for American Studies at the University of Paderborn after holding posts in Bochum, Boston and Basel.

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Only one »foreigner« per team: in 1977 that’s the limit in the Federal Basketball League. The foreigner in Göttingen is named Wilbert Olinde and has just arrived from Los Angeles. The Germans are surprised by him, and he in turn is surprised by the Germans. He only intends to stay for a year. But then things turn out quite differently indeed.

Germany for a Season tells the story of recent German and American history. It takes us into the day-to-day life of professional basketball players who smoke, women’s teams buzzed on Sekt, and fans singing along to the Kraftwerk sound. And it doesn’t shy away from exploring racism on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s against this panorama that the portrait of Wilbert Olinde arises: a thoughtful American athlete who becomes a German motivational coach, father, and neighbour.

Christoph Ribbat accompanies readers through sunny southern California, sports centres across Germany, and the violent history of Louisiana. He tells the story of a very unique family: of crises and new beginnings, of discrimination and courage. Wilbert Olinde, as this book shows, is a true hero of a culturally diverse society.


»It is this link between sports and contemporary history that makes Germany for a Season such a success. What Ribbat manages to tease out of the biography of successful athlete Wilbert Olinde is simply phenomenal.« Süddeutsche Zeitung

»The life [of Olinde] has been written by American Studies professor Christoph Ribbat, and not as a biography, not as a novel, but as a kind of historical reconstruction which allows the reader to just about smell, taste, and feel it all.« Die Zeit

» ... because Ribbat so decidedly renounces the voyeuristic gaze, he has managed to write such a sharp, multi-faceted observation of Germany.« Deutschlandfunk

»Ribbat writes Olinde’s life story—including the experiences of his African Americans ancestors in the southern USA—so impressively it feels like you are reading a novel.« taz. die tageszeitung

»A clever work of nonfiction that is as exciting as a novel.« Sachbuch-Bestenliste

»Christoph Ribbat depicts Olinde’s arrival with an eye for bizarre details – and in so doing allows the old Federal Republic to rise from the dead.« Stern

»The way Christoph Ribbat tells this trans-Atlantic story is as amazing as its protagonist’s destiny: because the author is a master of weaving together biography and a panorama of contemporary history.« Der Tagesspiegel

» ... precise and poignant, elegant, quite simply stunningly well told ... this book is highly recommended.« WDR 3

»One of the best nonfiction books I have read in the whole last year and a half. And not only because Christoph Ribbat has found a literary form. He tells the story like a novel. This book is a real page-turner.« Deutschlandfunk Kultur

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