A price to pay by Alex Capus

9781908323736

A price to pay by Alex capus

Swiss fiction

Original title - Der Fälscher, die Spionin und der Bombenbauer

Translator – John Brownjohn

Source – review copy

To answer a question
It’ll probably take more
If you’re already there
Well then you probably don’t know
Well we were the people
That we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
It’s hard to get hold of
And hard to let go
Always something we look for
From the day we were born
Instead we’re the people that we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
Yeah we’re the places that we wanted to go
We’re the places that we wanted to go

The first verse of people as place as .. by modest mouse seem to match this book a bit source

Another book for German lit month , today I bring a book from Switzerland .Alex Capus is French swiss writer , he was born to a French father and Swiss mother in Normandy in France , spent his first few year in Paris , then moved to switzerland where he studied in Basel at the university .Working as a Journalist then and editor ,his big break through came in 1994 with his first book by 1997 he had developed a style of writing he is now known for using a Classic narrative style .What I like about Alex Capus is in one writer he maybe sums up this blog a bit of europe all mixed up in one  .He has previously been longlisted for the German book prize .

I like the girl .It pleases me to picture her sitting in the open doorway of the rearmost carriage of the Orient Express with the glittering silvery waters of lake Zurich gliding past her .It could be early November 1924 .I don’t know the exact date .She is thirteen years old , a tall , tin , rather gawky girl with a small but deeply incised furrow on her nose .

Opening lines the young Laura on her way through Europe on the Orient Express .

This book follows three lives Emile Gillieron , Laura d’Oriano and Felix Bloch over the course of 15 to 20 years , we first meet them as they all wait on a station platform in 1924 in Zürich , this is the only time the three of them are together what follows in alternating chapters is the journey to the second world war .Emile is a budding draughtsman who gets drawn into Forging is at the station to scatter his father ashes , but then gets drawn into ,making fake relics , is actually considered the greatest forger of his age  whilst in Greece .Laura is a singer on the music hall , moving to italy and in the end becomes a spy for the allies in the second world war  a sort of world war two Mata Hari .lastly is Felix is a physicist that becomes a member of the  Robert Oppenheimer team that made the Nuclear bomb who also after the second world war won the Nobel prize for his work during the wat  .We follow each life from that meeting on the station to each ones end .

Felix Bloch never set eyes on the girl in the Orient Express because she didn’t get out in Zürich .That November afternoon .Laura d’Oriano travelled on via Basel to Belfort , where while Felix Bloch was calling at ETH’s enrolment office and Emile Gillieron waiting for his steamer in Trieste

The three crossed paths for just a brief second of time .

Now these are actually three real people , we don’t know if they actually meet but what Alex capus has done is throw three people with relatively unknown stories around the second world war and see what lead to their part in the war .I was reminded of the jesuit saying show me the boy I ‘ll show you the man , show us the young people on a station , We find out their lives here and how the war effected them .Capus uses alternate chapters to tell the stories , sometimes the paths cross after the first meeting but not quite .The original title shows more about the book which translates as the The forger , the spy and the bombmaker , which of course is all three of them .Capus has been compared in German reviews to both Delius and Grass both of whom like Capus use the second world war as a main part of their fiction .The three characters show how people’s lives can have a knock on effect and how we may think we are on one path but a slight shove or chance meeting may lead your life in a whole different path .Fate is out their for all of us and we never know where it will take us .

Have you a favourite novel based on a real person ?

The Chef by Martin Suter

 

The Chef by Martin Suter

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Koch

Translator – Jaime Bulloch

Source – Review copy

 

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands

with my own two hands a love song by Jack Johnson , reminds me of what Maravan made with his own two hands source 

Well its been a quiet German lit month here on winstonsdad , I’ve chosen a bestseller from Switzerland .Martin Suter started out as a copywriter , working for one of the best known ad agencies in Basel for twenty years ,before setting up his own company .He also has a well-known coloumn in a monthly magazine in Switzerland .He got his breakthrough novel in 1997 , small world which was made into a film .The cook is his seventh novel .he spends his time between Spain and Guatemala now .

By the time  Andrea left that evening she had been initiated into the aphrodisiac secrets of milk and urad lentils , saffron and palm sugar ,almonds and sesame oil ,saffron Ghee and long peppers , cardamom and cinnamon , asparagus and liquorice ghee .

The food describe at times makes you mouth water and you Andrea discover the power food can have .

The chef  is the story of two former restaurant employees , their former restuarant was one of the best known in Zurich to the fact its chef was a well-known , but after the financial crash lead to job cuts . So  Maravan the Tamil who was the dishwasher and Andrea the beautiful waitress find themselves without a job .The pair discover that Maravan , is actually a wonder in the kitchen , he learnt to cook back in his native Sri Lanka .But the food he cooks is more than food it has almost magical powers in the love department , as the people who eat it seem to be given added sexual powers they discover this after Maravan cooks one of his meals for Andrea and she falls for him after eating the food he cooks .This leads to the idea of starting a company cooking for couples and becoming partners in the buisness  .As the business grows we start to find out a little more about Maravan’s life before he came to switzerland ,where he shouldn’t be .They also grow and some of the people he is dealing with are shady seling arms this leads them into a underworld .

“The dirty stuff “

Andrea understood immediately what he was saying , but asked “what dirty stuff “

Maravan paused .

“If someone rings and wants ,you know , sex dinners .As far as I’m concerned you can say yes “

“Oh that .All right , I’ll take that on board , anything else ?”

“Nothing.”

As soon as Maravan had hung up ,she looked for the number of the caller who had asked about the sex dinners ,she had noted it down , just in case .

They decide to move their business in a new direction using the special qualities in Maravan’s food .

Now I don’t usually read blockbuster novels in English , the books you may call airport books , but as I read just translation these days we come across these books from time to time Suter is a big star in Europe ,his books have been made into films .His novels from what I read tend to have like this one a social justice message behind them from Maravan’s own story to that of his friend from Ethiopia  , a bit of love and a bit of crime .I can’t really match it to an English writer as I say I don’t really read blockbuster novels .but that said I was reminded of the thing Stephen king does in his books and that is the sense ,Suter seems to have  an eye for this book ,possibly becoming a film .In fact the film version of this book is out in the next few weeks in German-speaking world .Entertaining quick read , that has a little bit of everything thrown into the mix , culture clash , cooking , love ,sex ,crime and murder , also a detailed description of the financial events around the world as the crash starts to happen .We also get the recipes that Maravan cooks .

Have you read a bestseller from around the world that has been translated into English ?

Raw material by Jörg Fauser

 

Raw Material by Jörg Fauser

German literature

Original title - Rohstoff

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

 

 

In Berlin, by the wall
you were five foot ten inches tall
It was very nice
candlelight and Dubonnet on ice

We were in a small cafe
you could hear the guitars play
It was very nice
it was paradise

You’re right and I’m wrong
hey babe, I’m gonna miss you now that you’re gone
One sweet day

Lou reeds Berlin maybe one best sound track songs to this book source

Jörg Fauser was a huge name in the underground literature culture of Germany when he was writing , Grew up in Frankfurt , but then he lived in squats around Europe Istanbul , Berlin and even North Africa as he tried to live life ,like the  Beat writers that he so admired .He was greatly drawn to the Beat writers of America admiring the cut up style of Willam Burroughs and also the hard-boiled crime of the likes of Hammett and Chandler , he wrote a number of crime novels that were well received at time and a have been published in English .He also tried his hand as a song writer .But this book isn’t a crime novel , no it’s the full on vision of a man as a writer at the time Fauser was a writer .His lead character is indeed an alter ego of him .

As they didn’t rake enough with their five storeys , the hotel owners had put another structure on the roof ,The view was overwhelming , as were the heat in the summer and cold in the winter .But for two marks a day we could enjoy the same panorama for which tourists would have shell out twenty or fifty times as much .And we could get ours on credit

Living cheap seeing the blue mosque from a makeshft home on a roof in a hotel in Istanbul .

As I said Raw material is the story of a writer Harry Gelb , he happens to follow the same path as fauser did in his life , living in Istanbul and then Berlin .what we see is a man who loves the beat writers and the lifestyle in the books trying to live out this lifestyle in europe living on rooftops in Istanbul writing in oilskin notebooks about his life their , then a return to Germany to the bohemian Berlin and trying to get noticed publishing Magazines .All the time ,  meeting girls drinking taking drugs .All the time writing and trying to find someone to publish his masterpiece Stamboul blues .Harry tries to get noticed but is thwarted at every turn it seems , his book is great every one says so but it is maybe to modern for the time .He also falls for many women along the way .Bur does get to meet one of his hero’s Burroughs as he tries to make it .

I was on my way – and how! I tried to explain to Burroughs that I’d been a junkie myself for four years , and in my report I also wanted to write about how one could get off the gear .Burroughs had managed it with apomorphine .Apomorphine was unknown in Germany .That’s why i was here .He lit another cigarette .He smoked filterless senior service chain-smoked them ,

“What sort of stuff did you take ?”

“Oh , opium mainly .”

“What raw opium ? You didn’t take it intravenously did you ?”

“Yes I did .”

“Young man ,” Burroughs said , with the hint of a smile , “you must have been out of your mind .”

Harry gets to interview both his and Fauser’s  own hero William Burroughs .

What we see in this book is a side of German life that isn’t always been shown in LIterature in translation , I was luckily enough to catch on to the very tail end of this life when I lived in Germany twenty years ago , a life of small pubs , people meeting and doing arty thing seeing small bands going to make shift clubs .This is the same world that gave us the great film directors like Wim Wender and Rainer Fassbinder ,we see the Berlin that also had the likes of Nick Cave and David Bowie making some of their greatest records at the time .In Harry Gelb , we see what life was like for Fauser the ups and the downs the dreams and disappointments of the world he lived in .Fauser story is sad he died under strange circumstances aged only 43 having a life similar to Harry his character doing meaningless jobs and writing underground magazines and trying to break through to be a big writer like his Hero’s .Fauser also wrote songs I found this on you tube by Achim Reichel who he wrote songs for .

 

Have you a favourite writer from the Counter Culture side of German life ?

Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

 

 

Portrait of a Man

Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

French fiction

Original title - Le Condottière

Translator – David Belios

Source – Review Copy

 

“Pay In Blood”

Well I’m grinding my life out, steady and sure
Nothing more wretched than what I must endure
I’m drenched in the light that shines from the sun
I could stone you to death for the wrongs that you done
Sooner or later you make a mistake,
I’ll put you in a chain that you never will break
Legs and arms and body and bone
I pay in blood, but not my own.
This lyric by Bob Dylan from his Tempest album Has Gaspard paid in blood ?

Well this is an important book , as it was only recently published in France after David Belios , Perec’s English translator had rediscovered this book as a carbon copy Perec had kept , the book was mentioned in one of his other books and thought lost .it was Perec’s debut n0vel which at the time he wrote it he couldn’t find a publisher for ,and had been thought lost till it was found again .It is also an important book for this blog as it marks the 500th book I have reviewed here and the 50th novel from French to be review , as I got near to 500 books review I decide this was the one that deserved the honour of being that book .Georges Perec , was brought up by his paternal aunt and uncle after his parents died in world war two .He studied history and sociology at the Sorbonne , whilst at the same time starting to write .This is also the time he started to write this book .

Madera was heavy .I grabbed him by the armpits and went backwards down the stairs to the laboratory .His feet bounced from tread to tread in a staccato rhythm that matched my own unsteady descent , thumping and banging around the narrow stairwell .Our shadows danced on the walls Blood was still flowing all sticky , seeping from the soaking wet towel

The opening lines grip you , what has happened ?

portrait of a man takes as its inspiration the painting that is on the front cover of the book portrait of a man / the condottiere (the French title of the novel ) by Antonelo da Mesina .he use a man who is forging painting by this guy as his character in this book Gaspard Winckler is a master forger , he is working for Madera , who has asked him to copy this one picture  whilst Gaspard has stuck in the background just painting .the book opens as we see Gaspard moving the dead body of Madera , which he has just killed .We follow what happened in two parts the first is formed of an internal monologue as Gaspard is waiting for the police to find him , the events that lead up to the murder .How he became a forger and met Madera  .the second half of the book follows Gaspard after he is arrest and is being interviewed by the police .Gaspard struggled to get the painting on the canvas in the same way as Mesina had , is this why he killed Madera .

“Yes …more or less obvious .Forging isn’t a trade .It’s more like a rut .You get stuck in it .You get drowned .You think things are still possible … But you get tripped up by your own rope-trick .things don’t exist anymore … It’s difficult to explain .. How can I say .. You always do the same thing , you explore the same paths over and over ,you hit the same blocks again and again .

Gaspard explaining to the police what it is like being a forger .

Now I for one am very wary of lost books , the has been a number of them in recent years and they often seem to be the scrapings of a writers life .So I was pleased when this book wasn’t that no this is a book , that maybe at the time it was written was to new for the French readers .Perec is of course known for being an experimental writer and a member of the oulipo group , is this book like those books ,yes and no .It is a different way to tell a story in the two parts that form the book with the internal and the external descriptions of what happen  .It is actually the most accessible book by Perec I have read .The big theme of the book is maybe being False , what are we ,how are we if we just copy , what is the truth behind the murder ? As with some of his later books he has twisted the crime thriller genre to make an interesting study on the human condition . A fitting choice for the 500th review by this blogger a rediscovered book that actually deserved to be published ironically his first book becomes his last book as well , a very Perec thing in a way (maybe that is what he had in mind keeping the carbon copy ?)

have you a favourite rediscovered book ?

uncertain Glory by joan sales

 

 

Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales

Catalan fiction

original title - Incerta glòria

Translator – Peter Bush

Source – review copy

‘The Cemetery Is Near’

(VI: From ‘Cancionero Y Romancero De Ausencias’)

 

The cemetery is near

where you and I are sleeping,

between blue prickly-pears,

blue agaves and children,

who scream excitedly

if the dead darken the road.

From here to the cemetery, all

is blue, golden, clear.

Four paces, and the dead.

Four paces, and the living.

Clear, blue and golden,

my son there grows remote.

The cemetery is near a poem by Miguel Hernandez ,which Pablo Neruda called the face of spain .Source 

Well this is the first of two book from catalan I’ll be reviewing  you in the next few weeks , this first is considered a classic in Catalan and also one of the definitive works on the Spanish civil war .Joan Sales was born in Barcelona and studied law just before the outbreak of the Civil war , he fought in the civil war and afterwards he lived in Exile .He first published the book in 1956 ,but revised it over the years until the definitive version of the book came out in 1971 , as the earlier version had been subject to Franco censorship of them .

8 july

We are still doing , nothing , just waiting for the recruits to arrive .We have already alloted officer to the future companies :I’ve got the 4th and my captain will be lieutenant gallart , the ex-waiter .

The village couldn’t be more dismal :It’s boxed in and you can’t see until you’re inside .It’s boundaries are extensive ,it’s mostly barren waste with the large olive trees that account for its name .

The arrival at the village with the woman of the Castilo de Olivo .

The book follows Lieutenant lluis Ruscalleda he is assigned to Aragonese front in 1937 he is a lawyer (in some ways you could say this is in some  part  Joan sales ), he arrives but start away doesn’t fir in his comrades seem to like a drink and he isn’t a drinker , but along the way he meets a woman the women of the Castilo de OLivo , she is an intriguing woman , that intrigues the lieutenant she became the lady of the house after she was a servant in the house  .Meanwhile Lluis is writing back to Trini his former lover that is a new woman and that is struggling with the war to bring up their son .The winter sees the brigade is sent to a quiet part of the line this brings even more problems , Lluis also writes to his brother and we also see Trini write to her old friend about her struggles with life .Add to this the war isn’t going their way and a strong streak of Catholic guilt and the church in the war , in the story we see the spanish civil war from a Catalan point of view from the losing side .A picture of the chaos that civil war is .

29 june

Dear juli , I received a letter from Lluis the day before yesterday after weeks without one .I was so pleased to hear you are both in the same brigade .I hadn’t heard from him so long ! The only news I had was the monthly postal order he dent me without fail .

Trini on the home front so to speak worries about Lluis at the front .

I have read a number of novels about the civil war those written in recent years ,by the likes of  Manual Rivas , that look back at the aftermath and Chaos of the war once the dust had settled so to speak  his book carpenters pencil looked at being a prisoner and returning after the war .I have also read a couple of books by English languages writers written that were involved with the Spanish civil war  one by Hemingway which isn’t like this book as his writing is full of bravado  .The other is  the novella by George Orwell Homage to Catalonia ,which is the nearest to this book as it follows Orwell’s time at the front .But this book adds more dimension to the fighting given its form , which is an epistolary novel what we are given is the full picture of the fighting , life on the front line not just the fighting but the sitting on the front line .We also see from Trini the life on the home front what is it like raising a kid in the war .The characters in the book , give a full picture of the world around them ,Sales brings lots of details to the story that make the war leap of the page .as we see how the war effects each character changing the relationships but also the view of the world around them .

Have you a favourite book about the spanish civil war ?

The false Apocalypse by Fatos Lubonja

The False Apocalypse by Fatos Lubonja

Albanian Non-fiction

Original title - Nëntëdhjeteshtata – Apokalipsi i rremë

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – review copy

When one voice rules the nation
Just because they’re top of the pile
Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists

They must declare their interests
But not their company cars
Is there more to a seat in parliament
Than sitting on your arse
And the best of all this bad bunch
Is shouting to be heard
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

I ve gone for Billy Bragg song ideologies as this is a story of ideas falling apart

I love the fact that Susan at Istros books is publishing books like this one for I feel no one else would publish a book about Albania internal politics .Fatos Lubonja is the son of Todi Lubonja who was one of the closet aids to Hoxha , until the early 1970′s when he was arrested and Fatos , where Fatos then spent the next 17 years in Jail  , he is considered an outspoken critic on the post communist world of Albanian politics and also the writer Ismail Kadare .In the introduction he is called the closest thing tp an intellectual conscience in Albania .

The arrival of a boatload of sugar , whose sale would pay off all his debts , was the last deception used by the mastermind of the pyramid scheme to palm off the daily demands of his creditors .Qorri has made this boat the focal point of the novel , a symbol of people’s hope and trust in the victory of capitalism over reality of socialism ,The arrival of the sugar boat would solve everything .

The premise of the Novel Fatos Qorri called Sugar boat about one pyramid scheme .

The False Apocalypse is a story of the years after the fall of communism within Albania .The book has two narratives one that follows the greater picture of Albania at the time  the government of Sali Bershia that was the leader of the country at the time .The problem with the regime was the fact they let to many fraudsters take over the country , in particular a number of Pyramid schemes (the schemes used new investors to pay old investors whilst appearing to make money , the only ones that made money where the leaders of the scheme ) , these schemes had grown since the fall of Hoxha and the fall of communism in 1991 , the schemes had grown and grown so in 1997 the collapse of them was going to take the whole country down with it .As the public start to protest and riots begin as scheme after scheme collapses .The second narrative thread in the book is the personnel story of Fatos Qorri ( akter ego of fatos lubonja ) describes the events of 1997 through his own eyes through diary entries . He is in the process of writing a novel in fact about the pyramid schemes and as he is doing so the events take over him .

The victory of the guns in Vlora created a nightmare for thee Tirana government .Could Berisha weather these events ? The Government was on the brink of resignation , with dozens of deaths laid at it’s door State institutions had collapsed , Vlora was in rebellion with fighting in the streets , and the nation faced bankruptcy .moreover , after what had happened , Albania was split in two and Berisha’s people didn’t dare set foot in the south .

The first real crack appeared at Vlora the first of many .

Now I remember the aftermath of this when the west rode in to save the government of Berisha .What I enjoyed about lubonja book is the way he used his own personnel experience at the time and mixed it in with the wider picture of what was going on in Albania at the time .what we see is a country trying to run before they have learnt to walk .A government that has really lost control over the schemes and the country as a whole , this is what happened when the prisons were opened , the gangs are allowed to take control . The former secret service has also  become a force to be watched after it was not taken apart from the fall of communism .What we get is the chaos explained , what happens on the wider scale when a country starts to fall apart but also on the personnel scale to the man on the street .This book appeals to anyone that has an interest in the fall of communism and maybe wants to learn more about Albania .

Have you a favourite non fiction book in translation ?

The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

Chilean fiction

Original title –  El caso Neruda

Translator – Carolina De Robertis

Source – review copy

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

I choose the first two verse of a poem by Neruda one of the few I read online that touched me a lot A dog has died source

There is nothing better than the unknown book falling through the letterbox at Winston towers such as it was with this book when it arrived .Souvenir press sent me this book I’m one that falls in love with covers and I did with this one with its great picture  of Neruda on the cover .Robert Ampuero has lived a life , in fact in some ways the way he has moved around the world he left his native Chile after the Coup in 1973 first to east Germany to study , then in Cuba back to Chile and then Sweden and finally in the US where he is the professor of creative writing at the university of Iowa .

“In that case , it’s time for you to read the Belgian ,” the poet continued forcefully .”Because if poetry transports us to heaven , crime novels plunge you into life the way it really is , they dirty your hands and blacken your face the way coal stains engine stokers on trains in the south ,where I was born ,I’ll lend you these volumes so you can learn something from Inspector Maigret .

Young Brule is given the task and told to read Maigret to help him with it by don Pablo .

Well  I for one had wanted to know more about Pablo Neruda , he has always been on my radar of some one to read , he of course one the Nobel  prize for literature but is one of the best known poets from Latin America .The book is an imagined journey around the world by a young man on behalf of Pablo Neruda . The young man Cayetano Brule is a young private in the Cuban army where he is given a task to help Don Pablo , the job is to be a detective of Don Pablo’s life to retrace the woman he loved and left through out his life .Don Pablo ask the young man if he has read any crime fiction to help him along the way , he says he has read he says some Christie , Chandler and of course Holmes .At this point Don Pablo says he needs to read Simenon detective Maigret (he is not the only one I’ve read a lot as you all know this year as well ) so Neruda sends his private Maigret to rediscover his former loves , this journey takes him Berlin ,Cuba , Mexico and Bolivia as he follows the woman who meant something in Neruda’s life .

The poets large brown eyes grew more alert , as they always did when he was talking about women .Cayetano already knew this expression with its fleeting , youthful glow “A young woman , then. How old ? “

“She was a teenager in the early sixties so today she should be around thirty “

Don Pablo talking about on of his women as he sends his private to find out what happened to her .

The book is about an old man wanting to find out about his life and using this younger man to in some way recapture his youth , but also do that thing which we all do from time to time and that is to recapture one’s old loves .Alongside this we see the world Neruda lived in and how his shifting views on the world , also reflected at times the moving views in the world he had lived in .The coups,  political changes ever shifting politics of Latin America in the 20th century , all this viewed through the eyes of this young man who dreams of being a great writer like Don Pablo is .Don Pablo is painted with a loving eye , you can tell that Roberto Ampuero is a huge fan of this man , he even says in his after word how when he was younger he could see Pablo Neruda house from his own house , the room he was aware of with the huge chair by the window that Pablo Neruda used to sit in .I always love the way Latin American writers twist the detective novel as a form , Ampuero has twisted it to both be a great detective novel , but also a great piece of biography and also a look at the history and politics at the time of Neruda’s life .I was also left with the wanting to buy a collection of Neruda’s poetry .

Have you read Neruda ?

The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

German fiction

Original title - Die Herrlichkeit des Lebens

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Review copy

 

Come on skinny love just last the year
Pour a little salt, we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer

Tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Right in this moment this order’s tall

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind

well skinny love by bon Iver  is about doomed love rather like Franz and Dora is . Source 

Well when I got an email from Haus books about two upcoming books from Germany in translation I jumped at the chance with the knowledge that German lit month was coming up , this book won the Jean monnet prize for European literature prize , his earlier book has won the Alfred Doblin prize one of the most prestigious prizes in literature in Germany   .Michael Kumpfmüller he studied history at university , after he finished his studies he became a freelance writer for several papers within Germany , his first book came out in 2000 a collection of short stories , he has since written three novels .He also in 2005 joined a red/green movement run by the German writer Gunter Grass .

Dora sits at the kItchen table , getting fish for supper .She has been thinking of him for days , and suddenly here he is .Tile of all people , has brought him , and he’s alone , the woman she saw on the beach isn’t with him .He stands in the doorway , looking first at the fish , then at her hands , a little censoriously she thinks .But there is no doubt about it ,this is the man from the beach

Franz meets her alone for the first time .

The glory of life is a novel partly based on true fact , the story follows the last year in the life of the Czech writer Franz Kafka .The story is told through the eyes of Dora Diamant a twenty-five year old woman , who meet the dying Kafka whilst he was recovering on the Baltic coast , she sees the boy with in this forty-year old man and he see life in this much younger woman as the romance starts .We then follow them over course of his last year as we follow the pair to Berlin ,of course the is just the time when fascism is on the rise so apart from the romance between Franz and Dora , we also see Franz having to deal with the Anti Semitism .But he is also growing weaker all the time this means he eventually ends up at a sanatorium in Austria. We see a love that burns bright but is very doomed since the start .

He has seemed to be better again for the last few days .She doesn’t really know why : is it his work on the proofs , is it the whispering at night when she tells him silly things ,what she was like as a little girl , her refusal to have her hair cut after her mothers death ? instead she wore two long braids .

Dora loves him til the end , I love the fact she isn’t sure if it the love or the writer in Franz driving him , I ‘d love to think it was the love !

This is an imagined year , yes Franz Kafka had a relationship with Dora Diamant ,but no real evidence of how this relationship went on so , Michael has done a real good job in imagining the world they lived in , I of course have read Kafka , but it was almost twenty years ago and I have since read bits about his life , I think most of us that read any amount of books in translation know the story of how we are able to read Kafka , he had ask his friend Max Brod to destroy all his work after he died , of course he didn’t thus we are able to read him ,Max is a character in this book .This book could have easily felt like historic document ,but it didn’t no what we get is a blossoming love affair that is doomed from the start ,we know this but Dora and Franz don’t .MIchael Kumpfmüller  has brought us a story of lovers that will I’m sure touch any reader that like me is a romantic at heart .As for Dora , her life after this book is really interesting  she also had some of Kafka’s work but lost it to the Gestapo , one can wonder what was lost to us the reader .

Have you read Kafka or anything about his life ?

 

The safety net by Heinrich Böll

 

The safety Net by Heinrich Böll

German Fiction

Original title  Fürsorgliche Belagerung

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – Personnel copy

We made the cops look dumb
On the border line
Springer said 'must be the mood of the times'
Rudi says "we've got to get wise"
And we've got to get armed'
Its a

surveillance state operation Rich kid with a gun Al-Fatah in Palestine against the P.L.O. Andreas says 'She's not the girl that I used to Know Rudi says.......
A cheap lyric choice but I love luke haines as a singer and he did do an Album called baader meinhof (the name of the two main RAF members )

 

Well I’m back been off work for a couple of weeks on Holiday and decided to take a break from the blog as well , so I return with my first book for German lit month and it happens to be a book I won a couple of German lit months ago from Caroline , so it is a double prize winner really ! So this is the third book by the Nobel winning German writer Heinrich  Böll on the blog , he has for me long been one of my favourite german writers and in many ways the best post world war two voice on West Germany .This is one of the books that was reissued by Melville house a few years ago in the essential Böll collection .

During these last few months his fear had been directed almost entirely towards technical matters , security measures .Concern had been supplanted ; now it was no longer fear of something but fear for : for Sabine , and for Hebert , for Kathe’s follies , least of all – and this surprised him – for Rolf .

Fitz starts to feel the fear of attack grow closer .

The safety net is a novel , but could also be classed in some ways as a collection of  short stories as the story is built-in the chapter by glance into each of the people involved in the story .the story is of Fitz Tolm, a man who by luck in a way has risen to be a person of power within germany .The book is set in the late seventies actually in 1977 , just as the red army faction is falling apart .Now this is why we join Fitz and his family members as they have been threatened by the RAF , so have been taking into hiding by the German police to a safe house .So the story follows both the family as they adjust to being kept and restrict in their movements , but also in the team of people who are guarding them .Now Fitz accepts this but his children struggle , but also along the way Fitz finds out more about his children particularly his daughter Sabine , who he discovers is pregnant during this time .The is also Fitz’s old wives to add into the mix .Then there is a black sheep member of the family and is one of their kids involved with the terrorists !

and he recalled the young people sometimes met at Sabine’s , or rather had met , for of course the strict security measures had kept visitors away too .Among them there had been occasional flirtations with just that :pot and stronger stuff

The tough watching has brought restrictions too Fitz’s daughter Sabine , as the police check every one coming closer .

The story build slowly til we get to a climatic end .Heinrich tried to capture in this book , how the RAF effected the everyday lives of the rich and famous that were targeted by them at the time .but this is also a study into families and how they work internally , how the pressure of hiding away and having your every move monitored by the police can slowly open up even the smallest cracks with in a family .Heinrich had used this technique of voices of all involved in his other novels particularly Group portrait ,for me it is an effective way of capturing a moment like this is a moment of history from every angle .This was a bold choice when Heinrich first published it in 1979 , the dust hadn’t quite settled on the RAF and the events surrounding it .I said this before it is a shame Heinrich isn’t as well-known as he once was ,which is a shame .

Have you read his books ? Do you have a favourite ?

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

 

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

French fiction

Original title – Fleur de Tonerre

Translator – Melaine Florence

Source review copy

I live in a town called Millhaven
And it’s small and it’s mean and it’s cold
But if you come around just as the sun goes down
You can watch the whole town turn to gold
It’s around about then that I used to go a-roaming
Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all gotta die

My name is Loretta but I prefer Lottie
I’m closing in on my fifteenth year
And if you think you have seen a pair of eyes more green
Then you sure didn’t see them around here
My hair is yellow and I’m always a-combing
La la la la La la la lie
Mama often told me we all got to die

I choose the curse of milhaven , as lottie is a bit like Helene from NIck Cave’s wonderful album of murder Ballads ,source 

I struggle with historical fiction , I was one of the few people who didn’t really like Wolf Hall , so when this arrived from gallic books I wasn’t exactly jumping over the moon , but a quick read of the cover and I was caught by the tagline , She came , She cooked , She killed .Who couldn’t resist finding out more .I also want to try Jean Teule ,I know one of his earlier books Suicide shop is highly regard ,a multi talent man who also illustrates , makes films and is a Tv presenter , he has written ten novels and is married to the well-known French actress Miou-Miou .He is currently making a film of this book starring his wife .

Oh no,don’t pick that Helene , it’s a thunderflower .Goodness , that’s what I should call you from now on :”Thunderflower “. And don’t pull on that stem either ; it belongs to a viper flower .Don’t you know that a woman picked up a bunch of those and her tongue split in two ? You’re seven years old – when will you ever learn ?

Seven Helene gets her names and so much more !

The poisoning angel is based on the true story of Helene Jegado  , she was a french servant in 19th century France  .She is from  the Breton region of France , she was schooled via her mother in the old traditions of this region ,so this beautiful young girl grows up in the old world  .She starts working in households , we know her as thunderflower in the book ,which happens to be the original french title  .She travels around from household to household , doing various domestic servant jobs but mainly as a cook people love her cooking  , but what is she adding toi the pot as she cooks ! Now this is the twist in the tail Helene Jegado is one of the most notorious serial killers , as she travelled around in early 19th century France from town to town  , she is thought to have killed up to  36 people .We see her story , a mix of an ancient world of traditions and superstitions .It also shows how in a time when the end of people’s worlds tend to be with in their eyesight how some one could easily get away with murder .

“Helene Jegado is an excellent cook .My one regret is that I was unable to keep her until I die …. ” That’s what I call a glowing recommendation! This missive from the abbe … Lohro has no date .So since then ?

The humour is subtle at times in the book .

This book mixes  dark murder with comic touches so well . This for me is how true crime should be Helene comes to life as more than a woman who killed to more of a woman who by a stroke of fate and misguide sense of tradition want to be deaths henchman .It is a book like version of the murder ballads of the deep south of the US , where we hear the story of the murderer .Has it made me want to try more historic fiction ,well I think I will have more of an open mind next time one comes my way .AS for Jean Teule i have another of his books I was sent that will be jumping up my TBR pile .Jean conjures a world of ancient myths and traditions , and a young girl that thinks she is haunted by a ghost ,that becomes a killer .

Have you a favourite True crime novel ?

 

 

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