Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

journey into the past

Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

Austrian fiction

Original title –  Widerstand der Wirklichkeit

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Personnel copy

I couldn’t do two weeks about Pushkin press without at least once reviewing or mentioning Stefan Zweig ,as he is the writer most associated with them in my mind anyway .I have perviously reviewed his books Letter to an Unknown women   and although not published by Pushkin press the post office girl .I have also read Amok for this fortnight .In my mind Zweig is a true one-off writer that thanks to Pushkin we have gotten to read in English .At the height of his fame in the 1920′s and 1930′s he was one of the best known writers in the world .This is one of a number of books by Stefan Zweig that is published by Pushkin press .

“There you are !” He went to meet her with arms outstretched , almost flung wide.”There you are ” he repeated , his voice climbing the scale from surprise to delight ever more clearly ,while his tender glance lingered on her beloved form “I was almost afraid you wouldn’t come !”

“Do you really have so little faith in me ? “

Ludwig arrives and meets the woman in the opening lines

So too the Journey into the past was only discovered in the seventies and published in the Germany .Ludwig is German engineer and in love with a women whom happens to be married ,but he is sent for a short trip to Mexico to work on opening a mine ,but whilst he is doing this the first world war breaks out leaving him stranded in Mexico .We see him recalling the past as he returns to see if his love is still there what has happened to her .As he travels back to his homeland the memories of their  past  as they await meeting again on the station . The narrative drifts through time past and present mingle .

They left the station , but no sooner were they out of the door than stormy noise met their ears , drums rattling , the shrill sound of pipes – it was a patriotic demonstration of veterans  associations and students in support of the Fatherland .Like a wall on the move ,marching in ranks four abreast ,flags flying ,men in military garb were goose stepping along ,feet thudding heavily on the ground .

The early signs of the Nazis and Ludwig and the woman leave the station .

Well this was a book that supposedly Zweig had worked and reworked this novella for over twenty years ,you can see how it has been cut and edited at just 81 pages it actually feels more like a 300 page novel than a short novella .Zweig has left fact bare and concentrated on the feeling ,memories and broken love  and dreams .Ludwig was a different character than I had previously encountered in Zweig works as in the previous book I have read he has mainly used female characters .I loved the sense of lose and longing we got from Ludwig a man caught by time ,the woman isn’t named we know she is married to a councillor so is maybe an older muse for the young Ludwig whom is in his mid twenties .You also see the changing times and how Zweig worked more recent times into the narrative like the fact when Ludwig arrives back there is a nazi parade taking place almost a small signpost to the future events that drew Austria into the second world war .If you love a tale of lost dreams and loves and longing this is one that you will love .

Have you read Zweig ,if so which is you favourite book ?

The Confusions of young Törless by Robert Musil

the confusions of young Törless

The Confusions of young Törless by Robert Musil

Austrian fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Orginal title - Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß

Source – review copy

I have read Musil many years ago I was lucky to buy cheap copies of his huge epic the man without qualities .So had this one on my list of books to try especially as this year sees it’s a hundred year since the start of world war one .Robert Musil  is an Austrian writer ,he went to military school from 12- 17 ,after that went to study engineering then drifted into studying Philosophy and through that decide to write The confusion of young  Törless was his Debut novel .He did serve in the first world war and went on after the war to write his epic The man without qualities .

The closely woven veil of Frau Törless – the lady of around forty – concealed sad eyes , slightly reddened from crying .For now she had to say goodbye  .And it was hard for her to have to abandon her only child for so long to strangers ,unable to watch over her darling and protect him herself .

We see young Törless leaving effect on his mother .

Törless is a young boy when the book opens we see him with his parents waiting for the train to take him to Military school .We see him at first upset ,but then settle in and make friends at the school .But him and his two friends Beineberg and Reiting see a fellow cadet Basini steal from them ,they then decide to judge this boy themselves and descend into a a violent retribution on him .Basini is in love with Törless thou .Törless feels sorry for him in the end and tells him to own up to what he had done .Elsewhere we see Törless have a sexual awakening with a local women ( well lady of the night ) ,also his parents and how they have affect his view of the world from their own view of the world .

Beineberg continued his line of thought ” I think that for the moment we’ll keep him to ourselves – and punish him ourselves .For he has to be punished , for his arrogance if for nothing else .At most the school authorities would expel him and write a long letter to his uncle

The moment the boys take the law into their own hands .

Well this is a new translation pof the book from Oxford world classics and I can see why they have chosen now to do it the book was written in 1906 . But the events attitudes and views seen in the book can actually explain the events of the next forty years in both Austria and Germany .In fact the attitudes at times remind me of some of the fall out that had surround the Dreyfus affair ,which had been a scandal all over Europe when it happened in 1894 and was strangely finally sorted in 1906 around the time Musil had finished this book ,like that true life affair it showed a dark underbelly in certain people and certain classes of people at the time and that is Fascism  and racism .The views and attitudes shown in the book show why Austria and Germany descend into first into world war One the feeling of over bearing superiority  ,then as a knock on effect will lead to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis .A wonderful time to reissue this book. The book embodies part of what Golding showed in the Lord of the Flies how easily young men can divide and sub divided and make many violent acts  .Musil denied that the book was autobiographical mainly due to the heavy sexual content in it ,but one wonders how much else was from  what he saw and experienced at the time ?

Have you a favourite read that shows the build up to World war One ?

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Thoams Bernhard the loser Faber Finds

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Untergeher

Translator – Jack Dawson

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

Well I couldn’t take part in German Lit month and not review  a book by Thomas Bernhard could I ? I had read this for Thomas Bernhard week I did earlier this year but held it back for German lit month .I have mention quite a bit about Thomas  Bernhard and his life in my previous reviews and pieces all found here .This is the Fifth book by him I have read and review on the blog  .

The teacher’s child ruined my Steinway in the shortest period imaginable, I wasn’t pained by this fact, on the contrary, I observed this cretinous destruction of my piano with perverse pleasure. Wertheimer, as he always said, had gone into the human sciences, I had begun my deterioration process. Without my music, which from one day to the next I could no longer tolerate, I deteriorated, without practical music, theoretical music from the very first moment had only a catastrophic effect on me. From one moment to the next I hated my piano, my own, couldn’t bear to hear myself play again; I no longer wanted to paw at my instrument.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 65-70). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Now The loser isn’t very different to the other books I have read by Thomas Bernhard .It is told in the form of a monologue a recollection of two mens life and the event before ,during and after a meeting with the world-famous pianist Glenn Gould .We never get told are Narrators Name as he recounts how he and his friend Wertheimer they are both studying Piano at Salzburg .They are invited to see Gould play the Goldberg variations and are to say the least blown away bu this mans talent ,more than any one they know or have seen play .This revelation brings the two men to the edge and we see how for a long time after they try to discover a new way as they now see the music they loved isn’t worth as much .The narrator left music to become a philosopher  .The other Wertheimer is drawn into a dark spin of suicide and a life falling apart .

If I hadn’t met Glenn Gould, I probably wouldn’t have given up the piano and I would have become a piano virtuoso and perhaps even one of the best piano virtuosos in the world, I thought in the inn. When we meet the very best, we have to give up, I thought. Strangely enough I met Glenn on Monk’s Mountain, my childhood mountain.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 97-99). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Well as you see this has all of the traits you would expect from a Thomas Bernhard Novel a narrator ,art in this case classical music ,life’s falling apart .Now what makes this stand out a bit is the inclusion of Glenn Gould ,he is a real figure and his life could almost read like a Bernhard novel .I must admit I am not a huge Classical fan but among the few Albums I do have is Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations which I got after seeing the film thirty short films about Glenn Gould in the nineties .

I advise if you haven’t seen it try to next time it is on tv or on stream somewhere .This book is less bile filed than say the woodcutter is similar in style the monologue is very like the woodcutter in the way it recounts past events .But this book is more about loss ,loss of a dream ,loss of direction .The German title is actually a word that means more than loser meaning one that goes under ,almost like in the Stevie smith poem these character are in a sea of music and are drowning after seeing Gould  and this book is them waving at us .

Have you listened to Glenn Gould ?

I was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia

Pushkin_JackMortimer

I was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia

Austrian Fiction

Original title Ich was Jack Mortimer

Translator – Ignat Avsey

Source – Library copy

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Well on of the best things about Pushkin press and one of the reasons I choose to do a fortnight dedicated to their books is perfectly shown by this Novel originally published in 1933 ,we finally got to read it in English due to this translation .Alexander Lernet-Holenia was born in 1897 in Vienna ,he fought on the eastern fron in world war One and then in the inter war years became a writer ,he was a protege of the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke .He was first called up as he was still a reservist lieutenant and fought in the invasion of Poland but became wary of the Nazis and in 1941 wrote a book called the Blue Hour describe as the only Austrian resistance novel .He spent war trying to avoid combat and prison but after the war he grew to be a well Known figure in Austrian culture .

During that evening and the next morning .Spooner found out from the doormen in Allergasse and from the head waiter of the nearby Cafe Attache ,but in particular from a commissonare who used to sit either on the street corner or in a bar opposite ,under a sign with two white horses that the girl was called Marisabelle Von Raschitz .

Spooner tries to find the girl he gave a ride to in his cab .

The book follows Viennese Taxi driver Fredinad Spooner ,as over course of one November he gets drawn into a strange and dark world .He has a girlfriend, but he  has fallen for a girl he gave  a ride too and tries to find her and to try to catch her eye he drawn into a dark world as a few days late he picks up a ride that ends up dead in his cab this ride turns out to be the Jack Mortimer of the title .Spooner sees he has a hotel room reserved and thus he decides to  assumes the identity of this man ,with out even know who he really is .and because he Spooner is nervous of what may happen when the body is discovered in his cab .But who was Jack Mortimer and why is he in Vienna ? and why is he dead ?

He took the dead man’s belongings out of his pockets and put them out on the table .They ,too ,were wet to some extent ,and only the passport ,wallet and the letters ,which had been in the breast pocket ,had stayed almost dry

He opened the passport

And what did he find Spooner in this collection from the dead man in his cab

 

I Loved this book the feel is like a mix of what I love best of the Austrian fiction of the time a sort psychological tale of what drives people a sort Freudian look at Spooner why he does what he does    and the best of Noir america, the sort of  adventure when a unexpected door opens  by the finding of the body and how it draws Spooner into a darker world around him .I wasn’t surprised to find out it had also been film twice .In fact one of the main things I left the book with was a feel for a film I saw many years ago in fact I blame mention of Patricia Highsmith (some one I not read enough off )and a film by the German director Wim Wenders called American friend a version of the  Highsmith Book Ripley’s game and that sees the characters drawn into a dark world the darker side of Hamburg in that case .Another triumph from Pushkin press I hope to go back and try other books by this writer as I like his style that seems more american than his fellow writers at the time .

Have you read this writer ?

What gems from Pushkin press have you found ?

 

My prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

my prizes Thomas Bernhard

My Prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian non fiction

Original title Meine Presie

Translator Carol Brown Janeway

Source personnel copy

Well I am running late these days I was meant to have posted this last week but I’ve had a lot on at home and not been able to thinking to write posts .But I’ve decide to just sit today and try to write a post about this short work by The great Thomas Bernhard .The book is made up of nine pen sketches of events or reasoning’s about the events surround the nine major prizes he won during his writing career .Now as one imagines there is a lot in here for such a small book .

I picked the best-known gentleman’s outfitter with the descriptive name Sir Anthony , if I remember correctly it was nine forty – five when I went into Sir Anthony’s salon ,the award ceremony for the grillparzer prize was at eleven ,so I had plenty of time .I had intended to buy myself the best pure-wool suit in anthracite ,even if it was off the peg ,with matching socks ,a tie ,and an arrow shirt in fine cloth striped blue and grey .

If only getting all this was so easy .

My prize starts at the first prize he won the Grillprazer prize .We see how he describe thinking two hours before the show maybe a suit might be required to attend so he rushes to buy a suit for the event visits a well-known shop but actually a simple task is harder that it first seems  .Elsewhere we maybe gather some real insight into why he hates the arts in Austria so much for when he wins a later prize the Austrian state prize for literature ,we gain an insight that he had asked for money at an earlier date and been turned down by them .I could easily pick bits up from each of the pen sketches of the prize-winning but that for me would spoil the joy of you as a reader discovering this little gem and in turn supporting a small publisher as it is published by Noting hill editions a specialist in non fiction .We also get three of his speeches for winning city Bremen prize ,Austrian state prize and the largest prize he won the Georg Buchner prize which is a German language prize .Needless to say reading between the lines in these we can see a lot of bile and also just about that wry humour .

Honoured ministers ,honoured guests ,

There is nothing to praise ,nothing to damm ,nothing to accuse ,but much that is absurd ,when one thinks about death .

We go through life impressed ,unimpressed ,we cross the scene ,everything is interchangeable ,we have been schooled more or less effectively in a state where everything is ,mere props but it is all in error

the opening words of his Austrian state winning prize .

Well this happen to sync  nicely with another book I was reading at the same ,that I had  been sent by Pushkin press called the parrots by the Italian Flippo Bologna ,  that follows three writers in the build up to a big book prize that they are up for, so it was quite interesting comparing the fiction  story of writers up for prizes and the factual version of these accounts .I feel thou short  this book ,we do get a lot of clues to what made Bernhard the man he was ,yes he hate prizes ,but needed the money to carry on living as a writer .So he was caught in a catch 22 situation ,in not really like the whole prize system but having to take part to make a living .His often frank words a refreshing we all see the prize system from the outside and I have been lucky to have been to three prize nights ,have spoken to writers but to get Bernhard’s insight into this is amazing he really is a writer that doesn’t .But we do see other parts giving so money he won to a charity .A shock as well he did really like one of the prizes ,now I won’t say which but he did go to Hamburg to see it given out .

Do you like writers writing about the prize process ?

Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard

Old master by Thomas Bernhard Penguin

Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title - Alte Meister. Komödie

Translator – Ewald Osers

Source – Personnel copy

Well usually I start with a bit of a biography  about a writer .But I have already twice before mention Bernhard’s Life for those who want to know more  there is loads online to examine about him .Also in recent weeks I have watch a couple of pieces on You tube with Bernhard in .Well all this research has for me firmed Bernhards place in my mind as one of the most important post war writers in any language  ,as later in the week when I review his non fiction piece My prizes his memoir and a couple of speeches .Bernhard was a one-off and that what makes his fiction so unique ,but also as my earlier piece written by Andrej Nikoladis showed an influence on many present day writers .So to Kick off Thomas Bernhard week (I am a day late but maybe at some point I’ll tell you why I ve been away recently ).

Although I had arranged to meet Reger at the Kunsthistorches Museum at half past eleven ,I arrived at the agreed spot at half past ten in order ,as I had deided to observe him for once ,from the most ideal angle possible and undisturbed ,Atzbacher writes

The opening lines of the Old Master

So old master actually has a subtitle A comedy ,on the whole it is a little lighter and maybe more accessible than some of the other books I have read by Bernhard .We meet Reger ,his is a critic ,a music critic to be precise .He spends every day sitting in the Viennese art museum on the same bench opposite a painting of an old man by Tintoretto   (we get a whole spiel  on how he manages to get the same bench every day his friendship of sorts to the guard that has like Reger been in the same room for a number of years so makes sure this strange man gets his seat everyday ) Any Reger has summoned his friend to meet him Atzbacher ,he is a philosopher yet to be published .What follows is the usual Bernhard traits Reger of course hates the music on the whole he reviews ,we find out why he spends everyday watching the same picture .But we also have some humour great descriptions from Reger of the difference of nationalities as they visit the museum how each has a way of going round  and viewing the pictures .What we meet is two men slightly (well a hell of a lot really ) fed up with the status Quo .For Reger you could have the narrator of the woodcutters or the loser (a book  that was mentioned by Nikolaudis in his post and one I will be reviewing later this week as well )  .

My father was an unmusical person ,he said ,my mother was musical as I believe ,even highly musical ,but her husband over the years had riven her musicality out of her .My parents were a frightful couple ,he said they secretly hated one another but were unable to separate.

Reger on growing up ,maybe why he is a music critic now .

Michael Hofmann summed up Bernhard by saying his books had no moving parts .That is it these aren’t action books more books of thoughts and Bernhards favourite subject to Kick” the Art society” the pretensions folk  ,the hierarchy and of course top of the list to be kicked is Austrian art .Bernhard is like an old curmudgeon he blows and puffs ,but in his case what he writes is so engrossing and yet again this is the case with the Old Master its easy to see Bernhard in his characters both Reger and Atzbacher seem to have traits of Bernhard the man .He like music and Choose Glenn Gould as a character in one of his books ,in fact the loser .He also has had Philosophy as  subject in a couple of others .As for the writing it is his usual style of full on the book is really a 250 page paragraph ,he blurs at times it is hard to tell who is talking as I say I often feel Bernhard characters are just a mouthpiece for him so at times it gets blurred who is speaking but in this case it doesn’t matter its like coming back from a great night out you remember something brilliant was said but you struggle to remember who has said it .I was asked at the start of this project which to suggest and at that time I had said the woodcutter ,but now I think this book is a great entry point for new readers of Thomas Bernhard .

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Have you read The Old Masters ?

Letter from an unknown woman by Stefan Zweig

Letter from an unkown women Zweig

Letter from an Unkown by Stefan Zweig

Translator – Anthea Bell

Original title – Brief einer Unbekannten

Source – library

Well I have reviewed review a Zweig before the post office girl ,I really enjoyed that book and wonder why it had taken three years to review another book by him I did read a personnel copy of Journey into the past but as usual i was rather over ambitious in my reading and quite slow in my reviewing so my review of that will be up at some point probably later in year when German lit month runs round again any way to this book which is a new collection of one long novella and three short novellas / short stories any way the all have female as a main character or narrator I think that is the main connection between them .Also love in its many forms links them .

I have taken a fifth candle over to the table where I am writing to you now .For U cannot be alone with my dead child without weeping my heart out ,and to whom am I speak, in this terrible hour if not to you ,who were and are everything to me ?

Part of the letter from the unknown woman .

Letter from an unkown woman is the main story in the book and the main one I am going to mentions as of the four piece in this book it struck me as the strongest in both Narrative and Plot .The story revolves around a letter that has been sent to a famous writer .A thirteen page letter from this women is a life story a young girl has a crush a famous writer ,she then grows works in a shop  ,yet over time ,this is actually his neighbour but he has never noticed her ,sad and love that has gone unreturned ,but then there is a meal and something else happens .Other stories see a women met a man she was once head or heels in love with but he has change since she last saw him into a total bore .

My dear Ellen,

I know you will be surprised to receive a letter from me after so long ; it must be five or perhaps even six years since I last wrote to you .I believe that then it was a letter of congratulations on your youngest daughters marriage .This time the occasion is not so festive ,and perhaps my need to confide the details of a strange encounter to you ,

A women tells her friend of meeting some one she once loved in The debt paid late .

These like the other books I’ve read by Stefan Zweig show the strength of his female voice I think of all the male writers I ve ever read Zweig’s female voice seems to be the best I ve read ,never sure if part of it is in my head I always have a fixed view of his women a sort mix of merchant ivory” room with a view “characters mixed with the females from Gustav Klimt’s paintings but any way it works for me .He is also very much of that age of looking at relationship and love the follow on from the like of Freud analysis in fiction what make females tick is very much his think ,also class which at the time he wrote still means a lot .I also  think ,Like in  a recent discussion with Tony about another prolific writer Llosa(I know he is modern and latin american but he writes a lot of good books ) ,Zweig is a master of good writing ,steady  maybe not spectacular .I know in some places his writing has been discussed as overrated but unfortunately I am in the other camp that feels he is an important writer that needs to be kept in the public eye .Ok he may not be a Porsche (But we all want a 911 as a kid ,well I did as they are flash and fast ,but on the whole unpractical for everyday life ,sorry to any readers that on one ) no Zweig is an AUDI( reliable, dependable and a car that goes past and you say I like one of them ) so I hope you get my meaning he is a writer that no matter which book it is a short story ,novella or novel you seem to finish feeling you’ve been in the hand of a master .

Have you a favourite book by Him ?

Every Seventh wave by Daniel Glattauer

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Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer

Austrian fiction

Translators – Jamie Bulloch(Leo) & Katharina Bielenberg (Emmi)

Original title Alle sieben Wellen

Source – Review copy

Now ever so often you read a book , the first in a series of books and you then  can’t wait to read the second part .This for me was the case with this book it is the follow-up to love virtually ,which was one of my favourite books of recent years and struck a chord with the romantic in my heart .Since the last book came out Glattauer has had another two vols of his articles for der standard and a novel.So as I write this having just listen to the Radio four version of this book ,which featured David Tennant as Leo and Emila Fox as Emmi here is a link to the Iplayer where it will be for a week .The earlier version of the first book appears to be available on you tube from links I saw earlier on twitter .

Subject: Query

Good evening ,Mr systems manager .How are you? Quite chilly for March , don’t you think ? Still after such a mild winter I don’t think we should be complaining .Oh yes since I’m here ,I’d be grateful if you’d answer a query .We have an acquaintance in common .His name is Leo Leike .Unfortunately I appear to have mislaid his current e-mail address .Would you be so kind and possibly …? many thanks

With my warmest virtual wishes ,

Emmi Rother

Emmi at the start when Leo still not there talking to herself in e-mail

So we are back to the story of Leo and Emmi .Last time Leo had ,left to go to america and had stopped using his Email account and all Emmi was getting is a systems manager message saying the email account was no longer in use .So the books opens and it is a few weeks later Emmi tries to e-mail then six months still no reply barring the system manager reply .Then lights are observed in Leo’s old flat and guess what she e mails to say so and no System manager reply hopeful she then gets a reply from Leo ,he is back and thus starts this strange e relationship the e-mail start slowly and cautiously .Whats happened in between ? who is Pamela ? what happened between Emmi and Bernhard her husband since Leo left ? All these questions get answered and what the hell does the title mean ? Well I suppose I can give that away whilst e mailing on Holiday Emmi Tells Leo about an old saying on the island where she and Bernhard are having a Holiday that every seventh wave that hits the shore is a bigger and stranger wave than the other ones.

Subject : A stranger 

For an hour I’ve been deleting chunks of e-mail in which I’m trying to describe what I thought of you at our meeting .I can’t seem to collect my impressions .No matter what I write it sounds banal , clichéd

Leo tries to absorb their first real meeting …….

As you can tell I love this book and would hate to give away too much to you as the reader  I think it is a book that every romantic person should read and discover what happens for themselves .Yes there are relationships hurt because of Leo and Emmi but at the heart of the book is the courtship a dance so to speak .We again see Glattauer using e mails to give life again to the epistolary novel .We also see a change in the dynamic the last book saw Leo as the main one pushing the romance this time the tables are switched it is Emmi that is the driving force trying to turn the virtual in to the real world romance  .Yet again the couple behind the translation have worked wonders by giving Emmi and Leo ever so slightly a male and female voice in English  as they translated each character .For me I was so reminded of Amanda  and myself’s romance we meet online and lived apart and used to text a lot so I got the times when Leo said it is hard to tell what mood Emmi was in by Email alone it is .I also thought the way he brought the novel to an end so suited to this story .

Do you have a favourite romantic book ?

Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard my 300th review

Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard

German title Holzfällen: Eine Erregung,

Austrian fiction

Translator – David McLintock

Source – library

Well after reading the corrections earlier this year ,I felt I need another fix of him before the year was out ,so when this had appeared in the library system I ordered it in .So I said a bit about him in my post earlier this month so I ll add this gobbit .In his last will ,he had banned all future productions and editions of his books within Austria for the remaining length of the copyright .This dislike of the system of arts and appreciation of arts within Austria is apt for this book .

While everyone was waiting for the actor ,who had promised to join the dinner party in the Gentzgasse after the premier of “The Wild Duck ” ,I observed the Auersbergers carefully from the same wing chair I had sat in nearly every day during the fifties , reflecting that it had been a grave mistake to accept their invitation .

Our narrator sat at the start of the book .

The arty types of Vienna have just been to the Burgtheater to see the latest production a version of the Henrik Ibsen play “the wild ducks “(Which opens as a dinner party is about to start rather like this book ) .So the arty folk all arrive at the Ausbergers house awaiting dinner and the chance to meet the star of the show .We meet our Narrator he is sat in a wing backed chair .we know this as it is frequently mentioned .The narrator is by his opinion an outsider of the group have recently returned to Vienna .So as the nights go on we see the actor ripped apart by the guests and the whole art scene in Vienna dissected piece by piece ,this is interrupted as the narrator adds his own feelings on this as well .The evening moves on and as the drink flows the arguments and observations grow stronger .

At this point the actor suddenly started recounting anecdotes ,the kind of theatrical anecdotes that always go down well in Vienna and provide life support for many a Viennese party that would otherwise be in danger of dying of paralysis .Most Viennese parties are able to survive for a few hours only because of these anecdotes .

Parties can dive into boredom our narrator tells us

Well this is what I love about Bernhard intense prose that just drag you in you feel as thou you are the narrator ,he is a writer but maybe not the best or maybe not as well thought of as he should be either way you feel this in some part this is Bernhard himself thinly veiled .It is in a lot of ways about how you view art to appreciate it or pull it apart at the seams and seemingly pull talented people apart because of minor flaws .I was reminded as I read this of one particular episode of Frasier where Niles and Frasier were meant to go to the theatre to see a famous actor but due to a mistake end up spending the show outside due to the own pretensions not letting them loose face and end up meeting and talking to the star even thou they missed the show completely .You feel in this book you are in a room of Austrian Nile’s and Frasier’s ,they would slide in so well with the crowd in the book .I think this is my favourite by him and maybe a good place to start with Bernhard as it isn’t overly long .Oh and fitting choice to be the 300th review on Winstonsdad

Have you read this book ?

Winters in the south by Norbert Gstrein

Winters in the South by Norbert Gstrein

orginal title Die Winter im Süden,

Austrian Fiction

Translators – Anthea Bell and  Julian Evans

Source – review copy

Well Norbert Gstrein name was new to me when this book dropped through my door a few weeks ago ,but a quote from the great W G Sebald on Gstrein last book that was translated into english over ten years ago “an exceptional work of prose fiction” So Norbert Gstrein who is he Well he grew up in a small hidden village in the Tyrol in Austria ,his brother is a famous ski racer ,he was interested in maths early in his life ,he later studied it a university ,but after that took up writing it was his novel english years that first caught the eye that was his third this Winter in the South is his sixth of the seven he has written .

It was in her second month in Zagreb in the autumn the war began ,that the news reached Marija that made her life Foreign to her for ever .She had not set eyes on her father for more than forty – five years ,and had thought he was dead for almost as long, so at first she did not react at all to the advertisement that the neighbours had left outside her door and that couldn’t possibly have been from him.

the book opens as Marija world is thrown doubly into chaos .

 

Winter in the south ,is a book about people and war ,but more about  two wars the second world war and the Balkan conflict .The two main people are Marija a women in her fifties whose marriage on rocky ground ,but is returning to her native Croatia and to Zagreb ,as this happens her father who fled leaving he Marija and her mother as he was a well-known Croatian fascist in the second world war ,he ran to Argentina .But the father is now drawn by the war and splitting of Yugoslavia and the return of Fascism maybe to Croatia ,also to get to know the daughter he hasn’t seen for over fifty years .But will she forgive ,is he to old for war ? Do people change ,where is home and what is important to people is it family or politics that  matters ?

Whenever he felt like breathing some life into the stalemate of his Zagreb existence he talked about Buenos Aires in the same homesick way he talked about Croatia back in Argentina .

The father is maybe a man now with no homeland after he returns

This book is full of threads a classic piece of central European writing a book that dives into the soul of people and what drives them  .The prose follows ,the father flight from Vienna after a killing in 1945 ,his following life in Argentina (having just read Gombrowicz diaries on his time in Argentina it was interesting to see a fictional take on living there ).Then there is his daughter life in the Croatia of the nineties that is beginning to drift towards the madness of war again .Gstrein shows both the personnel cost of war ,the story of a family broken apart after the second world war .But also the echos in the conflict in Yugoslavia that hark back to  as the old wounds of world war two surfaced as the war began ,as the fact that the two major part of Yugoslavia had been on different sides in the war .Then the father why is this man in his seventies at ,east so willing to go to war again ?As many of you that read this blog on a regular basis know I have a soft spot for Balkan conflict stories  and also for fiction set round Argentina ,due to time working in the nineties with many refugees in Germany from this war .Anthea Bell and Julian Evans have managed to make this complex work come alive in English and yet again another great selection from Machlehose one does wonder why it has been ten years between translations for a writer with seven novels and a number of prizes for his books ,He seems a hidden gem of Austrian writing .

Have you read his earlier book The English years ?

 

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