Indigo by Clemens J. Setz

Indigo by Clemens J. Setz 

Austrian fiction 

Original title – Indigo

Translator – Ross Benjamin

Source – review copy

 

Just like watching the detectives.
Don’t get cute!”
It’s just like watching the detectives.
I get so angry when the teardrops start,
but he can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart.
Watching the detectives.
It’s just like watching the detective

We not only watch the detectives but join them in this book ?

I have been vaguely aware of Clemens J Setz ,I had seen his name on a few German book prize list over the last few years , so when this book arrived from Serpents tail I was delighted to be able to try what seems to be one of the rising stars of German literature .Studied at Graz ,after university ,he went on and became a translator ,then a writer and poet ,his second novel the frequencies was on the German book prize shortlist (the German version of the booker prize ) ,he has also won Leipzig book fair prize .Indigo is his third novel and his first to be translated into English .This novel was also on the german book prize shortlist .A quick taster for German Lit month .

The wonderful inner peace , the first in a long while ,dissipated immediately when he stepped out of the building .Twenty-nine years on the planet and in all that time probably four hours altogether of perfect peace .During the years at Helianau it had been no more than three minutes ,Not counting sleep

Robert tatzel just as he is set free into the world ,free from Indigo .

Indigo ,is a book with two main characters A maths teacher named Clemens Setz and one of his former pupils Robert Tatzel .The title refers to a kid that in 2007 appears in children that affects any adults that get near them with severe headaches ,nausea and vertigo .Clemens is teaching at the time when the children in his class that catch this Indigo condition.Clemens tries to discover what has happened to his pupils ,but is meet with brick walls and the loss his jobs  .They are driven of in a strange type of mask .Then a number of years later one of these pupils Robert tatzel who with age has grown out of the Indigo condition is reading a paper when he discovers that his former teacher Clemen Setz had been on trial and acquitted for a brutal murder .

Acquitted in a trial for the violent death of a man from Romania .Kept his dogs in a dungeon for years . severe abuse .Death by slow flaying .Prime suspect Setz free as of today .The family of the victim , a small picture .people standing there sadly .In recent years mainly a science fiction novels ,a turn away from literature .Currently living as a freelance writer near .

captions from picture Robert finds about his old teacher .

Now that is the basic story ,but this book is a wonderful German take on Post modern fiction , that through these two stories we almost join these two men as they try to discover what has happen in both case ,why were the children taken ? what cause the Indigo ? Why did Clemens Setz end up in a trial for murder .We meet a mix of files, letters, book reviews , news  stories , clippings and pictures  as the two men try to discover fifteen years apart what happen to the other ,almost like a snake trying to eat its own tail it coils and coils ,making this one of those books that is hard to pin down .It’s a real journey through it ,I was reminded at the times  of  writers  like Pynchon or even Perec  both of whom like Setz here tried detective fiction of one sort or another in their time . There is an inventive hand in Setz writing with all the documents letters etc add a dimension that I haven’t seen done as well recently Strene did it first and Dos Passos did it in his books ,even BS Johnson in some ways but Setz for me made this feel like I was detective alongside them ,I ‘m sure each reader like me has their own take on what happened and why because we can all read into what we see from our own lives ,this make this unusual and unique book and new voice in German lit .

 

German lit month here again …

Well it’s that time of year when I start keeping my eye out and looking through the recent buys from the last twelve months to find some books for Lizzie’s and Caroline’s  German lit month ,well after it was announced earlier this week my first trip was to the Library to see if they had any Joseph Roth week is the theme for the last week ,I have only read him once before and missed out on getting the recent Granta reissues  from the other year but luckily for me my library had a couple .

IMG_1944 (1)

So I have two great books to read for that week both sound great I had a different copy of job out of library a few years ago but never got chance to get to it so now is the chance ,I also fount this gem

IMG_1945 (1)

An old Gunter Grass novel Local Anaesthetic ,a story of an idealstic teacher ,another section of German lit month is to read a prize winner and Gunter won the Nobel prize in 1999 ,I also remember I have the box but need to get hold of the peeling the onion to read his memoir in order .

Well that is it for now I have a number of other books a couple of surprises among them ,have you any plans ?

The Appointment by Herta Müller

the-appointment

The Appointment by Herta Müller

German fiction

Original title – Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet

Translator – Michael Hulse and Phillip Boehm

Source – Library copy

He’s shining brightly, he can’t be a man
He is the genius of the Carpathians
He’s running checks on his mother’s womb
He’s gonna be reborn real soon

Ciao, Ceaucescu! Ciao, Ceaucescu! Ciao, Ceaucescu!
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!

Blues for Ceausescu from the irish band Fatima Mansion source

Now I missed this off the end of my women in translation selection,which was a shame as it is one from one of my favourite female writers Herta Müller ,the German nobel prize-winning writer ,she grew up in Ceausescu Romania ,most of her books revolve around that regime and time .I have reviewed Nadirs ,The passport and Hunger angel before on the blog .Her books are always richly textured .

I’ve been summoned .Thursday at ten sharp .

Lately I’m being summoned more and more often ten sharp on Tuesdays ,ten sharp on Saturday ,on Wednesday ,Monday .As if years were a weak ,I’m amazed that winter comes so close on the heels late summer .

The opening lines as she catches the tram to another appointment .

Now appointment is classic Herta Müller ,we follow a young women  who works as a seamstress ,she is on a tram to an Appointment to see the secret police about an integration .She has done this a number of times before as she remembers the times before she has been to this same place ,also her family and friends .Her rural up bringing ,her childhood crush on her father ,to moving to the city .Along the way we see her friends and family all affect by the strict Ceausescu regime ,some have died some are badly damaged and every one is affect .So why has she been called into see them this time ,she has sneakily been sowing secret messages in the linings of  suit she has been working on ,these messages are marriage proposals for any Italian male that might happen to feel them in the suit and find it and her give her and escape from all this  .Does she turn up for this appointment today .

For a whole week ,when summer came and people began running around in short shelves ,Paul and I were suspicious of a man who to this day walks over from the shops every morning at ten to eight ,empty-handed .

You end up trusting no one in a regime like this .

Now this book  is rather like Kafka as we never fully know where or what the name even is off this unknown young women .In the tradition of Kafka there is a large feeling of menace in this book and being under the thumb but never quite sure why  .The young womans previous visits to see the interrogators ,she has been so much she is even given a kiss on the hand when she arrives one time by one of the ,very sinister and creepy .The book is like her other books rich in the detail of everyday life the world jumps of the pages ,the secret sewing she does ,the friends family she has lost her previous visits all bring the brutal communist Romanian regime to life  ,what is it like living under a totalitarian regime where you trust no one and have no idea what tomorrow will bring for you ,The original  German title which basically translates as “Today I would prefer not to met ” says something more than the uk title ,which I felt it  has been given to give a Kafka feel to the book as his novel titles were also short and ambiguous .I ‘ve just land of green plums left to read of her books already translated ,so lets hope she has some more published in English translation soon  .Have you read Herta Müller ?

Someday we’ll tell each other everything by Daniela Krien

someday we'll tell each other everything

Someday we’ll tell each other everything by Daniela Krien

German fiction

Original title – Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen.

Translator Jamie Bulloch

Source – Review copy

Despair and Deception, Love’s ugly little twins
Came a-knocking on my door, I let them in
Darling, you’re the punishment for all my former sins

I let love in

source Nick cave’s Let love in ,did Henner let love in was he ready ?

Time is running short for women in translation month I ‘ve three books left to put up for the month here is the first a German novel from one of my favourite publishers Maclehose .Daniela Krien was born in Jena in former East Germany  ,then lived in Lepzig ,she has been a scriptwriter for a number of years for a German film company that make films about artists .This was here début novel and won high praise in Germany for it use of  Powerful language it also was a best-selling German  Audiobook .

 Henner truly is a handsome man .I realised that when he was in the shop :a hulking body that moves powerfully , but with fine facial features .He has deep-set ,expressive eyes surrounded by small ,dark lines ,and a hint of bitterness around his mouth ,although when he smiles it disappears completely .You can’t tell he’s a drinker .

Maria first time see really sees Henner as the young women she is now .

Now it is 1990 the wall has fallen in Germany and slowly east is meeting west ,this story is the story of that summer .But this is in the hinterland of East Germany in a sleepy back water town .Maria is a 16  year old that is enjoying her first real summer of freedom .Now next door to her parents farm lives Henner a hard-drinking man ,that has many dogs and a reputation for being a womaniser.Now I have no need to say any more really .But it’s not as you may think ,no Maria is the one that falls for the rough unkempt Henner and starts to make moves for him .Henner responds as this affair grows it starts to cause Maria problems at home what will she do ? How does Henner really feel for Maria ? . where will they all be when summer is over ?

Shortly before midnight I leave Henner’s house carrying my case .As a goodbye he takes my head in his hands and plants a kiss on my forehead .Then he puts his index finger to his lips .I nod,perhaps not distinctly enough ; i sense that his eyes on my back lack their usual certainty .So I turn and repeat the gesture he was looking for .

The affair has to be secret at first .

I initially wasn’t keen on this when I was sent it from Maclehose something about the cover said a female read (I know I shouldn’t think this but I did ) .But I was sure there would be something in it I would like as Jamie whose previous translation choices I have always enjoyed .I am so pleased I looked past the cover on this one .The book is a reverse of what on the surface you imagine a 16-year-old girl and forty-year man would be and that is the Man seducing the younger girl .Maria is a great character a rebellious dreamy  teen want to shake the shackles of her family ,she is dreamy and sees Amour Fou in Henner .Yes this is a tale of passion ,passion for the wrong man but she sees more in him than maybe Henner sees in himself  .A summer romance but more than the average summer romance no this affair  is a raging forest fire of a romance and both may get burned in the end if they don’t control it .All this and in the background little hints at the joining  of east and west Germany ,one could almost say this relationship is rather like the joining  of the two  Germany’s  Maria as west German  young dreamy and in love and Henner broken ,stumbling through his life as East Germany .Have you a favourite book about romance desire or passion ?

Manja by Anna Gmeyner

manja

Manja by Anna Gmeyner

Austrian Fiction

Original title – Manja Ein Roman um fünf Kinde

Translator – Kate Phillips

Source – Library

[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
― Jim Henson,Source this summed the book up well for me 

So I decide for women in translation month to do a walk through the shelves of the local library to find something I didn’t know about and this was the one that I found ,I have other books from Persephone books including the Nemirovsky short story collection ,so another translation in the series was a real surprise for me ,but also a female writer from Austria which most of the books I have reviewed are male writers so it’s a welcome edition to the collection .Anna Gmeyner was born in Vienna ,born into a liberal Jewish family ,she married and divorced young she spent time in Paris and Berlin writing scripts as well as book .She fled to Scotland in 1933 ,this book was written in Exile in 1938 it was originally published in English under the title the wall and this is a new translation and brought back the original title .

The five bright stars of Cassiopeia could ,for a moment ,be seen above the church tower .The they disappeared behind scurrying black clouds .

The intro first lines sums up the five friend born on the same day I feel .

Manja is a story set in the inter war years in a small German town ,the book is told in five stories of five friends born on the same day from their birth to the early rumblings of the Nazis and war .The five friend Heini ,Franz ,Harry ,Karl and the title character Manja ,now this is four boys and a girl ,they become friends at school .But each has a different backgroung Heini is from a liberal family his father a doctor and a piano teacher mother .Harry comes from a rich family ,but his father is half jewish .Franz  is from a middle class  family his father Anton is drawn in by the Nazis .Karl famliy is working class his father is very left wing and Maja is from Poland orginally .We see the years from the children but also each of these five familes as they sail their course through the inter war years as others rise others start to feel that darkness of Nazism causing trouble for them .A clever way of portraying the inter war years from every angle of Austrian society and even throug Manja a Pole living in Austria .

At the wall where they had been meeting one another every saturday and wednesday evening for nearly four years ,Karl ,Franz,Harry and Heini were waiting for Manja ,who was coming today for the last time : tomorrow she was moving with her mother and brothers to another town .

The orginal english title refers to this wall where the kids meet .

Now this is a great choice for Women in translation month as Anna Gmeyner does just what Zweig does and that is write the opposite sex perfectly this is a tale of boys growing up and watching their fathers through their eye and it works as each sees what the years going by brings .It also wonderfully catches family life at time ,Gmeyner lived in German at the time the book is set so it has a similar feeling of being true ,I was reminded of Christopher  Isherwoods Berlin books ,which like this book  showed the slow rise of Nazis from a bit of a joke to a conquering force it became  .It plays well what happens when views of kids follow their parentsviews and lives as they twist and turn through out the years and we see our childhood friends through our parents Eyes ,the shift of Liberal attitudes of the twenties to the far right vision sees Harry’s family feeling the rise Nazism .The book was naturally banned at the time it came out and took a while to be reissued in Germany in 1984 .Have you read this book ?

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

Look who's back

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

German fiction

Original title – Er ist wieder da

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – Review copies

There are times a book published elsewhere in the world gets noticed before it is even translated this is one such book it cause a storm when it was published in Germany ,and me with my finger just on the pulse really hoped it had a uk publisher pick it up so when those lovely folks at Maclehose said they had brought the rights and the rising star of translation from German Jamie Bulloch had been given the task of translating the book I knew it was going be great .Timur Vermes was born in Nuremberg to a German mother and Hungarian father he has written for various paper in German and also ghost-written a couple of books .This is his first novel .

The boys gathered around me , but kept a certain distance .After affording me a cursory inspection , the tallest of the youths , clearly the troop leader ,said :

“You alright ,boss ?”

Despite my apprehension ,I could not help noticing that the Nazi salute was missing altogether .I acknowledge that his casual form of address , mixing up “Boss” and  “Führer “

Just after he wakes up and talks to a group of boys he still thinks it is 1940 something .

 

Well to the book Look who’s back ,now from the cover on the top you may already have a clue what the book is about .We meet Hitler but not in 1940’s German no he has woken up in the middle of Berlin in 2011 .Now he has to adjust to modern Germany .At first people see him as a bloke dressed as Hitler maybe from a party the night before,as Hitler slowly gathers that he has been brought forward sixty plus year his beloved fatherland as he sees it now is in a state of trouble .So he decide to try to regain power but as he thinks he is starting to be taken seriously .People actually think he is a very clever satire act ,but as it unfolds they laugh but the laughter stops with the more he says .As he become a star on You tube with his rants and views .Bur what do the modern extreme right make of him ? Will he ever accept a German run by a women ?

My supporters were fewer in number than ever before .And,mein Gott , there had been times in the past when they were in terribly short supply .I have a clear recollection of that occasion back in 1919 when I paid my first visit to what was still then the German worker’s party : seven people were present .

He starts small again in the present but remembers the past .

Loook who’s back is part of the continuing German looking back at the war years and figures involved in the war years ,this started a couple of decades ago with films like Europa ,europa ( a film following a Young Jewish boy who joins the Hitler youth to avoid the death camps ) ,Stalingrad ( a group of German soldiers get cut off from the troop and stuck in the deep Russian winter )  then of course Downfall .Now Timur has tackled modern German as  viewed through the eyes of the past and how often have we wondered what the  leaders of the past would make of the present .What would Churchill make of modern Britain is one thing I wondered ? Also the part I like is how Hitler is now viewed as a figure of fun by the modern German public what was once his true power the rant speech is now just surreal to a modern German public .It also shows how we view people in Modern media his rise now is because he is viewed as a clever satire ,but isn’t ,but people just think he is pulling the wool over their eyes .Vermes has tackle something that at times is still at the heart of modern Germany ,how did the past happen and could it happen again ? Jamie also really caught that voice of Hitler well .

Do you have a favourite satirical novel ?

 

Death in Pont-Aven by Jean-Luc Bannalec

death_in_pont-aven

Death in Pont-aven by Jean-Luc Bannalec

German crime novel

Original title – Bretonische Verhältnisse: Ein Fall für Kommissar Dupin

Translator – Sorcha Mcdonagh

Source -review copy

When I receive the email from Hesperus press about this the first two things that caught my attention in the blurb  was the setting for the Novel the Breton region in France an area that has always interested me  as it is quite distinct from other parts of France and the other thing was the main character was a Caffeine junkie and anyone that knows me well knows I love my coffee so I knew I would feel some if as little part of kinship with Commissaire Dupin .Now who is Jean-Luc Bannalec ? Well he was born in Brest ,his father was A Breton and his mother was Germany ,he lives in France and Germany .Although it well may actually be  the name is a pseudonym of a a well-known German Publisher Jörg Bong this was mention in a piece about the books runaway success in Germany in Die welt newspaper  .

Dupin had spent his whole life amidst the glamour of Paris ,but two years and seven months ago he had been “relocated” to this remote backwater due to “certain disputes ” (as the internal memos had put it ) and ever since then had drunk his petit cafe in the Amiral ,it was a ritual as delightful as it was inflexible .

Dupin left Paris under a bit of a cloud .

The book is set as I said in Breton ,more specific in the small sleepy town of Pont-Aven where Commissaire Dupin a grumpy Parisian whom has for one reason or another end up in this quiet back water ,where he has chance to sit in cafes all day drinking endless cups of Latte and watching the world go by .When one day the 91-year-old owner of a local hotel is found dead and it is all rather gruesome this makes Dupin investigate what appears a classic closed room murder ,but as he goes through the crime and the people surrounding this well-known village that had for years been a home for many famous artist ,we discover the is more than meets the eye to the crime .

The pool pf blood looked grotesquely large to Dupin .It had spread out in a shapeless mass across the uneven stone floor .Pierre-Louis Pennac was a tall man ,thin ,wiry ,with short grey hair .An imposing figure even at ninety-one years old .

The body of Pierre-Louise is found in the hotel he had worked as manager since 1947

Now this fits in the classic crime thriller genre Dupin maybe could be best compared with Andrea Camilleri and his well-known detective Montalbano .They both investigate crime in a different setting than expect Breton isn’t so well-known and similarly Montalbano is in Scilly which other than it mafia connection is relatively unknown  .They also both like to sit in Cafes in Dupin case and of course in Montalbano it is in the restaurants eating .Jean-Luc has also used a classic type of case for his début the closed room case a person dead in a locked room and no sign of how they died this has been a staple of the crime novel from the start when Poe used it in murder on the Rue morgue .So as you see this has all the hallmarks of what makes a great crime novel and it is in parts it is quirky than most crime novels I’ve read in translation the last couple of years .

Do you have a favourite setting for a crime novel ?

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 lost honour of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum  or how violence develops and where it can lead  by Heinrich Böll

Original title – Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann

German fiction

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

A couple of years ago I review the German Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll best known book billiards at half past nine .Böll  he refused to join the Hitler youth as a boy took an apprenticeship as a bookseller before becoming a full-time writer aged thirty .He was chairman of German PEN for a long time and then he chaired International PEN .He won the nobel prize in 1972 and passed away in 1985 .His book were mostly reissued in english a couple of years ago by Melville house .

Inquires into Blum’s activities during the four days in question progressed nicely enough at first ,and it was only when attempts were made to gather information about that sunday that they were brought up short

On the Wednesday afternoon Blorna personally paid Katharina Blum two full weeks wages at 280 marks per week ,one for the current week , the other for week to come

The reportage style of Böll writing in this book

 

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum ,follows Katharine Blum ,she gets drawn into a tabloid sensation after meeting a man at a party who it turns out is a bank robber  and she becomes the target of the newspaper “der zeitung “( this is thinly veiled version of the German paper der bild a sort of German  version of the sun ) .She is called a whore ,a communist sympathizer as she sees her private life torn apart by the paper and gets hate mail just for knowing one man . this leads her agreeing to do an interview with someone from the paper and now a couple of hours later she is at a police station giving this statement to the  police about recent events in her life  .What happened during that interview ? We see the story of her recent life unfurl .

Seven anonymous postcards , handwritten with “crude ” sexual propositions that in one way or another all included the words “communist bitch”

Four more anonymous postcards containing insulting political remarks but no sexual propostions .These marks ranged from “Red agitator ” to “Kremlin stooge “

The fall out of what of Katharina Blum life in the papers .

 

The style of this book is like a police report or a bit of reportage we get a detached feel on the events in Katharina’s life and what lead to her agreeing to the interview and how she meet the man ,whom dragged her into the presses eyes .Amazing this book to say it was written in the 1974 before the modern scandals and rise of the modern celebs that have been caught in the media spotlight  ,Katharine blum reminds me of many people who have been in the  UK papers over the last few years people who have  gotten  caught up in a big story by chance  or accident , like the landlord of a recent victim of a killer  who saws his life invade by the papers by just being her landlord or the woman that hid her child .Katharine story is a bit more than theres in the end but we see how far some can be pushed by the tabloids and the prying eyes .For a book that is nearly thirty years old I would say the themes and style of Böll writing is still relevant today as much as ever .He captures what it is to have your life fall apart it seems .A small work that packs a punch above its weight .

Have you read Böll ?

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 ?

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