The pigeon by Patrick Suskind

The pigeon by Patrick Suskind

German fiction

translator – John E. Wood


Suskind is best known for his book Perfume and also the fact he doesn’t give any interview so very little is known about his life .This book is a very short fable like story of a man driven to the edge by a pigeon .er that sounds familiar a bit like the raven by Edgar Allen Poe yes this is sort of homage to that .

So we meet Jonathan Noel a french security guard this man likes order in his life in fact you could say he is a little to order and has borderline OCD .hiding himself from the world since his wife left him .So when one day a Pigeon decides to make his home in his apartment.

Now he saw the pigeon .It was sitting to his right a distance of about five feet ,at the very end of the hall crouched in one corner ,So light fell on the spot and Jonathan cast such a brief glance in that direction ,that he could not discern whether it was asleep or awake ,whether its eyes was open or closed .

Jonathan weighing up the pigeon .

I could imagine Jonathan being a reality tv star ,the man who hide for 30 years with a job that has minimal contact with people as that is what Jonathan thinks he wants little human contact  and a small apartment in a large building where he can hide as he dash trying to be unseen for the communal bathroom .You feel  Suskind is maybe using this as wider vision of modern man don’t we all live somewhat in bubbles these days ?This story has that strong German tradition of fables like Grimm the story can be read in many ways and although very short 77 pages in this edition from penguin with a largish font  .is the pigeon a symbol of something Jonathan lost in his life and by trying to chase the pigeon he may find again ?The book owes much to the Poe poem for the inspiration of the bird to drive some one to the very edge and has what many would call a Kafkaesque edge to it in the fact that Jonathan is facing a unknown foe in the pigeon and also facing the world some what a new because of the pigeon .I liked perfume and was pleased this although different to perfume completely is still beautifully written tale .

Have you read this book ?

do you like fables ?


Nadirs by Herta muller

Nadirs by Herta Muller

German Fiction

translator Sieglinde Lug

Nadirs published under the title Niederungen was her debut collection from the Nobel prize winning German writer ,it was published by University of Nebraska press and was the first to be translated into English  .Like the other book Passport , I ve read by Herta Muller  it is again set in the romania of her youth (she was born and grew up in Banat the german speaking area ).The book is formed of one long almost novella length story that of the title Nadirs and then 13 shorter stories som less than a page  ,I will leave nadirs for you to read  and mention a couple of the short piece .One I loved was Swabian Bath at just over a page long it descibes a family having the weekly bath in front of the fire .as we see the family one after another jump in the bath .

Grampa must be in the bathtub ,Gandma thinks .Grandma closes the bathroom door behind her. Grandpa drains the bathwaterfrom the bath the little gray rolls of mother, of father ,of grandma and of granpa swirl round the drain .

saturday night bathing from The swabian bath .

another really short one workday does what it says on the tin and that is describe a day bit by bit from waking in the morning getting there and then work day and journey home .I love the imagery in Mullers writing she uses unusal terms to describe things so we get things decribes as black toad like ,rotten pear like .I believe a lot of this is due to the style of german that Muller writes and speaks in, that due to being broken off from mainland germany since the second world war has retained a lot of the old high german style of speaking and writing .She also has a dream like feel to her stories as they walk that fineline between realism and magic realism very well .Now this said Nadirs isn’t the easiest read it has abuse alcoholism animals been mistreated all contained within the  118 pages .But that said you get a great insight into growing up and being part of minority in another country as the people in this book are .Muller was a real shock when she won the nobel relatively unkown outside germany ,but even in this her debut collection that is now nearly 25 years old you can see a writer that is destined for the greatness and accolades she got later in her writing life   .I ve seen some people say the translation isn’t great but having read passport I think it is just Muller use of words that sometimes seem odd to us the english reader .

Source – library .

Have you read Muller ?

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November 2011


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