The taste of apple seeds by Katharina Hagena

the taste of apple seeds

The taste of apple seeds by Katharina Hagena

German literature

Original title –  Der Geschmack von Apfelkernen.

Translator Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy


Katharina Hagena studied English and German at Marbach , Freiburg and London ,after getting her degrees ,she spent two years working at the James Joyce centre at Zürich ,this lead to her first two books which are non fiction and relate to Joyce’s work .This is her first novel .she currently lives in Hamburg .

I was intoxicated by the aroma in the entrance hall : it still smelled of apples and old stone , and my great-grandmothers carved dower chest still stood by the wall .on either side of it were the oak chairs adorned with the family coat of arms : a heart divided by a saw .My mother and Aunt Inga’s heels clacked against the floor ,sand crunched beneath the leather soles .

such a feast for the reader in her words sums up the farm-house so well .

I feel awful it took me so long to get to this book I read it earlier in the year but I loved it so much I felt it need the chance of German lit month to get every one to know about it .The story follows Iris and her growing up ,a grandfather with a secret in  his past during the second world war and her grandmother ,now in her twenties her grandmother has died she is having to return to the house where she spent her summers and to the memories of those summers ,so she decides to spend the summer there and choose what to do with the farm-house remember her family the smells of summers gone by and her mother and also her  aunt a pair that were so close  growing up .A journey through iris growing up ,and having friends and falling in love for the first time  families and how three generations got on in post war Germany chuck in a handful of interesting side characters some that always wore black the odd secret her and there you have a stunning book .

An apple

Or , rather the remains of an apple .The flesh at the blossom end was missing ; the top half with its stalk lay in two pieces by his shoe .Lexow stood still , his breathing was rapid and fitful . there was a rustling in the tree .

The trees played a huge part in Iris memories .

I loved the nature of this book rural Germany a happy on the whole family a young girl finding herself in the world ,I don’t read many female writers mainly as it seems to be male writers on whole that get translated more so Lizzy and Caroline saying we had to read two weeks of female writing means I have read a few more female German writers recently  .Given Katharina hagena history and previous work I had to try to link it some how to Joyce and I can in the sense of place she capture that so well like in Joyce the smell of liver cooking is memory for me that lingered long after I read Ulysses ,this had the scent and taste of apples and apple  trees  the clean smell of there blossom in my mouth for weeks after I had put the book down.Also as ever I have to say Jamie has shown why he is one of the best young translators from German around as with his work on peirene you are hard pushed to find fault with it  .I’m pleased to see this visual book has had a film made and just released in Germany and by the look of the trailer they have caught what I visualized in the book .

Do you have a smell you have attached to a book you have read ?


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andrew Blackman
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 17:32:11

    Nice review! Haven’t heard of this one, but it sounds excellent. You’re right, Jamie Bulloch did a great job on The Mussel Feast, so it’s good to hear about some more of his work. I loved the first extract you quoted – can really see and smell the entrance hall.


  2. Vishy
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 07:46:35

    Wonderful review, Stu! I have this on my reading list for German Literature Month and I am hoping to read it soon. It is nice to know that Jamie Bulloch’s translation is wonderful. It is also wonderful that the book has been made into a movie. I hope I can watch it after I read the book. Thanks for posting the link to the movie trailer.


  3. Caroline
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 14:16:24

    Great review, Stu. I’ve had this for years. I bought it right after it came out but since I hold back on reviewing books that have not been translated, I sort of forgot all about it. I need to read it now because I want to watch the movie.


  4. Jo @ Booklover Book Reviews
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 23:49:23

    What evocative writing in those excerpts… sounds excellent Stu. Thanks for bringing this title to my attention. The cinematography in the trailer looks wonderful too.


  5. Tony
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 01:50:59

    Sounds like a bit of a female Knausgaard (with added apples!).


  6. gaskella
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 16:39:53

    I’ve still not read Ulysses, so would miss any resonance, but do like the sound of this novel. The excerpts you quote are excellent, and I’ve like the translations I’ve read by Jamie Bulloch too.


  7. Trackback: German Literature Month III – Author Index | Lizzy's Literary Life

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