Classics in translation anyone want join in ?

Well this is a sort of feeler post to see if any one would be interested in reading a few classics in translation , I’m 300 pages into Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone and already have a  list of writers mentioned by him with in these first few hundred pages plato , Virgil, Montesquieu Plutarch to name a few , I read a bit of Homer years ago and maybe three or four other books but that is about it and reading leopardi has made me want to fill this gap and learn more about these writers that so inspired him in thoughts about history and language .So maybe a small club reading three or four of these books a year  maybe starting in the middle of next year .I’ve not look fully into availability translations etc yet . I’m hoping a number of these writers  will be easily available as Oxford classics or Penguin classics .Maybe by the end of Zibaldone I’ll do a reading list of books I want to try if any one want to come along for the ride .

Have you a favourite classic in translation ?

 

The tower by Uwe Tellkamp

 

The tower  tales from a lost country  by Uwe Tellkamp

Original title – Der turm Geschichte aus einem versunkenen land

German fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Source – review copy

Daniel: When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions. Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn’t life under the sun just a dream? Isn’t what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn’t before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?

Daniel the angel from Wings of desire seems  to be fitting as it is set just at same time as this book from the other side of the wall .

Well its a nice long book for German lit month today , The tower is an epic novel that won the German book prize in 2008 .The son of the a doctor he grew up in Dresden ,was studying medicine , but he then had to spend time in the East Germany army as a tank commander just before the wall fell in East Germany , he was draft into the army after he was considered political unreliability by the east german authorities .He published his first novel in 2000 , but it wasn’t til the tower came out he found real success .The book was made into a two-part tv series in Germany that was one of the most watched show of recent years when it was on German TV .

Anne took Meno and Christian to one side “.I think we should give it to him afterwards  , when there’s just family . I don’t know a lot of guests very well ; I don’t want it made public .Agreed ?”

Richard made a short speech of thanks .His final words brought a grin from Christian and Ezzo .”gut now , colleagues and friends , eat your fill .”

At the birthday party they are careful when giving gifts that maybe be considered wrong in the eyes of the east german authorities .

The tower follows the years before the wall fell in East Germany , we shown this through one families story .The Hoffman family in the tower region of Dresden ,  the parents like the writers own work in medicine .The son Christian , wants to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a doctor , but to do that he has to do his military service in the NPA (National People’s army ) .Whilst doing this he struggles to adjust to military life , sees a comrade die , he ends up getting the blame for this and spending more time in the army and in prison .Whilst at the start we see his father turning 50 and coping with the system in east Germany and practicing medicine .Then there is Uncle Meno Christians uncle , considered a member of the elite intellectual as he had studied in Moscow , he was to become a scientist , but in the end became a writer ,he is part of the literary elite and tries to put forward the truth in the way that is allowed .As he and his fellow writers struggle to write and get published .

Meno went to Leipzig book fair every year .Philipp put him up for those days and continued to do so after Hanna and Meno had separated , for the two men felt a liking , a quiet respect , for each other , what Hanna had once called ” a kind of awkward friendship ”

Meno staying with a writer friend Phillp londoner , thought to be Thomas Kuczynski according to the German  press .

Now its hard to sum up a thousand page novel .The tower had been on my radar to read since it won the German book  prize  and in English since Frisch brought it out in e-book  , but then it was also brought by Penguin which is lucky I like my ebooks but struggle to read long books on my kindle , been trying to read another thousand page german novel on it for a while , but never got that far .Anyway when this dropped through the door at the beginning of the month I was determined to read and finish it in time for German lit month .Epic is a word for this Tellkamp has tried to catch the fall of East Germany , through a thinly veiled story of his own life , From the father and working in East Germany , to Christians own story in the army ,.The uncles story of trying to be a writer in east germany .We get all this in a number of styles of writings diaries , first person narrative ,third person narrative and a lot of stream of consciousness  writing .What we get is like a collection of little piece snippets of their lives  of these family members stories brought and tied together to get the story of a country falling apart and also the inner tension of East Germany a country built on mistrust .He also used uncle Meno to discuss writing in east germany  a number of the people in his circle have since been worked out by German Journalist to be specific writers of the time .Well for me this is the best book about life in East Germany just before the wall fell , that said I not read much wolf but for the whole picture I can’t see a better book  to celebrate 25 years since the wall and east germany Fell .

Have you a favourite Epic book in translation ?

Hot chops in space and burnt moby dick the world of book stunts

Well in the space of 24 hours the net has been alive with two books stunts of course book stunts have been about for years , from Georges Simenon once wrote a book whilst sealed in a glass box .The stunts in last two days have seen the wonderful Nikesh Shukla doing a stunt by sending a tandoori lamb chop into space to promote his book Meat space which I reviewed and I still think is one best comic looks at the internet and how people interact with it in the modern age .A fun way to highlight a great book .

The second stunt is worrying as it sees James Patterson burning books to highlight the drop in reading in the US , now the cause is right like the UK people read fewer books than they once did , from my own knowledge the main problem in the US is diverse literature for kids , it is hard to identify with books if the people you read about aren’t the same as you , well I could say maybe more books from the Spanish-speaking world for kids translated may help and more African fiction .What got me is him burning good books , his own well I know people love him, but for me he has become the Andy Warhol of fiction , he has ideas gets others to write the book on the whole and then puts his name on the cover .I wish someone would do a stunt like this that gets the papers attention to translated fiction !! Maybe I need to think up some mad idea ?

How would you get people reading books , it is an eternal question how often do you see a book on tv shows ? Now libraries are closing here I worry how the next generation will get on .

 

The legend of the Holy drinker by Joseph Roth

 

Image of The Legend Of The Holy Drinker

The legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – Library book

 

I’m so sorry
I know exactly what you mean
Tired of being devilish
Sick of being wicked
Habitual, and untrue
Another starting over
Although it is the ending
I send regards to you
Standing on the steps
Steps of the cathedral
Watch the summer fade
Just trying to get to somewhere
Trying to get just anywhere
And I know it ain’t my day

On the steps of the cathedral by the mighty Mark Lanegan seems match this book his lyrics full of god and drinking source 

Well I had planned to read a few books by Joseph Roth for the week for him this German lit month but as ever time and other books caught up with me so I only got chance to read the shortest one I  got hold of but really enjoyed this Novella .Joseph Roth served on the eastern front in world war one , then became a Journalist on left-wing papers after the war .He was married , but his wife suffered mental illness for most of their marriage so was in a sanatorium .He published his first novel in 1923 , but it wasn’t to the early 1930’s and The books Job and The Radetzky march that he found real fame .Roth himself was a drinker ,this book was his final book .

On a spring evening in 1934 a gentleman of mature years descended one flights of stone steps that lead from the bridges over the Seine down to its banks .It is there that , as all over the world knows and so will hardly need reminding , the homeless poor of paris sleep or rather spend the night

The man who gives Andreas the money , finds him under that bridge

The legend of the holy drinker follows Andreas , a vagrant former coal miner , that because of a number of misfortunes he had become a down and out .But in the book we see this man get a number of pieces of good fortune starting with the mystery meeting with a man who gives him 200 francs .That he promises to ive back  via a statue of Saint Theresa of Liseux to give to a certain priest .The first thing Andreas uses the money for is  to go for a drink with it going straight to the nearest bar , but this leads to  a meeting with former friends , lovers lead him down a path of not giving the money to the right person  , moving in different circles we see the older version of Andreas shine through the man he used to be ,we also find out how he end up on the street after going to prison. Finally then there is a strange younger woman  called Theresa .But is all this long-term can one escape one’s fate ?

He woke up very early in the morning .Caroline was still asleep .A solitary bird was twittered outside the open window .He lay there for a while with open eyes , no more than a couple of minutes .During those minutes he was thinking .It seemed to him that not for long time had so many remarkable things happened to him as now ,in the space of this single week .

Andreas thinks about good fortune , but is it really ?

Now this was his last book , is Andreas in some part Roth I don’t know , he seemed from his bio to be struggling with drink and ,maybe this story of a man nearly redeeming himself was in some part what he wanted .Are we all haunted by our past ? Can we escape our past ? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes ? These are all questions one is asking one’s self whilst reading this book .Maybe Andreas is a wider figure the lost hope and dreams of many a man , but then given a chance to escape it .Is human nature to be repeat of what we were , can we break the cycle Andreas is maybe Roth trying to discover a way through his human nature but the world around him , this was 1939 Roth was a jew living in Paris maybe this is more a tale of some one looking for redemption .I know I musing on this one but it’s that type of book a fable like feel to his prose and a gentle wit and carefully drawn lead character makes me feel there is a lot more to this one than first appears .I also love the woodcut art that is at the start of each chapter .

have you ever read a book that leaves you with a lot of questions after reading it ?

Barbarian Spring by Jonas Lüscher

9781908323835

Barbarian Spring by Jonas  Lüscher

Swiss fiction

Original title – Frühling der Barbaren

Translator – Peter Lewis

Source – review copy

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song.. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
..From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone

A verso of the Poem Ahmad Al-Za’tar by Mahmoud Darwish , seems to fit the feeling of this book .

 

Another novel from switzerland for German lit month and another from Haus publishing( I love the cover of this book a very german looking cover sparse just what is need on it )  .Jonas  Lüscher was born in Berne , and studied Philosophy , getting a master’s degree first teaching , since then he also did some work alongside the well-known philosopher Michael Hampe .Barbarian spring is his first novel it was shortlisted for the swiss book prize and longlisted in the German book prize .

Preising was all set , then , to exchange the fogs of midland Switzerland for the balmey Tunisian spring .He swapped his customary tweed jacket and Burgundy cords for a houndstooth jacket the colour of egg nog and a pair of chinos with sharp creases ; in all honesty, he found this ensemble ludicrous , but his housekeeper had laid it out ready for him and he was afraid of offending her by spurning it .

I was reminded of Frasier this is just the sort of thing he would do they worry about it .

Barbarian spring is really a double meaning in its title , the first being an older word for the Arab world and the Arab spring , the second and main one is the spring of a group of people who should know better that become barbaric in the face of the Arab spring happening around them .The story is the story of Preising a Swiss industrialist and rather like  a swiss version of Frasier or Niles from the programme Frasier as he is very picky in his ways .We meet him on route to a wedding of two friends from London they are getting married in a resort in Tunisia that has been built-in an Old Berber town and made into the height of western opulence as a hotel the couple haven’t spared any expense the bride arrives in her wonderful dress on the back of a camel  .The marriage goes ahead , but even as Preising is arriving for the Marriage you sense not all is right in the world around them .Add to this the crash in the markets  in London where the couple are from at this time as well .We have two groups living on the edge and a group of overpaid rich people getting  caught up in the Arab spring .

Sitting in the shade , Snaford started talking about the niceties of the Berber village societies and the role played by women , and preising , who’d read a bit about native peoples , chipped in from time to time .

Preising and one of the guests talk about the natives , but see the world from a western view .

Now this book is a story of what may have happened but what could have happened of course the two events in the book the Arab spring and the Market crashes happened a different times but what Jonas does in the book is imagine them happening in a future event and how this has a knock on effect on the Couple , their party and Preising .But also the people in the Resort around them those everyday Tunisians .This of course leads to the darker side of human nature taking hold not just survival but also what happens when there are no rules for everyone and effectively we are all on the same level for once caught in  a storm of events .Also certain scenes show one world smashing into another like a luxury coach crashing into a group of camels , in one way the part in the coach unhurt and the family that own the camel destroyed by this one event .Short but thought-provoking fiction , using an outside eye on recent events like the market crashes and Arab spring make for an exciting and different debut novel .

have you read any books about the Arab spring ?

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