The tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

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The tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title -Der Trafikant

Translator – Chartlotte Collins

Source – Library

Well last year on the booker longlist one of my favourite books was the first book by the Austrian writer Robert Sethaler to be published in English A whole life a tale of one mans life through the second world war and how it effect his rural life. I saw at the time I reviewed it that he had written a couple of earlier books and this one in particular had caught my eye then so when it came out last month it was a sure thing for this years  German lit month and nicely connects with the last book I reviewed as I mention Freud and here Freud is a character in this book.

Franz stepped over to the window and cautiously touched the J of JEWLOVER with his finger.The graffiti seemed to have been applied with a coarse brush, and had a horrible feel to it – dry and crusted at the edges, still sticky and damp where it was thicker.It also exuded a disgusting smell,rancid and sickly-sweet,but slightly sour as well.

“What is this?” he asked quietly.

“Blood!” yelled Otto Trsnyek . “Pig’s blood” daubed there by our dear neighbour Rosshuber himself!”

“I’d like to see you prove it ” said the master butcher calmly

Early on you see hate bubble over on the street and shop Franz works at .

This is a story of one boys journey to manhood in a way. Franz is seventeen and his mother has had a heap of trouble they were comfortable but a change in the life means Franz has to go to the city to make his way in the world and this is a job with a friend of the family that owns a tobacconist in Vienna. But this 1937 and it is just as the Nazi are ion the rise so Franz spends his days working in the shop and his breaks reading but as the world starts to change. Franz also falls for an older woman Anzeka  whom he has his first sexual awakening. He gets his advice from one of his customers Sigmund Freud the old man calls in for cigars gives romantic advice and also opens the young mans eyes to what is happening around him leading to him making a stand a small stand but a stand in the face of tyrany.

Franz decided to implement the professors second proposed solution to the problem and forget Anezka . He tried very hard, but when, after more than three weeks, the prints of her small hands still burned his buttocks, and her name kept flashing up in ghostly fashion between  every second line of the newspaper, and when finally the contours of first her puckered top lip, then her face, and lastly her body materialized in the grain of the floorboards as he was wiping up the drips left by kommerzialrat Ruskovertz’s dachshund, he abandoned the forgetting idea.

Franz tries to follow one of Professor Freud’s ideas to get over his girl.

Like the book |A whole life this is a small glimpses at the bigger picture and how one man is effected by the war but also by the growing darkness in the world he sees and  I think today of all days we can connect to that as today we have seen a new leader with right-wing views taking the lead in a new country so lets hope people take notice of Franz story and see the wider picture when like him he sees the world in the papers he read darkening. This is a wonderful look at a country boys journey to being a man in Vienna and all that entails opening his eyes wide. Very much in the German Bildungsroman tradition of boys becoming men. I hope that his other novels reach us soon he is a new voice and an interesting writer bring rural voices to the reader.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Nov 09, 2016 @ 20:30:34

    I just read this book a week or two ago and loved it (I haven’t read A Whole Life). It is often very funny, isn’t it, as well as by turns sinister and tender.


  2. A Little Blog of Books
    Nov 09, 2016 @ 20:48:12

    A Whole Life was one of my favourite MBIP reads too so I’m glad to hear this one is worth reading as well.


  3. Jonathan
    Nov 09, 2016 @ 21:52:36

    I’d like to read this one. It’s good to see some more translations of Seethaler’s work becoming available.


  4. 1streading
    Nov 10, 2016 @ 21:27:10

    As you know I wasn’t the biggest fan of A Whole Life (or rather its interpretation) but this sounds more interesting. Strange that Seethaler is writing about a war he didn’t experience (or perhaps not).


  5. Romy Paris
    Nov 13, 2016 @ 14:59:35

    Oh come on now. Does the world really need another novel: young boy, sexual awakening, adulthood novel? Sheesh. We start with Goethe and it never stops. Only the locations and time frames are changed. So boys grow up, have sex, become men. . . . what’s the big deal?


  6. Romy Paris
    Nov 13, 2016 @ 15:15:49

    Furthermore, I have dreams of a novel written from the various points of view of the women used in the Sexual Awakening starting with Gretchen. They’d spell out exactly what twerps these boy/men were


  7. Trackback: German Literature Month VI: (Belated) Author Index | Lizzy's Literary Life

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November 2016


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