The pine Islands by Marion Poschmann

The Pine Islands

The Pine islands by Marion Poschmann

German fiction

Original title – Die Kiefern Inseln

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – personal copy

This was one of two books that hadn’t come out when the Longlist of the Man Booker was announced the publication date was brought forward for this book that was previously shortlisted for the German book prize (the German booker). It is the fourth novel by Marion Poschmann two of her other novels have been on German book prize lists. Marion studied German philology, philosophy, and Slavic studies. She then taught German as part of a German-Polish project for primary school children. Since then she has been a freelance writer living in Berlin. A member of German Pen. As part of writing this book, she spent Three months in Japan.

He exchanged some money and brought a travel guide and a couple of Japanese classics in English translation from a newsagent. The works of Basho, the tales of Genji, the pillow book. He had always assumed that, like him, everyone knew the Japanese classics of by heart, but standing in front of the shelf with the pocket books he now had to admt that he himself had at most watched only a couple of Japanese films during his lifetime and had never been able so much as to recite a haiku.

How he gets to discover Basho by chance at the airport and pass over the islands on the plane there.

Now, this is a classic take on the man in his mid-life crisis. Gilbert the man character has just discovered his wife is having an affair so he head of to Japan. He is a lecturer on Beard in cinema (could there be a less hipster lecturer title than his). He arrives at the airport and picks up a number of the classics of Japanese literature including the works of Basho especially his travel verse piece  Oku no Hosomich the long road to the north which follows his journey to the Pine island a book that was described as the soul of Japan. So as he tries to cope with his relationship with Mathilda a strange one he talks then doesn’t talk but then writes to her about the discovery of Basho but also how he wound up on a station to find Yasho who also has a book about suicide he is trying to jump in front of a train when he meets the Gilbert the two of them set of to rediscover themselves and try and find the world that Basho described ending up at Matsushima the pine island. This is maybe a tongue in cheek look at the genre of books that talk about Pilgrimage. 

Yosa Tamagotchi had been pised to thrpw himself in front of the train because he was afraid he wasn’t going to pass his exams. The bag contained a suicide note, carefully calligraphed and dated. He studied petrochemistry, and his marks were good, but maybe not good enough.Fearful of social exculsion he grew a beard, he knewno company would hir him in that state.If he were unsuccessful he could say that it was down to the beard, or should luck smile down on him and a firm took him on anywat there would be nothing straightforward than shaving it off.But his exam fear grew, paralysing him to such a degree that he was no longer capable of thinking.

Yosa is saved by meeting Gilbert at the Station but loive the comic touch of his beard and Gilbert talking about beards all the time.

The East has long been a subject in German literature Herman Hesse wrote about Indian culture and also wrote a book about discovery Journey to the east this isn’t in that league no this is more a look at the modern obsession with pilgrimage or even middle age men escaping their world and discovering themselves.  From Martin Sheen in The way doing the way of St James in Spain or the likes of even someone like Bill Bryson and his old friend doing the Appalachian Trail this book has the classic character of two leads one in search of what his life means Yosa the man Gilbert saves is this and another is  Gilbert a man that needs to take time out of his life. Add to that a book that makes you want to pick up one of the greats of Japanese literature Basho. Also reconnecting with the world around us is another thread in the book. Similar to books like rings of Saturn or A whole life the later more so than rings of Saturn. I enjoyed this I like books that see folks discovering themselves and having a book that means something to them I remember Herodotus histories in English patient meaning so much to Almasy or a book like Geert Mak book where he followed the route of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley like this book saw a world that is now gone. An interesting book that would passed me by except for the Man Booker.

April 2019
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