That was the month thart was the half way point june 2019

  1. The train was on time by Heinrich Boll
  2. Prague by Maude Veilleux
  3. Selfies by Sylvie Weil
  4. Jalaleddin by Raffi
  5. Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
  6. Red dog Willem Anker
  7. A gun for sale by Graham Greene

I managed just seven reviews last month and got to 45 books reviewed so far this year. I read books from six countries one new press Sophene which is a new press that are publishing works from Armenia.I still feel I will get to hundred books reviewed this year I just need pick the pace up with an extra book a month plus I always blog more in the winter months and have Spanish and Portuguese lit month next month.

Book of the month

Selfies.jpg

I loved this collection of interlink short stories all themed around a piece of art and other things that reminded Sylvie Weil of events in her own life a clever framing device and some more interesting autofiction from France also another great title from Les Fugitives that is publishing the best of female french writing.

Non book events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, it has been a quiet month, on the whole, I have just had a lovely day in the sun as we had the warmest day of the year, as you see I have come over all summery. In the last week, I have found a number of Joseph Conrad books second hand I have brought them as he seems to be a writer that isn’t as well regard as he was when I was younger. I know his works maybe aren’t as PC as other but he was still an influential writer and I am looking forward to trying some of his less known works.

Looking forward

I am just about to finish my first book for Spanish lit month and then have a 600-page Spanish novel called Homeland by Fernando Aramburu that has been called a new war and peace. I also have a couple of Portuguese books lined up for the month!

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A gun for sale by Graham Greene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gun for sale by Graham Greene

English fiction

Source – personal copy

I found a few days ago every book I was reading wasn’t grabbing me I start three or four never getting more than forty pages in so I decided it was time to try an old classic one of my Graham Greene for me he is one of those go to writers when you have been struggling to find something great. Graham Greene is one of those writers that didn’t write many bad books and this is one that isn’t as well known as some of his other books but it was made into a film in the forties an Italian and Turkish films and a tv film in the nineties and was written before Brighton rook and like Pinkie raven is a very amoral character.

Murder didn’t mean much to Raven. It was just a new job. You had to be careful. You had to use your brains. It was not a question of hatred. He had only seen the ministeronce: he had pointed out to Raven as he walked down the new housingestate between the little lit christmas tree, an old, rather grubby man without any friends, who was said to love humanity

The cold wind cut his face in the wide continental street. It was a good excuse for turning the collar of his coat well up above his mouth. A hare-lip was a serious handicap in his profession; it had been badly sewn in infancy, so that now the upper lip was twisted and scarred. When you carried about you si easy an identification you couldn’t help but becoming ruthless in your methods. It had always, from the first been necessary for Raven to eliminagte the evidence

The opening two paragraphs could jump from a classic american hard boilded noir i loved them!!

The book unfolds after a hired assassin Raven kills the minister of war in a distant European country. his father was hung for murder and his mother committed suicide so he grew up very amoral and with his own code.  He returns home to get paid by his paymaster a man called Cholmondeley. It is only after he is paid he gather he has been double-crossed when the notes he is using are stolen and being tracked by the police. He finds that Cholmondeley is heading on a train to Nottwich a fictional midland town. This is where the man that paid Cholmondeley is a steel magnate Sir Marcus paid him to kill the minister. On the train he meets a chorus girl who is the fiance of a detective on the tail of Raven, So he takes Anne with him but as she knows Cholmondeley real name which is Davies and helps him get to him as a way to keep her self alive. Will he get Davies and find out who paid him and will Anne escape.

Nor did the meter fail him. He had a schilling to spare. When Mr Cholmondeley led the way in by tthe Euston war memorial to the Greart smoky entrance and rashly he gace it to the driver: rashly because there was a long wait ahead of himwith nothing but his hunderd and nitey-five pounds to buy sandwich with. For Mr Cholmondeley led the way with two porters behind him to the left-luggage counter depositing there three suitcasesm a portable typewriter, a bag of golf clubs, a small attache case, and a hat-box.Raven heard him ask which platform the midnight train went.

Raven tracking after he found he had been double crossed and they head tio Nottwich on the train .

This is an early Graham Greene written before Brighton rock Raven is maybe an early take on the Pinkie character that sort of Amoral man of circumstance here raven is a cold-blooded killer and isn’t pleased when double crossed so he then goes on an act of revenge. It is wonderfully paced keeping you gripped to the last page and has an interesting set of character the chorus girl Davies the middle man Sir Marcus the man paying for the killing and Anne’s boyfriend the main detective on Raven’s tail to add a nice twist in the tail. This is Greene before he was Greene a writer early on his career it has pinches of Buchan, Conrad and a touch of American Hard-boiled thriller. But for me it still has that Catholic guilt that in a lot of his fiction. Have you read this or have you another favorite By Greene?

 

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

South African fiction

Original title – Buys

Translator – Michiel Heyns

source – review copy

This is the first title to be translated into English by the prize-winning Afrikaans writer Willem Anker. This book won four prizes. He studied Lit at the University of Stellenbosch his final dissertation sounds very interesting and also in a way links to this book. The nomadic self: schisoanalytical views on character subjectivity in the prose work of Alexander Strachan and Breyten Breytenbach. He is also now a teacher of creative writing at the same university. This book has been re-title in English its original title was Buys a border novel. 

With my father’s inheritance, I buy two cows and a dozen sheep. David Dimwit lets them graze on his part of the farm and they multiply. At eleven I am taller than my brother-in-law; at thirteen I’ll be more than six feet tall. During the day I herd cattle with Saterdog a bushman child, perhaps a year or so older than I, but younger of body, named, for no particular reason, for the sixth day of the week.

The early years of Buys life.

The book is the retelling of the life of Coenraad de Buys a real-life character that was an advisor to Xhosa chief and also friends to the missionary Johannes Theodorus van der Kemp. This is a story of a man that saw his father die when he was eight years old leaving him very little. He sets forth and the boy grows into a man. He is a trekker and man of the veldt. He spends time with his wives and various mix of children from his three wives over the years. There are little passaged that shows his world growing. He is a man of the wild veldts this is the late 18th and early 19th century and his home is under winds of change. This man married three times but over the years his farm grows and his power swells. He is one of these untamable wilds as they years go we see his life swing one way to another then in the later 1790 the English take over the land he lives on and declare him an outlaw he then spends time wandering the borders between English and  the colonies he grew up in that are shrinking the forty years covered in this book saw five small wars break out all this told in a brutal world that shows the harshness of the new world as it still was then. He pays the price with wives and time with his kids but this man is happiest in the middle of nowhere with the wild dogs at his feet hence the English title.

A man vomits and his friends laugh and gob. Somebody bumps into me and I look around into the beggars face and looks away.

The Baboon grabs the nearest dog and brings the animal’s faceup to its own, Bo they know how much they look like each other? With the revishing jaws that decorate many a farmhouse, it tears off the face of the fighting dog, who until recently resembled the protp wolf from hich all dogs are descended.

I rub my thumbs and index fingers together until I can feel a static crackling. The remaining dog keeps tugging at the guts.The baboon curls up against the carcase next to him and there is a tremor in one hand and something like a yawn and I see something in his eyes and then he is dead

The brutal world is wonderfully summed up in these few passages of the book.

This is one of those books that draws the reader into a world gone the veldt of the late 1790s and early 1800s. this shows the world and borders for one man shrinking a man that is one of those larger than life figures a raconteur, swindler, and ladies man he is a mix of robin hood and Kevin Costner’s character in dances with wolves. A wild man of the veldt large than life in a world that is violent from his early days and the death of his father violence is always just below the surface as is the harsh world he lives in. He is compared the great American writer Cormac McCarthy and yes I have read a coup,e of his books decades ago it has that same sense of wild untamed lives and worlds. But for me, the writer I was most reminded of was Patrick White the way he described the outback and a harsh world that mix indigenous and colonial worlds especially his book the tree of man I reviewed a few years ago. As I said the main title character is like one of the characters he must have written about in his dissertation a nomadic self!!

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

French fiction

Original title – Millésime 1954

Translator – Gallic books (Jane Aitken / Emily Boyce)

Source – review copy

We all have a writer we go to for a fun read and for me the last few years it has been the novels of Antoine Laurain a mix of nostalgia and comedy. This is his sixth book to be translated into English by the Gallic books they are all similar in that they have an event or item that sets up a cascade of events. His novel French Rhapsody is being developed into a tv show according to the French wiki page. I have reviewed all his previous books and have grown to love his gentle comic books.

Oaris was destined to remain a fantasy for them. Two months after they met, although they had become engaged, chosen their wedding rings and dreamed of spending their honeymoon wandering the streets of Montmatre, Bob was contacted by Harley-Davidson. Their headhunters had spotted his talent as a mechanic, and they were offering him a job designing new egines, for three times what he was earning at Mensch’s Motors. Bob’s career was taking off and the flights to Paris could not compete

They had dreamed of Paris all their Married life Bob and Goldie but never got there.

So this book follows a group of people of a french Apartment building. Hubert and three other people open 1954 Beaujolais the three of them wake in 1954 Magilae an antique restorer, Bob a brash American from Milwaukee that is visiting France for the first time but alone as he was due to visit with his wife Goldie. Julien a Mixologist and Hubert as they set out to find out how to get back to 2017 and also, in turn, spend time in the Paris of 1954. As the see Piaf and Gabin dining elsewhere we head to the Louvre and the amazement of seeing the Mona Lisa not behind glass and light with special lighting, The Harrys bar with Harry still there and a new cocktail that is tasted by Audrey Hepburn when Julien makes it. They discover that a UFo was seen at the time this bottle of wine and a professor is writing a book about the events at the vineyard. Will he know the way back to the present for them? Has the past changed their view of the present?

“A new cocktail?” asked one of his colleagues, coming behind the bar

“Yes, with a violet base.”

“Write it down, Julien. Harry wants everything to be written down on the recipe book. He tapped the large book on the bar.

“Julien opened it and wrote in pencil

Abby, short drink

To a chilled mixing glass add : ice cubes, violet syrup(1cl), vodka(4cl), gin(4cl).

mix with a spoon, strain into a martini glass. Pour a little liquorice liqueur down the side of the glass.

Decorate with a twist of lemon zest, cutting one end into a star shap and resting this on the rim of the glass

Julien makes a new cocktail in 1954 that is new to him and old when he gets back to 2017

This is a bit different than his other books as it has a time travel element whereas his other have seen people look back in nostalgia  this sees people travel back to the fifties but it also sees people connecting with there own pasts and also remembering things like Bob remembering his wife Goldie is a sad story of a couple dream of Paris but never getting there they’d  watched Amelie, he ends up in the cafe in the fifties when it was at its best when their is touches like Harry and Harry’s bar a well known French cocktail bar that sees a modern as they are known Mixologist given the chance to make a drink for Audrey Hepburn and when he returns he see the Abbey now has a wiki page. There is a set of question for reading groups at the end the one that struck me is the one that says how do we cope when we haven’t a phone to find out about the world around us when we had to read and maybe ask !! another comic look back at French life and Parisian nostalgia. Have you tried Antoine Laurain? I reviewed this as part of a blog tour for Gallic books see the other bloggers here

Jalaleddin by Raffi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jalaleddin (A portrayal of his incursion) by Raffi

Armenian fiction

Orginal title – Ջալալեդդին

Translator – Beyon Miloyan and Kimberley McFarlane

Source – review copy

Hakob Melik Hakobian or as he was better known was considered the father of the historical novel in Armenia. Grew up in an Iranian Armenian family in the northwestern of Iran. He was taught by the local priest till he was twelve. Then was sent out to a renowned boarding school in Tbilisi. Then he spent time traveling in the Armenian border areas of Eastern and Western provinces where he saw for himself that villagers largely unarmed that were under constant attack from either the Turks or Kurds.. These travels and what he saw affect his writing but also led him to want to teach his fellow countrymen of the plight and what to do with it. This is his best-known book he wrote many other works which I hope Sophene the publisher will consider translating.

He was approaching thirty years of age. His face was pallid and hairless, his cheeks were dry, and his jaw protuded. His thin, gray lips often revealed his sno-white teeth. His black, curly hair fell upon his bare , sunburnt shoulders. His forehead bore a deep scar, which gavehis face a frightening appearence, but he nonetheless retained a distinctive masculine beauty that reflected bravery and ciurage and ferocity.

The young man was tall and lean, with strongbones and a muscular build. He was dressed like a kurd and fully armed; his asian rifle and scimitar, pair of pistols, metals sheild and long spear looked as though they were part of his body

The young man as he first appears in the book.

Set in Eastern Anatolian Mountains and the villages in that region during the Russo-Turkish war from May 1877. This is a young man’s journey into the horror that follows that attacks in that region. Dressed like a Kurd with a rifle he sets off in a valley he had been in before where he had once heard shepherds sing and life but now there was none he meets some Kurd warriors that offer him food but he isn’t in the mood to eat. Then he finds and Buries his father he buries him but instead of turning back he is drawn nearer the violence of the war and what is happening to the people of the region. The story is told in short chapters as we follow this young man as his eyes are opened and he sees the Ashbak area twenty-four villages of Armenians wiped out by Jalaleddin and his Kurds have ravaged the land. The Kurds is driven by their Bigotted ideas and love of pillaging. Can the young man turn the table round?

Having buried his father’s body in his simple grave, the young man continued on his journey. He was traveling like a mad-man, trapped in bitter thoughts. He had lost his father,mother and brother and sisters, and was now in a state of doubt about the one he loved. He hurried onward, but there was still a ling way to go until he reached her village.

He was taking impenterable passages, surrounded by cliffs, shrubs and bushes, and thourgh which a whole army could have remained hidden from the eyes of the traveller, so he was suprised to ear mysterious sounds followed by his name being called:”Sarhat,Sahrat!”Who could it be? there is hardly a man in that area who could have recognized him, and although he had friends, hehad sent the away on a number of errands a few days ago.

He has his quest the reason for his being there.

This is the second book from Armenia I have read one Modern and this a classic the linking factor is War the new novel showed the aftereffects of War on a single person whereas this is a descriptive work on the aftermath of war on a population the young man remembers the villages and hills with the shepherds and even his own family. This is based on the effects of the war Raffi saw for himself at the time. Although a work of fiction in the afterword it is pointed out that some of the characters are thinly veiled references to real people at the time. This is a short book told in choppy compact chapters that are like dispatches from the frontline of the Russio- Turkish war and the aftermath on the Christian population of Anatolia.

10 years of winstonsdad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I am still in shock I managed to get to ten years of blogging. The years have flown I do miss those early years and those early bloggers that lead me to Blog. The first year of trying to get 52 books from around the world read has to lead to a total of 120 countries and 917 reviews about 92 reviews a year the last couple of years I have lost a bit of momentum in my blogging but I’ve managed 41 books this year and I’ve had so much happen in the last two years in my real life that I am surprised I got so many reviews done in the last two years. Highlights have been the visits to the IFFP prize which meant I had a chance to meet so many writers and translators. My numerous visit to London to meet Susie from Istros books that have made me meet her writers for more than a few minutes spending the day with them and really talking books. Meeting other bloggers is always a fun thing to do from Rob one of the bloggers I most admired at the start and still, Lizzy, Gran, Mark and Simon who much missed inside books was one of my inspiration for the blog.I am not as active on twitter as I was once something I am trying to spend more time with and I am still amazed how #translationthurs runs by itself every week. Regrets One,  I still miss not seeing Lisa from Anzlitlovers but sure we will meet one day!   So looking forward I have a French book for review this week by one of my favourite French writers I have another Spanish and Portuguese lit month. I will again be involved in the Man Booker international as I have for the last nine years from the IFFP days.

Selfies by Sylvie Weil

 

Selfies.jpg

Selfie by Sylvie Weil

French fiction

Original title – Selfies

Translator – Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

Sylvie Weil is the daughter of the well-known Mathematician Andre Weil and niece of Philosopher Simone. She studied Classics and French literature at the Sorbonne then taught in France and after a few years became a professor of French literature in the US. Then decided to become a writer she has written a number of YA novels and novels as well as Plays and Short stories. This is the latest book from the small publisher Les Fugitives bring the best of Modern French Literature to us in English.

The elderly teacher would often remind me that you must play each bar with one eye already on the next, so as not to be caught unawares. It was when he was speaking on this subject that I heard him laugh – the one and only time ever. He recalled one of his pupils, a very pious english spinster, who had replied: Oh! monsieur, god alone can see the future. I didn’t see him laugh because I never looked at him, but I definitely heard him laugh, as he sat beside ,me

The otgan reminded of the picture of someone 400 years earlier playing a clavichord sparks a memory of an old teacher.

This is a clever use of selfies the modern craze that isn’t so modern as we see here Sylvie uses a mix of paintings and photos from the 16th century onwards. Then uses these to tell vignettes of her own life, From the opening Vignette Sofonsiba Angussiola a picture of her at a Clavichord that reminds her when she visited a crypt in 1978 learning the organ being taught by an elderly teach proud to be teaching Simone’s niece. The Gwen John painting self-portrait with a letter reminds Sylvie of a postcard a lover called Gary the piece set in cafes smells of tobacco and honey and their meetings will he ask her to marry him something never answered. Later on, Frida Kahlo self-portrait reminds Sylvie of a couple she knew that had a dog, she isn’t a fan of dogs but when this dog that was a huge bouncy dog that greeted her bounding over every time passes she sees the gap and why they loved him so much. Near the end, Vivian Maier sparks the remembrance of a trip to Israel and what happened after as she is questioned about the trip.

When I met his owners, Ted and Elizabeth, they were no longer young. They’d married late. They had a huge dog called Winston, who would jump up excitedly when you mentioned the name of a certain dog biscuit, a bland rusk in the shape of a little bone. He’d snatch the biscuitm crunch it and then wag his tail enthusiastically, asis fitting for a well trained dog. It goes without saying that he never tired of running to retrive the ball or the sticks his owners threw as far as they could, knowning that he enjoyedthis game. An uncomplicated dog in other words. He was Elizabeth’s dog, from before her marriage. She liked to say that it was thank him that she’d learned to live with a fellow creature. Winston had taught her to share , to trust, Otherwise she’d never have married, she’d assert with a smile.

Well not hard to know why I connect to this particular vignette we all need a huge dog called Winston in our lives at some point !!!

This is a clever framing device using the paintings as a starting point for the vignettes she writes each a personal and emotional experience from her life. This is a literary trip on the selfie an attempt to capture in a few pages more than what is a picture but also what makes a picture the moment but also the moments leading to the snapshot a self is just a millisecond but this shows what isn’t caught yes a dog is a dog but when the dog isn’t there the gap is more than a gap. Playing a keyboard is about learning but also the experience of learning and the place. I was remind of Wim Wenders talking about how unreal phone selfies are not a photo just a image as how often do we print them of even then this shows that it is more than a moment we maybe need but the whole sensation of  what happened from Proust biting his Madeleine or Sebald falling down the various rabbit holes in rings of Saturn it is about the image, place or  taste leading the writer somewhere ! Another interesting piece of French Literature this touched me as much as Anne Ernaux Years did earlier this year.

Spanish and Portuguese Lit month 2019

It is coming up soon it will be July and August and for the last few years that has been Spanish and Portuguese lit month. I usually run it with Richard from Caravana de Recuerdos   Well Richard has decided to take a back seat and won’t be co-hosting this year. I am not the most oprganised person but will try and get a links page sorted for July for people to post links here are two reminders of the countries covered by the two languages

 

 

 

Image result for spanish speaking countries

 

 

 

Here is the spanish languages countries and their flags sorry it isn’t the clearest pic best I could find and now the Portuguese countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am concentrating on those writers from the Latin American boom years for my months this year. Here is a guide to the writers you coukld choose some boom and a few post-boom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This map is a good starting point. You can choose whoever you want I may point you in Charco Press direction as they have been bringing some great contemporary Latin American fiction.  I have decide on a book for everyone to try and post on in the last week of August. To do a reread and a book I loved more than twenty years ago and a cornerstone of Latin American boom literature…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes it is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 years of solitude set in the fictional town of Macondo a place Marquez used in other works like Leaf storm before this book and is often seen in other books by him but not always as Macondo it is set on his childhood home of Aracataca. I’m sure many readers of this blog have read this book but how many of us have blogged about it?  I have covered five books by him in this blogs time but neither this or love in the time of cholera so far so in part I am putting this right. I will put a list of other books I am choosing near the time. What have you in mind to read ? will you be joining me in reading 100 years of solitude?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prague by Maude Veilleux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prague by Maude Veilleux

Quebecian fiction

Original title – Prague

Translators – Aleshia Jensen and Aimee Wall

Source – review copy

I said a couple of weeks ago how much of a fan I am of the books that the Canadian publisher QC is bringing us from Quebec each is as different as the last and that is the case here last time it was a single female struggling abroad and now we have a married female trying to escape her life. Maude Veilleux is doing a master in French. This is her second novel and is known for addressing social media and narrative identity in her books. Here she tackles the dilema of a modern marriage. This is her first novel to be translated to English.

I found it easy, being with two men at once. I had my husband and I had my lover. I felt no guilt. I wasn’t lying to either of them. I kept some details to myself, but I didn’t lie. My lover often said to me: there’s no way your husband isn’t jealous.

I loved it when he said that. It showed that what we were doing meant something to him. I’d say: he’s not jealous at all, it’s not in his nature.

I liked the balancing act, the work the situation required. I had to cloak the truth so that each felt indispensible.It was easy, because they wer. They were indispensable to me.

Early on as she loves the thrill of juggling to men at once.

This is a strange book as it blurs the lines between narrative and reality for the narrator is a woman that has gone into an open marriage The love is there but the desire of earlier in the marriage has ebbed away. As her husband has decided to have a fling with a man and is happy to let her have flings. This leads her to start a relationship with Sebastian who works in the same bookshop as she does they have an arrangement and he has a flatmate this is all ok as the fiction Maude explores her body with another man but as the lines start to blur this becomes a woman looking at her life in fiction as a novel of her relationship with voyeuristic sex scenes this is a strange book it is one of those that is about those questions every relationship has at some point and that is what to do when the love there but the excitement of sexual passion has died. All this is a Canadian winter as the lover dream of escaping to Prague and another life.

People read me as vunerable. I take care to look pretty. Perfectly groomed. perfectly made up. Batting my lashes with timed grace. Resting my elegant hands with poise. My fragilityis my strength. But what they don’t know is that I’m a force of s=destruction, an enchantress, The prey and the predator. Both at once, I’m the noe who does the asking. I’m the onw who sets the limit.

Later on still strong but maybe an underlying weakness and vunreability starting to appear. in our narrator

This is what I love about Quebecian fiction this is like an espresso shot of modern married life short very strong and giving you a kick. It has a sparse prose style with blasts of voyeuristic sex and a narrative that crosses from the personal to the writer’s voice as the lines of the narrator’s life blur is this autofiction or fiction as her and Sebastian dream of escaping their lives and going to Prague. As they make love. This questions what you do in a modern marriage when each person has different desires and will it work out. As I said this is an espresso of a book a shot to get you going as a reader it is such a short book it can be read in an evening.

The Train was on time by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The train was on time by Heinrich  Böll

German fiction

Original title  – Der Zug war pünktlich

Translator – Lelia Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

I brought this when we went on holiday to Northumberland in a small Waterstones. I have been a fan of these Penguin European writer series books that have come out the last couple of years. But even more, I am a fan of Böll so far in the time I have blogged I have cover six of his books for me he alongside Gunter grass was the voice of those early post-war years of German. Now, this takes it right back to the start of his writing career and his Debut novel which had been out of print for a number of years and was first published in English in 1956.

But the silence of those who said nothing, nothing at all, was terriible. It was  the silence of tose who knew they were all done for.

At times the train got so full they could hardly hold their cards. All three were drunk by now, but very clear in the head.Then the train would empty again, there were loud voices, resounding and unresounding. Railway station. The day wore on to afternoon from time to time they would pause for a snack, then go on playing, go on drinking. The schnapps was excellent.

This line got me the fact about being drunk but still clear in head about their situation.

This is a story of one mans train ride from Dortmund through Poland to the Black sea and what is now Ukraine. The 23 Andreas a thoughtful almost one may say a daydream is heading back to the eastern front on this five-day train journey to what is maybe his and his companion’s death. So he is joined on the train by some fellow soldiers. The first of his companions an unshaven solider called Willi that has discovered his wife had cheated him and is seeking solace in the drink then the Blonde that has a sexual disease these are the ordinary soldiers that was the reality of the German army. As the train slowly moves east they remember the horror of the war they have seen their lives before the war and the present. On the way this young daydreamer and his train stops and meets a Polish girl in a brothel in an overnight stop in Poland he falls for her and from then on he wants to be with Olina a musician is drawn into prostitution but also a member of the resistance. Makes him want to escape the fate that awaits him. The death he saw before he boards the train.

“It’s funny that you’re a German and I don’t hate you” she fell silent again, smiling, and he thought, it’s remarkable how quickly she’s surerendered. When she went to the piano she wanted to seduce me, and the first time she played I’m dancing with you into heaven , seventh heaven of love, it was still far from clear.while she was playing she cried…

“All Poland” she went on,” is a resistance movement. You people have no idea.No one suspects how big it is. There is hardly a single unpatriotic Pole.

Oliona and Andreas first meeting the sense of a spark between the two of them a connection.

written whilst he was a prisoner just after the war ended this is a story of the real face of war the horror of a man barely a man Andreas struck me as a young 24 a virgin that falls for Olina straight away his first real chance of love and last glimpse of freedom. His two main companions maybe reflect two faces of what to do in war the Blonde with his sex disease remind me of the character that had crabs on his eyebrows in Das Boot someone having too much careless sex. Then the unshaven companion the drunken remind me of the character Ron Livingstone played in the band of brothers  Lewis Nixon. that using drink to get by through the war. This is a tragedy will he die we don’t know but it is looming and the fact he has envisioned it before he boards the train means he is almost predestined to happen but there is the curveball of Olina which till they meet shows the power of love can happen on one man. But also his conversation with a priest is a nod to Böll religious belief at the time he was a devout Catholic but in later life left the church. This is about the fragility of nature the nature of manhood brotherhood and the simple worthlessness of war.

 

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