That was the month that was Novemeber 2019

  1. Air raid by Alexander Kluge
  2. Concrete by Thomas Bernhard
  3. An answer from the silence by Max Frisch
  4. The Pledge by Frederich Durrenmatt
  5. Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke
  6. The trap by Ludovic Bruckstein
  7. All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal
  8. And where were you, Adam by Heinrich Boll
  9. The Cold Centre by Inka Parei
  10. Stand in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

I managed to review ten books last month seven for this year’s German lit month I had hoped to get the Eighth life finished ut time was against me so that be coming later this week hopefully. Last month took me from the effect on one town of an air raid in world war two through a writer suffering writer’s block and hating Viennese life, then a man finding himself in the Alps a cop gets his man that wasn’t the man he thought it was in the start. Then a pair of siblings recreate a party from a year earlier then we visit a town where we see the war creeping in on the Jewish families there. A man suffers from two many cats a german soldiers at the end of the war see the horrors they have committed and the wrongs they have done then a man rushes to his ex-wife and a past event in East Germany and then I left Europe for a short novella from Japan about androids standing in for our partners. Where did your reading take you last month?

Book of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I popped for Air raid it was a close month reading-wise by Alexander Kluge had been on my list of writers to read in the last few years. This textured account of his home town and the after math of an air raid that was only caused when the original target was canceled and the bombs dropped on Halberstadt a town now famous for doing the longest piece of music in the world John Cages As slow as possible is currently being performed in the organ at Halberstadt for the next 600 years . A fact I discovered after reading this book and looking up info on his hometown.

Non book events

Well this year is the first in many I have to listen to a lot of new bands and this month it has been a new album by the  Canadian experimental band Deliluh they remind me a little  of the post-rock group  slint  with there often spoken-word lyrics and slow melodic guitars and then more noise-based guitar anyway here is a track from youtube of there new album.

Then a film from the  BYnwr website Murder in Mississippi  described as Torn-from-the-headlines exploitation or daring social commentary? Joseph P. Mawra’s film is a little of both, using the true story of the killing of civil rights workers in the American deep South as a gritty springboard for another ultra-low-budget entry from the director of Chained Girls. on MUbi where I watched it a take on the south in the 60s restored from the last 35mm film of it. A film worth watching as a low budget gem of the time. Nicholas Winding Refn love of old rare and forgotten gems has led to his website reshowing the gems He and his guest editors have found and restored.

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

Japanese fiction

Original title – スタンド・イン コンパニオン(原題:代替伴侶)

Translator – Raj Mahtani

I was surprised when  Richard from Red circle contact me after the suggestion of one of there translators as I don’t review many Japanese novels its works out about two a year over the time of the blog. So to get to have these five slim novellas from some of the best new writers in Japan I couldn’t turn the chance time.Kazumi Shiraishi is from a family of writers his father is Ichiro Shiraishi a prize-winning writer and his twin brother is also a writer. He has published a number of novels initially he worked as a journalist and editor for one of Japan’s leading magazines. He has had two novels published by Dalkey Archive before this one. It is worth noting with sadness that it was the last work the Raj Mahtani translated before he passed away.

By the time the news of her pregnancy was expected to arrive, though, the snow would have completel disappeared. But then again, such a thing as a pregenancy, in the first place, was impossible, Hayato silently thought to himself. “I somehow have this gut feeling i’ll get lucky,” yutori had said a few days ago, regarding the trip to the hot-spring resort this time

Right above now, Hyato mised, she must be dropping her shoulders in defeat, while applying a saintary  pad between her legs in the toilet at the pharmacy, disappointed at the unreliability of her gut feeling

They try and check every month for the result

Stand in companion is a futuristic tale set in the near future where the world has decided that birth control is need and that things like IVF has been outlawed so we meet a couple Yutori and Hayato  a couple who have been trying for a number of years for children we meet them as they do a monthly stop for a pregnancy test to see if his sperm have moved quicker or if the time at the spa has helped her tubes. as this has happened for a number of years we see her move away and then they both decide that they need a new start so they get what is called a stand-in companion of each other but each wants the new companion to have no knowledge of what was the problem with the getting pregnant as they both head of with a new Yutori and Hayato at some point will loser there replacement after ten years on the android laws of this near future.

However, in these past several months, Yutori was gradually fiding it unbearable to see the dark look of disappointment cloud Hayato’s face every time

AN Android activated as a  Stand-in companion, in accordance with the Stand-in android act, is recognised as having rights completely equal to those of humans. Until just prior to their deactivation by a termination sinal transmitted from the control centre of the Human rights Relief Comittee, at the time their rental peroid expired, an android in this soceity was to be treated entirely as an indivdual – a human being.

I was remind of the deatgh of Rutger Hauer in bladerunner here as he was an android with a short life but had seen so much in his life.

Strangely of all the countries that maybe they don’t need birth control, measures in Japan with a growing older generation and shrinking younger generation in the future, it would maybe be one country that would need more children. But these growing older generations are already getting looked after at times by robots that run memory and exercise classes in the old people’s homes in such of the larger cities. I saw this over the weekend in a tv show here in the UK. Then we have can an android robot replace a human well in Bladerunner there is the main character played by Sean Young her character Rachel is an android that doesn’t know she is an android and this is the sense her the two new stand-ins aren’t aware they are stand-ins for each other it is a question of what we need from life babies or companionship. This short book is just 43 pages long that sits with you for a long while after you put the book down. Have you read any of this Red Circle series?

The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

German fiction

Original title –  Die Kältezentrale

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I move on this german lit month to a new writer a writer to the blog. Inka Parei,  who won many years ago the Ingeborg Bachmann award one of Germany’s biggest prizes. She has not written many novels only three in a twenty-year career. She studied German, sociology, political science and sinology. In an interview, she was drawn to the location of this novel. She also remarked that after writing the book she hadn’t gathered how the book had related to her own family history and some of her only families coming from Eat to West.

At some point I’d have had an answer and I’d have called Martha. She wouldn’t have said anything or expected anything. In a neutral voice, I’d have informed her of what I’d found out. Her breath escaping at the other end of the line would have grown gentle, like it hasn’t been for a long time now. She’d asked me how I was feeling and then, almost in the same breath, how the last few years had been. We’d laughed because there was suddenly so much to tell, astounded at how many little things make up the world, and we’d have wondered how we could have possibly have left all the tiny things that make people happy out of our lives for so long.

As he heads to his past and the present Berlin to find Answers fro his ex Martha.

The book starts with a chance call to our narrator from his ex-wife who is dying of Cancer which sends him back to Berlin. But as he does the past comes back to haunt him he worked in the 80’s in the air colling part of a german newspaper plant the cold center of the title. this Czech built unit never really worked and need constant monitoring this is maybe a nod towards the old east Germany. There is an event that happened then when him and what would become his future and then ex-wife spent time in the back of one of the truck there that had come from Ukraine and may have been contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster that may have caused her cancer. Alongside this, he is haunted by an event with a colleague Hansmann who fell from the roof of the building to his death could he have stopped this happening? As he drifts from then to now we see him recreating those dark days in the cold center his workmates and the death that he never recover from. What was up with those trucks at the time ?

The truck was just north of Kiev at the time of the reactor accident, she continued. So you can assume it was contaminated. Think how Hansmann must have felt when he put two and two together. He can’t stay at home. He’s in constant trouble at work. Then he thinkls one of you’s being kind to him but it tuerns out the place to sleep he;s offered is really a health risk.

But didn’t others use the truck as well?

I’m not saying they meant to harm him.

Radowski was kind of guy who’d go right ahead and eat the lettuce they suddenly toog off the shelves after the accident.

And who was it made Hansmann realize?

Me.

The past and the trucks from Ukraine haunt him in the past  and what happened then !!

Her works have been described as like detective novels and this is maybe as we go into his past it is in pieces there is a blurring of then and now but also an undercurrent of the old East Germany from the broken never probably working cold center as a metaphor for the country as a whole. Then there is the death he saw which he seems to have not recovered from. Then we have the ghost of Chernobyl is that which gave his wife Martha cancer she has in the present in the past. He has a man that has been broken by the events around a death that has haunted him over many years but he also brings us into the dark heart of East berlin behind the wall. I really liked this book and hope to get her other books for forthcoming German lit months. Have you read her books at all?

And where were you , Adam by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And where were you, Adam by Heinrich Böll

German fiction

Original title – Wo warst du, Adam?

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – personal  copy

I always try to squeeze a Heinrich Böll novel into my German lit month reading so this is the eighth book by him I have reviewed on the blog and follows on from the last book by him I reviewed which was the reissue of his debut novel the train was in time. This is his second novel and like his debut deals with world war two whereas, on the whole, his later works deal with post-war Germany and the aftermath of the war. This book deals with the war but also in a way how Boll as a catholic struggle at times with the war. It also captures the death of the Nazis and the german army falling apart.

Now there were only three times thirty-five men, a weary, dust-coated platon, with sore feet and sweating faces, led by a first lieutenant whose face plainly showed that he was fed to the teeth. As soon as he took command they j=knew what kind of man he was. All he had done was look at them and, tired as they were, and thristy, thiursty they could read it in his eyes: It’s a lot of shot,said his expression, “Just a lot of shit, but we can’t do a thing about it” and then came his voice, with studied indifference, contemptous of all regulation commands: let’s go

The war weary troops in the opening chapter.

The book is nine chapters that are very loosely connected they start with a colonel and his men facing defeat on the front the sense of loss being the worst thing that could happen even the password is Victory. As some of the men end up in hospital this is the next part of the book as the recovery in the hospital the first part from the view of a colonel as he relives the brighter times of women and sparkling wines. Then there are two character sergeant and a corporal who is working in the hospital and are dealing with Hungarians selling vegetables and then there is a brain-injured major the reminds me of the characters in fifty-first dates as he says the same word ever so often. Then we see a solider fall for a jews women this relationship between Private Feinhals and Ilona he falls in love with this teacher and then is sent to the front with his comrades in a furniture van they had got to take them to a battle in a village whilst this happens Ilona is sent to a concentration camp. Then we see the other characters story tied up as the horror and aftermath of the war

As he entered the patients room the captain said in a low, hollow tone:” Byelogorshe” Schmitz knew it was pointless to look at his watch; that rhythm was more precise than any watch could ever be, and while he sat on the edge of his bed, the medical history in his hands, almost lulled to sleep by that ever-recurring word, the tried to figure out how such a thythm could come about – what mechanism, what clockwork, in that appallingly patched up, sliced up skull, was releasing that monotonus litany?

The brain injured soldier is like the characters in fifty first dates as his life and the word he speaks is in a loop !!

This is a no barred view of the war. Boll served in the army and was injured a number of times so the time in the hospital so the scenes are all I imagined taken from his time in the war. It captures the effect of the war on the ordinary man and also the actions of the war on someone like Boll that was catholic this is captured in a scene at the concentration camp where a Jew sings perfectly a catholic song in Latin in the Camp choir leaving one of the soldiers on what race means. written six years after the war whereas his debut was written as the war was happening this is an early example of what is called Trümmerliteratur which Boll was one of the main members of the group which dealt with the German reaction to the war from those on the ground level. it shows love death and all those in between.

All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal

Czech fiction

Original title – Autíčko

Translator -Paul Wilson

Source – review copy

I have a number of books from the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal I read his books on the whole pre-blog he is the most translated Czech writer of the 20th century. I have so far on this blog reviewed his book once maybe his best-known work Closely observed trains which was made into one of the best known Czech films. Hrabal himself was born at the start of world war one he had a number of ordinary jobs a railway labourer, insurance agent, travelling salesman, labourer and paper packer as he was nearly forty when he became a full-time writer.  He around this time lived between Prague and his weekend cottage in Kersko which was known for the number of cats that he had living there. This is something that is paralleled in this story.

Back then, in wintertime, the cats would grow despondent, fearful of what would happen if I failed to show up. They’d sleep on the balcony or in the hay under the gazebo, and from that vantage point on the second floor they’d keep amd eye on the lane through the woods that  led in from the main road. When I’d arrived from Prague by bus and trudge in through the snow and reach a certain point on the lane. I culd see little cats’ ears poking up on the balcony.

Early on and the cats are then in force in his country cottage in the winter time .

The book follows an unnamed narrator and his wife and like Hrabal himself, his time is divided between {rague and the weekend cottage they have in Kresko. Whilst he is back in the city he worries about the five cats he leaves there all the time how are they feeding themselves but the biggest worry is they start breeding this happens and as he returns far from the five cats he and the wife like to be snuggled up in the bed in the nights in the country. They have all had a number of kittens and the cottage and there lives is starting to get overrun. Now if you are a deep cat lover stop here !! As our narrator decides the only course pf action is to kill the kittens and he decides to but them in a sack and smash them to death against a tree. This brutal act then comes back to haunt are narrator as he is unsettled and unease of his actions trying to justify this one act of barbaric against the cats.

And so the kittens grew and got their first view of the world in the woodshed, and the old ugly cat continued to come in from the  soldats attic to our place to eat, and when the two mother cats met they would give each other kisses and lick each other necks, and a month after they’d given birththey had more time to themselves and they’d lie together for hours washing each other under the neck and they loved each other as they had before.

The kittens start arriving and the problems start for our narrator

This work shows maybe events that affect his own mind and life he was known for the large group of feral cats he helped and look after on his weekends in the countryside. It shows what happens when you leave these cats unchecked it is a warning to neuter the cats in the future rather than let them breed and breed. It shows how the kindness of the writer towards his cats but he is drawn towards madness as he sees more and more cats turning up and is drawn to that one horrific act in the present will continue to haunt and worry him at his own actions that the madness of all these cats drew him too. This is a personal work by the writer with one horrific at it heart but also maybe the worry of what to do with feral cats which all over Europe in some places is still very common I remember lots of kittens and cats at the apartments we stayed in at the Algarve many years ago. Have you read Hrabal?

The trap by Ludovic Bruckstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trap by Ludovic Bruckstein

Romanian fiction

Original title – Scorbura

Translator – Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – review copy

One of the great things about reviewing translated fiction from around the world is those discoveries that turn up over the years those lost books and writers. In the great intro to the book from its translator about how Bruckstein maybe is the greatest Romanian writer of the post-war era but was little known as he was banned by the Romanian regime. He wrote a number of plays including the night shift that was about sonder Komando revolt at Auschwitz. He wrote this book late in his life it is semi-autobiographical Like the character Ernst in the book he lived in the Transylvanian town of Sighet in the Ghetto there he lost all his family a[art from himself and his younger brother as with most of the towns Jews.

To ernst, a student who had been abroad, the law seemed not only humilating, nt only insulting, but also stupid and ridiculous. It was a small town and everybody knew everybody knew everybody else, and for a fact, everybody knew who was a jew. And who was a Romanian. And who was a Hungarian. And who was a Ukranian and who was a Zipser erman. And who was a Gypsy . Nobody tries to hide what he was. The law was quite simply idotic. If a person knows you, what is the point of his making you wear a sign.

Ernst questioins wearing the star on their clothes.

The book is a selection of two novellas The trap and The rag doll both are set in the Carpathian mountains in the rural towns like his own childhood home of Sighet and shows the ripple effect of the Germans taking over and the changes that brought about and how it ripped the heart out of this town. I am focusing on the trap which has Ernst A student who had spent time away from his home town dealing with having to wear a yellow star. He says why can’t Catholics have a c the reformist has an r and so on as he points out we all we are jews as they are Ukranian or Hungarian or the local Zipser germans. There is a scene where all the jews are stopped and held by so troops for hours Ernst is one of the ones that questions why they are being held there and what for he even says he asks in his best Viennese German to the young troop. The growing trouble as we see the happenings in the town through Ernst’s eyes as they see there lives shrink and the transport trains start to take the Jews away from Sighet.

On the morning of 16 may 1944, Ernst woke up abruptly in his bed of moist hay in the loft of Ioun Stan’s barn

He thought he had heard a noise rising from the town, a strange hum made up of words and cries, mingled with harsh orders. Was it a dream? No, the sound persisted, perhaps more faintly than during sleep, but even so, it could still be heardup there on the slope of Agris Hill

The Ghetoo is being cleared and it wakes Ernst

I was recently at the Uk holocaust museum with My wife we were struck by the exhibition and the stories of those involved. But what is never captured is the lose of a community here Brickstein does a similar thing to the Lithuanian writer Grigory kanovich did in the book Shelti Love song which I reviewed a couple of years ago that caught the lose of a community the Shelti jews of Lithuania here we see the Jewish community of Sighet which was 13000 before the war which was nearly fifty percent of the population I was reminded of the way Dasa Drndric described the Italian edition of her book Trieste which had a list of Italian jews killed was passed around a crowd and if some new a name it was taken out. I read up on Sighet in 2002 there were just twenty jews so it shows the impact of the war in that community Ernst is based on Ludovic he sees his family friends and community slowly squeezed out of the town. I am one that thinks there can never be enough of books like this brought out in English and discovered as we see growing hatred in our own country we need to see what happens further down that road of hatred !! Istros have brought us a lost gem of Mittel European fiction

Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

Austrian fiction

original title – Schule der Geläufigkeit.

Translator – Jean M Snook

I return to Austria with my next stop on German lit month and a writer I have featured before with his book the system of Vienna an inventive novel based around the tram stops in Vienna. An experimental writer Jonke. He studied many things history, philosophy, music theory and german studies but never complete any of his studies. He won most of the big literature prize in German including the Austrian state literature prize. In this book, he is said to have wanted to explore remembrance and the present.

Everything should be exactly as it was at last year’s party, answered the photographer’s sister. Whispering so that I wouldn’t understand, she consulted with her brother, who was passing by, after which he looked at me sternly, sizing me up, and with an expression that showed he was aware of the great responsibilty wieghing on him, hesaid in his most serious voiceas if he werer entusting me with managing the empty coffers of the city council. If you promise not to talk about it and not to give anything away, we can tell you something important, albeit confidential

The nioght has taken plannning and is run like a three at drama.

The book itself is two stories a novella book and a short story. I am focusing on the short story as it captures the feeling Jonke wanted and the is a remembrance in the present. It focuses on Anton he is a photograph and his sister Johanna they live in an elegant house with wonderful gardens they have decided the theme of this years garden party they have this year is the theme is that everyone has to do the same thing as the year before. They hired a painted Florian to create a cycle of painting that exactly copies the garden and then cover the garden with exact copies in pictures of the garden a cellist has to play his cello music on a piano. The guest is a mix of the high-class art and city officials which have a bizarre discussion about smoke in a part of the city between two officials who Jonke just refers to by their titles town planner and city manager  and then they have a musical pond, But how can you keep everything the same in the year that has passed it is the feeling of trying to hard are narrator fritz is a guest and he is maybe an unreliable narrator the second tale involves to brothers fritz again and his brother Otto not as talented as his brother he is a piano mover by trade I lived this comic observation Saki in style almost. They are stuck in an attic with a lot of pianos.

Several ladies and gentlemen who held high positions in the city administration had seated themselves on a corner of the terrace where there was a good view of the city lights at night, of course they were always thinking and talking about many and diverse problems of the municipality and , relaxed by the festive mood of the evening, they were exchangong their opinons on these matters much more freely than usual and in an informal manner.

A sort tongue in cheek look at the absurd nature of the city council and its officals is the case in the book!

Jonke was interested in using fiction like a musician and this is a piece that maybe shows how he used rhythms and phrases the title refers to the man called the godfather of modern piano teaching Carl Czerny Jonke tries to lift his style onto fiction. I am not a huge fan of classical music but the title of the second story refers to a piano work from Czerny. For me, it has feel of last year in Marienbad which sees a man return to Marienbad and see a woman he saw the year before but she had forgotten him. it is a book about what we can’t capture no matter what they do they can’t repeat the past and the more they try the more distant they go from the year before so to copy the garden in every detail is like capturing a photo it is a moment but the same moment a year later is different. this also clicked to another film scene that of the film Smoke and the picture that Auggie takes every day at the same time initially the other character flicks through them but he is told to look and yes its the same spot but the moment light day even on the same day a year apart is never the same a repeat is always slightly different. This is a thought-provoking work and I am pleased I still have two more works from Jonke on my shelves to review in forthcoming years, Have you read him ? what do you think to his style of writing?

The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

Swiss fiction

Original title – Das Versprechen

Translator – Joel Agee

Source – personal copy

I move on my german lit month reading to a new to me writer and a book that I have had a while and wanted to read. Frederich Durrenmatt was a multi-talented writer his theatre was often compared to that of Bertolt Brecht he was called the most original theorist. He was a critic of crime fiction and with this book he had worked on a crime script that he felt hadn’t a realistic ending this is the work he wrote as a result of that.as the subtitle goes a requiem for the detective novel.

Matthai had a hard time making senseof that jumbled report, the chief continued. “it was one of his old “clients” calling from Magendorf, a little hole in the wall near Zurich. The man was a peddlar named Von Gunten. Matthai wasn’t really in the mood to take this up this case on his last afternoon on his job. He had already brought his plane ticket, he’d be leaving in three days. But I was away at a conference of police chiefs and wasn’t expected back to the evening.

How Matthai is drawn in the case is by chance and meant his carreer never really ends

The book starts with a crime writer meeting the former head of Zurich Cantonal police who criticized his works as he says Chance plays no role in his works. So the writer then thinks up a new story and that is the main bases of the book that follows lieutenant Matthai. He is sent to find the killer of a small girl in a small town. The girl Gritli Moser was found in the woods killed with a razor. Matthai has to tell the parents about the loss of their small girl  . The crime was reported by von Gunten who found her but he is later convicted of something else and is connected to the two girls that earlier died in a similar way to Griti he is interviewed He then confesses. Matthai is just about to leave when he is drawn in another way by this case that initially then seemed shut as the young girl is buried but there is also the young girl’s drawings in the weeks and days before her death with images that may be known she may have known her killer? Matthai made a promise to get the killer and ends up running a petrol station to finally sort this case out or is it just a wild goose chase for this serial killer.

Back in Magendorf, Matthai met with his first difficulty. The emergency squad’s large van had driven into the village and was waiting for the inspector. The scene of the crim and its immediate vicinty had been carefully searched and cordoned off . Three plainclothes policemaen were hiding in the woods. Their assignment was to observe the passerbys. The rest of the squad was taken back to the city.

The other old crime novel cliche of the killer return ing to the scene of the crime here .

This shows the foibles of crime fiction and that is chance the obvious story Von Gunten fits that old inspector  Morse line that the person that finds the body may also be the killer. There is the picture pf the young girl that leads them in another direction what is the meaning of the hedgehog? What happens when you have got a confession and it was the wrong man it shows how someone can be haunted by that giving it all up to trap this killer to have that petrol station it is a strange twist in this book that shows how far one man will go with his pledge to the mother of the dead child. This is a book that reminds me of Paul auster at times another writer that has taken a different twist in his detective fiction this is a postmodernist crime novel that twists the tales and characters as far as you can. It has been made into a film I haven’t seen the recent us version but I believe it cuts a lot of the framing device out and resets the book in the US. The English version from the 90s seems near to the book and it has Richard E Grant in so I hope to watch that at some point.  Have you read this book? what do you think of the twists and turns in it ?

An answer from the Silence by Max Frisch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An answer from the silence by Max Frisch

Swiss fiction

original title – Antwort aus der Stille

Translator – Mike Mitchell

Source – personal copy

I have twice before featured Max Frisch on the blog twice before those works were both out after the second world war and later works by Max Frisch. Now the fact that later in his life Frisch refused to have his earlier works in his collected works as he felt they didn’t represent his writing he in fact burnt the original manuscript of this book. So it hadn’t been widely read until this translation from Mike Mitchell. The book is said to have paralleled in some ways the change that Frisch took in his own life when he moved from a journalist too become an architect this was about the same time as he became a writer as well.

Or perhaops the solitary walker is thinking back. It’s a long valley and thirteen years is a long time ancd ge keeps going farther and farther back into his memory. Some things make him smile, a faint smile, either from embarassment and unacknowledged envy, it was at this wooden bridge that he told his grown-up brother , who had just got engaged, in youthfully open and impudent tones, that getting married was irdinary and that he, the seventeen year old, would never get married, for he wasn’t an irdinary person but an artist of inventoror something like that .

His first visit as he brother was in the same place as he is many years later .

This follows a few days in the life of Dr. Phil Balz Leuthold he is 30 years old and is due to marry his 21-year-old fiance Barbara. When he decides he wants to go and tackle the north ridge in the Alps this reminds him of a trip he took when he was much younger with he now in Africa married and distant older brother this is the opening as he remembers that trip with his brother.As he remembers he is by a stream and starts to carve a ship. He isn’t sure he is being watched by another person it is a Danish woman there to hike. Phil is embarrassed about the fact he was being like a child carving a ship. So he  then feels the need to impress her as he is drawn to this Danish women and her spirit they hike on and spend a night together this then makes Phil want to tactile the North ridge then he disappears for a number of days but what will happen to him will they find him what effect will it have on his life which of the two women in his life will he end up with !!

“Yes – the North Ridge”.

He sys it very modestly, very simply and natrually.But the young foreign woman desn’t know what it means; she doesn’t know she’s the first person he’s told and perhaps he’s telling her so there’s no way back for him; she just gets her knitting together, very calmlu as hi he’d been talking about some ordinary outing –

So he say himself that the North ridge was not supposed to be easy, at least no one has ever climbed it yet

And he wants to climb it now ?

The task he is facing the never climbed North Ridge

 

This is a novel of a turning point Phil hs lost his brother and is now facing that change from being a single man to being a married one so he goes to the Valley initially to clear his head but then thinking about his youth and the earlier visit to the same valley , he uses the lines that it felt smaller coming back which is something I think we can all associated with as we see things one way in youth and then another way ion adult how but then we still as adults want to cling to the past to that earlier summer by carving the shi. Then there is his indecision after meeting Irene in the valley and spending the night together that leads to him heading to the north ridge ! that time he spends there is what will shape his future his true turning point. I don’t understand why he distanced himself from this book in later life it is a great coming of age work.

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Beton

Translator –  David McLintock

Source – personal copy

It is German lit month and it wouldn’t be right for me not to review a Bernhard I have reviewed six works by him on the time on the blog and hosted a Bernhard reading month. I was pleased when Faber brought some new editions out last year and this year as I had still a few I need to get by him and to read. It has been thirty years since he passed away hence the five reissue from Faber of Concrete, Extinction, woodcutters, The losers and Wittgenstein’s nephew I have linked to the ones I have reviewed by him.So here is the first of their two from Faber I hadn’t read I hope to get to the other Faber nook Extinction before the month runs out but let’s see how I get on.

Everybody suffers, my dear little brother, but you despise life, That’s your misfortune, That;s why you’re ill, that’s why you’re dying. And you soon will die if you don’t change, she said. I could hear it clearly now, more clearly than when the words were uttered in that cold, unfeeling manner of her. My sister the clairvoyant- absurd! she’s probably right though, that it would be a good thing to get away from Peiskam for a while but I’ve no guarntee of being able to start my work anywhere else, let alon get on with it.

His sister points out some things to Rudolf about himself.

As ever we have Rudolf our narrator at the heart of the Bernhard book as he is suffering for his art he is a writer about classical music but has had a bad bout of writer’s block. We also have another piece of Bernhard writing that is Music he has a man that is set on writing a piece about the composer he is working on a piece around Mendelssohn Bartholdy has taken him a ten ear to get the perfect tart to this work. Then he has a sister that he has let into his private world in the house he has inherited from his parents this is another mirroring of Bernhard’s own life in the book. Rudolf lives in the outreaches of Austria this is the same Area the Bernhard himself lived on his farm .near there on Ohlsdorf in Upper Austria. Rudolf’s sister was successful and a person that was at the heart of Viennese society this is, of course, a prime candidate for what is a Bernhard Alter ego to hate.  Rudolf also recounts when he takes a holiday to try and get this book finished the year earlier when he went to the same place in Mallorca and met a young widow whose husband had recently died but a year later he discovers she took her life. This reflects Bernhard’s own life that was full of losing those close to you.

As a result of the prednisolone my resistance is virtualy nil. When once I’ve caughta cold it takes me weeks to throw it off. And so there’s nothing I dread so much as catching a cold. Even a slight draught is enough to make me take to my bed for weeks, and so at Peiskam I live most of the time in fear of catching cold. This fear almost verges on madness and is probably one of the reasons why I find it so hard to begin any protracted intellectual work

Bernhard himself suffered himself with a lung condition so one imagines this fear is his own fear infact it was what eventually leasd to his death.

 

Well, this is yet another Bernhard book that is full of his bile for his homeland and the upper echelons of it especially those like Rudolf’s sister that get into those her parts of Viennese society. There are even echos to other books mention of knowing Wittgenstein’s nephew at one part which is, of course, another Bernhard book. Music in the loser has a failed musician here it is a failed musicologist. All these characters are a reflection of Bernhard himself now with Handke winning the Nobel we could turn and say if Bernhard hadn’t had such bad Health would he had been the winner imagine the bile of him winning the Nobel I loved his prize-winning speeches book my prizes. So another German lit month and I am now at book seven from Thomas Bernhard I have three more on my shelves and a couple I could buy so I think I could be doing him for a couple more German lit months in fact maybe even another Thomas Bernhard week?

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