Travels with a writing brush edited by Meredith Mckinney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel with a writing brush( Classical Japanese travel writing from Manyoshu to Basho)

Japanese travel writing

Editor & Translator Meredith Mckinney

Source review copy

I was rather happy to get sent this, especially after earlier this year reading the Man Booker international prize longlist The pine island which is the second book that had a Basho influence the other being the title of Richard Flanagan booker winner book was a nod to Basho. The book contains a thousand years of Japanese travel writing which includes a number of pieces that were translated for the first time.

Works translated into English for the first time:
• Ionushi’s Pilgrimage to Kumano by Zōki
• Senjūshō
• Pilgrimage to Kumano
• The Death of Sōgi by Sōchō
• Journal of the Kyushu Road by Hosokawa Yūsai

On we went, past Uta no Mastubara. Pines in untold numbers stood along the shore, untoldages old. Waves lapped at the feet of every one; restless cranes thronged around every branch. Unable simply to stand and gave in wonder, one on board composed this:

Miwataseba                Gazing upon thesepines

Matsu no uregeto ni   It seems the cranes

Sumu tsuru wa            Nesting on every branch

Chiyro no dochi to zo Must take the trees for friends

Omoubera naru           A thousand generations old

THis poem doesn’t do justice to the actual scene we saw

From Tosa diary a voyage that lasted 55days at sea.

The book has a great intro and translator notes also map for a number of the Journeys which begin in 759 with MAnyoshu which is one of the first works in Japanese collection it has 400 plus poems the few select are set around boat travels around the island seeing things such as cranes. Then in Tosa diaries, we have a female narrator although as it says in the intro we see that a few times the male writer’s voice is evident this journey is shown on the first map of the maps in the book from Tosa to Kamakura as they see pines and Cranes but as the narrator says the prose doesn’t do it justice. Then as you’d expect we have a pilgrimage piece by Zoki. Then we have a more famous work the pillow book written by a lady in waiting to the empress. Nearly all the pieces in this collection all have the sort poems that five lines long. Another diary of a daughter she is just known just as Sugawara No Takasue’s daughter. Then my favorite title of the works dusts dancing on the rafters That came from a Chinese saying related to two singers. I am only mentioning the first half of this wonderful collection it is taken out of Meredith McKinney own journey through classical Japanese writing and her love in particular of how they described travel this covers a thousand years and ends with the man himself Basho with the narrow road to Oku nearly a thousand years after the first piece. as his fame grew he had to travel to meet his followers in his last decade he traveled more than anything.

257

Kumano e mairu ni wa          Hey you pilgrims

Nani Ka Kurushiki                  What’s so hard

Shugyoja yo                           About the road to Kumano?

Yasumatsu Himematsu       it’s easy pine of Ysumata

Goyomatsu                            Princess pine and five-leafed pine

Chisato no Hama                  and the beach of Chisato

The opening poem from the short selection called Dust dancing on the rafters.

I have often been put off by the great classical Japanese works. But this is an easily accessible work that shows Meredith’s talent as a translator. It shows the beauty of Japan where travel through the land is hard due to forest and mountains or had to be done by seeing due to the many islands which means there is much travel writing out there with pilgrimages and ceremonial events and trips we see how the country is so poetic with its pines cranes insects monks and scenery the sea all around them at times. from sleeping on pillows of grass to wishing to be home and among the books a young girl loved. The works mix fact and fiction and the lines of poetry and prose blur here. As the intro says sometimes it is about finding the places here within like in Ise tales which is sent from Mount Utsu which is said to have echoed down the centuries in the journal of travelers along tokkaido who continue to search out the place identified with this scene. This struck me people trying to find a place a thousand years later from a letter enchanting such a great collection I hope we get more from Meredith as she continues her journey. Have you a favorite work of classical Japanese writing?

The dregs of the day by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dregs of the day by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Irish (Gaelic) fiction

Original title – Fuíoll Fuine

Translator – Alan Titley

Source – personal copy

When I read Dirty dust and the second transition Graveyard Clay of the great Irish novel  Cré na Cille  which was considered impossible to capture in English but the two translations have different approaches it was Alan Titley dirty dust I preferred of the two books I reviewed it a few years ago so when I saw that this novella was coming out I couldn’t wait this is from later in his career, in fact, the last collection he published in his lifetime. Alan Titley notes in his translation that the collection of short stories that the novella is taken from saw a change in style as they are much darker than his other work with a unifying theme of decay at its heart.  

It was a ratty voice on the other end of the telephine, her sister calliung from his house

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself gallivanting around, and your wife just dead”

“She is dead”, N said”Yes. It was as much as he cpould think of saying. With so many civil servants listening, he couldn’t say that he had missed so much time in the office that his job was in danger. He had told her dozens of times that he had got lots of hint in the office already, but they wanted to believe he was neglecting his wife..

“Dead at last”, he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Yes, at last”, the sister said. “You’d think it wasn’t soon enough for you

That sums up his postion in the first chapter and his sisters view of him!!

What we have in the dregs of the day is the weekend after his wife has died of N we never told his full name. But we know he has a civil service job that he has spent a lot of time off to care for his wife. But he is sent out to sort out the arrangements for his wife’s funeral by his family. But N is a man that is easily distracting and what follows is a sort of odyssey around his small town which in a typical Irish way starts at the pub he hasn’t a lot of money and wants to spend as little as possible he hopes for inspiration in a glass! As he tries to avoid the sisters in law and his wife’s dead body. He needs to get the church priest a nurse and other things sorted. But he seems to be trying to bury his head in the ground and later into another woman as he has sex with her. Falling asleep in a shop getting thrown out of church all the time getting further from the task in hand. As he ways up his past and future it shows the tragedy of his life.

 When that particular fantasy had evaporated, he knew he couldn’t put the buisness of the corpse off any longer. He hadn’t contacted the little sisters yet. He thought about the nun he had spotted below at the arch just a while ago. He made his way back to see if he could get any information from her about the little sisters, or indeed about anything else. He’d give her something. He still had a few schillings left. But neither saint of sinner at the arch.He searched the neighbouring streets- but in vain.

As often in the ireland of the time the church is there in the background.

Like  Cré na Cille this has a very dark humor behind it N is a man that you feel has been under the thumb and that the loss of his wife and this chance to escape his sisters in law gives him his first breath of freedom for a while and in a very Irish way this all starts in the pub and rather like Bloom in Joyce Ulysses we see a man on a quest and also sex plays a part her like in Ulysses the death of his wife and he is in bed with another woman. He is a man on the run he knows the task at hand-sorting the burial out but every step he takes towards that effort he seems to take two back and get further away from that task. It is wonderful to work that full of life and like Titley translation of  Cré na Cille has a number of f words here and there. Joyce is here in part he was a huge fan of Modernism and Joyce this is a small odyssey for N. 

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 ?

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