Life in the court of Matane by Eric Dupont

QCFINF16 - CoverLivreMatane_RVB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life in the court of Matane by Eric Dupont

Canadian Quebec Fiction

Original title –Bestiaire

Translator – Peter McCambridge

Source – Review copy

I have found that many of my favourite books have come from the Quebec based publisher QC that are translating the best of that regions literature. Peter said to me in a tweet this was the book that made him want to become a translator and thus start QC books. Eric Dupont is considered one of the leading lights in the New Quebec lit movement. He has been called an essential to read of this movement of writers. His books have been longlist for a number of prizes.

July 1976. Monteral. The 21sr Olympic games. A tiny Romanian gymnast stands on a mat and waves to the crowd. For thirty seconds, she swings back and forth between twp wooden bars, defying the laws of gravity.Her landing is perfect.She even manages a smile, and gambols away from the blue mat as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened, With the whole world looking on, she gets a perfect score. Ten . Nadia comaneci, the child who had been getting by on a egg a day, had just revealed to Quebec’s metropolis the possiablties in weightlessness, Of this impressive demonstration of grace, courage, and agility, history would remember her smile most of all.

And behind the smile is like Erics a sad life hidden behind beauty.

I am so pleased Peter sent me this book. I was like Eric the narrator of this book a child of a family that split up.This is now fairly come. But in the early eighties wasn’t so. When my parents split up it wasn’t so much so as the narrator of this book shows it is hard on us kids of broken families. This book had so many echoes with my own life. I wasn’t like Eric enthralled by the Nadia Comaneci Gold medal performance. For me, a similar memory would be the first space shuttle launch in 1981 the first holiday with my dad after their divorce. Which is similar to Eric’s he is a couple of years older than me. The story unfolds chapter by chapter using an animal the young narrator meets along the way.This echoes the French title which is Bestiary.  Which is, of course, an ancient medieval way of using animals to tell moral tales to the readers. We have also seen in modern times writer like Borges use the form as well. It also shows the choice of the beasts. As a growing strength in the narrator Eric as he faces his life. As he says every birthday we had a new address and place as he tries to live up to his police father, schoolyard bullying a dream life in Russia. Also the sheer fact of growing up in the ever-changing and fast-moving world of the late seventies and early eighties.

A few hours after sputinik 2’s launch, the soviets announced what they had knwon from the beginning. Lakia wouldn’t be coming back to earth. Sputnik 2 wasn’t deisgined for return flight. All the scientists knew this. even Oleg Gazenko. The dog was to die , poisoned  after ten days  Years later, scientists mo longer moving within Russia’s orbit revealed the horryfinh deatails: Laika had probably survived nom more than a few hours abard sputnik2 .

As I said the shuttle launch in1981 is a memory from my life like this was to many at the time.

It’s fair to say, I connected with this book as it has so many comparisons with my own life. Isn’t this what the best of writers try to do at times,  they draw us into their world.We as readers draw our own experiences and this book did that in spades. We all grow up and this is what makes  Bildungsroman is a classic form of novel and one that we have all rea But this book uses a number of clever framing devices the animals and the feeling of each animal giving him a little hope. Then using  Nadia performance as a metaphor for the gymnastic all us kids of split families.Would have to be. Like the best of this fiction.As it takes the tough side of childhood. Books like Black swan green  or even Kestrel for a knave another book that echo the human and animal themes as we saw how one animal lifted Billy Caspers life her we see how a flurry of animals ending with the wisest of them A great horned Owl, Owls have long symbolized knowledge but also a letting go of the knowledge of the past such as the quote of Hegel

 

Philosophy, as the thought of the world, does not appear until reality has completed its formative process, and made itself ready. History thus corroborates the teaching of the conception that only in the maturity of reality does the ideal appear as counterpart to the real, apprehends the real world in its substance, and shapes it into an intellectual kingdom. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.

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Shtetl Love Song by Grigory Kanovich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shtetl Love song by Grigory kanovich

Lithuanian fiction

Original title – Местечковый романс

Translator – Yisrael Elliot Cohen

Source – review copy

I reviewed the first book from the new publisher Noir press Breathing into Marble which I enjoyed. this their latest book from Lithuanian is a true gem of a book. Grigory Kanovich is a well know poet and writer. He currently lives in Israel and before he emigrated there was the head of the Jewish community of Lithuania. He also served as a people’s deputy during Soviet times. Born into a tailoring Jewish family of the Shtetl community if Jews in Lithuania before world war two. what he brings in this book is the lost world of his family and their friends. 95% of Shtetl jews died during world war two when Germany invaded.

For a long time I have intend to write about my mother with that joyous enthusiasm and the kind of abundant detail with which it is fitting to recall one’s parents, the people closest and dearest to you. But to my great shame, for one reason or another, i have kept putting it off.Or, if I have started, then I have written nothing more than casual scraps, limiting myself to separate episodes that dealt with my relatives and the other people from my hometown. Wanting to somehow soften my feeling of guilt, I began to recall things, conjuring up memories even when I was sleeping, However the following morning I would mercilessly erase the words that has seemed so appropriate the night before

Grigory explains his struggle with this book he want to honour his mum and home town.

The book starts with Grigory saying he had long wanted to tell the story of his mother and family in pre war Lithuania in those years before he turned twelve and they had to leave and returned later to a changed country. I saw somewhere that said the Grigory was maybe the only person that could bring this world to us as readers as so few people are left alive from that time.. This follows his father and grandfather and their spouses Mama and Dovid ,Grandma Rokha as they leave their home and head to Lithuania after the end of another war to first Vilnius and then on to the home town of Jonava. What follows is the history of the following years of the family as they grow into village ,life but also stat planting roots which we see his mother Hennie settle and explain the village around them the rabbis, traders and characters. This is a description of a world long gone but also a family history a view of the world they live in which at the time was one where their is big changes as the country they live in Lithuania that had just become a country but is also trying to stay a country and not get eaten up by either of the two large powers that are  nearby the Soviet and German regimes have their eyes on the country.

Wake up. Hirshele! Wake up, my golden one! today it’s an important holiday. Pesach! Passover! I’m going to take you today, my little dove, to the synagogue for the first time. To the Beit Knesset Hagadol .

“Where?” my eye. still not unstick from my sweet sleep expressed nothing but fear.

“To the great synagogue. You’ve never been before.Each day Gotenu, our dear god, decends from heaven to there. We will be pray together and thank our protector and Benefactor for delivering us from Egypt thousands of years ago and liberating us from the Pharohs.

I love and fear going place like this with my grandmother at times.

I have read a lot of lit about the war and Jewish life , but there isn’t many books  out there that touch this book for the way it captures the day-to-day family life As many of you know I am a huge fan of those books that capture village small town life and this is what this does . But also the black humour the jewish community is well-known for shine through at times that saw their world change. The action is in the pre war period but the sense of the wider world invading the small is evident as the family goes on but their world will be for ever changed. Grigory has written all his life about the Litvak community of Lithuania. This is his most personal book and the last he has written so far, it won a number of prizes including the Lithuania National prize. I loved the small boy on the cover he capture this world so well in a way.

Fear and his servant by Mirjana Novakovic

Fear and his servant by Mirjana Novakovic

Serbian fiction

original title -Strah I njegov sluga

Translator – Terence McEneny

Source – review copy

I reach the last of this stop on Peter Owen World series Serbian collection. The last book of the series has my favourite cover of the year and like the other books were on the Shortlist for the Nin prize. Mirjana first published a collection of short stories in 1996 since then she has written three novels this was her first novel the other two have been on the Nin shortlist. She has had her books translated into a number of languages this book came out from a Serbian publisher a number of years ago.

It had been years since my last visit to Belgrade. And I missing it. I was curious to see what twenty years of Austrian rule had dome for the place. The last time I’d seen it, it was an Oriental bazaar, the skyline bristling withcountless minatrets, the air filled with the stench of tallow and the wailing of Muezzins. In Pest I’d heard how the city was nearly destroyed in the siege or 1717 but that the fortifications had since been tripled, making it even more impregnable during its time under the Turks.

Otto arrives to see how the Austrians have changed the place .

Well, the setting is 18th century Serbia and the atmosphere of this novel is similar to that of Dracula or Kaspar Hauser a story told from Princess Marie Ausua is in town looking for love and the same time as she arrives Otto Van Hausberg arrives with his Serbian servant Novak a crafty man, I was reminded of the many servants we have seen that are devious in the past . They are seen by some as the devil and his man on earth. They are there checking out reports of Vampires and an Attack on an Austrian tax collector.Marie and otto who has taken to his role as being the devil set off to the hinterlands of Serbia to find if the vampire attacks are real.Marie looks forward to seeing more of the country her eyes are naive and childlike at a time. The chapters switch from character to character and there is a sense of the past reflecting the present at times as well.The famous Serbian Vampire Sava Savanovic a real-life character and the best know Vampire Myth in Serbia lurks in the background.

Mary, Maria. Maria Augusta. She lay there in all helplessness. How does tat Serb put in that poem They’re always quoting? she sleeps, perhaps / Her eyes outside all evil. But the vampire wouldn’t let her. And, outside evil was standing watch. The red count sat beside me, quite unconcerned. He was twirling one of the many curls of his red wig

Mary is innocent and Naive in a way and as it says helpless at times.

This is one of those stories that we read middle European books for where else do we see the devil turn up or Evil From Stantango A man arriving in a town unknown cause many troubles. Like others, Otto is a voice questioning the world the devil on earth what is evil does the past have evil does the present have evil. This is one of those reads that will take many a rereading to discover the many twists in the tales also the links from the 18th century Serbia setting through the modern day Serbia and politics of the recent past. The power struggle between the East and west is also shown her Between The Austrian side and the older Ottoman side of the country. This is a clever retelling of old tales from modern eyes.

The house of Remembering and Forgetting by Filip David

 

The House of remembering and Forgetting by Filip David

Serbian fiction

Original title – Kuća sećanja i zaborava

Translator – Christina Pribichevich Zoric

Source – review copy

I reach the second book of the Serbian stop in Peter world series. Filip David has been a big name in Balkan fiction for a number of years. Forming a circle of writers first in Sarajevo then later in Belgrade where he opposed the Serbian leader Milosevic at the time. He also worked on the radio dramas til getting sacked for starting a trade union. This book won the NIn Book prize (Like the Serbian Booker prize ) when it came out in 2014.

My father was distantly related to the famous Houdini, whose real name was Erik Weisz. He was one of Rabbi Mayer Weisz’s six children. The great illusionist became famous or his escape acts from locked spaces and chains, displaying skills that verged on the impossible. My father often joked, although later said quite seriously, that this was a legacy shared by all the weiszes.

One of my fathers close relatives was named erik after the celebrated escapologist. He was one of the few members of the Weisz familyto have survivied the Holocaust, although later he disappeared without a trace. According to unconfirmed rumours he finished up in a mental asylum.

THe family connection to the escapologist and Alberts own tale of escape.

This book is a fictional action of a Holocaust survivor Albert Weiss and his story. He is set on this path when in the present he visited an exhibition with a pair of rooms about the holocaust. He then recounts his life and his survival in how his parents died he was brought up by another couple. After he was thrown out of a train on its way to the death camp. The true story of the Serbian jews told in many tales of Albert Weiss and his life. Old man remembering in a world where news is so fast it is forgotten. This is told in the snippets of stories some forgotten some connected to the past like discovering the brains evil centre. A birth of a devil baby shows the horror and death still walk hand in hand as panic grabs people in Columbia. All this as Weiss lives his life in New York, but still hears the clatter of that train on the rails as he head as a six-year-old child to the Death camp but out of this came his rebirth.

Albert shuts his eyes. That is how you become invisible. That is the incredible trick his father used to talk abpout. One worthy of the celbrated relative hounini, the greatest escape artist of all time.

“This world of ours is not exactly the most perfect place to live in ” his father used to say “When you find yourself in trouble, just shut your eyes and wait ”

His famous relative and also the fathers words he remembers are touching and sad!

Susie from Istros compared this book to those of Dasa Drndric, They both share a sense of collective loss of the Jewish voice in the Balkans and also both serve as warnings. The David with its reflections of the current news and Dasa in her most recent book translated into English which shows a man looking back at how much the world had changed in recent years. We are forgetting more than remembering the past these days. Also, there is a feeling of the past become trivial like the news piece on the painter using Holocaust ashes to paint with. A point Topol touched on in his book The Devil’s Workshop about wanting to make a Disneyland like death camp experience. This is a testament to the Serbian jews that died and those who survived like David himself who was a survivor.

 

The tragic fate of Moritz Toth by Dana Todorovic

 

The tragic fate of Moritz Toth by Dana Todorovic

Serbian fiction

Original title – tragična sudbina Morica Tota

Translator – the writer herself

Source – reivew copy

I m so pleased to get to the third in Peter Owen series of world series of books. This time the stop on their journey around the world is Serbia. This written by the half Serbian, Half American writer Dana Todorovic was shortlisted for a number of prizes when it first came out in Serbian. Including the big prize the Nin pirze. Dana also works as a translator of mainly films and theatre. She has also worked as Interpreter at the UN.

This is when I discovered that the red priest, that is IL Prete Rosso, had been the nickname of the legendary Italian violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldion account of his flaming red hair and the fact he had briefly studied to become a priest. As a hardcore punk , I owed my flaming red hair not to genetics but to a tube of Koleston hair dye of the shade 77/44, and my wardrobe at the time consisted of scruffy wollen sweaters stretched down to the knees and black t-shirt dedicated to the funeral ,stairway to hell and filthy communion.

He is called the red priest at the opera he finds out why here .

The book is formed of two narratives. The first narrative finds The title character Moritz Toth narrating his life. He is a former punk who has suffered a recent number of setbacks including the loss of a close female friend. He has a turn of luck when he gets a job in the Opera as a prompter. The guy that sits in a wooden box on the front of the stage helping the singers if they forget lines. His first job is tackling the complex Puccini opera Turandot. As the story of his life unfolds he has a sense that like a character in a Greek myth his life is being controlled and who is that feeling or being he keeps sensing in the background behind him.He also has to cope with being stuck in a small wooden box all day  The second storyline in the book follows an official Tobias Keller.Who works for The moral issuses adviser with the office of the great oversee. We follow him through a number of meeting and as his job and reason for being in the book starts to unfold we see how he is connected to Moritz.

“Your name ”

These were the presiding officers first words to Tobias. His voice was rather thin for such a large man,and Tobias suspected that he was burdened with something of a orthodontic anomaly, as he spoke with a certain impediment, causing missiles of saliva to shoot across the room at random targets,

“Tobias Keller,” he answered.

“What is it that you do, Mr Keller?”

“I am the adviser for the moral issues with the office of the great oversee”

Tobias face a panel and gives his ambiguous job title to the committee

 

This is a short novel about one man struggling with his life. Then how the other person actions have affected those it shows how a chance and events. Can change people s lives. Both men are effects as Tobias influence of Mortiz life is considered by those he worked for as maybe wrong. I got a sense of Tobias’s  world is rather like that of the world within the film  Brazil and in fact in the way he deals with Moritz is like the angel visions of Jonathan Pryce in that film. but maybe it also harks back to the old nature of the Yugoslavia of the past with its inner working and committees like those Tobias gets caught up in. I managed to get through this review without mention Kafka, but yes there is a sense of his world in Tobias narrative.

Insane by Rainald Goetz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insane by Rainald Goetz

German fiction

Original title – Irre

Translator -Adrian Nathan West

Source – review copy

I read this last month but it has taken me to now to talk Insane by Rainald Goetz. He was considered a breakout writer when he wrote this book in 1983. The book is based on he experiences as a doctor in an asylum in the early 1980’s. I took time as this book in some sense is dated in its view of treatments. But in others show the same problems people tackle today in Mental Health. I work within a ward for people with learning disabilities, but also have a number of mental health issues. So the world he described is an older view of the world I work in. Another inventive German writer like Jorg fauser I read a few years ago.

I recognized nothing

Let loose from the madhouse, each day in the evening. I would walk to the tunnels of the U-Bahn, not bothering to look around. Had I even caught the scent of spring? Still rattled from the journey. I made my way to my room, and nothing was as it had been before I stepped oblivous  among the beer cans, bottles , newspapers and bits of clothing in the floor, qyesting aimlessly.

He even is distracted in the opening lines of the book.

We follow the first year in his new workplace of Dr Raspe after qualifying as a psychiatrist. As he gets stuck into the day to day world of the asylum his eyes are open to how bad the system is the range of patients the attitude of his fellow psychiatrist all start to chip away at the young man as he sees the people trying to solve the patients failing in a way. The practices in this book are long gone. We don’t chemically cosh people like they did twenty years ago and the scenes of electroconvulsive is rarely used these days. We see Raspe falling apart piece by piece as he spends his nights and weekend with his punk friends and his days getting more disillusioned with his world. A view of a world gone but also important to remember what happened to drive out Raspe.

All the work of these last few weeks, all the dedication reduced to a couple of keywords, medicines, dosages: numbers from one end to the next. It’s true that there is nothing objectively graspable abput what we do save for the prescription of medicines, the constant attempt to establish the correct dosage. At the same time, Our real work vanishes behind these objective data, the conversation, the empathy, everything that for me constitues the indispensable accompanimentof medical theray.

I loved this description of writing and notes, Ive seen it go from one extreme to the other in my years in care.

Thou the world in this book is long gone the problem of what happens with people that have mental health issues is the same now as it was then. How we treat people is different .But there are new problems due to lack of funding and maybe also a lack of any concrete way ahead. but that is above my grade. In the book, it captures a time that has long gone but also5the day to day struggles of staff looking after people with people with mental health issues.Also the struggle of the patients.  You get a sense of how intense Goetze was as a person when you see him reading at this time in the video at the bottom which shows him reading at a piece at the Bachmann prize giving at which in the middle of which he cut his head open.. A punk gesture to his intense nature and also a nod to those he treated.

 

Behind the station by Arno Camenisch

 

 

Behind the station by Arno Camenisch

Swiss fiction

Original title – Hinter dem Bahnhof

Translator – Donal Mclaughlin

Source – personal copy

I feature the first book in the trilogy Arno Camenisch wrote The alp earlier this month. I had ordered this book first but when it arrived and I saw that it was the second book I decided to order the Alp. Which is the book he got more acclaim for? Though this book style wise is similar in tone to the other book.The third part of the book has also been translated into English. But I haven’t got a copy yet.

My Grandfather has seven and a half fingers. On his left hand he has five fingers. on his right hand, he has the thumb, the index finger and half a middle finger> Thats two and half fingers that are missing, he took off at the big band saw. He wears his wedding ring on the left ring finger. Nonno coughs and says, bot, don’t come to close to the band saw on me, or do you want your fingers pff. Nonno is the master of the band saw.

This echoed a [passage in the alp about missing fingers and maybe the harsh nature of life.

Like the Alp, this is a book set in a small alpine village of forty or so people. It is told from the point of view of a young boy. Who lives there with his brother and observes the world they live in. like in the earlier book” the alp “, this is a gritty view of alpine life for those less well off. A tale of village life growing up without any real hope in your heart. Also although through child’s eyes you see the tough nature of the world of his parents and even more so of his grandparents.Especially with the grandfather’s illness, a real feeling of hope is failing as the chief patriarch. This is tough as the narrator is only five years old elsewhere we see him and brother get into a number of scraps the brother falls the two get stuck in one part. A bleak internal look at the alpine life devoid of hope in many ways but also full of the wonderful quaint ways of village life.

We’ll have to spend the night in the chair lift and will miss Scaccia pensieri on tv tonight, my brother says, and mother will have to flush the rice and beetroot down the toilet. The last of the Chupa chups have also gone when we hear my father calling, the helicopter’s on its way. My brother looks at me. Behind the blue panes in his ski glasses, his eyes look like those of a fish. I don’t beleive it, I say , my father’s bored and joking for sure, there are no HelioKopter round here. My brother says, Maybe the heliokopter really is coming and it’ll throw us down rucksacks with new Chupa Chups and salami and cucumber sandwiches so we don’t get hungry during the night.

Somthung child like in this pasage but also harsh realism of the diet of the poor alpine people.

Like in the first part of the trilogy the names of the characters are just Family names so brother, father, mother aunt, uncle etc. The only people that we do see k=named are Italian immigrants that work the land. This is a very baron view of the world told from the internal thoughts of our nameless narrator. if Peter from the Hiedi stories had a novella written by Thomas Bernhard this would be near it there is a bitter undertow of hopelessness the village is like in the alp with the similar characters a place caught out of time with the surrounding world and our narrator even thou young could even have been like a Dickens child character for the way he viewed the world. There is a similar bleak nature to the likes of the young Oliver or even more so Pip as they both share a bleak world the world of the village of Oberlander is similar to that of Pips Marshland home.

Tumult By Hans Magnus Enzensberger

 

Tumult by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

German Memoir

Original title – Tumult

Translator – Mike Mitchell

I had a novel from Hans Magnus on my TBR pile, I vaguely remembered his name from when I lived in Germany in the early 1990’s. He is one of the most well regarded German man of letters. He is a poet, Championing Journalist, Translator and has been the editor of thGermanan book series Die Andere Bibliothek a sort of German version the Folio society. So as I say this caught my eye as it is a collection of pieces, he wrote in the sixties a time when he travelled the world at various conferences on literature.

That is the only part of his speech where you feel itmeans something to him personally. After a pause he abandons himself once more to his meandering associations, talks about anything andeverything in a way that sounds almost muddled and gossipy. Later on , a couple of fairly senior officals tell me they are very concerned about his garrulousness. The bos they say is incapble of keeping a secret to himself especially when it’s a case of real or presumed success.

Kruschev was removed a year after this as leader.

The first piece of the four long prose pieces that he wrote in the sixties. This first piece is a trip to Russia at the height of the cold war when Kruschev was the leader a man seen as one that could heal the wounds. He was a guest of the Soviet authorities.The first part is the time he spent with all the other writers.Later in the trip, he was the Lone German writer to be invited to spend time with the leader at his holiday home.Was he observes how the leader interacts with people? At a later conference, he would meet his with a relative of a Soviet writer.This meeting is recounted in his diary entries of the time. The later piece deal with a later trip to Cuba and again meeting fellow writers. The pieces I enjoyed is were he looked back on the people he meets and said what had happened to them. This is a time when writers were still considered kings among men and their words are important.

Yvegeny Yevtushenko’s also there. He’s the star of the congress. Surrounded by photographers. For Soviet conditions there’s something of Hollywood about his appearence. To my surprise, he immediately recalls our meeting in Leningrad. He even remembers our rock and roll evening outside the offical programmes.

I have the misfortune to be compared to him in some newpapers – and it seems as if the reverse is also true.Its the cliche of the angry young man. Yet a phenomenon such as Yevtushenko is only conceivable in Russia

A poet as a hero and he was one of the voice to fise under Kruschev thaw . This also echos Urgesic view of the writer in the Soviet era.

He meets a lot of the most well-known writers of the time. I was reminded of the words of the Croat writer Dubravka Urgesic in her book Thank you for not reading. About how the Soviet era put writers on a pedestal. a time now passed. He observes how a man that was on the verge of sending the world into Madness Kruschev was as a real person as he observed him.We see the world through Hans Magnus eyes but actually, learn very little of the man himself other than his views of the times he lived in the years before the Cuban missile crisis, the Paris riots. The writers he meet like Nelly Sachs whom he was the executor of her will.(a writer mentioned in Mireille Gansal memoir she translated her.) This is one for all world lit fans with an eye to history and a love of German Lit.

 

Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier

 

Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier

Swiss fiction

Original title – Toteninsel

Translator – Burton Pike

Source – personal copy

I said at the start of German lit month the new job has given me a little extra money to buy some second-hand copies for this year’s challenge. I got this book last year. But finally read it again, last week. As Gerhard Meir belongs with writers like Bernhard and Walser writers that need a couple of readings. Meier is by trade a designer and it wasn’t till he was ill and in his forties, he took up writing.He got a lot of recognition when Peter Handke shared his Franz Kafka prize money with him. He lived in a small village and avoided the limelight.

“I like to walk through this part of town,- Do you see a;; those things over there? Discarded parts from building the railroad, presumably. And through them the sky, at times bare, overcast, putting on its stars:Firefly-lights abouve the field full of parts.I like walking through it. And if I were a photographer, Bindschadle, these iron bones would be sold commercially so people could decorate their walls with them.

I loved this description as the bones of an industral past how often I walk [past these in Chesterfield!

This is a short novella of hundred pages. It follows two old guys Baur, now he is the talker of the two. Bindschadler is the quiet one, although I sense he has just got used to speaking when it is worth it and letting Baur fill the gaps. The two have been friends since they were in the army at a young age. The two wander along the river and talk the things that matter to the pair of them like art, writing and writers. The way the hometown has changed over the years .But as they talk the events and time they talk about drift and they seem caught in a past that has gone and like the title of the book which is a famous picture of an island that is rather unclear and has a number of different versions also is the cover is homage to the picture of the Isle of the dead . They are maybe an isle of a dead world in the words.

“Thus Bindschadler, one could say that Bartok’s music brings groves of plane trees to ballet dancing, bringing in what’s around them, while prayer moves mountains or wakes the dead, even when their bones lie neatly ordered in the eartg, which according to the usual opinon, is the right place for them,” Baur said

We followed the path accross the Dnnern meadow. Antonioni’s tennis scene from Blow-up came to mind, which was mimed without a tennis ball; saw the green of the court, which in the ligh from the searchlights appeared especially green

Bones agian a rcurring theme at times also the falk of music and film here.

If Samuel Beckett had ever been asked to an episode of last of the summer wine this would have been how it would have turned out. The Isle of the dead is considered a masterpiece of Swiss modernist fiction and has echoes of the like of Bernhard in the way he viewed the art world. Joyce as they walk he use the places around them as a metaphor for a changing world. This is a slow meandering book the talk is beautiful from the two full of subtle details like a macro lens on the lives the details they give away are so defined in the conversations between the two. The way two objects or animals get a symbiotic relationship the shared past of these two is like the intertwining of the branches of two great trees that is keeping them together but also from falling over.

The Clown by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clown by Heinrich Böll

German fiction

Original title –  Ansichten eines Clowns

Translator – Lelia Venneewitz

Source – personal copy

I think it is a tradition to have a book from Heinrich Böll for German lit month. Having featured him three times before on German lit month on the blog. I have long been a fan of his works. This book is one I have wanted to put on the blog as the themes in the book are at the heart of what drove Heinrich as a writer and that was post-war Germany, the Catholic church, families and being a German male in post-war Germany. I fear he is slipping away from view, for many as a writer. I know there was some reissues. But that was a few years ago, luckily his books can be found fairly cheaply second hand.

I thought of Marie: of her voice and her breast, her hands and her hair, her movements and everything we had done with each other. Also of Zupfner, whom she wanted to marry. We had known each other quite well as boys- so well that when we met again as grown men we didn’t quite know whether to use first names of not – either way we felt embarrassed, and we never got over this embarrassment no matter how often we met.I couldn’t understand how Marie could have gone over to him of all people, but perhaps I never “Understood” Marie.

Hans looking back but also thinking what went wrong woith Marie.

The clown of the title is one Hans Schnier a 27-year-old. He makes his living as a clown around Germany. He is from a rich protestant family.But was sent to a Catholic school. Where he meets and lived with Marie for five years.She was a Catholic girl , they never married but spent many years ago . til she was drawn back towards the church and want Hans to join her.They were meant to go to an event at the hotel but Hans had to perform the night they were due to go to the Catholic even.  he got back to the hotel and in the morning she is gone, five years down the drain and the love of his life has gone with a man called Zupfner. We are told this in retrospective as the book opens with Hans after Marie has left lamenting her leaving him. He also has family problems as he confronts his father over there childhood, the family position after the war and its effect on him and his brother.

Even in the bathtub I missed Marie. She had sometimes read aloud to me as I lay in the tub, from the bed, once fro the old testament the whole story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, another time the was od the Maccabees, and now and again from mThomas Woolfe’s Look homeward ,Angel. Here I was, lying completely deserted in this stupid terra cotta bathtub,  the bathroom was done in black tiles, but the tub, soapdish, shower handle and toilet seat were terra cotta. I missed Marie’s voice. Come to think of it, she couldn’t read the Bible with Supfner without feeling like a traitor or a whore.

Later he laments her but also has a wicked dig at the man she is with and his catholic religion.

At the heart of this is a lot of issues that were close to Boll. How Germany moved forward after the war.As Hans tried to break free of the family by being a clown.  How the church influenced people especially the Catholic church, his hometown of Koln is a very Catholic town. He must have also seen the effect of the church on Ireland a place. He visited many times as seen when I reviewed his, an  Irish Journals, a few years ago.You can even stay in his Irish cottage if you are a writer.Marriage is another thing that is touched on in the book. Hans and Marie lived together for five years, but Marie always viewed it as living in sin. This has echoes of works from Graham Greene, a book like the end of the affair.Which touched similar subjects, to this book was another novel that examined Catholic church.

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