The legend of the Holy drinker by Joseph Roth

 

Image of The Legend Of The Holy Drinker

The legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – Library book

 

I’m so sorry
I know exactly what you mean
Tired of being devilish
Sick of being wicked
Habitual, and untrue
Another starting over
Although it is the ending
I send regards to you
Standing on the steps
Steps of the cathedral
Watch the summer fade
Just trying to get to somewhere
Trying to get just anywhere
And I know it ain’t my day

On the steps of the cathedral by the mighty Mark Lanegan seems match this book his lyrics full of god and drinking source 

Well I had planned to read a few books by Joseph Roth for the week for him this German lit month but as ever time and other books caught up with me so I only got chance to read the shortest one I  got hold of but really enjoyed this Novella .Joseph Roth served on the eastern front in world war one , then became a Journalist on left-wing papers after the war .He was married , but his wife suffered mental illness for most of their marriage so was in a sanatorium .He published his first novel in 1923 , but it wasn’t to the early 1930’s and The books Job and The Radetzky march that he found real fame .Roth himself was a drinker ,this book was his final book .

On a spring evening in 1934 a gentleman of mature years descended one flights of stone steps that lead from the bridges over the Seine down to its banks .It is there that , as all over the world knows and so will hardly need reminding , the homeless poor of paris sleep or rather spend the night

The man who gives Andreas the money , finds him under that bridge

The legend of the holy drinker follows Andreas , a vagrant former coal miner , that because of a number of misfortunes he had become a down and out .But in the book we see this man get a number of pieces of good fortune starting with the mystery meeting with a man who gives him 200 francs .That he promises to ive back  via a statue of Saint Theresa of Liseux to give to a certain priest .The first thing Andreas uses the money for is  to go for a drink with it going straight to the nearest bar , but this leads to  a meeting with former friends , lovers lead him down a path of not giving the money to the right person  , moving in different circles we see the older version of Andreas shine through the man he used to be ,we also find out how he end up on the street after going to prison. Finally then there is a strange younger woman  called Theresa .But is all this long-term can one escape one’s fate ?

He woke up very early in the morning .Caroline was still asleep .A solitary bird was twittered outside the open window .He lay there for a while with open eyes , no more than a couple of minutes .During those minutes he was thinking .It seemed to him that not for long time had so many remarkable things happened to him as now ,in the space of this single week .

Andreas thinks about good fortune , but is it really ?

Now this was his last book , is Andreas in some part Roth I don’t know , he seemed from his bio to be struggling with drink and ,maybe this story of a man nearly redeeming himself was in some part what he wanted .Are we all haunted by our past ? Can we escape our past ? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes ? These are all questions one is asking one’s self whilst reading this book .Maybe Andreas is a wider figure the lost hope and dreams of many a man , but then given a chance to escape it .Is human nature to be repeat of what we were , can we break the cycle Andreas is maybe Roth trying to discover a way through his human nature but the world around him , this was 1939 Roth was a jew living in Paris maybe this is more a tale of some one looking for redemption .I know I musing on this one but it’s that type of book a fable like feel to his prose and a gentle wit and carefully drawn lead character makes me feel there is a lot more to this one than first appears .I also love the woodcut art that is at the start of each chapter .

have you ever read a book that leaves you with a lot of questions after reading it ?

Indigo by Clemens J. Setz

Indigo by Clemens J. Setz 

Austrian fiction 

Original title – Indigo

Translator – Ross Benjamin

Source – review copy

 

Just like watching the detectives.
Don’t get cute!”
It’s just like watching the detectives.
I get so angry when the teardrops start,
but he can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart.
Watching the detectives.
It’s just like watching the detective

We not only watch the detectives but join them in this book ?

I have been vaguely aware of Clemens J Setz ,I had seen his name on a few German book prize list over the last few years , so when this book arrived from Serpents tail I was delighted to be able to try what seems to be one of the rising stars of German literature .Studied at Graz ,after university ,he went on and became a translator ,then a writer and poet ,his second novel the frequencies was on the German book prize shortlist (the German version of the booker prize ) ,he has also won Leipzig book fair prize .Indigo is his third novel and his first to be translated into English .This novel was also on the german book prize shortlist .A quick taster for German Lit month .

The wonderful inner peace , the first in a long while ,dissipated immediately when he stepped out of the building .Twenty-nine years on the planet and in all that time probably four hours altogether of perfect peace .During the years at Helianau it had been no more than three minutes ,Not counting sleep

Robert tatzel just as he is set free into the world ,free from Indigo .

Indigo ,is a book with two main characters A maths teacher named Clemens Setz and one of his former pupils Robert Tatzel .The title refers to a kid that in 2007 appears in children that affects any adults that get near them with severe headaches ,nausea and vertigo .Clemens is teaching at the time when the children in his class that catch this Indigo condition.Clemens tries to discover what has happened to his pupils ,but is meet with brick walls and the loss his jobs  .They are driven of in a strange type of mask .Then a number of years later one of these pupils Robert tatzel who with age has grown out of the Indigo condition is reading a paper when he discovers that his former teacher Clemen Setz had been on trial and acquitted for a brutal murder .

Acquitted in a trial for the violent death of a man from Romania .Kept his dogs in a dungeon for years . severe abuse .Death by slow flaying .Prime suspect Setz free as of today .The family of the victim , a small picture .people standing there sadly .In recent years mainly a science fiction novels ,a turn away from literature .Currently living as a freelance writer near .

captions from picture Robert finds about his old teacher .

Now that is the basic story ,but this book is a wonderful German take on Post modern fiction , that through these two stories we almost join these two men as they try to discover what has happen in both case ,why were the children taken ? what cause the Indigo ? Why did Clemens Setz end up in a trial for murder .We meet a mix of files, letters, book reviews , news  stories , clippings and pictures  as the two men try to discover fifteen years apart what happen to the other ,almost like a snake trying to eat its own tail it coils and coils ,making this one of those books that is hard to pin down .It’s a real journey through it ,I was reminded at the times  of  writers  like Pynchon or even Perec  both of whom like Setz here tried detective fiction of one sort or another in their time . There is an inventive hand in Setz writing with all the documents letters etc add a dimension that I haven’t seen done as well recently Strene did it first and Dos Passos did it in his books ,even BS Johnson in some ways but Setz for me made this feel like I was detective alongside them ,I ‘m sure each reader like me has their own take on what happened and why because we can all read into what we see from our own lives ,this make this unusual and unique book and new voice in German lit .

 

Manja by Anna Gmeyner

manja

Manja by Anna Gmeyner

Austrian Fiction

Original title – Manja Ein Roman um fünf Kinde

Translator – Kate Phillips

Source – Library

[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
― Jim Henson,Source this summed the book up well for me 

So I decide for women in translation month to do a walk through the shelves of the local library to find something I didn’t know about and this was the one that I found ,I have other books from Persephone books including the Nemirovsky short story collection ,so another translation in the series was a real surprise for me ,but also a female writer from Austria which most of the books I have reviewed are male writers so it’s a welcome edition to the collection .Anna Gmeyner was born in Vienna ,born into a liberal Jewish family ,she married and divorced young she spent time in Paris and Berlin writing scripts as well as book .She fled to Scotland in 1933 ,this book was written in Exile in 1938 it was originally published in English under the title the wall and this is a new translation and brought back the original title .

The five bright stars of Cassiopeia could ,for a moment ,be seen above the church tower .The they disappeared behind scurrying black clouds .

The intro first lines sums up the five friend born on the same day I feel .

Manja is a story set in the inter war years in a small German town ,the book is told in five stories of five friends born on the same day from their birth to the early rumblings of the Nazis and war .The five friend Heini ,Franz ,Harry ,Karl and the title character Manja ,now this is four boys and a girl ,they become friends at school .But each has a different backgroung Heini is from a liberal family his father a doctor and a piano teacher mother .Harry comes from a rich family ,but his father is half jewish .Franz  is from a middle class  family his father Anton is drawn in by the Nazis .Karl famliy is working class his father is very left wing and Maja is from Poland orginally .We see the years from the children but also each of these five familes as they sail their course through the inter war years as others rise others start to feel that darkness of Nazism causing trouble for them .A clever way of portraying the inter war years from every angle of Austrian society and even throug Manja a Pole living in Austria .

At the wall where they had been meeting one another every saturday and wednesday evening for nearly four years ,Karl ,Franz,Harry and Heini were waiting for Manja ,who was coming today for the last time : tomorrow she was moving with her mother and brothers to another town .

The orginal english title refers to this wall where the kids meet .

Now this is a great choice for Women in translation month as Anna Gmeyner does just what Zweig does and that is write the opposite sex perfectly this is a tale of boys growing up and watching their fathers through their eye and it works as each sees what the years going by brings .It also wonderfully catches family life at time ,Gmeyner lived in German at the time the book is set so it has a similar feeling of being true ,I was reminded of Christopher  Isherwoods Berlin books ,which like this book  showed the slow rise of Nazis from a bit of a joke to a conquering force it became  .It plays well what happens when views of kids follow their parentsviews and lives as they twist and turn through out the years and we see our childhood friends through our parents Eyes ,the shift of Liberal attitudes of the twenties to the far right vision sees Harry’s family feeling the rise Nazism .The book was naturally banned at the time it came out and took a while to be reissued in Germany in 1984 .Have you read this book ?

Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

journey into the past

Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

Austrian fiction

Original title –  Widerstand der Wirklichkeit

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Personnel copy

I couldn’t do two weeks about Pushkin press without at least once reviewing or mentioning Stefan Zweig ,as he is the writer most associated with them in my mind anyway .I have perviously reviewed his books Letter to an Unknown women   and although not published by Pushkin press the post office girl .I have also read Amok for this fortnight .In my mind Zweig is a true one-off writer that thanks to Pushkin we have gotten to read in English .At the height of his fame in the 1920’s and 1930’s he was one of the best known writers in the world .This is one of a number of books by Stefan Zweig that is published by Pushkin press .

“There you are !” He went to meet her with arms outstretched , almost flung wide.”There you are ” he repeated , his voice climbing the scale from surprise to delight ever more clearly ,while his tender glance lingered on her beloved form “I was almost afraid you wouldn’t come !”

“Do you really have so little faith in me ? ”

Ludwig arrives and meets the woman in the opening lines

So too the Journey into the past was only discovered in the seventies and published in the Germany .Ludwig is German engineer and in love with a women whom happens to be married ,but he is sent for a short trip to Mexico to work on opening a mine ,but whilst he is doing this the first world war breaks out leaving him stranded in Mexico .We see him recalling the past as he returns to see if his love is still there what has happened to her .As he travels back to his homeland the memories of their  past  as they await meeting again on the station . The narrative drifts through time past and present mingle .

They left the station , but no sooner were they out of the door than stormy noise met their ears , drums rattling , the shrill sound of pipes – it was a patriotic demonstration of veterans  associations and students in support of the Fatherland .Like a wall on the move ,marching in ranks four abreast ,flags flying ,men in military garb were goose stepping along ,feet thudding heavily on the ground .

The early signs of the Nazis and Ludwig and the woman leave the station .

Well this was a book that supposedly Zweig had worked and reworked this novella for over twenty years ,you can see how it has been cut and edited at just 81 pages it actually feels more like a 300 page novel than a short novella .Zweig has left fact bare and concentrated on the feeling ,memories and broken love  and dreams .Ludwig was a different character than I had previously encountered in Zweig works as in the previous book I have read he has mainly used female characters .I loved the sense of lose and longing we got from Ludwig a man caught by time ,the woman isn’t named we know she is married to a councillor so is maybe an older muse for the young Ludwig whom is in his mid twenties .You also see the changing times and how Zweig worked more recent times into the narrative like the fact when Ludwig arrives back there is a nazi parade taking place almost a small signpost to the future events that drew Austria into the second world war .If you love a tale of lost dreams and loves and longing this is one that you will love .

Have you read Zweig ,if so which is you favourite book ?

The Confusions of young Törless by Robert Musil

the confusions of young Törless

The Confusions of young Törless by Robert Musil

Austrian fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Orginal title – Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß

Source – review copy

I have read Musil many years ago I was lucky to buy cheap copies of his huge epic the man without qualities .So had this one on my list of books to try especially as this year sees it’s a hundred year since the start of world war one .Robert Musil  is an Austrian writer ,he went to military school from 12- 17 ,after that went to study engineering then drifted into studying Philosophy and through that decide to write The confusion of young  Törless was his Debut novel .He did serve in the first world war and went on after the war to write his epic The man without qualities .

The closely woven veil of Frau Törless – the lady of around forty – concealed sad eyes , slightly reddened from crying .For now she had to say goodbye  .And it was hard for her to have to abandon her only child for so long to strangers ,unable to watch over her darling and protect him herself .

We see young Törless leaving effect on his mother .

Törless is a young boy when the book opens we see him with his parents waiting for the train to take him to Military school .We see him at first upset ,but then settle in and make friends at the school .But him and his two friends Beineberg and Reiting see a fellow cadet Basini steal from them ,they then decide to judge this boy themselves and descend into a a violent retribution on him .Basini is in love with Törless thou .Törless feels sorry for him in the end and tells him to own up to what he had done .Elsewhere we see Törless have a sexual awakening with a local women ( well lady of the night ) ,also his parents and how they have affect his view of the world from their own view of the world .

Beineberg continued his line of thought ” I think that for the moment we’ll keep him to ourselves – and punish him ourselves .For he has to be punished , for his arrogance if for nothing else .At most the school authorities would expel him and write a long letter to his uncle

The moment the boys take the law into their own hands .

Well this is a new translation pof the book from Oxford world classics and I can see why they have chosen now to do it the book was written in 1906 . But the events attitudes and views seen in the book can actually explain the events of the next forty years in both Austria and Germany .In fact the attitudes at times remind me of some of the fall out that had surround the Dreyfus affair ,which had been a scandal all over Europe when it happened in 1894 and was strangely finally sorted in 1906 around the time Musil had finished this book ,like that true life affair it showed a dark underbelly in certain people and certain classes of people at the time and that is Fascism  and racism .The views and attitudes shown in the book show why Austria and Germany descend into first into world war One the feeling of over bearing superiority  ,then as a knock on effect will lead to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis .A wonderful time to reissue this book. The book embodies part of what Golding showed in the Lord of the Flies how easily young men can divide and sub divided and make many violent acts  .Musil denied that the book was autobiographical mainly due to the heavy sexual content in it ,but one wonders how much else was from  what he saw and experienced at the time ?

Have you a favourite read that shows the build up to World war One ?

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