The Liquid land by Raphaela Edelbauer

The Liquid Land by Raphaela Edelbauer

Austrian fiction

Original title – Das flüssige Land

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – review copy

My second woman in translation month book takes me to Austria and a book that was on both the German and Austrian book prize lists make the German book prize shortlist in 2019. Raphaela Edlebauer studied philosophy and has published in numerous publications since 2009 and has had three books published two of them novels and this her first novel was written with a grant she got to write it. She grew up in Hinterbruhl which has a location near it that was the inspiration for the village of Gross-einland in the novel Liquid land a satellite camp, that was making plane parts in the second world war in an area surrounded by former mining sites. Which is similar to the village in the novel.

It was the fourth day of my journey in the Alpine foothills, and I sat down with the nearly split bread rolls in order to plan my trip for the day. As id this inconsqnential rhythm of stopping off at inns, contemplation, dinner, sleep and breakfast buffets were leading me to utter lethargy. I decided every morning  to uphold it. I hadn’t yet been able to let go of the hope of finding Greater Einland I loved simplicity of the conditions.

A village that has disappeared into the ether !

The book follows Ruth Schwarz as she has to deal with the death of her parents in a car crash. She is in the middle of her final thesis at university about the fluid nature of time and is struggling to finish this when the death arrives. This means she has to go back to her parent home village the lost vilage it seems of Greater Einland a village that her parents was form but seems to have diappeared in the time since they left eventually she arrives and start to dort out arrangments of her parents funeral. She is only thinking this may take her a few days but as she starts to speend time in the village she finds the village is caught out of time as the countess the head in a way of the village has tried to stop the effects of time on the village so it is a place oiut of time and also siting in the middle of lots of former mines as this is causing holes to appear around the area and the village seems to be oblivous to this and she evens finds that they already have the answer to why these things are happening with the details held with in the town Library ? What has happent ot make thew Countees act like this what has happen to the village and as time seems to stretch and days become weeks will Rith ever leave Greater Einland as those days she had intend to spend become weeks as she is drawn into find out why all this has happened.

It wasn’t until a few days after the strange encounter with the Countess that it occurred to me that I’d had missed my appointment for the funeral arrangements. I hurriedly called the company’s office from the reception and invented a tall tale about a psychological breakdown, The lady in the secretary’s office gave me a new appointment for the following day without complaint, and asked whether I happened to already know when my parents be transferred.

I said that I didn’t, and [romised to be in touch again soon, Too restless to work, I listened, lying on the floor back in my room, to a coulle of  Chet Baker albums I’d brought in a second hand shop, which fused with the autumn weather.

She meets the Countess and then time slips through her hands

The book has echos of things like the village in Whicker man an island but the way this village is hdden it could be a island itself also with a population that seems to oblivous to the outside world and the start of this is from the Countess that has something of the Miss Havishaim about her, in the way she has wanted time to stand still around here. Time is a large theme in this book a scientist that is sudying time, a village where time seems to move different to the world outside the village and the holes like black holes add ruth surname and the holes you have black holes and this is what is happening her a village caught in darkness as time is slowing down as it falls back but in Ruth’s eyes time is speeding past there. This has nods to a world of Kafkaesque twists and turns if Franz Kafka Dickens and Bernhard co written a book this would have been it a mix of great expectations , a kafka nightmare about to happen and a austrian sense to it all is an interesting mix I felt. Have you a favourite German language woman writer ?

Winstons score – A a new talent a clever tale of time and turniong a blind eye.

The Cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

The Cheap Eaters by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Billigesser

Translator – Douglas Robertson

Source – personal copy

It has been two years since I reviewed a book by Thomas Bernhard I have reviewed eight books by him so had to limit myself as I only have a few unread books left to review or buy. Bernhard would have been eighty this year but he passed away over twenty years ago. He has long been one of my favourite writers so when I saw there was a new translation of one of his novellas that hadn’t been in print for a number of years had a new translation. of the cheap eaters out I knew I had to get it. It is among the last few I have left on my shelves to review.

While talking the walk that had been raking for the purposes of his studies every late afternoon for weeks- and also routinely at about six in the morning for the preceding three days, a walk that had passed through Wertheimstein park, in which he said he had once again been able, owing to the ideal natural conditions prevailing solely in Wertheimstein park, to return after rather long interval from a worthless trains of thought regarding his physiogonmy to a useful, indeed, ultimately uncommonly profitable one and hence the resumption of his workon his essay, an essay he had neglected for the longest imaginable time owing to his inability to concentrate

He is a grade A procastantor 16 years on this essay is his life work but he has been dodging it for years.

The book centers on a group of four men that meet every day for the cheapest meal that is available at the Vienna public kitchen every day of the week. When they were he happened upon by Koller as he was meant to be heading to the park. But decided to go to the VPK  but the decision changes but Koller life and the way he is working on his essay. So when he ends up in the kitchen where he sees and eventually becomes part of the cheap eaters’ group. He lost his leg years ago after a dog bite he is a typical world-worn and down-trodden figure. When he found out about the cheap eaters could be the center of his work the exact people he had spent the time search for. He has been working on a character study and writing a piece about Physiognomy he isn’t the quickest he has been working on this piece for 16 years and now the direction has been changed after the chance meeting of the cheap eaters Koller life has become about by a number of chance events the loss of his leg, the length of time spent on his work, the chance meeting sets Koller life into a spin and a new direction. Why are they the cheap eaters there and will Koller ever finish his work?

he had already formed thi impression that the cheap eaters were uninterruptedly concentrated on eating the cheapest food at the VPK even before he had sat down at the cheap eaters table; he had already straightaway been able to infer for his purposes, to infer it first solely from the cheap eaters physical comportment and physicsl movement, and then later also from theit intellectual comportment and intellectual movement. he had inferrred that they were born and personified cheap just as he had always been a born and eaters.

Koller is so caught by the cheap eaters when he happens to chance on them by accident.

This has a tongue-in-cheek feel to it and the world he spirits up of the cheap eaters and the world that revolves around the cheap meals Mon to Fri and why they do this.  that soon ends up drawing in Koller to them and their world. but it also sees a man that isn’t much for the world as a loner a typical sort of Bernhard character down beaten by the world. This is a less ranty Bernhard character not as hard pushed by the world a sort more of a loner than an embittered figure that we usually meet in his work. This is maybe a great intro to Bernhard it has the character traits of his work long paragraph that strong voice that marches on as the book goes on. There is more of a comic edge at times to this world and not quite the bile that he has in other books. But he is yet another figure on the edge of society that Bernhard was so good at writing. I think I will next read his debut work Frost which has sat on my shelves for a few years. Have you read this translation or the earlier Osers one ? have you a favorite Bernhard?

Winstons score – -A maybe an entry-level Bernhard novella

The Great Homecoming by Anna Kim

The Great Homecoming by Anna Kim

Austrian Fiction

Original title – Die große Heimkehr

Translator – Jamie Lee Searle

Source – copy via translator

I left this a bit as it was a book from I writer who I read a few years ago and didn’t review so this time around it deserved a great review. Anna Kim grew up initially in Germany then moved to Vienna she has been writing since 1999 and was sent by project mitSsprach gehts  to Greenland that visit formed two of her earlier novels which included the one I read a few years ago. She has one the European literature prize. This was her latest novel it came out in 2017 and saw her look back at her own Korean Heritage, This is what excited me about this book as it was interesting that a writer that had lived outside Korea looked at the history of her homeland. Plus one of my best friends, when I lived in Germany, was from Korea as well.  

No, I was drawn south, not North, I packed up the few things I owned and left Nosan, went wherever the wind blew me and the waves propelled me; on days when it rained, I would study the color of the rain from beneath the shelter of a tree, trying to memorize it, on other days I followed the traces of light until it disappeared in a valley. I traveled on foot, hiking cross-country, sleeping in caves,cornfields  and under bridges. My new friends were homeless like me, children, teenagers, refugees from the North, refugees from the south, people without ages or names who had become arbitary, transparent, during the search for their famlies. We shared the little foot we managed to beg, shared the warmth of our caves, we shared everything we owned, and yet we lost one another.

I was reminded here a bit of grave of fireflies with setsuko in a cave with her fireflies.

At the heart, if this story is a triangle of friendship two old friends Yunho and Johnny how are meeting after the conflict Yunho has been cut off from his family so heads to the hustle and bustle of Seoul, and his best friend this is where we meet the third main character in this Book Eve a little older than the two school friends she is the start of the book as well as the much older Yunho receives notice of her death as she has died in the US hence the book is his flashback through two turbulent years and the political events but also there is Yunho past this takes us back to the Japanese occupation of Korea a horrific time for the country, There is a lot of history but this for me fills out evens as the trio head as Junho also falls for his friend, lover but when a tragic event and a dead body cause a rift which side of the divide will they all end up on. This is all in a time when the city is full of spies refugees and chancers. A story of three lives in the post-war chaos of the two Koreas.

My rendezvous with eve were as clandestine as my conspiracy with sangok, Mihee and Jang, but it was this secret that proved fateful: whereever the needle goes, the thread must follow.

I don’t know whether she felt the same way; But I was happy, and as I zigzagged my way through the narrowest alleys and darkest corners of nocturnal seuol, which in my mind were part of Eve- for I cpuldn’t have envisaged her in any other place in the world, Eve the Korean woman withthe American name – it seemed a miricale to me that I was ableto find her, that I couldfool the blackness of the night.

The mysterious Eve is she more than they know.

This is a clever book it has another subplot of a Korean German writer returning to Korea to discover there past and the main story of the trio of friends. This is a mix of spy story love story post-war story and also a chunk of modern Korean history thrown in the mix. A European Epic take on post-war Korea. This is one of the best novels on the time I have read it uses the friendship and the way the characters move through the north and south which isn’t like it is today with its closed border but there is a sense that is growing closer as we see Yunho facing turning to the north and leaving Seoul to head to Pyongyang which at the time seem to be prosperous. Then Add Eve moon she is a dancer but she could have walked out of an Ian Fleming novel for being a character she is more than she seems to the boys. Jamie sent me this as she felt it was one of those books that flew under the Radar as it came out during COVID.Which is a shame it is a book that I was going to read at some point as it had been well received in Germany and was on my radar

The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Tag, an dem mein Großvater ein Held war

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

We will skip of from Spain and move to world war two set novella from Austria. I had read the crime Novel that Paulus Hochgatterer is best known for back in 2012 but it slipped under the review guide but I seem to remember I enjoyed it so when this slim volume fell through the door I had to have a double-take to see if it was the same writer but it was which for me was great I love seeing writers trying different styles of books over there writing career.

They say my name is Nelli. Sometimes I believe them. sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think my name is Elisabeth or Katharina. Or Isolde, like the young sales assistant in the hat shop. She’s the reason I go into town from time to time. When I stand outisde the shop and peer through tje window, I see Isolde’s torso floating around inside, nack and forth along the shelves. The head with its auburn plait floats in top. I can’t see anything from the waist down. I imagine her lower half having sat itself down somewhere. Perhaps all the toing and froing has become to exhausting. Perhaps it doesn’t like the plait or the way in wjich the upper half says .How may I help you ? But I don’t gell anyone these sort of things

The fragile sense of Nelli here shaken by her past and not sure of herself.

The book is set in the latter part of world war two in 1945 and our narrator is a young girl she has been sent to live with family in the farmlands of Lower Austria. There is a blur to how she got there almost a sense of a girl that had maybe seen too much of the war at home. Nelli was involved with the bombing at Nibelungen tank factories, she had stopped speaking so when the family takes in a fellow victim of the war an Emaciated Russian soldier all he seems to have is a rolled-up canvas that is his most precious object this above all he has chosen to keep safe. There is an illusion in the book that this picture could be a famous lost piece of art from the war The tower of Horse by Franz Marc the picture now lost may have been Mikhail’s picture they decide to hide him and keep him safe passing him off as a fellow Swabian like Nelli. But what happens when the Wehrmacht turns up with a feeling he may be there what will they Do?

Sitting on the left of the corner bench is a young man. I’ve never seen beforfe. He has long blond hair and reddish blond stubble, and is so thin that he looks on the verge of starvatgion. He is wearing trousers and a coat made of filthy canvas.He has one arm around something that could be a pipe or a piece of fence post. It reaches up to his shoulder when he’s sitting, and its wrapped in green oilcloth tied with a carrying strap. The man is as still as a statue and his eyes are fixed fixed on the floor “Who is that” Annemarie ask me softly. “No idea,” I say “Someone whose house has been bombed pr a spy, and I tell her it’s because that’s what I imagine a spy to look like.

Mikhail and one first things noticed is the wrapped up paining in the Oilskin.

This is a slim book but a book that lasts with you Nelli is a narrator that has seen the horror of war so when the Family hides Mikhail and how he is hidden by her family. The narrative is hers but there is descriptions of the world she is living in that bring the world alive of the farmlands of lower Austria. Nelli comes over well as a damaged figure Hochgaterer is a Child Psychiatrist by profession so he manages the fragile mind of a young girl that had seen more horrors than over will see in a whole lifetime. This is only just a 100 pages long but captures a little everyday corner of the war so well and a tale of hiding a fellow damaged soul in Mikhail that has had the worst horrors of the war. This a mix of the Machine gunners ,  whistle down the wind and A meal in winter stuck in a blender and transported to Austria.

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?

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Beton

Translator –  David McLintock

Source – personal copy

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

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

His sister points out some things to Rudolf about himself.

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

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

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

 

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

The capital by Robert Menasse

The Capital

 

The Capital by Robert Menasse

Austrian  fiction

Original title – Dia Hauptstad

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source -review copy

Robert Menasseis an Austrian writer. He studied German studies, philosophy and political science then after that he lectured in Brazil. He published his first novel just as he left Brazil. Since returning to Europe he has written a number of books which have He have recurring theme loneliness and alienation. What he also sees as the growing antisemitism in the German-speaking world.  He has been translated into twenty languages this book won the German book prize and is considered the first book to look at Brussels as the capital of Europe. Menasse moved to Brussels in 2010 so he could be part of a man-made world that is the EU.  I reviewing this as part of Blog tour tomorrow is David 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fenia Xenopoulou hd started off in the Directorate-General for competition. The commissionor, a Spaniard, had been clueless. But each commissioneris as good as theor office and she had stood out as an outstanding element of a perfectly functioning office. She got divorced. She had neither the time nor inclination to have a man sitting in her Brussels apartment every second- or later every third or fourth- weekend, or to visit him in Athens and listen to him gossip about athenisan sociey and puff on cigarettes like a caricature of a noveau riche. She had married a star lawyer and ended up throwing a provincial solicitor out of her aprtment!

Fenia is a high flyer after the her first post but then this jobs tests her.

The Captial starts with a Pig on the loose in the city as part of a protest about exporting pigs to China. A greek eurocrat Fenia Xenaopoulou’s is given a new job in the dread directorate-general for Culture is ask to do a celebration for 50th anniversary of the EU an idea. She spends time thinking of what to do and comes up with the idea of Auschwitz . Elsewhere we see David an elderly man move into a nursing home he is a Holocaust survivor who last saw his parents on a train to Poland. An economist Professor Ehart is in Brussels from Vienna trying to sell his Utopian view of the way Europe should move forward. Elsewhere we see an inspector and a Polish hitman circle each other. The is so brilliant piece of observation like when Fenia is given the job and one by one the other people around the table in the group to decide the big part leave with just her left to sort it out. Then a piece that said every Austrian politician says the love the book “a man without qualities”. I could see Thomas Bernhard laughing at this quote.

But I’d like to run through it with you, minister. The personal questions, suchas your favourite boo.

What do you suggest?

It’s a traditional in Austria for politicians to ment the man without qualties. You can’t really opt for a lesser work. And living authors are stictly taboo. People don’t want living authors.

Alright then, Let’s be good Austrians. The man without qualties.Kreisky loved that book as far as I recall.

And sinowat, Kilima and Gusenbauer.

Only socialists ?

I was remind of that desert island with David Cameron that seemed as thou it was done by comittee to appeal to a certain type of people.

We stand 40 odd days away from pulling the plug on us being in Europe. This isn’t a book by a Euroskeptic writer no this is a book about the madness that is the city and the world of the Eu, yes it is a huge monster but at its heart is the principles it was born in that is a greater Europe and yes Auschwitz is a mad choice to celebrate it there but in a way Menasse choice of there is at the heart of what his book is about and that is the divergent route we now face as people in Europe that is moving forward together or get caught up in a far-right xenophobia anti-semetic view of Europe we see it in every country and Maybe yes in looking back at what happened in the Holocaust in this tongue  in cheek way is an eye-opening way. Brussels is the capital of chaos in a way from pigs on the lose bizarrely pigs in  Europe is a recurring theme in the book. This takes satire and the nonsense that follows it in a place like the EU and uses it well I was remind of the pig in the English film A private function which like this also had a celebration at its heart and a pig being kept the secret then on the loose. Another tale of how twisted bureaucracy can get. Read David’s  and the other reviews this week for this book coming out.

Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

Austrian short stories

Original title –  Manchmal lüge ich und Manchmal nicht

Translator Rachel McNholl

Source – personal copy

So today I move to a rising star of Austrian fiction Nadja Spiegel. She has won a number of prize for her prose, spoken word and poetry. This was her debut collection and came about when she went to Dublin for the first Irish European literature night for Austria where both the publisher and her translator discovered he flash fiction prose style. As her translator puts it her style is like that described by the Irish writer Eilis Ni Dhuibhne it is more poetic than the novel, more suggestive, dealing more in metaphor and symbolism. Ni Dhuibhne believes natural short story writers combine the sensibilities of poets with those of novelist, and I believe that this is very true of Nadja Spiegel.

She said she knew it would end. She said Lets just run away. Then she said nothing. That was on the Monday. We said nothinfor so long that I couldn’t tell where my body ended and hers begin.

She said she knew how it would end, when it would end. I have a few images of her, nothing else , just the memory of her smell:

Caedamon and seasame

I was remond of Maggie smith talking about the bed of Lentils see remembered in her romance with a grocer like Malika’s family spice shop.

there are twenty short stories in this collection some are from a mere few pages to longer other stretches to ten pages. But they are all that many call flash fiction. Where we have a quick flash into life. The narrators, on the whole, are female voices young woman that find themselves in tough places. But in others we see a narrator talk about falling for the new girl a plain girl  Malika she has a romance with a popular girl Linda the girls family own a spice shop a short romance and an ending that remind me of Alan Benett’s talking voices. Another told by a third voice about a boy younger than here Elias and another girl Lisa younger than Elias a tale of a budding romance or was it as the last line of this story is also the title of this collection sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t. An inner view of modern Austria through female eyes. A glimpse into the lives of late teens and early twenty-year-olds worlds.

In school on Monday a girl throws her water bottle up in the air and catches it with one hand, takes a bite out of an apple and sens a squrt of juice flying. The girl is pretty, Lisa is her name, and she has a boyfriend by the name of Elias. The thing about names is : there’s one more letter in Elias, an e more than there is in Lisa, and the girl laughs and sweeps back her hair, and is Elias is the extension of Lisa and lisa is there within Elias.

Elias is not the kind of guy who falls in love, he only loves, for instance.

Elias has fallen in love with me says Lisa, and sometimes Lisa’s right and sometime’s she’s not.

I’m happy for you both.I say

and sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t

The story of a romance in the story Lisa Elias and me also has the colllections title as it’s last line .

The stories are vibrant short bites that left me as a reader at times wanting more the problem with flash fiction is they can be too tempting at times they are like a Thorntons selection box once you open you well I just have to have a couple at a time and this is the case here I read the collection in an evening like a voyeur of this modern Austrian lives glimpse behind the curtains of the lives from people in ruts to budding romances. All told with a bittersweet and humourist view of the world. Nadja hasn’t quite the bitter view of Bernhard of her homeland but she fits nicely with the likes of Linda Sift where she also showed how to get by in another view of modern Austria  and even Jelinek in romances starting I reviewed woman as lovers and there is a similar detached nature to the world in that book that flows in these stories as we just get the merest glimpse of there worlds. A new voice and an interesting short collection from an interesting writer. Have you a favorite European short story writer?

Confession of a murderer by Joseph Roth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession of a Murderer by Joesph Roth

Austrian Fiction

Original title – Beichte eines Mörder

Translator – Desmond L Vesey

Source – Personal copy

I was out the other day and called into Chesterfield Oxfam as I do most weeks just see what had come in and saw this on the shelf it caught my eye as it wasn’t a Roth Novella that I wasn’t overly aware off. I got home and looked it up and seen it was last in print in 2002. It was published first in Holland in 1936 at the time he was living in Paris and the drink had started to pay the toll on him. This is also the time covered in the novel about Roth summer before the dark .

“Well goodbye,” Said the prince to me .”Work hard.” He held out his hand . But then he drew it back and said “wait!” and walked over to the writing desk .He pulled open a drawer and took out of it a heavy gold snuffbox. “Here ,” he said, ” Take this as a memento.God be with you !” He forgot to give me his hand.I never even thanked him. I simply took the box, bowed and left the house.

The giving of the Snuff box , he also meets his half brother in this encounter as a young man.

The novella follows a man telling his life story over the course of one evening in a Paris restaurant. Golubchik the man telling his life is a Russian emigre. He tells of his early life as the son of a forester, but there was an open family secret that he was actually the son of the local Prince a man who crosses his path a few times during his life. This leads to one of the main moments in the book where as a young adult he returns to his home and visits the Prince to confront him, the prince now an old man doesn’t remember his father initially but then admits he was his illegitimate son and gives him a gold snuff box. At this point, we meet the other main character in the book Jeno Lakatos a clever devilish young man that help Golubchik sell his snuff-box but in doing so they gather the prince has a drawer full of these snuff boxes to give to people!! The two then spend war years around Europe Golubchik a writer and spy working for his half-brother the young prince Golubchik also becomes involved with women with extravagant taste whom he later sees with his now nemesis Lakatos leading to an act when he captures a man in her room.

So I arrived in Paris. I need not tell you what Paris meant to me , to Golubchik, the spy who despised himself, to the false Krapotkin, the lover of Luteta.It cost me an immense effort not  to believe that my passport was false and to forget that my vile task of watching refugees, who were a so-called menace to the state, was my own.

The end of the book sees him spying in Paris

This is an interesting story that is set all around Europe and in a way follows the fall of the Austro Hungarian empire through the narrator’s eyes. Then there is his story of the bastard son of land gentry, I loved the revelation of the drawer full of snuff boxes to give as gifts, I wondered how many Golubchiks were out there. The book has a lovely pacing as we slowly watch his story unfold over the course of the evening in this Left bank restaurant. A man trying to prove his worth and place in the world in Golubchik. Then another man he is very manipulative and them being involved with the same woman cannot be anything other than trouble.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

 

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian Memoir

Original title – Drei Tage

Translator – Laura Lindgren

Source – personal copy

I featured another Austrian writer the other day, I mentioned Thomas Bernhard. I said he was my favourite Austrian writer. I have reviewed six of his books over the time this blog has been running.For me, he is a writer that challenged us as readers and also challenged the conventions of his days.So when I went online to look for something to read this time around by him this book caught my eye.

In a very simple sentences a landscape is built; in a few words in Pavese’s diary, a passage by Lermontov, of course Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, basically all Russians..

Apart from Valery the French nevr interested me at all .. Valery Monsieur teste – is a book so throughly thumbed, i have to buy it again and agian; it always pored over, frayed, in tatters..

Henry James – a constant fight.It is bitter enmity.. always reeling..

Mostly you feel ridiculous up against these people, which means you mustn;t work..

But little by little you gain command, over even the very great.. and you can subdue them..

You can rise above Virginia Woolf or Forster, and then I have to write

Bernhard compares his place to other writers and his complex sentences .

The book is the words spoken over three days of filming a documentary by Ferry Radax a fellow Austrian. Radax had first worked on a script for Bernhard’s Gargoyle novel.But the project fell through and what he was asked to do was a film about the man himself. What Radax choose to do is to place his fellow Austrian on a bench for three days for an hour or so a day. What follows in the books is what was said by Bernhard on the first day it is the simple piece about his books his childhood, where he said it was a repetition of musical works, although none classical. On the second day, he opens up calling himself a story destroyer. When he saw a story appearing in his prose,  he had to annihilate it in his works.Then on the third day, he turns to the sadness in his life and also in his works.

To me, there is no place lovelier than Vienna and the Melancholia I have and always have had in the city..

It’s the people there I have known for two decades who are melancholia..

It’s the streets of Vienna. It is the atomsphere of this city, of the city studying, natrually.

It’s sentences, always the same, that people there say to me, probably the same that I say to these people, a wonderful precondition for melancholia.

You sit in a park somewhere, hours long; in a cafe, hours long – melancholia

The city like himself has a sadness maybe as the Prtugeese would say Saudade !!

Now, this is mainly a book for the true Bernhard fan in a way. As it is a mix of pictures and text over a hundred pages. But with only a third of them having text. What we do get is an insight into the man and in that maybe what made his characters. There is a sense of sadness in his words and also a sense of bitterness that we often see in his characters. Bernhard is still an enigma. Especially when you watch three days as Radax used a lot of odd screen angles, blackout and text on the screen. I was reminded of the lines by Ian Bannen character says when he ran out of things to say he just spoke the truth. This is what happens with Bernhard as the days go by we find out more about him. I especially love the line when he calls himself a story destroyer as that is maybe what he was a writer that challenged a reader.

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