A whole life by Robert Seethaler

A Whole life by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title – Ein ganzes Leben

Translator – Charlotte Collins

Source – Library book

Every year on the Old IFFP and now on the first man booker there is a book on the list that I hadn’t heard of and a writer that is new to me and this was this years book. Robert Seethaler is an austrian writer, the german wiki page says he has sight problems so went to a school for the blind. Then drama school , he is an actor as well as a scriptwriter. He has also written five novels this is his fifth novel.His first to be translated . I am pleased to see his fourth novel The tobacconist is in the pipeline to be translated.

 In 1910 a school was built in the village, and every morning, after tending to the livestock, little Egger sat with the other children, in a classroom that stank of fresh tar, learning reading, writing and arithmetic. He learned slowly and as if against a hidden inner resistance, but over time a kind of meaning began to crystallize out of the chaos of dots and dashes on the school blackboard until at last he was able to read books without pictures, which awoke in him ideas and also certain anxieties about the worlds beyond the valley.

I was reminded of the Herzog actor Bruno S a man who never is in time with the world either .

I must admit I am so pleased this was on the longlist as it may have passed me by maybe until,a german lit month. This book is the story of one mans life Andreas Egger a man who arrives and then spend the rest of his life in one small mountain valley. This is the early 20th century and the world Andreas is living in is slowly giving way to the modern world as we see through his eyes bit by bit his life but the world he lives in getting to grips with the modern world. From his arrival to work on his uncles farm where he first met the woman he loves over time Marie but this is a love that will never be.So as Andreas First build cable cars, then help electricity then the war take him away from the farm and the valley he always come back to the world he is meant to be in. As much as he tried to escape .

That was in the late fifties. It was only much later, in the summer of 1969, that Egger had a second encounter with the television – which in most households by then already constituted the central focus and primary purpose of the evening family gathering – that made a profound impression on him, albeit in an entirely different way. This time he was sitting with almost a hundred and fifty other villages in the assembly room of the new parish hall, watching two young americans walk on the moon for the first time.

A world no gone without tv or wanting to see a tv Eggger is really a man out of time in his valley .

I must admit I loved this book  it is a really pretty gem. I was reminded of  one of my favourite books Stones in a landslide Andreas life and the way he lives in the valley that is sort of out of time with the world around them remind me of the world in Stones in a landslide. I also pictured this in a way as being a lost script for a Werner  Herzog film on the other hand Andreas is a simple man like most of the classic roles in the 70’s Herzog films, a man who has the world against him in the way like the classic Bruno S films  Herzog made . A beautiful world of the valley is like quicksand slowly killing the man but not just the man but also his spirit is slowly dragged into the ground of the valley.As for man booker I feel the simple sparse nature of the narrative that as the Irish times review saaid remind that review of Stoner as for me I felt this is a better book than Stoner which I may be the one person that felt stoner was like a  afternoon film of one mans life. No egger is a character you believe in he is like a man in the background of Heidi brought to the fore.

Have you read this book ?

Slow homecoming by Peter Handke


Slow homecoming by Peter Handke

Austrian fiction

Original title – Langsame Heimkehr

Translator – Ralph Manheim

Source – Library book

I was so surprised when I looked back and saw I hadn’t review a single novel by Peter  Handke in the time I have been running the blog, although he was a writer i read a lot years ago before his more controversal years when he support certain leaders in the Balkan war. I first came across him when he wrote the script for Wings or Desire the Wim Wenders film with whom he has worked with over a number of film and after which I saw I read a number of his books in the early 1990’s . Handke is a name that has crept up the Nobel betting also in recent years. The time to revisit him after twenty years maybe was now so this library collection of three novellas seemed a great place to start.


Sorger had outlived several of those who had become close to him; he had ceased to long for anything, but often felt a selfless love of existence and at times a need for salvation so palpable that it weighted on his eyelids. Capable of a tranquil harmony, a serve strength that could transfer itself to other, yet easily wounded by the power of facts.

The opening lines of the first of the three novellas The long way round .

The book is in three sections they were originally published separately but later brought together as the same character is in all three books The first extract is from the first book The long way round we meet Valentin Sorger he is in the distant Alaska  and as the title of the collection suggest we see  Sorger who longs to be back home in Europe working his wat slowly across America strangely I was reminded of the Wenders film Alice in the cities and it turns out that Wenders had used Handke  fiction as  part of  the inspiration for this film, also about a German speaker working his way home like Sorger in the book.

Mont sainte-Victoire is not the highest mountain in Provence, but it is said to be the steepest. It does not consist of a single peak but of a Long chain, the crest of which describes a relatively straight line at an almost constant altitude of a thousand meters above sea level. It looks like a sheer peak only when seen from the valley of Aix, situated half a day walk almost due westward .

The view of a mountain in Provence that Cezanne painted many times over his painting career.



I have include one of Cezanne’s many pictures of the mountain that makes up the second part of the three novellas that make up this book as we see Sorger taking short walks in the region and thinking about places and images as he does it.

The child was now more than three years old. Thus far, she had played alone almost exclusively, turned inward in quiet contentment, unlike the gloomily self-absorbed adult. But in the course of time ( and specifically of the seasons) both had made themselves at home in community on the wooded slope, and the adult was sick of vistors who with their falsely sympathetic or ironically citified remarks about the house and its location.

The third novella is about a father and his daughter

The third book although not called or even mentioned as Sorger follows a man who has moved to a small mountain town in what one must assume is Austria is a man returned to his roots after many years away from the country. Partly based on Handke on life.

I enjoyed this book it has a lot of what a love in my favourite books that is Longing and a wanting to return home in this case not to a place so much as to a feeling of a places. I imagine what Handke has done in these books is captured that feeling that is best decribed in the Portugeese word Saudade, that longing to return to a homeland now gone or even the german term Heimat these three books collected together see a man struugle with coming home then what it is about a place that appeals using Cezanne obsession with Mont Sainte-victoire . then the final end when home what it means to be home and not feel back at home.

Have you read Handke ?


Woman of the dead by Bernhard Aichner

Woman of the dead by Bernhard Aichner

Austrian fiction

Original title Totenfrau

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – library

Just remember that death is not the end
For the tree of life is growing
Where the spirit never dies
And the bright light of salvation
Up in dark and empty skies
When the cities are on fire
With the burning flesh of men
Just remember that death is not the end
When you search in vain to find
Some law-abiding citizen
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end

I choose the end of death is not the end a Dylan song Mark’s death was not the end of this story .

I tossed and turned where to start my german lit month reviews and I choose this as I don’t really read a lot of thrillers so when I read one and enjoy it, I feel it must be a good book also it was translated by one of the greatest living German translators Anthea Bell. Bernhard Aichner started out as a photographer working for an Austrian paper and at the same time in his spare time starting to write short stories.He has written a number of novels this is the first of two books in this series and was published in 2014 where it was a bestseller both in his native Austria and German.

Eight years ago, they touched each other for the first time. He put his arms around her on the boat. He was wonderful man, right from the very first moment when he was there, taking care of her. Mark waited with her until the coastguard arrived, until she had answered hundreds of questions. He simply stayed by her side. Talking to the police officers on the case

Blum meet mark after her own incident eight years earlier .

This is the story of Blum she is a woman that at very start of the book has it all Marriage , children, yes she has a dark humor and rides a bike but on the surface everything seems ok. But then her lover Mark a policeman is killed in a hit and run . This starts a chain reaaction that sets her on a course to get revenge on the men that killed her lover .Blum isn’t what she first seems no she has a very dark past that this one event has unlocked so she starts out to get the five people she finds had wanted her lover Mark gone to find out what happened  and seek her own personnel revenge on them .

Blum looks around the room, at his computer, his files, and a thousand other things lying just as he left them twenty-two days ago when he rode off. Everything here is waiting for him to come back; objects that want to be touched, tools that want to be used .

Blum goes to marks work place after he is found dead .

Well it’s hard to not think kill bill when you read what I wrote about this book.It is even mention in the inside cover yes Blum is rather like the Bride or even Lisbeth whom  also mentioned . This book had a cinematic thriller pace to it, you get the fact the Aichner is a photographer in the way he writes his scenes they a clean like the way a great photograph works looking simple and telling you all that is possible with in a small space of one shot. Blum is the original revenge killer a woman wioth her own hidden past that takes a death to relight. I liked the die  welt description of her taking these five rotten apples and squashing them under her feet , yes she is pruning the world and  like with a flower when they are rotting you have to dead head them.As I said I am not a huge Crime thriller reader so when I find one I like I note the writer down Bernhard Aichner is a writer I will be trying again .

Have you a favourite German crime/thriller writer ?

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 .


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