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.

The system of Vienna by GertJonke

The system of Vienna by Gert Jonke

Austrian fiction

Original title – Himmelstraße – Erdbrustplatz oder Das System von Wien

Translator – Vincent King

Source – Personal copy

I always look to find new writers for German Lit month. Thomas Bernhard is one of my favourite writers. So I decided to look for another Austrian writer. I found the writer Gert Jonke and brought this Novella. LIke Bernhard Jonke won most of the Major prizes in German literature.He started off studying German studies at University. Then worked in radio dramas.Before writing novels, he was known for his experimental style of writing. This novella follows a journey on the streetcar in Vienna.

I spent the hot summer back in those years mostly at the house of a great-aunt in the country, though, where I would sink down into her garden as if into a sutropical rain forest, in the shadows of the larkspur along the trailers and stalks of vegetables with pods and hulls bursting open in the heat, planted all the way out to the twilit place where menacing stands of horsetail and hemlock woods lined a pondoceanswamp in the sour-smelling surf of which the afternoons coursed along, garbed as tribal migrations of dragonflies in the sky,under whose evening attire my great-aunt would tell me about the most exciting and, to her most decisive moment of her life, which was referred to as the neumarkt air, so good ,so healthful.

One of those long sentences the austrians do so well.

The book follows the twelve stops of his journey on the streetcar. But this journey is one in time and the history of the city itself. The story is said to be autobiographical. But the twelve stops also have separate tales.From a woman arriving at a hospital in one tale. Then another looking back on summers spent with an aunt in the country. Then we have characters like a man that has lost his slides for a lecture. A fish dealer gives his views on Austrian politics and his part within the system. A stamp collector tells how they change the King of Yugoslavia stamp after he passed away. A man that has a view of life formed by what he has found by chance over the years.

“Take a look, though. Don’t you see that the building shouldn’t be standing where it is ? The French emabassy over there was built in the wrong place, although no one intended it to be, but they delivered the wrong plans to the construction firm; they sent the construction firm in charge of the French embassy in Vienna the plans for the French embassy in Bangkok, and delivered the counstruction firm in charge of the French embassy in Bangkok the plans for the Fench embassy in Vienna.

Not sure if this is true but a fun tale told to the narrator.

This is one of those strange little books that are a compelling read.I was drawn in by the mention of the likes of Lawrence Sterne and Italo Calvino on the cover. He has the humour and absurd nature of Sterne for sure. LIke Calvino at the heart of every tale is Vienna Wien.As the tales get stranger and stranger. He takes everyday characters we may see on a streetcar and turns them into the surreal. From a man viewing the world through found items, like the flotsam and jetsam washed up on a shoreline. Building in the wrong place, I was reminded of the comment the German artist Joesph Beuys said when he felt the Berlin wall was too short to be in perspective with the rest of the city. An absurd idea like moving a building in Vienna because it is in the wrong place.He also like Bernhard is a master of the long sentence as you see in the first quote. He is Another writer I will be reading more from and another powerful voice from Austria. Have you read Jonke if so which book should I try next?

The tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

Image result for tobacconist robert seethaler

The tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title -Der Trafikant

Translator – Chartlotte Collins

Source – Library

Well last year on the booker longlist one of my favourite books was the first book by the Austrian writer Robert Sethaler to be published in English A whole life a tale of one mans life through the second world war and how it effect his rural life. I saw at the time I reviewed it that he had written a couple of earlier books and this one in particular had caught my eye then so when it came out last month it was a sure thing for this years  German lit month and nicely connects with the last book I reviewed as I mention Freud and here Freud is a character in this book.

Franz stepped over to the window and cautiously touched the J of JEWLOVER with his finger.The graffiti seemed to have been applied with a coarse brush, and had a horrible feel to it – dry and crusted at the edges, still sticky and damp where it was thicker.It also exuded a disgusting smell,rancid and sickly-sweet,but slightly sour as well.

“What is this?” he asked quietly.

“Blood!” yelled Otto Trsnyek . “Pig’s blood” daubed there by our dear neighbour Rosshuber himself!”

“I’d like to see you prove it ” said the master butcher calmly

Early on you see hate bubble over on the street and shop Franz works at .

This is a story of one boys journey to manhood in a way. Franz is seventeen and his mother has had a heap of trouble they were comfortable but a change in the life means Franz has to go to the city to make his way in the world and this is a job with a friend of the family that owns a tobacconist in Vienna. But this 1937 and it is just as the Nazi are ion the rise so Franz spends his days working in the shop and his breaks reading but as the world starts to change. Franz also falls for an older woman Anzeka  whom he has his first sexual awakening. He gets his advice from one of his customers Sigmund Freud the old man calls in for cigars gives romantic advice and also opens the young mans eyes to what is happening around him leading to him making a stand a small stand but a stand in the face of tyrany.

Franz decided to implement the professors second proposed solution to the problem and forget Anezka . He tried very hard, but when, after more than three weeks, the prints of her small hands still burned his buttocks, and her name kept flashing up in ghostly fashion between  every second line of the newspaper, and when finally the contours of first her puckered top lip, then her face, and lastly her body materialized in the grain of the floorboards as he was wiping up the drips left by kommerzialrat Ruskovertz’s dachshund, he abandoned the forgetting idea.

Franz tries to follow one of Professor Freud’s ideas to get over his girl.

Like the book |A whole life this is a small glimpses at the bigger picture and how one man is effected by the war but also by the growing darkness in the world he sees and  I think today of all days we can connect to that as today we have seen a new leader with right-wing views taking the lead in a new country so lets hope people take notice of Franz story and see the wider picture when like him he sees the world in the papers he read darkening. This is a wonderful look at a country boys journey to being a man in Vienna and all that entails opening his eyes wide. Very much in the German Bildungsroman tradition of boys becoming men. I hope that his other novels reach us soon he is a new voice and an interesting writer bring rural voices to the reader.

 

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