The Train was on time by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The train was on time by Heinrich  Böll

German fiction

Original title  – Der Zug war pünktlich

Translator – Lelia Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

I brought this when we went on holiday to Northumberland in a small Waterstones. I have been a fan of these Penguin European writer series books that have come out the last couple of years. But even more, I am a fan of Böll so far in the time I have blogged I have cover six of his books for me he alongside Gunter grass was the voice of those early post-war years of German. Now, this takes it right back to the start of his writing career and his Debut novel which had been out of print for a number of years and was first published in English in 1956.

But the silence of those who said nothing, nothing at all, was terriible. It was  the silence of tose who knew they were all done for.

At times the train got so full they could hardly hold their cards. All three were drunk by now, but very clear in the head.Then the train would empty again, there were loud voices, resounding and unresounding. Railway station. The day wore on to afternoon from time to time they would pause for a snack, then go on playing, go on drinking. The schnapps was excellent.

This line got me the fact about being drunk but still clear in head about their situation.

This is a story of one mans train ride from Dortmund through Poland to the Black sea and what is now Ukraine. The 23 Andreas a thoughtful almost one may say a daydream is heading back to the eastern front on this five-day train journey to what is maybe his and his companion’s death. So he is joined on the train by some fellow soldiers. The first of his companions an unshaven solider called Willi that has discovered his wife had cheated him and is seeking solace in the drink then the Blonde that has a sexual disease these are the ordinary soldiers that was the reality of the German army. As the train slowly moves east they remember the horror of the war they have seen their lives before the war and the present. On the way this young daydreamer and his train stops and meets a Polish girl in a brothel in an overnight stop in Poland he falls for her and from then on he wants to be with Olina a musician is drawn into prostitution but also a member of the resistance. Makes him want to escape the fate that awaits him. The death he saw before he boards the train.

“It’s funny that you’re a German and I don’t hate you” she fell silent again, smiling, and he thought, it’s remarkable how quickly she’s surerendered. When she went to the piano she wanted to seduce me, and the first time she played I’m dancing with you into heaven , seventh heaven of love, it was still far from clear.while she was playing she cried…

“All Poland” she went on,” is a resistance movement. You people have no idea.No one suspects how big it is. There is hardly a single unpatriotic Pole.

Oliona and Andreas first meeting the sense of a spark between the two of them a connection.

written whilst he was a prisoner just after the war ended this is a story of the real face of war the horror of a man barely a man Andreas struck me as a young 24 a virgin that falls for Olina straight away his first real chance of love and last glimpse of freedom. His two main companions maybe reflect two faces of what to do in war the Blonde with his sex disease remind me of the character that had crabs on his eyebrows in Das Boot someone having too much careless sex. Then the unshaven companion the drunken remind me of the character Ron Livingstone played in the band of brothers  Lewis Nixon. that using drink to get by through the war. This is a tragedy will he die we don’t know but it is looming and the fact he has envisioned it before he boards the train means he is almost predestined to happen but there is the curveball of Olina which till they meet shows the power of love can happen on one man. But also his conversation with a priest is a nod to Böll religious belief at the time he was a devout Catholic but in later life left the church. This is about the fragility of nature the nature of manhood brotherhood and the simple worthlessness of war.

 

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The Storyteller by Pierre Jarawan

The storyteller by Pierre Jarawan

German/Lebanese fiction

Original title – Am Ende bleiben die Zedern

Translators – Sinead Crowe & Rachel McNicholl

Source – review copy

I have joined the Blog tour for this Novel as I loved the sound of it and I have reviewed a lot of books from World editions and am pleased to have another title from them to review. This book from the German Lebanese writer Pierre Jarawan who’s parents like his characters fled Lebanon when he was three years old and settled in German His father was Lebanese and his mother is German. He started out doing poetry slams and this was a play that later he expands out into a novel. It has since been translated into Dutch where it was also a big seller.

Meanwhile, history was being made in Lebanon. Beirut, once a dazzling beauty, rubbed its disfigured face and staggered out of the ruins. A city felt for its pulse. In neighbourhoods, people thumped the dust out of their clothes and wearily raised theirheads. Thge war was over, militiamen became citzens again, laying down their guns and taking uop shovels instead. Bullet holes were filled in. Facades painted, burned-out-cars removed from the pavements. Rubbkle cleareed away, the smoke disperser. The huge sheets hanging in the streets were takendown, as there were no longer any snipers whose view needed to be blocked. woman and children swept debrisoff balconies and removed borads from windows, while fathers carried mattresses back up to bedrooms from cellars thatr had served as bunkers.In short, the lebanon did what they’ve always dfone: they carried on

The country awakes from the turmoil of the civil war that tore it apart and ripped the heart out of the land.

This is a classic story that of a son going in search of a lost father. Samir decides he wants to find his long-lost father. He leaves the safety of his life in German. He has an old photo of his dad and the stories he remembered his father told him when he was a little boy that painted a vivid picture of Lebanon his father lived in. He tries to find out what happens to his father as he tries to find out what happens the characters from his father’s stories become real people as he finds out what happened when his father returns after twenty years he slowly builds a picture of his family and what happened to them. The father Brahim disappeared when he was eight and he told one last story and left. He returned to his homeland. The son has held his lost father close for all those years as he retraces his father’s steps after all those years you see in the past and the events in war-torn Beirut when his father had when he returned. The past and present grow close but will they ever meet again?

Father was quick to realise how important it was to learn German. After fleeing burning Berut in spring of 1983, the first refuge myu parents found in Germany was the secondary school’s sports hall in our town. The school hall in our town, The school had been shut down the previous year when routine inspections during the summer holidays had revealed excessive levels of asbestos in the air. But there were no other options, so the sports hall ended up asa refugee reception centre. Fathersoon managed to get hold of books so that he could teach himself this foreign language. At night, while others around him slept wrapped in blankets on the floor, he clickedon a ;ocket torch and studied German

His father got to German and quickly learned german as the slept in a codemened school hall.

This is a tale that has been told a number of times of over then years. A son on the hunt for a lost father or even parent for me the recent film Lion is a similar story top this a young boy loses his family and goes home all he has like Samir is the slimmest of memories about his father the old photo and his stories for Samir and in the film Lion it is the lie of the land around his home and the fact it was a train ride away from where Saroo end up in the book and film. This builds a picture of their parent’s bit by bit and this is the case here we see that Brahim stories had those friends and families around him as he told his baby son those bedtime stories but also planting a love for his homeland and also maybe like a magician weave a magical past and also leave a trail of breadcrumbs that his son follows twenty years later. Here are the other blogs on the tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pine Islands by Marion Poschmann

The Pine Islands

The Pine islands by Marion Poschmann

German fiction

Original title – Die Kiefern Inseln

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – personal copy

This was one of two books that hadn’t come out when the Longlist of the Man Booker was announced the publication date was brought forward for this book that was previously shortlisted for the German book prize (the German booker). It is the fourth novel by Marion Poschmann two of her other novels have been on German book prize lists. Marion studied German philology, philosophy, and Slavic studies. She then taught German as part of a German-Polish project for primary school children. Since then she has been a freelance writer living in Berlin. A member of German Pen. As part of writing this book, she spent Three months in Japan.

He exchanged some money and brought a travel guide and a couple of Japanese classics in English translation from a newsagent. The works of Basho, the tales of Genji, the pillow book. He had always assumed that, like him, everyone knew the Japanese classics of by heart, but standing in front of the shelf with the pocket books he now had to admt that he himself had at most watched only a couple of Japanese films during his lifetime and had never been able so much as to recite a haiku.

How he gets to discover Basho by chance at the airport and pass over the islands on the plane there.

Now, this is a classic take on the man in his mid-life crisis. Gilbert the man character has just discovered his wife is having an affair so he head of to Japan. He is a lecturer on Beard in cinema (could there be a less hipster lecturer title than his). He arrives at the airport and picks up a number of the classics of Japanese literature including the works of Basho especially his travel verse piece  Oku no Hosomich the long road to the north which follows his journey to the Pine island a book that was described as the soul of Japan. So as he tries to cope with his relationship with Mathilda a strange one he talks then doesn’t talk but then writes to her about the discovery of Basho but also how he wound up on a station to find Yasho who also has a book about suicide he is trying to jump in front of a train when he meets the Gilbert the two of them set of to rediscover themselves and try and find the world that Basho described ending up at Matsushima the pine island. This is maybe a tongue in cheek look at the genre of books that talk about Pilgrimage. 

Yosa Tamagotchi had been pised to thrpw himself in front of the train because he was afraid he wasn’t going to pass his exams. The bag contained a suicide note, carefully calligraphed and dated. He studied petrochemistry, and his marks were good, but maybe not good enough.Fearful of social exculsion he grew a beard, he knewno company would hir him in that state.If he were unsuccessful he could say that it was down to the beard, or should luck smile down on him and a firm took him on anywat there would be nothing straightforward than shaving it off.But his exam fear grew, paralysing him to such a degree that he was no longer capable of thinking.

Yosa is saved by meeting Gilbert at the Station but loive the comic touch of his beard and Gilbert talking about beards all the time.

The East has long been a subject in German literature Herman Hesse wrote about Indian culture and also wrote a book about discovery Journey to the east this isn’t in that league no this is more a look at the modern obsession with pilgrimage or even middle age men escaping their world and discovering themselves.  From Martin Sheen in The way doing the way of St James in Spain or the likes of even someone like Bill Bryson and his old friend doing the Appalachian Trail this book has the classic character of two leads one in search of what his life means Yosa the man Gilbert saves is this and another is  Gilbert a man that needs to take time out of his life. Add to that a book that makes you want to pick up one of the greats of Japanese literature Basho. Also reconnecting with the world around us is another thread in the book. Similar to books like rings of Saturn or A whole life the later more so than rings of Saturn. I enjoyed this I like books that see folks discovering themselves and having a book that means something to them I remember Herodotus histories in English patient meaning so much to Almasy or a book like Geert Mak book where he followed the route of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley like this book saw a world that is now gone. An interesting book that would passed me by except for the Man Booker.

The Giant Dwarfs by Gisela Elsner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Giant dwarfs by Gisela Elsner

German fiction

Original title – Die Riesenzwerge

Translator – Joel Carmichael

Source – personal copy

I pick another older book for my German lit month choice this is a prize-winning novel from Gisela Elsner was a member of the Gruppe 47 writers when she joined the group in 1958 alongside many of the great writers of Postwar Germany. I choose to get a copy of her book as she seems to have disappeared somewhat in the years since she died. She wrote a number of novels but her life was cut short as she took her own life. Her son is the German filmmaker Oskar Roehler he made a film that starred someone playing his mum in the early ’80s. The film Death to the hippies long lives the punks look at the time his mother and father were in Berlin this film came out a couple of years ago.

Myfather is a good eater. He dosen’t stand on ceremony. He sits down at the table and tucks the ends of his napkin behind his collar. He props his palms of his hands on the table, to the right and left of the knife and fork. He raises his behind  a little from chair. He leans across the table so that his napkin hangs down into his empty plate and he can see what is in the dishes. Then he lowers his behind onto the seat. then he pitches in. He serves himself with the seving fork, with the seving spoon, one forkful after another, one apoonful after another , until he has a great heap on his plate.

Lothar observes his father in the opening chaptewr as he gorges himself on food.

The Giant Drawf is a narrative told by a young boy called Lothar it is the view of his grotesque world. This is a slightly over the top world that is shown in the opening when he watches his father gorge himself on food. I was reminded of Homer Simpson and Bart at times in this early piece. There is him viewing the growing world of consumerism. As the book is told in a series of chapters that sees Lothar observing and discovering the world like a trip to the forest which gave him his first glimpse of sexual behaviours. This is a view of Germany at the time Lothar domestic life is like many the minor problems we all have like we see with his father who can lose his temper easily. He also has a strange observation of the doctor talking about Tapeworms which seems to go over the young Lothars head at the time.

“The same thing every morning!” my father calls out every morning. And as he hurries through the hallway, he stuffs is shirt into his trousers and buttons his clothes beginning at the bottom, first pushing the buttons on one side of his fly into the buttonholes on the other side as far up as his waistband, then putting its button into its hole, then pushing the shirt buttons into the buttonholes of theshirt from the bottom to the collar. And whenever he buttons, when he gets to the top button, the collar button, and my mother is pouring the coffee through the strainer into his mug, that button refuses to go into its buttonholes, and he cries, “The least a man can ask of a button is that it fit into the buttonhole!”

A whole chapter on the top button and how they try to sort it !! a satirical piece that has a wider meaning!

This is a clever book that has a feel of a world that has gone but also some observation that said it was written in the early sixties. She sees the early signs of consumerism in the way Lothar parents are. There is a grotesque slightly out nature to his view of the world that adds to the childlike sense of the narrative. Lothar reminds me of a number of child characters from Bart Simpson to the main character of the curious incident in the night the opening when he observes his dad eating remind me of many an episode of The Simpson’s then later there is a similar detatch nature to his observations that remind me of Christopher in that Novel. This is a book that has been out of print for a number of years from a writer that has been dead for over 25 years. It is a slice of its time and has nods to her fellow Gruppe 47 writers but also

River by Esther Kinsky

River by Esther Kinsky

German fiction

Original title –  Am Fluss

Translator – Iain Galbraith

Source – review copy

I have reread this for German lit month as I read it late last year and never reviewed it and had wanted to but as time flew this year I picked it up last week. Esther Kinsky is a German writer and translator she had lived in London for a number of years with her late husband the German to English translator Martin Chalmers. In her work as a translator of English books into German she had worked on books by John Clare his journey from Esse. That follows Clare walk in the countryside of 1841.  she also translated Iain Sinclair’s book which he followed in Clare’s footsteps and she has also done works by Henry David Thoreau of the books she has translated this three jumped out at me as they seem to connect to this wonderful novel.

The king stretched out his hands and the ravens gather around him. Several settled on his arms, shoulders and hands, briefly flapping their wings, lifting again and flying a short distance, then returning. Perhaps each bird wanted to touch him art least once, or perhaps they had no choice. Thus encirclircled by birds, he began to make gentle swinging and circling movements with his arms, as if they were haunted by a memory of wings

The King in the opening chapter see saw one evening a strange figure .

This is one of thos novels that have no real plot it is a meandering work just like the rivers our narrator tells us about. She is a German that has ended in our capital. She has then drift to Hackney and spends her time wandering the marsh-river area around the river Lea the book and many strands all come from these meandering walks the memories of her past and time in her childhood on the Oder and the single visit of her father but then the other people she meets eccentric character like the King a Man in a headdress that  I was never sure was just an imaged person a sort of modern take on the Crow King especially when she said he opened his arms and the ravens drifted around him. Or was this just an eccentric dress like a beefeater that wanders the river paths of the Lea? Then she meets orthodox Jews and other people that have ended up in this multicultural area like people from Former Yugoslavia leads to another digression to the rivers there many views of the rivers both in Europe and America she had seen over the years form a sort of memory of her life and also flow like a river as you read it.

What were my memories of rivers, now that I lived on an island whose thoughts were turned seawards, where rivers looked shallow and pretty, noticable only when they frayed into flats, or cut deep channels as they flowed out to sea ? Sometimes I dreamed of rivers I had known, rivers that cleaved their wat through plains and towns, rivers kept at bay by flood defences, or which rippled through the bright countryside. I remembered ferries and bridges and endless searching in unfamilar terrain for ways to cross a foreign river . I spent my younger years by a river that appeared to me in dreams when I ran a fever.

The river of my childhood was the Rhine. The chugging of barges

I remeber a few evening by the Rhine in my early twenties a much broader and buiser river than ours in the Uk in a way.

Now anyone that follows this blog knows that this is the sort of book I am a fan of those that can not be put in a pigeonhole. I pointed out that she had translated John Clare the peasant  poet and his walk of 1841 which was redone by Iain Sinclair another great writer around London and this is another grea\t view of that city from an outsiders eyes like Sebald she views the places she sees differently and drifts through time and place this is another book that would be great to map out the places mentioned on a google map guide like someone did with Sebald’s rings of Saturn if I ever have a spare week or two I may even try this myself as it made me think of the times I used to walk along the river Dane in Congleton growing up then past Alnwick castle with my first dog as I meet a whole host of people as Alnwick was always full of tourists and finally to the still canal waters of here my home and those cold mornings with my old pal Winston this is what great fictions do when a reader connects and that draws you into the tale.

The end of a Mission by Heinrich Böll

 

Image result for the end of a mission heinrich

The end of a mission by Heinrich Böll

German literature

Original title – Ende einer Dienstfahrt

Translator – Lelia Vennewitz

Source – personal copy

It has become a tradition in a way to review a Heinrich Böll for German lit month. I have reviewed five of his book before.I have a few more on my tbr pile and with Penguin putting his debut novel out. It has been over thirty years since Böll died so it nice see he is getting new attention as for me he alongside Gunter Grass was the voices of post-war West Germany. This book came in 1966a mid-career book by this writer.

The evidence of the elderly Inspector Kirffel was short and to the point. He said that the scene of the crime was known to all local inhabitants for miles around as “Kupper’s tree” ; although there was no tree anywhere in the vicinity and never had been – not even in his childhood had he ever seen a tree there – he  chose to use the name because it appeared on the regional maps. Herr hermes, the teacher from Kireskirchen who was such an expert on local lore, had explained the name this way; some generations ago a tree had probably soodthere , and someone called Krupper had either hanged himself or been hanged from it .

The place the jeep was found was a place named after a tree that may have been there at some point !!

This is maybe the most german novel by Böll I have read. The book is set around a trial in a small county court in an otherwise sleepy town and the trail of a father and son Johann Gruhl and his son Georg. The trail of these two came about as the son stole an Army Jeep near the end of his conscription in the army he takes it to his fathers and the Jeep is burned out.the jeep was found near a local landmark which is highlighted a number of times in the book.  The book follows the trial the son was sent out in the jeep in a meaningless exercise to get a certain mileage on the jeep was ask to drive around but end up at his father who was in trouble with some huge outstanding bills in the family Cabinet maker business. The Jeep got burnt was this malicious or an act of art or being anti-military! The trail is held by a local judge known for being a bit of a pushover. The judge is just on the verge of retirement. So over the course of the books, we see witness setting the events first one way and then another to discover what really happened this is a comic book that also highlights the absurd nature of the state and the army at times when a system becomes inflexible. The book follows the inner working of a trail and the madness of it sometimes.

Upset and nervpous as he was, Dr Stolfuss (he had also known Gruhl senior from childhood and had always had a soft spot for him – a few weeks before the incident he had even employed him to restore a valuable Empire chest of drawers which had finally, after a lengthy inheirtence dispute with his cousin Lisdeth, sister of Agnes Hall, come into his possesion. In paying Gruhl he had in fact, if not demostrably. put himself in the wrong because, knowing that Gruhl was being snowed under with seizure orders, he had sliiped him his money privately)

Another witness and another odd tale and tonuge in cheek at time

This is different to the other books I have read by him but is an interesting comic work into the absurd nature of the state, justice system and the way being draft in the army can change the family business. The absurd jeep ride by the son it is all tongue in cheek at times but also shows the bureaucratic process and justice system at its most absurd as the two men are set to the fact the Judge. This is the sort of novel that would struggle to get out now as it is cerebral and also comic also it subject matter of a small country trail around a stolen burnt out jeep isn’t the most exciting but that is what sets this apart as it is stunning read by one of the great writers of his time. I enjoy the fact the way he takes apart the inner workings and shows the madness the state can sometimes have. Have you a favorite Böll

The tiding of the trees by Wolfgang Hilbig

The tiding of trees by Wolfgang Hilbig

German fiction

Original title – Die Weber, alte abdeckeri, Die kunde von baumen

Translator – Isabel Fargo Cole

Source – personal copy

Well, it is German lit month and I start with a new writer and new press for this blog I have actually read two books by Wolfgang Hilbig but hadn’t reviewed the earlier book which I hope to bring later in the month. But this is the last of his books to appear on Two line press. Wolfgang Hilbig grew up in East Germany he was initially a poet after giving up his job as a stoker. He wrote a number of works till in 1985 he got a visa and traveled to West Germany and wrote his first novel. His works look on life as a writer in the former GDR and the politics of the time. He won many prizes and wrote twenty books.

What do I know now , said Waller, of the preplexities that came over me as I tried to write my first stories? right here I falter: back then I’d never have dared to put it that way! that act of story-wrting consisted in an ongoing routine of crossing out words that had found their way to paper with no effort on my part. I seemed to have set them down in some kind of madness – I found whole lines, whole passages filled with words what could have arisen in no other way, all I couldaccept was the branching frame work of the conjunctions – and suddenly it was as though someone, not I , had shone a lamp on them: my words, if I could still read them at all, were the falest conceivable way to express what I actually wanted to name

The openiong lines show Waller isn’t really writing at times and also the sense that he could only writer freeier later on in his career.

This novella is narrated by a shift worker called Waller. He is a man similar to the writer himself he is in his twenties as the book is written this is 1961. The Berlin wall has cut of the east german. The writer lives in the city of V with his mother on Cherry Tree Avenue where the tree has disappeared and in their place is a dump and the Garbagemen that he sees working that dump. He is writing a report and also trying to write about the disappearance of the trees. But he seems to get caught in a cycle of start with the city of w and living on cherry tree avenue but never writes any further as thou he is blocked from writing more in his mind and wanting to tell who the open pit min turn a wood into a pit and when that was used into a dump and the dump is manned by these barely human garbagemen shifting through the trash of the locals. Will Waller ever finish his writing!

How long ago, I asker myself, had I last been in that area? many years must have passed, and the terrain had changed utterly. The ash had grown into an extensice plain, leveled, but in contrast to earlier times impossible to survey: it was covered in dense brush, strange weeds that stood yards tall, and nothing led through that tangle but narrow paths forming a bewildering labyrinth. I had no idea what that jungle of  plants consisted of : dry, tough grass, burdock, reedd… things whose yellow flowers caught the eye at a certain time of year, scrubby mugwort, dingy goldenrod, thickets that thrived better on barren ground than in fertile soil..

The local area has been changed beyond his memories of the place and now is a barren jungle of weeds a metaphor for the GDR maybe !!

There is a real darkness and sense of the world the narrator is living in the black air around him the ash that at a point he wipes of the page he is writing these mysterious figures all add to an air of a world where all is not what it seems. A world where the ground has been ripped apart I have seen the open cast pits when I lived in the northeast in the 90s, in fact, my father repaired the huge dragliners so I got to see very close an open cast from the bottom and the effect it had on the landscape but the difference here was after it was filled it was filled with water and became an area where nature flourished here we see the scars opened and the filled with rubbish and the people that live on the tip sorting the rubbish all this from the local area. This is a commentary on the way the GDR ruing parts of East Germany after the Berlin Wall was closed and ravage the land for Coal. The Huge machines that dug open the land like the Blue wonder . Then when they left the government turned it into a tip and the home waller knew when young on Cherry tree avenue is no more the cherry trees are gone. A desolate world captured in a wonderfully poetic work of despair and hopelessness wonderfully captured from one of the best writers of the later 20th century in German.

 

 

 

One clear ice-cold January morning at the beginning of the twenty first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig

 

One clear ice-cold January morning at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig

German fiction

Original title – An einem klaren, eiskalten Januarmorgen zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

Well, I decide to via of the MBI list and this is one book I have been dying to read since it arrived at Winstons towers earlier this year. It is based around Berlin which for me has always been a city that has given me as a reader rich pickings. Roland Schimmelpfennig is best known as a playwright in Germany. Where he has developed a unique style where the actors interact with the public and his stories often have surreal or fantasy elements to them. One clear ice cold… is his debut novel.

Then he saw the wolf was standing in front of the sign at the side of the snowy motorway, seven metres in front of him, no more

A wolf Tomasz thought, that looks like a wolf, ot’s probably a large dog, who would let their dog roam around here, or is it rerally a wolf?

He took a photo of the animal in front of the sign in the driving snow.The flash in the darkness.

A moment later the wolf had vanished.

Tomasz takes his later to be famous picture of the wolf where he hasn’t beenin a century and a half.

One clear ice-cold January morning .. starts with a snowy day and a wolf is seen for the first time in more than 160 years. A Polish Man Tomasz is stuck on the motorway between Warsaw and Berlin heading back to Berlin to be with his girlfriend Agnieszka. He is a hard-working man in construction that is trying to keep him and his girlfriend together. When he looks out to the hard shoulder and glimpse the Wolf and manages to do what no-one else has so far and that takes a photo. Which he later sells as he struggles to get by and keep his girl with him. Then we have a boy and girl that are on the run and initially befriended by an older man who was a failed teacher but later drawn into just getting by on the streets Of Berlin but occasionally get some help. A woman burns her mothers diaries. A Romanian Chilean man also trying to get by in the Modern Berlin.

The girls mother did nothing. It wasn’t the first time the girl had failed to come home.

But that evening a woman from the police was at her front door and then the missing person announcement was issued.

Yes she and her daughterhad quarrelled.

The policewoman was also from the village. She knew the two children, she knew the boys family and she knew the girls mother two

A boy and girl elope to the city but will the dream of Love and everything live on.

The book is told in a series of small stories as we jump in and out of the characters lives. This is the outsider’s view of Berlin like the Wolf wandering west it shows the struggles of the Modern immigrants to the city. Also like many children in the past the boy and girl seem to disappear onto the streets. Like many the classic tales of Berlin this like Berlin Alexanderplatz shows the underbelly of the city. I was remind of Wim Wenders angels wandering the city especially in the second film he made in the city Faraway so close a film which  like this  book shows, the unified city but also the cracks for those just getting by and like Cassiel and Daniel we jump in and out of many peoples lives as we see how all those that had been touched by the wolf whether seeing it or its tracks as they also headed to Berlin.Detached voices at times the Boy, the girl the older man all give a sense of a wider story of the modern city and the people who are drawn to it. The book is out this Thursday to try it have you a favourite Berlin-based book of Film.

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin new translation

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

German fiction

Original title – Berlin Alexanderplatz

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

This is the first time in the seven years I have been blogging I am reviewing a book for the second time. I reviewed Berlin Alexanderplatz. But that was the first translation by Eugene Jolas, which had cut some of the original out and was inspired by Jolas fondness for Joyce. So when I heard Hofmann a translator, I admire was doing a new translation I was looking forward to it so to get sent a review copy was a treat. Alfred Doblin studied medicine in the years before world war one which meant he got to avoid the war. But the war had an impact on his views he wrote from 1915, but this book was the one that raised him to a national and international standing when it came out and is considered a masterpiece of German modernism.

Our hero has been successfully brought to Berlin. He has sworn to mend his ways, ad we wonder wheter we shouldn’t simply stop here.An ending her would be optimistic and straightforward, an ending seems to be at hand, and the whole thing wouuld have the advantage of brevity.

But Franz Biberkopf is not just abyone, I have not summned him for my own amusment, but for his heavy, true and iluminating fate to be experienced.

Franz Biberkopf has been burnt, now he stands there in berlin, feet apart and merry, and when he says he wants to be respectable, we believe this to be the case.

You willsee how for several weeks he succeeds. But that’s just a period of respite

The opening of chater two captures well his life cycle of Franz Biberkopf

 

So the approach Hofmann took was to make the book seem more like its German version where it is a wonderful mix of the world around the main character in the book. Franz Biberkopf. We meet Biberkopf as he is released after surviving a sentence for manslaughter. He has determined to try and go on the straight and narrow. He initially is drawn into a story told by a Jewish man who takes him to a rabbis house. But he manages to get out of what is a strange situation and ends up selling things we see him going through a number of different trades. Alongside this, we see the city around him as each small chapter is made up of a what happens to Franz but also the city around him.As he meets woman after woman. He also has a scene in a slaughterhouse where he sees how the meats that are sold are made. He tries to stay on the straight and narrow but he is a man drawn to the darker side of the town, But when he meets a man called Rheinhold a friend at first but later attacks Franz he has to head down the path of crime and gangs.As he gets involved more with the Pums gang.Franz is a man drawn by fate and maybe a liking for the darker easier side of life as he sees it.

Since Christmas is icumen in, Franz makes a switch into seasonal products, for a few mornings and afternoons it is shoelaces, first on his own, then with one Otto Luders, luders been out of work for two years, his wife takes in washing. Fat lina brought him along one day, he’s her uncle. For a few eeks in summer he was the Rudersdorf peppermint man with swizzle sticj and uniform. He and Franz wandered through the strets together, go inside the houses, ring doorbells and meet up afterwards

Franz is slipping down and getting in with the wrong sorts as the book goes on .

This manages to capture the world of Doblin book so much clearer than the Jolas did. we see a world this is different to Joyce’s modernism of an internal voice. No this is the world without filters Doblin tries to capture every detail to give the reader a full picture of the Berlin of the time the smells sounds and feeling of the place jump of the page. Franz Bibeerkopf is the dark side of the Isherwood World of Berlin, this is a man that has been to prison and tries to go straight but is drawn in by the wrong people as he spends his nights in Bierkellers and with women of a certain type. If John Dos Passos, Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski had a bastard child it would be Doblin this is like Dos Passos modernism a way of capturing the wider world and the personal struggle at the same time. Franz is like a character from A Waits song or a Bukowski novel a loser but trying to be more than he wants to be. I still say watching the Fassbinder series is worth it I watch it after reading the book the first time and am midway through a rewatching of it. As my next review is the 800th on the blog I pleased to meet a new version of a book I loved first time around.

Have you read either translation of the Book?

 

Insane by Rainald Goetz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insane by Rainald Goetz

German fiction

Original title – Irre

Translator -Adrian Nathan West

Source – review copy

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

I recognized nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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