The High Rise DIver by Julia Von Lucadou

The High Rise DIver by Julia Von Lucadou

German fiction

Original title – Die Hochausasspringerin

Translator – Sharmilaa Cohen

Source – review copy

I take another turn in this year’s German literature month. This time I have a new novel from a debut Novelist Julia Von Lucadou. She was nominated for the swiss book prize for this book. She had been working as an assistant director and editor before writing this novel. There is a sense as I read this that the person who wrote it had an eye for tv or film in the way it read as it paints a very visual world of a horrific near-future dystopic world. The book follows the decision of a HIgh rise diver to stop training.

The most popular internet conspiracy theory about Riva’s resignation is that it has to do with relationship dramam tht Riva left Aaston for someone else and that he’s now forcing her sto stay with him against her will A well-known gossip blog regularly posts drone videos of them in their apartment,alleging violent situations. Analysis has shown that the images are current, but were manipularted after the fact. Fans post comments daily on Riva’s offical website, encouraging her to be brave ad urging the police to arrest Aston. Building security has been reporting break-in attempts by fans trying to “Free” Riva.

A world of twisted videos and threoies of what is happening.

The book follows what happens when Riva who is the High rise diver of the title a superstar of her time in a world where her every move is followed by her fans. This is a world where people don’t always have a birth family that they live with or as it is called here Bio parents. But they are bred from Breeders !  and then raised within organizations. So when Riva goes off the rails stops training and resigns. She needs to be brought back in line we meet Hitomi who has to try and bring Riva back to the High rise diving and training and for the investors to continue to make money from Riva. So the world we enter everyone sees everything as the world is now full of camera that follows people like Riva’s every move as we see Hitomi trying hard to push her back into the high rise dive programme all part of a new culture of celebs that the peripheral as they called follow those born and working for these huge companies. What we see is a woman trying to break free in a world where everyone now has a place in this new disturbing world of children growing up in companies without families in a new horrific world. A world not far moved from our own culture these days of celebs and increasingly intrusive media. will they get Riva Back will Hitomi survive if she doesn’t !!

“The smell of the peripheries always made me nausesous as a child. I would already start to feel sick days before a compulsory casting. During the casting, I had to take medication to avoid vomitinf on stage. The heatm the smog. My skin grayinsh, sickly after just a few hours, I showered several times a day. Andorra made fun of me. She didn’t mind the dirt and the bad air. She was ecited when the next casting approached. She believed in being chosen, in making early breakthrough. I reminded her of the statsitics abd thet we weren’t dependent on being chosen. That our education at the institute separeted us from the unpredictability of a casting jury. But Andorra lost any semblance of being a rational person when it came to our future. When I had long since given on the dream of high rise diving.

The world is set the divides are there from the start in this world !

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi but when I do it would be dystopic works I would pick. Here is a book that has a world that isn’t that far from our own. In Riva her character isn’t far from the character of Syliva in the recent Polish film “Sweat that follows her Online world and the consequences of her growing stardom which saw her have a stalker.  The struggle of having to appear on cam all the time !!. In the other parts of this world, the mega-companies as iot seems is another thing that is with us from Google, Meta, Amazon etc. Then if we look at the work culture of Japan where there is a sense of work for a company singing for them etc. Here is a world where Riva isn’t a person more a product to be marketed and sold as a package to her fans so when this product goes off the rails we see how Hitomi tries various increasingly more pressure on Riva to push her back into place. So if you have like books like Handmaiden tale or Orwellian universes this is a book for you. it follows the modern world of a new sports star and the dark turns and corners of a celeb world. Have you a favourite dystopic world? do you think the worlds media is too intrusive these days?

Winstons score – B A clever take on the world of Celeb and its increasing intrusion and commodifying nature

All the Land by Jo Lendle

All the Land by Jo Lendle

German fiction

original title – Alles Land.

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I’m on another of this year’s german lit choices. l I am now in Greenland partly for this book based on an actual person Alfred Wenger the son of the Minister for Berlin in the early thirties he was an explorer and scientist for the next book for my German Lit month books. A novel from Jo Lendle the Publisher of Hanser Verlag, he is the editor of the lit Magazine Akzente. He has lectured on German literature been involved in German pen. He has also translated a number of books including books by Jachym Topol. He has published a number of novels this is the first book by him I have read.

Alfred Wegener had more siblings than one would wish upon a person. They stood around him and stared at him, elbowing each other and pointing at him, some even grabbing over the woven edge of the willow cradle to pinch him , out of love.

It cost his mother some effort to hold the children back. The birth had taken twenty-four hours, a whole day . It Hard to unsettle a woman like Anna Wegener, but attempting to restrain this horde had her at her wit’s end

his Birth and the Orphans gather round see his birth

I hadn’t heard of Alfred Wegener when I read this book I read his Wiki page and got the sense he was like many of the British explorers of the time. What we see here is him in 1930 as he is stuck trying to survive in the middle of Greenland one of the most remote places in the world on the mid -ice as it is called and also one of the coldest on the planet as he and his team have set off to see if they can get by and to study the weather and survive the conditions this was his fourth trip to Greenland the first was around the time he had to meet his with Else. The book sees his attempts to be both a successful family man.  He was brought up by his parents in an Orphanage so he want to be a real father and husband. The fact he was called into to fight in world one means that the years away from his wife they have drifted apart. We see the romance and his earliest years growing up. He tried his best he thinks but as he looks back we see that wasn’t always so. this is what he is most famous for in a way his studies of weather and things like continental drift. This is a tale of one of those men that like his British counter parts tried to push back the barriers of what men can do endure and see. the furthest the coldest etc.

Early in 1906, he read in the newspaper about a plan for a Danish expedition to north-eastern Greenland, which was to spend two summers charting the coastline. Under the writer Mylius Erichsen’s command , they would attempt to cross the ice of the greenland sea to ereach the spot where the Germania expedtion had been forced to turn back in 1870, and set up a base from there, they hoped to explore the unknown section to cape bridgeman,

A base station in the ice. All that could be studied there! Wegener closed his eyes. It required some effort to gather his wishes.

The  report that maybe inspired him to do his expeditions to Greenland, a few years later.

This is the second novel based on this last expedition on his Wiki page for Alfred Wegener it said this last expedition had inspired John Buchan to write his novel A Prince of captivity three years after the events. What we have here is an in-depth novel about his life that mixes the actual facts with what Lendle feels must have been Wegener’s thoughts of his own life as they sit in freezing weather and looks back over his life. I loved the flow of the book I ‘ve always been a fan of stories around the pole regions things like the worst journey in the world which in parts this reminds me of or a film like Scott of the antarctic the is a part where they cut back on what they are carrying you can see where the story will end it reminds me in parts of Scoots story or more so the Shakleton Television series that followed his life as the relationship of husband and wife when they spent time apart was similar. Have you read any books by Lendle or have a favorite book set in the Polar regions. So if you like a tale of a man how tried his best in everything and in many ways was very human this is a book that you should enjoy. As he is a flawed character but aren’t we all !!

Winstons score – B+ A well-written novel about a man that we should know more about!

Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

German fiction

Original title – Kind aller Länder

Translator -Michael Hofmann

Source – Personal copy

We go back with my next read for German Lit Month and a  modern Classic a book that seem to be everywhere last year I hadn’t read anything by her I was vaguely aware of her connection to Roth not sure if I heard a review of one of her books or read it in another book. She had been married but left her husband in the early thirties when he got drawn in by the Nazi party. She then had a relationship with a Jewish doctor then spent time with the writer Joseph Roth and she traveled around Europe he was a huge influence on her writing. it is felt that the father figure in the book is a write like Joseph Roth. Like Roth, he also criticized the Nazis Keun herself had seen her books withdrawn by the Nazis. A gem of pre-war german Literature that signaled what was to come and the attempt to flee from the shadow of the Nazis.

Then my father suddenly walked into our hotel room where I was crying and my mother ewas groaning, and said to my mother. “Well a mircale has happened – it might yet save us. I’ve just had a call from Tulpe. You don’t know him; well, I don’t know him either, I crossed paths with him once in Berlin. He reads my books , heard I was in town, called me. He travels in Ladies underwear, I beleive; probably has a bank account- rock solid character. Two thousand francs will be enough to get us out of trouble. I can’t pay him back with the fights to the polish translations. The money for that is due in the next few weeks.

Her father tries to scrape together enough money for them to get by.

I am a fan of child narrators when done well and here in Kully the ten-year-old daughter of Peter a writer who is outspoken about the changes he has seen in the time since the Nazis seized power in Germany (much the same as Roth did at the time). This means that Kully her mother and her father are exiled from Germany what we see is the journey around Europe from hotel to hotel as they head from country to country as their visas, funds, and options dwindle a journey that many made at the time. But as this also happens her father is still talking and wanted. He is a chancer and liar to ht mother and her. He is trying to get as they are constantly on the run though he is constantly wanting the family to move on from hotel to hotel but as he heads out to settle them in a new hotel leaving her l=mother and her to sneak off. We see a girl that is a bit wild she smokes sees what is happening but has that childlike view of what is happening she is just caught up in the journey here there and everywhere. A path that many did in those pre-war years.

My mother says my father can’t settle the hotel bill from Warsaw anyway, because the Polish goverment dosen’t alow you to send mony out of Poland. My father often tells fibs to get a bit of peace and quiet. We’re happy about that sometimes, though he performs miracles and everything he says comes true.

My mother is crimping her hair in front of the mirror, she wants to have a round curl either side of her fac, to make her look beautiful.If she looks beautiful, she feels better abiout walking through the lobby, or talking to people to ask them for money: I don’t mind not looking beauitful.

I loved this image of her mother very thirties sounding

I said I like Child narrators when they are done well and Kully voice is so evocative a girl that is a little wild due to the lack of boundaries she is a brat but she is caught in this downward spiral of running from Place to Place. This is a book I am pleased I tried I tend to be put off when I see translations that seem overhyped or here there and everywhere. In  Peter, we have a writer that is like Roth a writer that stirred up the Nazis Roth himself like Peter went out of Germany when Hitler came to power. Roth never got fully away. This is like the Passenger I read earlier this year we see the journey of trying to escape the the Nazis. This is a path that many trod at the time and here we have an angle from the view of a child grasping at the facts seeing her father pushed out aware of what happens but in the black and white nature only children have. I must read her other books which would you recommend?

Winstons score – B a child’s eye view of a horrific time

One day a Year (2001-2011) by Christa Wolf

One day a year by Christa Wolf

German Memoir

Original title – Ein Tag im Jahr.

Translator _ Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I had wanted to read the first of the two series of diaries (well not sure if that is a right yearly observation)  That Christa Wolf had lept she choose just one day the same day every year to write a diary entry, these entries are both Personal and observant of the world around her she had done this for 40 years from 1960 – 2000. The date 27th September every year.  Which made the first volume of this book which came out in the early 2000s and with the cheapest second-hand copy online for 50 pounds I made do with the second collection that came out after her death and was edited By Her husband Gerd who observes that the entries since 2001 were of a more personal nature than the earlier ones. So what is collected here is the last ten entires of her life which ended shortly after the last year 2011.

I remember that two questions arose within me in a short space of time while I stood in the unfamilar room, hypnotized by Implausible TV images: is this how the Third World War begins? And is this beginning of the end? O began to work on these questions while I packed up my manuscript and then had to wait a long time for the taxis, which had been held up by an ordinary traffic jam, while the reporters stunned and agitated voices came over the car radion and driver, a measured man, to my relief, showed shock and sympathy. These two sentences have accopmpanied me since then, as statments, as words of doubt, aswuestions, and they have produced varying answeres, none of which is enough for me.

The aftermath of 9/11 and where we on the edge of destruction ?

In regards of a time to start this book the fact that in 2001 the entry came just over a fortnight after 9/11 Wolf observes a world on the end after the collapsing of the twin towers, she has her 9/11 moment that second when we all saw what happened that day and the aftermath which by the time she wrote two weeks later had seen the eys of the world turning to Afghanistan. The other part of the entry talks of her life and this is how the book progresses the events of the day but nothing quite touches 9/11 in fact she observes how few of these events like 9/11 there are where we all see what has happened We also see the change in Germany over these first years of the century a while after reunification and her view on the politics and politicians. This also saw Merkel come to power a figure from the East Like Wolf herself. We also see how those writers and people she had known as her contemporaries are now dying. People like Andre Gorz Wolf had loved his poems to his dead wife which I had enjoyed. She tells us about other books including The tower by Uwe Tellkamp a book I loved but she didn’t like it much. She and Gerd s are starting to see her age creeping in as she struggles, she is also struggling writing her last book City of Angels. This is an insight into the twilight years of one of the leading figures of German Literature.

The television news show has no progress to report between the negotiation partners towards a grand coalition, but it is genrally accepted that thats where we’re heading. The commentators predict that Schroder will have to step back, possibility also Angela Merkel. Up to thi point, both parties are still insisting in the chancellor’s post. In the middle east, the just cleared Gaza strip is being bombed by the Isarelis again because rockets were fired at them from there. Tinka and Maritn are flying to Isarel in a group gthe day after tomorrow.

The edge of Merkel become Chancellor described which she still is just 16 years later.

This is the second book I have reviewed on the blog by the Late Christa Wolf, both non-fiction works I will review a work of fiction next from her. I enjoyed this as it covered the year I remember and also saw the change in Germany when Merkel came to power halfway through the book What comes across is the loss of what she had hoped we see with her talking of how she had voted for the linke party the left-wing socialist party her lament for what could have been this is a writer seeing her life slipping through her fingers as she struggles with her memory, walking and getting up the stairs. It captures the struggle of growing old also the way we view the world when age makes us view the mistakes of the past and the problems oif the present I felt this worked without reading the first book which if I see a cheap copy one day I will get one. This is one for fans of Books Like Alan Bennetts diaries or like me of German Lit fan. This is my third read for this year’s German Lit month where will I go next in Germany ?

WInstons score – A an interesting look at the last embers of a great writer

 

Dispatches from moments of calm by Alexander kluge and Gerhard Richter

Dispatches from moents of calm by Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter

German fiction

Original title – Nachricht von ruhigen Momenten

Translator – Nathaniel Mcbride

Source – personal copy

This book was written by Kluge when he took the set of pictures that the artist Gerhard Richter had used in the edition of the German Newspaper Die welt on 5 October 2012. Where all the photos on the paper had been replaced by Richter pictures which he had called moments of calm. He intends them to distract and be the opposite of the death and horror of the stories in the paper itself. After this paper, the writer Alexander Kluge took the picture and wrote vignettes to each of the pictures and what followed is this book that puts the pictures from Richter with the stories for them the Kluge wrote. They had worked together on an earlier book in December. Kluge as I have seen in his other books likes to connect with other writers and artists. this is my second book for this year’s German Lit month !

During an Argument in the smokers corner of a dance hall in Straubling on New Year’s Eve, a stranger pressed a burning cigarette intomthe eye of a 20 year old man and left without anyone trying to stop him. Did ot matterr to the people there they called an ambluance or that they persue the attacker? What, in pratical terms, could the others have done to prevent the attack? Everyone in the group was shocked and frightened by the stranger’s attack? Everyone in the group was shocked and frightened by the stranger’s aggression. The young smoker did not regain his sight in the eye that had been attacked. The police opened a criminal investigation.

The attack in a dance hall that was then followed by a piece on Rudolf steiner and sense of chance !!

As with Kluge’s other works, this is a set of unconnected vignettes that each takes one of the pictures as a springboard for a story or an anecdote. what we get is a look at everyday life from two great artists. the book has five sections and the are more stories than pictures as some pictures have two stories. In the usual Kluge style, he mixes fiction and fact as we see his reactions to the pictures. reactions that from sublime like he was to young for the digger as we have a picture of a small boy and a toy truck. A picture of dancers has a tale of a man losing sight in one of his eyes after leaving a dance hall and then Rudolf Steiner of the sense of chance. another story was on John Cage performing his works in frankfurt so when a fire breaks out and forces him out of the Opera house as it rages he grabs microphones probably to record the sound of the fire! as it is burnt to the ground. A woman clings to her child in a shipwreck sparked from a picture of a baby..Marx lost text reappearing is another story that appears.

During the final rehearsals for his Europeras 1 e32 at the Frankfurt operan house in the autumn of 1987, John cage was staying at the Hotel Frankfurter Hof. This meant that when he recieved the disturbing news that the opera house was on fire, he didn’t have to far to hurry to the scene. He took a tape recorder with him, and he had filled the pockets of his winter overcoat with various different kinds of special microphones, The city’s fire brigade had several of its units ready for an assauly on the stage house, the centre of the fire. In meantime, a firestorm had already devolped in this part of the opera house. It was simply too dangerous too send in the fire teams against it. They would have to let the fire burn.

In usual Kluge style it is a rabbit hole of vignettes how often when you read him you have to find out what is really true,  like the Cage story and what he has made up he weaves fact and fiction so well, what he does so well here is take each image as a springboard for either something directly connect to the picture or as a kernel for something very inventive style of writing and kluge knack of making the everyday burst to life is a talent as an evocative and thought-provoking writer. The book came by chance as Kluge was asked and came up straight away with the idea of stories to which Richter suggested another joint work. One odd connection is these two great German figures were only born five days apart in February 1932. I am fast becoming a huge fan of Kluge this will be the fourth book by him I will have reviewed I have another and will be getting others when I see them at a price I can afford. Have you read Kluge or are aware of Gerhard Richter’s artworks?

Winstons score – +A I just love Kluge’s style of literature so much

New Year By Juli Zeh

New Year by Juli Zeh

German Fiction

Original title – Neujahr

Translator – Alta L. Price

Source – Review copy

November is German Lit month and I start with a book I feel a few people will review as it is the latest from bestselling German writer Juli Zeh.A writer that won the German lit prize (the German booker) with her debut novel. She has published a number of novels since then with a number being translated into English. This is the second I  have reviewed Decompression by her in German lit month in 2015. I liked her writing so when this arrived I knew I’d like it and like the earlier book it used a holiday as the catalyst for the story. Juli Zeh is a lawyer and judge. You can see in her writing that she has seen a lot of Human Nature. This book follows a man on holiday over Christmas and New year.

His legs hurt. In back, where there arer muscles one rarely uses with names he’s forgotten, With each piush of the pedal his toes come up against the linings of his shoes – sneakers meant for jogging, not cycling. Henning’s cheap cycling shorts don’t fully protect him from chafing, he has no water and the bike is far to heavy.

But the temperature is almost perfect. The sun hangs white in the sky, but doesn’t burn. If henning were on a lounger sheltered from the wind , he’d be warm. If he were walkingalong the seashore, he’d need a jacket

The opening and he is a typical new years day cyclist ill prepared and unfit !!

Henning is a young man on the cusp of middle age man that has what every man in his position should have a wife two children young 2 and 4 . He and his wife Theresa as they have gone to Lanzarote. But as we see things aren’t that rosy when his wife flirts with another man  The book opens as we see the Christmas period as they celebrate it and Henning looking back we see he has it all but recently has been having panic attacks. These panic attacks have started to affect his job but also his home life as he starts to lash out at those around him more and more and like when we see his wife flirt maybe it could be too late. He can’t quite work out why but as it is now New years day he has decided like most of us do that is to get fitter so as he sets out to cycle up a hill as he does the past comes into his head and this is the second part of the book which sees us going into Hennings his Childhood which has an event that until now was buried this event is maybe what has been causing his stress as dark secrets from his childhood resurfaces, It shows how we can bury the past no matter how dark but then they do rise to the surface in other forms like Panic attacks.

Henning likes making his parent laugh, they like it when he says clever things. Once he saic “the time we have on earth is as tiny as a pebble”. Mama hugged and kissed him and Papa wrote the sentence down and put it on the first page of a photo alim. The bit about the pebble came to Henning because he thinks so much about time, He can’t read a clock yet but often looks at the arrows. Yopu cant see them more, unless you look away and then after a while look back at them, The thing he finds most disturbing about time it that is always goes too fast or too slow. It never seems just right. Henning doesn’t believe time is his friend

I lived this poasage as it seems so true time isn;’t always our friend and especially in Hennings case as time doen’t forget !!

I liked the way she set this book up the first part is Henning in the present but the sense that all isn’t quite right creeps in as we see them on the holiday with their two young children but these panic attacks he has started to lose control of than when he takes that ride we have Henning looking at the past as a child so the narrative has two voice the old Henning and his world now and then him as a young boy as we find what has hidden in the past a sense that is there in the first part of the book then as he cycles he has a Proust like a moment of remembrance and then is in the past. It shows how the past can be hidden and how the darkest moments can’t always be hidden away or forgotten. A journey into a dark past that deals with how the mind works and human nature as I said you can see she has worked with people there is a sense of how the effects of our past are presents which is at the heart of all our lives but when they are dark like these no matter how much we try to avoid it there is always an elephant in the room !! Have you read any books by Juli Zeh

Winstons score – B+ is a solid book about one man’s dark childhood and its effects on the man that was a boy.

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

German Political fiction

Original title – Das Bohren Harter Bretter

Translator – Wieland Hoban

Source – personal copy

This is the third book by the German writer Alexander Kluge I have read he is fast becoming one of my favorite writers this collection caught my eye as it is slightly different it was a collection of 133 political stories. This is including a couple stories from his fellow German writer Reinhard Jirgl as Kluge says telling stories is a very social activity. Kluge is one of those writers that isn’t easy to pigeonhole, he has so many talents he is both a member of the group 47 writers but is also a leading light of the New German cinema. Kluge has also written a lot of things for television. He is a truly unique talented individual and should be better known over here!

 A number of tourists arrive at the Federal chancellery steamboat jett. They do not want to visit the Federal chancellery but, rather, the HOUSE OF THE CULTURES OF THE WORLD. In front of this heritage protected building, two stalls offer Baked potatoes and Bratwurst respectively, accompanied by beerr. A band is rehearsing loudly for the evening on the roof of the building. They already knew how to use the loudspeakers before they start rehearsing. The rehersal serves to mark there territory in the culturual garden.

Maybe a sly look at how peoples nedds and views have changed in recent years

The book is divided into five rough categories of stories like in his other books he uses a style that is all his own he creates a sort of mosaic with his stories. They stretch from the mundane things like the description of the steamboat jetty near the Federal Chancellory one of the small vignettes that create bigger pictures through Il Duce intelligence. Obama this is Kluge he jumps from place to place each short piece. What he dies is mix the real and fake together. There is pieces from Jirgl which imagine the events around the  Keneady Krushchev meeting and what happened. Funny tales like the highest mountain taking a comment from Gorky and then explain that there was first Lenin peak then there had been a higher Stalin peak found. he moves from the mundane German politicians through Russian Politics and the events like Glasnost then minor observances like the Big wheel at Chernobyl set up at the time for the annual Mayday that stayed for years after. He also looks at how we view politics and those who serve us. The title comes from an observance from Max Weber described politics as ” a strong, slow drilling through hard boards with both passion and judgment “. this is what spurred Kluge to write this collection that makes the reader think like his other books.

The same organizational power that kept all sections of the USSr going was responsible for the annual preparations for LABOUR DAY, 1May, as well as the pouros planning (carelessness, techinical concentrates and disruption of responsibilties) that led to the ACCIDENT IN BLOCK 4 at Chernobyl on 26 pril 1986. The town had already been evacuated. But the leisure facilities for the 1 May celebrations, no longer noticed by anyone, were still set up. Towering above them was a striking big wheel that stayed there for another two years because no one dared take own this contaminated device. It stood there rigidly waiting for te rust in the coming winter. The mute witness to a memorieal day and the scenic ruin, covered by invisible lava, of the technological district: TWO POLTICALLY OPPOSING SIGNS OF HUMN LABOUR.

A nugget of information a small footnote in history the MAY day wheeel left after the disaster in Chernobyl

Kluge is a hummingbird of a writer he likes to fly from flower to flower he has a mind that seems to never rest. The book is one of those that like his fellow German writer Sebald that defies pigeonholes and like Sbebald he loves to mix fiction, non-fiction biography, and photos the images help build with the stories and vignettes. it becomes like a web of knowledge an interconnection tube map of stops that lead us one way and then back and then cross over. All in all,  It makes us all think about what is politics what does it serves and also lifts the lid on the post-war german years. Also the philosophy of politics and the history of politics. this is what I have come to expect from Kluge his books have left me as a reader feeling like I have been to a buffet or like a cosmos where there is a bit of everything you are full the food is rich and the here his ideas small large the vignettes from a few lines to a few pages each can lead you one a different tangent of thought. Have you ever read Kluge? if so which shall I try next.

Winston score – B thought-provoking work from a writer that needs to be better known in the UK

 

 

The Blacksmiths Daughter by Selim Özdoğan

The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Selim Özdoğan

German fiction

Orignal title – Die Tochter des Schmieds

Translator – Ayça Türkoğlu and Katy Derbyshire

Source – review copy

I’m a bit late reviewing this book from the German/Turkish writer Selim Özdoğan the book was a cult hit when it came out in Germany as it seemed to capture the experience of a lot of the Turkish families that came to be foreign workers in Germany. This is the first part of a trilogy around the life of one girl in Anatolia Turkey. the first part is her childhood in the ’50s a story of many that came to Germany at the time. This is the German equivalent to me of Windrush literature in the Uk as a lot of Turkish people came to do those jobs that Germans wouldn’t do.

When he bagan working in the Timur took up this habit from his father. He would often put sweets in Fatma’s skirt. He must have been 14 or 15 at the time, and she was 10 years younger he remembered the girl’s smile, Nobody knew anything specific about Fatma’s parents some said they’d be greek , some Aramaeans and others claimed she was the daughter of Circassians. All they could agree upon was that the  couple had arrived in the town after the confussion of the first world war.Fatma’s father died before she was born, One day he complained of a back poain, and two week later cancer had taken hold of his entire body. fatma mother began working as a  nanny to a rich family to feed herself and her daughter.When she was six months old her mother was trampled to death by horses in the marketplace

There mother had a tough life

The story follows the early years of a little girl called  Gül she and her two sisters were the daughters of the Blacksmith Timur and his first wife Fatma. They live in a small village as the girls live in this idyllic yet closed world they go to school as they see that as the only way to go beyond the village there is some great little scenes in the school like when she takes the fall for a boy who is the naughty school kid. Timur has followed his father into the blacksmith trade the life seems perfect until their rural village is hit with typhoid and their mother passes barely in the bed cold when his father takes a younger woman just a few years older than his daughter. Arza had been married to a man that hadn’t given her a baby so she marries Tuimur as she wants a baby. But whilst Fatma was dying he let his business slip add to this he had fallen out with a fellow villager that had turned on Timur so they head to a town but this is where the girls start to feel that they don’t need and the new mother would love to see them out of the scene. This sets up the second book which follows them into Germany.

“It was me,” Gul said; she had no idea whyit slipped out. Recep wan’t eben her friend.He was the son of a good friend of her mother’s and people thought the reason he was so naughty was that he didn’t have a father; the man had gone to Istanbul one day and never come back, or so they said.

The teacher turned around and looked at Gül  for a few sconds. He knew it hadn’t been her, but he called her to the front and made her stretch out her left hand, palm upwars, He had to amintain her authority.

I loved this little scene in the book

I loved the feel of this world a village life that I feel has now gone anyone that knows me and the blog knows that villages have long been a favorite setting for this blogger. This had a feel of the world I read in stones in a landslide another book that sees a girl grown then move to a new bigger place. The book is also a testament to those guest workers that went in the ’60s and ’70s to Germany their story hasn’t been told much. As Katy said in an interview this is why she used a co-translator as she wanted the book to keep some of the Turkish feels it had in the german version. Gul has guts her story as Katy says in the interview it is one that is rarely told. This is a county novel a place that is timeless but is now gone these are Pamuk’s characters before they are drawn to Istanbul or as in the case her to Germany to try and find a better life like those who came to the Uk from the Caribean in Windrush era. Have you a favorite book set in a village?

Winstons score – A . this is a gem of a book about village life in a bygone world on the cusp of change

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

German Memoir

original title – Nachruf auf Lebende

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I have a lot of books from Christa Wolf on my shelves but haven’t reviewed a book by her here on the blog until now. I have decided to start with a book about the start of her life, with a work that was published after she passed away found in her writings was this piece which she wrote in a four week period in the early seventies she had tried many times to write about her childhood here own families experience at the end of the second world war where here family left the home which after the war became part of Poland this is the period that covers that times as she has her last day at school as the family head further towards the center of Germany to avoid the oncoming Red Army. This was an experience and time she had tried many times to write about this time.

it embittered me that the Fuhrer’s portrait was torn from the walls in all the houses in the town. Our Fuhrer was an oil painting, sixty by forty centimetres, dressed in tones of grey. A red ribbon ran around his elegantly tilted grey peaked cap, the cord at the front was also grey. He didn’t look at us, insteadgazing rather precisely at the sliding glass door between the dining and living rooms, a door that made my friends consider our home modern, and displaying his strong straight nose to us in oprofile along with a single grey-blue eye, which was rigid and whiochwe therefore thought was firm. He gazed firmly, Not always, Frauelun Dr strauch had told ius when we talked about the uprising of the goths-

The loss of the pictures shows the changing tide and the quote from her favourite teacher later tried as a leading Nazis.

The book ties in with another work on her childhood patterns of youth she also wrote about her early years. But this is just about the escape from her hometown as they head to safety. As her family Leaves her hometown of Landberg on the Wrathe. so on 30th January in 1945. When her mother decides it is time for the family to head out of the town. As the story unfolds the young Christa can’t grasp how the regime has fallen apart the spot on the walls in the town where the Fuhrer portrait had been taken down as the locals await the appearance of the red army. Her school the Herman Goering school. her favorite teacher later arrests as a leading Nazi this is a young girl’s view of this world her family settled middle class her family ran the grocer’s shop like when her mother considered bringing the fur coat with her shows the class of her family. She finds it hard joining the escape as she had the doctrine from Nazis in her question of whether heading to safety is the best. This is a short period of time looked back at with a clear sense of the time. it is easy to see why Wolf struggled writing about this time.

Don’t forget what a wonderful childhood you both had! My mother had words like these at her disposal, she would put her hand on your shoulder to say them, and there was no face you could present to words like that. Why are you acting so stiff? we did have a wonderful childhoof and now it’s over, we were walk-ons in a oplay guaranteed a happy ending on the days of our birth, and now they were casting us into the midst of a tragedy, its laws absolutely unknown to us- although it is a little flattering in the far corner of one’s conscious mind to be entrusted with such a difficuly and productive role. fear immediately ceases once the loss one trembled at the thought of has come to pass. All at once, the thin dew of boredom that settles on circumstances too long immobile is blown away.

I loved this passage it shows how as children even the hieght of Nazism a perfect childhood could be had.

This was found in her writings after her death wolf was best known for the way she looked at the east german regime her first book coming out in the sixties. She wrote often at odds with the Stasi but with a socialist heart to her works, she only wrote one book that came out after unification which she was opposed to which question the Stasi’s actions at the time. the subtitle of this book is called taking flight as we see the young Christa loved her school her teachers her home and in a way was blinkered at that age to the wider vision but her experience is a personal testament of the time which is drawn from her own experience of the time. It is easy to see why it was a struggle to write about without inhibitions as she said as she looked back on the time and how her mother reacted through her eyes her mother strength shows through. I have the latter part of her life next on my list of Christa wolf’s books the last part of a series of diary entries she wrote for the same day for over fifty years. Have you read a book by her?

Winstons score – B  an interesting insight into her life that was a struggle to write

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

German fiction

Original title –  Der Reisende

Translator – Philip Boehm

Source – Personal copy

Pushkin has a habit of turning up with these lost gems of writers from around Europe. Here we have Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz. Boschwitz was the son of a Jewish businessman that died in world war one where he was brought up by his protestant mother they left Germany for Sweden but in the mid-thirties he was called up for the Wehrmacht. So they went on the run around Europe before ending up in London in 1939 where he published his second novel under the name John Grane and the original title was  The man who took trains. This and his debut novel didn’t come out in German until a few years ago this is a new translation of the book that follows the events on Kristallnacht written shortly after that night Ulrich captures the chaos but also the loss of personal identity for our main character otto Silbermann.

I’m living as though I weren’t a jew, he thought, somewhat incredulously. For this time being I’m simply a well-to-docitzen- under threat, it’s true, but as of yet unscathed. How is this possible ? I live in a modern six room apartment, People talk to me and treat me as though I were one of them. They act as if i’m same person I used to be, the liars – it’s  enough to give a man a guilty conscience. Whereas I’d like to show them a clearer picture of reality, namely that as if yesterday I’m something different because I am a Jew. And who did I used to be? no-who am I , really A swear word on two legs, one that people mistake for something else!

It dawns of Otto what has happened and how the world is changing.

The action opens just after Kristallnacht has just happened in Berlin and it has finally dawned on Otto Silbermann a successful Jewish businessman that runs a factory just about until now he thought he was going to avoid the worst of what was happening he isn’t overly Jewish looking and had a German wife. But when he meets his partner Becker after the night as he talks he notices the difference in his manner and later at a hotel he had been going to for years he sees how people treat him differently.  But this single night has turned the world around him to one he doesn’t know and he now must try and get money for his business and try and find a way out of Germany what follows is a wonderful portrayal of a man on the run as he sells his business for a pittance and then goes on the run on train after train rides as he crisscrosses Germany trying to connect with old friends and work a way out of German even at one point he gets to a border but is then turned back into the heart of Nazis Germany. There is a sense of the world shrinking around Otto as he sees who are his true friends and acquaintances are and those that now despise him as it shows the way the Nazis manipulated people.

Silbermann’s coat pockets were bulging out from all the bills, so he went to a shop to buy a briefcase, after making the purchase he realized it was already 6:55, so he dashed to the nearest post offive, where he too a form from the telegragh counter and sent a local telegram to his wife. Because he was worried about returnuning to his apartment, he asked her to meet him in a cafe close to home.

When he left the post office he wondered what he should do with the forty-one thousand five hundered marks he has recovered. He decided no to dwell on the matter of Becker and how deeply his former friend had disappointed him although that did little to stave off his painful, depressing reflections.

AS he starts to go on the run with the money from his buisness and the loss of his friends

This is a classic thriller that goes at full pace as we see Otto trying to get away, of course, the train and escape is a nod towards John Buchan in a way Hannay of course tries to escape the spies that are following him on a train to Scotland. Then he has taken a large linch of Kafka as the world he is living in becomes a maze of these train journeys as he tries to escape and avoid being seen as Jewish the world he knows is changing to a Kafkaesque nightmare before him as door after door gets shut in front of him. Otto is the every Jews Man of Berlin after that night trying to escape the collapsing world around them in Otto case he has the fact he can pass as Aryan but it still means his papers are showing him as Jewish. Another gem from Pushkin and I feel there are still more books out there waiting to be rediscovered that like this haven’t aged the book actually feels modern and the pace it is told at is wonderful we get caught up in the chaos of that world.

Winstons score – +A a true gem rediscovered

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