Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

German Fiction

Original title – Im Stein

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Review copy

I rejoin my late run on the Man booker longlist to try to get through the books , which I have now all read including a rereading of this book. One of the joys or reading so much in translation is to meet writers you have reviewed earlier as they move on in the careers and here is one such case . I first reviewed Clemens Meyer when on of his early short story collections All the lights was translated and published into English , so when six years later his Magnus opus arrived in english I read it, but struggled how to review it as it is like his earlier work an unflinching account of his east german homeland.So when it was longlist I decide a reread and maybe a new look at Im stein the book was also on the german book prize list when it came out in Germany

If this year goes well  I’ll have saved up a nice sum. Most girls can’t kep hold of it , like guys with their cum – money I mean . Gucci here, Prada there ,sure I treat myself now and then , what do you think ? (wink wink !smile to camera , and my little winter comedy’s rolling after all , oh well , it’ll be a nice little hotel job, the perfect end to a working day , and a gentlemen with champagne and hopefully not one of those monster dicks , mind you , wink wink !)

One of the girls early on about the life and how easy it is to get caught up in it and who is that next Man !!

The story is rather like a classic American gangster film plot in a way ,I ‘m think Scarface in a way for the story of Tony in Scarface is similar to that of Arnie the main character in Bricks and mortar . They both come from the tough sde of town one aC killer that escapes to american and the other an East German football thug . Now they have different path tony is of course drugs but Arnie makes his with woman and sex in what is often called the oldest profession and as in Germany it isn’t strictly illegal he sees his empire grow from the early days in 1989 to the modern-day from the dark side of the trade with young children and the pipeline bring women from around the world to the doors . We also see the shifting tastes of his client’s as his empire grows but like all empires he has to protect it and this we see in full police and other people wanting to step in on the trade . We also see the world from the inside with the voices of those on the blunt end the girls

You open , your eyes and you’re not alone . There’s a woman sitting there , on the chair by the wall , right under the flower print . She’s black , her skin , and black curly hair and a  pale pink dress . You don’t understand right away because it’s not possible. ou work with a couple of African women , it used be the Vietnamese to begin with and now its the Africans, but why has this woman of all people come to visit you ? And didn’t they tell you no visitors for one or two days ?

A detached voice of a girl caught up in this world telling of the change faces she has seen

This is a brutal books , Meyer like earlier German writer like Jorg Fauser (who I reviewed here ) or Doblin in Alexanderplatz  they are much better at looking at the dark side of life and here Meyers use the prostitutes and the pimps to show how the old East German stumbled into the New Germany not smoothly but kicking and screaming like a premature child of one of the girls on the came screaming to go back to the safe world of the east at times not the capitalist world of commerce , webcams money to be made from the girls all day every day yes they have rights but some don’t and as the book goes on you see them become more of a wheel in a money-making machine for Arnie and others , hence I choose their voices for the quotes as they really hit home I felt  the hopelessness of this a brutal world elegantly written by Clemens  and translated by katy and another gem from fitzcarraldo a publisher trying to bring the best and most challenging works into English .

Summer before the dark by Volker Weidermann

Summer before the dark by Volker Weidermann

German fiction

Original title – Ostende. 1936, Sommer der Freundschaft

Translator – Carol Brown Janeway

Source – Library book

When Lizze mentioned doing a second Pushkin Press week , the first book they had brought out in the last year was this one . I am a cover junkie at times and this remind me of those old Railway post in the UK from the same time , It turns out the post was a Belgian railways. The book is the second book from Volker Weidermann , He was literary editor at the German magazine Der spiegel .This is his first book to appear in English .

It’s summer up here by the sea , the gaily colored bathing huts glow in the sun. Stefan Zweig is sitting in a loggia on the fourth floor of a white house that faces onto the broad boulevard of Ostend, looking at the water. It’s one of his recurrent dreams, being here,writing,gazing out into the emptiness, into summer itself .Right above him, on the next floor up is his secretary, Lotte Altmann, who is also his lover, she’ll be coming down in a moment , bringing the typewriter, and he’ll dictate his buried candelabrum to her, returning repeatedly to the same sticking point , the place from which he cannot find a way forward. that’s how it’s been for some weeks now .

Perhaps his great friend Joseph Roth will have some advice .His friend ,whom he’s going to meet later in the bistro.

The two meet when Roth arrives in Ostend to talk .

The book focus on one summer just before the otbreak of world war Two. It focus on two writers , I wonder if the idea came from the photo at the end of the book that shows Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth sat together in 1936 in Ostend . The resort at this time was a hip hangout for the great writers of the day Arthur koestler , the other half of Irmgard Keun Joseph Roth girlfriend at the time . We see how both writers are coping with the struggles of the Nazis taking over Germany. The two writers are both at the top of their game but their lives are going different ways Roth is in a relationship that is destructive and as we all know after he only had three years after this . Zweig was working on his last work his only novel at the time . This shows a group of writers as ordinary people . But also maybe slowly waking to what was happening back home as their publishers where either going or changing .Rather like the book I read last year the Decision  about Thomas Mann at this time having to decide what way he was going to go, unlike him Zweig and Roth both Jewish writers were already doomed .

Nineteen thirty-six is a year of farewells and decisions for Stefan Zweig .His German publishing no longer publishes him, the German market is lost to him , along with Austria , his collection and his magnificent house – all of ir is now nothing but a wearying burden.Its not easy to jettison what one has built up over the years.An entire life.

The world is closing in and the Nazis are killing the Jewish writers world

This is a wonderfully craft novel about a time that has long gone a last summer before the darkness descended . Stefan Zweig is a household name in many was due to Pushkin Press . Roth is a writer I see growing every year since I started blogging Granta has been bringing his books out in very nice new additions. What Weidermann has done is weave a novel out of the bits he found from all those involved their letter ,diaries and interviews .The last chapter tell you what happened to the writer Roth sad decline, Zweig in Latin America but killing himself just six-year later Koestler was recovering from the Spanish civil war when he was there then went on to write his masterpiece Darkness at Noon . Keun never reach the heights ,  she was at before she meet Roth , she is another writer whose works have appear in English over the last ten year.This is a book that can be read in an evening as you settle into the art deco Ostend and behind the public face of these writers .

Have you read this book ?

 

The old king in his exile by Arno Gieger

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The old king in his exile by Arnoo Gieger

German Memoir

Original title – Der alte König in seinem Exil

Translator – Stefan Tobler

Source – review copy

When I meet the Swedish translators last year Nichola one of  translators , she also works for and other story and thought this book out this month would be one I would like.By the Austrian writer Arno Gieger a writer that won the first german book prize for one of his novels in 2005 . This is the memoir of the time he spent with father as his father is suffering from Alzheimers . this is the account of that time.

Because it was wartime, my father had to take early graduation exams in February 1944 and was conscripted ; a mere seventeen-year old grammar-school boy from a farming family, an unworthy altar boy with little life experience – neither child nor an adult , neither military nor civilian, as Bulgakov called such schoolboy soldiers.

He was transferred from the labour service to the Wehrmacht in the summer of 1944

Just as trhe war was turning against germany his father is sent into the army and to the eastern front the worst front to be sent too

The book starts when August is having to move in with his son Arno after struggling with the creeping on set of alzheimers. Intially all goes well he lets Arno take care of him with simple task such as dressing . But he sees his father grasp of language shrinking but he tries to discover a father who he hasn’t really known . He sets out gto try and connect with his father discover more that he knows about his father that he was a child soldier in the war, why does he carry a picture of him as a half-starved man in his passport.He also writes about the way the condition can make people reimagined their lives but also glimpse into his own family’s past the rural life his father grew up in is retold to him .The father does do those things we expect get loose disappear but these are mere side piece in this book no this is the story of father and son walking talking and rediscovering one another.

When i asked my father why he had married my mother , he said he had liked her a lot and wanted to give her a home. Here, too his great themes were present : home ,safety,security. They mattered to him . being in love is nice, he might have thought , but knowing where you belong is nicer still .

His father has a sense of belonging post war the image he carries is like a glimpse that he got through the war when so many didn’t

This is the story of a son discovering his father but also the story of his life his mother and brother from the early days of the farming life that his father lived in the russian front time and then his return and settling down marrying which later led to his mother living his father a situation he blamed his mother for his father;s present position . For me it remind me of what work I do and why I do it that its learning about the past to help the people I support so if someone talks about a tv  show that was on thirty yeas ago i know about it so I can chat about it because some days they don’t know what they did that morning but can remember in great detail an old tv show .the chance you get to rediscover someones past as that is what they are in they are moving back in time as we move forward and some times we have to take on the style and world of the past to get close to those we help. I can say I really enjoyed this book it was nice to see a refreshing look at Alzheimer’s for the bits that like Arno finds can be gems of someones past yes he runs off loses himself sometimes but other times he is so profound and a sort of poetic vision of the man comes of the pages.If you read one book about Alziheimers this is the one to read less dark than others .

From Germany to Germany by Gunter Grass

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From Germany to Germany by Gunter Grass

German Non fiction

Original title – Unterwegs von Deutschland nach Deutschland.

Translator – Krishna Winston

Source – Personal copy

Well I was late review my German reads for German lit month. I always try to include a Grass novel or as in this case a work of his non fiction . This came out a few years ago. But it was the clock turned back nature of this book Grass thoughts on 1990 a man who really didn’t like to keep a diary felt that the year after the wall fell down. The East German government fell in December 1989. Grass felt compelled to write his own thoughts on the events of the following year including the first free elections in east Germany.

I fear my planned trip to the GDR is going to take place during the let-down after the first successful revolutionary rush. But old power structures are proving durable, as might have been expected. The mass exodus continues. The opposition is weighed down with organizational problems. Maybe in June and august I’ll be sitting on Rugen or in the Elbe sandstone mountains writing about progress of the German-pPolish cemetery association.

We all remember those pictures of abandon Trabants all round Germany as people from the east came west.

The year follows not only the world of German politics Grass was an active voice in the spd the German socialist party. Happy as he is that Germany has become one again he worries that the rejoice could turn into something dark from the past of Germany that he remembers and that is nationalism. We also see him struggling to write his latest novel the call of the toad. A novel that at its heart is more about Grass a man than German he was born in Danzig a German in a part of the world that is Polish but not only is Grass German he is Kashubian by birth a nationality he says at some point is part way between being what is German and what is Polish so in some ways he still views German events through this part of his being.We see him meet many figures of the day like a trip to meet Vaclav Haval the czech writer like Grass himself a face of the times. Elsewhere we get glimpse into Grass personal life his wife Ute the time spent in the Algrave were we also see Grass talent as an artist with all his drawings in the books.

Finished Malte Laurids Brigge. The last third makes for disappointing reading: the precise observant and previously mentioned oddities drown in sentiment and in vagueness more typical of Rilke. The scenes set in Denmark are as strong as I remembered them: the loud dying of Old Brahe, or the mothers fear of needles.Remarkable how the book’s demand for a death of one’s own contrast with illness (cancer) of Ute’s mother, which will probably result in death.

I have a new translation of this Rilke work which I plan to review . It makes me think of how does a book change as you age ?

This didn’t come out to after Grass had died, I do wonder if he wanted it published maybe he left instructions after his death. I loved the personal and public mix of his life I mean at the time he was maybe one of the best known german figures and to have his views on this time one of the most significant in my life time. I was on germany a few years after this in 92 and 93 and remember the sense of hope. A sense I think which has now vanished some what. But I also remember a few people being worried as Grass was about the skeleton in the cupboard so to speak. Piece like this only give a small glimpse into a great writers life, he tackled the unification more in his later novel too far afield which follows two older German men around Berlin and is well worth reading .

The emigrants by W G Sebald

 

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The emigrants by W G Sebald

German Fiction

Original title -Die Ausgewanderten

Source – Personnel copy

Translator – Michael Hulse

Well another November is on us again and it is German Lit month and as I sit writing my first post of the month on Halloween as tomorrow I am in London giving a talk to the Swedish translators group. I decided to kick of this years German lit month with a great  reread from one of my favourite writers Max Sebald was maybe better known in the Uk at the time he wrote. But know 15 years after his death we are slowly seeing writers influenced by him , I am at the moment reading one such writer from Slovenia.

The years of the second world war, and the decades after , were a blinding, bad time for me, about which i could not say a thing even if i wanted to . In 1960, when I had to give up my practice and my patents, i severed  my last ties with what they call the real world.Since then, almost mu only companions have been plants and animals.

Dr Henry selwyn had to escape the world into nature to get through life in the end

The Emigrants was the second book by Sebald I read after I read rings of Saturn by in 1998 , I got the two earlier books by him in the weeks after I finished Rings Saturn. So it is nearly twenty years since I read this book and this second reading hit me more than the first one. The story is of four emigres from Europe . A doctor his story remind me of my own connection years ago to a man from the Baltic states my friend was from Latvia where as DR Selwyn in the story comes from Lithuania . Else where in the last of the four tales we see Max Ferber a painter Talk about his mother and her childhood but also along side this is his life in Manchester which touched my life again My grandfather was county architect for Salford in the  60’s and some of the modern blocks that my grandfather was involved with designing . So as max is describing his mothers pasts I connect with my own past in his present . Another story involves the narrator talking about the fate of his former school teacher that escaped before the war.

As I expected, I have remained in Manchester to this day, ferber continued. It is now twenty-two years since I arrived, he said , and with every year that passes a change of place seems less conceivable. Manchester has taken possession of me for good. I cannot leave, I do not want to leave, I must not. WEven the visits I have to make to London once or twice a year oppress and upset me

The north had soaked into Ferber holding and keeping him there .

I wondered if the germans have a word like Saudade that wonderful portuguese word that is a feeling of longing missing and memories of a lost past. There is a similar word Sehnsucht a word about longing but the saudade word is better her as it is about the loss a world this book these four are survivors of the holocaust in their own ways ans the four tales each reflect what was lost , the past that can never be this is what Sebald does so well in his book through his mix of prose and images to draw us as the reader deep into the world that is lost from the simple pictures of a class before the war and a wondering of how many were left . This remind me of when I met Dasa drndic the Croat writer and talked about her book trieste which in the italian version has pages that can be torn out  of the list of Italian Jewish victims of the holocaust and the effect is to make the book and the story unstable and this is what Sebald does with his pictures glimpse of a dead past. A world now dead remember and lamented the loss of a jewish europe wiped out by the war and spread through out the world.

Decompression by Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh

Well here we go I’m trying to break new ground with my reviewing style, with a book that in some ways sums up what  about reading fiction in translation is about for me. that is discovery of books I wouldn’t maybe read if they were in English as much as I agree with the women in translation project and am all for more books by women getting translated, I can never draw myself away from the lit I grew up with which is Burroughs, Kerouac , Burgess and well on the whole male writers, So Juli Zeh isn’t a writer I would usually be drawn too but it is german lit month, I had tried an earlier book by her and failed after a few pages. But the synopsis of this one appeal to me.I was suprised to enjoy this more than I expected too.

As for me, I’m keeping my mouth shut. I’m not talking about literature, I’m not talking about dying. We’re both making an effort. This is going to be a lovely vacation. I won’t provoke him, and he won’t let himself be provoked. armistice

From Jola’s diary on the first day there …

The book is about a take on the classic  love triangle. We have  Jola, she is a beautiful soap star, but with a yearning for more than that entails. She has gone with her Husband Theo to Lanzararote to learn to scuba dive (hence the title of the book ) for her new film about a famous Model come underwater photograph. Thus step in Scuba instructor and third in the ;love triangle of this novel Sven he has been paid a great deal to bring the attractive Jola up to speed on her diving.What follows is a love affair but also given the dangers of being underwater a lot can happen.Will these two break Sven’s peaceful world.?

The love triangle is perhaps one of the oldest stories in fiction and in the world in general. From wuthering heights , Doctor Zhivago and through to even Harry potter a love triangle makes a good plot line.But what lends it strength is the characters that make up the three sides so who do we have here Spolit brat Jola, stunning an actress.But also rather like the lead characters in the Peter Stamm novel from earlier in the month given all the success there is something missing at the heart of this woman.

We don’t have to be on vacation. The old man could get to work on writing a book about the island. I can train for Lotte. That’s the beauty of being in the arts. You can call everything work, and then you can realize it’s shit without being disappointed.

Jola again from her diary she is quite shallow really.

Then we have Sven the classic Laid back drop out yes he studied Law but he then left all that behind to move to the sun and teach diving. One can imagine a number of Characters like this. I loved the bit where he googled the couple, that was maybe one of the pieces that gave this such a modern feel.

Three hundred and eighty-four thousand hits on Google. That was a shock. Even though I didn’t know exactly why it frightened me . In the background, a software program was uploading data from my dive computer. If Antje appeared in the doorway. I could click on the other screen in a flash. I didn’t feel like explaining what I was doing and why. Googling clients wasn’t really my style.

I loved this so now .

Last is the triangle is  Husband Theo , for me I kept thinking Arthur Miller for some reason, I don’t know why but I got that juxtaposed position of his Marriage to Marilyn  Monroe  with Theo’s and Jola’s . He  is in the middle of a huge bout of writers block and has been lashing out at his wife. Maybe drawing Jola into the Arms of Sven whom she has tried to lead astray.She is scared of him as the firrst quote suggests.

As soon as she was finished installing the navigations devices, Jola jumped onto land, pulled Theo off the bench, and sang. “Sailing, Sailing, over the bounding main,” in his face. He lurched into motion , grumbling , a burned down cigarette.

Theo a broken man lashing out at times.

This is a classic tale given a warm setting and almost  like putting a pan of water on boil we wait for the screen to start bubbling and boiling as the three  main characters  start cooking.Juli Zeh has mixed the love triangle  genre and given it the pacing you would expect from a thriller when reading it. In Sven the main narrator she has a laid back character capturing his life falling apart by the arrival of these two. I watch the film version of inherent vice and felt Sven was rather like Doc the lead character in that drawn into a world and situations he didnt’ quite want to be in .

German Literature

Decopression bY Juli Zeh

Translator John Cullen.

Nicotine by Gregor Hens

Nicotine by Gregor Hens

German Non-fiction

Original title – Nikotin

Translator Jen Calleja

Source – review copy

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you’re thinking that
you’re leaving there too soon,
You’re leaving there too soon.

Now you’re underneath the stairs
And you’re givin’ back some glares
To the people who you met
And it’s your first cigarette.

Neil young mentions that first cigarette in his song Sugar mountain.

Well after Gregor kindly choose five German books of short length last week, I finally get to his book. Gregor Hens is German writer and translator. He has translated books by the Likes of Jonathan Lethem , Rawi Hage and Will Self’s Umbrella, he lives in Berlin . Will Self also did a wonderful forward for this book about his relationship with cigarettes and smoking which inspired my post here .I so pleased that Fitzcarraldo decide to translate this book this is what small press do so well be brave and publish books like this.

I’ve smoked well over a hundred thousand cigarettes in my life and each of those cigarettes meant something to me. I even enjoyed a few of them. I’ve smoked ok, great and terrible cigarettes. I’ve smoked dry moist, aromatic and almost sweet cigarettes, I’ve smoked hastily and other times slowly and with pleasure. I’ve scrounged , stolen and smuggled cigarettes.

I like Gregor have smoke all sort from French, German, Russian and British cigarettes in my time as a smoker.

Well Nicotine was written by Gregor two years after he stopped smoking himself . This book  is an autopsy of a smoker , bu not a dead one .A retrospective of a smokers life, the how, when and where. But h also he expands it out to the wider concept of trying to stop smoking as a person but also the way it has sprung up to a whole raft of stop smoking ideas . The book follows him from his first cigarette ,in fact  even before back to  his family journeys in a car with his family of smokers. Through the packets of cigarettes he has brought in the past. The rituals of smoking that every smoker has. Cigarettes and culture from Twain talking of always trying to give up. Italo Svevo. even to Smoke one of my favourite films. This is a look back at being a smoker.

So why the last cigarette? Why should I smoke it? Why should I enjoy it like Cosini? I’ve already shown how strong I am! If I’m able to renounce a lifetime of any kind of smoking pleasure. Every possible cigarette, if I’ve decided this am sure of it, why not this one too? Why, when I ‘ve already come to terms with this resolution long ago, do i open the rubbish bin in the kitchen and retrieve the half-empty packet that had been thrown away a few minutes ago?

That moment you finally let go, I can’t remember the last one but the days leading up and not feeling well.

I think it is easy to say I connected with this as like Gregor I am now an Ex smoker, not quite two years but ten months is the longest I have ever stopped. I even feel now like Gregor does in the book I can look back at the autopsy of my smoking life from those first cigarettes, to like Gregor packets in fact one of the ones he mentions a few times in the book Peer Export , which is a german brand which has jumbo packet which was smoked by the step father of my ex German girlfriend. This is maybe the first of a new genre the ex smoker works. With smoking becoming a more and more anti social habit, I feel we will see more and more of books like this of writers tackling kicking the habit and their journeys.So if you have ever given a bad habit up or just like well written non fiction this is your book. This is a journey to the heart of nicotine through a blacken lung back up to the clear light of day.

Have you a favourite book involving smoking ?

The Flounder by Günter Grass

The Flounder by Günter Grass

German Literature

Original title – Der Butt

Translator – Ralph Manheim

Source – personnel copy

I wish I was a fisherman
tumbling on the sea
far away from dry land
and its bitter memories
casting out my sweet line
with abandonment and love
no ceiling bearing down on me
save the starry sky above
with Light in my head
and you in my arms

I wish I was the brakeman
on a hurtling, fevered train
crashing headlong into the heartland
like a cannon in the rain
with the beating of the sleepers
and the burning of the coal
counting the towns flashing by
in a night that’s full of soul
with Light in my head
and you in my arms

Fisherman blues is one of those songs that evoke a bygone age .

I have long been a fan of Gunter grass and have reviewed him twice before her with Cat and Mouse , From the diary of a snail , I was sad to see his passing earlier this year as when I reviewed Siegfried Lenz earlier in the month Grass was one of three or four big German writers who were break out  and widely translated, he was gruppe 47 those writers trying to but a spin on the new Germany. He is best known for Tin drum, but as a writer this book from the mid 1970’s sure a change in style and direction for him.

The third beast

Iisebill put on more salt, before the impregnation there was a shoulder of mutton with string beans and pears, the season being early October. Still at table, still her mouth full, she asked “should we go to be right away, or do you want to tell me how the story began ?”

The opening lines of the book were pick as the best opening lines in German literature in a poll in Germany .

The book is set in nine chapters and follow the pregnancy of Iisbill the fisherman’s wife. But the book is historic tour of German folk history and women in general as their part in the world.. This is summed in little side tales of history food and women. The book follows The area of germany Grass was from that northern part just by and including at various times parts of Poland, Add to that a talking fish descriptions of food being made and we have one strange yet unique book.Hard to describe other than it has nine chapters and a couple await their child while we hear about the world they live in to that point from every angle in a way .

Delay

A pinch or redemer salt

another delay when my question- which

century are we playing mow ? – was answered

Kitchenwise: when the price of the pepper fell …

 

Nine times she sneezed over the bowl

where lay the hare giblets in their broth

she refused to remember

that I was he kitchen boy.

Darkly she gazed at the fly in the beer

and wanted( no more delay)

to be rid of me no matter what

I choose a poem that echoed somewhat the opening lines of placing salt on the food .

I said it marked a change in Grass style it was the first book he wrote that wasn’t influenced or involved the second world war as its main subject matter. You also see maybe for the first time his love of Grimm and the fairytales the story evolved out of the Grimm story The fisherman and his wife , he would later use Grimm to form the third part of his memoir a dictionary of his life an Homage to the one Grimm did in their day. I seemed to have described little of what is in the book that is because it one of those books that is more a collection of small almost one would say flash piece some a paragraph others a tens of pages ranging from Tales , memoir , history , poems , the story of Iisebill and her husband , the talking flounder and even  food described .The talking fish tells of his life from stone age years to the 70’s when he has to face a feminists panel. This is a book that has divide people for its view of women through history. I feel it was a book of its day so to speak and maybe looking back at it 40 years on it can seem out step with feminism, but that is not for me to say fully. For me it was a writer trying a new style of writing in this book he tried similar things later on in books like My century where he used a patchwork of hundred stories to describe the 20th century. For me it is sad that Grass is read less than he was twenty years ago I know writers come in and out fashion , but from what I gather his last work was a piece on refugees so maybe he was more up to date than it seemed. Grass was never afraid to speak his mind and campaigned for the german SPD party for many years in fact the idea for this book came when he was on the road with Willy Brandt. So as we see another great German chancellor Helmut schmidt died a book that was published in his time as chancellor seems a fitting book.This is my new favourite Grass till I start soon on his first two volumes of Memoir Peeling the onion and the box ready for the Grimm book when it gets translated.

have you a favourite Grass

 

Gone to ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon

Gone to Ground

Gone to ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon

German Memoir

Original title – Untergetaucht

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Library book

In Berlin, by the wall
you were five foot ten inches tall
It was very nice
candlelight and Dubonnet on ice

We were in a small cafe
you could hear the guitars play
It was very nice
it was paradise

You’re right and I’m wrong
hey babe, I’m gonna miss you now that you’re gone
One sweet day

Oh, you’re right and I’m wrong
you know I’m gonna miss you now that you’re gone
One sweet day
One sweet day

I choose Berlin by Lou Reed as in this book it is the character in the background

I want to add a few non fiction works for this German lit month and this is one I found in my library system. Marie Jalowicz Simon lived in Berlin all through the second world war even thou she was a Jews, she hid and change  her identity to escape capture. Shortly before her death her son Hermann got her to tell her story and this book was put together from the tapes Hermann her son recorded and the writer Irene Stratenwerth to make this book of her war years.

A few months later, on 18 march 1941, my father died. He must have guessed that it was coming. A few day before his death the notes in his diary that he kept, finally, in five-pfennig octavo notebooks, were headed, “like being on the high seas”. He must have been feeling as if he were seasick. He had lain down for a moment , he wrote, he had felt so dizzy, and then it had passed over. But he had realised this was a case of life or death

Her father’s death after he has to stay unable to get out of Germany .

Gone to ground follows Marie’s story from telling of her youth a Berlin with a lively Jewish population to the first signs of the future when the Nazi’s take power. Her father attempts to get them to safety fail when he can’t a permit to travel in 1941 to Palestine as he is unable to be a lawyer under the Nazi rule. At this point the family is in forced Labour and everyday she is seeing those around her disappear at this point with a little help Marie disappears into the city where she will spend the next few years traveling from cellar to flats  staying in hiding. Going deeper as what she called a Uboat after she was nearly caught  she is helped by a collection of characters some with good intentions others with bad wanting a young woman in their home. But Marie manages to get through just to study after the war and make her living translating .

Little girl

All alone

to the Heller’s house has gone

what a fuss, who’s to blame?

I must bear it all the same.

As so often, I was singing to myself in my mind as I carried my suitcase from Schierker Strasse to Schinleinstrasse. It was a day late in february 1943. I wondered whether it was wicked to sing when Heller was possibly being tortured to death at this very minute. then I adapted a little more of the” Hanschen Klein” nursery rhyme to suit my own situation.

Never fear

be of good cheer

Things may yet be better here

The first winter Marie is in Berlin on the fun going from place to place .

This is one of those stories that needs to be told , we all have to be thankful to her son for recording his mother’s story one of the few Jews to make it through the war in the heart of the Nazi war machine Berlin. The story has been well put together by the writer and what is Marie’s voice shines through a strong young woman, her luck in find a block of flats whom tenants help her for most of the war, thus making one feel the strength of the human spirit in the darkest times. I said when I got this book it had reminded me of the great German Film Europa Europa another true story of a young Jewish boy who decide to become an Aryan and get through the war that way.Both show how the drive to survive can drag people through the darkness either trying to fit in or trying to hide. This is a powerful book to sit alongside the like of Primo Levi and Anne frank as a testament to how people escaped some got through and others didn’t .

Have you read this book ?

The rings of saturn by W G Sebald

sebald-rings_of_saturn

The rings of Saturn by W G Saturn

German literature

Original title – Die ringe des Saturn

Translator – Michael Hulse

Source – Personnel copy

 

would tell you about the things they put me through
The pain I’ve been subjected to
But the Lord himself would blush
The countless feasts laid at my feet
Forbidden fruits for me to eat
But I think your pulse would start to rush

Now I’m not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes

I choose Depeche Mode try walking in my shoes as we all feel we do this in this book

Well week two of German lit month and I finally get to review a book by my all time favourite German writer and the first book by him I read 16 years ago when it came out The rings of Saturn is one of those books you read and go I’ll never forget it and I want to read everything the writer has written at once .Well I did I later decide to leave a few of his lesser books for a later date. I have been meaning to return to reread them but have been held back by a fear of something I love being less on a second reading than it was on the first. So last week I watch Patience (after Sebald) the film by Grant Gee about this book I went well I got read it again Sebald lived in East Anglia at the time he wrote the book. He taught a UEA international Literature.

In august 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end. I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thinly populated countryside, which stretches inland from the coast I wonder now, however, whether ther might be something in the old superstition that certain ailments of the spirit and of the body are particularly likely to beset us uner the sign of the Dog Star

Linking dog day to a dog star is great and that is just the opening lines .

So rings of Saturn what is it , it’s not a novel, memoir, travel or biography a Christopher Maclehose said in the Gee film Sebald could be put anywhere in the shop. So rings of Saturn follows Sebald on a walk through East Anglia in his mind as he is taken to hospital. The hospital reminds him of Thomas Browne whose Skull is stored nearby .He is also a link to the two threads in the book Him as a writer he mentions brown a few times through the book and the fact Browne is descended from Silk merchants and Silk is another recurring theme in the book. From the silkworms of china to fish glistening like silk. As he follows the route his mind tells us both of place but also that wonderful knack Sebald has of digersion going off on a tangent inspired by a picture or a place to tell a story of something and somewhere. He also links back into his own past and the dark days of Germany’s years under Nazi rule.

Which the entire herring fisheries threatened to go under, beneath a truly catastrophic glut of herring. It is even said that vast shoals of herring were brought in towards the beaches by the wind and the tides and cast ashore, covering miles of the coast to a depth of two feet and more.The local people were able to salvage only a small portion of these herring harvested in baskets and crates .

I was reminded of the lady I support an old Herring girl, this also brought the image of those bodies drifting on to beaches of refugees I have seen recently on TV.

I often wonder how I would feel after rereading this book would it still be a favourite well the answer to that is yes and more so I feel inspired to go back to vertigo and the emigrants in the next year or so. For me time had served to connect me more with Sebald but also more with the story. In the film he talks to someone about having a friend from the small town of Goch where it is mentioned in connection to a map the man making the film knew someone from there , strangely I have been there as it was very near to Kleve where I lived many moons ago. Then there is Browne I reviewed his Urn Burial here which is one of my most view posts on this blog .Sebald also talks of Roger Casement a man whose connection to places I have been is strange he was converted to a catholic in Rhyl in Wales where my own grand parents lived for a time and then was in Ballymena in Ulster which is where my own Milly came from and I have also reviewed the book by LLosa The dream of the Celt all about Casement. Then there is a picture that Sebald connects to the Holocaust of a river of fish on one of the streets, but to me remind me of a woman I looked after that work as a herring girl following the fishing fleets up and down the coast getting the fish ready .As you see for me this book is about connections Seblads but then as a reader it is easy to connect your own life and books you have read.It is like the map that has been put together of the book following the walk but also connecting out to places mentioned in the book .Sebald maybe best capture how a mind can drift and the interconnections we all make at times.

 

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