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

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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.

 

Tumult By Hans Magnus Enzensberger

 

Tumult by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

German Memoir

Original title – Tumult

Translator – Mike Mitchell

I had a novel from Hans Magnus on my TBR pile, I vaguely remembered his name from when I lived in Germany in the early 1990’s. He is one of the most well regarded German man of letters. He is a poet, Championing Journalist, Translator and has been the editor of thGermanan book series Die Andere Bibliothek a sort of German version the Folio society. So as I say this caught my eye as it is a collection of pieces, he wrote in the sixties a time when he travelled the world at various conferences on literature.

That is the only part of his speech where you feel itmeans something to him personally. After a pause he abandons himself once more to his meandering associations, talks about anything andeverything in a way that sounds almost muddled and gossipy. Later on , a couple of fairly senior officals tell me they are very concerned about his garrulousness. The bos they say is incapble of keeping a secret to himself especially when it’s a case of real or presumed success.

Kruschev was removed a year after this as leader.

The first piece of the four long prose pieces that he wrote in the sixties. This first piece is a trip to Russia at the height of the cold war when Kruschev was the leader a man seen as one that could heal the wounds. He was a guest of the Soviet authorities.The first part is the time he spent with all the other writers.Later in the trip, he was the Lone German writer to be invited to spend time with the leader at his holiday home.Was he observes how the leader interacts with people? At a later conference, he would meet his with a relative of a Soviet writer.This meeting is recounted in his diary entries of the time. The later piece deal with a later trip to Cuba and again meeting fellow writers. The pieces I enjoyed is were he looked back on the people he meets and said what had happened to them. This is a time when writers were still considered kings among men and their words are important.

Yvegeny Yevtushenko’s also there. He’s the star of the congress. Surrounded by photographers. For Soviet conditions there’s something of Hollywood about his appearence. To my surprise, he immediately recalls our meeting in Leningrad. He even remembers our rock and roll evening outside the offical programmes.

I have the misfortune to be compared to him in some newpapers – and it seems as if the reverse is also true.Its the cliche of the angry young man. Yet a phenomenon such as Yevtushenko is only conceivable in Russia

A poet as a hero and he was one of the voice to fise under Kruschev thaw . This also echos Urgesic view of the writer in the Soviet era.

He meets a lot of the most well-known writers of the time. I was reminded of the words of the Croat writer Dubravka Urgesic in her book Thank you for not reading. About how the Soviet era put writers on a pedestal. a time now passed. He observes how a man that was on the verge of sending the world into Madness Kruschev was as a real person as he observed him.We see the world through Hans Magnus eyes but actually, learn very little of the man himself other than his views of the times he lived in the years before the Cuban missile crisis, the Paris riots. The writers he meet like Nelly Sachs whom he was the executor of her will.(a writer mentioned in Mireille Gansal memoir she translated her.) This is one for all world lit fans with an eye to history and a love of German Lit.

 

The Clown by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clown by Heinrich Böll

German fiction

Original title –  Ansichten eines Clowns

Translator – Lelia Venneewitz

Source – personal copy

I think it is a tradition to have a book from Heinrich Böll for German lit month. Having featured him three times before on German lit month on the blog. I have long been a fan of his works. This book is one I have wanted to put on the blog as the themes in the book are at the heart of what drove Heinrich as a writer and that was post-war Germany, the Catholic church, families and being a German male in post-war Germany. I fear he is slipping away from view, for many as a writer. I know there was some reissues. But that was a few years ago, luckily his books can be found fairly cheaply second hand.

I thought of Marie: of her voice and her breast, her hands and her hair, her movements and everything we had done with each other. Also of Zupfner, whom she wanted to marry. We had known each other quite well as boys- so well that when we met again as grown men we didn’t quite know whether to use first names of not – either way we felt embarrassed, and we never got over this embarrassment no matter how often we met.I couldn’t understand how Marie could have gone over to him of all people, but perhaps I never “Understood” Marie.

Hans looking back but also thinking what went wrong woith Marie.

The clown of the title is one Hans Schnier a 27-year-old. He makes his living as a clown around Germany. He is from a rich protestant family.But was sent to a Catholic school. Where he meets and lived with Marie for five years.She was a Catholic girl , they never married but spent many years ago . til she was drawn back towards the church and want Hans to join her.They were meant to go to an event at the hotel but Hans had to perform the night they were due to go to the Catholic even.  he got back to the hotel and in the morning she is gone, five years down the drain and the love of his life has gone with a man called Zupfner. We are told this in retrospective as the book opens with Hans after Marie has left lamenting her leaving him. He also has family problems as he confronts his father over there childhood, the family position after the war and its effect on him and his brother.

Even in the bathtub I missed Marie. She had sometimes read aloud to me as I lay in the tub, from the bed, once fro the old testament the whole story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, another time the was od the Maccabees, and now and again from mThomas Woolfe’s Look homeward ,Angel. Here I was, lying completely deserted in this stupid terra cotta bathtub,  the bathroom was done in black tiles, but the tub, soapdish, shower handle and toilet seat were terra cotta. I missed Marie’s voice. Come to think of it, she couldn’t read the Bible with Supfner without feeling like a traitor or a whore.

Later he laments her but also has a wicked dig at the man she is with and his catholic religion.

At the heart of this is a lot of issues that were close to Boll. How Germany moved forward after the war.As Hans tried to break free of the family by being a clown.  How the church influenced people especially the Catholic church, his hometown of Koln is a very Catholic town. He must have also seen the effect of the church on Ireland a place. He visited many times as seen when I reviewed his, an  Irish Journals, a few years ago.You can even stay in his Irish cottage if you are a writer.Marriage is another thing that is touched on in the book. Hans and Marie lived together for five years, but Marie always viewed it as living in sin. This has echoes of works from Graham Greene, a book like the end of the affair.Which touched similar subjects, to this book was another novel that examined Catholic church.

Apostoloff by Sibylle Lewitscharoff

 

Apostoloff by Sibylle Lewitsaroff

German fiction

Original Title – Apostoloff

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I was sent a German edition of one of Sibylle other books.When it was on the German book prize list, I only got a few pages in before hold my hands up and admit it was maybe too much for me. Since then I have wanted to try that book, Blumenberg. But when I saw this at a price I could afford I went for this first.Is one of the most successful German writers of recent years. Born to a Bulgarian doctor and German woman.She grew up a socialist. Spent time in France and Argentina. She is known for being outspoken at times.

Alexander Ivailo Tabakoff married a woman with Hollywood qualties, a cross between Marylin Monroe and the alleged murderess Vera Bruhne, albeit with the flaw of a broad Swabian accent,marking her out for those in the know as a child of East Stuttgart. This origin, and the thick ankles from which she suffered all her life, prevented Lilo Wehrle from trying her luck in Hollywood.Instead she married a very promising Bulgarian and gave birth to his son. We can barely remember that sone,Only that he died of meningitis at the age of six.There were nasty rumours that he had died of exhaustion because his parents, ragingly in love with him and raginly ambitous, had sucked the very life out of him, The subsquent birth was an unfortunate one, at any rat,and did not make up for the damage – a daughter .

A son was first then the two sisters maybe explains there relationships to there father.

Now, this is a simple story on the surface a pair of sisters are returning to there fathers homeland Bulgaria in a convoy of cars with their father’s body as he had chosen to be frozen back in his homeland. The sisters are being driven by Rumen Apostoloff. The two sisters are very different One is polite well spoken older sister.The younger sister is outspoken and caustic at times. This is a tale of two sisters remembering their father who took his own life at a young age. The book is about fathers, visiting the homeland that they don’t really k part coming of age and also has a lot of dark humour in it now.AS the driver tries to open there eyes that only see the grey dark side of the country and its post-soviet world. A story of a father and his daughters coming home but maybe finding a home.

As so often, the bulgarian have constricted a huge theory around a single detail, in this case a complicated murder theory – the king had gone to Berlin in civilian clothing rather than in uniform, wanting to demonstrate at first hand his political tactic of keeping his soldiers out of the war as far as possible, Hitler , they say had received him in a black mood and dismissed him in just as black a mood,that may well be the case but it’s not enough for a murder, And the Bulgarians are all too eager to forget how highly Hitler regarder Boris.

A view at anglo Bulgarian german relations in the war and the allaince they had .

I can see why I wanted to try her books. She has been on the German book prize list and is described as a writer that is very unique this book mix so many things it is in part travel book, part memoir, part coming of age and comic at times. But the main themes of the book are fatherhood how his living in Germany affected his life. It is worth noting, he was also a doctor like Sibylle’s  own father. Then there is Bulgaria as a character in the book.As seen through three peoples eyes the sisters both don’t really get their fathers homeland but their driver draws them in. But even after his funeral. They decided to go with Apolostoff to the Black sea coast. He has spoken so highly about. This is the story of a man Rumen trying to get two sisters to open there eyes to the place they are Bulgaria but maybe also learn more about their father. An intriguing if difficult book another from Seagull books.

 

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