Two views by Uwe Johnson

 

Two Views by Uwe Johnson

German fiction

Original title – zwei Anischten

Translator – not noted but it is indicated that it may be Paul Christopher

Source – personal copy

Well, I usually have more german books read during this German lit month but this month has just gone to pot so I am now arriving at Uwe Johnson a writer that has been on my reading list over the last few years since the news anniversaries was being given a new translation his masterpiece. He was a member of the Gruppe 47 post-war writer in Germany. He initially was more of a translator of English literature into german as his early book Ingrid Babenderde was rejected by many publishers. He spent time also as an editor. This came out in the mid-sixties and was the last book before his four books that formed his masterpiece anniversaries came out. I have part read it but it is so huge I need to give it another run. In the later part of his life, he lived in the Uk in Sheerness which is where he died.

After Nurse Beate had been working in a large hospital in East Berlin for some time, the administration offered her lodgings in the organizations staff house. Green garden light swept into the room, tinting the face of the man behind the desk; a place in a two-bed room was considered a privilege; she was standing

she hesitated before answering, to find out. she saw the functionary comparing the passport photo at the top of her file with hersekf, and tired to look as blonde, unspoiled, and trustworthy as the man wantedto believe she was, altogether, she felt reminded of school

Marie is young and just starting her nursing career and had joined a hospital in Berling

Well, two views is an interesting book. if a little slow-burning book that uses two characters and event around the time the Berlin wall went up and the east and west part of Germany became split the story follows Diebert a photographer who is in Berlin in his new sports car which later is stolen he spent all his money to get. He is taking pictures of the new wall that has just been built but he is also trying to find the nurse he had met sometime earlier an East german Nurse Beatie whom he had a brief fling with in January now they have the wall as a barrier and the story follows how they are dealing with the Wall and their new lives this isn’t a political work it is a personal view well two views of this world they are living in this is a relationship split as many where at the time like the families divide when the two countries have split up. A plan is hatched to bring the young nurse to the freedom of the west but will it work will they be the same as they were before with that brief fling.

The prestigous sports car had really set up the tourist Dietbert during his latest visit to West Berlin. He had felt more entitled to take his place in the columns of cars that fought for the room between the ling rows of buildings. He had braked with more bravua in front of pedestrians, had driven more gaily into all thoseunfamilar districts. In the restaurants the car key did not remain in hi pockety long; it soon appeared on the table, exposed to everyone’s eyes. It had pleased him, when he returned to the exotic car to find people standing around it wondering at the small town number plate. Then calmly getting in.

His car which he used two years of saving from his photos to get but it is taken later on.

I enjoyed this I have another novel a friend sent me by Johnson and am hoping to get my hands on a book that is coming out about his time in sheerness. It is a book of its time that short time of the divide German that in the west and east produced a number of great books looking at how the wall affected the personal lives of those who had been directly affected by it being built. This an easier work than anniversaries which is complex in parts this is a simple story of lovers torn apart as the chapter flip from one of the lover s to the others as they try to get by. that shows the wall as both physical but also an emotional war between the two young people. Have you read any Johnson.

The Jew Car by Franz Fühmann

The Jew Car by Franz  Fühmann

German short stories

Original title  Das Juden Auto

Translator  Isabel Fargo Cole

Source – personal copy

It is one of my favourite months German Lit month I always try and find a new writer or two to try and here is another new writer to me. Franz  Fühmann He was an East German writer but as shown in this book he was drawn in by the Nazis this book reflects his own circle as the start of him with the story of the Jew car and the end of the line grasping Socialism and the soviet ideals as the end of the nazis with the Nuremberg trials. He was a writer that wrote a lot for children but later life grew disillusion with the values of the East German government. He also translated Czech poems and literature he had a love for these writers so when the Prague spring happened he saw his views changed. He wrote a lot of letters to Christa wolf over the years and in the afterword, Isabel cole said he was working on a 1000 page novel that never saw the light of day.

A jew car , she spluttered, had appeared in the mountains, driving in the evening aling the lonely roads to snatch little girls and slaughter them and bake magic bread from their blood; it was a yellow car, all yellow, woth four jews inside, four swarthly, murderous jews with long knives, and all the knives were bloody, and blood was dripping from the running board, people had seen it as clear as day, and they’d slaughtered four girls so far, two from Witkowitz and two from Bohmisch-Krummaj they’d hung them by the feet and cut of their heads and drained the blood into vats , and we were piled on top of one another

Ithis part remind me of a similar story of hate used about witches in an episode of X files that had been also used in the war years.

I described this as short stories it is really a collection of Vignettes that could be described as a journey, it is that of the writer himself it starts when he is young and underlines the beginnings of the Nazis and the Anti-Jewish thoughts as the title story is the first story and it uses a tale of four Jewish men in a car as a scary tale for kids this is a classic piece of hate stories whether the people were Jews, Women, Witches, Black, Irish, etc the fact is as a young boy he is drawn to tell a tale of being chased by “The jews Car” . Then as he moves through school we see the growing influence of the Nazis as he is drawn in by a radio Drama of the Fuhrer as a soldier in world one his battle as a private in that war. That inspires him to join the Wehrmacht then he is sent to fight but he is bright with hope as he believes in what they are doing but as the stories move on our narrator sees the folly of the war and towards the end of the war sees the lines of each side coming close and he ends up on the soviet side of the end of the war. He is a POW as the trial happens.

I witnessed the founding of the German Democratic republic as a teaching assistant at an anti-facist school in Latvia – still a Soviet POW, but freer than before. I had come to the school in the autumn of 1947, and with the introductory courses on polticial econemey thr scales fell from my eyes: here was the answer to all the questions that drove me, and as I burrowed through the thick volummes of Karl Marx’s Capital, the stations of my life appeared, tangtibl;e as the desk where I sat, and my eyes now clearly, down the depths of time. The course lasted half a year, then I was asked whether I wanted to go home or stay on at the school as an assidtant. and I stayed.

The end story sees him go full circle in his views and see what he had done in the past !

This shows as he said in the leitmotif of the book “HOW deep does memory reach?” as I said the story has a circle feel to it as iot shows its writer go from the early years and his being drawn into Nazis views with the story of a blood-soaked car with four Jewish men with knives chasing kids.  To being a POW and discovering Marx Capital as this is happening there is the backdrop of the Nuremberg trials. I was reminded of the journey undertaken by the narrator was similar to those in the film Stalingrad which saw the characters loving being in the Wehrmacht then as they head to Stalingrad the cracks and true tale of what is happening to the country starts to dawn on them. As it sats in the full title of the book this is fourteen days of one mans life over two decades. It is one man’s vision of those years a personal journey that many people took and would have to reflect on or even just try and forget and that is being a Nazis. Like the silent trump supporters of today, post-war everyone would have avoided calling or admitting to being a Nazis but we know a lot more people were than ever admitted it. I read this collection in a day and enjoyed it and was gutted to find out his last book never saw the light of day this is a writer that lays open his life. Have you read this book or any others from the seagull books. this is a paperback reissue of one that came out a few years ago.

Daughters by Lucy Fricke

Daughters by Lucy Fricke

German fiction

original title – Töchter

Translator – Sinead Crowe

Source – review copy

I now come to the last of the three books that V&Q brought out as the English language debuts so I made it the first book of this year’s German lit month. This is the fourth novel by Lucy Fricke she has previously won the Bavarian book prize and was a writer in residence for the German academy in Rome.  She also started the festival Ham.Lit a live lit festival in Hamburg she lives in Berlin and this is her first novel to be translated into English.

When Martha was born, this grim council block was brand new. Back then, young famlies were moving in, Now, the parents who remianed were dying here. Most of their kids had escaped, some of them by studying, going abroad for a while and moving to berlin like Martha, I imagine, I’d never been here before, tet it all felt familar. I grew up on a main road in Hamburg, in a building just like this one, in a flat in which I hated every object. We’d never talked about it, only mentioning our childhoods in anecdotes we were unable to laugh at. It was as if we’d just fallen lut of the sky one day – or been chucked out, more like. Martha and I were twenty when we first met, by which point we’d already severed ourselves from pur backgrounds

They never talked much about there lives til this road trio as they where friends as adults only.

I left this to last as of the three it was the one that appealed least to me. But as I read it I discovered a funny book that reminds me of a book I read years ago but more of that later. At the heart of the book is the relationship between two women Martha and Betty they are in the forties and are about to take a road trip. The premise of the trip is to take Kurt the father of Martha who is dying and wants to End his life and wants to go to one of those euthanasia clinics in Switzerland. As Martha takes him she asks Betty to come with her it is Betty that narrates the story of this road trip. She has children but has had a conveyer belt of men in her life. This sets up the book and the themes of father’s daughter partners life and death all this as they travel with Kurt. He had chosen his last night at a special hotel but when a call from his past means he cancels his appointment with death and takes a trip to his first lover and his past. This also is the backdrop to the story of the two women with Marhta’s lack of having a child and the constant men in Betty’s life her search for a father figure in her life. They end the trip far from where they started having spent time In Italy to visit a grave of a lost father figure and then finally Greece.

The hotel had looked luxurious on the internet. Now, though, we were standing in a small dark lobby, the bar was closed, the pool dorty, the rooms not yet ready yet. Kurt disappeared off to the toiler as soon as we arrived. The facade was being renovated, the receptionist informed us. which meant a view of scaffolding instead of Lake Constance, and builder gawping in at Kurt when he opened his eyes for the very ast time.

Martha tried to explain ti the young man that her father would be spending his last – literaally last- night here, a night that was probably as important as one’s wedding night, maybe even more so. Had the receptionist ever thought about that? could he imagine it  had he ever given a moment’s thpught to anything in his entire life

The last night is a disaster when he arrives and the place isn’t as it seemed for his last night on earth

I said at the start this reminds me of a book I read a while ago. That was Tomorrow Pamplona which was one of the first Peirene books that are also a road novel but unlike this book, it was a male road trip of a man in middle age like the characters in this book that has reached the point in their lives where they need ti to escape their lives and the use of a road trip in both novels is the catalyst for them thinking of what they are doing in there lives. Martha helps Kurt but has struggled not being able to conceive and has troubles with her father in the past. Betty has children and is very funny her wit makes this book a delight it is sardonic. Also her lack of a father figure growing up which leads to a side trip to Italy to visit the trombonist the one person her late mother had that she really connects with she wants to visit his grave. As the last of what has been three of the best novels from Germany I have read in recent years these bods well for future books from V&Q. If you want a book that is part Wim Wenders road trip, part chick flick, and part sentimental movie all in one book this is the one that appeals to all.

Paula by Sandra Hoffmann

Paula by Sandra Hoffmann

German fiction

Original title – Paula

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – review copy

As I work towards 100 books from Germany I will be featuring the other two books from the new publisher of German translations V and q here is the second of three books they brought out. The writer Sandra Hoffmann was born and still lives in Munich. She teaches creative writing. She writes for radio and her first novel what he will miss when he’s dead won a prize.  As this book did this won the Hans Fallada prizes.two years ago she was the writer in residence for the summer school for the British centre for literary translation two years ago.

Like my grandmother, I enjoy sitting by the window, and like my grandmother, I enjoy looking out at nature, I enter a state of peace that mekes me me wish she also got to experience moments like these. Sometimes, at least. I hear her sayiong: Can you see the squirrel? Can you see the yellow butterfly? And :Does that farmer have to make so much noise at this time of day? I hear her speaking her language,Her Swabian dialect, in which the sentence aboutthe farmer is Muos der um dia zeit no so n’ krach macna.”

I loved this as it remind me of my grandfather trhat loved nature as well .

This novella is told in the first-person narrative of Sandra Hoffman as a young woman and the time she spent with her grandmother of her. The big secret in the family is who was her mother’s father this is something Paula a devout catholic who has filled the house with the silence of these events. What we see is Sandra looking at photos she found after her gran’s death hidden in drawers as she tries to picture the women she knew with the woman much younger in the pictures alongside this is the everyday coming and goings of her youth her memories as she says she has had talking therapy and is maybe an unreliable narrator. I loved the touches of the times the 70s. Like when she translates Simon and Garfunkel lyrics for the song Boxer or remembering watching  Bonanza which reminds me of Sundays as a young child when it was shown here in the Uk. What we have here is a grandchild remembering a singular gran that had a secret that she never revealed like many of her generations it was a scar on her life having this child te love than in her teen years the usual hormonal struggles of the generations as they distance themselves.

My grandmother works as a cleaning lady in a big pharmaceutical company, so there are some days when she’s not at home, They, are good days because my mother is relaxed. Sometimes they’re even very good days. We wtalk to each other more. My grandmother doesn’t tell us much about  her work. Nothing much to say,she says. The most important thing is that she gets out of the house,sees other peeople whose names she never mentions, goes to a job where you have to loass through airlocks in protective clothing, where you’re deliberately silent because you’re deliberatelysilent because you’re to caught up in the protective clothes and your own thoughts

The silence and influence of her grandmother over the house is obvious here.

This is a great piece of autofiction broken memories of a relationship that at its heart of it is a void of this secret who was the Father Sandra own Grandfather the silence of the grandmother just falls off the page at times having lived with a step paren that was a silent man it is hard to fill this void as it always lingering. But the other side of this is those small everyday things we remember the memories of the little things her the jam pots she collected and her own mother as she makes things every winter. Then there are the everyday life events as the two once close as she is a child but over the years she grows apart and to dislike her part of the looking back and writing this a long time after she passed away is trying to fill in the void of her gran and the pictures she left trying to imagine what they all were about what her gran was like how she became this harden woman at the time. I often use the movie night book that Meike at Peirene uses for her novellas this is a perfect example I reread it today over a couple of hours. It walks the line between fiction and autobiography as she says she is an unreliable narrator.

At the Edge of the Night by Friedo Lampe

the book cover

At the Edge of the Night by Friedo Lampe

German fiction

Original title – Am Rande der Nacht

Translator – Simon Beattie

Source – personal copy

I have struggled to read so even this short novella took me a lot longer than normal. It is another book from Germany this is the first time it has been in English it came out in German. in 1933 just as the Nazis took over power and it was later banned and had piece cut when republished and wasn’t t to 1999 there was a full addition published. The book was mentioned is mentioned in Patrick Modiano’s Dora Bruder where the main character in the book has read the book and he says that the writer was born in the same year as the main character Dora Bruder.

The two girls were more patient and quiet. They were actually a bit scared: they did not really like rats. Horrible creatures. Pretty much the most trepulsive animals in the world. Especially those smoth, hairless tails,Ugh. And didn’t they go for people? Who had said recently thayt they got into bedrooms and -Brr-don’t think about it. We should go, really- but..it’s quite interesting, actually. And the boys would laugh and rag them, too, Scaredy cats.No…Fifi whispered into Luise’s ear: I’m going count down to thirty,real slow, and if they haven’t come, we’ll just go. They can say what they like. OK?.

THey wait fot he rats to run past them on the ground.

This is one of those books that is hard to describe Lampe was a fanof films we are told in the intro by the translator and the best wat to describe this is a series of little vignettes where we dive in and out of life around the Harbour on one september evening. Hans and Erich and two girls lay down around the rats as the run around them then we see the girls as they head off the tram as they stopped so drunks from boarding the same tram. An old man sits in a park that is how the story goes it is then a couple following to a steamer this is fragment at times and we have the sort of action like the camera drifting here from a steamer to a hypnotist a band  and there this is a a series of events I was remind of Doblin and Joyce of course as the events take place over one evening.

The foxtrot had come to an end, the dancers seperated, standing there in a moment of indecision. The band leader stepped towards the edge of where the bands sat and wearily looked over at them with caution. The faces of musicians glisten just as dull and indifferen. You could see the bass fiddle, dark and brown, the propped-up lid of the piano gleaming smoot and black

Even the band seems dark here this is a world on the edge of what would be madness.

I think I struggled with this as it was rich in a way I would describe it as eating extrememly stick toffee nice but hard work. It is like the films I love by the likes of Altman something like Short cuts or Paul Thomas Anderson’s  magnolia which like this drifts here and there there is also a keen eye in the way he describe little details here and there. There is also a noir feel to the book a feeling of sorrow and lament in the world we are shown DOcks and harbours in big toiwns tend to alwys have a dark belly that just lurks under the surface and that is what we feel here at times the tense and darkness that is just below everyones lives in the story.There is also a spectre of the Nazis not mentioned much but the broken world we see i the post world war one world and the catlyst in many ways for world war two. Lampe himself was injured and had a limb so he sat out  world war one and in world war two  he died weeks before the end of the war shot by mistake as Russian soldier thought he was a SS officer. Have you read this ?

Journey through a Tragicomic Century by Francis Nenik

Journey through a Tragicomedy Century (The Absurd life of Hasso Grabner) by Franci Nenik

German Narrative non-fiction

Original title – Reise durch ein tragikomisches Jahrhundert. Das irrwitzige Leben des Hasso Grabner

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – review copy

I reviewed an earlier release from Francis Nenik. He is called the greatest unknown writer in Germany. I was caught by this book’s description so read the earlier work first. This is the first of three releases from the new publisher V&q books an English arm of a German publisher. the series is edited by the translator of this book the Berlin-based Katy Derbyshire. This was on a list of the 30 hottest books in Germany when it came out a few years ago. He has had a number of books translated into English.

On arrival he has to undress and is examined, numbered and showered. When he steps out of the washroom, he’s standing before me. Hasso Grabener, !.74 metres tall and 65 Kilogrammes heavy. He’s 23 years old, has a full head of brown hair and a large straight nose in a slightly haggard face. his chin is wide, his mouth of normal size, his lips averagely curved. Behind them is a complete set of teeth. He lookls quite healthy at first glance. His muscles are big and his bones are tonn. When he breathes in, he can extend his chest circumference to 93 centimetres, and when he breathes out there are still 81 centimetres left. He has no scars and tattoos, only a mole above the left corner of his mouth.His skin colour is white , his posture upright.

On his arrival to Buchenwald Hasso is healthy young man.

Francis Nenik discovered Hasso Grabner whilst he was researching a list of German poets for an essay. When one reads this book a narrative tale of his life and he led a life. He grew up in foster care after being born just before world war one. He got connected to socialism and communism at an early age. Of course as a young communist in Leipzig. Grabner is a chancer he eventually ends up in Buchenwald concentration camp eventually as the librarian in the prison library. He somehow manages to get let out and ends up in wartime Greece in Corfu in a penal troop but he helps the locals by letting them know to move the Jews out of the area. When they have to escape Greece he the fervent communist gets an Iron cross from the Germans. He settles in East Germany getting a job high up in the steelworks. Then becomes a writer but this leads to him being watched by the Stasi later in his career. he did in the mid 70’s.

Hasso Grabner, meanwhile, sticks out, continues his youth work, joins the Leipzig KPD’S district commitee, joins the Socialist unity party (SED), freshly cemented out of SPD and KPD in APril 46, immediately takes uo a ost in that party’s district council and, seeing as the unity party wants to see the youth united as well (And multiple burdens are a matter of course for Grabner the workhorse), is also chairman of Leipzig’s newly founded free Democratic Youth (FDJ) by March. Or not, as the case may be. The respective sources disagree on the matter. “HAsso Grabner becomes FDJ chairman, it says in one, while another stubbornly insists: “Alfred Nothnangel takes on chair of Leipzig FDJ”.

After the war he is a communist iun East Germany.

#This is like his earlier book I review one of those books that is written by someone with a love of history but also a love of those that have been passed by and in Hasso Grabner we have such a character. This is a life that shouldn’t be he was a chancer that maybe had mire lucj=k than most given his stubborn nature that must have helped. The book is a narrative journey through his life and those dreadful events over the last century. Nenik himself is a writer that isn’t all he says in his earlier book he said he was a full-time farmer but this may not be true. This is the first of three books from V&Q I am planning to review in my journey to get to 100 books from Germany under review. This is an interesting life story and a great debut from a new publisher.

Texts by Helmut Heißenbüttel

Texts by Helmut Heißenbüttel

German fiction

Original title – texts ( various selection from his works by Translator)

Translator – Michael Hamburger

Source – Personal copy

I bring you an older German writer Helmut Heißenbüttel was injured during the Russian conflict in world war two, which lead to him having his arm amputated. After the war, he worked on Southern german radio on their radio essays. He was considered an experimental writer as he used cit up and also worked a fine line between prose and poetry and he called his work just texts SO what we have here is a crosssection of the works he wrote the sixties and seventies.he won the Georg Buchner Prize.  He died in 1996 he said on his deathbed” wie ein Schokoladen-Milchshake nur knackig”

a (tautologies)

The shadow that I cast is the shadow that I cast

The situation into which I have got is the situation into which I have got

The situation into which I have got is yes andno

situation my situation my special situation

group of groups move across empty planes

groups of groups move across pure colours

groups of groups move across the shadow that I cast

the shadow that I cast is thje shadow that I cast

groups of groups move across the shadow that I cast and vanish

From the simple grammatical meditations a playful opening and twisting of words.

So the book starts with the nearest to poems these are the earliest they all have a feel of darkness from combination with mention of darkroom memories and shadows in the window contents. Elsewhere we are reminded of the past with a radio voice saying “Freedom is an impossible thing” Then Interior he says about being dumped by the year. Then he is very playful with words and grammar here is a perfect example with simple grammatical meditations which has playful repetitions of words adding wors and repeating in its six verses. Then later we have what would now be called flash fiction short quasi one or two-page stories. In the story “allegory “for example is a dead body it appears looking at the green looking world around him as he says before the violent hits to his head. Bizarre tales that often reminded me of Borges say in the Explanation of the rhinoceros. which is surreal at times.

Adam marries Betty Betty marries Caesar Caesar marries Dorrette Dorette marries Edward Edward marries Shelia Shelia marries Gerald Gerald marries Harriet  Harriet marries Jacob Jacob mariies Corudula Cordula marries Adam

Adam not only marres Betty and is taken in marriage by Cordula he alo marries and is taken in marriage by Cesear Dorette Edward Shelia Gerald Harriet Jacob in the same way Betty not only marries Caesar abnd is taken in marriage by Adam she also marries and taken in marriage by Dorrette Edward Shelia GErald Harriet Jacob Cordula and so on down the line .

Her in Family poltics is a maze of names and marriages that reminded me of the opening of 100 brothers.

This is a bizarre collection I like experimental writers, this was thanks to a conversation on twitter a while ago which this book was mentioned. Itis a clever book one that has many different styles as a writer who said he likes to try out something new. He was a fan of linguistic and grammatical experimental writings. The later texts ring of a writer being playful there is one about marriages that is almost comic as you get lost in the maze of names and marriages that make up the story, I was reminded of the American writer Donald Antrim with his story a 100 brothers which also had an opening that reminds me of this much shorter work. This is a writer from the same time as those fellow experimental writers of the Oulipo group he wasn’t a member he was in the post-war Gruppe 47 of writers. But sharing a similar willingness to try and push the boundaries of writing that the Oulipo writers did. His work is  Hard to describe hard to compare these sit alone as a triumph of writing but also of translation Hamburger says some of them were impossible the ones he selected worked best in the English. Have you read this book?

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

German Fiction

original title – Feuer brennt nicht

Translator – Mike Mitchell

Source – – personal copy

I am now with my next in my attempt to try and get to 100 books from Germany by the end of the year leaving 24 books to read before the end of the year. Here I have a book from Seagull books German list and the Novelist Ralf Rothmann. His works were initally based around the Ruhr arfea of Germany where he grew up but he has lived in Berlin for a number of year and this novel is one of his novels from berlin his works tend to deal with the Bourgeois side of german life.  Here he has a man facing two women in his life his wife and a former lover.

When the novel’s finished,he invites Alina to go on a trip with him and she chooses Amsterdam, where she’s never been before.He often went there during his younger days in West Germany because of the easily available joints and the concerts in the pardiso- and was repeatedly driven back home by the cold, damp wind in the narrow brick lanes He can only stand being close to the sea in the South. Moreover, he finds the ubiquitous crime a strain and when he says “Forget Amstersam”, she nods, sadly, but then she says that would be a good title for a book. At that he gives her a kiss and books a room in a hotel on the Prinzengracht.

Here we see the age gap between them shows her.

We meet Wolf a middle aged writer who initally had a passionate affair with the Alina but over the years there passion has faded. She was a bookseller who was twenty years younger than Wolf they lived seperate lives from each other in seperate apartments. He is thinking of moving from there area of berlin  where there apartments are next to each other that hasn’t been as trendy as it once was. So they decide to head out to the greener area of Berlin in Muggelsee. But the move isn’t the real problem what we have is a man scared of aging and getting old.As they move in together they seem to grow further apart than they were. So when an old Flame charlotte reappears in the writers life. As the affiar happens he uses the dog as an excuse to see charlotte. She is now a professer and writer herself that in some way seems like a writer that may be real. Here is a man in middle age crisis and is caught between to women.

But when, right at the beginning, he tests the water by telling her about Charlotte as an acquaintance from the past, he happened to meet in a cafe and they had drink and chat together, she stares at the floor and already looks hurt. Or of that just his imagination? Whatever, she certainly pale, which, with her complexion, means white. So, he doesn;t go on, he doesn;t want to upset her. “And ” she asks anyway, in an attempt at a lighthearted tone.She’s cutting up food for the dog, greyish-yellow tripe,”Did you end up in bed?”

Well you have read the book to find out what Wold answers after meeting charlotte after all those years !!

There is no doubt this is maybe autobipgraphical there is a similarity between wolf and Ralf. The writer himself has lived all aroundBerlin over thirty years after leaving his home area of the Ruhr region. There is also certain facts like the book wolf is most famous for is simila rto Ralf Rothmanns other works. Even Charlotte is a nod to another german writer that has the same name. What at the heart of this is a classic middle aged male scernario caught between his wife settled and saf and the danger of charlotte and rekinlding an old fire the danger is the excitment the clandestine nature of there meetings. The other great thing on this book is following the changing face of berlin where it is the heart of the post unification German as the east and west join here we see it from Wolfs eye. a new writer to the blog who I will try again as he has three other books translated into English Have you read Ralf Rothmann or any of the other Seagull books German list ?

 

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

German fiction

Original title – Vom Wunder der doppelten Biografieführung

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I received the three books that are forthcoming this month from the new English Imprint V&Q. There was one from the description made me want to see if the writer had any other books in English. The writer Francis Nenik is a farmer by day and writer by night. He has published several novels this is what caught my eye he had published a work in loose leaves which reminds me of the great book by B S Johnson that has a similar format. the book coming out soon is similar to this as it follows the real-life of someone. Here is the life told in a short book of two poets.

The only person, it seems to take an interest in Nicholas Moore thenceforth is the man who steals his wallet in the crush at London’s petticoat lane market; containing not so much money as letters of inestimable value – letter that moore had exchanged over the years with the American poet Wallace Stevens and the British writer Osbert Sitwell.

All that remains is lonely, wasted land.Everywhere around him. Not only has Priscilla left, but she has also taken their daughter with her, and Moore has to give up theflat where three of them previously lived. He finds a new place to live (Where he stays for the rest of his life) : a small groud floor flat in a desolate part of Southeast London.

Moore life falls aprt when his wife leaves him. He does later remarry.

The two poets in this book only met through the letters they sent to each other but both had a lot in common in their careers. Nicholas Moore was in his day as well thought of and Known as Dylan Thomas. He wrote in the forties reaching his height in 1948 when he won a big prize after that he fell out of fashion and eventually took a job as a seed merchant that wrote the occasional poems. Meanwhile, in Brno a poet called Ivan Blatny aspiring and well regard through the forties. He ran off when he was part of a delegation to London in 1948. Meanwhile, the Nicholas moore whose wife had written down his poems leaves him he has to move into a small house that he lived in the rest of his life Ivan was like Nicholas a member of the new Apocalyptics Ivan was also in a group Skupina 42. After his arrival in the Uk he starts to have problems with his mental health. He ends up in Claybury hospital and this is where he writes to Nicholas there js a few letters between the men a swapping of biographies as both saw hard times after there bright youth but in later years had a few poems out in later life but never the success of earlier years. 

On the letters

The fact that not only the letters from Nicholas Moore to Ivan Blatny, but also those from Blatny to Moore have been preserved, is due to the fortuitous circumstance that Blatny made copies of his letters in a notebook contained in the file. The possibility that these copies might be mere drafts appears unlikely since the transcriptions contained no crossings out, etc. whether such drafts existed or Blatny committed his letters directly to paper cannot be determined with any certainty. No such drafts have been found to date. Nevertheless, the letter of 16th March 1963 shows that, at least in this particular case. Blatny wrote in several stages

the letters were kept and found between the two poets.

This is a short book 60 pages in a very small edition but he brings these two poets out of the literary bin both had fallen out of notice. we even have a small Blatny poem that Moore translates in a letter as he learns Czech to read his fellow poet’s work. A touching look at what happens when you burn bright when young then are forgotten. This is what appealed about the other forthcoming work he has to pick interesting lives sad in these cases the two men never met apart from in letters but their lives seem to have had so much similar in what happened with their writing. I can’t wait to read his longer work Nenik has mixed biography, epistolary style, and history with a bit of fiction to brew up something truly unique.

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

German fiction

original title – Verzeichnis einiger Verluste

Translator – Jackie Smith

Source – Review Copy

This will be the first book by Judith Schalansky I did read Giraffes neck a few years ago when it was on the Booker longlist but never got round to reviewing it. Her books are work in art themselves having twice won the prize for the most attractive book in German with earlier books she studied Art History and Communication design this is her fifth novel four have been translated into English. The book is a collection of twelve stories that we had lost overtime in her intro she says things like the last Male white rhino meaning they will die out,  an animal from the barrier reef that had disappeared. A lost jet a crashed spacecraft so many things while she wrote this book. We are always losing or seing or world change.

The reprts describing this improbable patch of land were just detailed enough to plausibly prove that it did inded once exist, even if the chronometer never determined its exact postition, for neither Tasman nor Wallis, neither Bougainvile nor even a captain of some wayward whaling ship ever sighted its gentle shores. Again and Again I studied the routes of the south sea expeditions, followed the dashed and dotted lines accross the graticule and through the paper ocean, and compared them with the presumed postition of that island which, in a rash pf imperial setiment, i had mafrked in the bottom most empty square.

Tuanki a lost island of the south seas reported but since lost

We start with an Atholl that disappeared in 1842 or 43 that was there and disappeared in what was an earhtquake the story deals with the fact it was barely known then wasn’t ther as so few westerners had see it in the middle of the Paciffic.  Then the Caspian tiger that walked tfrom Northen turkey through Iran and Afghanstan to the ver west of china when it was there this sepecies died out twenty years ago. we follow the last of them Schalansky starts to beath life in those lost piece she has gagther he box of delights her cabinet of loss. A lost piece of Sappho a lost painting the great Casper David Friedrich. Lost Villa from a famlous groundbreaking architect. A former huge East german Palace this is a lament of what is so eay to lose but these are all things that hadn’t they been collect we may haven’t of fully heard off.

Designed by a collective of architects led by Heinz Graffunder at the East German Building academy, the symbolic goverment building was errected on the derelict land known as Marx-Engels-Platz, on the former site if Berlin’s city palace, which had been demolished in 1950 it took thirty-two months to construct, and was inaugurated on April 23, 1976 as the poeple’s Palace

Palace of the repbulic the lost former Palace of East Germany like the country nearly a figment of imagination.

This isa a collection fo ghost not ghost stories but the sense of what was in each case a n island in the middle of the sea there then gone this has often happened with  earhtquakes and change in ccurrents etc there are place we know now that that won’t be there one day or even the suprise lose like Monserat a coup,e of decade agos. I love the show Abandon engineerong as we see the carcas of what was her is another literary Elephant graveyard , we could all make are own in a way things we know ior we knew. I rememeber the thearte in atockport the Davenport I went at least four or five years to see the pantomine but now there is car park. this is a collection of things she has found over time like a collector a stamp album of loss. Her prose brings each of these stories to life. As with her earlier books this is also a stunningly beautiful work. We all have loss from the personal to the loss of animals, lost building a sort of nod to her East german past with the lose of the grand palace but also the loss of all that it was to be East German good and bad there is an Ost culture from the tv shows to the food and drink they had.Have you read any of her Books ?

 

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