Year of the Drought by Roland Buti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year of the drought by Roland Buri

Swiss fiction

Original title – Le Milieu de l’horizon

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – personnel copy

I saw a few reviews around the web a few weeks ago of this book.One from Melissa  and another from Grant it sounded like a book I would like.So I went and brought a copy for myself. It won the Swiss literature in 2014. Roland Buti studied history and became a history teacher in his hometown of Lausanne he has written a number of novels .But this is his first book to be translated into English.

Rudy was the son of a distant cousin in Seeland. He had come to live in our house before I was born.For me he had no age, as if he had never been a child  and would never grow old. His ruddy thick skin was a barrier that kept him separate from the outside world and this seemed to me part of a very particular form of bearitude that was his alone.

When I was right, I learned that he had Down’s syndrome,By then I had realised that Rudy’s status in our family was different from mine and my sister’s

Rudy remind me in some ways of Lennie from” of mice and men”

This is a story set in that hot summer of 1976 in a small swiss valley in the french speaking part of Switzerland. We follow this summer through the eyes of Gus the son of the farm that lives in the valley a rural and isolate place he lives there with his Father A big strong farming man , iut one that is trying to rescue the farm out of the hole it is drifting into due to the Summer. Jean the father does this by getting chickens but with the summer heat as the temperature inches up the dead chickens start piling up . The mother a stand offish woman who has led a sheltered life and wants her kids to have more . A sister Lea a musician then we have a cousin a lad with Downs that is struck by every woman he runs into maybe the woman for him. But he ends up in trouble, he remind me in some ways of Steinbeck’s great character Lennie. The summer isn’t going great when Cecile an old friend of the mother appears she sets the young man alight at first when he caught her one night in a night-gown, but then sees her with his own mother. But elsewhere Gus has awakenings with his friend Maddy as his world starts to fall apart and his father Jean starts to collapse as a man in front of his eyes as his farm and marriage implode in Heat and they year of the drought.

The dead hens in the dry grass looked as though they had never been animals. The stunted, twisted , pale bodies  were no longer part of nature; they were different from the assorted rubbish at the municipal dump.The anicent pact has been broken.

The farm is like the dead chickens and the Pact with the land has been broken by this summer.

This was compared to the seethaler novel a whole life . But this is much more a glimpse of that moment when a boy becomes a man. Also in the way Seethaler caught a world dying this is the end of a farm like the dead chickens drying in the sun and smelling out the place its a rotting corpse of a farm. This also follows Gus starting to notice the other sex , but also maybe seeing the cracks in the world around him for the first time. Buti build the tension , I was also reminded of Steinbeck in the way you see Jeans efforts as hopeless trying to get by but failing was a trait in Steinbeck’s books. A perfect summer read this book but as Grant says some of the images in the book will stick in the mind with you.

 

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Book of my mother by Albert Cohen

 

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Book of my mother by Albert Cohen

Swiss memoir

Original title –  Le Livre de ma mère

Translator – Bella Cohen

Source – personnel copy

I was flicking through amazon the other day trying to find something that had passed me by that was also cheap and this gem from Archieplago books popped up and was under three-pound for a new copy (i think this was an error but I clicked and brought it ).Albert Cohen is maybe best known for his book Belle de Seigneur one best-selling books of its time in France. He was a writer and editor in France before the second world war working for the Jewish review. Albert Cohen like a number of other Jewish artist and writers  managed to get out of France in 1940 and get to London. In this time away his mother passed away in 1943 and he met his third wife Bella the translator of this book. This book is a collection of vignettes he wrote about his mother for La France Libre he later won the a number of french book prizes .

We had our sunday outings in the summer too, when I was a small boy.We were not rich, but the  tram ride round the cliff road overlooking the sea cost only fifteen centimes. Those one-hour rides wee our summer holidays, our social life , and our hunting expeditions. There we were my mother and  I, fragile, well dressed and loving enough to outdo god. I well remember one of those Sunday outings.

The tram trip was the holidays they were that poor

 

This is one sons touching view of his later mother , her as a person , them as people , the life they lead , the loss of her on him and the loss of that world. He started these piece after his mother passed a sort of collection of memories , thoughts and outcry of pity at the loss of his mother without being there. His mother is one of those women that through his eyes seems proud in herself the way she holds her self , they have no money but she dresses her self . The trip in the tram on a coast road in the summer meant so much,  was worth more than anything for the sea air they were able to breathe. Then the later parts deal with his loss of his mother a reflection of a sons love and guilt at not being there when she passed.

Sons of mothers who are still alive, never again  forget that your mother are mortal. I shall not have written in vain if one of you, after reading my song of death is one evening gentler with his mother because of me and my mother. Be gentle with your mother each day. Show her more love than I showed my mother.Give your mother some happiness each day,that is what i say to you with the right accorded to me by regret; that is the grave message of a mourner.

I was touched by these lines it made me think of my own mother .

This is a book of love  but also guilt . That special bond mothers and sons can have Cohen brings her to life as a caring mother making the best of not being in the best position in life. The way she made him value the simple things the way he talks about the trip in the bus a simple cheap thing to do, but she made him think it meant so much more. I loved this work it brings a tear to the eye as we see Albert doing the journey of  grief not quite the five steps but in writing the way he looked at her you see him coming to terms with the world without her. This is like the works of Sebald one that leaves the reader wanting more and maybe want to call your own mother isn’t that what all good prose should do !

All days are night by Peter Stamm

 

All days are nights by Peter stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Nacht ist der tag

Translator – michaael Hofmann

source – library book

Have I said something wrong?
How can I know if you’re not going to speak to me?
There I am, in your eyes
And we’re only playing, but what am I saying?
Oh, what am I saying?
Oh, what am I saying?

Oh, there’s no one like you, no one like that now
There’s always some way that you could bring me down

Maybe it’s just that I fly too high, that the ground is hard
It always hurts me
When I fall over sideways and break out in sores and people start laughing
But it’s not what I’m into

I don’t expect you to know
I don’t expect you to

I’ve  choosen an old wedding present lyric as no one caught heart ache and bitterness better than David Gedge in his songs Gillian could been in one of his songs .

 

This the second book by Peter Stamm I have reviewed here, I reviewed Seven years two years ago and was blown away, but I then download his stories to my late kindle but never got to them so when looking for some ideas for this years German lit month I decide it was time to try another book by Peter Stamm. Stamm started out working at accounts then decide to return to university and studied subjects as varied as English , business and Psychology .He started in radio drama in the early 1990s and has written a number of novels stories and plays Since I last reviewed him he won the frank O’Connor short story prize and been on the man booker international list.

Half wake up then drift away. alternatively surfacing and lapsing back into weightlessness .Gillian is lying in water with a blue luminescence. Within it her body looks yellowish, but wherever it breaks the surface, it disappears into the darkness. The only light comes from the warm water lapping her belly and breasts, It feels oily, beading on her skin.She seems to be in an enclosed room, there is no noise, but she still has a sense of not being alone. Love is somewhere filling her up

The opening lines as she wakes up to what has happened to her .

All days and night is the story of a woman Gillian, she starts the book waking after a horrific crash after she had argued with her husband. He did in the crash leaving her with a broken life , broken body and worse of all in a way a broken face.The book follows her struggle to piece together her life together and also we see how the point at which the crash happened her pre crash life with her husband Mathias he was an editor and she was a presenter on tv , this is where she meet the man the caught the problem and why they had a drunken fight that lead to the crash Hubert is the man.He is an artist and took Nude pictures of her , that is what he does takes pictures of women naked at home and Mathias saw them which leads to the crash but why had she a problem with Hubert what part has he in her future ?

The day before the second operation, a sunday, Gillian visited her parents.She hadn’t seen then since the accident. When he mother opened the door and saw her, she turned aside and started crying.Her father stepped up and with an expression of annoyance pushed her mother out of the way

Come on in , he said

The new Gillian after the crash is to much for her mother .

This book has just the same feeling I had when I read seven years Stamm seems to be very good at cold characters, Gillian is a cold woman in a way her life is all face and scratch below that her life with mathias was all for show really. She was jut the face on tv her life had become a show really so when she loses nearly everything and everyone around her as she is now faceless looking for her old face but getting a new face and outlook. Yes Gillian is one of these woman who seems to have everything , but when it comes to that point of the crash what has she nothing for me that is what stamm captures so well in his prose a woman broken rebuilding herself but at the time she does the flaws of before are clear. Stamm has said all character are fiction even if based on real people such is the case her Gillian and mathias are a mix of characters but when you see them on the page you instantly know the sort as I would say .

Have you read Stamm

Barbarian Spring by Jonas Lüscher

9781908323835

Barbarian Spring by Jonas  Lüscher

Swiss fiction

Original title – Frühling der Barbaren

Translator – Peter Lewis

Source – review copy

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song.. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
..From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone

A verso of the Poem Ahmad Al-Za’tar by Mahmoud Darwish , seems to fit the feeling of this book .

 

Another novel from switzerland for German lit month and another from Haus publishing( I love the cover of this book a very german looking cover sparse just what is need on it )  .Jonas  Lüscher was born in Berne , and studied Philosophy , getting a master’s degree first teaching , since then he also did some work alongside the well-known philosopher Michael Hampe .Barbarian spring is his first novel it was shortlisted for the swiss book prize and longlisted in the German book prize .

Preising was all set , then , to exchange the fogs of midland Switzerland for the balmey Tunisian spring .He swapped his customary tweed jacket and Burgundy cords for a houndstooth jacket the colour of egg nog and a pair of chinos with sharp creases ; in all honesty, he found this ensemble ludicrous , but his housekeeper had laid it out ready for him and he was afraid of offending her by spurning it .

I was reminded of Frasier this is just the sort of thing he would do they worry about it .

Barbarian spring is really a double meaning in its title , the first being an older word for the Arab world and the Arab spring , the second and main one is the spring of a group of people who should know better that become barbaric in the face of the Arab spring happening around them .The story is the story of Preising a Swiss industrialist and rather like  a swiss version of Frasier or Niles from the programme Frasier as he is very picky in his ways .We meet him on route to a wedding of two friends from London they are getting married in a resort in Tunisia that has been built-in an Old Berber town and made into the height of western opulence as a hotel the couple haven’t spared any expense the bride arrives in her wonderful dress on the back of a camel  .The marriage goes ahead , but even as Preising is arriving for the Marriage you sense not all is right in the world around them .Add to this the crash in the markets  in London where the couple are from at this time as well .We have two groups living on the edge and a group of overpaid rich people getting  caught up in the Arab spring .

Sitting in the shade , Snaford started talking about the niceties of the Berber village societies and the role played by women , and preising , who’d read a bit about native peoples , chipped in from time to time .

Preising and one of the guests talk about the natives , but see the world from a western view .

Now this book is a story of what may have happened but what could have happened of course the two events in the book the Arab spring and the Market crashes happened a different times but what Jonas does in the book is imagine them happening in a future event and how this has a knock on effect on the Couple , their party and Preising .But also the people in the Resort around them those everyday Tunisians .This of course leads to the darker side of human nature taking hold not just survival but also what happens when there are no rules for everyone and effectively we are all on the same level for once caught in  a storm of events .Also certain scenes show one world smashing into another like a luxury coach crashing into a group of camels , in one way the part in the coach unhurt and the family that own the camel destroyed by this one event .Short but thought-provoking fiction , using an outside eye on recent events like the market crashes and Arab spring make for an exciting and different debut novel .

have you read any books about the Arab spring ?

A price to pay by Alex Capus

9781908323736

A price to pay by Alex capus

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Fälscher, die Spionin und der Bombenbauer

Translator – John Brownjohn

Source – review copy

To answer a question
It’ll probably take more
If you’re already there
Well then you probably don’t know
Well we were the people
That we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
It’s hard to get hold of
And hard to let go
Always something we look for
From the day we were born
Instead we’re the people that we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
Yeah we’re the places that we wanted to go
We’re the places that we wanted to go

The first verse of people as place as .. by modest mouse seem to match this book a bit source

Another book for German lit month , today I bring a book from Switzerland .Alex Capus is French swiss writer , he was born to a French father and Swiss mother in Normandy in France , spent his first few year in Paris , then moved to switzerland where he studied in Basel at the university .Working as a Journalist then and editor ,his big break through came in 1994 with his first book by 1997 he had developed a style of writing he is now known for using a Classic narrative style .What I like about Alex Capus is in one writer he maybe sums up this blog a bit of europe all mixed up in one  .He has previously been longlisted for the German book prize .

I like the girl .It pleases me to picture her sitting in the open doorway of the rearmost carriage of the Orient Express with the glittering silvery waters of lake Zurich gliding past her .It could be early November 1924 .I don’t know the exact date .She is thirteen years old , a tall , tin , rather gawky girl with a small but deeply incised furrow on her nose .

Opening lines the young Laura on her way through Europe on the Orient Express .

This book follows three lives Emile Gillieron , Laura d’Oriano and Felix Bloch over the course of 15 to 20 years , we first meet them as they all wait on a station platform in 1924 in Zürich , this is the only time the three of them are together what follows in alternating chapters is the journey to the second world war .Emile is a budding draughtsman who gets drawn into Forging is at the station to scatter his father ashes , but then gets drawn into ,making fake relics , is actually considered the greatest forger of his age  whilst in Greece .Laura is a singer on the music hall , moving to italy and in the end becomes a spy for the allies in the second world war  a sort of world war two Mata Hari .lastly is Felix is a physicist that becomes a member of the  Robert Oppenheimer team that made the Nuclear bomb who also after the second world war won the Nobel prize for his work during the wat  .We follow each life from that meeting on the station to each ones end .

Felix Bloch never set eyes on the girl in the Orient Express because she didn’t get out in Zürich .That November afternoon .Laura d’Oriano travelled on via Basel to Belfort , where while Felix Bloch was calling at ETH’s enrolment office and Emile Gillieron waiting for his steamer in Trieste

The three crossed paths for just a brief second of time .

Now these are actually three real people , we don’t know if they actually meet but what Alex capus has done is throw three people with relatively unknown stories around the second world war and see what lead to their part in the war .I was reminded of the jesuit saying show me the boy I ‘ll show you the man , show us the young people on a station , We find out their lives here and how the war effected them .Capus uses alternate chapters to tell the stories , sometimes the paths cross after the first meeting but not quite .The original title shows more about the book which translates as the The forger , the spy and the bombmaker , which of course is all three of them .Capus has been compared in German reviews to both Delius and Grass both of whom like Capus use the second world war as a main part of their fiction .The three characters show how people’s lives can have a knock on effect and how we may think we are on one path but a slight shove or chance meeting may lead your life in a whole different path .Fate is out their for all of us and we never know where it will take us .

Have you a favourite novel based on a real person ?

The Chef by Martin Suter

 

The Chef by Martin Suter

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Koch

Translator – Jaime Bulloch

Source – Review copy

 

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands

with my own two hands a love song by Jack Johnson , reminds me of what Maravan made with his own two hands source 

Well its been a quiet German lit month here on winstonsdad , I’ve chosen a bestseller from Switzerland .Martin Suter started out as a copywriter , working for one of the best known ad agencies in Basel for twenty years ,before setting up his own company .He also has a well-known coloumn in a monthly magazine in Switzerland .He got his breakthrough novel in 1997 , small world which was made into a film .The cook is his seventh novel .he spends his time between Spain and Guatemala now .

By the time  Andrea left that evening she had been initiated into the aphrodisiac secrets of milk and urad lentils , saffron and palm sugar ,almonds and sesame oil ,saffron Ghee and long peppers , cardamom and cinnamon , asparagus and liquorice ghee .

The food describe at times makes you mouth water and you Andrea discover the power food can have .

The chef  is the story of two former restaurant employees , their former restuarant was one of the best known in Zurich to the fact its chef was a well-known , but after the financial crash lead to job cuts . So  Maravan the Tamil who was the dishwasher and Andrea the beautiful waitress find themselves without a job .The pair discover that Maravan , is actually a wonder in the kitchen , he learnt to cook back in his native Sri Lanka .But the food he cooks is more than food it has almost magical powers in the love department , as the people who eat it seem to be given added sexual powers they discover this after Maravan cooks one of his meals for Andrea and she falls for him after eating the food he cooks .This leads to the idea of starting a company cooking for couples and becoming partners in the buisness  .As the business grows we start to find out a little more about Maravan’s life before he came to switzerland ,where he shouldn’t be .They also grow and some of the people he is dealing with are shady seling arms this leads them into a underworld .

“The dirty stuff ”

Andrea understood immediately what he was saying , but asked “what dirty stuff ”

Maravan paused .

“If someone rings and wants ,you know , sex dinners .As far as I’m concerned you can say yes ”

“Oh that .All right , I’ll take that on board , anything else ?”

“Nothing.”

As soon as Maravan had hung up ,she looked for the number of the caller who had asked about the sex dinners ,she had noted it down , just in case .

They decide to move their business in a new direction using the special qualities in Maravan’s food .

Now I don’t usually read blockbuster novels in English , the books you may call airport books , but as I read just translation these days we come across these books from time to time Suter is a big star in Europe ,his books have been made into films .His novels from what I read tend to have like this one a social justice message behind them from Maravan’s own story to that of his friend from Ethiopia  , a bit of love and a bit of crime .I can’t really match it to an English writer as I say I don’t really read blockbuster novels .but that said I was reminded of the thing Stephen king does in his books and that is the sense ,Suter seems to have  an eye for this book ,possibly becoming a film .In fact the film version of this book is out in the next few weeks in German-speaking world .Entertaining quick read , that has a little bit of everything thrown into the mix , culture clash , cooking , love ,sex ,crime and murder , also a detailed description of the financial events around the world as the crash starts to happen .We also get the recipes that Maravan cooks .

Have you read a bestseller from around the world that has been translated into English ?

The Truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

the truth about the Harry Qubert affair

The truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

Swiss fiction

Orginal title La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert

Translator – Sam Taylor

Source – review copy

It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita via goodreads

 

Well in the UK ,you bound to have seen this about it has been really pushed by Waterstones book shop here , which is good to see so often translated fiction doesn’t get the front windows or main tables in book shops .So to Joël Dicker ,he is Swiss writer ,he was born and schooled in Geneva ,he went to Paris to study for a year after school ,then returned and completed a degree in law in Switzerland ,he has always written this his first book has been a runaway success in Europe .it won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens Grand Prix du Roman de l’Academie Francaise prizes .

“He wrote that book for that girl , Marcus .For a fifteen-year-old girl .I can’t leave the plaque there .That’ not love – it’s disgusting .”

“I think it’s more complicated than that ,” I said .

“And I think you should keep your nose out of this , Marcus .You should go back to New York and stay far away from all this ”

Marcus is told to leave the Harry Quebert affair alone .

 

So what is the book about ,well it is told in two main time lines the first is in the summer of 1975 ,when the character of the title Harry Quebert is spending the summer in Somerset in New Hampshire ,finishing a book which he feels will cement his places as one of the best writers around  his book the origins of evil is maybe more than it first seemed .During this  time he befriends a young girl Nola Kellergran .Now she disappears at the end of this summer this brings us to the other timeline .For 33 years ,later her body is discovered in the yard of the house Harry Quebert was staying in that summer and she is holding a copy of Harry Quebert manuscript.This is where we meet Marcus Goldman ,now he  is a writer just starting his journey as a writer and was taught by Harry Quebrt so he decides to go to Somerset and find pout what really happened and prove that the man he knew so well isn’t the killer and get him free as Harry Quebert now sits in Jail .Along the way the Life of Nola Kellerman isn’t as simple or clean as it once seems as Marcus uncovers more and more about the men she was involved with that summer and what she was really doing .Does he find the killer ,does Harry walk free and what about the two books Harry’s and Marcus’s about Harry’s case ?

The masterpiece I had so desperately wanted to write …. Harry had written it .He had sat at a table in a diner and written words of absolute genius , wonderful sentences that had moved the whole country ,taking care to hide within his work the story of his love affair with Nola Kellergran

The Origins of Evil was Harry’s masterpiece and the book he was writing that summer .

Now this book is great for a début but you do feel after finishing it a good edit and maybe a few changes would have moved it into that instant classic band .But that said it is a wonderful Homage to all things America now Maclehose have gone with a Hopper painting for the cover here and yes this is the america of Hopper and Rockwell .What Joël Dicker has done is taken parts of recent American culture and mixed them so we have part of Twin peaks Nola Kellergran is rather like Laura Palmer in that the more the book unfolds like in the tv show twin peaks the more we gather she isn’t what she first seemed .Part Stephen King that New England and the small town of Somerset could have walked out of a king novel .Part Cold Case drama now I could pick one shpow out but there is a number of shows and books about Cold crime case solving Marcus Goldman is the classic writer turned detective .Part Lolita how many men were attracted to this young women ? Now this book also struck me as part written for a film or tv series ,now that isn’t a bad thing is it ,I mean stephen King has done it for years ,so keep your eyes out for a version of this for a film ,I would love to see a great director get this book in the hands of the likes of David Lynch or Wim Wenders it would really bring out  the darker side of the book out .So I look forward to seeing what Joël Dicker does next ?

Naw much of a Talker by Pedro Lenz

NawMuchofaTalker.270

Naw much of a talker by Pedro Lenz

Translator – Donal McLaughlin

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Goalie bin ig

Source – Review copy

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Well when I was contact by the publisher about this book it sound really fun take on a translation Pedro Lenz has spent time in Glasgow the lead character in this book is from Glasgow ,so the choice of Donal McLaughlin a Scottish translator meant that he could translate the book into a Scottish vernacular .Pedro Lenz was born in Langenthral in Switzerland studied spanish literature at Bern university ,since then has spent time as a freelance writer for papers ,magazines and is also a member of a spoken word group .This is his debut novel and was nominated for the swiss book prize and won the Berne prize .This book is also to be made into a film .

Tell me summit ,Goalie .Whit like wise it in jail ? Ah don’t kow anyone else who’s been .

Is thart how ye came ?

Naw , naw at aw .Ah telt ye , didnt ah ,someone said it wis yir birthday .Ahm jjust intrtisit ,that ‘s aw

It’s nowt special

Just after he gets let out Goalie ask how it was locked up .

Now the title has change from German to English but the German title gives a clue tot the books main character he is called Goalie ,and is like a character out of an Irvine Welsh novel he has just been released from prison after serving time for drugs  and he  has decide to get away with his friend Regi and his new girlfriend to spain for a break .Now how do you describe Goalie well he is one of these guys that is destined to be a no hoper a loveable rogue ,but his greatest flaw is that he trust those around he maybe a little too much and this can lead him into trouble .It seems this isn’t the first time this level of trust and belief has led goalie astray .He is also a great spinner of yarns and likes to twists his own truths .As they are away he tells his yarns and slowly his friend ,tells him he should be doing more with his story telling ability .In the end we see him trying to forge a new life away from his old life .

Well this is a book of the voice ,I can see why some that does spoken word performance ,would fall in love with the loveable rogues and tall tales of Glasgow .Goalie is the embodiment of type of man not even from Glasgow but a man who lives his life large on tall tales and what he has done ,there is many of them in every big city in the corner of a pub or club holding court and telling his Yarn .As I said in the start Goalie could walk of the pages of Irvine Welsh or even Roddy Doyle Novel ,he would be a side character in their books maybe a man in the pub as the commitments played telling tales or a fellow drug taker from train spotting telling a story as the buy There drugs .Now this isn’t the easiest book to follow at times it is in a thick Scottish dialect ,but when I tend to speak the lines to myself I got the real feel of the book .This is a book that would do well as an Audiobook or to be read out loud a clever take on modern Glasgow and its colourful characters .

would you like more books in Dialect or given a more regional feel if set in the uk in translation ?

The Black spider by Jeremias Gotthelf A Halloween german lit month treat

the black spider

The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf

German Gothic Fiction

Original title Die Schwarze spinne

Translator – H M Waidson

Source personnel copy

Jeremias Gotthelf was a swiss pastor and writer ,His actual name was Albert Bitzius ,he was educated in Bern wre he founded the second oldest Swiss fraternity ,before becoming a pastor and then in his thirties he took up writing .He used the Bernese countryside and his strong religious beliefs in his books .

Christine had been gleefully watching everything outside in the field .The sun might burn hot as she worked at the heavy labour ,but the spider hardly burned any more at all .

The devil made his mark  on her .

The book focus on the people in a Bernese village ,we start at a farm where a baptism is in full swing ,then we get an unbaptized baby that  is kissed by a hunter and this kiss cause a black mark to appear and she is touched by the devil this Christine .So there is now a pact between the village and the devil that leads to years and years of godless behaviour ,when at some point this falls apart a plague of spiders swarms around the village  and they now need god to come back and save them .That is the barest bones of this tale it is a real quest between good and evil between god and the devil in tit many faces .

Next to the church was the inn , for these two institutions so often stand close to one another , sharing joy and suffering together , and what is more , in all honour .

But are they hand in hand

Well that is it in part this book has a really twisted narrative style one could almost say it has an old testament feel to it selling pone soul to the devil and it having a bad outcome all sounds like the wrathful god of the old testament  .This at times seems like a Sunday sermon that he may have told round Halloween to scare the kids and adults into god fearing Christians ,But that said Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil and he did make some great music ,.But we also get a feel of traditional Germanic folk tales with figure like the hunter and a knight appearing in the story ,also the selling of a soul to a devil has been a recurring motif in a lot of German fiction around this time and before even Faust for Example .Then there is also the way Gotthelf describes the village the church and the inn next to one another has a slight feel of temperance movement and is the godless behaviour connected to the drink .This has been a great read for Halloween one for a dark evening and a quick check to see if there isn’t a spider about to jump on me like Robert smith in the video .I read the Oneworld classic copy of this book with a 1958 translation ,I know NYRB classics has just issued a new translation which I hope to read and compare as I felt the choice of words and way the story unfold was a little stayed at times .

Have you a favourite Halloween read ?

 

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

seven years peter stamm

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Original title – Sieben Jahre

Source – Library

Well Peter Stamm is one of those writers that has been on the edge of my radar and wish list for a for a few years now and after reading this has jumped to writers I want to complete .So Peter Stamm studied various subjects as diverse as English ,business information (?) ,psychology and Psychopathology ,He had worked in a psychiatric ward as and intern after this  .Before becoming a freelance Journalist and then on into writing in his early thirties .He has won number of prizes in Switzerland ,Seven years is his tenth novel and the seventh to be translated to English .

Meet Ivona ,said Ferdy .She’s from Poland .This is Rudiger ,and this -is Alexander .He was standing behind me ,I had to almost vertically look up at him .Have a seat said Ferdy .The women put her glass down on the table and next to it her tissues and her book ,which was a romance novel showing a man and a women on horseback .

Their first meeting and maybe a subtle hint at what is coming .

So Seven years is a spin on the old seven-year itch story ,a phrase that has been coined by Psychologist as the time a couple that has had a monogamous relationship is likely to stray and to  have an affair .So the couple in this book are Alex and Sonia ,they are described as a sort of trendy  hip middle-aged couple into the hip things  and image they are both Architects ,on the hip edge of this Sonia loves the works of the Franco /Swiss architect and urbanist Le Corbusier .So we she her going her and there to see his buildings .  So it is a shock when the third part of what becomes a love triangle in this book is Ivona she is a rather dull plain women from Poland that had come into Alex’s life a number of years before he started the affair with her then and we are being told how it happened  .What develops is a very strange and almost awful relationship Alex like the fact that Ivona is the total opposite to his wife and when she tries to make her self more appeal he makes her stay the same ,she top him appears as an object a thing he has to use not often as a person .Whilst his wife is going on about a new house and this and that .This happened in the past and is told with a cold tone at times giving an insight into Alex as maybe an emotional devoid man.

I had known her body in all its details .The heavy Pendulous breasts ,the rolls of fat at her neck ,her naval ,the stray black hairs on her back ,and her many moles .I knew how she smelled and tasted .How her body responded to touch ,I knew it repertoire of familiar movements ,but when I saw Ivona sitting there ,I had to acknowledge that I din’t know the least thing about her , that she was a complete stranger to me .

Sonia was a conquered land in Alex’s eye and Ivona was a woman of mystery .

I was looking forward to this on a number of levels I had heard how easy Stamm is to read ,he is the book took me a day and a half to fly through but then kept me thinking about it for the next week or so which was the other thing I had heard was  that Stamm is a writer that lies with you long after you have put the book down ,and yes he does .The other thing I really like is the fact it is a Hofmann translation I have always found his translation to be top drawer clean and unfussy style  ,with real sense that it isn’t a translation .So Alex and Sonia what do I make of them they struck me as very much like a typical English couple in the age group and tastes something of the yes they’ve read the books , like the right films but at the heart of the couple is a real void all the things in the world can’t make up for the fact they are quite shallow and really uninteresting people at the heart of it  I was reminded very much of the women from the film of Nick Hornbys High fidelity Charlie played by Catherine Zeta Jones ,who John Cusacks character describe her and her friends as being some one you like to be with but when you there with them you realise  they are actually quite vacant people   .Where as Ivona the Christian book seller is described as dull woman  but the more the book goes on the more she leaps off  the page .A real tale of love ,lose and marriage told with a subtle and careful tone by Stamm.

Have you read this book ?

Which Stamm would you suggest next for me ?

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