Agnes by Peter Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnes by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Agnes

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

I have reviewed Peter Stamm three times before on the blog over the years. so when I got the chance to review his debut novel I jumped at the chance as he is a writer whose works I had enjoyed his other books. Agnes had come out in the UK but was never brought out in the US so it gave me a chance to go back twenty years this book came out in 98 in Germany and 2000 in English for the first time. He has written several novels but was a journalist iuntially and has written radio plays as well.

I was back in the library early the next morning, and even though I was waiting for Agnes, I had no trouble concentrating on my work. I knew she would come, and that we would talk anc smoke and drink coffee together. In my head our relationship was already much further advanced than it was in reality. I was already wondering abouther, beginning to have my doubts, though we hadn’t even been out together.

I was working well, reading and making notes, When Agnes arrived, around noon and she nodded to me, Once again, she put her foam rubber cushion down on a chair near me, spread out her things as she had done yesterday, picked up a book and started reading

The beginning of the relationship as they keep meeting in the library sharing coffee and a smoke,

 

An older writer he is unnamed is asked by his younger girlfriend Agnes a cellist studying physics and free spirit in her own way to write a story about her. Our narrator is in Chicago to write about luxury trains. He does what Agnes wants and writes about their relationship He does that but as they are happy and the everyday life of these two. The way they meet and fell in love but this doesn’t lead to the most interesting story about their relationship. As they work together on the story. But, when she tells him she is expecting a baby the narrative changes as he is older and doesn’t want a child he tells her that he doesn’t want the child this is a turning point in their relationship. but also in the story, he is writing about there relationship changes as he starts in that narrative to try and control the younger woman by making her into what he wants her to be as the two worlds the story and real life start to come intertwined as the relationship cracks apart.

We celebrated Christmas Eve together. It was some time since I’d shown Agnes what I’d written. Now I printed out the story on white paper and put it in a folder with a dedication.

“I haven’t got an ending yet,” I said,”But as soon as I do.Ill have the whole thing boiund into a little book for you ”

Agnes had knitted me a sweater

“God knows,I had enough wool, she said.

“Black wool”

“No I had it dyed. Light blue doesn’t really suit you.”I didn’t say anything. We were sitiing on the sofa, with a little christmas tree in front of us that Agnes had decorated with only candles.

Later on the feeling between the two has changed in the story.

As ever Stamm is a master of describing how relationships work but hew also is great at getting that moment when the relationships change the turning point so to speak that unseen event at the start of the narrative that initally seems like the perfect relationship even thou there is an age difference. This sees the writer trying to idealize Agnes later in the book. This is maybe free in style than his later books it is like he is trying a different way of writing in this book it is looser than his other books. But worth reading I alwaylike to try and see how a writer has grown this isn’t as cut and cleaned as say seven years but is still an interesting insight into the dynamics of relationships and also about writing about a relationship which when it is good can seem very boring. Have you read this book?

 

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The spirits of the earth by Catherine Colomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spirits of the Earth by Catherine Colomb

Swiss-French fiction

Original title – Les Esprits de la terre

Translator – John Taylor

Source – review copy via Tranalstor

II was contacted by John the translator of this novel as he felt it had fallen out of sight and shouldn’t have done. I agree as it is a clever little modernist novel. Catherine Colomb was orphaned when she was five and grew up in her grandparent’s house in the canton of Vaud where she spent most of her life. As it is elegantly put on her french Wiki page between old families and the parks, castles, lake, and vineyards of the region. Her four novels were all set in this region THis book came out in 1953.

In the hallways of Fraidaigue, one will henceforth have meet up with the dead Abrham attending to his transparent affairs while running into his mother whose head is topped off with some snowy construction, his sister isabelle surrounded by her suitors, and his deformed brother Ulysse pressinf a black marble inkpot against his chest with his dwarfed ar, . And Uncle Cesar? where Uncle Cesar ? HIs dear nephew has just fallen from the cornice and vanished !

This from the opening page remind me of Manderley and also I wondered if the name Ulysse was a nod towards Joyce ?

The book has a great intro by the translator himself that talks about Catherine life and the book the book has echoes of her own life as it has a lot of death and loss in it like she experienced at an early age. The book is set in two homes owned by the same family an older brother Cesar and his sister Zoe and two other brothers Eugene and Adolphe. The two brothers have been happily Married for a while and each lives at the families two properties. Fraidaigue John explains in his intro this means cold water and is the lakeside home of the family they also have Masion d’en Haut the families country estate. The book is a modernist work that follows these four lives and the deaths that happen in these families like their parents and nephews. It follows the family mainly through the eyes of Cesar a man that lost his closest friends when young and the world he lives in is filled with both the living and the ghost of those he once knew. He should be the head of the family but is just wandering the world as a victim.

Meanwhile, with the coming of spring, a strangely feverish Cesar was leaving the Masion d’en Haut and looking forward to seeing the naked pale purplish earth of the first vineyard; standing at the bottom of the Avenue, Melanie, watching him vanish, she placed her hand on her tumultuous breasts, squattering in front of the emerald green faience stove, all sisterlyaffection done away with and dressed in the white gown of insane women, Zoe was warming her fingers, with their overgrown nails, for the last time that season. When Cesar leaves. this means winter has given way, that the osier bushes are reddening at the edges of the stream, that the whole world is taking on the smell of th stables and manure

The world she knew so well is shown through how Cesar lives his life moving through the seasons from place to place never settling.

This is a high modernist novel in a way in his intro John says she was often compared to Woolf I can see this there is part of a world-changing like in Mrs. Dalloway where we see a woman look back over an evening over her life and the changing post world war. In this case, we see Cesar a man caught out of time drifting between the worlds of the living and dead. I’d like to suggest another writer I think inspired her maybe Du Maurier for me she often used her local Cornwall and Vaud both have the feeling of places caught out of time. The house in this book reminds me of the way Manderley is described in Rebecca the ghosts of those they have known is clinging to the walls of these houses. There is also the menace of what happened in these houses before in both books. John has done a poetic of her words he is mainly a Poetry translator and this shows how he has kept what at times are fragile narratives of a world between the living and dead.A touching and challenging read that has the reader wondering where they are for long after they put the book down.

Have you read this book or any other Swiss list books from Seagull books ?

To back of Beyond by Peter Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To back of beyond by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Weit über das Land

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – library book

I usually try over the new year to catch some books that may be on the man Booker longlist. A good place to start is writers that have been on the list before so this is the first of two books I have got from the library from previous longlisted writers. Peter Stamm has won a number of prizes in Germany for his writing which is described as being sparse.I have reviewed his books twice before on the blog, he is a writer I feel could be on the longlist this year.

When astrid realized that Thomas wasn’t lying beside her, she would suppose he was already up, even though she almost invaribly got up first. She would go upstairs half asleep and wake the children and go downstairs again. Ten minutes later, freshly showered and in her robe she would emerge from the bathroom and call the children, who were bound to be still in bed. Konrad!Ella! Get a move on! If you don’t get up now, you’ll be late,Always the same sentence.

Astrid goes into auto mode when Thomas goes.

Like his other books, this has a moment at the start of the tale. The moment this book starts is when a perfect or so it seems couple Thomas and Astrid with their 2.4 children return from a perfect holiday in Spain. Next Day Thomas walks out of there house and starts to do a Forest Gump and walk around Switzerland. Meanwhile, his with Astrid is like a rabbit caught in headlights and just stays as she is covering for her missing husband.Thomas initially stays in a caravan then heads to the mountain trying to live off the land as best he can stumble into a brothel. Well, Astrid tries to help the children then she decides to let the world know what has happened. Why did Thomas escape, why hasn’t Astrid acted sooner? This is about keeping face in a way for Astrid there perfect life had tiny cracks in but they failed to see them.

It was daybreak when Thomas awoke.The moon was high, but it didn’t shed much light in the brightening sky. The group if trees that Thomas had seen as an outline the previous nightwere just a few sick specimens with leafless crowns, their trunks a tangle of ivy. A sweetish smell hung in the air.

Thomas clothes were sodden, but he didn’t feel cold. He rubbed his hands on the damp grass and wiped the sleep from his eyes .

Thomas is in a dream state at times .

This is a novella and touches on what modern life is about in a way. Those who like Thomas just drift off this isn’t quite Christopher Mccandless into the wild Thomas isn’t making a point in a way he seems  more hunting for what is seldom seen these days in our towns and cities and that is as Kierkegaard said “I found I had less to say, until finally, I became silent, and began to listen.I discovered in silence, the voice of God. Maybe not quite God, but Thomas is seeking that clarity it brings to people sometimes. Their life isn’t all it seems this is classic Stamm in a way he has a way of going under the veneer of modern life. He has a way of placing his characters into situations using a starting point.Like in seven years he uses a classic storyline a man leaving his family in a mid-life crisis a Reg Perrin or Frank Bascombe life falling apart. What is your favourite Peter Stamm book?

Behind the station by Arno Camenisch

 

 

Behind the station by Arno Camenisch

Swiss fiction

Original title – Hinter dem Bahnhof

Translator – Donal Mclaughlin

Source – personal copy

I feature the first book in the trilogy Arno Camenisch wrote The alp earlier this month. I had ordered this book first but when it arrived and I saw that it was the second book I decided to order the Alp. Which is the book he got more acclaim for? Though this book style wise is similar in tone to the other book.The third part of the book has also been translated into English. But I haven’t got a copy yet.

My Grandfather has seven and a half fingers. On his left hand he has five fingers. on his right hand, he has the thumb, the index finger and half a middle finger> Thats two and half fingers that are missing, he took off at the big band saw. He wears his wedding ring on the left ring finger. Nonno coughs and says, bot, don’t come to close to the band saw on me, or do you want your fingers pff. Nonno is the master of the band saw.

This echoed a [passage in the alp about missing fingers and maybe the harsh nature of life.

Like the Alp, this is a book set in a small alpine village of forty or so people. It is told from the point of view of a young boy. Who lives there with his brother and observes the world they live in. like in the earlier book” the alp “, this is a gritty view of alpine life for those less well off. A tale of village life growing up without any real hope in your heart. Also although through child’s eyes you see the tough nature of the world of his parents and even more so of his grandparents.Especially with the grandfather’s illness, a real feeling of hope is failing as the chief patriarch. This is tough as the narrator is only five years old elsewhere we see him and brother get into a number of scraps the brother falls the two get stuck in one part. A bleak internal look at the alpine life devoid of hope in many ways but also full of the wonderful quaint ways of village life.

We’ll have to spend the night in the chair lift and will miss Scaccia pensieri on tv tonight, my brother says, and mother will have to flush the rice and beetroot down the toilet. The last of the Chupa chups have also gone when we hear my father calling, the helicopter’s on its way. My brother looks at me. Behind the blue panes in his ski glasses, his eyes look like those of a fish. I don’t beleive it, I say , my father’s bored and joking for sure, there are no HelioKopter round here. My brother says, Maybe the heliokopter really is coming and it’ll throw us down rucksacks with new Chupa Chups and salami and cucumber sandwiches so we don’t get hungry during the night.

Somthung child like in this pasage but also harsh realism of the diet of the poor alpine people.

Like in the first part of the trilogy the names of the characters are just Family names so brother, father, mother aunt, uncle etc. The only people that we do see k=named are Italian immigrants that work the land. This is a very baron view of the world told from the internal thoughts of our nameless narrator. if Peter from the Hiedi stories had a novella written by Thomas Bernhard this would be near it there is a bitter undertow of hopelessness the village is like in the alp with the similar characters a place caught out of time with the surrounding world and our narrator even thou young could even have been like a Dickens child character for the way he viewed the world. There is a similar bleak nature to the likes of the young Oliver or even more so Pip as they both share a bleak world the world of the village of Oberlander is similar to that of Pips Marshland home.

Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier

 

Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier

Swiss fiction

Original title – Toteninsel

Translator – Burton Pike

Source – personal copy

I said at the start of German lit month the new job has given me a little extra money to buy some second-hand copies for this year’s challenge. I got this book last year. But finally read it again, last week. As Gerhard Meir belongs with writers like Bernhard and Walser writers that need a couple of readings. Meier is by trade a designer and it wasn’t till he was ill and in his forties, he took up writing.He got a lot of recognition when Peter Handke shared his Franz Kafka prize money with him. He lived in a small village and avoided the limelight.

“I like to walk through this part of town,- Do you see a;; those things over there? Discarded parts from building the railroad, presumably. And through them the sky, at times bare, overcast, putting on its stars:Firefly-lights abouve the field full of parts.I like walking through it. And if I were a photographer, Bindschadle, these iron bones would be sold commercially so people could decorate their walls with them.

I loved this description as the bones of an industral past how often I walk [past these in Chesterfield!

This is a short novella of hundred pages. It follows two old guys Baur, now he is the talker of the two. Bindschadler is the quiet one, although I sense he has just got used to speaking when it is worth it and letting Baur fill the gaps. The two have been friends since they were in the army at a young age. The two wander along the river and talk the things that matter to the pair of them like art, writing and writers. The way the hometown has changed over the years .But as they talk the events and time they talk about drift and they seem caught in a past that has gone and like the title of the book which is a famous picture of an island that is rather unclear and has a number of different versions also is the cover is homage to the picture of the Isle of the dead . They are maybe an isle of a dead world in the words.

“Thus Bindschadler, one could say that Bartok’s music brings groves of plane trees to ballet dancing, bringing in what’s around them, while prayer moves mountains or wakes the dead, even when their bones lie neatly ordered in the eartg, which according to the usual opinon, is the right place for them,” Baur said

We followed the path accross the Dnnern meadow. Antonioni’s tennis scene from Blow-up came to mind, which was mimed without a tennis ball; saw the green of the court, which in the ligh from the searchlights appeared especially green

Bones agian a rcurring theme at times also the falk of music and film here.

If Samuel Beckett had ever been asked to an episode of last of the summer wine this would have been how it would have turned out. The Isle of the dead is considered a masterpiece of Swiss modernist fiction and has echoes of the like of Bernhard in the way he viewed the art world. Joyce as they walk he use the places around them as a metaphor for a changing world. This is a slow meandering book the talk is beautiful from the two full of subtle details like a macro lens on the lives the details they give away are so defined in the conversations between the two. The way two objects or animals get a symbiotic relationship the shared past of these two is like the intertwining of the branches of two great trees that is keeping them together but also from falling over.

The Alp by Arno Camenisch

 

 

 

The Alp by Arno Camenisch

Swiss fiction

original title – Sez Ner

Translator – Donal McLaughlin

Source – personal copy

Another new name for the blog. As I searched for books for this years German Lit month. Dalkey Archive has published a number of the leading Swiss writers over the last few years. This book is one of a number from that series I have bought over the last year or so. Arno Camenisch burst on to the scene when this book came out in both German and Rhaeto- Romanic. It was the first of a trilogy he wrote about rural Swiss life.

The farmhand has eight fingers, five on his left hand, and three on his right. His right he keeps mostly in his pocket, or resting on his thigh beneath the table.When he lies in the grass outside the hut, next to the pigpen, fast asleep with hos boots off and his socks off as well, the swineherd counts his toes.The farmhand sleeps in the afternoons as, by night, he’s out and about.He vanishes when everyone’s gone to bed, come back at some point during the night.

Thje loss of fingersshows the tough nature of the work these four men do.

When I took a picture of this book on twitter I called it the Anti Heidi. As for me, it portrays the Swiss rural community like it is, in many ways similar to the rural world of England.And that is a hard life for many of the people who work the land. The story is told by four unnamed characters they are the Dairyman, his farmhand, a cow herder and swine herd. What we see is the hardness of there lives the days they live milking herding animals. The jokes shared like if one hadn’t a dog he’d be a swineherd man.This is all told as we see tourist making the most of the Alps and the rich farmers. They read about a glorious past and another has just a fork to eat with. The tying of milk stools to their waist to sit on whilst milking is an ancient scene at times there world seems old-fashioned it is only when the modern world breaks in we see when the book is set.

The day-trippers wash off their walking boots in the fountain outside the hut.They take their shoes off, and their sweaty socks. The day-trippers sit at the edge of the fountain with their feet in the basin, The diop their dirty soles of their shoes in the water, use their finger to dig the dirt out of the sole. Thanks a lot,they say when the swineherd brings them a cup of milk, no worries,don’t mention it,, the swineherd says.That’s for the dirt in the fountain he thinks to himself.

The fountain they use t wash and drink from is used by trippers to clean their boots and socks …

There is a feeling that places change and sometimes people in that world don’t change. These four characters seem like flies caught in the amber of their time. Their lives are unchanging but shrinking as the modern world automates farming the feeling is these four men may be the last of the generation but there is also a deep sorrow in Camenisch portrayal of their world.Alongside a black humour that one only ever finds in these tightly knitted worlds of farm hands, miners, fishermen or shipyard workers. Those doing a day work that can see the funny side of the darkest parts of lives. I lived for many years in the northeast of England,  worked with a group of old people. The characters here reminded me in many ways of the way these four characters talked. An eye-opening view of alpine life. The real Heidi character in the modern world.

Zurich Transit by Max Frisch

 

Zurich Transit

Zurich Transit by Max Frisch

Swiss play

Orginal title – Zürich – Transit

Translator – Brigit Schreyer Duarte

Source – Personel copy

Well, it has finally come round to November and that means one thing here German Lit Month one of the highlights of the blogging year. So when deciding this year’s books I choose to purchase some more books from Seagull books a publisher that has been publishing a lot of cutting-edge German lit. This is the second book I have reviewed by Max Frisch, a few years ago I reviewed one of his best-known works Homo Faber, I had intended to read him again since then so when I read this book it struck me as rather different.

Ehrismann, inside the flying Caravelle. Passengers are now allowed to unfasten their seabelts. He does so. But what next? when the stewardess comes by with a stack of newspapers, he asks for a Neue Zurcher Zeitung, then opens it to the obituaries as if turning to the financial or sports ection, searches bfiefly and finds/ a large obituary : Zurich, October 4 1965. Theo Ehrismann, Dipl-ing. Our almighty God has taken…/ His face, while he is reading his obituary./ Then ne stuffs the paper intothe pocket of the seat before him.

My Funeral was at 11 o’clock

Max reads about his own life and when his funeral is as he tries to get home .

Zurich transit was written by Frisch. The play is an expansion of an incident in the novella he wrote My name be Gantenbein. The story follows Theo Ehrismann a Swiss engineer and former sailor. He had decided to take a sudden trip to London and told no-one. So when his white Porsche is stolen and crash and the thief is burnt beyond recognition. So a natural mistake happens and everyone thing the body is Max himself. He only works out what has happened when he reads his own Obituary in the newspaper. But as he tries to let the family know he isn’t dead, he calls the family home to only be answered by his much-hated brother in law. answers the phone. So he travels back to home but arrives just as the funeral starts but hides in the background and listens to his life, but also looks at the life he has lived. Will he say there has been a mistake?

Ehrismann leaves, perplexed. / Again, the reckless-unhinged-otherworldy carnival music, the group of trumpets and drums, everything as before onlybriefer. And when the masked couple take off their masks we Monkika and the young guest worker, kissing

Why should Monika not have another man 

He sees things that may not be there any more.

This is the story of one man gathering about his life as he views what happens after he is dead a chance not many of us have to view how we are seen and in Theo case, it is an awakening as he sees that his life hasn’t the meaning he thought it had. This is shown when he decides to buy a ticket out of the country. The play is an expansion of man that appears in an earlier novel. There has been a number of attempts to make this into a film, this lack of the film getting made lead to a documentary about the attempts to make the film in 2011.  This is one of those books that h=is hinged on a single moment a car crash than an error that leads to one man’s journey into himself and those around him. Who are we? what are we? and what impression do we leave behind these are al, questions left behind when you read this book.

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.

 

Book of my mother by Albert Cohen

 

BookofMyMother_cvr_1

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

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