The High Rise DIver by Julia Von Lucadou

The High Rise DIver by Julia Von Lucadou

German fiction

Original title – Die Hochausasspringerin

Translator – Sharmilaa Cohen

Source – review copy

I take another turn in this year’s German literature month. This time I have a new novel from a debut Novelist Julia Von Lucadou. She was nominated for the swiss book prize for this book. She had been working as an assistant director and editor before writing this novel. There is a sense as I read this that the person who wrote it had an eye for tv or film in the way it read as it paints a very visual world of a horrific near-future dystopic world. The book follows the decision of a HIgh rise diver to stop training.

The most popular internet conspiracy theory about Riva’s resignation is that it has to do with relationship dramam tht Riva left Aaston for someone else and that he’s now forcing her sto stay with him against her will A well-known gossip blog regularly posts drone videos of them in their apartment,alleging violent situations. Analysis has shown that the images are current, but were manipularted after the fact. Fans post comments daily on Riva’s offical website, encouraging her to be brave ad urging the police to arrest Aston. Building security has been reporting break-in attempts by fans trying to “Free” Riva.

A world of twisted videos and threoies of what is happening.

The book follows what happens when Riva who is the High rise diver of the title a superstar of her time in a world where her every move is followed by her fans. This is a world where people don’t always have a birth family that they live with or as it is called here Bio parents. But they are bred from Breeders !  and then raised within organizations. So when Riva goes off the rails stops training and resigns. She needs to be brought back in line we meet Hitomi who has to try and bring Riva back to the High rise diving and training and for the investors to continue to make money from Riva. So the world we enter everyone sees everything as the world is now full of camera that follows people like Riva’s every move as we see Hitomi trying hard to push her back into the high rise dive programme all part of a new culture of celebs that the peripheral as they called follow those born and working for these huge companies. What we see is a woman trying to break free in a world where everyone now has a place in this new disturbing world of children growing up in companies without families in a new horrific world. A world not far moved from our own culture these days of celebs and increasingly intrusive media. will they get Riva Back will Hitomi survive if she doesn’t !!

“The smell of the peripheries always made me nausesous as a child. I would already start to feel sick days before a compulsory casting. During the casting, I had to take medication to avoid vomitinf on stage. The heatm the smog. My skin grayinsh, sickly after just a few hours, I showered several times a day. Andorra made fun of me. She didn’t mind the dirt and the bad air. She was ecited when the next casting approached. She believed in being chosen, in making early breakthrough. I reminded her of the statsitics abd thet we weren’t dependent on being chosen. That our education at the institute separeted us from the unpredictability of a casting jury. But Andorra lost any semblance of being a rational person when it came to our future. When I had long since given on the dream of high rise diving.

The world is set the divides are there from the start in this world !

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi but when I do it would be dystopic works I would pick. Here is a book that has a world that isn’t that far from our own. In Riva her character isn’t far from the character of Syliva in the recent Polish film “Sweat that follows her Online world and the consequences of her growing stardom which saw her have a stalker.  The struggle of having to appear on cam all the time !!. In the other parts of this world, the mega-companies as iot seems is another thing that is with us from Google, Meta, Amazon etc. Then if we look at the work culture of Japan where there is a sense of work for a company singing for them etc. Here is a world where Riva isn’t a person more a product to be marketed and sold as a package to her fans so when this product goes off the rails we see how Hitomi tries various increasingly more pressure on Riva to push her back into place. So if you have like books like Handmaiden tale or Orwellian universes this is a book for you. it follows the modern world of a new sports star and the dark turns and corners of a celeb world. Have you a favourite dystopic world? do you think the worlds media is too intrusive these days?

Winstons score – B A clever take on the world of Celeb and its increasing intrusion and commodifying nature

All the Land by Jo Lendle

All the Land by Jo Lendle

German fiction

original title – Alles Land.

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I’m on another of this year’s german lit choices. l I am now in Greenland partly for this book based on an actual person Alfred Wenger the son of the Minister for Berlin in the early thirties he was an explorer and scientist for the next book for my German Lit month books. A novel from Jo Lendle the Publisher of Hanser Verlag, he is the editor of the lit Magazine Akzente. He has lectured on German literature been involved in German pen. He has also translated a number of books including books by Jachym Topol. He has published a number of novels this is the first book by him I have read.

Alfred Wegener had more siblings than one would wish upon a person. They stood around him and stared at him, elbowing each other and pointing at him, some even grabbing over the woven edge of the willow cradle to pinch him , out of love.

It cost his mother some effort to hold the children back. The birth had taken twenty-four hours, a whole day . It Hard to unsettle a woman like Anna Wegener, but attempting to restrain this horde had her at her wit’s end

his Birth and the Orphans gather round see his birth

I hadn’t heard of Alfred Wegener when I read this book I read his Wiki page and got the sense he was like many of the British explorers of the time. What we see here is him in 1930 as he is stuck trying to survive in the middle of Greenland one of the most remote places in the world on the mid -ice as it is called and also one of the coldest on the planet as he and his team have set off to see if they can get by and to study the weather and survive the conditions this was his fourth trip to Greenland the first was around the time he had to meet his with Else. The book sees his attempts to be both a successful family man.  He was brought up by his parents in an Orphanage so he want to be a real father and husband. The fact he was called into to fight in world one means that the years away from his wife they have drifted apart. We see the romance and his earliest years growing up. He tried his best he thinks but as he looks back we see that wasn’t always so. this is what he is most famous for in a way his studies of weather and things like continental drift. This is a tale of one of those men that like his British counter parts tried to push back the barriers of what men can do endure and see. the furthest the coldest etc.

Early in 1906, he read in the newspaper about a plan for a Danish expedition to north-eastern Greenland, which was to spend two summers charting the coastline. Under the writer Mylius Erichsen’s command , they would attempt to cross the ice of the greenland sea to ereach the spot where the Germania expedtion had been forced to turn back in 1870, and set up a base from there, they hoped to explore the unknown section to cape bridgeman,

A base station in the ice. All that could be studied there! Wegener closed his eyes. It required some effort to gather his wishes.

The  report that maybe inspired him to do his expeditions to Greenland, a few years later.

This is the second novel based on this last expedition on his Wiki page for Alfred Wegener it said this last expedition had inspired John Buchan to write his novel A Prince of captivity three years after the events. What we have here is an in-depth novel about his life that mixes the actual facts with what Lendle feels must have been Wegener’s thoughts of his own life as they sit in freezing weather and looks back over his life. I loved the flow of the book I ‘ve always been a fan of stories around the pole regions things like the worst journey in the world which in parts this reminds me of or a film like Scott of the antarctic the is a part where they cut back on what they are carrying you can see where the story will end it reminds me in parts of Scoots story or more so the Shakleton Television series that followed his life as the relationship of husband and wife when they spent time apart was similar. Have you read any books by Lendle or have a favorite book set in the Polar regions. So if you like a tale of a man how tried his best in everything and in many ways was very human this is a book that you should enjoy. As he is a flawed character but aren’t we all !!

Winstons score – B+ A well-written novel about a man that we should know more about!

Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

German fiction

Original title – Kind aller Länder

Translator -Michael Hofmann

Source – Personal copy

We go back with my next read for German Lit Month and a  modern Classic a book that seem to be everywhere last year I hadn’t read anything by her I was vaguely aware of her connection to Roth not sure if I heard a review of one of her books or read it in another book. She had been married but left her husband in the early thirties when he got drawn in by the Nazi party. She then had a relationship with a Jewish doctor then spent time with the writer Joseph Roth and she traveled around Europe he was a huge influence on her writing. it is felt that the father figure in the book is a write like Joseph Roth. Like Roth, he also criticized the Nazis Keun herself had seen her books withdrawn by the Nazis. A gem of pre-war german Literature that signaled what was to come and the attempt to flee from the shadow of the Nazis.

Then my father suddenly walked into our hotel room where I was crying and my mother ewas groaning, and said to my mother. “Well a mircale has happened – it might yet save us. I’ve just had a call from Tulpe. You don’t know him; well, I don’t know him either, I crossed paths with him once in Berlin. He reads my books , heard I was in town, called me. He travels in Ladies underwear, I beleive; probably has a bank account- rock solid character. Two thousand francs will be enough to get us out of trouble. I can’t pay him back with the fights to the polish translations. The money for that is due in the next few weeks.

Her father tries to scrape together enough money for them to get by.

I am a fan of child narrators when done well and here in Kully the ten-year-old daughter of Peter a writer who is outspoken about the changes he has seen in the time since the Nazis seized power in Germany (much the same as Roth did at the time). This means that Kully her mother and her father are exiled from Germany what we see is the journey around Europe from hotel to hotel as they head from country to country as their visas, funds, and options dwindle a journey that many made at the time. But as this also happens her father is still talking and wanted. He is a chancer and liar to ht mother and her. He is trying to get as they are constantly on the run though he is constantly wanting the family to move on from hotel to hotel but as he heads out to settle them in a new hotel leaving her l=mother and her to sneak off. We see a girl that is a bit wild she smokes sees what is happening but has that childlike view of what is happening she is just caught up in the journey here there and everywhere. A path that many did in those pre-war years.

My mother says my father can’t settle the hotel bill from Warsaw anyway, because the Polish goverment dosen’t alow you to send mony out of Poland. My father often tells fibs to get a bit of peace and quiet. We’re happy about that sometimes, though he performs miracles and everything he says comes true.

My mother is crimping her hair in front of the mirror, she wants to have a round curl either side of her fac, to make her look beautiful.If she looks beautiful, she feels better abiout walking through the lobby, or talking to people to ask them for money: I don’t mind not looking beauitful.

I loved this image of her mother very thirties sounding

I said I like Child narrators when they are done well and Kully voice is so evocative a girl that is a little wild due to the lack of boundaries she is a brat but she is caught in this downward spiral of running from Place to Place. This is a book I am pleased I tried I tend to be put off when I see translations that seem overhyped or here there and everywhere. In  Peter, we have a writer that is like Roth a writer that stirred up the Nazis Roth himself like Peter went out of Germany when Hitler came to power. Roth never got fully away. This is like the Passenger I read earlier this year we see the journey of trying to escape the the Nazis. This is a path that many trod at the time and here we have an angle from the view of a child grasping at the facts seeing her father pushed out aware of what happens but in the black and white nature only children have. I must read her other books which would you recommend?

Winstons score – B a child’s eye view of a horrific time

Dispatches from moments of calm by Alexander kluge and Gerhard Richter

Dispatches from moents of calm by Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter

German fiction

Original title – Nachricht von ruhigen Momenten

Translator – Nathaniel Mcbride

Source – personal copy

This book was written by Kluge when he took the set of pictures that the artist Gerhard Richter had used in the edition of the German Newspaper Die welt on 5 October 2012. Where all the photos on the paper had been replaced by Richter pictures which he had called moments of calm. He intends them to distract and be the opposite of the death and horror of the stories in the paper itself. After this paper, the writer Alexander Kluge took the picture and wrote vignettes to each of the pictures and what followed is this book that puts the pictures from Richter with the stories for them the Kluge wrote. They had worked together on an earlier book in December. Kluge as I have seen in his other books likes to connect with other writers and artists. this is my second book for this year’s German Lit month !

During an Argument in the smokers corner of a dance hall in Straubling on New Year’s Eve, a stranger pressed a burning cigarette intomthe eye of a 20 year old man and left without anyone trying to stop him. Did ot matterr to the people there they called an ambluance or that they persue the attacker? What, in pratical terms, could the others have done to prevent the attack? Everyone in the group was shocked and frightened by the stranger’s attack? Everyone in the group was shocked and frightened by the stranger’s aggression. The young smoker did not regain his sight in the eye that had been attacked. The police opened a criminal investigation.

The attack in a dance hall that was then followed by a piece on Rudolf steiner and sense of chance !!

As with Kluge’s other works, this is a set of unconnected vignettes that each takes one of the pictures as a springboard for a story or an anecdote. what we get is a look at everyday life from two great artists. the book has five sections and the are more stories than pictures as some pictures have two stories. In the usual Kluge style, he mixes fiction and fact as we see his reactions to the pictures. reactions that from sublime like he was to young for the digger as we have a picture of a small boy and a toy truck. A picture of dancers has a tale of a man losing sight in one of his eyes after leaving a dance hall and then Rudolf Steiner of the sense of chance. another story was on John Cage performing his works in frankfurt so when a fire breaks out and forces him out of the Opera house as it rages he grabs microphones probably to record the sound of the fire! as it is burnt to the ground. A woman clings to her child in a shipwreck sparked from a picture of a baby..Marx lost text reappearing is another story that appears.

During the final rehearsals for his Europeras 1 e32 at the Frankfurt operan house in the autumn of 1987, John cage was staying at the Hotel Frankfurter Hof. This meant that when he recieved the disturbing news that the opera house was on fire, he didn’t have to far to hurry to the scene. He took a tape recorder with him, and he had filled the pockets of his winter overcoat with various different kinds of special microphones, The city’s fire brigade had several of its units ready for an assauly on the stage house, the centre of the fire. In meantime, a firestorm had already devolped in this part of the opera house. It was simply too dangerous too send in the fire teams against it. They would have to let the fire burn.

In usual Kluge style it is a rabbit hole of vignettes how often when you read him you have to find out what is really true,  like the Cage story and what he has made up he weaves fact and fiction so well, what he does so well here is take each image as a springboard for either something directly connect to the picture or as a kernel for something very inventive style of writing and kluge knack of making the everyday burst to life is a talent as an evocative and thought-provoking writer. The book came by chance as Kluge was asked and came up straight away with the idea of stories to which Richter suggested another joint work. One odd connection is these two great German figures were only born five days apart in February 1932. I am fast becoming a huge fan of Kluge this will be the fourth book by him I will have reviewed I have another and will be getting others when I see them at a price I can afford. Have you read Kluge or are aware of Gerhard Richter’s artworks?

Winstons score – +A I just love Kluge’s style of literature so much

New Year By Juli Zeh

New Year by Juli Zeh

German Fiction

Original title – Neujahr

Translator – Alta L. Price

Source – Review copy

November is German Lit month and I start with a book I feel a few people will review as it is the latest from bestselling German writer Juli Zeh.A writer that won the German lit prize (the German booker) with her debut novel. She has published a number of novels since then with a number being translated into English. This is the second I  have reviewed Decompression by her in German lit month in 2015. I liked her writing so when this arrived I knew I’d like it and like the earlier book it used a holiday as the catalyst for the story. Juli Zeh is a lawyer and judge. You can see in her writing that she has seen a lot of Human Nature. This book follows a man on holiday over Christmas and New year.

His legs hurt. In back, where there arer muscles one rarely uses with names he’s forgotten, With each piush of the pedal his toes come up against the linings of his shoes – sneakers meant for jogging, not cycling. Henning’s cheap cycling shorts don’t fully protect him from chafing, he has no water and the bike is far to heavy.

But the temperature is almost perfect. The sun hangs white in the sky, but doesn’t burn. If henning were on a lounger sheltered from the wind , he’d be warm. If he were walkingalong the seashore, he’d need a jacket

The opening and he is a typical new years day cyclist ill prepared and unfit !!

Henning is a young man on the cusp of middle age man that has what every man in his position should have a wife two children young 2 and 4 . He and his wife Theresa as they have gone to Lanzarote. But as we see things aren’t that rosy when his wife flirts with another man  The book opens as we see the Christmas period as they celebrate it and Henning looking back we see he has it all but recently has been having panic attacks. These panic attacks have started to affect his job but also his home life as he starts to lash out at those around him more and more and like when we see his wife flirt maybe it could be too late. He can’t quite work out why but as it is now New years day he has decided like most of us do that is to get fitter so as he sets out to cycle up a hill as he does the past comes into his head and this is the second part of the book which sees us going into Hennings his Childhood which has an event that until now was buried this event is maybe what has been causing his stress as dark secrets from his childhood resurfaces, It shows how we can bury the past no matter how dark but then they do rise to the surface in other forms like Panic attacks.

Henning likes making his parent laugh, they like it when he says clever things. Once he saic “the time we have on earth is as tiny as a pebble”. Mama hugged and kissed him and Papa wrote the sentence down and put it on the first page of a photo alim. The bit about the pebble came to Henning because he thinks so much about time, He can’t read a clock yet but often looks at the arrows. Yopu cant see them more, unless you look away and then after a while look back at them, The thing he finds most disturbing about time it that is always goes too fast or too slow. It never seems just right. Henning doesn’t believe time is his friend

I lived this poasage as it seems so true time isn;’t always our friend and especially in Hennings case as time doen’t forget !!

I liked the way she set this book up the first part is Henning in the present but the sense that all isn’t quite right creeps in as we see them on the holiday with their two young children but these panic attacks he has started to lose control of than when he takes that ride we have Henning looking at the past as a child so the narrative has two voice the old Henning and his world now and then him as a young boy as we find what has hidden in the past a sense that is there in the first part of the book then as he cycles he has a Proust like a moment of remembrance and then is in the past. It shows how the past can be hidden and how the darkest moments can’t always be hidden away or forgotten. A journey into a dark past that deals with how the mind works and human nature as I said you can see she has worked with people there is a sense of how the effects of our past are presents which is at the heart of all our lives but when they are dark like these no matter how much we try to avoid it there is always an elephant in the room !! Have you read any books by Juli Zeh

Winstons score – B+ is a solid book about one man’s dark childhood and its effects on the man that was a boy.

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.

The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

German fiction

Original title –  Die Kältezentrale

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I move on this german lit month to a new writer a writer to the blog. Inka Parei,  who won many years ago the Ingeborg Bachmann award one of Germany’s biggest prizes. She has not written many novels only three in a twenty-year career. She studied German, sociology, political science and sinology. In an interview, she was drawn to the location of this novel. She also remarked that after writing the book she hadn’t gathered how the book had related to her own family history and some of her only families coming from Eat to West.

At some point I’d have had an answer and I’d have called Martha. She wouldn’t have said anything or expected anything. In a neutral voice, I’d have informed her of what I’d found out. Her breath escaping at the other end of the line would have grown gentle, like it hasn’t been for a long time now. She’d asked me how I was feeling and then, almost in the same breath, how the last few years had been. We’d laughed because there was suddenly so much to tell, astounded at how many little things make up the world, and we’d have wondered how we could have possibly have left all the tiny things that make people happy out of our lives for so long.

As he heads to his past and the present Berlin to find Answers fro his ex Martha.

The book starts with a chance call to our narrator from his ex-wife who is dying of Cancer which sends him back to Berlin. But as he does the past comes back to haunt him he worked in the 80’s in the air colling part of a german newspaper plant the cold center of the title. this Czech built unit never really worked and need constant monitoring this is maybe a nod towards the old east Germany. There is an event that happened then when him and what would become his future and then ex-wife spent time in the back of one of the truck there that had come from Ukraine and may have been contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster that may have caused her cancer. Alongside this, he is haunted by an event with a colleague Hansmann who fell from the roof of the building to his death could he have stopped this happening? As he drifts from then to now we see him recreating those dark days in the cold center his workmates and the death that he never recover from. What was up with those trucks at the time ?

The truck was just north of Kiev at the time of the reactor accident, she continued. So you can assume it was contaminated. Think how Hansmann must have felt when he put two and two together. He can’t stay at home. He’s in constant trouble at work. Then he thinkls one of you’s being kind to him but it tuerns out the place to sleep he;s offered is really a health risk.

But didn’t others use the truck as well?

I’m not saying they meant to harm him.

Radowski was kind of guy who’d go right ahead and eat the lettuce they suddenly toog off the shelves after the accident.

And who was it made Hansmann realize?

Me.

The past and the trucks from Ukraine haunt him in the past  and what happened then !!

Her works have been described as like detective novels and this is maybe as we go into his past it is in pieces there is a blurring of then and now but also an undercurrent of the old East Germany from the broken never probably working cold center as a metaphor for the country as a whole. Then there is the death he saw which he seems to have not recovered from. Then we have the ghost of Chernobyl is that which gave his wife Martha cancer she has in the present in the past. He has a man that has been broken by the events around a death that has haunted him over many years but he also brings us into the dark heart of East berlin behind the wall. I really liked this book and hope to get her other books for forthcoming German lit months. Have you read her books at all?

And where were you , Adam by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And where were you, Adam by Heinrich Böll

German fiction

Original title – Wo warst du, Adam?

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – personal  copy

I always try to squeeze a Heinrich Böll novel into my German lit month reading so this is the eighth book by him I have reviewed on the blog and follows on from the last book by him I reviewed which was the reissue of his debut novel the train was in time. This is his second novel and like his debut deals with world war two whereas, on the whole, his later works deal with post-war Germany and the aftermath of the war. This book deals with the war but also in a way how Boll as a catholic struggle at times with the war. It also captures the death of the Nazis and the german army falling apart.

Now there were only three times thirty-five men, a weary, dust-coated platon, with sore feet and sweating faces, led by a first lieutenant whose face plainly showed that he was fed to the teeth. As soon as he took command they j=knew what kind of man he was. All he had done was look at them and, tired as they were, and thristy, thiursty they could read it in his eyes: It’s a lot of shot,said his expression, “Just a lot of shit, but we can’t do a thing about it” and then came his voice, with studied indifference, contemptous of all regulation commands: let’s go

The war weary troops in the opening chapter.

The book is nine chapters that are very loosely connected they start with a colonel and his men facing defeat on the front the sense of loss being the worst thing that could happen even the password is Victory. As some of the men end up in hospital this is the next part of the book as the recovery in the hospital the first part from the view of a colonel as he relives the brighter times of women and sparkling wines. Then there are two character sergeant and a corporal who is working in the hospital and are dealing with Hungarians selling vegetables and then there is a brain-injured major the reminds me of the characters in fifty-first dates as he says the same word ever so often. Then we see a solider fall for a jews women this relationship between Private Feinhals and Ilona he falls in love with this teacher and then is sent to the front with his comrades in a furniture van they had got to take them to a battle in a village whilst this happens Ilona is sent to a concentration camp. Then we see the other characters story tied up as the horror and aftermath of the war

As he entered the patients room the captain said in a low, hollow tone:” Byelogorshe” Schmitz knew it was pointless to look at his watch; that rhythm was more precise than any watch could ever be, and while he sat on the edge of his bed, the medical history in his hands, almost lulled to sleep by that ever-recurring word, the tried to figure out how such a thythm could come about – what mechanism, what clockwork, in that appallingly patched up, sliced up skull, was releasing that monotonus litany?

The brain injured soldier is like the characters in fifty first dates as his life and the word he speaks is in a loop !!

This is a no barred view of the war. Boll served in the army and was injured a number of times so the time in the hospital so the scenes are all I imagined taken from his time in the war. It captures the effect of the war on the ordinary man and also the actions of the war on someone like Boll that was catholic this is captured in a scene at the concentration camp where a Jew sings perfectly a catholic song in Latin in the Camp choir leaving one of the soldiers on what race means. written six years after the war whereas his debut was written as the war was happening this is an early example of what is called Trümmerliteratur which Boll was one of the main members of the group which dealt with the German reaction to the war from those on the ground level. it shows love death and all those in between.

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