Portrait of the mother as a young woman by Friedrich Christian Delius

 

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman

Portrait of the mother as a young women by Friedrich Christina Delius

German Fiction

Original title – Bildnis der Mutter als junge Frau

Translator – jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

My Wandering Days Are Over”

You know my wandering days are over
Does that mean that I’m getting boring?
You tell me
I’m tired of listening to myself now
I’m tired of fixing things for Michael and the rest of them

You know my bip-bopping days are over
I hung my boots up and then retired from the disco floor
Now the centre of my so called being is
The space between your bed and wardrobe with the louvre doors

I said “My celibate days are over”
You put me straight on the finer points of my speech rehearsed
In the mirror of my steamy bathroom
Where the lino tells a sorry story in a monologue

Well after watching the film last night of Stuart Murdoch first film , I thought of his lyrics as he seems to capture what is going on in the mind so well in his songs and wandering days from Belle and Sebastian debut album seemed just right .

Well I reach last of the first year of Peirene books , the year of the woman series and this was actually Peirene no 1 .Now I will spare you another stream of consciousness homage  review like I did for the first review .Since the book came out FC Delius has written three more books and won the Georg Buchner prize , considered the most important prize in German literature .

Her beloved husband could not have sought out a better refugee , she could not have found a lovelier German island , and the child inside her stirred at these thoughts , she stopped , felt the movement of the little legs and arms , she took this as a sign of consent and responded by slipping her right hand under her coat and slowly stroking her dress and curved belly ,

Just as she is walking clues to a forthcoming son maybe ?!

The book follows a young woman on a walk through the streets of Rome to see a Bach concert , whilst taking this walk we enter her mind and see what she is thinking as she is walking her husband is due to be moved to fight for the Germans on the African front again .A clue to what is making her think this is the fact she has just left the doctors ! She things over her past present and future as she walks alone , things like a concert they saw in kassel ( I remember this although near end of the book as it is where an old girlfriend of mine was from so I spent time in Kassel years ago ) .What comes across is the feeling of being a woman lost during the war , a husband away fighting for the homeland and wondering how the world they live in  end up this way .

every time she went to church this old poster reminded her of the days shortly before her engagement in October ’40 , when Gert and she had heard Orpheus and Eurydike in Kassel Opera House and had so enraptured by the blissful music that afterwards she hummed the she is gone , and gone for ever ,

The scene from earlier in their relationship when they were in kassel .

Now to be honest I struggled to review this book five years ago and still have this time , although I enjoyed it more second time round and felt I got more out of the prose this time .There is a real sense of being in the mind in the thoughts of the woman , who has just left the doctors and is thinking mainly back on her life and meeting her husband and their life .There is also a bit of denial and fear in one she is trying yo avoid what may face her husband but also knows deep down what is happening and that at this point the war seems to have no end in sight in 1943 .It’s hard to imagine this book isn’t partly inspired by Delius own mother in some way , he was born in 1943 , which is the same year and time as the woman in the book leaves the doctor in January 1943 .I made more of the connection to James Joyce in the first review , of course the title is a play in a way to Joyce’s book a portrait of an artist as a young man .Delius has written this in a modernist style but it isn’t as complex prose wise as say Joyce or Woolf .More a nod to these master using a small glimpse of time a walk to a concert , like the day of Ulysses or day of Mrs Dalloway’s party to expand a small amount of time into a lifetime and the events of a simple walk through the mind’s eye become the events of ones life .

Have you read this book ?

Stones in a landslide by Maria Barbal

stones in a landslide

Stones in a landslide by Maria Barbel

Catalan fiction

Original title – Pedra de Tarera

Translator – Laura McGloughkin and Paul Mitchell

Source – Review copy

Bored yet busy with my hands
Cargill you’ll have me round the bend
Cargill you’re pulling all the strands
Of my heartstrings entangled in your net

My luck’s turned thrawn
Always the quayside chores
A sister on each arm
Strong of shoulder weak at the knees
Cargill I’m the finest catch that you’ll land

Cargill do not presume to understand
The dread of counting home the fleet
The sudden thrill of seeing you’re safely back
Your catch has fallen at your feet

King Cresote Lyrics for Cargil from his recent album seemed perfect he comes from a small village near my Aunties house in fife .

Well when asked for my favourite book by Peirene , I always say this one , I sometimes thnk I may be the only person  that thinks it is their best at the time  when I read it five years ago was a perfect book .So I was a bit scared to reread this one , would it be the same now as it was then ? would I connect with it as I did five years ago ?  Well we will find out in a min , the real sad point of this story is Maria Barbal hasn’t had any more books translated and brought out in English  since this one came out  , which is a shame !

My aunts and uncle’s house was very big almost as big as my parents house ‘ at Ermita .Many years ago it must have been a house full or people and hustle and bustle because it had a ground floor and two storeys and then a loft under the roof

Amazed at the size ,but also how empty the house she has come to work is .

Stones in a landslide is the story of one woman , well woman when we first meet her she is really still a girl Conxa , who at 13 is sent from her own little village to another Village , to work for her better off aunt .This is like being torn from one world to another for the young girl , then years later she falls in love with a man .But is this to be cut short by the spanish civil war ?

They liked everything ; the chorizo and the black pudding ,the cuts of ham .They liked the bacon .Its much tastier than the stuff down their ,they would say .I enjoyed seeing how they kept helping themselves to more and the way they used their knives .

early on in new village , I choose the same quote as I did in the first review as it shows Conxa’s wonder at her new life .

Now in my first review , I marvelled in the small world of Conxa , how even the short journey from her home village to her aunts village ,in her eyes is like moving from one world to another ! .I compared it at the time to the Northumberland I heard of as a young man working in a day centre with the elderly ,when they used speak about the small villages and places in and around Alnwick struck me the same as conxa’s world and still did .But now more than five years ago ,has this world gone ? when we all spend our lives looking at glowing screens of various sizes , has the village died ? somewhat but through books like this it is kept alive .A world caught in Amber so to speak and we are the outsides looking in at it .So did it hold up to my placing it top of Peirene pile well yes it did , is it still my favourite yes it is so to go back to last part of my review and actually part of my early reviews I may bring back !

Winston’s score

mountain goat a bit mad I used compare books to things but this book is like the mountain goat symbol of the Pyrenees this book is tough and clings to the mountain of the mind !

spainsh goat ,via telegraph website

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

beside the sea 1

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

French fiction

Original title – Bord de mer

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

I can live with the sky falling out from above
I can live with your scorn, your sourness, your smug
I can live growing old alone if push comes to shove
But I can’t live without my mother’s love

I can live flying round at an impossible pace
I can live with the bad etiquette that’s falling on this place
I can live with anything you’ve got to throw in my face
But I can’t live without my mother’s embrace

A sons love of his mother Sun kill Moon song I can’t live without my mothers love  , but what happens when a mother has despair at her sons and her life !

can it really be five-year I said to myself a couple of months ago , when I decide to revisit the first three books from Peiene press .They’ve been publishing books in translation as long as I’ve been running the blog and they have provided in that time some of the most thought-provoking books I have read .So back to the book beside the sea seems to be a favourite book from Peirene still after five-year among people who have read their books .I maybe the first time round wasn’t as grabbed as many readers were but this time I felt a greater connection to the book .

When they were both asleep it was hard for me .The talking started all on its own in my head , I hate that , thinking is a nasty piece of work .sometimes I’d rather be a dog , you can bet dogs never wonder what their place in life is or who they should follow , they just sniff the air and its all recorded , in there for ever .And they stick to it

The mother starts to think over night as her boys sleep

Beside the sea is the story of a mother and her two sons , on the surface we seeing them going on a holiday , maybe out of season but to the seaside as the three of them arrive on a bus late in the evening and find a hotel to stay in  . The mother is unnamed but her two sons are kevin and Stan , she is a single parent we are told little bits about how she had the boys and what the boys are like  at home and together how the older brother watches the younger brother and looks after him .But throughout the book this time you get a  sense all isn’t right  with the mother and the thoughts in her head .This time I read the book noticing a lot more little things that lead up to the end moment of the books ,when the mother makes a decision that will affect her and her boys for the rest of her life !

I dreamt of the sea , I remember , of Stan running towards the sea , into the sea , but not drowning, and me with no words left to call him back …  Where was Kevin ? I don’t know , I could feel him but not see him , it was like the sea was only there for Stan and two of them understood each other so well tht it couldn’t hurt him .

She pictures the boys beside and in the sea .

Now I have yet again in the summary of the book , I’ve  not mention the big event in this book because for me if someone hasn’t read the book its like when we told people who hadn’t seen the sixth sense at the cinema what had really happened to Bruce Willis .But in reread the books the clues are there through the books in the thoughts and way the mother talks about her sons .At the time of the first reading I had read a lot less French fiction but now five years on this book is easier to place in the French cannon .The way French fiction can explore emotions and actions maybe even thoughts that a writer has had and never carried out  , but where these actions and thoughts  could lead so one of the first French novels on this blog becomes the 51st French book on the blog .In my original review I mentioned Kitchen sink drama as an English equivalent of this  book , but now years on maybe this book is nearer the sort of film Ken Loach would make there is a real natural feel to the prose ,but because Olmi obviously knew what was going to happen at the end we get little bit thrown through out the story that point us when we get to the main event in the book .I also think this is a book that would have more of an impact if you are a parent yourself , I’m sure many people have felt the despair that this mother feels about her sons .

Have you read this book if not why not ?

Five wonderful years of Peirene Press lets go back to year one

stones in a landslide

This years sees the fifth year of Peirene press publishing the wonderful novellas in translation and on this #translationthurs , I m setting a challenge  for you all .They publish three books a year and each year has  a theme for the three books that  year .I for one have loved every single book I have read from them ,Meike seems to have a real talent to  bring three books on a theme every year that although different show different sides of the theme of the year and how this theme can be viewed around europe  . Any way its been five years since ,I read the first three books from Peirene so I’ve decide this  December I ‘m going to revisit those first three books on the theme of female voices  and review them again , to see if time has change my view of them but also to see if the five years since I reviewed them if this blogger has changed in the way I look at books ! I would love for some of my fellow bloggers to join in with just one or even all of the books , for the first time or just to revisit them like my self .The first three are beside the sea by Veronique Olmi  which has since been a play .Stone in a landslide by Maria Barbel , any one that has read this blog or followed me on twitter for any time know this is my all time favourite from Peirene , a classic of Catalan fiction and will tie nicely with the two recent books from there I have read .Lastly portrait of the mother as a young woman , a one sentence book that follows a young woman on one afternoon in Rome in 1943 .So just read and post over December if we use a hashtag of #peirene5  then we can see them on twitter .

What is your favourite book from Peirene press !! ?

March 2017
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