Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

German Non-fiction

Original title – Spazieren in Berlin

Translator – Amanda DeMarco

Source – personal copy

I managed to just squeeze the third read in for this week’s 1929 club and it was one I saw on the list of books when the year was announced earlier this year and was reminded about it I had seen it when it came out and had intended to look at it then but it had passed me by. So to get back to it Franz Hessel he was a friend of the great Walter Benjamin who has an essay at the start of the book about the book. He calls how Hessel a flaneur should look t the city afresh. The city of his birth with fresh eyes. Hessel himself with Benjamin had translated the works of Proust into German.

In the half-light of tinted lamps hanging in a number of smaller halls and rooms in the north as well as the west, same-sex couples circulate, here the girls and there the lads. Sometimes the girls are dressed, in a more or less pleasant manner, as men, and the lads as ladies. Over time their appetites, once a bold protest against the dominant moral laws, have become a rather harmless pleasure, and visitors who like to dance with the opposite sex are also allowed into these mellow orgies. They find a particularly favourable environment here. The men learn new nuances in tenderness from the female cavaliers, their partners learn from the masculine ladies, and your own “straight”-ness becomes a peculiar stroke of luck, as it makes you seem rather exotic. Oh, and the light fixtures are positively magnificent: wooden or metal lanterns with serrated frames, reminiscent of the fretwork of our boyhood.

I was reminded of cabaret her and imagine Isherwood sitting in his Berlin

I loved the idea of this book as I had just rewatched the two films Tilda Swinton had made more than 20 years apart, in fact, they could be seen as a cousin of these the first was just at the cusp of the wall falling and the second is the unified Berlin. She covers the same route on a bike across Berlin many points on her route  Hessel visited in his book. t Hessel had walked his Berlin in the late twenties what I first got from the book is that he had a way of looking but not jading the times one passage in the book really grabbed me about girls looking like boys and boys looking like Girls those characters that had fallen out of Cabaret or an Isherwood novel of the time. He captures a city that has underneath the horror that happened in the 15 years after he walk the city. meandering the city that would a few years later be gone. The longest piece is on a tour called the tour of the churches like St Peters etc. Also the old Royal buildings of Berlin, and the National Gallery. This is a flaneur a wander of the city this metropolis his fellow citizens. Then the Zoo places like the Newspaper district a place I wonder is dead like Fleet Street its London counterpart.

Excursioners in light-colored skirts and shift dresses climb the steps leading up to the station. Those lucky things, enjoying such a nice autumn day. Some also go through the narrow entrance to the little Wannsee train station. What I’d really like to do is follow them. A sail. boat, or even just a paddleboat.1 Potsdam and the Havel. see, the secret soul of Berlin, otherworldly places here on earth! And today a weekday. But now we’re arriving at Potsdamer Platz. The first thing to say about it is that it isn’t really a plaza at all, but rather what they call a carrefour in Paris, a crossroads, an intersection; we don’t really have the right word for it in German. That Berlin once came to an end at the city gate here, with country roads branching off from it–you’d have to have a well-informed eye to recognize that from the shape of the inter-section.

Part of the longest section of the book the Tour which remind me of Bois as Homer as he walked down Potsdamer Platz

Another image that came to mind when I read this was of Homer played by Curt Bois in Wings of desire (I so want the blu ray box set of Wenders going out soon but it is out of my price range I’ll have to wait). Bois’s character is seeking what was Potsdamer Platz in the rubble of the city in the late 80s. Bois walk also has old film of Potsdamer back in the day (Hessel is by Potsdamer in the section Fashion around Fashion houses and shops in the city and also the tor section). It’s a Shame Hessel died in the early years of the war in France a follow-up to this would be great like Swinton and my own remembrance of the city I have only been for a day and wish I could go back to Berlin it is a city that has had so many changes in the nearly hundred years since this book came out. This book is a forerunner of Psychogeography a distant cousin of Benjamins Opus to Paris Arcades (I have been reading this on and off for years ). Have you read this or any other great flaneur works of people wandering cities on foot and just taking it in like it was new and fresh to the writer’s eyes.

Winston’s score – A- a gem from this week’s 1929 club reminds me of a place I’d love to go and explore more and each for his ghosts and the ghost of what happened.

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A high Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

English fiction

Source – Personal copy

I always have a look on my shelves when the club year is announced and this was a book I already owned so it saved me from ordering another book and it is one I had long wanted to read, I think I may have seen the film when I was younger. Richard Hughes was a journalist and writer he wrote four novels I have another by him Fox in the attic. He was friends with Dylan Thomas who stayed with him. This book has been described as an inspiration for William Goldings Lord of the flies. Supposedly at the time, Hughes wrote the book he hadn’t visited Jamaica. But it is only featured in the first part of the book most of the action is on the sea.

The passage from Montego Bay to the Caymans, where the children had written their letters, is only a matter of few hours: indeed, in clear weather one can look right across from Jamaica to the peak of Tarquinio in Cuba.

There is no harbour; and the anchorage, owing to the reefs and ledges, is difficult. The Clorinda brought up off the Grand Cayman, the look-out man in the chains feeling his way to a white, sandy patch of the bottom which affords the only safe resting-place there, and causing the anchor to be let go to windward of it. Luckily,, the weather was fine.

The island, a longish one at the western end of the group, is low, and covered with palms. Presently a succession of boats brought out a quantity of turtles, as Emily described.

The natives also brought parrots to sell to the sailors: but failed to dispose of many.

The opening of the third chapter is as they set off on the first boat.

The book follows the aftermath of the Hurricane on an English Family in Jamaica whose property is destroyed by the storm. Which leaves the parents of the Bas-Thornton children to take the decision. It would be better to send their five children homeland in England. The children have very few memories of England and are sent with two creole children with them. They head to the port town Montego bay and on to a ship, the Clorinda with its captain Maypole the ship has barely set off when the ship is taken over by Pirates initially thaty seem to wan the cargo but then are looking for a safe they seize the children ( John, Emily, Edward, Rachel and Edward with the two creole Margaret and Harry.) and use them as leverage to get to know where the safe is on the ship. The chain of events that follows means the children end up with the pirates and the Captain Maypole of the ship Clorinda they were on writes to tell the parents the loss of the children rather than dying initially the pirates aren’t to bother with the kids but the chef and a couple of them befriend and the captain of the pirate ship takes a liking to Young Emily another has relations with another pirate as with the shackles of parental control the kids start to go rogue and act like the pirates, in fact, they maybe are worse than them. What will happen will they get home will they all get there alive what happens to them on that ship.

The children all slept late, and all woke at the same moment as if by clockwork. They sat up, and yawned uniformly, and stretched the stiffiness out of their legs and backs (they were lying on solid wood, remember).

The schooner was steady, and people tramping about the deck. The main-hold and fore-hold were all one: and from Where they were they could see the main-hatch had been opened. The captain appeared through it legs first, and dropped onto the higgledy-piggledy of the Clorinda’s cargo.

For some time they simply stared at him. He looked uneasy, and was talking to himself as he tapped now this Case with his pencil, now that; and presently shouted rather fiercely to people on deck.

And by the next chapter they awake to being on the pirate ship and what happens there.

I must admit I was one of those kids that never got into pirates which are maybe why I had never gotten to this book. But I was pleased the 1929 club gave me the nudge to read this book.I can see the connection to the lord of the flies and the way the children act once they are with the pirates.  This book maybe captures the last age of the pirates as it seems it is just as sailboats are making way for mechanical ships.I looked up to see if there had been cases of kids as pirates there were some kids in the 70s that were shipwrecked like the lord of the flies but they didn’t go like they did. I wonder if he had read an article about some kids taken by pirates as one of his other books In Hazard came from a news story. I’m sure there were children taken and became or were used by the pirates. It deals with the idea of what happens when there are no boundaries and no consequences for your actions on the young Bas Thorton children. He captures the darker side of childhood the book has a gothic feel at times in someways the writing reminds me of a couple of Daphne Du Maurier books I have read it maybe influenced her I feel he maybe was a Stevenson fan it is a darker cousin of Treasure island it also maybe has a nod to the books of Conrad another great writer of a ship bound fiction he captures that confined feeling of being on a ship on top of one another and how that makes people feel his trilogy of books set on the sea is set around the same time as both steamboats and sail ship share the high seas. Have you read this book or have you a favourite book set on the sea Pirate or otherwise?

Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – 蓼喰う蟲 – Tade kuu mushi

Translator – Edward G. Seidensticker

Source – personal copy

I’m back and the strange thing is I had covid last week so the break was a good idea as I wouldn’t have blogged last week it also means I’m probably only going review two books for this weeks 1929 Club but here I am with the first book for this week and it is a book from Japan. I always get the list of books published on the year for the club and try and find the ones in translation first that I may like to review. This title jumped out at me as I had featured a later book by Tanizaki in the 1956 edition of the club. Tanizaki is one of the best regarded and considered one of the founding figures of Modern Japanese fiction in the 20th century as his books follow both the working of the family and the changing times around him.

‘YOU THINK YOU might go, then?’ Misako asked several times during the morning.

Kaname as usual was evasive, however, and Misako found it impossible to make up her own mind. The morning passed.

At about one o’clock she took a bath and dressed, and, ready for either eventuality, sat down inquiringly beside her husband. He said nothing. The morning newspaper was still spread open in front of him.

‘Anyway, your bath is ready?

Oh.’ Kaname lay sprawled on a couple of cushions, his chin in his hand. He pulled his head a little to the side as he caught a suggestion of Misako’s perfume. Careful not to meet her eyes, he glanced at her – more accurately he glanced at her clothes – in an effort to catch some hint of a purpose that might make his decision for him. Unfortunately, he had not been paying much attention to her clothes lately. He knew vaguely that she gave a great deal of attention to them and was always buying something new, but he was never consulted and never knew what she had bought. He could make out nothing more revealing than the figure of an attractive and stylish matron dressed to go out.

the opening of the book we see the problem at the heart of the marriage.

This is described as his most personal book it focuses on the collapse of a marriage as we see what has caused the breakup. The couple Kaname and Misako are trying to navigate splitting up even on the first page there is a sense of distance when Kaname says he hadn’t noticed what Mistake had been wearing lately. He also early on laments the potential loss of his father I law which he feels he may miss more than his wife. He let his wife take a lover. The father-in-law is a very traditional man even his wife is like a doll ( in a very traditional dress and style even down to blacken teeth) This is part of the pull of the book is how the traditional world of Japan is disappearing as the book shows these two views modern western ideas versus tradition. The father-in-law is in the traditional world he loves traditional puppet theatre. The juxtaposed problems and themes in the book are how women are viewed and how the modern Misako maybe just wants her lover and not marriage and her son, as unlike her father’s view of a woman. It follows what happens when neither person in the marriage is brave or strong enough to say not is over. which creates a sense of inertia and causes tension also the fact they have a young son the status quo isn’t ideal as you sense the simmering tension but lack of wanting to end this marriage.

The images of the dolls, Koharu and O-san, were still vivid in Kaname’s mind. He was on edge, however, lest the old man begins his discourse on the serpent, the demon in a wife’s breast, and he found it difficult to stay politely through the lunch.

The doll as the object is part of the values and image of a woman dealt with in the book

I have reviewed three other books by Junichirō Tanizaki over the years it is hard to describe I am a fan but not a fan his books are slow-moving art times and aren’t the quickest to read but then the themes he deals with the clash of cultures the traditional world and modern world is something that I have always loved in fiction.I was reminded of those great books from Africa that followed a similar theme or even Pyre I reviewed recently that had marriage and traditional values at their heart. He is very good at the inside views of marriages. the inner workings of families. The things pulling at this couple from every side but also why divorce is really needed to solve the problems we see in this couple. I like way he describes how cultures clashes. Have you read any books from Him, what books have you chosen for this week’s 1929 club?

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