a couple of great christmas songs and a bonus story

Well I am having a rather quiet ,uneventful christmas this year we coming of a bad year and decide to hold back and go big in 2014 on our christmas then .But I must admit Christmas does always bring me to a few of my favourite christmas songs the first is obvious as it was recently voted the nation favourite christmas song and also is in the single charts for the umpteenth year (always tickles me with Shane McGowan birthday falling on Christmas day ,he must make a tidy sum year on year from  this classic ) The song is a story of a couples american dream falling apart around christmas and for me it’s as much about being in love and yes your dreams fail at times but you have each other and have your memories to fall back on .

The second song was from a few year ago and it was from the Bob Dylan christmas album it turns out after listening to the theme time radio hour Bob did on christmas he is a fan of christmas he even told every one on that show how he made his figgy pudding ,I ‘m sure this theme time show is online somewhere but couldn’t find it this evening .The song is called “it must be santa ” is also actually is rather Irish in its tune as well, has a feel of a reel as the song winds up and seems to speed up just as a reel does when it is played .The video was fun for this ,wouldn’t we all love bob at our Xmas party?

Now I promised you a story ,I do think in some ways  literature is the poor relation of christmas ,I know there are a number of christmas stories but it isn’t as big in novels as it is for singer and filmmakers both of whom seem to draw inspiration from the festive period more than writers .But one writer that did try a different take on the Christmas story is Paul Auster with his long short story Auggie wrens Christmas here it is read on a npr show from 2004 , by the writer himself .The story also form part of a film that Auster made with Wayne Wang an interlocking series of stories all connect with Auggie wren and his tobacconists ,if you haven’t watched it do as it has two great lead roles from Harvey Keitel and William hurt ,also a Forrest Whitaker tour de force as a father discovering his son for the first time .

Have you a favourite Christmas story or song ?

Happy christmas from Winston and I to you all ,I will be back with my Humbook choices tomorrow .

Under this terrible sun by Carlos Busqued

Under Sun

Under this terrible sun by Carlos Busqued

Orginial title – Bajo Este sol Tremendo

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – review copy

Well I decide to review some of the wonderful books from Frisch and co over the next few weeks .Frisch and co are an e-book only piublisher of translated fiction and now just before christmas seemed a great time with Tablets and eReaders being this years top gift for most people ,everyone will be waking up on Christmas day turning there eReader or tablets on and wanting to place some great books on so I will point you in Frisch and co way .This book by the Argentina writer Carlos Busqued ,is a Buenos Aires based writer this book was his debut novel and was listed for the Prix Herralde ,it won praise for its use of direct language that may be vile but takes you to the heart of the expression .

The phone rang. The caller ID said “unknown,” which meant a call from a public telephone. Or from a person who was deliberately hiding their number. He didn’t answer.

Who is the call from ?

Under this terrible sun although quite unique in the books from Argentina I have read can be said to be in a vein of books from there ,the Lit thriller / crime novel .The pacing of the writing is very much like a thriller and the style is more akin to a lit novel .The book centres on a son whose mother has died this son Cetarti ,is a bit of a loser , well he remind me of a character that had maybe be cut from the Coen brother film The big lebowski or a side figure in Pynchon inherent vice ,this guy lives in a world of weed and documentary tv ,especially programmes about Giant squid for some reason .So Cetarti heads north to the part of Argentina his mother whom he had lost real touch with  when she lived .So he heads to the north of Argentina where he is  meet by the Lawyer Durate that is dealing with his mother’s estate .This leads to a side story of this Lawyers sideline and the man that helps him with this sideline Daniello (Now I viewed this guy as rather like the northern Argentina version of Cetarti a laid back dud that tends to follow what he is told to do just for an easy life ) Well the sideline happens to be transferring porn from old videos to digital content .Well that is the story it develops as we see the vile nature of the porn the men deal in and the waiting for the estate to be settled and how ever  there may be fraud involved .

He missed his car. At that moment, he would have liked to get on the highway with no specific plan. Cruise along the national highway system smoking the marijuana he had left, only stopping in service stations to fill up on gas, shower, and eat. He had a pleasant memory of the insects smashing against the windshield seconds after being illuminated by the car’s headlights. Sleep on the side of the road. Go with the flow. Smash into something on the road, in the final hours of an afternoon.

I choose this quote as it was highlighted by E J the publisher on the copy I read on Readermill .

Well this book owes as much to American lit as it does Argentinian lit .I was reminded of the later Pynchon book like  inherent vice  involves figures like this at the edge of life  ,stoners ,chancers  all feature in this book  .I also felt the porn section remind me of films like 8mm, where we open the door on the extremes of human nature ,very hard to read and eye-opening but this world exists and we are shown how vile it can be by this book .It also had a lot of similar tones to other recent Argentinian books I ve read that I would say fit into this Lit crime/thriller genre from Argentina they would be My father ghost climbing in the rain by Patricio Pron a son returns and uncovers his fathers past ,rather like this a man arrives and finds out more than he expected ,then there is also Carlos Gamerro’s books both on this lit crime feel and both follow men discovering more than want .This book is about discovering the underbelly of Argentina post the dictators that have often fuel the lit of the region what happens when they are gone how do some people go on ?

Have you a favourite novel from Argentina ?

The lost honour of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum  or how violence develops and where it can lead  by Heinrich Böll

Original title – Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann

German fiction

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

A couple of years ago I review the German Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll best known book billiards at half past nine .Böll  he refused to join the Hitler youth as a boy took an apprenticeship as a bookseller before becoming a full-time writer aged thirty .He was chairman of German PEN for a long time and then he chaired International PEN .He won the nobel prize in 1972 and passed away in 1985 .His book were mostly reissued in english a couple of years ago by Melville house .

Inquires into Blum’s activities during the four days in question progressed nicely enough at first ,and it was only when attempts were made to gather information about that sunday that they were brought up short

On the Wednesday afternoon Blorna personally paid Katharina Blum two full weeks wages at 280 marks per week ,one for the current week , the other for week to come

The reportage style of Böll writing in this book

 

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum ,follows Katharine Blum ,she gets drawn into a tabloid sensation after meeting a man at a party who it turns out is a bank robber  and she becomes the target of the newspaper “der zeitung “( this is thinly veiled version of the German paper der bild a sort of German  version of the sun ) .She is called a whore ,a communist sympathizer as she sees her private life torn apart by the paper and gets hate mail just for knowing one man . this leads her agreeing to do an interview with someone from the paper and now a couple of hours later she is at a police station giving this statement to the  police about recent events in her life  .What happened during that interview ? We see the story of her recent life unfurl .

Seven anonymous postcards , handwritten with “crude ” sexual propositions that in one way or another all included the words “communist bitch”

Four more anonymous postcards containing insulting political remarks but no sexual propostions .These marks ranged from “Red agitator ” to “Kremlin stooge ”

The fall out of what of Katharina Blum life in the papers .

 

The style of this book is like a police report or a bit of reportage we get a detached feel on the events in Katharina’s life and what lead to her agreeing to the interview and how she meet the man ,whom dragged her into the presses eyes .Amazing this book to say it was written in the 1974 before the modern scandals and rise of the modern celebs that have been caught in the media spotlight  ,Katharine blum reminds me of many people who have been in the  UK papers over the last few years people who have  gotten  caught up in a big story by chance  or accident , like the landlord of a recent victim of a killer  who saws his life invade by the papers by just being her landlord or the woman that hid her child .Katharine story is a bit more than theres in the end but we see how far some can be pushed by the tabloids and the prying eyes .For a book that is nearly thirty years old I would say the themes and style of Böll writing is still relevant today as much as ever .He captures what it is to have your life fall apart it seems .A small work that packs a punch above its weight .

Have you read Böll ?

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Thoams Bernhard the loser Faber Finds

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Untergeher

Translator – Jack Dawson

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

Well I couldn’t take part in German Lit month and not review  a book by Thomas Bernhard could I ? I had read this for Thomas Bernhard week I did earlier this year but held it back for German lit month .I have mention quite a bit about Thomas  Bernhard and his life in my previous reviews and pieces all found here .This is the Fifth book by him I have read and review on the blog  .

The teacher’s child ruined my Steinway in the shortest period imaginable, I wasn’t pained by this fact, on the contrary, I observed this cretinous destruction of my piano with perverse pleasure. Wertheimer, as he always said, had gone into the human sciences, I had begun my deterioration process. Without my music, which from one day to the next I could no longer tolerate, I deteriorated, without practical music, theoretical music from the very first moment had only a catastrophic effect on me. From one moment to the next I hated my piano, my own, couldn’t bear to hear myself play again; I no longer wanted to paw at my instrument.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 65-70). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Now The loser isn’t very different to the other books I have read by Thomas Bernhard .It is told in the form of a monologue a recollection of two mens life and the event before ,during and after a meeting with the world-famous pianist Glenn Gould .We never get told are Narrators Name as he recounts how he and his friend Wertheimer they are both studying Piano at Salzburg .They are invited to see Gould play the Goldberg variations and are to say the least blown away bu this mans talent ,more than any one they know or have seen play .This revelation brings the two men to the edge and we see how for a long time after they try to discover a new way as they now see the music they loved isn’t worth as much .The narrator left music to become a philosopher  .The other Wertheimer is drawn into a dark spin of suicide and a life falling apart .

If I hadn’t met Glenn Gould, I probably wouldn’t have given up the piano and I would have become a piano virtuoso and perhaps even one of the best piano virtuosos in the world, I thought in the inn. When we meet the very best, we have to give up, I thought. Strangely enough I met Glenn on Monk’s Mountain, my childhood mountain.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 97-99). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Well as you see this has all of the traits you would expect from a Thomas Bernhard Novel a narrator ,art in this case classical music ,life’s falling apart .Now what makes this stand out a bit is the inclusion of Glenn Gould ,he is a real figure and his life could almost read like a Bernhard novel .I must admit I am not a huge Classical fan but among the few Albums I do have is Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations which I got after seeing the film thirty short films about Glenn Gould in the nineties .

I advise if you haven’t seen it try to next time it is on tv or on stream somewhere .This book is less bile filed than say the woodcutter is similar in style the monologue is very like the woodcutter in the way it recounts past events .But this book is more about loss ,loss of a dream ,loss of direction .The German title is actually a word that means more than loser meaning one that goes under ,almost like in the Stevie smith poem these character are in a sea of music and are drowning after seeing Gould  and this book is them waving at us .

Have you listened to Glenn Gould ?

Midsummer Night by Uwe Timm

Midsummer night uwe timm

Midsummer Night by Uwe Timm

German Literature

Original title – Johannishacht

Translator – Peter Tegel

Uwe Timm is a name better known in German than English ,he is highly regard as one of the leading German writers of recent times .I had read him years ago with the invention of curried sausage ,so when a couple of years ago I was in LRB and saw this I decide to by it for a German lit month and this time round I ‘m reviewing it .Uwe Timm father died during world war to on the eastern front .He went on to study philosophy and German Literature in both Munich and Paris .He then went on to become a writer and has been a writer in residence .His last novel in German released this year had been long-listed  for the German book prize (the German equivalent of the booker )

A magazine editor asked me if I would be interested in writing something about potatoes : the Peru – Prussian connection .Potatoes and the German mentality .And of course personal potatoes preferences recipes .Fried potato affairs .He laughed .” You’re interested in stories about everyday things aren’t you .eleve to twelve pages , you can spread it out ”

The bizarre article request that takes our narrator to Unified Berlin .

Midsummer night follows a journey to write a piece about potatoes for a newspaper .This article happens to be at the same times  as there  plans to wrap the Reichstag by the conceptual artist Christo  .Our narrator discovers an east German has written a book about potatoes and the nutrition to be eaten .So our narrator heads into the night of Berlin and comes across a worker on a sex line ,arms dealers ,a designer and a drunk wedding party .He is also search for what his later uncles last words meant .So as over three days he sees all the city of Berlin has to offer .We see the melting pot that is Berlin post the wall falling this is 1996 and Bulgarian ,Poles ,old east Germans all mingle together as wee see the dark and light side of city life but also a large chunk of humour .

“They’re after me .”

“who ?”

“A gang of arms dealers .”There was a silence at the other end of the line I heard a faint astonished snort from Kubin , at any rate I decided the snort was astonished .”it sounds crazy ,I know “I said , “I’ve gotten involved in a really insane business ”

“Hogwash ,”  he said .”You’ve boiled over with your potatoes ”

The insane days and nights lead to this incident in the book .

 

Now this is a book you don’t expect from Germany a comic novel ,Our narrator is a writer with writer’s block that has taken this bizarre article to try to kick-start his writing of a new novel .We get the city at its maddest Middsummer has always been connect with people going slightly mad and we see some drawn into a bizarre world .This isn’t the berlin of Alexander platz or Even Wender Wings of desire ( der himmell über Berlin) .But it is the berlin of the follow-up film to Wenders  wings of desire ,faraway so close which is roughly set in the right time and like this book we follow a hapless chap round post communist unified Berlin fall in with arm dealers as well .Also the film has the same comic touches in this book are similar the woody Allen, like  people being caught in strange situations .This book could have been a film by Allen if he had been touring Europe as he seemed to have in recent years at the time the wall fell he would have made a film similar to this .It’s safe to say I hope you all root this lost gem of German Literature out as the book its self and its writer Uwe Timm need a wider audience in English .

Have you read Uwe Timm ?

Previous Older Entries

February 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728  
%d bloggers like this: