The Marquise of O by Heinrich Von Kleist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marquise of O by Heinrich Kleist

German Literature

Original title – Die Marquise von O

Translator – Nicholas Jacobs

Source – review copy

Well I have only one before reviewed a book where it has two translations that was the double translations of Cre Na Cille that came out a few years ago well I have an updated translation of one of the greatest German writers works that of Heinrich Von Kleist a writer that influenced writers in particular Kafka he was describer in the encyclopedia Britannica as Kleist’s whole life was filled by a restless striving after ideal and illusory happiness, and this is largely reflected in his work. He was by far the most important North German dramatist of the Romantic movement, and no other of the Romanticists approaches him in the energy with which he expresses patriotic indignation. I have reviewed this a part of a collection a number of years ago but didn’t focus on this story.

In M -, An important town in Northern Italy, the widowed Marquise of O – A women of impeccable reputation and mother of well-brought up children, made it known through the newspapers that she had inexplicably found herself in a certain condition, that the father of the child she would bear should make himself known, and that out of regard for her family she was resolved to marry him. The woman who under the pressure ofirremeediable circumstances took such a strange step, risking universal derison with such fortitudewas the daughter of Colonel G

A sort of whose the father Jeremy Kyle style forthe time

The Marquis of O is a novella set during the Napoleonic wars. it starts with a startling piece from a newspaper THat in M a town in Northern Italy has found herself in a certain condition and she wants the father of the child to make himself known. She is the daughter of Colonel G and has arrived at his home in this state after her husband died some years earlier. The early part of the book follows the events leading to the Marquise ending up this way. which saw her home overrun by Russian soldiers and at the risk of being used by them she is saved by Count F who then saves her but later appears to have died and then return and he tries to gain the hand of the Marquise but in the meantime she has been cast out and is returning to her dead husbands estate.

THe Marquise came with her two children to the forecourt of the castle where shooting, now at its heaviest, was already lighting up the night, forcing her, out of her mind where she sould turn next, back into the burning building. Her she was unfortunate enough to meet a band of hostile riflemen just as she was intending to slip out by the back door. At the sightof her they suddenly fell silent and slung their weapons over their shoulders and took her with them whilst making abominable gestures.Tugged and pulled this way and that by hte terrifying pack fighting among themselves

Her fate seems doomed her when she ran into the gun men by her old house

This has many twists in the tale and like the best of Kafka there is a little of not knowing who is who here with no full names just Colonel G , count F and Marquise of O remind me of the way Kafka never used characters full names them there is the hint that the Marquise may have been raped not clearly in the book but there is a feeling that something is wrong with how the baby was conceived.. Will the count ever be able to make the Marquise his Countess ? The book leans on the lines that see the Count take the MArquise when she is very tired from the group of Russian soldier is this when they had relations? it isn’t said but implied. It is also a studied into how people react under stress Her father the Marquise, the Count each act differently.  I enjoyed this new translation I remember the story didn’t grab me much in the collection as I choose two other stories to describe in the collection I hope that Pushkin get some of the other Von Kleist works to translate especially An Earthquake in Chile and Michael Kohlhaas which where the two stories I liked in the other collection.

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Milena, Milena, Ecstatic by Bae Suah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milena, Milena,Ecstatic by Bae Suah

Korean short fiction

Original title – 밀레나, 밀레나, 황홀한

Translator – Deborah Smith

Source – review copy

I read Bae Suah Wiki page and was interested. That she had studied Chemistry and was working in the airport on the disembark desk and had taken writing up as a hobby when she got a story published. An inspiration to all writers I think. I also read there she had spent a year in Germany and has translated books from German in Korean including works by Sebald, Erpenbeck and Kafka. This short book is only 35 pages long.

On his occasional visit to a cafe, he onlyever drinks espresso – It’s the only kind of coffe whose flavour is strong enough to neutralise the taste of machine. He always orders two singles rahter than one double, drinking one first, then the other, so as to experience the difference in temperature, foam and mouthfeel – just like he does at home. It jappens to be a mild day, when the cries of the collared dove can be heard, he set the cup on the table by the window, so the coffee receives the morning light. Cold coffee doesn’t bother him especially. Neither does feel the fine granules against his tongue and against his throat.

His odd coffee habit of two singles instread of a double.

This is a third-person narrative of a day in a man’s life. Hom Yun is a bit of hipster in the way Bae describes him he only drinks Double espresso but has them as two single shots. We see his day from a man that loves to read in the bath he has one book a copy of Letters to Milena which links to Bae time in German and also in a way to this story they are a collection of Kafka letters. The letters haunt him and also the former owner of his collection from the inscription in the book. This story then takes a strange turn as Hom is dressed and of to an interview at a Cultural foundation that he doesn’t quite remember to apply for with his film project that is a mix of fiction and Documentary around the Scythian graves that Herodotus wrote about in his histories. Hom is usually a loner in his filmmaker but this is his biggest idea and he may need an assistant so when he leaves the Foundation the secretary from there follows Hom and then spends the night trying to get him to hire them in a strange Kafkaesque even of cross meanings between the two.

HIm yun examines the inside cover. There, someone has written a sentence in German, in pencil stiff and crooked as though the writer were not familiar with the German alphabet and had simply copied out the words, the handwriting scattered clumsily and slanted irregularely and in indvidual strokes that did not join up with each other

“Ecstatic MIlena”

There are no marking other than that single sentence, whichhe absolutely had not written himself. This means that this book is not Hom Yun’s

THe letter to Milena that he owns isn’t his own !

This book has some subtle details in it like Hom habit of splitting his double espresso into two single shots so he can experience each shot at a different temperature. The sitting in the bath reading, the way he dressed in all black made him seem like a real hipster to me. There is a number of nods to Kafka the love of his book the evening he spends with the secretary which takes many odd turns. Then Hom being haunted by his letters to Milena. This is a short novella but feels like much more after you have read it He jumps of the page this hipster filmmaker and his mad film idea is well built around his idiosyncratic behaviors. This is part of a collection of short Korean works called The Yeoyu series from stranger press there are seven other books in the collection.

10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

British Turkish fiction

Source – Library

I briefly met Elif when she was a judge at the IFFP prize a number of years ago. So when this made the Booker shortlist this year with a few other books I had been interested in I decide to do a little challenge of reading them and this was the first book of the list it is Elif’s eleventh novel I had reviewed an earlier book by her Honour. She has written books in both English and Turkish. She also speaks of women’s rights, minority rights, Freedom of speech and of course Turkey.

She saw herself as a baby – Naked, slick and red.Only a few seconds earlier she had lefther mother’s womb and slid througha wet, slippery passage, gripped by fear wholly new to her, and here she was now in a room full of sounds and colours and things unkown. Sunlight through the stained glass windows dappled the quilt on the bed and reflected off the water in a porcelain basin, despite it being a chillyday in January. Into that same water an elderly woman dressed in shades of autumn leaves- the midwife-dipped a towel and wrung it out, blood trickling down her forearm.

Mashallah, mashalla its a girl

The midwife took a piece of flint, which sha had tucked awayin her bra and cut the ummbilical cord.

I loved the image of the flint in the midwifes hand cutting the cord.

 

This book focus on what would be in a paper may be a small byline and brief description and that is the murder of a prostitute. The Prostitute in by the name is called Tequilla Leila as she is upturned in a bin her life is drifting away and for the last ten minutes she remembers smells that recall her life in parts as each smell leads to a Proustian recall. From Salt which takes her back to her birth and the midwife cutting her from her mother with a piece of Flint. Then Lemon and sugar and the Grand house of her youth that once belonged to an Armenian doctor each minute drifts by and her life moves forward and the smell of Cardamon coffee and the reason she heads to Istanbul and into the brothels after an event with an Uncle. She falls in with five friends that become her second family a man besotted with her and transvestite, a dwarf a singer and a stunning Somalian. Their stories intertwine with Leila own as the minutes tick down her life draws to an end. To a last taste of the strawberry cake and the second half of the book that starts in the morgue and sees what happens with her friends and the aftermath of Tequilla’s Leila life.

Zaynab was born a thousand miles away from Istanbul, in an isolated mountain village in Northern Lebanon. Fpr generations the Sunni famlies in the area had only intermarried, and dwarfism was so common in the village that they often attracted visitors from the outside world- Journalists, scientists and the like. Zaynabs brothers and sisters were average sizes and when the time came they would marry, one after another. Among her siblings she alone had inherited her [arents condition, both of them little people

One of the side stories of her friends the dwarf Zaynab !

I loved the first half of the book the Proustian remembrance of Lelia’s life as she laid dying as the tastes of her life from the salt of her skin and being cut from her mother with a sharpened piece of flint to a strawberry cake each leads to events in the life and shows how one event turns this woman life but also lead her into a different group of friends this is a side character of a Pamuk novel brought to Life this is a colorful view of the Brothels of Istanbul and shows how each woman there has her own story of how they end up there and turned into a beautiful work of fiction that brings to life their world. A strange fact is that there is a woman in a bin in duck Newburyport which I am a third into already. I have read a number of other books from Istanbul but none has brought to life this underbelly of the city!

 

Years like Brief days by Fabián Dobles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years like brief days by Fabián Dobles

Costa Rican fiction

Original title – LOS AÑOS, PEQUEÑOS DÍAS

Translator – Joan Henry

Source – personal copy

I don’t often get to feature a new country on the blog and this is the 121 new country on the blog. This was for Spanish lit month but a bit late. Fabian Dobles was one of the leading voice in the generation 40 group of writers from Costa Rica. This was chosen by UNESCO as a representative work, Dobles was known for his social realism in his writing. He wrote Novela and short stories this Novel came out about twenty years ago. He grew up in a small town and his father was a village doctor like the father of the Old man in this book.

The seventy-year-old man closedhis eyes for a long time, and when he opened them at the entrance to the street, the Alajuela SportsLeague and Heredia Sports club were contending in a veteran match of five a side. It was already five goals to nine when a woman neighbour broke in to protest at the cloud of dust that the boys had raised, and his mother came out on the footpath, clapped her hands loudly and called for order, and the game stopped.( What a pity! When it was begingingto be first rate. Everybody quitened down, unlucky us )#

He arrives back in his home village.

We meet our unnamed narrator he is seventy and has decided to drive home in his old cars to his home village. He takes his wife this is the place where they meet. As he arrives in the village we see the events in his past as he relives his life. He was going to seminary school where he was sent to by his father. Until he was abused by a priest this event affects his relationship and his life especially with his parents. He held back what happened to him to this moment and in a letter to his dead mother. Then there is the father he is the village doctor like Dobles’s own father this man in his memories is a violent man lashing out at animals but he also remembers him standing up for the rights and being embraced in the African American community whilst working in New York as a young doctor. It sees a man looking back over his life and tries to forgive those who hurt him especially his father. Also, he remembers those first sexual awakenings with his wife. He also sees poverty more now than he did in things like the type of horse people have from the perfect Arab of the rich people to the half breed horse of the poor.

Dear mama,

Days became year, years piled up like brief days. One of those day you died. No you’re here, then you went away. I’ll never again be able to say. “How goes it Mama?” Ypu were so old and inoffensive when you went away from us saying farewell for ever, and theat letter,  the last oneyou wrote me, was bever answered

The letter to his mother about what happened all those years ago ..

The writer was seventy when he wrote this book so one imagines a number of events in this book are taken from his own life his father was a doctor and he was also like the character in this novel was sent to seminary school but like our narrator, he left it after a number of events as well. This is a book full of memories it reminds me of the later novel of other writers I have read over the years from Gunter Grass with his biographies or old man and the sea by Hemingway. Both of which share the feeling of looking back over one’s life and seeing the faults and maybe forgiving those who have made their life hard in the past and also the joyful moments like meeting his wife.

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård

Swedish fiction

Original title – Välkommen til Amerika

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – review copy

I featured this on my woman in translation month covers post it is the second novel by the Swedish novelist Linda Bostrom Knaugard is the ex-wife of the Norwegian writer Karl Ove and her mother was a well known Swedish actress. She has written three novels her first glimpse of fame was a dark collection of short stories called Grand Mal.  She has bipolar which was part of a Swedish documentary about her life living with it. She has also written a daily column for a regional Swedish newspaper.

He was dead. All at once, great spaces opened inside me. Spaces the silence filed, An immense calm came over me in the beginning, and the sense that this what had always been missing.

I never let on to anyone about me, god, and my dad. That knowledge was something I had to bear myself

What else did my thought say? They lurked and pounced on me. The were noisy, and I batted the air with my hab=nds, the way you do to swat a fly

This shows how she reacted to her fathers death and the thoughts about him.

Welcome top America has a young narrator called Ellen. Her family is a strange collection her brother is barricaded in his room and is using bottles to urinate in. Her mother is an actress she is also the rock of the family and is acting as thou every in the family is normal. She struggles with her daughters silence and what she says. Ellen is under the belief she has killed her father. The father is mentally ill and he has been institutionalized and has terrorized the family for. years but he has died and the past is shown in Ellen remember how he was with them,. Ellen has stopped talking what we have is her internal monologue on those around her family of light as she says about her family this comes from her mother. Our narrator often wished her father died for the way he had made the family feel so when she prayed for him to die in a fire and that happens it sends her into a mute spiral of guilt.

Before, I would often go with my mum to the theatre. I don’t do that anymore, I hear her go lout and come back The last time I saw her perform she was a fallen statu of liberty wishing the immigrants welcome to America. She was bald, with a shard of mirror stuck on her brow. She’d lost her torch. I loved it. The way they’d made her up. The way she shone and shone on the stage. Welcome to america, Welcom to America

I felt the urge to write those exact words in my notebook. But I stopped myself. You’ve got to be strict. You can’t just follow the impulses that criss-cross the mind in their little tunnels of light.I could see my thoughts.They were everywhere

The lines she quotes are mixed up later with an image of her father saying them as well.

This is a short dark powerful book the paperback is 122 pages but or huge text and well-spaced out so is more of a novella than a novel. It shows the exploding from the child’s view when one has an abusive parent from isolation to silence in the two children and in a way with the in denial it has effect everyone. Ellen is a stark narrator she has captured that child-like view of the world very black and white and how the guilt of prayer for what would be a new life without her father there has cost her the voice and made her withdraw. The mother keeps them together but is also in denial about what happened the title is a reference to the fact she is in a play about the Statue of Liberty and this is maybe a nod to what it says on the statue “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” Tis is just what this family need the light of liberty and the healing of liberty ! A powerful work this is like a mini-series taken down to a great trailer it seems more than it parts.

 

Two new Istros titles A wild woman and a lost place

I am a huge fan of Istros books as Susie the publisher has brought us so many great books from the Balkans and Mittel europa and here we have an example of both here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild woman is set against the tough 1970’s in Croatia as we follow a love affair between to literature students as they plunge into an early marriage only for them to discover her other half is a womanisering freeloader. Stuck in a marriage and trying to break free of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have an example of Mittel European literature and two novellas post after his death by the Jewish writer Ludovic Bruckstein he was born in Czechslovakia in what is now Ukraine and grew up in the northern region of Transylvania an area which at the time he grew up had a large Jewish community and the books show the effect of the Holocaust on these rural Carpathian villages and how they were havens of religious and racial acceptance before the dark times of the war and after. Have you read you read any books from Istros have you a favorite?

That was the month that was August 2019

  1. A nail and a rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe
  2. Doppelganger by Dasa Drndric
  3. And the wind sees by Guðmundur Andri Thorsson 
  4. Scar by Sara Mesa
  5. The last days of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tyszka
  6. Transfer window by Maria Gerhardt
  7. Shadows on the tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiūtė
  8. One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Mrquez

Book of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any ont that has read the blog the last few years won’t be surprised that I have chosen this collection of two short stories by the late great Dasa Drndic. A writer I was lucky to meet and admire more after meeting her and seeing her view of the world which was similar to mine. I still have her last novel, for now, to hope we see more of her earlier books in English.

Last month

I managed to review eight books on the blog from eight countries from seven publishers a mix for Women in translation month and Spanish lit month. I also did thirty covers from women in translation from all around the world past and present. My reading took me from Belgian housewife in the inter-war years, two stories with mirroring themes one a doomer love affair between an older couple. Then two stories one capturing a second in Iceland as a woman in dotty dress cycles by and then a warped internet love affair. Then death from the last years of the late Venezuelan l,eader Hugo Chavez after that I had a story from a woman in the futuristic hospice than the last two books a lost tale of a woman’s Gulag years and a family saga set in Macondo in the Jungle in Columbia.  An interesting month

Non-book events well I have been listening to the debut album by the punk band Black midi another new band for this year my end of year record review for this year will be interesting as caught many new bands this year

 

30 covers for #WITMONTH An Italian reborn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My last cover for this series of post is an example of a writer being rediscovered and this is one in recent years has seem a revivial and that is the Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg.THis is a collection of short essays by the late Italian writer that has seen a number of her books reissued in the last few years. I reviewed this book here.

One hundred year of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – Cien años de soledad

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

I said this was this year read-along for Spanish lit month. I got out my copy which isn’t the one I read but a later edition I read it from the library as I did most of my books in my late teens the little Library in Alnwick was a great gem. I am not much of a rereader but I decided to go back and cover this as it has been five years since Marquez passed he is still the giant of the Latin American boom. I dod wonder if I would find it as engrossing as I did when I read it all those years ago sometimes my not wanting to reread is a wanting to avoid the disappointment of a book seeming less on second reading.

MAny years later, as he faced the firing squad, colonel Aureliano Buendia was to rememeber that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe house, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormus, like prehistoric eggs.The world was so recent that many things lacked names and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point

The stunning opening of the book as some one on twitter sad maybe the best !!

I then set off to the strange village of Macondo and to the founding family of that Village the Buendia family. The village is an island or is it that is the point of the book it is a family history but a lot of the book you see each generation as similar or as a pale copy of the previous in a way the use of similar names in fact in most generations the same name Aureliano is a name a family name that crops up in the second generation after Jose Arcadio Buendia the founder of the village, in fact, the opening lines is his son and the closing lines is another Aureliano in a more modern Macondo. The village seems to want to avoid moving forward the solitude of the title is the village it ways each generation is a subject to some family intermarrying first cousins etc. Each generation also has a beautiful and alluring female Remedios, Santa Sofia, Remedios the beauty (another recurring name !). A band of visiting gypsies that bring the great inventions of the day and whose lead dies but comes back to the village.pilar that lived for 140 odd years after sleeping with some brothers. These all add to the mystic and strange feeling of the whole place being caught in a revolving door of time.

During a pause in the caresses. Jose  Arcadio stretched out naked on the bed without knowing what to do while the girl inspire him. A gypsy woman with splendid flesh came in a short time after accompanied by a  man who was not of the caracan but who was not from the village either, and the began to undress in front of the bed. Without meaning to, the woman looked at Jose Acradio and examined his magnificent animal in respose with a kind of pathetic fervour

The women in Marquez’s book always seem similar as thou remembered from his own past

So was it worth rereading well yes I loved it like I did the first time I know some people get lost with the names and generations but I let flow over me like a river and just drift with Marquez prose for me, the book is full of him as a writer? I have cover five of his book before on the blog. The pace Macondo is a veiled version of his home town of Acacataca part of the history mirror-like the arrival of the fruit company something that happened itself in the village. A beautiful woman well this is maybe where he will fall down at some point in the future as Marquez loved to describe beautiful women in his books I often feel he is describing the same group of young women from his teen years over and over again. Then there is the revolving sense of the village and this is something that seems more distant now than it did when I first read the book I remember visiting the distant village in Northumberland and the people I picked up for the elderly  day centre known the history of these places back for years and generations like the Buendia family also the way he misses giving technology encroaching on Macondo something that has been lost as the internet and everything it brings has steamrollered that world. It is fair to say yes this book was as good in fact in a way it has changed how I viewed it in the twenty-plus year since my first reading Marquez was a master of what he did

30 covers for #WITMONTH A japanese favourite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think most readers now stat with Murakami as there first Japanese writer but for me, in the early nineties, it was the novel Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto a book about a woman overcoming her grandmother’s death. I read a number of her books over the years. But when I come to do this list I have seen it has been more than a decade since I read a book by her and I need to add her to my blog. It is sad I haven’t cover her before now as her voice is one I have alway enjoyed.

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