Journey through a Tragicomic Century by Francis Nenik

Journey through a Tragicomedy Century (The Absurd life of Hasso Grabner) by Franci Nenik

German Narrative non-fiction

Original title – Reise durch ein tragikomisches Jahrhundert. Das irrwitzige Leben des Hasso Grabner

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – review copy

I reviewed an earlier release from Francis Nenik. He is called the greatest unknown writer in Germany. I was caught by this book’s description so read the earlier work first. This is the first of three releases from the new publisher V&q books an English arm of a German publisher. the series is edited by the translator of this book the Berlin-based Katy Derbyshire. This was on a list of the 30 hottest books in Germany when it came out a few years ago. He has had a number of books translated into English.

On arrival he has to undress and is examined, numbered and showered. When he steps out of the washroom, he’s standing before me. Hasso Grabener, !.74 metres tall and 65 Kilogrammes heavy. He’s 23 years old, has a full head of brown hair and a large straight nose in a slightly haggard face. his chin is wide, his mouth of normal size, his lips averagely curved. Behind them is a complete set of teeth. He lookls quite healthy at first glance. His muscles are big and his bones are tonn. When he breathes in, he can extend his chest circumference to 93 centimetres, and when he breathes out there are still 81 centimetres left. He has no scars and tattoos, only a mole above the left corner of his mouth.His skin colour is white , his posture upright.

On his arrival to Buchenwald Hasso is healthy young man.

Francis Nenik discovered Hasso Grabner whilst he was researching a list of German poets for an essay. When one reads this book a narrative tale of his life and he led a life. He grew up in foster care after being born just before world war one. He got connected to socialism and communism at an early age. Of course as a young communist in Leipzig. Grabner is a chancer he eventually ends up in Buchenwald concentration camp eventually as the librarian in the prison library. He somehow manages to get let out and ends up in wartime Greece in Corfu in a penal troop but he helps the locals by letting them know to move the Jews out of the area. When they have to escape Greece he the fervent communist gets an Iron cross from the Germans. He settles in East Germany getting a job high up in the steelworks. Then becomes a writer but this leads to him being watched by the Stasi later in his career. he did in the mid 70’s.

Hasso Grabner, meanwhile, sticks out, continues his youth work, joins the Leipzig KPD’S district commitee, joins the Socialist unity party (SED), freshly cemented out of SPD and KPD in APril 46, immediately takes uo a ost in that party’s district council and, seeing as the unity party wants to see the youth united as well (And multiple burdens are a matter of course for Grabner the workhorse), is also chairman of Leipzig’s newly founded free Democratic Youth (FDJ) by March. Or not, as the case may be. The respective sources disagree on the matter. “HAsso Grabner becomes FDJ chairman, it says in one, while another stubbornly insists: “Alfred Nothnangel takes on chair of Leipzig FDJ”.

After the war he is a communist iun East Germany.

#This is like his earlier book I review one of those books that is written by someone with a love of history but also a love of those that have been passed by and in Hasso Grabner we have such a character. This is a life that shouldn’t be he was a chancer that maybe had mire lucj=k than most given his stubborn nature that must have helped. The book is a narrative journey through his life and those dreadful events over the last century. Nenik himself is a writer that isn’t all he says in his earlier book he said he was a full-time farmer but this may not be true. This is the first of three books from V&Q I am planning to review in my journey to get to 100 books from Germany under review. This is an interesting life story and a great debut from a new publisher.

Texts by Helmut Heißenbüttel

Texts by Helmut Heißenbüttel

German fiction

Original title – texts ( various selection from his works by Translator)

Translator – Michael Hamburger

Source – Personal copy

I bring you an older German writer Helmut Heißenbüttel was injured during the Russian conflict in world war two, which lead to him having his arm amputated. After the war, he worked on Southern german radio on their radio essays. He was considered an experimental writer as he used cit up and also worked a fine line between prose and poetry and he called his work just texts SO what we have here is a crosssection of the works he wrote the sixties and seventies.he won the Georg Buchner Prize.  He died in 1996 he said on his deathbed” wie ein Schokoladen-Milchshake nur knackig”

a (tautologies)

The shadow that I cast is the shadow that I cast

The situation into which I have got is the situation into which I have got

The situation into which I have got is yes andno

situation my situation my special situation

group of groups move across empty planes

groups of groups move across pure colours

groups of groups move across the shadow that I cast

the shadow that I cast is thje shadow that I cast

groups of groups move across the shadow that I cast and vanish

From the simple grammatical meditations a playful opening and twisting of words.

So the book starts with the nearest to poems these are the earliest they all have a feel of darkness from combination with mention of darkroom memories and shadows in the window contents. Elsewhere we are reminded of the past with a radio voice saying “Freedom is an impossible thing” Then Interior he says about being dumped by the year. Then he is very playful with words and grammar here is a perfect example with simple grammatical meditations which has playful repetitions of words adding wors and repeating in its six verses. Then later we have what would now be called flash fiction short quasi one or two-page stories. In the story “allegory “for example is a dead body it appears looking at the green looking world around him as he says before the violent hits to his head. Bizarre tales that often reminded me of Borges say in the Explanation of the rhinoceros. which is surreal at times.

Adam marries Betty Betty marries Caesar Caesar marries Dorrette Dorette marries Edward Edward marries Shelia Shelia marries Gerald Gerald marries Harriet  Harriet marries Jacob Jacob mariies Corudula Cordula marries Adam

Adam not only marres Betty and is taken in marriage by Cordula he alo marries and is taken in marriage by Cesear Dorette Edward Shelia Gerald Harriet Jacob in the same way Betty not only marries Caesar abnd is taken in marriage by Adam she also marries and taken in marriage by Dorrette Edward Shelia GErald Harriet Jacob Cordula and so on down the line .

Her in Family poltics is a maze of names and marriages that reminded me of the opening of 100 brothers.

This is a bizarre collection I like experimental writers, this was thanks to a conversation on twitter a while ago which this book was mentioned. Itis a clever book one that has many different styles as a writer who said he likes to try out something new. He was a fan of linguistic and grammatical experimental writings. The later texts ring of a writer being playful there is one about marriages that is almost comic as you get lost in the maze of names and marriages that make up the story, I was reminded of the American writer Donald Antrim with his story a 100 brothers which also had an opening that reminds me of this much shorter work. This is a writer from the same time as those fellow experimental writers of the Oulipo group he wasn’t a member he was in the post-war Gruppe 47 of writers. But sharing a similar willingness to try and push the boundaries of writing that the Oulipo writers did. His work is  Hard to describe hard to compare these sit alone as a triumph of writing but also of translation Hamburger says some of them were impossible the ones he selected worked best in the English. Have you read this book?

Venice The Lion,the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Venice The lion, the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch travel memoir

Original title – Venetië-de leeuw, de stad en het wate

Translator – Laura Watkinson

Source – review copy

I have featured three books before by the great Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom, I thought it was more oh well I have a few to add at some point. He is one of my favorite writers especially his travel writing I loved his letters to Posiden the yearly ode to the Spanish Islands he has spent many summers visiting.  here we have another place that seems close to his heart Venice he has been traveling there for over fifty years and he always tries to stay somewhere new in the city and he seems to have read most if not all the novels short stories and nonfiction books around the city itself.

A first time, there is always a first time. It is 1964, a rickety old train from Communitst Yugoslavi, final destination; Venice. Beside me, a young woman, American. The long journey here left its mark on us. Everything is new. We take the city as it comes. We have noexpectations, except for those asscoiated with the city’s name, and so everything is good. It is all stored away in the secret tissue of the memory. The train, the cty, the name of the young woman. We all lose touch, lead different lives, find each other our lives, find each other again, much later in the other side of the world, tell each other our lives. More than Fifty years after, that first day, in 1964, will find its way into a story, a story called “Gondolas”.The city, everything that had vanished in the meantime, will form the backdrop for that story.

The opening remembering his first time in the city.

Nooteboom is a wander whether on foot or the vaparetto that cross the city he first arrived on from a train from Communist then Yugoslavia in 1964 he has tried to discover something new each time. The city is full of tales he talks of the old city under the Doges. The earliest writers like Boccacio describing the city. The labyrinth nature of the city from Borges’s short story of the city he explanation of the word in Dutch which has a different meaning than in English. Then many great writers that had later written about the city he tells us of James and Mann Pound and Kafka. Later he later stays in a hotel that Kafka wrote his sad letters to Felice. This is a man that loves to discover anew the city every time he drifts from Rushkin’s time in Venice. Later we are discussing Cassanova and he reminds me of the books of Miklos Szenkuthy who write a book about Cassanova which had caught my eye a while ago. He brings to life the city its ghosts and the very fabric of the place.

A friend had once, long ago, spent her wedding night here, and she would later tell methat Kafka had written his sad letter to Felice in this hotel, a letter that probably read as if it were at last. That same year he had sent her more than two hundred letters and cards, so the message in this letter must have come as a nasty surprise. He has, he writes, reached the conclusion that art and love do not go together, he fears that nothing would come of his work. He expresses it more clearly in his diary:”Coitus as puinshment for the happiness of being together. I shall isolate myself from everyone, living as ascetically as possible, more ascetically than a bachelor, that is the only way for me to endure marriage”

His visit to the Hotel that Kafka stayed in

This is a book for any lover of Lit and Venice as he brings the city to life through those writers that have written about it, I have never been to Venice but love anything to do with the city ever have since seen Michael Palin working as a bin man the recent BBC series following the everyday folk of the city. Cees is a man of book and this for me has given me a list of books to read. As travel to the city is near impossible for the moment with the coronavirus meaning travel is hard you can see the city anew and vibrant through Cees eyes his fifty years of getting lost and discovering new things all brought to life by one of my favorite translators Laura. Have you ever read Cees travel writing?  Have you a city you want to visit at some time?

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

German Fiction

original title – Feuer brennt nicht

Translator – Mike Mitchell

Source – – personal copy

I am now with my next in my attempt to try and get to 100 books from Germany by the end of the year leaving 24 books to read before the end of the year. Here I have a book from Seagull books German list and the Novelist Ralf Rothmann. His works were initally based around the Ruhr arfea of Germany where he grew up but he has lived in Berlin for a number of year and this novel is one of his novels from berlin his works tend to deal with the Bourgeois side of german life.  Here he has a man facing two women in his life his wife and a former lover.

When the novel’s finished,he invites Alina to go on a trip with him and she chooses Amsterdam, where she’s never been before.He often went there during his younger days in West Germany because of the easily available joints and the concerts in the pardiso- and was repeatedly driven back home by the cold, damp wind in the narrow brick lanes He can only stand being close to the sea in the South. Moreover, he finds the ubiquitous crime a strain and when he says “Forget Amstersam”, she nods, sadly, but then she says that would be a good title for a book. At that he gives her a kiss and books a room in a hotel on the Prinzengracht.

Here we see the age gap between them shows her.

We meet Wolf a middle aged writer who initally had a passionate affair with the Alina but over the years there passion has faded. She was a bookseller who was twenty years younger than Wolf they lived seperate lives from each other in seperate apartments. He is thinking of moving from there area of berlin  where there apartments are next to each other that hasn’t been as trendy as it once was. So they decide to head out to the greener area of Berlin in Muggelsee. But the move isn’t the real problem what we have is a man scared of aging and getting old.As they move in together they seem to grow further apart than they were. So when an old Flame charlotte reappears in the writers life. As the affiar happens he uses the dog as an excuse to see charlotte. She is now a professer and writer herself that in some way seems like a writer that may be real. Here is a man in middle age crisis and is caught between to women.

But when, right at the beginning, he tests the water by telling her about Charlotte as an acquaintance from the past, he happened to meet in a cafe and they had drink and chat together, she stares at the floor and already looks hurt. Or of that just his imagination? Whatever, she certainly pale, which, with her complexion, means white. So, he doesn;t go on, he doesn;t want to upset her. “And ” she asks anyway, in an attempt at a lighthearted tone.She’s cutting up food for the dog, greyish-yellow tripe,”Did you end up in bed?”

Well you have read the book to find out what Wold answers after meeting charlotte after all those years !!

There is no doubt this is maybe autobipgraphical there is a similarity between wolf and Ralf. The writer himself has lived all aroundBerlin over thirty years after leaving his home area of the Ruhr region. There is also certain facts like the book wolf is most famous for is simila rto Ralf Rothmanns other works. Even Charlotte is a nod to another german writer that has the same name. What at the heart of this is a classic middle aged male scernario caught between his wife settled and saf and the danger of charlotte and rekinlding an old fire the danger is the excitment the clandestine nature of there meetings. The other great thing on this book is following the changing face of berlin where it is the heart of the post unification German as the east and west join here we see it from Wolfs eye. a new writer to the blog who I will try again as he has three other books translated into English Have you read Ralf Rothmann or any of the other Seagull books German list ?

 

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

German fiction

Original title – Vom Wunder der doppelten Biografieführung

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I received the three books that are forthcoming this month from the new English Imprint V&Q. There was one from the description made me want to see if the writer had any other books in English. The writer Francis Nenik is a farmer by day and writer by night. He has published several novels this is what caught my eye he had published a work in loose leaves which reminds me of the great book by B S Johnson that has a similar format. the book coming out soon is similar to this as it follows the real-life of someone. Here is the life told in a short book of two poets.

The only person, it seems to take an interest in Nicholas Moore thenceforth is the man who steals his wallet in the crush at London’s petticoat lane market; containing not so much money as letters of inestimable value – letter that moore had exchanged over the years with the American poet Wallace Stevens and the British writer Osbert Sitwell.

All that remains is lonely, wasted land.Everywhere around him. Not only has Priscilla left, but she has also taken their daughter with her, and Moore has to give up theflat where three of them previously lived. He finds a new place to live (Where he stays for the rest of his life) : a small groud floor flat in a desolate part of Southeast London.

Moore life falls aprt when his wife leaves him. He does later remarry.

The two poets in this book only met through the letters they sent to each other but both had a lot in common in their careers. Nicholas Moore was in his day as well thought of and Known as Dylan Thomas. He wrote in the forties reaching his height in 1948 when he won a big prize after that he fell out of fashion and eventually took a job as a seed merchant that wrote the occasional poems. Meanwhile, in Brno a poet called Ivan Blatny aspiring and well regard through the forties. He ran off when he was part of a delegation to London in 1948. Meanwhile, the Nicholas moore whose wife had written down his poems leaves him he has to move into a small house that he lived in the rest of his life Ivan was like Nicholas a member of the new Apocalyptics Ivan was also in a group Skupina 42. After his arrival in the Uk he starts to have problems with his mental health. He ends up in Claybury hospital and this is where he writes to Nicholas there js a few letters between the men a swapping of biographies as both saw hard times after there bright youth but in later years had a few poems out in later life but never the success of earlier years. 

On the letters

The fact that not only the letters from Nicholas Moore to Ivan Blatny, but also those from Blatny to Moore have been preserved, is due to the fortuitous circumstance that Blatny made copies of his letters in a notebook contained in the file. The possibility that these copies might be mere drafts appears unlikely since the transcriptions contained no crossings out, etc. whether such drafts existed or Blatny committed his letters directly to paper cannot be determined with any certainty. No such drafts have been found to date. Nevertheless, the letter of 16th March 1963 shows that, at least in this particular case. Blatny wrote in several stages

the letters were kept and found between the two poets.

This is a short book 60 pages in a very small edition but he brings these two poets out of the literary bin both had fallen out of notice. we even have a small Blatny poem that Moore translates in a letter as he learns Czech to read his fellow poet’s work. A touching look at what happens when you burn bright when young then are forgotten. This is what appealed about the other forthcoming work he has to pick interesting lives sad in these cases the two men never met apart from in letters but their lives seem to have had so much similar in what happened with their writing. I can’t wait to read his longer work Nenik has mixed biography, epistolary style, and history with a bit of fiction to brew up something truly unique.

That was the month that was August 2020

  1. A silent Fury by Yuri Herrera
  2. The revolt by Clara Dupont-Monod
  3. The bitch by Pilar Quintana
  4. Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen
  5. Catherine the Great and Small by Olja Knezevic
  6. Things we lost in the fire by Marianna Enriquez
  7. Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac
  8. An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky
  9. The Desert and Its Seed by Jorge Baron Biza
  10. Nine moons by Gabriela Wiener

I managed ten books last month I start with a mine disaster in Mexico, then medieval France and Eleanor of Aquitaine and her son strive for power, a dog in Chile is raised then let go by a lonely wife. A woman on a small island is going slightly mad as she waits for her fiance and mulls over her divorce.  A coming of tale age in the Balkans from a female perspective. A collection of ghostly stories from Argentina then a collection of intertwined stories that start in the 18th century then into the dawn of the internet age and the near future when people are tracked. Then a series of lost place items and poems told in some short stories, Then a son tells the story of his mother scared from an acid attack by his father. Then I finish the month off with a collection of essays about a pregnancy.  I managed eight title for women in translation month and for my own Spanish lit month six books.

Book of the month

 

It was a great month for books there was no dud books buut I just loved the concept and ideas in this books and what it made me think of when i had finished reading it. This is a series of things that aren’t an island that may have never been only seen by a few eyes before it was eaten up by the sea. A lost poem.

Non- book events

I had a nice meal with my father and we visited my in-laws this month which was the first time since all this covoid. Then later this month I woke early and nearly had two hours wait for this year’s first of three record store days. I had a lot on my list to get from an early Ben watt album rereleased, the Pogues BBC sessions, A pale saints album that was only available in Japan, a throwing Muses album, The fall and murder capital live and the tenth anniversary of Villagers debut album.  A lot of gems and great listening did you go ?

Next month

The rest of the year may have a German feel I am on 73 german novels under review and I have decided to get nearer 100 reviews. Next month sees the launch of the English arm of Voland and Quist led by the great German translator Katy Derbyshire there first three titles are coming out next month. A quick taste of one tomorrow as I review an earlier book from the same writer. Which Katy had also translated. Here is the website. The first three books all sound great and would be worth a look at !!

Nine moons by Gabriela Wiener

Nine Moons by Gabriela Wiener

Peruvian non-fiction

Original title – Nueve Lunas

Translator – Jessica Powell

Source – Review copy

A fitting end for both Spanish lit month and Woman in translation month I am working the next two days. I was ask if I wanted to review this book and I decided I would it is a bit different to my normal reading as it follows the nine months of Peruvian writer Gabriela wiener pregnancy. She has lived in Barcelona where she has written a number of books including one about sex which had grown out of articles she wrote about the swinging community. She has lived in Spain since 2003.

To start with, it’s not juist bausea; the fundamental malaise that seizes you when you wake up in the morning is like waking up with a hangover and a guilty consience all at the same time, like waking up after a loved one’s funeral or seeng dawn break on the day after losing the love of your life. The nausea would attack me in the most inapportune places and times. I started to think that it revealed a certain psychology in my relationship with things. For example, I always got nauseated when I had to do something that I didn’t want to do like go out to buy bread very early in the morning in the middle of winter.

Morning sickness described by her i loved the bit about feeling it when she had a job she didn’t really want to do.

Gabriela and  her husband J have been trying for a baby so when they find out that not long she had surgery and she had heard her father was uffering with Cancer. She discovered she was pregnant. We have a description of how you find out you are pregnant with the gona appearing in the womans blod after six days.Then  what follows is nine months of her thinking about her mother and how she treat her as a child and how many different ways you can look after a baby. As they pregnancy moves on we she her go through morning sickness, styles of bringing up a baby, the changes in her body and the regulas check ups during the pregnency and the predjuce at times for being Pewruvian in Spain when someone in a hospital thinks she is a maid or a cleaner. The discovery of the sex and the rush neat the end finding where to live a rush painting with Her and her husbands J love of Kitsch. I loved the afterword ten years after this came out she had read the end of the book to her daughter and she had laughed.

Third and final apointment with the Spanish Public Health service, all expenses covered, for which one must be grateful, despite its downsides.This was one of the most importnt appointments because I would be registering for the first time at Barcelona Maternity , the hospital where Lena would be born. In order to do this , I had to be seen by one of the center’s midwives. I was greeted by a Latin American-looking nurse, whioI later found out was Bolivian, though she spoke some Catalan. It mademe happy to know I’d be attended by an almost compatriot. I would have liked to be able to speaj well of her, but that’s not the case. she was short and plump, with cropped black hair, and her white coat was too big for her.

I loved the description of the midwife you have a sense of her character in just a few words.

This is a page turner Gabriela has a really flowing narrative style as we walk alongside her on her pregnancy. She is a writer from the Latin american Cronicas style of writing these short piece for Newspaper that are common in papers in Latin america she had written a number of piece around the swingers scene before this.It is a mix of highly personal insight and journalstic as we follow the ups and down of her pregnancy but also being Peruvian in Spain struggling job to job getting a job at a vets via a friends. As she struggles to make ends meet in the build up to the pregnancy. This is an intresting look one woman’s journey open honest warts and all. Have you read any books by her ?

The Desert and Its seed by Jorge Barón Biza

The Desert and Its Seed by  Jorge Barón Biza

Argentinian fiction

Original title – El desierto y su semilla

Translator – Camilo Ramirez

Source – personal copy

This is a modern classic from Argentina the late writer used his own family life as the bases of the story. His own father Raul Baron Biza a writer and Politician that was in a middle of a divorce with his mother when he threw acid over his mother this is the bases of the story which is told from Jorge’s point of view. He worked as a journalist and in various publishing houses. He translated Proust. His life was touched by tragedy his mother they had to flee to Uruguay as they opposed the Peron regime . His fathe mother sister and ultimately Jorge himself all commited suicide.

Eligia’s naively sensual face began to part with its contours and colours. beneath the original features, a new substance was emerging: not a sexless face, as Aron would have wanted, but a new reality beyond the the necessary resemblance of a face. Another genesis had begun to happen – a sytem of unkown laws

Just after the inital attack her face is meling just before one of the lawyers rush her to the hospital.

The names have been changed Aron is meeting his wife in 1964 as they try to reach an agreement over the divorce. Eligia arrives and Aron throws acid in her face this is where the book opens and Mario her son arrives at the ER to see the horror that be fell his mother at the hands of his own father we arre told tha tAron ran off but later shot himself as he wouldn’t have coped with being imprisioned. The novel folows the mother and somn around the world as they seek a way to mend the mother face painful operations the pain is told early on as his mother is restrained by her wrists to stop her doing more damagfe to her face this is told as we also see there homeland of Argentina falling apart as it stumbles from one disaster to the next. His mother fate at one point he looks at one of those great Arcimboldi the artist that made his pictures of objects his most famous works had veg bu this one was made up of meat and fish. A feeling of his mother face being a patchwork of various surguries and attempts to sort it out.This book shows the horro but also the detacted nature of there relationship he cares for her but there is a lack of empathy and pathos at times he cares for the body of his mother but her soul maybe not so much.

My lace at the table faced animage from the sixteenth century that I could never imagined on my own. The frame had a metal plague that read “The Jurist” Under a cloak with a fur collar was an embellished vest with embroidedflowers and a thick golden chain – a sign that the subject was on the emperors good side – but the coin on the chain didn’t have an inscription or any figure. Underneath the waist coat, where one would expect to see the body of the subject covered by a shirt three thick volummes were visible one over the other, dry and soporfic, I imagine. The ruff was made of paper sheets, and a black cap covered the head.

All these elements, represented very natrually, framed the strangest face I have ever seen in my life.It was composed of plucked chickens arranged in such a way that a wing formed the eyebrows ridge, a thigh made up the cheek, and a small chick passed for a massive nose. A fishappeared fold onto itself, so thats its mouth was also the mouth of the subject, while its tail simulated a beard.

A face made of various parts is maybe a remind of his mother face.

Well this is a classic a slow burn story of a mothjer and son but also the aftermath off facing your own fathers actions this is his own story like they say in a lot of dramas only the names have been changed. Biza was an art critic hence the Arcimboldi and a few othe rpainting mention I alway thought of the vicious image of Bacon’s faces when I imagined his mother. This is a tragic story as we know that everyone in this book took there own life the main characters from Aron shooting himself then a decade or so later his own mother took her life as she couldn’t cope withthe horror that was her life and then his own sister and laterly Jorge only a few years after he had finished this book. How do you find words to capture this he does the nature of surgery on his mother but also the changing up and downs of his homeland at the time are  caught. A gem have you read this book ?

 

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

German fiction

original title – Verzeichnis einiger Verluste

Translator – Jackie Smith

Source – Review Copy

This will be the first book by Judith Schalansky I did read Giraffes neck a few years ago when it was on the Booker longlist but never got round to reviewing it. Her books are work in art themselves having twice won the prize for the most attractive book in German with earlier books she studied Art History and Communication design this is her fifth novel four have been translated into English. The book is a collection of twelve stories that we had lost overtime in her intro she says things like the last Male white rhino meaning they will die out,  an animal from the barrier reef that had disappeared. A lost jet a crashed spacecraft so many things while she wrote this book. We are always losing or seing or world change.

The reprts describing this improbable patch of land were just detailed enough to plausibly prove that it did inded once exist, even if the chronometer never determined its exact postition, for neither Tasman nor Wallis, neither Bougainvile nor even a captain of some wayward whaling ship ever sighted its gentle shores. Again and Again I studied the routes of the south sea expeditions, followed the dashed and dotted lines accross the graticule and through the paper ocean, and compared them with the presumed postition of that island which, in a rash pf imperial setiment, i had mafrked in the bottom most empty square.

Tuanki a lost island of the south seas reported but since lost

We start with an Atholl that disappeared in 1842 or 43 that was there and disappeared in what was an earhtquake the story deals with the fact it was barely known then wasn’t ther as so few westerners had see it in the middle of the Paciffic.  Then the Caspian tiger that walked tfrom Northen turkey through Iran and Afghanstan to the ver west of china when it was there this sepecies died out twenty years ago. we follow the last of them Schalansky starts to beath life in those lost piece she has gagther he box of delights her cabinet of loss. A lost piece of Sappho a lost painting the great Casper David Friedrich. Lost Villa from a famlous groundbreaking architect. A former huge East german Palace this is a lament of what is so eay to lose but these are all things that hadn’t they been collect we may haven’t of fully heard off.

Designed by a collective of architects led by Heinz Graffunder at the East German Building academy, the symbolic goverment building was errected on the derelict land known as Marx-Engels-Platz, on the former site if Berlin’s city palace, which had been demolished in 1950 it took thirty-two months to construct, and was inaugurated on April 23, 1976 as the poeple’s Palace

Palace of the repbulic the lost former Palace of East Germany like the country nearly a figment of imagination.

This isa a collection fo ghost not ghost stories but the sense of what was in each case a n island in the middle of the sea there then gone this has often happened with  earhtquakes and change in ccurrents etc there are place we know now that that won’t be there one day or even the suprise lose like Monserat a coup,e of decade agos. I love the show Abandon engineerong as we see the carcas of what was her is another literary Elephant graveyard , we could all make are own in a way things we know ior we knew. I rememeber the thearte in atockport the Davenport I went at least four or five years to see the pantomine but now there is car park. this is a collection of things she has found over time like a collector a stamp album of loss. Her prose brings each of these stories to life. As with her earlier books this is also a stunningly beautiful work. We all have loss from the personal to the loss of animals, lost building a sort of nod to her East german past with the lose of the grand palace but also the loss of all that it was to be East German good and bad there is an Ost culture from the tv shows to the food and drink they had.Have you read any of her Books ?

 

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Las constelaciones oscuras

Translator – Roy Kesey

Source – personal copy

I have another from the Grangta best Spanish writer list of a few years ago. This list has thrown up so many great writers over the last few years. Pola Oloixarac is an Argentinian writer she studied Philosophy and has written a number of pieces for various publications including New York times. She has written three novels this is her second the first novel has also been translated into English. She’s a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review bilingual journal featuring contemporary literature in the Americas

On the final day of 1882, a group of explorers reached the sea that surrounds the crater of Famara, the volcanic mass that rises up from the archipelago of Juba. Like a fortress on the water , the crater’s aerial line shrouded the bay in grandeur. The travelers made land on a beach of black sqand crored by the tails of lizards, and began their climb along a mossy trail through a series of gorges that wound their way through the sinous formations of dark lava. Anchored in the bay,  their ship looked like an old dinosaur, its viscera extracted by parasites who lowered the cages, bronze instruments, wooden traps, and coils of rope into the sand amidst the boulders onshore

The opening as the head to discover new plants.

Dark Constellations is a work that involves three stories the first is a plant biologist on the canary islands discovering new plants. Then in the 1980s, we follow Cassio a hacker at the dawn of the internet we follow him from a kid entranced by computers and girls to a brilliant scholar and then a wonderful hacker.  Then in the near future, we have a group of scientists trying to discover a way of tracking people through there individual DNA. The latter two stories are interlinked as Max in the near future recruits Cassio he was a brilliant hacker in his day. As they use people’s biometric data to project their life and what will happen to them. Meanwhile, in 1882 the scientist Niklas Bruun has discovered a plant that he feels lets him connect with other species. Then in the near future, Max has made Cassio work on this algorithm as it is a new species as Max says. This is a mix of cyberpunk gen X and nods to the great explorers of the victorian age. A trio of tales that are wound together to a scary look at the future.

Cassio broke off all relationships with women, starting with the ones in his house. His natural satellites, Sonia and Yolanda, mother and maid, whom he perceived as inauthentic, united to form an incomprehensibly sadisitc caste. The are of his life coincidedwith the rise of women, considered a “Minority” , toward equal civil rights, but his mental life moved in the opposite direction, Soon his room began to stink of pizza and Coca Cola, sources of essential nutrients for growing young programmers. On the TV, ads showed blue liquids poured onto vaginal products”with wings” which didn’t help in the slightest. Was this what they had inside ?

Cassio struggle with his realtionships with Females whenhe was younger and became radical at times.

This is a clever look at the near future were Tech companies maybe have to much power the thought of DNA and over biometric being used to track us even lay the course of our lives. This is a storyline is one I have seen taken to its climax in the film Minority Report a Philp K dicks story there is a fell here she is a fan of his I have read a couple of his books years ago. From Cassio a rebel hacker his life is a classic blueprint of a lot of Tech giants from a scholar and backyard tech person. Is similar to the likes of Gates and Jobs but here it is set in Argentina. |cassio is also a classic Gen X character a slacker but then like so many gen x he gets caught up in the real world. This is a highly original book I had brought both her books as I had seen her as a writer that challenges the boundaries. Have you read this book?

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