The tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

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The tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title -Der Trafikant

Translator – Chartlotte Collins

Source – Library

Well last year on the booker longlist one of my favourite books was the first book by the Austrian writer Robert Sethaler to be published in English A whole life a tale of one mans life through the second world war and how it effect his rural life. I saw at the time I reviewed it that he had written a couple of earlier books and this one in particular had caught my eye then so when it came out last month it was a sure thing for this years  German lit month and nicely connects with the last book I reviewed as I mention Freud and here Freud is a character in this book.

Franz stepped over to the window and cautiously touched the J of JEWLOVER with his finger.The graffiti seemed to have been applied with a coarse brush, and had a horrible feel to it – dry and crusted at the edges, still sticky and damp where it was thicker.It also exuded a disgusting smell,rancid and sickly-sweet,but slightly sour as well.

“What is this?” he asked quietly.

“Blood!” yelled Otto Trsnyek . “Pig’s blood” daubed there by our dear neighbour Rosshuber himself!”

“I’d like to see you prove it ” said the master butcher calmly

Early on you see hate bubble over on the street and shop Franz works at .

This is a story of one boys journey to manhood in a way. Franz is seventeen and his mother has had a heap of trouble they were comfortable but a change in the life means Franz has to go to the city to make his way in the world and this is a job with a friend of the family that owns a tobacconist in Vienna. But this 1937 and it is just as the Nazi are ion the rise so Franz spends his days working in the shop and his breaks reading but as the world starts to change. Franz also falls for an older woman Anzeka  whom he has his first sexual awakening. He gets his advice from one of his customers Sigmund Freud the old man calls in for cigars gives romantic advice and also opens the young mans eyes to what is happening around him leading to him making a stand a small stand but a stand in the face of tyrany.

Franz decided to implement the professors second proposed solution to the problem and forget Anezka . He tried very hard, but when, after more than three weeks, the prints of her small hands still burned his buttocks, and her name kept flashing up in ghostly fashion between  every second line of the newspaper, and when finally the contours of first her puckered top lip, then her face, and lastly her body materialized in the grain of the floorboards as he was wiping up the drips left by kommerzialrat Ruskovertz’s dachshund, he abandoned the forgetting idea.

Franz tries to follow one of Professor Freud’s ideas to get over his girl.

Like the book |A whole life this is a small glimpses at the bigger picture and how one man is effected by the war but also by the growing darkness in the world he sees and  I think today of all days we can connect to that as today we have seen a new leader with right-wing views taking the lead in a new country so lets hope people take notice of Franz story and see the wider picture when like him he sees the world in the papers he read darkening. This is a wonderful look at a country boys journey to being a man in Vienna and all that entails opening his eyes wide. Very much in the German Bildungsroman tradition of boys becoming men. I hope that his other novels reach us soon he is a new voice and an interesting writer bring rural voices to the reader.

 

The empress and the cake by Linda Stift

 

The empress and the cake by linda Stift

Austrian fiction

Original title – Stierhunger

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

My fourth german lit month book is one from one of my favourite publishers Peirene and also one that in recent years provide a number of great german reads and this latest book from Austria is another one of what Meike the founder of the press calls a two-hour journey in words. Linda stift studied German Philology and slavic studies then took a job as an editor after that she won a writing competition for a magazine in Vienna. Then she started to write novels her first came out in 2005 and has since written three novels this is her second book she has also won a number  of prizes for her work.

The shop assistant cut a marbled Gugelhupf into two halves and packaged these in boxes like the one on her head. Three euros each, please, ladies I paid my share and took the box. I was now in possession of half a gugelhupf I had no idea what I was going to do with; I’d hardly touched sweet things for years. I tried to say goodbye to the strange woman, annoyed by the pointless purchase I’d been coerced into,but she ignored my attempts to leave .

The first meeting and a slice of cake gives a glimpse into a past that is about to be reborn.

Now what happens when a young woman sat in a cafe innocently accepts a slice of marble cake of a woman sat by her that in her mind reminds her of a lost Austrian royal . Well in this strange fairy tale she takes the cake from her bt what we don’t know at first is the cost of the cake for her. She has spent many year clear of an eating disorder that this small cake will unlock but also at the same time she is drawn into a mad world of the Frau Hohenembs getting invite after invite to join her in her old apartment building. Then she steals a syringe used by the empress for her drug use.Pretending to be the empress in a competition. Where will this journey end ?

I was learning a new vomiting technique and was eating by colours. I started with chemical sweets such as bright-green gummy frogs or pink foam bacon bits or claret so-called laces and snakes. These took time to mix with the mush of food that followed, which meant that my vomiting could be monitored.I would puke until I’d arrived at this tough, lurid mass, so I could be sure I’d got everything out.

horrific lines but many young woman and men suffer from this condition and we need to talk about it sometimes .

This is a sort of odd take on the Alice story eat one slice of cake then be sick as at one point she says releasing multi colours. This is a story of addiction , illness and madness from two sides that of the older controlling Hohenembs and the younger women  who is drawn by temptation under the spell of the older woman and her servant. And like Alice a number of tasks have to be done along the way by the young woman to escape both the older woman and the monster from her past the bulimia she is now gripped again by As the bizarre epigraph points too “I can eat as much as I’d like to vomit ”  by Max liebermann taken in another context to that which he said after jewish art was banned in Germany . So the city of Freud has brought us again to the woman of the city like those that crossed his doorway they have there problems but in this tale there is no Freud to talk to them no this is more a Kafka or in my mind I was reminded of the twisted journey of Blaugast in Paul Leppins novel of the same name a twisted journey like this one of the characters in this book. A look at what it is to suffer with an eating disorder it is a subject rarely written about and not in such a surreal way as this book that feels like a trip into madness.

 

Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

 

 

 

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Wittgenstein’s nephew by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Wittgensteins Neffe

Translator – David Mclintock

Source – Personal copy

Well if the last book was from a Nobel winning Austrian writer , this is from the Austrian writer that didn’t win the nobel . As many of you know I always have a soft spot for Bernhard having reviewed five of his books in the past. With new books being translated in recent years I need to catch up and review a few more from him so hopefully this is the first of two this month by him I will be reviewing. This is maybe the most personal book by him I have read.

A sick person who returns home always feels like an intruder in an area where he no longer has any business to be. It is a well-known pattern the world over : a sick person goes away, and once he is gone the healthy move in and take over the place he formerly occupied, yet instead of dying , as he was meant to do, he suddenly returns, wishing to resume and repossess his former place.The healthy are incensed, since the reappearance of this person whom they had already written off forces them back into their previous confines, and this is the last thing they want.

PAul tries to go back but isn’t want like Tomas himself when he returns sometimes .

The book is the story of a real life friendship between Thomas Bernhard and a relative (not a nephew as in the title but still a close relation to) Ludwig Wittgenstein Paul Wittgenstein. The two men meet at a musical concert through a mutual friend and find the share a taste in music that leads to them spend hours at a time listening to ,music in one another’s company. What they also share is illness Thomas has lung problems which means he often ends up in the hospital on the Hermann Pavilion and Paul has a deep mental illness , not fully mentioned but to me some form of Bi polar with associate personality disorder and he frequently spends time in the Ludwig Pavilion in the same hospital and the two spend time there . One such is maybe near the end of Paul’s life and the description from Tomas of his friend fading is touching and scary at the same time . He feels for Paul once rich but this generous soul had fallen on hard times and like many in his position those once all around him have known disappeared but Thomas remains and they still talk music and meet even at times when Paul jokes or for real I can’t tell says he will be a better writer one day than Thomas !

Where business was concerned the Wittgenstein’s always thought in millions, and it was quite natrual that Paul, their Black sheep, should think also in milions when it came to publishing his memoirs. I’ll write about three hundred pages , he said and there’ll be no problem about finding a publisher.

Paul dreams of being a writer and in his head it is easy , Thomas has other thoughts about this !

Well  this a book of chance and loss a chance meeting brought to men together who have lost a lot in there lives but see in one another maybe someone much worse of than themselves . As ever there is a sense that Thomas Bernhard isn’t the happiest soul but in Paul together this unhappy man finds happiness in the company of a mad man a very Bernhard thing to happen I feel this two lost souls sit in a room alone not talking for hour listening to music in a shared moment of calming what for both are stormy lives. I said at the start this is maybe his most personal book and also maybe cross the line between fiction and non fiction into what I was discussing the other day is called in Slovenia Beautiful Prose , just perfect writing.

 

Woman of the dead by Bernhard Aichner

Woman of the dead by Bernhard Aichner

Austrian fiction

Original title Totenfrau

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – library

Just remember that death is not the end
For the tree of life is growing
Where the spirit never dies
And the bright light of salvation
Up in dark and empty skies
When the cities are on fire
With the burning flesh of men
Just remember that death is not the end
When you search in vain to find
Some law-abiding citizen
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end

I choose the end of death is not the end a Dylan song Mark’s death was not the end of this story .

I tossed and turned where to start my german lit month reviews and I choose this as I don’t really read a lot of thrillers so when I read one and enjoy it, I feel it must be a good book also it was translated by one of the greatest living German translators Anthea Bell. Bernhard Aichner started out as a photographer working for an Austrian paper and at the same time in his spare time starting to write short stories.He has written a number of novels this is the first of two books in this series and was published in 2014 where it was a bestseller both in his native Austria and German.

Eight years ago, they touched each other for the first time. He put his arms around her on the boat. He was wonderful man, right from the very first moment when he was there, taking care of her. Mark waited with her until the coastguard arrived, until she had answered hundreds of questions. He simply stayed by her side. Talking to the police officers on the case

Blum meet mark after her own incident eight years earlier .

This is the story of Blum she is a woman that at very start of the book has it all Marriage , children, yes she has a dark humor and rides a bike but on the surface everything seems ok. But then her lover Mark a policeman is killed in a hit and run . This starts a chain reaaction that sets her on a course to get revenge on the men that killed her lover .Blum isn’t what she first seems no she has a very dark past that this one event has unlocked so she starts out to get the five people she finds had wanted her lover Mark gone to find out what happened  and seek her own personnel revenge on them .

Blum looks around the room, at his computer, his files, and a thousand other things lying just as he left them twenty-two days ago when he rode off. Everything here is waiting for him to come back; objects that want to be touched, tools that want to be used .

Blum goes to marks work place after he is found dead .

Well it’s hard to not think kill bill when you read what I wrote about this book.It is even mention in the inside cover yes Blum is rather like the Bride or even Lisbeth whom  also mentioned . This book had a cinematic thriller pace to it, you get the fact the Aichner is a photographer in the way he writes his scenes they a clean like the way a great photograph works looking simple and telling you all that is possible with in a small space of one shot. Blum is the original revenge killer a woman wioth her own hidden past that takes a death to relight. I liked the die  welt description of her taking these five rotten apples and squashing them under her feet , yes she is pruning the world and  like with a flower when they are rotting you have to dead head them.As I said I am not a huge Crime thriller reader so when I find one I like I note the writer down Bernhard Aichner is a writer I will be trying again .

Have you a favourite German crime/thriller writer ?

What book in translation would I give away ? Thomas Bernhard welcome to second Thomas bernhard reading week in July

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Well I’ve been struggling finding time to blog or even get in a routine for my blogging of late .But I feel a project and a goal of trying to get my revie pile in order or less by then ,will help this and what better than on World book day to launch a second Thomas Bernhard reading week for the first week august this year it is two years since I did the first Thomas Bernhard reading week and with the books still available in paperback and Kindle both faber Finds and Vintage reissues . Of course there is the much lauded Bernhard letters with his publisher Siegfrieed Unseld to be published in English . I am tempt to improve my german just for the 22 voll collection of his works from his German publisher . I have a number of post here about him  including five books under review and a piece from Andrej Nikoladis about his love of Bernhard .I will sort a new badge for the reading week as I’m trying to do a similar one , but for today I will use the warhol inspired one of two years ago .Which book in translation would you hive away inspired to run a second Thomas Bernhard week for me it would be his Woodcutters .I feel this one would be the best introduction to his work .

woodcutters-thomas-bernhard-paperback-cover-art

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