Summer before the dark by Volker Weidermann

Summer before the dark by Volker Weidermann

German fiction

Original title – Ostende. 1936, Sommer der Freundschaft

Translator – Carol Brown Janeway

Source – Library book

When Lizze mentioned doing a second Pushkin Press week , the first book they had brought out in the last year was this one . I am a cover junkie at times and this remind me of those old Railway post in the UK from the same time , It turns out the post was a Belgian railways. The book is the second book from Volker Weidermann , He was literary editor at the German magazine Der spiegel .This is his first book to appear in English .

It’s summer up here by the sea , the gaily colored bathing huts glow in the sun. Stefan Zweig is sitting in a loggia on the fourth floor of a white house that faces onto the broad boulevard of Ostend, looking at the water. It’s one of his recurrent dreams, being here,writing,gazing out into the emptiness, into summer itself .Right above him, on the next floor up is his secretary, Lotte Altmann, who is also his lover, she’ll be coming down in a moment , bringing the typewriter, and he’ll dictate his buried candelabrum to her, returning repeatedly to the same sticking point , the place from which he cannot find a way forward. that’s how it’s been for some weeks now .

Perhaps his great friend Joseph Roth will have some advice .His friend ,whom he’s going to meet later in the bistro.

The two meet when Roth arrives in Ostend to talk .

The book focus on one summer just before the otbreak of world war Two. It focus on two writers , I wonder if the idea came from the photo at the end of the book that shows Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth sat together in 1936 in Ostend . The resort at this time was a hip hangout for the great writers of the day Arthur koestler , the other half of Irmgard Keun Joseph Roth girlfriend at the time . We see how both writers are coping with the struggles of the Nazis taking over Germany. The two writers are both at the top of their game but their lives are going different ways Roth is in a relationship that is destructive and as we all know after he only had three years after this . Zweig was working on his last work his only novel at the time . This shows a group of writers as ordinary people . But also maybe slowly waking to what was happening back home as their publishers where either going or changing .Rather like the book I read last year the Decision  about Thomas Mann at this time having to decide what way he was going to go, unlike him Zweig and Roth both Jewish writers were already doomed .

Nineteen thirty-six is a year of farewells and decisions for Stefan Zweig .His German publishing no longer publishes him, the German market is lost to him , along with Austria , his collection and his magnificent house – all of ir is now nothing but a wearying burden.Its not easy to jettison what one has built up over the years.An entire life.

The world is closing in and the Nazis are killing the Jewish writers world

This is a wonderfully craft novel about a time that has long gone a last summer before the darkness descended . Stefan Zweig is a household name in many was due to Pushkin Press . Roth is a writer I see growing every year since I started blogging Granta has been bringing his books out in very nice new additions. What Weidermann has done is weave a novel out of the bits he found from all those involved their letter ,diaries and interviews .The last chapter tell you what happened to the writer Roth sad decline, Zweig in Latin America but killing himself just six-year later Koestler was recovering from the Spanish civil war when he was there then went on to write his masterpiece Darkness at Noon . Keun never reach the heights ,  she was at before she meet Roth , she is another writer whose works have appear in English over the last ten year.This is a book that can be read in an evening as you settle into the art deco Ostend and behind the public face of these writers .

Have you read this book ?

 

Carol Brown Janeway RIP

mrs sartoris

I was sad to read of the Passing of this well known German translator , I have reviewed a number of books by her over the years even this year her translation of F by Daniel Kehlman made the IFFP list .I share two of my favourite translations she did the first is Mrs Sartoris a lost gem  and also a little gem from Thomas Bernhard My prizes a translation of the speeches he gave to the prizes he won .The bookseller has a piece and a comment from Daniel Hahn about her .

Mrs Sartoris by Elke Schmitter

mrs sartoris

Mrs Sartoris by Elke Schmitter

German fiction 

Original title – Frau sartoris 

Translator – Carol Brown Janeway 

source – personnel copy

glm_iii

Elke schmitter is a German writer from Krefeld ,she studied philosophy at Munich university and then became a journalist before becoming a full-time writer in 1994 . This was her début novel .I choose this book because I had visit Krefeld ,it was a chance buy in the works (a uk shop that sells unwanted stock cheap ) and may I say a gem of a find for 50p!

Without hesitation I was immediately ready to attribute all of Ernst’s annoying characteristics – including his ridiculous name – to his father .For example ,Imri was always proper and took her self seriously ,as was the expression back then , but Ernst displays of pedantry must have come from Heinz-Gunther 

Ernst wasn’t an easy husband to have for Margaret 

Mr sartoris is a first person narrative told by Margaret Sartoris ,her life is told by her from her lost love for a rich landowner called Philip that she feel in love with one summer .The break of this relationship caused her to have a mental breakdown and end up in a hospital that happened when she was 18 ,we capture her later when she is married to Ernst a veteran from the war but a man who has no real passion as she is now in her forties she finally meets another man that makes her feel the passion she had felt in her youth with Philip so she begins an affair with a man .Along side this plot there is a plot about a car crash the two finally meet at the end but you have to find the book to see what happens .

When I got to the hotel for the first time ,I could hardly breathe .It was a mild summer day ,with no wind  .I had my hair cut , and glad it wasn’t raining .I was wearing  doe brown suede pumps and a wine two piece I had brought a few days before …

Margaret waiting for her first meeting with Michael the man .

Well I don’t read many books about love and affairs ,I am not a huge fan of romantic fiction but this book is slightly darker than that it is easy to view this from my description as simple chic lit but now Magaret jumps of the page as a damage soul that is having an affair to try to finally grasp what she had once lost .The cover quote says a modern-day Madame Bovary but it is a far more German take on that story ,that sense of duty that I feel is very common in German society is deep in the story her relationship to Ernst is far from perfect but she makes in work out of duty to him  and the daughter so this affair is a real test of her as a person .But she wants the passion she is finding in the arms of the other man .I feel sorry this one is a book that has dropped of the radar and hope this review makes a couple of you root it out as it is well written with a real sense of tension as she builds Margaret’s life and her story to the climax in more ways than one .Another book that if not for Lizzy and Caroline push to make more women writers read this German lit month may have gone unread .

Have you a favourite book about affairs ?

 

My prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

my prizes Thomas Bernhard

My Prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian non fiction

Original title Meine Presie

Translator Carol Brown Janeway

Source personnel copy

Well I am running late these days I was meant to have posted this last week but I’ve had a lot on at home and not been able to thinking to write posts .But I’ve decide to just sit today and try to write a post about this short work by The great Thomas Bernhard .The book is made up of nine pen sketches of events or reasoning’s about the events surround the nine major prizes he won during his writing career .Now as one imagines there is a lot in here for such a small book .

I picked the best-known gentleman’s outfitter with the descriptive name Sir Anthony , if I remember correctly it was nine forty – five when I went into Sir Anthony’s salon ,the award ceremony for the grillparzer prize was at eleven ,so I had plenty of time .I had intended to buy myself the best pure-wool suit in anthracite ,even if it was off the peg ,with matching socks ,a tie ,and an arrow shirt in fine cloth striped blue and grey .

If only getting all this was so easy .

My prize starts at the first prize he won the Grillprazer prize .We see how he describe thinking two hours before the show maybe a suit might be required to attend so he rushes to buy a suit for the event visits a well-known shop but actually a simple task is harder that it first seems  .Elsewhere we maybe gather some real insight into why he hates the arts in Austria so much for when he wins a later prize the Austrian state prize for literature ,we gain an insight that he had asked for money at an earlier date and been turned down by them .I could easily pick bits up from each of the pen sketches of the prize-winning but that for me would spoil the joy of you as a reader discovering this little gem and in turn supporting a small publisher as it is published by Noting hill editions a specialist in non fiction .We also get three of his speeches for winning city Bremen prize ,Austrian state prize and the largest prize he won the Georg Buchner prize which is a German language prize .Needless to say reading between the lines in these we can see a lot of bile and also just about that wry humour .

Honoured ministers ,honoured guests ,

There is nothing to praise ,nothing to damm ,nothing to accuse ,but much that is absurd ,when one thinks about death .

We go through life impressed ,unimpressed ,we cross the scene ,everything is interchangeable ,we have been schooled more or less effectively in a state where everything is ,mere props but it is all in error

the opening words of his Austrian state winning prize .

Well this happen to sync  nicely with another book I was reading at the same ,that I had  been sent by Pushkin press called the parrots by the Italian Flippo Bologna ,  that follows three writers in the build up to a big book prize that they are up for, so it was quite interesting comparing the fiction  story of writers up for prizes and the factual version of these accounts .I feel thou short  this book ,we do get a lot of clues to what made Bernhard the man he was ,yes he hate prizes ,but needed the money to carry on living as a writer .So he was caught in a catch 22 situation ,in not really like the whole prize system but having to take part to make a living .His often frank words a refreshing we all see the prize system from the outside and I have been lucky to have been to three prize nights ,have spoken to writers but to get Bernhard’s insight into this is amazing he really is a writer that doesn’t .But we do see other parts giving so money he won to a charity .A shock as well he did really like one of the prizes ,now I won’t say which but he did go to Hamburg to see it given out .

Do you like writers writing about the prize process ?

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