Agnomia by RÓBERT GÁL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnomia by Róbert Gál

Slovakian fiction

Original title –  Agnómia

Translator – David Short

Source – Personnel copy

I had ordered this book last year as the description of it grabbed me as it was One long, unbroken paragraph, blending, memoir, fiction and philosophy. That description grabbed me plus when I read an interview by Frank Garrett with Gal about his use of Aphorisms in his books. Gal has lived in New York, Brno, Berlin and now Prague all these crop up in this book. He has had two earlier books translated to English this is his third book to be translated to English with a fourth to come out this year, Gal has said of his writing he writes in condensed form, in fragments, in aphorisms, and in blocks. This book is 70 pages long and follows a writer called Robert Gal from New York back to Europe.

We’re in New York, she repeats, and the words reflects states of different worlds like cannabine wafts of neat tomorrows from dug-up todays.We need to pinch ourselves to believe. She’s looking at me with that serpentine gaze of a young Prague intellectual who has come to New York at her parent’s expense to seek analogies between this and that and to talk twaddle. There’s a pile of books on the desk from which she would be forever copying out bits and pieces. Once she took me to a pseudo-intellectual hellhole to meet some feminists. The whole ambience had me feeling quite sick.

I remember night in Germany in the late 90s like this before the internet when the books we read mattered more than titbits of books.

The book opens as Gal is the lone Slovak in a group of Czech and Slovaks in 1993 where he met Eugene at a party a brief encounter but he tells us about riding pillion with a girl there discovering complete works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Beethoven stories like Mike Patton who encourage people that spat at him in concert by telling them to spit more. that drift into a female photograph doing nudes and a sid story of Kant pissing on the stage. Time is intersped as we drift forwards and back marks like Yeltsin’s death music he liked such as John Zorn’s Six Litanies for Heliogabalus a piece that features Mike Patton a sort of looping back in time. Too see Zorn play live his self the Zorn connection is one that rings true about this book.

an, say, a Slovak, as a Slovak, feel democratic anywhere other than in Slovakia? And this leads consquently to other questions, which , once one has mentally posed them and immediately answered them, lead to a gradual appreciationof why most citzens of small, insignificant countries remain struck in them as if there were no other option.It isprecisely in small and insignificant countries that we encounter writers who take it for granted that hey are reproducers of reality, but why reality needs to be reproduced rhey don’t reveal. Claiming – as we do -that reality shouldn’t be artistically reproduced but produced, we also should probably seperate “Work of art” from “art” .

Here he hits the nail on the head about his homeland and the place in the world but also maybe his voice is a new one that needs to be heard .

Zorn is an avant grade experimental saxophone player that has overridden genres in the styles he has chosen to play over the year and this in the Narrative form is what Gal is trying to do. We talk a lot about the current rise of Autofiction. But for me, there has been another slow rising style of writing that has been around but that last few decades has been growing a genre-defying sort it has its leader in a writer like Sebald, Bernhard, Magris even earlier Emil Cioran. In recent times books like river and Panorama all do similar mixing memories of a time, dreams and places into one narrative that is about what is being for one person where it is a trip to the center of Europe or a river remind one of another river and time. Here Zorn and his singer of choice Patton link from Prague to New York many a similar link her in Gals work that mixes his experiences with small philosophies on life. This book is like free form Jazz drifting unprepared startling and compulsive reading. Another challenging writer from Slovakia I have read three books from there in the last few years they are showing literature finally coming out of the shadow of Czech literature with a new twist on the Mittel European work that like Bernhard is sometimes just thrown on the page in one long paragraph.He has a good website here .

Have you a favorite Slovakian writer?

 

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Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

Austrian short stories

Original title –  Manchmal lüge ich und Manchmal nicht

Translator Rachel McNholl

Source – personal copy

So today I move to a rising star of Austrian fiction Nadja Spiegel. She has won a number of prize for her prose, spoken word and poetry. This was her debut collection and came about when she went to Dublin for the first Irish European literature night for Austria where both the publisher and her translator discovered he flash fiction prose style. As her translator puts it her style is like that described by the Irish writer Eilis Ni Dhuibhne it is more poetic than the novel, more suggestive, dealing more in metaphor and symbolism. Ni Dhuibhne believes natural short story writers combine the sensibilities of poets with those of novelist, and I believe that this is very true of Nadja Spiegel.

She said she knew it would end. She said Lets just run away. Then she said nothing. That was on the Monday. We said nothinfor so long that I couldn’t tell where my body ended and hers begin.

She said she knew how it would end, when it would end. I have a few images of her, nothing else , just the memory of her smell:

Caedamon and seasame

I was remond of Maggie smith talking about the bed of Lentils see remembered in her romance with a grocer like Malika’s family spice shop.

there are twenty short stories in this collection some are from a mere few pages to longer other stretches to ten pages. But they are all that many call flash fiction. Where we have a quick flash into life. The narrators, on the whole, are female voices young woman that find themselves in tough places. But in others we see a narrator talk about falling for the new girl a plain girl  Malika she has a romance with a popular girl Linda the girls family own a spice shop a short romance and an ending that remind me of Alan Benett’s talking voices. Another told by a third voice about a boy younger than here Elias and another girl Lisa younger than Elias a tale of a budding romance or was it as the last line of this story is also the title of this collection sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t. An inner view of modern Austria through female eyes. A glimpse into the lives of late teens and early twenty-year-olds worlds.

In school on Monday a girl throws her water bottle up in the air and catches it with one hand, takes a bite out of an apple and sens a squrt of juice flying. The girl is pretty, Lisa is her name, and she has a boyfriend by the name of Elias. The thing about names is : there’s one more letter in Elias, an e more than there is in Lisa, and the girl laughs and sweeps back her hair, and is Elias is the extension of Lisa and lisa is there within Elias.

Elias is not the kind of guy who falls in love, he only loves, for instance.

Elias has fallen in love with me says Lisa, and sometimes Lisa’s right and sometime’s she’s not.

I’m happy for you both.I say

and sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t

The story of a romance in the story Lisa Elias and me also has the colllections title as it’s last line .

The stories are vibrant short bites that left me as a reader at times wanting more the problem with flash fiction is they can be too tempting at times they are like a Thorntons selection box once you open you well I just have to have a couple at a time and this is the case here I read the collection in an evening like a voyeur of this modern Austrian lives glimpse behind the curtains of the lives from people in ruts to budding romances. All told with a bittersweet and humourist view of the world. Nadja hasn’t quite the bitter view of Bernhard of her homeland but she fits nicely with the likes of Linda Sift where she also showed how to get by in another view of modern Austria  and even Jelinek in romances starting I reviewed woman as lovers and there is a similar detached nature to the world in that book that flows in these stories as we just get the merest glimpse of there worlds. A new voice and an interesting short collection from an interesting writer. Have you a favorite European short story writer?

Transit Comet Eclipse by Muharem Bazdulj

 

Transit Comet Eclipse mc

Transit Comet Eclipse by Muharem Bazdulj

Bosnian fiction

Original title  – Tranzit, kometa, pomračenje, kucajte

Translator –  Natasa Milas

Source – Personal copy

I enjoy seeing writers whose books I have enjoyed having more books out in English. I read Byron and the Beauty when it came out a couple of years ago. I have met him briefly when I was in London a couple of years ago when we had a mint tea in Red Lion square with Istros books Susie. He has now moved to Belgrade to live after a number of years living in Sarajevo. He has written over nine novels and been translated into twenty languages this is his third book to be translated into English.

The land through the looking glass, tis is how I always thought about Moldova. I always have optical instruments on my mind, I think about mirror a great deal, maybe that is why this very thung crossed my mind. On the other hand. I didn’t think in this manner about Bulgaria. It’s simply as if something mysticalwere floating over Moldova. Tnje people were different, it wasn’t just the language. If I say that bulgaria is underdevolped or primitive, it is clearly like this within the world that I find familar. Iytis similar enough to other countries that Icould compare it to them, even to Bulgaria’s detriment. Moldova is difficult to compare ith anything,that’s how different it is

Moldova another linking factor in the three stories described here in the first novella in the collection Transit

 

The book is made up of three novellas linked by motifs of Elippise, transits or comets. The book opens as we Ruder Boskovic a Jesuit scientist who is traveling in the company of an English ambassador James porter from Istanbul to Petro grad. The journey for Ruder is to catch the once in a century transit of Venus. We capture his description of the hinterlands of Eastern Europe as he feels Moldova is darker than anywhere else at night. But breaks in the journey means he never gets to see the transit. But later in his life, he sees a poem dedicated to an eclipse. The next story follows a young Moldovan student Marie Alexander she is encouraged by her father to make more of her self. She was born the year Halley’s comet made its 75-year visit to Earth. She meets a Bosnian called Bosko  who opens her eye to what the West is like. You see what is coming but she follows him and ends up in Dubrovnik in bad company. The last story is a story of a writer. It is hard not to picture this as a shadow version of the writer himself. He is in America as the famous total Eclipse that happened in 1999 is due to take place as he is studying journalism and looking back at the place of his birth Dubrovnik that is also the place of birth of Ruder Boskovic. But is the place where he interviews a young Moldovan girl Marie Alexander that had ended up working in a club there. As the writer has his eyes opened by Paul Auster’s New York trilogy.

Marie Alexander woke up early. Bosko was still asleep. Occasional snoring came from his bed, probably what had woken her. The sound wasn’t pleasent, but it moved her. That’s love, shoe thought, when you like the ugly things about the person you love. It was then that a strange thought passed through her head. Will I like his snoring in twenty years? she wondered. I will, she thought quicklu and quietly dressed.She tiptoed over to Bosko bed and stared at his leeping face. He was frowning.She discerneddark bristles on his cheeks and his chin , which had seemed smooth last night. The sleepy body started to toss around as if he felt her gaze.She didn’t want to wake him.She left the room in silence and closed the door

Marie imagines a future that is shortlived as she is with a man tthat isnt’t what he seems!!

This tackles a number of things mainly wanting to go to the west from the east. But it is also a nod towards Paul Auster a writer the Muharem has translated into Bosnian. We have a series of interlink novels where the first two are separate tales, similar locations. But different ages see one man trying to capture a once in a lifetime event in the west and a young girl following her father’s dream of a better life in Paris. are all tied up in the last story a writer that looks back at both of the two previous tales sharing his place of birth with Ruder and then having interviewed the young Marie at a sex club in that same city as we see her dream broken. These are like the events mention short lives and a glimpse into life like a comet Marie want to burn up the sky but are only visible for a brief moment like her dream of going to the west or Ruder dream of seeing the transit of Venus or a journalist missing the eclipse as he sits learning about journalism much further west. Muharem has captured what is the dream of many in the east but also the nightmare that is the reality of it with Marie’s story.

 

Everyday life by Lydie Salvayre

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Everyday Life by Lydie Salvayre

French fiction

Original title – La Vie commune

Translator Jane Kuntz

Source personnel copy

Another short novella from Dalkey archive and this by a recent Prix Goncourt winner Lydie SlavayreIts been a while since I featured a Goncourt winner. Lydie was born to refugees of the Spanish civil war. She grew up in southern France. Trained as a doctor with a degree in Psychiatry. She has published a number of novels. In 2014 her book Cry mother Spain (English title ) won the Prix Goncourt. That book was published by Maclehose she has also had four books including this one published by Dalkey.

I omitted one detail. She stinks.

The new secretary wears a vetiver scent, and I detest the smell of vetiver. There’s nothing I detest more in the world than the smell of Vetiver (After milk). It makes me listless, it gives me the vapors, migraine headaches. It makes me dizzy, nauseous, It makes me vomit

Every morning when I crack open the door of my office, the obnoxious stench of her perfume smacks me in the face. I stager. I can’t help it, I ve grown allergic to it. Like a police dog , I could sniff out its trail miles away, that’s how allergic I’ve become. It’s crossed my mind that she might soak herself in the stuff just to put me off, to make me go in the opposite direction.

The scent affects her but the reaction seems more than that in a way to me!!

This is a classic slice of an Office drama. It is about two sectaries Suzanne the narrator of the book has been at her job as the secretary of Monsieur Meyer for more than thirty years. so when this younger woman arrives she sees this as a real threat to her position as Meyers favorite. She starts to pick apart this new younger woman as they work together. She dissects her rival bit by bit as she is doing so you see the pent-up anger in this older woman as she sees her rival become more important to Meyer as her grip on her life is starting to slip. This is a woman not only losing her job but there is a sense she is getting old and that is the reason for her replacement not just to learn from her but also to easily slide Suzanne into retirement and also accepting her problems. This is a slice of life in an office the jealousies of office rivals the older member like an old lion marking her territory but like in Lion pack or Gorilla families that Alpha in the head has to succumb sometime and this is the moment caught in the book that breaking of an Alpha.

Because I’ve had a dull ache in my chest for seventeen days, I go to the doctor. He asks me if the pain spreads towards the shoulder and along my left arm. No. It’s just in my chest. As if it were digging a hole that opens and close,opens and cloes. While hes gliding his icy stethoscope over my chest, he asks what happen right before the onset of this pain. Imagine you’re straight path, I tell him, wwhich you can follow with your eyes shut, it’s so familar to you. Then suddenly, you no longer recognize it, even though everything you see is identical to what was there before. Do you know what I mean?

Her we see Suzanne has more wrong than we see an underlying problem !!

This is a fun book and a touching book and to do both at the same time is great it is a Tragicomedy of a woman fall. We see Suzanne ripping into the new girl. I was reminded of the scenes in the Office as the David Brent tries to capture his Job as the new man takes his place and that loss of the Alpha role well this is the same the role of being Meyers main secretary is the prize and the Older woman is describing losing the grip but she is seeing it as thou this younger woman has pushed her out but in between the lines there is the sense she is failing in her job but maybe age has caught up with her. She isn’t as flexible as her younger counterpart having got set in her ways as the world around her has moved on. There was that bittersweet taste in the prose that I find in the work of Bernhard the satire of loathing he wrote so well. Lydie has caught what happens when one’s life falls apart in a simple monologue another nod to Bernhard in a way. I was touch by her fall it was a shame like one of those football stars that shone but has stayed on the pitch far too long!!

 

Eleven Prague Corpses by Krill Kobrin

Eleven Prague Corpses

 

Eleven Prague Corpses by Krill Kobrin

Russian fiction

Original title – 11 пражских трупов

Translator – Veronika Lakotova

Source – personnel copy

I was saying I was overwhelmed with reviews and what is annoying I am reading fast than I can review so I let books slip and this was nearly one of those. This book grabbed me with the description of Krill as a writer he is interested in the cultural history of Russia and the Czech Republic. He is one of the founds of Russian Psychogeography and one of his novels is a tribute to Flann O’Brien. Oh, and he is also called the Russian Borges (i do hate that but I can see it here as Borges like twisting the detective short story as well).

Maurice approached me at the fuenral. He said – stuttering as usual and as usual in broken English – ” An apprpriate way of dying for a former restaurant critc isn’t it ? Professional, so to speak. Acute Pancreatitis. Caused by what ? by the excepitonal Czech dumplings pork, and beer. Anf of course, by always exceptional czech doctors. Dammned Prague.” It started to drizzle, the heavy scent of the earht mixed with the smell of damp clothes.It was difficult to breathe. “Dammned Prague”I agreed.” Dammned Central Europe”

His dislike of his hime is shown here but also the inkling of the first death being more than it seemed.

The series of Stories in this collection is narrated by an unnamed narrator. Now I am never sure as it is one guy or a collection of guys all Russian that all have a strong dislike of the home Prague. So the eleven short stories all tell various stories of deaths in and around Prague and how are the narrator was connected to them. From the death of a restaurant critic to the death of a teacher our narrator at times is an obituary writer and seems to be there or hear about these events shortly after they happen from people involved in a High school massacre in the US turning up in Prague. He hates the city and sees it as too Kafkaesque at times the shadow of Kafka hanging over his world as the deaths keep plying up. But Like Holmes he has logic on his side and clearly cuts through each death.

The next day I rang the Private British school to nail down some of the details of the late Mr. Lengthy’s life. Of course, of course, Mr  Taborsky. Such a sad loss for us. Yes, yes, we’ve sent everything you’ll need for the opbituary. Nothing to add. A detail? A striking detail? Hmmm you might be interested – the russian students of our school called him”London Dandy”. Yes yes, in russian “dan-dee Long-dong-ski” You unerstand russian ? oh excellent . Mr Lenghty wasn’t a fop, no, don’t imagine that please, nuthe did dressin an impecable was, and he took special care of his hands. A little old fashion isn’t it?

I was remind of a watson description in a Holmes cases here of small characteristics of people.

This is an interesting take on the detective short that has lots of Nods to classic writers like Doyle and Christie, in particular, there is a sense of this in the use of a British restaurant critic and English master in two of the stories. There is also a sort of Russian distaste of Prague underlying the stories as well the feel of him not fitting into the city now. The sense of Kafka looming over the city. Prague itself is a character in this book rather like the London of Doyles Holmes of the Devon setting of Christie’s books. The Borges claim holds up as the books have that sense of twist styles and shift settings and using plots from other writers in new ways that Borges did so well in his own stories. The narrator has a pinch of Holmes, Poirot and for me a nod to those hard-boiled crime detectives of classic American Noir. There is a clear logical min there like Holmes a man out of place like Poirot the Belgian in England. But also a world-weariness of the classic American detective those that hate there beat at times that are drawn to the dark side of the city.

I’m back Where to go now oh and a few new books !!

I am returning to reviewing tomorrow after nearly three weeks away, I’m rested up but also thinking of what my blog means to me. It has open so many doors over the years that I wouldn’t have opened without this blog. I have met so many people. That I had in a way become lazy about what I wanted and that is to make this the place for translated fiction and this means I have to maybe be more critical when I am reviewing books. I was listening to an open book about Literary criticism  . It made me think yes I love Translated fiction and in a way, for many years I have been the cheerleader for this cause. But after nearly 800 books I feel I need to guide and let people know more of what I think of books I had started this in small ways recently with a Llosa review that I was a little less cheerleader and more objective as I felt readers be better with other books by him to read first! I view this blog and my position as a gatekeeper of translated books but also translators and the publishers the whole team that gets the books out there. I have my own goals for the blog the first is the 1000 review mark.Also, the 100 German books mark to reach and of course the hunt for new countries and publishers is an ongoing quest. For me this is my hobby and passion a way to get cnnect to fellow lovers of translated fiction and spreading the love for world literature. I hope to spread the love but also be a beacon to the new readers by guiding them to what to read. I needed a break after nine years just put the blog in standby and stick the charger on well it charged quicker than expect and with an Epic autumn due of long books. Including the Jan Brandt Against the world a novel that references german from the 70’s to the present day.  I got today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which arrived with French Poets Philippe Jacottet Obscurity his only novel. Tip Marugg a Curacao writer a book that sees a man watching the day dawning and uses a magic realism style. Werner Kofer an Austrian writer compared to Bernhard for his use of Satire. Noemi Jaffe memoir follows the journey she took with her daughter to Auschwitz following in her mother footsteps.

Op Oloop by Juan Filloy

 

Op Oloop by Juan Filloy

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Op Oloop

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source personnel copy

I was first attracted to the title when it came out a number of years ago so when I saw they had a reduced the price of it a few weeks ago I felt I had to get a copy. The first thing that grabbed me about the writer was his Bio. Juan Filloy was a Hellenist, swimmer boxing referee, and talented Caricaturist. He spoke seven languages. He was a lawyer and Judge in the small town of Rio Cuarto. He made over 8000 palindromes in his life and only used seven letters in his book titles. He died in 200 just before his 106 birthday. There is part of me feels he maybe is a non de plume for a more modern writer this book came out in 1934. He was to inspire both Borges and Cortazar. If he was real he led a life worthy of an epic biography.

The statistician hadn’t noticed. Everything, in fact, was slipping by him unnoticed. He couldn’t focus. His eyes had tuned into the droning, thereby affecting his ability o hear – which ability hoovered awkwardly in the midst of all the urban traffic noise around him. Neuropathy jad attacched the characteristics of various other senses to Op Oloop’s sight. He sat, preplexed the sensorial wires leading to his brain having been switched around, as though he could listen with his sight or touch with his smell

His brain has been wired by his habits in a way.

The book follows a day in the life of Mr. Optimus Oloop. The Op Ollop of the title. This man is a Finnish statistician living in Buenos Aires. We join him on what turns out to be the day of his engagement party. We see how this guy is timed to times his life is ruled by a rigid set of rules and schedule. We first see this when he is writing letters, in fact, is in the middle of a  letter when the clock strikes ten and he must finish where he is with the invitations he has been writing out. Then he has his regular appointment at the Turkish bath.  That he has at the same time each day. Then a taxi ride that needs to reach an exact price that means for a later event in the day he will have the right money. This shows the running of this man’s mind the day is leading to his Engagement party where we meet his group of unusual friends a German submarine captain, a pimp, a white slave trader the had of sanitation and the head of air traffic control. Also at the party is the Finnish Ambassador that gives Oloop a head injury. The other activity that Mr. Oloop loves is visiting the many and varied prostitutes he has met since arriving in the Americas. So yes even thou he is due to get engaged to Fransiska. He is also due to sleep and writes down about the 1000 prostitute he will never forget this day. As the later events in the book are marred by the fact he is running late an event that makes Mr. Op Oloop act differently from he usually would.

I’d be delighted. The first entry coincides with my arrival in America : August 7, 1924. I won’t bother reading the columm headings

BIRDIE, 17 years old. Blonde, cheveux de lin. Chorus girl from Ziegfeld. Unbelievable  tit! my hands still cupped

SOLANGE, 38. Brunette. French Thin forur sisters, all prostitutes, Chiqueteuse. Fifteen dollars!

MERKEL, 26 , Lituanian. Almost Albino. Scar deoma caesarian pudgy , foul smell presliration. repulsive

DELORES , 15 Andalusian. Olive-skinned. The beauty of a murillo, with a dark background …worty of Valdes Leal

His entires on the prostitutes he has slept with the 1000th is the same noght as his engagement part

 

This book is what we have publishers like Dalkey Archive for those odd strange books that need be in English. This book has a bit of Ulysses and Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as it follows the event of one person over the course of time. It also shows what happens when events take an unexpected turn. I see comparisons with Bloom arguing with the Loyalist in the pub and leaving the pub early leads to events later is similar to the events around Mr. Oloop. For me, the one comparison I would make is to the film Clockwise with John Cleese that showed what happens when Time runs against you and events run out of Control. Like the events that lead Oloop to act out of sorts. It’s strange that he was mention as an influence to Cortazar as this has a feeling of a book that the Oulipo group would write using Oloop Time and other ticks to control the narrative this is a precursor to that movement. A challenging book about one mans obsessive life from his time keeping to his sexual desires and writing down every woman he has slept with.

Have you read Filloy ? is he real?

Alma Mahler by Sasho Dimoski

 

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Alma Mahler by Sasho Dimoski

Macedonian fiction

Original title – Alma Mahler

Translator – Paul Filev

Source personal copy

I found this book when looking around recent books that had been brought out by Dalkey Archive. I have been a fan of there books for a while as they are always trying to find new places to bring books from. So when I saw Macedonia was one of the countries they had just bought a book out from there I had to try it. Sasho Dimoski has written three novels and studied comparative literature in Skopje and is currently working as a Dramatist. This is his first book to be translated into English.

We had time, Gustav. Time stood still when we weren’t in it. It came to a halt, and nothing took place here or elsewhere. Nothing. We always had time. Always. Every wrong righted in the present, and smoothed over for the future. Every unspoken word for every innermost place within the soul, for every rise and fall within it.Every you and every I, for the various forms the days took, and that slumbered at night. And whenwe awakened our time, you and I always knew that n the other side of the looking glass stands the unkown. Something only we two could know, That we still know. And that we live today, in thwese final days that I drag along like shackles.

An undercurrent of her silence and growing unease is here

This book follows the life of the wife of the composer Gustav Mahler. Alma Mahler married him late in his life they were married for nine years this book describes those years just before his death. It uses his symphony as a guide for the chapters. we see their marriage from her point of view. She was a talented composer and a woman that in many ways must have been a muse she later Married the founder of the Bauhaus movement and the writer Franz Werfel. She was also painted by the other Gustav Klimt (that crops up in the book). What we see is the power struggle of a clever woman forced into the shadows and with a husband that at times is so wound up in his music that he doesn’t see her at times. She puts at one point she gave up long ago and now lives day to day. Late on he reveals she was every to him but she didn’t know when he falls ill after his ninth working on his tenth symphony.

There is something I must tell you, Gustav

I Fell in love with the idea of being Alma Mahle. Then I fell in love with you

Assurances? No. What kind of assurances are you talking about? I could have had that from any number of men. Indeed, I did have it from quite a few. I reveled in your greatness, which I later came to learn largely meant profound sorrow.Immencse lonliness. Great effort. Considerable. Numerous sacrifices. Umpteen missed birthdays, countless significant dates forgotten, unshared beds. Symphonies concerts, different towns, changing residences, searching for new homes, suitcases, makeup, tears, silence, sadnees,silence, tears, make up, grief, suitcase, anguish, sorrow!

That silence again her looking back on wanting to be his wife, but regretting it for the missed reasons.

This is a short book. sixty pages of a poem like prose. It is one of those books that defy being place in a pigeonhole a prose poem, a novella and it also has music notations in places of each symphony also a strong feeling of a monologue. In an interview in Bosnian, I translated on google the writer talks about the silence in the book. There is many spaces and also the silence of the love between them and the silence in the music. as he says the silence that stands against the music. this is a book about the gaps in their relationship in a way a great mind and a woman of great will silenced, she had written music but early on she shows she now lives in his shadow. An interesting intro to Macedonian lit. I understand this has been made into a stage show. In the Bosnian interview, he is asked about the theatre in Macedonian Lit. For me it would work well as a monologue piece the vice of Alma comes through in the text I could see it working as a stage piece.

Behind the station by Arno Camenisch

 

 

Behind the station by Arno Camenisch

Swiss fiction

Original title – Hinter dem Bahnhof

Translator – Donal Mclaughlin

Source – personal copy

I feature the first book in the trilogy Arno Camenisch wrote The alp earlier this month. I had ordered this book first but when it arrived and I saw that it was the second book I decided to order the Alp. Which is the book he got more acclaim for? Though this book style wise is similar in tone to the other book.The third part of the book has also been translated into English. But I haven’t got a copy yet.

My Grandfather has seven and a half fingers. On his left hand he has five fingers. on his right hand, he has the thumb, the index finger and half a middle finger> Thats two and half fingers that are missing, he took off at the big band saw. He wears his wedding ring on the left ring finger. Nonno coughs and says, bot, don’t come to close to the band saw on me, or do you want your fingers pff. Nonno is the master of the band saw.

This echoed a [passage in the alp about missing fingers and maybe the harsh nature of life.

Like the Alp, this is a book set in a small alpine village of forty or so people. It is told from the point of view of a young boy. Who lives there with his brother and observes the world they live in. like in the earlier book” the alp “, this is a gritty view of alpine life for those less well off. A tale of village life growing up without any real hope in your heart. Also although through child’s eyes you see the tough nature of the world of his parents and even more so of his grandparents.Especially with the grandfather’s illness, a real feeling of hope is failing as the chief patriarch. This is tough as the narrator is only five years old elsewhere we see him and brother get into a number of scraps the brother falls the two get stuck in one part. A bleak internal look at the alpine life devoid of hope in many ways but also full of the wonderful quaint ways of village life.

We’ll have to spend the night in the chair lift and will miss Scaccia pensieri on tv tonight, my brother says, and mother will have to flush the rice and beetroot down the toilet. The last of the Chupa chups have also gone when we hear my father calling, the helicopter’s on its way. My brother looks at me. Behind the blue panes in his ski glasses, his eyes look like those of a fish. I don’t beleive it, I say , my father’s bored and joking for sure, there are no HelioKopter round here. My brother says, Maybe the heliokopter really is coming and it’ll throw us down rucksacks with new Chupa Chups and salami and cucumber sandwiches so we don’t get hungry during the night.

Somthung child like in this pasage but also harsh realism of the diet of the poor alpine people.

Like in the first part of the trilogy the names of the characters are just Family names so brother, father, mother aunt, uncle etc. The only people that we do see k=named are Italian immigrants that work the land. This is a very baron view of the world told from the internal thoughts of our nameless narrator. if Peter from the Hiedi stories had a novella written by Thomas Bernhard this would be near it there is a bitter undertow of hopelessness the village is like in the alp with the similar characters a place caught out of time with the surrounding world and our narrator even thou young could even have been like a Dickens child character for the way he viewed the world. There is a similar bleak nature to the likes of the young Oliver or even more so Pip as they both share a bleak world the world of the village of Oberlander is similar to that of Pips Marshland home.

Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier

 

Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier

Swiss fiction

Original title – Toteninsel

Translator – Burton Pike

Source – personal copy

I said at the start of German lit month the new job has given me a little extra money to buy some second-hand copies for this year’s challenge. I got this book last year. But finally read it again, last week. As Gerhard Meir belongs with writers like Bernhard and Walser writers that need a couple of readings. Meier is by trade a designer and it wasn’t till he was ill and in his forties, he took up writing.He got a lot of recognition when Peter Handke shared his Franz Kafka prize money with him. He lived in a small village and avoided the limelight.

“I like to walk through this part of town,- Do you see a;; those things over there? Discarded parts from building the railroad, presumably. And through them the sky, at times bare, overcast, putting on its stars:Firefly-lights abouve the field full of parts.I like walking through it. And if I were a photographer, Bindschadle, these iron bones would be sold commercially so people could decorate their walls with them.

I loved this description as the bones of an industral past how often I walk [past these in Chesterfield!

This is a short novella of hundred pages. It follows two old guys Baur, now he is the talker of the two. Bindschadler is the quiet one, although I sense he has just got used to speaking when it is worth it and letting Baur fill the gaps. The two have been friends since they were in the army at a young age. The two wander along the river and talk the things that matter to the pair of them like art, writing and writers. The way the hometown has changed over the years .But as they talk the events and time they talk about drift and they seem caught in a past that has gone and like the title of the book which is a famous picture of an island that is rather unclear and has a number of different versions also is the cover is homage to the picture of the Isle of the dead . They are maybe an isle of a dead world in the words.

“Thus Bindschadler, one could say that Bartok’s music brings groves of plane trees to ballet dancing, bringing in what’s around them, while prayer moves mountains or wakes the dead, even when their bones lie neatly ordered in the eartg, which according to the usual opinon, is the right place for them,” Baur said

We followed the path accross the Dnnern meadow. Antonioni’s tennis scene from Blow-up came to mind, which was mimed without a tennis ball; saw the green of the court, which in the ligh from the searchlights appeared especially green

Bones agian a rcurring theme at times also the falk of music and film here.

If Samuel Beckett had ever been asked to an episode of last of the summer wine this would have been how it would have turned out. The Isle of the dead is considered a masterpiece of Swiss modernist fiction and has echoes of the like of Bernhard in the way he viewed the art world. Joyce as they walk he use the places around them as a metaphor for a changing world. This is a slow meandering book the talk is beautiful from the two full of subtle details like a macro lens on the lives the details they give away are so defined in the conversations between the two. The way two objects or animals get a symbiotic relationship the shared past of these two is like the intertwining of the branches of two great trees that is keeping them together but also from falling over.

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