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?

the art and craft of approaching you head of department to submit a request for a raise by Georges Perec

perec

the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise by Georges Perec

French fiction

Original title – L’Art et la manière d’aborder son chef de service pour lui demander une augmentation

Translator – David Bellos

Source – library book

Well as you can tell by the title this book is a little different .I have previously review his most famous book a life a user manual , a novel that works inch by inch through an Parisian house and the people who live their .Perec was a member of the Oulipo movement that like to challenge the writing using various devices .This book is from one such challenge a French computer expert in the sixties want to see if Perec could write out the various routes of a flow chart he had produced  and make it readable here is the result .Yes this flow chart as you may guess from the title is a guide on what is the best way to ask for a pay rise .

Having carefully weighed the pros and cons you grid up your loins and make up your mind top go and see your head of department to ask for a raise so you go to see your head of department let assume to keep things simple – for we must do our best to keep things simple – that his name is mr Xavier

so mr x is mr xavier actually the opening lines of the book .

The story follows an unnamed employee as he wants to as his head of department for a raise .The Head Mr x is some one he doesn’t know well ,but through the course of the story as the various ways ,times ,day he could approach Mr x are discussed we see the narrator construct  a life for his head of department has he a daughter, or four what happens if they have argued .Thus we see a man worrying about getting a raise and try to pick the absolute best time to do this task ! we see him work outr evry possible combination of outcomes .

watch the cafeteria menu because if fish is on the menu your line manager could easily swallow a fish bone and thereafter be in a really awful mood which will not be in your favour

Another option is before or after lunch to ask ?

 

I have always admire the Oulipo movement as in many ways it is hard enough to write ,but stay different and creative with follow a strict framework is harder .I was reminded in this book of the recent short novel by fellow Oulipo movement member Italo Calvino the castle of crossed destinies   where he like Perec in this used a device in that case build the story around a grouping of tarrot cards ,where as Perec has used the various outcomes on the flow chart to be the thoughts the narrator has as he awaits the right point to discuss his raise .That is it a short book 75 pages long neat translation by Bellos .An unusual idea but it works Perec has pulled of the challenge he was given .

Have you a favourite Oulipo movement book ?

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