Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel

 

 

Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel

German fiction

Original title – Tanz am Kanal

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – Review copy

Well, I always love reading the Novellas Peirene, choose every year. Over the time I have blogged, Peirene has been publishing books. I have been reviewing them on this blog. This third book of the year is by Kerstein Hensel the German writer initially trained as a nurse in the former East Germany and then studied literature. This book originally published in Germany in 1994. Only a few years after the reunification of Germany. She has won numerous prizes for her works. Including the Lessing Prize for the body of her works.

I avoided Fraulein Brinkman. I knew that I had to do something to not stand out.The “I” was a sign in the register. From then on I did my fair share of staple throwing and chair rocking. My fellow pupils cheered me on and accepted me as one of them; Ha , the doctors kid wants to play too!

The first teacher at school had her down as an I from the intelligentisa the only one in the class !!

Told from the point of View of Gabriela. Gabriela is born into a family of Nobility in the Former East Germany. Her full surname is Von Haßiau. She is the daughter of a Surgeon, her mother is a society Hostess. Now, this would be great a wonderful start to life in the west but this is the old east of Germany. Gabriela is expected to follow in the family way so when she is just five she is appointed a Violin teacher. Although her playing never amounts to much it is her teacher that touches her. after she lost her Uncle the one they called the Bad German is shot by the regime. Frau Popiol and her red hair have a lasting impact on the young Gabrielia as she compares her first school teacher unfavourably to this woman. On her first day at school, her fellow pupils laugh at her name. As she is described by the teacher as A bourgeoisie relic for using the Von piece of her name. But as her father intervenes for her next day is different. But she has one friend at school. Katka is the poorest in the class is her friend they connect most to her mother’s dismay. THey get on til the teen years where Katka grows up after her first period. But Gabriela starts to go down hill. Ending up under the bridge living by the Kanal.We also see through her childish eyes. The family fall apart, early on in the book she describes her mother drinking. Then later finding her in bed with another man. Then Her father who she says only talks about Varicose and his clinic. He like many fell foul of the east German regime. We see all this as Gabriela tells her story when the wall falls down as a homeless woman in East German to a west German Magazine.

Katka left me standing there. I wasx suddenly alone. Wanted to get away. Where to? Whereever you want. I walked through the city. The city eneded aty the canal. Where to now? Yes or no.Wherever you want. I don’t know where I wantto go. Yes. No I’ve never been kissed. Don’t lie.On the canal there’s a little house. Who lives in this little house ? Yes of no. Steer clear of it. Why? don’t know wherever you want.Dance by the Canal

The passage icluding the title she had danced earlier there with Katka in thr town of Liebnitz she grew up in.

 

The parents say the daughter is Blnka when she was bad and Ehlchen when she was good.But this is a story of a girl that never really fits. Her parents you see from her point of view are distant then her school doesn’t work. This doesn’t help when her father won’t let her join in certain organizations within the school that all the other pupils are in but her. It is a story of a downfall. In the intro to the book on the Website says you look into the face of a homeless person and wonder why them not me. I get this sense myself. If our lives twist one way or another would we be Gabriela? What she shows is that even the highest can fall but also I feel the path is laid for Gabriela in a way. She has parents that we see maybe have other agenda in their lives but her and then she puts her self straight on the back foot at school. One downfall is a maybe the voice of thousands that fall through the cracks.  Also, shows the darker side of life on the streets when Gabriela has something happen and isn’t believed.

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Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

German Fiction

Original title – Im Stein

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Review copy

I rejoin my late run on the Man booker longlist to try to get through the books , which I have now all read including a rereading of this book. One of the joys or reading so much in translation is to meet writers you have reviewed earlier as they move on in the careers and here is one such case . I first reviewed Clemens Meyer when on of his early short story collections All the lights was translated and published into English , so when six years later his Magnus opus arrived in english I read it, but struggled how to review it as it is like his earlier work an unflinching account of his east german homeland.So when it was longlist I decide a reread and maybe a new look at Im stein the book was also on the german book prize list when it came out in Germany

If this year goes well  I’ll have saved up a nice sum. Most girls can’t kep hold of it , like guys with their cum – money I mean . Gucci here, Prada there ,sure I treat myself now and then , what do you think ? (wink wink !smile to camera , and my little winter comedy’s rolling after all , oh well , it’ll be a nice little hotel job, the perfect end to a working day , and a gentlemen with champagne and hopefully not one of those monster dicks , mind you , wink wink !)

One of the girls early on about the life and how easy it is to get caught up in it and who is that next Man !!

The story is rather like a classic American gangster film plot in a way ,I ‘m think Scarface in a way for the story of Tony in Scarface is similar to that of Arnie the main character in Bricks and mortar . They both come from the tough sde of town one aC killer that escapes to american and the other an East German football thug . Now they have different path tony is of course drugs but Arnie makes his with woman and sex in what is often called the oldest profession and as in Germany it isn’t strictly illegal he sees his empire grow from the early days in 1989 to the modern-day from the dark side of the trade with young children and the pipeline bring women from around the world to the doors . We also see the shifting tastes of his client’s as his empire grows but like all empires he has to protect it and this we see in full police and other people wanting to step in on the trade . We also see the world from the inside with the voices of those on the blunt end the girls

You open , your eyes and you’re not alone . There’s a woman sitting there , on the chair by the wall , right under the flower print . She’s black , her skin , and black curly hair and a  pale pink dress . You don’t understand right away because it’s not possible. ou work with a couple of African women , it used be the Vietnamese to begin with and now its the Africans, but why has this woman of all people come to visit you ? And didn’t they tell you no visitors for one or two days ?

A detached voice of a girl caught up in this world telling of the change faces she has seen

This is a brutal books , Meyer like earlier German writer like Jorg Fauser (who I reviewed here ) or Doblin in Alexanderplatz  they are much better at looking at the dark side of life and here Meyers use the prostitutes and the pimps to show how the old East German stumbled into the New Germany not smoothly but kicking and screaming like a premature child of one of the girls on the came screaming to go back to the safe world of the east at times not the capitalist world of commerce , webcams money to be made from the girls all day every day yes they have rights but some don’t and as the book goes on you see them become more of a wheel in a money-making machine for Arnie and others , hence I choose their voices for the quotes as they really hit home I felt  the hopelessness of this a brutal world elegantly written by Clemens  and translated by katy and another gem from fitzcarraldo a publisher trying to bring the best and most challenging works into English .

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 ?

 

The old king in his exile by Arno Gieger

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The old king in his exile by Arnoo Gieger

German Memoir

Original title – Der alte König in seinem Exil

Translator – Stefan Tobler

Source – review copy

When I meet the Swedish translators last year Nichola one of  translators , she also works for and other story and thought this book out this month would be one I would like.By the Austrian writer Arno Gieger a writer that won the first german book prize for one of his novels in 2005 . This is the memoir of the time he spent with father as his father is suffering from Alzheimers . this is the account of that time.

Because it was wartime, my father had to take early graduation exams in February 1944 and was conscripted ; a mere seventeen-year old grammar-school boy from a farming family, an unworthy altar boy with little life experience – neither child nor an adult , neither military nor civilian, as Bulgakov called such schoolboy soldiers.

He was transferred from the labour service to the Wehrmacht in the summer of 1944

Just as trhe war was turning against germany his father is sent into the army and to the eastern front the worst front to be sent too

The book starts when August is having to move in with his son Arno after struggling with the creeping on set of alzheimers. Intially all goes well he lets Arno take care of him with simple task such as dressing . But he sees his father grasp of language shrinking but he tries to discover a father who he hasn’t really known . He sets out gto try and connect with his father discover more that he knows about his father that he was a child soldier in the war, why does he carry a picture of him as a half-starved man in his passport.He also writes about the way the condition can make people reimagined their lives but also glimpse into his own family’s past the rural life his father grew up in is retold to him .The father does do those things we expect get loose disappear but these are mere side piece in this book no this is the story of father and son walking talking and rediscovering one another.

When i asked my father why he had married my mother , he said he had liked her a lot and wanted to give her a home. Here, too his great themes were present : home ,safety,security. They mattered to him . being in love is nice, he might have thought , but knowing where you belong is nicer still .

His father has a sense of belonging post war the image he carries is like a glimpse that he got through the war when so many didn’t

This is the story of a son discovering his father but also the story of his life his mother and brother from the early days of the farming life that his father lived in the russian front time and then his return and settling down marrying which later led to his mother living his father a situation he blamed his mother for his father;s present position . For me it remind me of what work I do and why I do it that its learning about the past to help the people I support so if someone talks about a tv  show that was on thirty yeas ago i know about it so I can chat about it because some days they don’t know what they did that morning but can remember in great detail an old tv show .the chance you get to rediscover someones past as that is what they are in they are moving back in time as we move forward and some times we have to take on the style and world of the past to get close to those we help. I can say I really enjoyed this book it was nice to see a refreshing look at Alzheimer’s for the bits that like Arno finds can be gems of someones past yes he runs off loses himself sometimes but other times he is so profound and a sort of poetic vision of the man comes of the pages.If you read one book about Alziheimers this is the one to read less dark than others .

From Germany to Germany by Gunter Grass

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From Germany to Germany by Gunter Grass

German Non fiction

Original title – Unterwegs von Deutschland nach Deutschland.

Translator – Krishna Winston

Source – Personal copy

Well I was late review my German reads for German lit month. I always try to include a Grass novel or as in this case a work of his non fiction . This came out a few years ago. But it was the clock turned back nature of this book Grass thoughts on 1990 a man who really didn’t like to keep a diary felt that the year after the wall fell down. The East German government fell in December 1989. Grass felt compelled to write his own thoughts on the events of the following year including the first free elections in east Germany.

I fear my planned trip to the GDR is going to take place during the let-down after the first successful revolutionary rush. But old power structures are proving durable, as might have been expected. The mass exodus continues. The opposition is weighed down with organizational problems. Maybe in June and august I’ll be sitting on Rugen or in the Elbe sandstone mountains writing about progress of the German-pPolish cemetery association.

We all remember those pictures of abandon Trabants all round Germany as people from the east came west.

The year follows not only the world of German politics Grass was an active voice in the spd the German socialist party. Happy as he is that Germany has become one again he worries that the rejoice could turn into something dark from the past of Germany that he remembers and that is nationalism. We also see him struggling to write his latest novel the call of the toad. A novel that at its heart is more about Grass a man than German he was born in Danzig a German in a part of the world that is Polish but not only is Grass German he is Kashubian by birth a nationality he says at some point is part way between being what is German and what is Polish so in some ways he still views German events through this part of his being.We see him meet many figures of the day like a trip to meet Vaclav Haval the czech writer like Grass himself a face of the times. Elsewhere we get glimpse into Grass personal life his wife Ute the time spent in the Algrave were we also see Grass talent as an artist with all his drawings in the books.

Finished Malte Laurids Brigge. The last third makes for disappointing reading: the precise observant and previously mentioned oddities drown in sentiment and in vagueness more typical of Rilke. The scenes set in Denmark are as strong as I remembered them: the loud dying of Old Brahe, or the mothers fear of needles.Remarkable how the book’s demand for a death of one’s own contrast with illness (cancer) of Ute’s mother, which will probably result in death.

I have a new translation of this Rilke work which I plan to review . It makes me think of how does a book change as you age ?

This didn’t come out to after Grass had died, I do wonder if he wanted it published maybe he left instructions after his death. I loved the personal and public mix of his life I mean at the time he was maybe one of the best known german figures and to have his views on this time one of the most significant in my life time. I was on germany a few years after this in 92 and 93 and remember the sense of hope. A sense I think which has now vanished some what. But I also remember a few people being worried as Grass was about the skeleton in the cupboard so to speak. Piece like this only give a small glimpse into a great writers life, he tackled the unification more in his later novel too far afield which follows two older German men around Berlin and is well worth reading .

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.

 

Women as lovers by Elfriede Jelinek

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Women as lovers by Elfriede Jelinek

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Liebhaberinnen

Translator – Martin Chalmer

Source – Library book

I carry on with my second german lit month book and another big hitter of German lit .When Elfriede jelinek won the Nobel prize her writing was described as difficult and hard. I at the time didn’t read her books so now eleven years after her winning the Nobel prize I decide to try her but not with the best known of her book the piano teacher I choose this an earlier book by her and I am pleased I choose this book as it wasn’t challenging or hard to read in fact if anything it was very entertaining.

The example of Paula is from the country. Until now country life has held her in check – just like her sisters erika and renate, who are married. One can already write both off, it is as if they were not in the world at all. It’s different with Paula, she is the youngest and still properly in the world .she is 15 years old.

Paula is now ready to find the world and a man her family seems

Women as lover is the story of two factory girls and their lives. The two Brigitte and Paula are of an age where they are wanting to find that last lover the one to be married to and the story follows both of them in this action with each chapter in turn telling the story of each girls progression. There paths go two ways one meets a businessman a man on the upward path of life but he also motivates Brigitte to become a better women herself even thou they aren’t initially attracted he isn’t really her type. Then Paula she meets and falls head over heels for a man of similar standing as her self a forest worker Erich ,he is handsome compared to Heinz so Paula goes feet first into married. But as the story evolves it has twist initially you feel for Brigitte struggling to meet her new mans standards but getting there and what initially seems a perfect match turns very sour as Erich isn’t all he seems.

The wedding of Heinz and Brigitte is very moving and solemn

The wedding of Erich and Paula is very moving and solemn

Brigitte is very happy

paula is very happy

Brigitte has made it

Paula has made it

Brigitte is pregnant and will soon be able to hold her child in her arms.

Paula already has a baby. She has already been holding it in her arms for a while.But today the baby must stay at home.

Heinz is now master in the house, as he says good humouredly

Erich is now master in the house, as he cannot formulate, but as others whisper to him

This Call and Response style of writing as the pair marry and their paths split off in different directions.

 

I loved the style of Jelinek writing at points she use almost a call and response style of writing as shown above when the two girls lives are told in parallel . This book also made me wonder if Anita Raja the women who is now thought to be Elena ferrante , her self a translator of German Lit into Italian had worked on this book as it seems although totally different in many ways the initial idea of two female friends and the life beginning is may the same core idea as the Naples  quartet? also the way the two characters lives drift in two directions is also similar to the ferrante books characters. The book also shows how fragile some female lives can be and how married can sometimes be like a prison sentence for some and on the flipside of the coin for other can be the chance to blossom and grow.

 

 

The emigrants by W G Sebald

 

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The emigrants by W G Sebald

German Fiction

Original title -Die Ausgewanderten

Source – Personnel copy

Translator – Michael Hulse

Well another November is on us again and it is German Lit month and as I sit writing my first post of the month on Halloween as tomorrow I am in London giving a talk to the Swedish translators group. I decided to kick of this years German lit month with a great  reread from one of my favourite writers Max Sebald was maybe better known in the Uk at the time he wrote. But know 15 years after his death we are slowly seeing writers influenced by him , I am at the moment reading one such writer from Slovenia.

The years of the second world war, and the decades after , were a blinding, bad time for me, about which i could not say a thing even if i wanted to . In 1960, when I had to give up my practice and my patents, i severed  my last ties with what they call the real world.Since then, almost mu only companions have been plants and animals.

Dr Henry selwyn had to escape the world into nature to get through life in the end

The Emigrants was the second book by Sebald I read after I read rings of Saturn by in 1998 , I got the two earlier books by him in the weeks after I finished Rings Saturn. So it is nearly twenty years since I read this book and this second reading hit me more than the first one. The story is of four emigres from Europe . A doctor his story remind me of my own connection years ago to a man from the Baltic states my friend was from Latvia where as DR Selwyn in the story comes from Lithuania . Else where in the last of the four tales we see Max Ferber a painter Talk about his mother and her childhood but also along side this is his life in Manchester which touched my life again My grandfather was county architect for Salford in the  60’s and some of the modern blocks that my grandfather was involved with designing . So as max is describing his mothers pasts I connect with my own past in his present . Another story involves the narrator talking about the fate of his former school teacher that escaped before the war.

As I expected, I have remained in Manchester to this day, ferber continued. It is now twenty-two years since I arrived, he said , and with every year that passes a change of place seems less conceivable. Manchester has taken possession of me for good. I cannot leave, I do not want to leave, I must not. WEven the visits I have to make to London once or twice a year oppress and upset me

The north had soaked into Ferber holding and keeping him there .

I wondered if the germans have a word like Saudade that wonderful portuguese word that is a feeling of longing missing and memories of a lost past. There is a similar word Sehnsucht a word about longing but the saudade word is better her as it is about the loss a world this book these four are survivors of the holocaust in their own ways ans the four tales each reflect what was lost , the past that can never be this is what Sebald does so well in his book through his mix of prose and images to draw us as the reader deep into the world that is lost from the simple pictures of a class before the war and a wondering of how many were left . This remind me of when I met Dasa drndic the Croat writer and talked about her book trieste which in the italian version has pages that can be torn out  of the list of Italian Jewish victims of the holocaust and the effect is to make the book and the story unstable and this is what Sebald does with his pictures glimpse of a dead past. A world now dead remember and lamented the loss of a jewish europe wiped out by the war and spread through out the world.

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