Journey through a Tragicomic Century by Francis Nenik

Journey through a Tragicomedy Century (The Absurd life of Hasso Grabner) by Franci Nenik

German Narrative non-fiction

Original title – Reise durch ein tragikomisches Jahrhundert. Das irrwitzige Leben des Hasso Grabner

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – review copy

I reviewed an earlier release from Francis Nenik. He is called the greatest unknown writer in Germany. I was caught by this book’s description so read the earlier work first. This is the first of three releases from the new publisher V&q books an English arm of a German publisher. the series is edited by the translator of this book the Berlin-based Katy Derbyshire. This was on a list of the 30 hottest books in Germany when it came out a few years ago. He has had a number of books translated into English.

On arrival he has to undress and is examined, numbered and showered. When he steps out of the washroom, he’s standing before me. Hasso Grabener, !.74 metres tall and 65 Kilogrammes heavy. He’s 23 years old, has a full head of brown hair and a large straight nose in a slightly haggard face. his chin is wide, his mouth of normal size, his lips averagely curved. Behind them is a complete set of teeth. He lookls quite healthy at first glance. His muscles are big and his bones are tonn. When he breathes in, he can extend his chest circumference to 93 centimetres, and when he breathes out there are still 81 centimetres left. He has no scars and tattoos, only a mole above the left corner of his mouth.His skin colour is white , his posture upright.

On his arrival to Buchenwald Hasso is healthy young man.

Francis Nenik discovered Hasso Grabner whilst he was researching a list of German poets for an essay. When one reads this book a narrative tale of his life and he led a life. He grew up in foster care after being born just before world war one. He got connected to socialism and communism at an early age. Of course as a young communist in Leipzig. Grabner is a chancer he eventually ends up in Buchenwald concentration camp eventually as the librarian in the prison library. He somehow manages to get let out and ends up in wartime Greece in Corfu in a penal troop but he helps the locals by letting them know to move the Jews out of the area. When they have to escape Greece he the fervent communist gets an Iron cross from the Germans. He settles in East Germany getting a job high up in the steelworks. Then becomes a writer but this leads to him being watched by the Stasi later in his career. he did in the mid 70’s.

Hasso Grabner, meanwhile, sticks out, continues his youth work, joins the Leipzig KPD’S district commitee, joins the Socialist unity party (SED), freshly cemented out of SPD and KPD in APril 46, immediately takes uo a ost in that party’s district council and, seeing as the unity party wants to see the youth united as well (And multiple burdens are a matter of course for Grabner the workhorse), is also chairman of Leipzig’s newly founded free Democratic Youth (FDJ) by March. Or not, as the case may be. The respective sources disagree on the matter. “HAsso Grabner becomes FDJ chairman, it says in one, while another stubbornly insists: “Alfred Nothnangel takes on chair of Leipzig FDJ”.

After the war he is a communist iun East Germany.

#This is like his earlier book I review one of those books that is written by someone with a love of history but also a love of those that have been passed by and in Hasso Grabner we have such a character. This is a life that shouldn’t be he was a chancer that maybe had mire lucj=k than most given his stubborn nature that must have helped. The book is a narrative journey through his life and those dreadful events over the last century. Nenik himself is a writer that isn’t all he says in his earlier book he said he was a full-time farmer but this may not be true. This is the first of three books from V&Q I am planning to review in my journey to get to 100 books from Germany under review. This is an interesting life story and a great debut from a new publisher.

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?

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

German Fiction

original title – Feuer brennt nicht

Translator – Mike Mitchell

Source – – personal copy

I am now with my next in my attempt to try and get to 100 books from Germany by the end of the year leaving 24 books to read before the end of the year. Here I have a book from Seagull books German list and the Novelist Ralf Rothmann. His works were initally based around the Ruhr arfea of Germany where he grew up but he has lived in Berlin for a number of year and this novel is one of his novels from berlin his works tend to deal with the Bourgeois side of german life.  Here he has a man facing two women in his life his wife and a former lover.

When the novel’s finished,he invites Alina to go on a trip with him and she chooses Amsterdam, where she’s never been before.He often went there during his younger days in West Germany because of the easily available joints and the concerts in the pardiso- and was repeatedly driven back home by the cold, damp wind in the narrow brick lanes He can only stand being close to the sea in the South. Moreover, he finds the ubiquitous crime a strain and when he says “Forget Amstersam”, she nods, sadly, but then she says that would be a good title for a book. At that he gives her a kiss and books a room in a hotel on the Prinzengracht.

Here we see the age gap between them shows her.

We meet Wolf a middle aged writer who initally had a passionate affair with the Alina but over the years there passion has faded. She was a bookseller who was twenty years younger than Wolf they lived seperate lives from each other in seperate apartments. He is thinking of moving from there area of berlin  where there apartments are next to each other that hasn’t been as trendy as it once was. So they decide to head out to the greener area of Berlin in Muggelsee. But the move isn’t the real problem what we have is a man scared of aging and getting old.As they move in together they seem to grow further apart than they were. So when an old Flame charlotte reappears in the writers life. As the affiar happens he uses the dog as an excuse to see charlotte. She is now a professer and writer herself that in some way seems like a writer that may be real. Here is a man in middle age crisis and is caught between to women.

But when, right at the beginning, he tests the water by telling her about Charlotte as an acquaintance from the past, he happened to meet in a cafe and they had drink and chat together, she stares at the floor and already looks hurt. Or of that just his imagination? Whatever, she certainly pale, which, with her complexion, means white. So, he doesn;t go on, he doesn;t want to upset her. “And ” she asks anyway, in an attempt at a lighthearted tone.She’s cutting up food for the dog, greyish-yellow tripe,”Did you end up in bed?”

Well you have read the book to find out what Wold answers after meeting charlotte after all those years !!

There is no doubt this is maybe autobipgraphical there is a similarity between wolf and Ralf. The writer himself has lived all aroundBerlin over thirty years after leaving his home area of the Ruhr region. There is also certain facts like the book wolf is most famous for is simila rto Ralf Rothmanns other works. Even Charlotte is a nod to another german writer that has the same name. What at the heart of this is a classic middle aged male scernario caught between his wife settled and saf and the danger of charlotte and rekinlding an old fire the danger is the excitment the clandestine nature of there meetings. The other great thing on this book is following the changing face of berlin where it is the heart of the post unification German as the east and west join here we see it from Wolfs eye. a new writer to the blog who I will try again as he has three other books translated into English Have you read Ralf Rothmann or any of the other Seagull books German list ?

 

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

German fiction

Original title – Vom Wunder der doppelten Biografieführung

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I received the three books that are forthcoming this month from the new English Imprint V&Q. There was one from the description made me want to see if the writer had any other books in English. The writer Francis Nenik is a farmer by day and writer by night. He has published several novels this is what caught my eye he had published a work in loose leaves which reminds me of the great book by B S Johnson that has a similar format. the book coming out soon is similar to this as it follows the real-life of someone. Here is the life told in a short book of two poets.

The only person, it seems to take an interest in Nicholas Moore thenceforth is the man who steals his wallet in the crush at London’s petticoat lane market; containing not so much money as letters of inestimable value – letter that moore had exchanged over the years with the American poet Wallace Stevens and the British writer Osbert Sitwell.

All that remains is lonely, wasted land.Everywhere around him. Not only has Priscilla left, but she has also taken their daughter with her, and Moore has to give up theflat where three of them previously lived. He finds a new place to live (Where he stays for the rest of his life) : a small groud floor flat in a desolate part of Southeast London.

Moore life falls aprt when his wife leaves him. He does later remarry.

The two poets in this book only met through the letters they sent to each other but both had a lot in common in their careers. Nicholas Moore was in his day as well thought of and Known as Dylan Thomas. He wrote in the forties reaching his height in 1948 when he won a big prize after that he fell out of fashion and eventually took a job as a seed merchant that wrote the occasional poems. Meanwhile, in Brno a poet called Ivan Blatny aspiring and well regard through the forties. He ran off when he was part of a delegation to London in 1948. Meanwhile, the Nicholas moore whose wife had written down his poems leaves him he has to move into a small house that he lived in the rest of his life Ivan was like Nicholas a member of the new Apocalyptics Ivan was also in a group Skupina 42. After his arrival in the Uk he starts to have problems with his mental health. He ends up in Claybury hospital and this is where he writes to Nicholas there js a few letters between the men a swapping of biographies as both saw hard times after there bright youth but in later years had a few poems out in later life but never the success of earlier years. 

On the letters

The fact that not only the letters from Nicholas Moore to Ivan Blatny, but also those from Blatny to Moore have been preserved, is due to the fortuitous circumstance that Blatny made copies of his letters in a notebook contained in the file. The possibility that these copies might be mere drafts appears unlikely since the transcriptions contained no crossings out, etc. whether such drafts existed or Blatny committed his letters directly to paper cannot be determined with any certainty. No such drafts have been found to date. Nevertheless, the letter of 16th March 1963 shows that, at least in this particular case. Blatny wrote in several stages

the letters were kept and found between the two poets.

This is a short book 60 pages in a very small edition but he brings these two poets out of the literary bin both had fallen out of notice. we even have a small Blatny poem that Moore translates in a letter as he learns Czech to read his fellow poet’s work. A touching look at what happens when you burn bright when young then are forgotten. This is what appealed about the other forthcoming work he has to pick interesting lives sad in these cases the two men never met apart from in letters but their lives seem to have had so much similar in what happened with their writing. I can’t wait to read his longer work Nenik has mixed biography, epistolary style, and history with a bit of fiction to brew up something truly unique.

That was the month that was August 2020

  1. A silent Fury by Yuri Herrera
  2. The revolt by Clara Dupont-Monod
  3. The bitch by Pilar Quintana
  4. Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen
  5. Catherine the Great and Small by Olja Knezevic
  6. Things we lost in the fire by Marianna Enriquez
  7. Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac
  8. An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky
  9. The Desert and Its Seed by Jorge Baron Biza
  10. Nine moons by Gabriela Wiener

I managed ten books last month I start with a mine disaster in Mexico, then medieval France and Eleanor of Aquitaine and her son strive for power, a dog in Chile is raised then let go by a lonely wife. A woman on a small island is going slightly mad as she waits for her fiance and mulls over her divorce.  A coming of tale age in the Balkans from a female perspective. A collection of ghostly stories from Argentina then a collection of intertwined stories that start in the 18th century then into the dawn of the internet age and the near future when people are tracked. Then a series of lost place items and poems told in some short stories, Then a son tells the story of his mother scared from an acid attack by his father. Then I finish the month off with a collection of essays about a pregnancy.  I managed eight title for women in translation month and for my own Spanish lit month six books.

Book of the month

 

It was a great month for books there was no dud books buut I just loved the concept and ideas in this books and what it made me think of when i had finished reading it. This is a series of things that aren’t an island that may have never been only seen by a few eyes before it was eaten up by the sea. A lost poem.

Non- book events

I had a nice meal with my father and we visited my in-laws this month which was the first time since all this covoid. Then later this month I woke early and nearly had two hours wait for this year’s first of three record store days. I had a lot on my list to get from an early Ben watt album rereleased, the Pogues BBC sessions, A pale saints album that was only available in Japan, a throwing Muses album, The fall and murder capital live and the tenth anniversary of Villagers debut album.  A lot of gems and great listening did you go ?

Next month

The rest of the year may have a German feel I am on 73 german novels under review and I have decided to get nearer 100 reviews. Next month sees the launch of the English arm of Voland and Quist led by the great German translator Katy Derbyshire there first three titles are coming out next month. A quick taste of one tomorrow as I review an earlier book from the same writer. Which Katy had also translated. Here is the website. The first three books all sound great and would be worth a look at !!

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

German fiction

original title – Verzeichnis einiger Verluste

Translator – Jackie Smith

Source – Review Copy

This will be the first book by Judith Schalansky I did read Giraffes neck a few years ago when it was on the Booker longlist but never got round to reviewing it. Her books are work in art themselves having twice won the prize for the most attractive book in German with earlier books she studied Art History and Communication design this is her fifth novel four have been translated into English. The book is a collection of twelve stories that we had lost overtime in her intro she says things like the last Male white rhino meaning they will die out,  an animal from the barrier reef that had disappeared. A lost jet a crashed spacecraft so many things while she wrote this book. We are always losing or seing or world change.

The reprts describing this improbable patch of land were just detailed enough to plausibly prove that it did inded once exist, even if the chronometer never determined its exact postition, for neither Tasman nor Wallis, neither Bougainvile nor even a captain of some wayward whaling ship ever sighted its gentle shores. Again and Again I studied the routes of the south sea expeditions, followed the dashed and dotted lines accross the graticule and through the paper ocean, and compared them with the presumed postition of that island which, in a rash pf imperial setiment, i had mafrked in the bottom most empty square.

Tuanki a lost island of the south seas reported but since lost

We start with an Atholl that disappeared in 1842 or 43 that was there and disappeared in what was an earhtquake the story deals with the fact it was barely known then wasn’t ther as so few westerners had see it in the middle of the Paciffic.  Then the Caspian tiger that walked tfrom Northen turkey through Iran and Afghanstan to the ver west of china when it was there this sepecies died out twenty years ago. we follow the last of them Schalansky starts to beath life in those lost piece she has gagther he box of delights her cabinet of loss. A lost piece of Sappho a lost painting the great Casper David Friedrich. Lost Villa from a famlous groundbreaking architect. A former huge East german Palace this is a lament of what is so eay to lose but these are all things that hadn’t they been collect we may haven’t of fully heard off.

Designed by a collective of architects led by Heinz Graffunder at the East German Building academy, the symbolic goverment building was errected on the derelict land known as Marx-Engels-Platz, on the former site if Berlin’s city palace, which had been demolished in 1950 it took thirty-two months to construct, and was inaugurated on April 23, 1976 as the poeple’s Palace

Palace of the repbulic the lost former Palace of East Germany like the country nearly a figment of imagination.

This isa a collection fo ghost not ghost stories but the sense of what was in each case a n island in the middle of the sea there then gone this has often happened with  earhtquakes and change in ccurrents etc there are place we know now that that won’t be there one day or even the suprise lose like Monserat a coup,e of decade agos. I love the show Abandon engineerong as we see the carcas of what was her is another literary Elephant graveyard , we could all make are own in a way things we know ior we knew. I rememeber the thearte in atockport the Davenport I went at least four or five years to see the pantomine but now there is car park. this is a collection of things she has found over time like a collector a stamp album of loss. Her prose brings each of these stories to life. As with her earlier books this is also a stunningly beautiful work. We all have loss from the personal to the loss of animals, lost building a sort of nod to her East german past with the lose of the grand palace but also the loss of all that it was to be East German good and bad there is an Ost culture from the tv shows to the food and drink they had.Have you read any of her Books ?

 

The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Tag, an dem mein Großvater ein Held war

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

We will skip of from Spain and move to world war two set novella from Austria. I had read the crime Novel that Paulus Hochgatterer is best known for back in 2012 but it slipped under the review guide but I seem to remember I enjoyed it so when this slim volume fell through the door I had to have a double-take to see if it was the same writer but it was which for me was great I love seeing writers trying different styles of books over there writing career.

They say my name is Nelli. Sometimes I believe them. sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think my name is Elisabeth or Katharina. Or Isolde, like the young sales assistant in the hat shop. She’s the reason I go into town from time to time. When I stand outisde the shop and peer through tje window, I see Isolde’s torso floating around inside, nack and forth along the shelves. The head with its auburn plait floats in top. I can’t see anything from the waist down. I imagine her lower half having sat itself down somewhere. Perhaps all the toing and froing has become to exhausting. Perhaps it doesn’t like the plait or the way in wjich the upper half says .How may I help you ? But I don’t gell anyone these sort of things

The fragile sense of Nelli here shaken by her past and not sure of herself.

The book is set in the latter part of world war two in 1945 and our narrator is a young girl she has been sent to live with family in the farmlands of Lower Austria. There is a blur to how she got there almost a sense of a girl that had maybe seen too much of the war at home. Nelli was involved with the bombing at Nibelungen tank factories, she had stopped speaking so when the family takes in a fellow victim of the war an Emaciated Russian soldier all he seems to have is a rolled-up canvas that is his most precious object this above all he has chosen to keep safe. There is an illusion in the book that this picture could be a famous lost piece of art from the war The tower of Horse by Franz Marc the picture now lost may have been Mikhail’s picture they decide to hide him and keep him safe passing him off as a fellow Swabian like Nelli. But what happens when the Wehrmacht turns up with a feeling he may be there what will they Do?

Sitting on the left of the corner bench is a young man. I’ve never seen beforfe. He has long blond hair and reddish blond stubble, and is so thin that he looks on the verge of starvatgion. He is wearing trousers and a coat made of filthy canvas.He has one arm around something that could be a pipe or a piece of fence post. It reaches up to his shoulder when he’s sitting, and its wrapped in green oilcloth tied with a carrying strap. The man is as still as a statue and his eyes are fixed fixed on the floor “Who is that” Annemarie ask me softly. “No idea,” I say “Someone whose house has been bombed pr a spy, and I tell her it’s because that’s what I imagine a spy to look like.

Mikhail and one first things noticed is the wrapped up paining in the Oilskin.

This is a slim book but a book that lasts with you Nelli is a narrator that has seen the horror of war so when the Family hides Mikhail and how he is hidden by her family. The narrative is hers but there is descriptions of the world she is living in that bring the world alive of the farmlands of lower Austria. Nelli comes over well as a damaged figure Hochgaterer is a Child Psychiatrist by profession so he manages the fragile mind of a young girl that had seen more horrors than over will see in a whole lifetime. This is only just a 100 pages long but captures a little everyday corner of the war so well and a tale of hiding a fellow damaged soul in Mikhail that has had the worst horrors of the war. This a mix of the Machine gunners ,  whistle down the wind and A meal in winter stuck in a blender and transported to Austria.

Grove by Esther Kinsky

Grove by Esther Kinsky

German fiction

Original title  – Hain

Translator – Caroline Schmidt

Source – review copy

One of the things I love best about blogging for so many years is the chance to read the second and third books that get translated by writers you had loved first time round and this is such a case River the debut translation in English from the German Writer/ Translator Esther Kinsky. It was a book that touched me her wonderful view of the world around her a wonderful observation of nature and the world around us. This book was written not long after she lost her husband the German to English translator Martin Chalmers. The narrator of this book has gone to Italy to get over a bereavement of her husband.

It is winter evening comes early. When darkness falls , the old village of Olevano lies in the yellow warmth of streetlights. Along the road to Bellegra, and through out the new settlements on the northern side, strtetches a labyrinth of dazzling white lamps. Above on the hillside the cemetery hoovers in the glow of countless perptually burning small lights, which glimmer before the gravestones, lined up on the ledges in front of the sepulchres. When the night is very dark, the cemeterty, illuminated by Luce Pertuea, hangs like an island in the night. The islanf of Morti above the valley of the vii

The unnamed narrator looks out in the dark over the village this passage really touched me.

Our narrator’s loss of her husband two years earlier she has decided to head to a small Italian village in winter to live there and try and work through her bereavement. In the early part of the book, we see her observing the village as it ebbs and flows in front of her as she sits on the balcony of her small cottage. Visiting the graveyard and seeing the names are the same as those in the shops she has been visiting. But then the feel changes as the woman remembers her childhood trips to  Italy. These sepia-toned memories of her family holidays seeing the old ladies of the villages. Carnivals and the variety of life they saw then. Then she heads to the river Po like in her book river the book springs with the world of the river the gardens around the river that she sees with that wonderful eye this is a book that sees the beginning of winters and people visiting graves then we have the remembrance of her past that seems to bring her to the now and remembering in the end of the works of Fra Angelico. A painter I had run across in a book by the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi.

Once we stayed in Chiavenna. We found a guest house, managed by a woman with a severe expression. Every piece of furniture and every step creaked. We were given a family room, which smelled of mothballs. the beds stood sombre and massivein in the large room, as if randomly placed and lefty there standing.My parents had an argument ad ,y father went out I lay under the stiff sheets pretending to sleep. My mother sat at the window, waiting for my father.

I wqas remind of a guest house we stayed in Devonwith an old fashioned own and stiff sheets like her.

This is for me even better than the river it is so personal its hard to not think of it being Esther’s own story of how she got over her own personal loss that of her husband. The book is a path of that recovery in a way starting as cold as the unnamed narrator arriving in the small village of Olevano an outsider in the winter slowly opening as the world goes on around her but in many ways still detached as she sees those villagers visit the graves and she ventures to see the names and t=in a way this is a path to her own remembrances of her past and then the last section the Po flows to the sea and toa wider world. An insight into grief and the struggle we all make with it and the different ways we can find to get over it. A book that is rich in the world around her and insight into a human soul. Have you read either of her books ?

The hour between Dog and Wolf by Silke Scheuermann

The hour between dog and wolf by Silke Scheuermann

German fiction

Original title – Die Stunde zwischen Hund und Wolf.

Translator – Lucy Jones

Source – personal copy

I was reminded when Lizzy mentioned doing a seagull books fortnight as they have made 28 pdf of there books available for free over the last month of lockdown which is so generous. I have been buying their books for the last few years as they publish some great writers from around the world one of the free pdf is this book the debut novel from the German writer Silke Scheuremann. she has won many prizes and has written both short stories and poems in her time this was her first book to be translated into English.

Ines, who of course didn’t notice the blood stain – and why would she, it was very small – came to stand next to me, and we both leant on the balcony railing and looked down at the yard, gazing at the four bins andd the row of attrophied tomato plants in silence for several minutes. After a while, Ines began to rock back and forth, her arms wrapped around her body, her lips violet-blue with cold. Sometimes I said, tow boys from the neighburhood hang around here and play strange games, toturing each other. I paused here, picking up on a small inense sound, which turned out to be Ines chattering teeth. And although out of politness, she would hae probably carried on inpecting this dismal viewfor a good while longer

The two sister early meeting there is a coldness in there rleationship as well as Ines.

Our narrator has returned to her hometown of Frankfurt am Main and to her sister the Painter Ines. The sister has been traveling and living abroad for a number of years so when she returns. She is scared that her normal routine of giving her sister money for this and that that she had done for years and years is stopped. But no within a few days Ines is back and the two sisters go swimming the other sister looks at Ines body her life she was doing well and then fell into the bottle. Then Ines boyfriend  Kai The other sister is attracted to this man as the story unfolds she starts an affair with Kai and then starts to get closer in a strange way to her sister. What happens isn’t shown in any bias to one ofr the other no there is a factual observant eye to Scheuermann writing as the sister rewrite the relationship and the way they interact this is a common story of siblings being attracted to the same man but also the relationship of lending money of being a cash machine to one sister.

I steered Ines into her flay which was smaller than mine and furnished in a completely loveless way. I was surprised how the fuinture stood about like a group of akward acquaintances, a lone chair in the middle of the room. The sofahad been pulled out a few feet from the wall as if someone had lost something behind it and not pshed it back again. Ines flopped down straight away. She mumered something that sounded like, I feel sick. Water I thought, remembering what Kai had said, went intothe kitchen. There found a whole line up of empty bottles- rum,whisky, all sorts I opened the fridge and  stared at a single iluminated lemon I can’t be all there is . I thought and looked into the freezer compartment; and true enough, a bottle of vodka nearly rolled into my arms.

The sister sees how much her sister Ines drinks and maybe her vision of her changes over time!

This book was a hit in Germany when I read the Blurb it is maybe a book that would appeal to the female reader given the sister’s story this isn’t a romantic tryst story a three-way struggle no it is a straightforward story of modern relationships and what happens when you fall for sister boyfriend (which seems to crop up a lot on tv dramas and books ) this isn’t a book of blame and guilt but a story of falling in love modern life and sibling relationships. Add to that Ines drinking problems addiction adds a different dimension and one that her sister wants to help her out of her bottle it isn’t to later in the book you get insight into Ines who initially seems a dreadful character through her sister’s eye which eases over time. A tale of love, sibling rivalries, alcoholism, and failing at life.

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

German fiction

original title – Tyll

Translator – Ross Benjamin

Source – review copy

I had thought I reviewed Daniel Kehlmann before but I had read F when it was on the old IFFP list but I didn’t get round to reviewing it rather like this year I think the time was running against me I had half read this in prep for the Booker prize but when it came to picking it up again I started and read it through in a couple of days. As I said I had read F by him and this is one I was sent and had planned to read as it mixes folklore, historic and a nod to the present in this work which is considered his best book.

Weeks pass before his legs allows him to get back on the rope. On the very first day, one of the baker’s daughter appears and sits down in the grass. He knows her by sight; her father often comes to the mill, because ever since Hanna Krell cursed him after a quarrrel he has been plagunesd by rheumatism. The pain won’t let him slepp, which is why he needs claus’s protective magic.

The boy consideres whether to chase her away. But first of all it wouldn’t be nic, and secondly he hasn’t forgotten that she won the stone throwing contest at the last village festival

As a youth learning the ropes.

The book focuses on the character of Till Eulenspiegel ( renamed Tyll Ulenspiegal here) the character has been in dutch and German folklore. He is a wandering chap a minstrel and jester all in one. But here we see him three hundred years after he first appeared in folklore since the 1500s the story here is set during the thirty years war. We see him growing up walking the rope in his home village that is like other villages but has a Grimm like feel with mentions of goblins and witches here is where the lines between the history of the time and the folk tales of the time. We see as he grows and events happen he has to leave his village to get into the wider world. Then as he leaves we see the events of the 1600s as he heads to the heart of what was called the never-ending war. The bloody battlefield real-life characters from the time are all interlink in what is a series of episodic nature as he meets mary queen of scots mother and her husband the king of Bohemia, counts and see the great battles of the thirty years war.

The fat count nodded and trued to imagine someone seriously shooting at him, aimingover the iron sights. At him, Martin von Wolkenstein, who had never done anyone wrong, with a real bullet made of lead. He looked down at himself.His back hurt, his bottom was sor from days in the saddle. He stroked his belly and imagined a bullet, he thought of the burnt goosehead, and the metall magic about which Athanasius Kircher had written a book on magnets: if you carried a magnetic stone of sufficent strengthin you pocket, you could deflect the bulletdsand make a man invunerable. The legendary scholar himself had tried it. Unfortunately, such strong magnets were rare and expensive.

The great german thinker Kircher

The story for me was a bit to fragment at the time I have scarce knowledge of the thirty years war and given time constraints I hadn’t time to read up which when I have time I would have done, Tyll is an interesting figure there is something of classic jester about him with his clever at times insight. Then there is a large chunk of Grimm here with talk of goblins and witches =. But then a  nod to the times with the madness of court life at times I was reminded of Blackadder here where the court is shown for its pompousness through Tyll’s eyes. Thi has a pinch of historic fiction a pinch of Grimm add some Tolkien and classic historic comedies. I may come back to this at some point when I have more time to read around the vents and setting but it is a book with a nod to the present as well with a reminder of what has been as a warning for what is happening.

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