Tigermilk by Stefanie De Velasco

 

Tigermilk by Stefanie De Velasco

German Fiction

Original title – Tigermilch

Translator – Tim Mohr

Source – Library book

Berlin im Licht

And when you go for a walk, the sunlight may be enough, but to light the city of Berlin, the sun is not enough.
This is no little hicktown.
This is one helluva city!
If you want to see everything you can,
You have to use a few watts!
So what then? So what then?
What kind of a city is it then?

Come, turn on the lights so we can see what there is to see!
Come, turn on the lights and don’t say another word.
Come, turn on the lights, so we can see for sure what the big deal is: Berlin in lights!source

I choose Kurt Weil his songs reflect the darker side of life on the whole and here is one about Berlin

Now every IFFp longlist there is a few books I haven’t come across with hundred plus books out a year in translation , even I miss some so when this was on the longlist I didn’t know what to expect .Stefani De Velasco was born in Oberhausen to spanish parent she studied Political science at Bonn .She now lives in Berlin , were the book is set .This book was here debut novel it won Prenzlauer Berg Literature prize .

We dump the chocolate milk down the toilet , chocolate milk is for children . We drink tiger milk this is how you make it . Pour a little school cafeteria milk , a lot of maracuja juice , and a decent slug of brandy into a muller jar . Jameelah stirs it .

This is tiger milk a very German idea , my old  German girlfriend loved nutella and eggs on toast

Now Berlin has had many great books written about it ,the city has also been a character in many books .This is a book of modern Berlin the melting pot of cultures and races that live there now .The book follows two girls on the verge of womanhood , Nini and Jameelah have just broken up for school for the summer and are all set on losing their virginity By practice .But they choose a dangerous path by going to the red light district and picking up random men to learn about sex , maybe learning in the wrong way as they just view them as meat really  .All this discovery is fueled by The tigermilk of the title a mix of milk brandy and other thinks they drink from jars (now seen in every hipster bar in the uk ) .This summer sees the girls grow but also witness the darker sides of life and sex . There attempt to practice maybe doesn’t make perfect and also different cultures

I don’t know why we ended up on Kurfursten of all streets and with the men there , i don’t know any of that , I just know that we always thought nothing would ever go wrong, nothing would happen , as long as we didn’t go anywhere alone , never alone .

The closing lines struck me how we sometimes look back in regret but maybe experiences is a thing we all need .

This book is a gem really , I’ve not read to many Bildungsroman that have females as their lead characters .Nini  and Jameelah both reflect the new face of Berlin with both there families came to Berlin from outside Germany .These two street girls so to speak are this generations Christiane F like the kids in the book and the film, set around Banhof zoo in the 1980’s .What De velasco and Tim Mohr in his translation has done is bring the streets to life through the eyes of these fourteen year old girls .A book for me to sit next to the great books about berlin like Berlin Alexanderplatz and films like Wings of desire .So a great choice for the longlist , I love discovering new voices and this is another great new voice from Germany .

Have you read this book ?

Portrait of the mother as a young woman by Friedrich Christian Delius

 

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman

Portrait of the mother as a young women by Friedrich Christina Delius

German Fiction

Original title – Bildnis der Mutter als junge Frau

Translator – jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

My Wandering Days Are Over”

You know my wandering days are over
Does that mean that I’m getting boring?
You tell me
I’m tired of listening to myself now
I’m tired of fixing things for Michael and the rest of them

You know my bip-bopping days are over
I hung my boots up and then retired from the disco floor
Now the centre of my so called being is
The space between your bed and wardrobe with the louvre doors

I said “My celibate days are over”
You put me straight on the finer points of my speech rehearsed
In the mirror of my steamy bathroom
Where the lino tells a sorry story in a monologue

Well after watching the film last night of Stuart Murdoch first film , I thought of his lyrics as he seems to capture what is going on in the mind so well in his songs and wandering days from Belle and Sebastian debut album seemed just right .

Well I reach last of the first year of Peirene books , the year of the woman series and this was actually Peirene no 1 .Now I will spare you another stream of consciousness homage  review like I did for the first review .Since the book came out FC Delius has written three more books and won the Georg Buchner prize , considered the most important prize in German literature .

Her beloved husband could not have sought out a better refugee , she could not have found a lovelier German island , and the child inside her stirred at these thoughts , she stopped , felt the movement of the little legs and arms , she took this as a sign of consent and responded by slipping her right hand under her coat and slowly stroking her dress and curved belly ,

Just as she is walking clues to a forthcoming son maybe ?!

The book follows a young woman on a walk through the streets of Rome to see a Bach concert , whilst taking this walk we enter her mind and see what she is thinking as she is walking her husband is due to be moved to fight for the Germans on the African front again .A clue to what is making her think this is the fact she has just left the doctors ! She things over her past present and future as she walks alone , things like a concert they saw in kassel ( I remember this although near end of the book as it is where an old girlfriend of mine was from so I spent time in Kassel years ago ) .What comes across is the feeling of being a woman lost during the war , a husband away fighting for the homeland and wondering how the world they live in  end up this way .

every time she went to church this old poster reminded her of the days shortly before her engagement in October ’40 , when Gert and she had heard Orpheus and Eurydike in Kassel Opera House and had so enraptured by the blissful music that afterwards she hummed the she is gone , and gone for ever ,

The scene from earlier in their relationship when they were in kassel .

Now to be honest I struggled to review this book five years ago and still have this time , although I enjoyed it more second time round and felt I got more out of the prose this time .There is a real sense of being in the mind in the thoughts of the woman , who has just left the doctors and is thinking mainly back on her life and meeting her husband and their life .There is also a bit of denial and fear in one she is trying yo avoid what may face her husband but also knows deep down what is happening and that at this point the war seems to have no end in sight in 1943 .It’s hard to imagine this book isn’t partly inspired by Delius own mother in some way , he was born in 1943 , which is the same year and time as the woman in the book leaves the doctor in January 1943 .I made more of the connection to James Joyce in the first review , of course the title is a play in a way to Joyce’s book a portrait of an artist as a young man .Delius has written this in a modernist style but it isn’t as complex prose wise as say Joyce or Woolf .More a nod to these master using a small glimpse of time a walk to a concert , like the day of Ulysses or day of Mrs Dalloway’s party to expand a small amount of time into a lifetime and the events of a simple walk through the mind’s eye become the events of ones life .

Have you read this book ?

The tower by Uwe Tellkamp

 

The tower  tales from a lost country  by Uwe Tellkamp

Original title – Der turm Geschichte aus einem versunkenen land

German fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Source – review copy

Daniel: When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions. Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn’t life under the sun just a dream? Isn’t what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn’t before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?

Daniel the angel from Wings of desire seems  to be fitting as it is set just at same time as this book from the other side of the wall .

Well its a nice long book for German lit month today , The tower is an epic novel that won the German book prize in 2008 .The son of the a doctor he grew up in Dresden ,was studying medicine , but he then had to spend time in the East Germany army as a tank commander just before the wall fell in East Germany , he was draft into the army after he was considered political unreliability by the east german authorities .He published his first novel in 2000 , but it wasn’t til the tower came out he found real success .The book was made into a two-part tv series in Germany that was one of the most watched show of recent years when it was on German TV .

Anne took Meno and Christian to one side “.I think we should give it to him afterwards  , when there’s just family . I don’t know a lot of guests very well ; I don’t want it made public .Agreed ?”

Richard made a short speech of thanks .His final words brought a grin from Christian and Ezzo .”gut now , colleagues and friends , eat your fill .”

At the birthday party they are careful when giving gifts that maybe be considered wrong in the eyes of the east german authorities .

The tower follows the years before the wall fell in East Germany , we shown this through one families story .The Hoffman family in the tower region of Dresden ,  the parents like the writers own work in medicine .The son Christian , wants to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a doctor , but to do that he has to do his military service in the NPA (National People’s army ) .Whilst doing this he struggles to adjust to military life , sees a comrade die , he ends up getting the blame for this and spending more time in the army and in prison .Whilst at the start we see his father turning 50 and coping with the system in east Germany and practicing medicine .Then there is Uncle Meno Christians uncle , considered a member of the elite intellectual as he had studied in Moscow , he was to become a scientist , but in the end became a writer ,he is part of the literary elite and tries to put forward the truth in the way that is allowed .As he and his fellow writers struggle to write and get published .

Meno went to Leipzig book fair every year .Philipp put him up for those days and continued to do so after Hanna and Meno had separated , for the two men felt a liking , a quiet respect , for each other , what Hanna had once called ” a kind of awkward friendship ”

Meno staying with a writer friend Phillp londoner , thought to be Thomas Kuczynski according to the German  press .

Now its hard to sum up a thousand page novel .The tower had been on my radar to read since it won the German book  prize  and in English since Frisch brought it out in e-book  , but then it was also brought by Penguin which is lucky I like my ebooks but struggle to read long books on my kindle , been trying to read another thousand page german novel on it for a while , but never got that far .Anyway when this dropped through the door at the beginning of the month I was determined to read and finish it in time for German lit month .Epic is a word for this Tellkamp has tried to catch the fall of East Germany , through a thinly veiled story of his own life , From the father and working in East Germany , to Christians own story in the army ,.The uncles story of trying to be a writer in east germany .We get all this in a number of styles of writings diaries , first person narrative ,third person narrative and a lot of stream of consciousness  writing .What we get is like a collection of little piece snippets of their lives  of these family members stories brought and tied together to get the story of a country falling apart and also the inner tension of East Germany a country built on mistrust .He also used uncle Meno to discuss writing in east germany  a number of the people in his circle have since been worked out by German Journalist to be specific writers of the time .Well for me this is the best book about life in East Germany just before the wall fell , that said I not read much wolf but for the whole picture I can’t see a better book  to celebrate 25 years since the wall and east germany Fell .

Have you a favourite Epic book in translation ?

The legend of the Holy drinker by Joseph Roth

 

Image of The Legend Of The Holy Drinker

The legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – Library book

 

I’m so sorry
I know exactly what you mean
Tired of being devilish
Sick of being wicked
Habitual, and untrue
Another starting over
Although it is the ending
I send regards to you
Standing on the steps
Steps of the cathedral
Watch the summer fade
Just trying to get to somewhere
Trying to get just anywhere
And I know it ain’t my day

On the steps of the cathedral by the mighty Mark Lanegan seems match this book his lyrics full of god and drinking source 

Well I had planned to read a few books by Joseph Roth for the week for him this German lit month but as ever time and other books caught up with me so I only got chance to read the shortest one I  got hold of but really enjoyed this Novella .Joseph Roth served on the eastern front in world war one , then became a Journalist on left-wing papers after the war .He was married , but his wife suffered mental illness for most of their marriage so was in a sanatorium .He published his first novel in 1923 , but it wasn’t to the early 1930’s and The books Job and The Radetzky march that he found real fame .Roth himself was a drinker ,this book was his final book .

On a spring evening in 1934 a gentleman of mature years descended one flights of stone steps that lead from the bridges over the Seine down to its banks .It is there that , as all over the world knows and so will hardly need reminding , the homeless poor of paris sleep or rather spend the night

The man who gives Andreas the money , finds him under that bridge

The legend of the holy drinker follows Andreas , a vagrant former coal miner , that because of a number of misfortunes he had become a down and out .But in the book we see this man get a number of pieces of good fortune starting with the mystery meeting with a man who gives him 200 francs .That he promises to ive back  via a statue of Saint Theresa of Liseux to give to a certain priest .The first thing Andreas uses the money for is  to go for a drink with it going straight to the nearest bar , but this leads to  a meeting with former friends , lovers lead him down a path of not giving the money to the right person  , moving in different circles we see the older version of Andreas shine through the man he used to be ,we also find out how he end up on the street after going to prison. Finally then there is a strange younger woman  called Theresa .But is all this long-term can one escape one’s fate ?

He woke up very early in the morning .Caroline was still asleep .A solitary bird was twittered outside the open window .He lay there for a while with open eyes , no more than a couple of minutes .During those minutes he was thinking .It seemed to him that not for long time had so many remarkable things happened to him as now ,in the space of this single week .

Andreas thinks about good fortune , but is it really ?

Now this was his last book , is Andreas in some part Roth I don’t know , he seemed from his bio to be struggling with drink and ,maybe this story of a man nearly redeeming himself was in some part what he wanted .Are we all haunted by our past ? Can we escape our past ? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes ? These are all questions one is asking one’s self whilst reading this book .Maybe Andreas is a wider figure the lost hope and dreams of many a man , but then given a chance to escape it .Is human nature to be repeat of what we were , can we break the cycle Andreas is maybe Roth trying to discover a way through his human nature but the world around him , this was 1939 Roth was a jew living in Paris maybe this is more a tale of some one looking for redemption .I know I musing on this one but it’s that type of book a fable like feel to his prose and a gentle wit and carefully drawn lead character makes me feel there is a lot more to this one than first appears .I also love the woodcut art that is at the start of each chapter .

have you ever read a book that leaves you with a lot of questions after reading it ?

A price to pay by Alex Capus

9781908323736

A price to pay by Alex capus

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Fälscher, die Spionin und der Bombenbauer

Translator – John Brownjohn

Source – review copy

To answer a question
It’ll probably take more
If you’re already there
Well then you probably don’t know
Well we were the people
That we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
It’s hard to get hold of
And hard to let go
Always something we look for
From the day we were born
Instead we’re the people that we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
Yeah we’re the places that we wanted to go
We’re the places that we wanted to go

The first verse of people as place as .. by modest mouse seem to match this book a bit source

Another book for German lit month , today I bring a book from Switzerland .Alex Capus is French swiss writer , he was born to a French father and Swiss mother in Normandy in France , spent his first few year in Paris , then moved to switzerland where he studied in Basel at the university .Working as a Journalist then and editor ,his big break through came in 1994 with his first book by 1997 he had developed a style of writing he is now known for using a Classic narrative style .What I like about Alex Capus is in one writer he maybe sums up this blog a bit of europe all mixed up in one  .He has previously been longlisted for the German book prize .

I like the girl .It pleases me to picture her sitting in the open doorway of the rearmost carriage of the Orient Express with the glittering silvery waters of lake Zurich gliding past her .It could be early November 1924 .I don’t know the exact date .She is thirteen years old , a tall , tin , rather gawky girl with a small but deeply incised furrow on her nose .

Opening lines the young Laura on her way through Europe on the Orient Express .

This book follows three lives Emile Gillieron , Laura d’Oriano and Felix Bloch over the course of 15 to 20 years , we first meet them as they all wait on a station platform in 1924 in Zürich , this is the only time the three of them are together what follows in alternating chapters is the journey to the second world war .Emile is a budding draughtsman who gets drawn into Forging is at the station to scatter his father ashes , but then gets drawn into ,making fake relics , is actually considered the greatest forger of his age  whilst in Greece .Laura is a singer on the music hall , moving to italy and in the end becomes a spy for the allies in the second world war  a sort of world war two Mata Hari .lastly is Felix is a physicist that becomes a member of the  Robert Oppenheimer team that made the Nuclear bomb who also after the second world war won the Nobel prize for his work during the wat  .We follow each life from that meeting on the station to each ones end .

Felix Bloch never set eyes on the girl in the Orient Express because she didn’t get out in Zürich .That November afternoon .Laura d’Oriano travelled on via Basel to Belfort , where while Felix Bloch was calling at ETH’s enrolment office and Emile Gillieron waiting for his steamer in Trieste

The three crossed paths for just a brief second of time .

Now these are actually three real people , we don’t know if they actually meet but what Alex capus has done is throw three people with relatively unknown stories around the second world war and see what lead to their part in the war .I was reminded of the jesuit saying show me the boy I ‘ll show you the man , show us the young people on a station , We find out their lives here and how the war effected them .Capus uses alternate chapters to tell the stories , sometimes the paths cross after the first meeting but not quite .The original title shows more about the book which translates as the The forger , the spy and the bombmaker , which of course is all three of them .Capus has been compared in German reviews to both Delius and Grass both of whom like Capus use the second world war as a main part of their fiction .The three characters show how people’s lives can have a knock on effect and how we may think we are on one path but a slight shove or chance meeting may lead your life in a whole different path .Fate is out their for all of us and we never know where it will take us .

Have you a favourite novel based on a real person ?

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