Tumult By Hans Magnus Enzensberger

 

Tumult by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

German Memoir

Original title – Tumult

Translator – Mike Mitchell

I had a novel from Hans Magnus on my TBR pile, I vaguely remembered his name from when I lived in Germany in the early 1990’s. He is one of the most well regarded German man of letters. He is a poet, Championing Journalist, Translator and has been the editor of thGermanan book series Die Andere Bibliothek a sort of German version the Folio society. So as I say this caught my eye as it is a collection of pieces, he wrote in the sixties a time when he travelled the world at various conferences on literature.

That is the only part of his speech where you feel itmeans something to him personally. After a pause he abandons himself once more to his meandering associations, talks about anything andeverything in a way that sounds almost muddled and gossipy. Later on , a couple of fairly senior officals tell me they are very concerned about his garrulousness. The bos they say is incapble of keeping a secret to himself especially when it’s a case of real or presumed success.

Kruschev was removed a year after this as leader.

The first piece of the four long prose pieces that he wrote in the sixties. This first piece is a trip to Russia at the height of the cold war when Kruschev was the leader a man seen as one that could heal the wounds. He was a guest of the Soviet authorities.The first part is the time he spent with all the other writers.Later in the trip, he was the Lone German writer to be invited to spend time with the leader at his holiday home.Was he observes how the leader interacts with people? At a later conference, he would meet his with a relative of a Soviet writer.This meeting is recounted in his diary entries of the time. The later piece deal with a later trip to Cuba and again meeting fellow writers. The pieces I enjoyed is were he looked back on the people he meets and said what had happened to them. This is a time when writers were still considered kings among men and their words are important.

Yvegeny Yevtushenko’s also there. He’s the star of the congress. Surrounded by photographers. For Soviet conditions there’s something of Hollywood about his appearence. To my surprise, he immediately recalls our meeting in Leningrad. He even remembers our rock and roll evening outside the offical programmes.

I have the misfortune to be compared to him in some newpapers – and it seems as if the reverse is also true.Its the cliche of the angry young man. Yet a phenomenon such as Yevtushenko is only conceivable in Russia

A poet as a hero and he was one of the voice to fise under Kruschev thaw . This also echos Urgesic view of the writer in the Soviet era.

He meets a lot of the most well-known writers of the time. I was reminded of the words of the Croat writer Dubravka Urgesic in her book Thank you for not reading. About how the Soviet era put writers on a pedestal. a time now passed. He observes how a man that was on the verge of sending the world into Madness Kruschev was as a real person as he observed him.We see the world through Hans Magnus eyes but actually, learn very little of the man himself other than his views of the times he lived in the years before the Cuban missile crisis, the Paris riots. The writers he meet like Nelly Sachs whom he was the executor of her will.(a writer mentioned in Mireille Gansal memoir she translated her.) This is one for all world lit fans with an eye to history and a love of German Lit.

 

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 .

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