The rings of saturn by W G Sebald


The rings of Saturn by W G Saturn

German literature

Original title – Die ringe des Saturn

Translator – Michael Hulse

Source – Personnel copy


would tell you about the things they put me through
The pain I’ve been subjected to
But the Lord himself would blush
The countless feasts laid at my feet
Forbidden fruits for me to eat
But I think your pulse would start to rush

Now I’m not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes

I choose Depeche Mode try walking in my shoes as we all feel we do this in this book

Well week two of German lit month and I finally get to review a book by my all time favourite German writer and the first book by him I read 16 years ago when it came out The rings of Saturn is one of those books you read and go I’ll never forget it and I want to read everything the writer has written at once .Well I did I later decide to leave a few of his lesser books for a later date. I have been meaning to return to reread them but have been held back by a fear of something I love being less on a second reading than it was on the first. So last week I watch Patience (after Sebald) the film by Grant Gee about this book I went well I got read it again Sebald lived in East Anglia at the time he wrote the book. He taught a UEA international Literature.

In august 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end. I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thinly populated countryside, which stretches inland from the coast I wonder now, however, whether ther might be something in the old superstition that certain ailments of the spirit and of the body are particularly likely to beset us uner the sign of the Dog Star

Linking dog day to a dog star is great and that is just the opening lines .

So rings of Saturn what is it , it’s not a novel, memoir, travel or biography a Christopher Maclehose said in the Gee film Sebald could be put anywhere in the shop. So rings of Saturn follows Sebald on a walk through East Anglia in his mind as he is taken to hospital. The hospital reminds him of Thomas Browne whose Skull is stored nearby .He is also a link to the two threads in the book Him as a writer he mentions brown a few times through the book and the fact Browne is descended from Silk merchants and Silk is another recurring theme in the book. From the silkworms of china to fish glistening like silk. As he follows the route his mind tells us both of place but also that wonderful knack Sebald has of digersion going off on a tangent inspired by a picture or a place to tell a story of something and somewhere. He also links back into his own past and the dark days of Germany’s years under Nazi rule.

Which the entire herring fisheries threatened to go under, beneath a truly catastrophic glut of herring. It is even said that vast shoals of herring were brought in towards the beaches by the wind and the tides and cast ashore, covering miles of the coast to a depth of two feet and more.The local people were able to salvage only a small portion of these herring harvested in baskets and crates .

I was reminded of the lady I support an old Herring girl, this also brought the image of those bodies drifting on to beaches of refugees I have seen recently on TV.

I often wonder how I would feel after rereading this book would it still be a favourite well the answer to that is yes and more so I feel inspired to go back to vertigo and the emigrants in the next year or so. For me time had served to connect me more with Sebald but also more with the story. In the film he talks to someone about having a friend from the small town of Goch where it is mentioned in connection to a map the man making the film knew someone from there , strangely I have been there as it was very near to Kleve where I lived many moons ago. Then there is Browne I reviewed his Urn Burial here which is one of my most view posts on this blog .Sebald also talks of Roger Casement a man whose connection to places I have been is strange he was converted to a catholic in Rhyl in Wales where my own grand parents lived for a time and then was in Ballymena in Ulster which is where my own Milly came from and I have also reviewed the book by LLosa The dream of the Celt all about Casement. Then there is a picture that Sebald connects to the Holocaust of a river of fish on one of the streets, but to me remind me of a woman I looked after that work as a herring girl following the fishing fleets up and down the coast getting the fish ready .As you see for me this book is about connections Seblads but then as a reader it is easy to connect your own life and books you have read.It is like the map that has been put together of the book following the walk but also connecting out to places mentioned in the book .Sebald maybe best capture how a mind can drift and the interconnections we all make at times.


The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

bridge over the drina


The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Na Drini ćuprija

Translator – Lovett F Edwards

Source – personnel copy

This table has four sturdy legs
And a heart of very near wild oak
When others would have screamed out loud my friend
This one never even spoke

I’ve been sat upon, I’ve been spat upon
I’ve been treated like a bed
Been carried like a stretcher,
when someone thinks they’re dead
I’ve been dined upon, I’ve been wined upon
I’ve been taken for a fool
Taken for a desk,
when they should have been at school

The table in the song by beautiful south is a dumb witness of history source 

Well this has been a book I have want to add to the blog for a while . Part of what I need to do is add books like this and writers like Andric .Former Nobel winner .He was born to Bosnian Croat parents ,was rought up in the town of Visegrad where this book is set and the bridge is .He won the nobel mainly based on the value of this book it was the first of a trilogy of books he wrote set in his native Bosnia .

For the greater part of its course the river Drina flows through narrow gorges between steep mountains  or through deep ravines with precipitous banks  . In a few places only the river banks spread out to form valleys with level or rolling stretches of fertile land suitable for cultivation and settlement on both sides . Such a place exists here at Visegrad , where the Drina breaks out in a sudden curve .

The town has people living on both sides of the bridge .

The bridge of Drina is well what it says on the tin the story of this bridge that in a way links east and west . The bridge is set in the town of Visegrad . The bridge was built-in the 16th century by the Grand Vizar to connect the two sides of the town and two worlds really . Through the book we see families torn apart on the two sides of the river . The story starts with a Serbian boy  whom has been  taken from his parents  .The parents of the boys taken suffering . Through the door of everyone living in the town we see the small world there but also the larger world of the Balkans .WE see the religions of the region and how they affect the townsfolk Catholic , orthodox and muslim altogether .This is a huge book about the region through glimpse of the world through three centuries .

In all that ten days long bombardment no major damage was done to the bridge .The shell struck against the smooth piers and rounded arches ,ricocheted and exploded in the air without leaving other marks in the stone than light ,white scarcely perceptible scratches . The fragments of shrapnel bounced off the smooth firm stone .

The bridge came through world war one fairly unscathed .unlike the world around it

Now this book was written in Belgrade during the second world war .It maybe shows much of what happened after the second world war . The cracks that finally broke up the post Tito Yugoslavia can all be seen in these little stories in this book as we see the lives through 300 years which has seen many people trying to gain control of the town and over Bosnia and the wider region . from the Ottoman empire .then the interaction between the Serbs and the Muslims .Andric enters all the lives of the town he grew up these are little stories glimpse of people’s lives that he knew and must have heard of growing up in the town .Also the  folktales of the place all drawn together .The bridge is like a dumb witness to the history and the wounds left during the three hundred years in this book .Which formed scabs after this book that was maybe ripped off to bleed again by the Balkan conflicts at the end of the 20th Century .This is my second book for east European month and maybe one of the best and earliest books of the post war eastern europe .

Have you read this book ?

Special Delivery by Iselin C. Hermann


Special Delivery by Iselin C. Hermann

Danish Fiction

Translator – G. Forester

Original title – Prioritaire

Source – Personnel copy

The other day Alan was asking about modern Epistolary novels ,I of course mentioned Love virtually and its follow-up Every seventh wave two of my favourite epistolary novels .But in the back of my head I had a nagging thought that I had recently brought another epistolary novel and so I had it was this one so looking for something short to break up a run of long novels I choose to read Special delivery .Iselin C hermann is a Danish writer that studied the Theatre at university and then moved into working at a publishing hose specialising in art books ,then in 1998 became a full-time writer .This book was her début novel and she has since written ten other novels .

Delpine Hav

I was very pleased to get your post card .

I was pleased because I know that feeling exactly .A particular poem by Walt Whitman does the same to me ,and so do some of Beethoven’s late sonatas .I’d go so far as to say that at the same time as I feel I own these things ,not that anyone can own them ,I have a feeling that the piece of music or the poem in question has been created specially for me .

The opening of Jean-Luc first reply to Delphine

Well the book starts with a young Danish girl Delphine writing to a French artist called Jean-Luc Foreur .She says she may not own the picture ,which she saw in a gallery in Paris but she says “the picture is mine” out of the blue she gets a reply and thus starts a correspondence between the two .This exchange of letter is like a slow blossoming of a flower the letters get more and more sordid in their town .Now Jean-Luc is married and is middle-aged ,his letter are spaced ,Delphine is a youngster (here aged is never fully revealed but the is a letter where she writes what she can and can’t do due to her age , but  I would have said she was between 19-22 ,she loves writing to Jean-Luc one can almost see her letters as  young girl just coming to realise who she is as a women .Jean-Luc on the other hand is hard to read as a person , via his letters who he really is he tells Delphine how much he wants her but in doing so rarely lets her other than little glimpse know a lot about his life . They are drawn towards a meet  after 18 months of writing to each other ,but at this point Jean-Luc seems reluctant ,then we have the huge twist at the end !

Thinking about you is a pleasure and a curse .And I think “I am wasting my time missing him ” or “Does one miss most what is impossible and what is unattainable ?” But I also think :”The real waste would be to go without him and what he does to me ”

An extract of a later letter where you see Delphine’s feeling have grown somewhat for Jean-Luc

Now I love the books Meike does for Peirene ,well this would have been one they would have done for sure it is one of those Novellas it 126 pages but feel much larger than that.What is at its heart is the paths love and attraction can run .Can a couple of fall in love without ever have met or seeing each other ?   It maybe shows how we can trust too much at times although this is an exchange of letters it brings up the current use of Facebook and messengers and young women talking to men that may not be all they seem .To me this book should be a modern classic it is just perfect and although I ve decide against scoring books this one would be a 10/10 for sure .A great take on the epistolary form one that maybe should be more widely used even these days as so much of what we communicate isn’t face to face but in the form of messages ,tweets ,e mails and via Facebook .

Have you a favourite Epistolary novel ?

Have you a favourite Danish novel ?

June 2021


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