Barbarian Spring by Jonas Lüscher

9781908323835

Barbarian Spring by Jonas  Lüscher

Swiss fiction

Original title – Frühling der Barbaren

Translator – Peter Lewis

Source – review copy

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song.. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
..From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone

A verso of the Poem Ahmad Al-Za’tar by Mahmoud Darwish , seems to fit the feeling of this book .

 

Another novel from switzerland for German lit month and another from Haus publishing( I love the cover of this book a very german looking cover sparse just what is need on it )  .Jonas  Lüscher was born in Berne , and studied Philosophy , getting a master’s degree first teaching , since then he also did some work alongside the well-known philosopher Michael Hampe .Barbarian spring is his first novel it was shortlisted for the swiss book prize and longlisted in the German book prize .

Preising was all set , then , to exchange the fogs of midland Switzerland for the balmey Tunisian spring .He swapped his customary tweed jacket and Burgundy cords for a houndstooth jacket the colour of egg nog and a pair of chinos with sharp creases ; in all honesty, he found this ensemble ludicrous , but his housekeeper had laid it out ready for him and he was afraid of offending her by spurning it .

I was reminded of Frasier this is just the sort of thing he would do they worry about it .

Barbarian spring is really a double meaning in its title , the first being an older word for the Arab world and the Arab spring , the second and main one is the spring of a group of people who should know better that become barbaric in the face of the Arab spring happening around them .The story is the story of Preising a Swiss industrialist and rather like  a swiss version of Frasier or Niles from the programme Frasier as he is very picky in his ways .We meet him on route to a wedding of two friends from London they are getting married in a resort in Tunisia that has been built-in an Old Berber town and made into the height of western opulence as a hotel the couple haven’t spared any expense the bride arrives in her wonderful dress on the back of a camel  .The marriage goes ahead , but even as Preising is arriving for the Marriage you sense not all is right in the world around them .Add to this the crash in the markets  in London where the couple are from at this time as well .We have two groups living on the edge and a group of overpaid rich people getting  caught up in the Arab spring .

Sitting in the shade , Snaford started talking about the niceties of the Berber village societies and the role played by women , and preising , who’d read a bit about native peoples , chipped in from time to time .

Preising and one of the guests talk about the natives , but see the world from a western view .

Now this book is a story of what may have happened but what could have happened of course the two events in the book the Arab spring and the Market crashes happened a different times but what Jonas does in the book is imagine them happening in a future event and how this has a knock on effect on the Couple , their party and Preising .But also the people in the Resort around them those everyday Tunisians .This of course leads to the darker side of human nature taking hold not just survival but also what happens when there are no rules for everyone and effectively we are all on the same level for once caught in  a storm of events .Also certain scenes show one world smashing into another like a luxury coach crashing into a group of camels , in one way the part in the coach unhurt and the family that own the camel destroyed by this one event .Short but thought-provoking fiction , using an outside eye on recent events like the market crashes and Arab spring make for an exciting and different debut novel .

have you read any books about the Arab spring ?

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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 ?

The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

German fiction

Original title – Die Herrlichkeit des Lebens

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Review copy

 

Come on skinny love just last the year
Pour a little salt, we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer

Tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Right in this moment this order’s tall

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind

well skinny love by bon Iver  is about doomed love rather like Franz and Dora is . Source 

Well when I got an email from Haus books about two upcoming books from Germany in translation I jumped at the chance with the knowledge that German lit month was coming up , this book won the Jean monnet prize for European literature prize , his earlier book has won the Alfred Doblin prize one of the most prestigious prizes in literature in Germany   .Michael Kumpfmüller he studied history at university , after he finished his studies he became a freelance writer for several papers within Germany , his first book came out in 2000 a collection of short stories , he has since written three novels .He also in 2005 joined a red/green movement run by the German writer Gunter Grass .

Dora sits at the kItchen table , getting fish for supper .She has been thinking of him for days , and suddenly here he is .Tile of all people , has brought him , and he’s alone , the woman she saw on the beach isn’t with him .He stands in the doorway , looking first at the fish , then at her hands , a little censoriously she thinks .But there is no doubt about it ,this is the man from the beach

Franz meets her alone for the first time .

The glory of life is a novel partly based on true fact , the story follows the last year in the life of the Czech writer Franz Kafka .The story is told through the eyes of Dora Diamant a twenty-five year old woman , who meet the dying Kafka whilst he was recovering on the Baltic coast , she sees the boy with in this forty-year old man and he see life in this much younger woman as the romance starts .We then follow them over course of his last year as we follow the pair to Berlin ,of course the is just the time when fascism is on the rise so apart from the romance between Franz and Dora , we also see Franz having to deal with the Anti Semitism .But he is also growing weaker all the time this means he eventually ends up at a sanatorium in Austria. We see a love that burns bright but is very doomed since the start .

He has seemed to be better again for the last few days .She doesn’t really know why : is it his work on the proofs , is it the whispering at night when she tells him silly things ,what she was like as a little girl , her refusal to have her hair cut after her mothers death ? instead she wore two long braids .

Dora loves him til the end , I love the fact she isn’t sure if it the love or the writer in Franz driving him , I ‘d love to think it was the love !

This is an imagined year , yes Franz Kafka had a relationship with Dora Diamant ,but no real evidence of how this relationship went on so , Michael has done a real good job in imagining the world they lived in , I of course have read Kafka , but it was almost twenty years ago and I have since read bits about his life , I think most of us that read any amount of books in translation know the story of how we are able to read Kafka , he had ask his friend Max Brod to destroy all his work after he died , of course he didn’t thus we are able to read him ,Max is a character in this book .This book could have easily felt like historic document ,but it didn’t no what we get is a blossoming love affair that is doomed from the start ,we know this but Dora and Franz don’t .MIchael Kumpfmüller  has brought us a story of lovers that will I’m sure touch any reader that like me is a romantic at heart .As for Dora , her life after this book is really interesting  she also had some of Kafka’s work but lost it to the Gestapo , one can wonder what was lost to us the reader .

Have you read Kafka or anything about his life ?

 

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