Reading Europe German Lit on the radio

 

 

Look who's back

Today saw one of my favourite books get on the radio , Look who’s back by Timur Vermes  I reviewed this book last year .The book is a satire about Hitler returning to Germany in 2011 , 66 after the last day he remembered was in 1945 , as we see him tackling the new world that surrounds him . He finds people have forgotten who he is or thing he is a comic that does Hitler on the german tv .The amount of turkish people now in Berlin and things like TV , Starbucks or Herr Starbuck’s as he calls it the rise of his coffee shops . I’m so happy this was choosen to as part of the BBC reading europe series . For me when I reviewed this I said how well Jaime the translator of the book   had caught the  voice of hitler , this has been carried over in the performance of David Threlfall  which is  just perfect .He has  long been one of my favourite actors and in this performance he  captures what we feel Hitler must have been like if he spoke english in the 1940’s , that madness that is just below the surface of him  ,.He has the feel of a man on the edge but just on the edge . we see how Hitler becomes a star of the new media age  on a comedy show (presented by a Turkish comedian ), The TV folk think he is actually a very clever comedy  act , not the real person . Some great lines , where he takes some one to pieces about their knowledge of Poland , his constant thoughts about  what he would do to people around him  and looking for his  new Bormann .The final discovery the internet a wonder to him  .You can find this the first episode here  .If you want to see how Hitler finds modern Germany .Another triumph for Jamie Bulloch , he also translated Every seventh wave and forever yours which were also on the radio .

 

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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 Chef by Martin Suter

 

The Chef by Martin Suter

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Koch

Translator – Jaime Bulloch

Source – Review copy

 

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands

with my own two hands a love song by Jack Johnson , reminds me of what Maravan made with his own two hands source 

Well its been a quiet German lit month here on winstonsdad , I’ve chosen a bestseller from Switzerland .Martin Suter started out as a copywriter , working for one of the best known ad agencies in Basel for twenty years ,before setting up his own company .He also has a well-known coloumn in a monthly magazine in Switzerland .He got his breakthrough novel in 1997 , small world which was made into a film .The cook is his seventh novel .he spends his time between Spain and Guatemala now .

By the time  Andrea left that evening she had been initiated into the aphrodisiac secrets of milk and urad lentils , saffron and palm sugar ,almonds and sesame oil ,saffron Ghee and long peppers , cardamom and cinnamon , asparagus and liquorice ghee .

The food describe at times makes you mouth water and you Andrea discover the power food can have .

The chef  is the story of two former restaurant employees , their former restuarant was one of the best known in Zurich to the fact its chef was a well-known , but after the financial crash lead to job cuts . So  Maravan the Tamil who was the dishwasher and Andrea the beautiful waitress find themselves without a job .The pair discover that Maravan , is actually a wonder in the kitchen , he learnt to cook back in his native Sri Lanka .But the food he cooks is more than food it has almost magical powers in the love department , as the people who eat it seem to be given added sexual powers they discover this after Maravan cooks one of his meals for Andrea and she falls for him after eating the food he cooks .This leads to the idea of starting a company cooking for couples and becoming partners in the buisness  .As the business grows we start to find out a little more about Maravan’s life before he came to switzerland ,where he shouldn’t be .They also grow and some of the people he is dealing with are shady seling arms this leads them into a underworld .

“The dirty stuff ”

Andrea understood immediately what he was saying , but asked “what dirty stuff ”

Maravan paused .

“If someone rings and wants ,you know , sex dinners .As far as I’m concerned you can say yes ”

“Oh that .All right , I’ll take that on board , anything else ?”

“Nothing.”

As soon as Maravan had hung up ,she looked for the number of the caller who had asked about the sex dinners ,she had noted it down , just in case .

They decide to move their business in a new direction using the special qualities in Maravan’s food .

Now I don’t usually read blockbuster novels in English , the books you may call airport books , but as I read just translation these days we come across these books from time to time Suter is a big star in Europe ,his books have been made into films .His novels from what I read tend to have like this one a social justice message behind them from Maravan’s own story to that of his friend from Ethiopia  , a bit of love and a bit of crime .I can’t really match it to an English writer as I say I don’t really read blockbuster novels .but that said I was reminded of the thing Stephen king does in his books and that is the sense ,Suter seems to have  an eye for this book ,possibly becoming a film .In fact the film version of this book is out in the next few weeks in German-speaking world .Entertaining quick read , that has a little bit of everything thrown into the mix , culture clash , cooking , love ,sex ,crime and murder , also a detailed description of the financial events around the world as the crash starts to happen .We also get the recipes that Maravan cooks .

Have you read a bestseller from around the world that has been translated into English ?

Someday we’ll tell each other everything by Daniela Krien

someday we'll tell each other everything

Someday we’ll tell each other everything by Daniela Krien

German fiction

Original title – Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen.

Translator Jamie Bulloch

Source – Review copy

Despair and Deception, Love’s ugly little twins
Came a-knocking on my door, I let them in
Darling, you’re the punishment for all my former sins

I let love in

source Nick cave’s Let love in ,did Henner let love in was he ready ?

Time is running short for women in translation month I ‘ve three books left to put up for the month here is the first a German novel from one of my favourite publishers Maclehose .Daniela Krien was born in Jena in former East Germany  ,then lived in Lepzig ,she has been a scriptwriter for a number of years for a German film company that make films about artists .This was here début novel and won high praise in Germany for it use of  Powerful language it also was a best-selling German  Audiobook .

 Henner truly is a handsome man .I realised that when he was in the shop :a hulking body that moves powerfully , but with fine facial features .He has deep-set ,expressive eyes surrounded by small ,dark lines ,and a hint of bitterness around his mouth ,although when he smiles it disappears completely .You can’t tell he’s a drinker .

Maria first time see really sees Henner as the young women she is now .

Now it is 1990 the wall has fallen in Germany and slowly east is meeting west ,this story is the story of that summer .But this is in the hinterland of East Germany in a sleepy back water town .Maria is a 16  year old that is enjoying her first real summer of freedom .Now next door to her parents farm lives Henner a hard-drinking man ,that has many dogs and a reputation for being a womaniser.Now I have no need to say any more really .But it’s not as you may think ,no Maria is the one that falls for the rough unkempt Henner and starts to make moves for him .Henner responds as this affair grows it starts to cause Maria problems at home what will she do ? How does Henner really feel for Maria ? . where will they all be when summer is over ?

Shortly before midnight I leave Henner’s house carrying my case .As a goodbye he takes my head in his hands and plants a kiss on my forehead .Then he puts his index finger to his lips .I nod,perhaps not distinctly enough ; i sense that his eyes on my back lack their usual certainty .So I turn and repeat the gesture he was looking for .

The affair has to be secret at first .

I initially wasn’t keen on this when I was sent it from Maclehose something about the cover said a female read (I know I shouldn’t think this but I did ) .But I was sure there would be something in it I would like as Jamie whose previous translation choices I have always enjoyed .I am so pleased I looked past the cover on this one .The book is a reverse of what on the surface you imagine a 16-year-old girl and forty-year man would be and that is the Man seducing the younger girl .Maria is a great character a rebellious dreamy  teen want to shake the shackles of her family ,she is dreamy and sees Amour Fou in Henner .Yes this is a tale of passion ,passion for the wrong man but she sees more in him than maybe Henner sees in himself  .A summer romance but more than the average summer romance no this affair  is a raging forest fire of a romance and both may get burned in the end if they don’t control it .All this and in the background little hints at the joining  of east and west Germany ,one could almost say this relationship is rather like the joining  of the two  Germany’s  Maria as west German  young dreamy and in love and Henner broken ,stumbling through his life as East Germany .Have you a favourite book about romance desire or passion ?

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

Look who's back

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

German fiction

Original title – Er ist wieder da

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – Review copies

There are times a book published elsewhere in the world gets noticed before it is even translated this is one such book it cause a storm when it was published in Germany ,and me with my finger just on the pulse really hoped it had a uk publisher pick it up so when those lovely folks at Maclehose said they had brought the rights and the rising star of translation from German Jamie Bulloch had been given the task of translating the book I knew it was going be great .Timur Vermes was born in Nuremberg to a German mother and Hungarian father he has written for various paper in German and also ghost-written a couple of books .This is his first novel .

The boys gathered around me , but kept a certain distance .After affording me a cursory inspection , the tallest of the youths , clearly the troop leader ,said :

“You alright ,boss ?”

Despite my apprehension ,I could not help noticing that the Nazi salute was missing altogether .I acknowledge that his casual form of address , mixing up “Boss” and  “Führer ”

Just after he wakes up and talks to a group of boys he still thinks it is 1940 something .

 

Well to the book Look who’s back ,now from the cover on the top you may already have a clue what the book is about .We meet Hitler but not in 1940’s German no he has woken up in the middle of Berlin in 2011 .Now he has to adjust to modern Germany .At first people see him as a bloke dressed as Hitler maybe from a party the night before,as Hitler slowly gathers that he has been brought forward sixty plus year his beloved fatherland as he sees it now is in a state of trouble .So he decide to try to regain power but as he thinks he is starting to be taken seriously .People actually think he is a very clever satire act ,but as it unfolds they laugh but the laughter stops with the more he says .As he become a star on You tube with his rants and views .Bur what do the modern extreme right make of him ? Will he ever accept a German run by a women ?

My supporters were fewer in number than ever before .And,mein Gott , there had been times in the past when they were in terribly short supply .I have a clear recollection of that occasion back in 1919 when I paid my first visit to what was still then the German worker’s party : seven people were present .

He starts small again in the present but remembers the past .

Loook who’s back is part of the continuing German looking back at the war years and figures involved in the war years ,this started a couple of decades ago with films like Europa ,europa ( a film following a Young Jewish boy who joins the Hitler youth to avoid the death camps ) ,Stalingrad ( a group of German soldiers get cut off from the troop and stuck in the deep Russian winter )  then of course Downfall .Now Timur has tackled modern German as  viewed through the eyes of the past and how often have we wondered what the  leaders of the past would make of the present .What would Churchill make of modern Britain is one thing I wondered ? Also the part I like is how Hitler is now viewed as a figure of fun by the modern German public what was once his true power the rant speech is now just surreal to a modern German public .It also shows how we view people in Modern media his rise now is because he is viewed as a clever satire ,but isn’t ,but people just think he is pulling the wool over their eyes .Vermes has tackle something that at times is still at the heart of modern Germany ,how did the past happen and could it happen again ? Jamie also really caught that voice of Hitler well .

Do you have a favourite satirical novel ?

 

The taste of apple seeds by Katharina Hagena

the taste of apple seeds

The taste of apple seeds by Katharina Hagena

German literature

Original title –  Der Geschmack von Apfelkernen.

Translator Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

glm_iii

Katharina Hagena studied English and German at Marbach , Freiburg and London ,after getting her degrees ,she spent two years working at the James Joyce centre at Zürich ,this lead to her first two books which are non fiction and relate to Joyce’s work .This is her first novel .she currently lives in Hamburg .

I was intoxicated by the aroma in the entrance hall : it still smelled of apples and old stone , and my great-grandmothers carved dower chest still stood by the wall .on either side of it were the oak chairs adorned with the family coat of arms : a heart divided by a saw .My mother and Aunt Inga’s heels clacked against the floor ,sand crunched beneath the leather soles .

such a feast for the reader in her words sums up the farm-house so well .

I feel awful it took me so long to get to this book I read it earlier in the year but I loved it so much I felt it need the chance of German lit month to get every one to know about it .The story follows Iris and her growing up ,a grandfather with a secret in  his past during the second world war and her grandmother ,now in her twenties her grandmother has died she is having to return to the house where she spent her summers and to the memories of those summers ,so she decides to spend the summer there and choose what to do with the farm-house remember her family the smells of summers gone by and her mother and also her  aunt a pair that were so close  growing up .A journey through iris growing up ,and having friends and falling in love for the first time  families and how three generations got on in post war Germany chuck in a handful of interesting side characters some that always wore black the odd secret her and there you have a stunning book .

An apple

Or , rather the remains of an apple .The flesh at the blossom end was missing ; the top half with its stalk lay in two pieces by his shoe .Lexow stood still , his breathing was rapid and fitful . there was a rustling in the tree .

The trees played a huge part in Iris memories .

I loved the nature of this book rural Germany a happy on the whole family a young girl finding herself in the world ,I don’t read many female writers mainly as it seems to be male writers on whole that get translated more so Lizzy and Caroline saying we had to read two weeks of female writing means I have read a few more female German writers recently  .Given Katharina hagena history and previous work I had to try to link it some how to Joyce and I can in the sense of place she capture that so well like in Joyce the smell of liver cooking is memory for me that lingered long after I read Ulysses ,this had the scent and taste of apples and apple  trees  the clean smell of there blossom in my mouth for weeks after I had put the book down.Also as ever I have to say Jamie has shown why he is one of the best young translators from German around as with his work on peirene you are hard pushed to find fault with it  .I’m pleased to see this visual book has had a film made and just released in Germany and by the look of the trailer they have caught what I visualized in the book .

Do you have a smell you have attached to a book you have read ?

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

the mussel feast

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

German fiction

Original title – Das Mushelessen

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – personnel copy brought on Kindle

Birgit Vanderbeke is a German writer ,she lived in Frankfurt growing up and studied German .Before becoming a freelance journalist .She currently lives in southern France .The mussel feast is her best known book and a set text in most German high schools .

This evening of all evenings we’d say we decided to eat mussels.But it really wasn’t like that .Ypu couldn’t call it a coincidence .After the event, of course

The sit to have the mussels what does it mean ?

So the mussel feast is set on one evening a family sit down for the special meal of Mussels to eat .There is a mother son and daughter .The story is being told by the daughter ,all that is missing is the father .As the evening unfolds we see why there having this meal as it is the fathers favourite meal ,the mother really isn’t keen on this meal but happily spends hours scrubbing the mussel’s to the point that her hands start to bleed .This family now in the west had managed to escape the east of German .The family is a strange one the mother is a teacher a nervous women who seeks solace in playing Schubert on the piano .The father has grown up embarrassed of his origins as an illegitimate child this he make the family feel as he tries to mould them in an imagined image of them .The daughter she is the most level head of the family .The son now he gets a lot of dressing down and abuse from the father . So when they sit at 6.00 there is a Erie silence as the father should and always is there ,the bowl of mussel is laying their cooling there to afraid to eat them .The story is virtually poured out as the daughter lets the history of the family and even the bowl the meal is cooked in that came with them from the East to West Germany .The four-hour later a phone rings what’s happened ?

My mother said ,forget the martyrdom ,this is absolute purgatory ,but my father said it helps ,and he laughed at us when we fussed; stop making such a fuss ,he’d say and ,pain is relative that,in fact is true ,because my father had hardly any sensitivity to the sun .

The mother hates the sun but the father seems to think it is a minor point .

Now I love Peirene ,well Meike choices ,this is a classic choice what is amazing is that it has taken 23 years for this book to reach us in English.This still has an impact but at the time would have  been  electrifying  and timely ,yet again showing the importance of people like Meike that champion the smaller books from round Europe ,even thou it is late we still get the glimpse behind the irom curtain  .Now the book its self ,well I know that this is one of those books that has two levels the first is to see it as a family story the story of a family in fear of a father and coping ,surviving come from East to West ,but in some ways regeretting thinks from the east maybe an early example of ostolgia ? .The pther level is what is the father is he more than he seems is he indeed a simple example  for a wider figure in the old east Germany ,the Stasi man (or women ),is the way the family is all in fear of one a wider view of what life was like in East Germany  .Yes the father seems like a repressive regime at times making the whole family bow and bend to his will . Now style wise this is in the classic vein of central european writing that feel of being full on comma after comma ,give an almost breathless feel to the narrative and  add to the feel of the book that makes you feel the tension at the table ,the shadow of this father falls of the page over you as the reader .To the point you worry is he coming back ?

Have you read this book ?

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