The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

German fiction

Original title –  Die Kältezentrale

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I move on this german lit month to a new writer a writer to the blog. Inka Parei,  who won many years ago the Ingeborg Bachmann award one of Germany’s biggest prizes. She has not written many novels only three in a twenty-year career. She studied German, sociology, political science and sinology. In an interview, she was drawn to the location of this novel. She also remarked that after writing the book she hadn’t gathered how the book had related to her own family history and some of her only families coming from Eat to West.

At some point I’d have had an answer and I’d have called Martha. She wouldn’t have said anything or expected anything. In a neutral voice, I’d have informed her of what I’d found out. Her breath escaping at the other end of the line would have grown gentle, like it hasn’t been for a long time now. She’d asked me how I was feeling and then, almost in the same breath, how the last few years had been. We’d laughed because there was suddenly so much to tell, astounded at how many little things make up the world, and we’d have wondered how we could have possibly have left all the tiny things that make people happy out of our lives for so long.

As he heads to his past and the present Berlin to find Answers fro his ex Martha.

The book starts with a chance call to our narrator from his ex-wife who is dying of Cancer which sends him back to Berlin. But as he does the past comes back to haunt him he worked in the 80’s in the air colling part of a german newspaper plant the cold center of the title. this Czech built unit never really worked and need constant monitoring this is maybe a nod towards the old east Germany. There is an event that happened then when him and what would become his future and then ex-wife spent time in the back of one of the truck there that had come from Ukraine and may have been contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster that may have caused her cancer. Alongside this, he is haunted by an event with a colleague Hansmann who fell from the roof of the building to his death could he have stopped this happening? As he drifts from then to now we see him recreating those dark days in the cold center his workmates and the death that he never recover from. What was up with those trucks at the time ?

The truck was just north of Kiev at the time of the reactor accident, she continued. So you can assume it was contaminated. Think how Hansmann must have felt when he put two and two together. He can’t stay at home. He’s in constant trouble at work. Then he thinkls one of you’s being kind to him but it tuerns out the place to sleep he;s offered is really a health risk.

But didn’t others use the truck as well?

I’m not saying they meant to harm him.

Radowski was kind of guy who’d go right ahead and eat the lettuce they suddenly toog off the shelves after the accident.

And who was it made Hansmann realize?

Me.

The past and the trucks from Ukraine haunt him in the past  and what happened then !!

Her works have been described as like detective novels and this is maybe as we go into his past it is in pieces there is a blurring of then and now but also an undercurrent of the old East Germany from the broken never probably working cold center as a metaphor for the country as a whole. Then there is the death he saw which he seems to have not recovered from. Then we have the ghost of Chernobyl is that which gave his wife Martha cancer she has in the present in the past. He has a man that has been broken by the events around a death that has haunted him over many years but he also brings us into the dark heart of East berlin behind the wall. I really liked this book and hope to get her other books for forthcoming German lit months. Have you read her books at all?

Apostoloff by Sibylle Lewitscharoff

 

Apostoloff by Sibylle Lewitsaroff

German fiction

Original Title – Apostoloff

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I was sent a German edition of one of Sibylle other books.When it was on the German book prize list, I only got a few pages in before hold my hands up and admit it was maybe too much for me. Since then I have wanted to try that book, Blumenberg. But when I saw this at a price I could afford I went for this first.Is one of the most successful German writers of recent years. Born to a Bulgarian doctor and German woman.She grew up a socialist. Spent time in France and Argentina. She is known for being outspoken at times.

Alexander Ivailo Tabakoff married a woman with Hollywood qualties, a cross between Marylin Monroe and the alleged murderess Vera Bruhne, albeit with the flaw of a broad Swabian accent,marking her out for those in the know as a child of East Stuttgart. This origin, and the thick ankles from which she suffered all her life, prevented Lilo Wehrle from trying her luck in Hollywood.Instead she married a very promising Bulgarian and gave birth to his son. We can barely remember that sone,Only that he died of meningitis at the age of six.There were nasty rumours that he had died of exhaustion because his parents, ragingly in love with him and raginly ambitous, had sucked the very life out of him, The subsquent birth was an unfortunate one, at any rat,and did not make up for the damage – a daughter .

A son was first then the two sisters maybe explains there relationships to there father.

Now, this is a simple story on the surface a pair of sisters are returning to there fathers homeland Bulgaria in a convoy of cars with their father’s body as he had chosen to be frozen back in his homeland. The sisters are being driven by Rumen Apostoloff. The two sisters are very different One is polite well spoken older sister.The younger sister is outspoken and caustic at times. This is a tale of two sisters remembering their father who took his own life at a young age. The book is about fathers, visiting the homeland that they don’t really k part coming of age and also has a lot of dark humour in it now.AS the driver tries to open there eyes that only see the grey dark side of the country and its post-soviet world. A story of a father and his daughters coming home but maybe finding a home.

As so often, the bulgarian have constricted a huge theory around a single detail, in this case a complicated murder theory – the king had gone to Berlin in civilian clothing rather than in uniform, wanting to demonstrate at first hand his political tactic of keeping his soldiers out of the war as far as possible, Hitler , they say had received him in a black mood and dismissed him in just as black a mood,that may well be the case but it’s not enough for a murder, And the Bulgarians are all too eager to forget how highly Hitler regarder Boris.

A view at anglo Bulgarian german relations in the war and the allaince they had .

I can see why I wanted to try her books. She has been on the German book prize list and is described as a writer that is very unique this book mix so many things it is in part travel book, part memoir, part coming of age and comic at times. But the main themes of the book are fatherhood how his living in Germany affected his life. It is worth noting, he was also a doctor like Sibylle’s  own father. Then there is Bulgaria as a character in the book.As seen through three peoples eyes the sisters both don’t really get their fathers homeland but their driver draws them in. But even after his funeral. They decided to go with Apolostoff to the Black sea coast. He has spoken so highly about. This is the story of a man Rumen trying to get two sisters to open there eyes to the place they are Bulgaria but maybe also learn more about their father. An intriguing if difficult book another from Seagull books.

 

The king of China by Tilman Rammstedt

 

The king of China by Tilman Rammstedt

German fiction

Original title – Der Kaiser von China

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

Well, another book from Seagull books for my second German Lit month selection. Tillman Rammstedt is the son of a famous Sociologist. He studied Philosophy and literature at a university in German and Scotland. He is part of a group of writers that form the literature group Fön including Michael Ebmeyer and Florian Werner. He lives in Berlin. This book won the Ingeborg Bachmann prize in Germany.

We’re staying at the Bamboo Gardens, a cosy and tranquil hotel. The staff aren’t quite as helpful as we’d like but that has partly to do with the culture, Grandfather explained. The rooms are tastefully decorate, Ming fuinture, a small but clean bathroom, abundant foliage outside the window, but grandfather says the typical flair of the city is somewhere restricted by the modern residential block directly opposite. The room costs 680 Yuan, a mid range price as we found when we made a comparison.

The first letter reads like the travel guide bar the last words about looking at prices.

I was struck by the synopsis of this book when I was choosing a read for German lit month. As there isn’t many comic German novels out there, especially as the English had always a wrong idea that the Germans hadn’t a sense of humour.For me, this was shattered when I lived in Germany and this book is as good as any of the great comic English novelists.The book follows a trip to China by Keith and his grandfather. Now the trip doesn’t actually happen as they are just about to leave the grandfather dies. The trip was the choice of the grandfather from Kieth four siblings as a gift, but when Kieth lose the money he grandfather says to go alone, then passes away. So Keith instead of telling the family hides at home sleeping under his desk and outsight of his window. He also starts to send back postcards and letters to the family. They start of sounding like they are just from the travel guide but as they progress Kieth starts to invent things like a mad channel just showing teeth cleaning. Then there journeys in trains next to fairground arts. Intersped with this is the story of his grandfathers young with Franziska who the young Kieth is in love with her.

My dears,

To my left lies a trapeze artiste, to my right a lady contortinist, both asleep, and I too am actually far too exhausted to write, but so much happened today that I want to tell you about, even though the days are beginning to blur together, even though tey seem like years to me.

Another letter when Kieth has let his imagination go wild, rather like Billy liar.

Now, this isn’t a travel book it is a book in the tradition of books like Billy Liar about inventing a world or that of Calvino with his Invisible cities. What happens when a white lie runs out of control, When Kieth start to drift off from the travel guide, which when he writes the early letters sound just like he has written from the travel guide when he talks about the history of places and I have a huge life when he described the hotel as mid-price, quickly saying they decide so after seeing other prices. But it seems an odd thing to say. The letters are the imagined world of a young man with his own problems, but a love of his grandfather and even more of his younger grandmother. This would be herald as comic great here, I was reminded of a writer like Dan Rhodes here or more so Magnus Mills where like Mills he uses a situation to create the story.

 

 

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