Dog Island by Philippe Claudel

Dog Island by Philippe Claudel

French fiction

Original Title – L’Archipel du Chien

Translator – Euan Cameron

Source – Review Copy

This is the time of year as the Booker international longlist approaches on the horizon that I start working through some books from the last year I hadn’t got to or I have brought thinking they may make the list. first is a writer that has been featured three times before on the blog over the years all his books are different so you never know what you are going to get from him. Claudel had been a teacher in Prisons for a number of years he has credited this with giving him an insight into Guilt and how we judge people that is evident in this book.

The story takes place on an island. An ordinary island neither large nor small. Not very far from the country upon which it is dependent, but which has forgotten all aboutit, and close to a different continent to the one it belongs to, but of which it takes no notice.

One of the Dog Islands

When you search for this archieplago on the maps, you do not notice the dog at first glance it is hidden. The children have trouble finding it. The teacher whom they have already nicknames the old woman was amused by their efforts, then by their surprise when with the tip of her ruler, she sketched the putline of its jaw, The dog suddenly emerged, They werfe frightened by it, it was like being with certain people whose character you do not really know when you first spend time ith them, who one day bite off your head.

This pasaage has such a dark meaning behind it and the way the dog appears is maybe a metaphor for those that appear to the teacher later!!

The setting for this is vague we are only told that it is a group of Islands in the Med we are not told where in the Med that is a great touch as it could be anywhere in the region. So Dog Island is a book where the characters in the story don’t have names they are just known by the title of their jobs so the story starts when the Teacher of Dog island is out for a jog then he comes across three young black men African emigrants how did they end up there dead washed up on the beach. These are bodies are also seen by a couple of other locals. Then the people that run the island appear the doctor, Mayor and Priest appear. There is already a feeling that these bodies are just the tip of something far more sinister and the Mayor at the heart of all that happens on the Island is now having to try and clean up what is going on before the top comes of plans on the island.

“Did you carry out an autopsy on them, Doctor?” The Teachersaid, and on asking this question he swallowed painfully, as though the word, heard thousands of times on detective series, was too burdensome for him.

“No need,” replied the Doctor, maintaining his good humour. “Drowning alas, is obvious, what did ytou expect they died from ? Sunstroke?”

Swrdy laughed, and so did america. Even the Old Woman smiled, silently, her pale lips curled into a haughty pout over her grey teeth. And the mayor laughted too, but in his case it sounded like the hiss of a snake. The teacher, who was wriggling about on his chair, spoke out in his timid little boy’s voice, which did not correspond to his large, strong frame.

The teacher starts asking questions about the bodies on the beach and what happened to them.

Islands are like small villages closed more so than normal so this is a small glimpse into the world of Dog Island but it isn’t just Dog Island I felt that was the region that we don’t have names it is to make the story universal in its themes that off the dark side of the world of those taking people and make huge profits from those chasing the dream of a new world in Europe. We have all heard stories of bodies washing up especially on the Italian island Lampedusa which we saw in the book I reviewed a while ago.  This shows what when one woman the Teacher tries to lift the lid on the dark trade in People those in authority those corrupted by money and power have to try and shut him up. We read of people buying fake life jackets, overcrowded boats, vast amounts of money and broken dreams are in the bodies of the three men washed up on Dog Island beach. This is one of those books that make you as a reader think of the wider picture of the world around them. Have you read Claudel?

Winstons Score B

 

Kokoschka’s doll by Alfonso Cruz

Kokoschka’s Doll by Alfonso Cruz

Portuguese Fiction

Original title – A Boneca de Kokoschka

Translator – Rahul Bery

Source – review copy

I join a blog tour on the day this comes out. I always feel Portuguese literature is a blank area of the blog over the years. So when I got the chance to read a book by the leading light of the Portuguese literature Alfonso Cruz he has published a number of novels this is the second to be translated into English. He is a novelist, artist, illustrator, and member of a blues group called The soaked Lamb (love that band name I must try and find some of his music). This book won the European Union Prize for Literature, I shall be covering another winner in a day or two.

At the age of Forty-two, or , to be more precise, two days after his birthday that year, Bonifaz Vogel began to hear a voice. Intially he thought it was the muce, then he thought about calling someone to deal with the woodworm, but something stopped him. Perhaps ti was the way the voice had given him orders, with the authority of those voices that live deep inside us. He knew it was all in his head, but he had the strange sensation that the words were coming from the floorboars, entering him through his feet. They came from the depths, filling the bird shop. Bonifaz Vogel always wore sandals, even in winter , and hr felt the words slipping through his yellowed toenails

The opening lines just drew me in as a reader. worth noting Vogel is German for bird!!

Now, this is one of those books that you in one part love and in another absolutely hate at times just as it isn’t a linear narrative of a patchwork of little piece stuck together we have three main narratives the first sees Bonifaz Voge who is the owner of a bird shop in Dresden he hears voices from under his floorboards This is just as the bombs in the latter part of the war have fallen and in his cellar Isaac Dresner who end up thereafter he saw a jews friend shot. He starts to talk to the man Vogel who thinks the voice he hears through the floorboards. Vogel thinks it is god and Dresner becomes this man’s inner monologue.  Then we move onto the book within the book a novella called Kokoschka’s doll by Mathias pope a work about the Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka who when his Alma Mahler left him he got a life-size doll made of her. That he took out and strolled with and eventually he smashed a bottle of red wine over her head. In an interview with the writer on youtube, he said he used this as a metaphor for the book as a whole. But also the story of the Varga’s another thread of stories with chapters that are randomly numbered. The latter book is about the novella in the second part of the book and how it is received. The three parts of this novel all interlink this is collection of stories with a dash of Aphorisms and philosophy. There is no clear way to describe this book it is a gem of snippets that see you go around the world and view the same events at views.

FROM OUR FLESH WE WILL MAKE A SINGLE EARTH

” I have always wondered who will bury the last man” my grandfather said to my father, “or in this case who will bury the gravedigger. You will, of courser. You are not a gravedigger, but you will bury me in the same earth as your mother, who died as you took your first breath almost three times seven years ago. Her earth will mix with mine, as it did in life, and from our flesh we will make a single earth”

When my grandfather died, my father did as he wished and they were mixed together for ever

one of the snippets from the opening part called the memoir of Isaac Dressner

I said I feel I haven’t read enough Portuguese literature and I always feel the same after reading books from there the deepness of there writers is always stunning from Pessoa who’s complete The Book of Disquiet I read when it came out the other year but haven’t had time to review I will be doing this soon it maybe would show how we get to writers like Cruz as Pessoa uses a lot of Aphorisms and the is no real linear narrative to the Book of disquiet. Then I have read more modern writers like Peixoto and Antunes both often use different strands in the narrative Peixoto had an odd collection of characters like this book does. I feel this is one for the readers of books like Sophie’s world or night train to Lisburn books that make you think and puzzle that have so much more at the heart and this is one it is about war the aftermath love and loss and life in general and will have you thinking for days after you have put it down.

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Icelandic fiction

Original title –  Stormfuglar,

Translator  – Quentin Bates

Source – Personal copy

It been over a year since I have reviewed an Icelandic novel which is a shame as it is one of those countries that most of the books in translation I have read over the time of the blog I have enjoyed. This book when it arrived appealed I am a fan of films that deal with the weather and the sea the likes of Perfect storm or the finest hour to name two. So when I read that this is based on actual events that happened in 1959 and the events that lead to a number of boats getting in trouble. The book is written by Einar Kárason. He has been writing since the late seventies his debut novel from 1981 was also translated into English as Devils island. He has since he has written over fifteen more novels this came out in 2018.

When the young deckhand Larus had said farewell to his parentrs and waved as the willys drove away, he went up Mavur’s gangplank.He went to the heelhouse and reported to the first mate who was there, who told him that he crew beginning to turn up and everything was almost read, sh he should go and find himself a berth in the deck crew’s quarter,  forward under the whaleback; he could then get himself a cup of coffee from the galley Larus carried his kitbag accross gthe deck, opened an iron dorr andf then another one beyond it, and made his way down a couple of steps. There were two cabins, and from both came loud voices, drunken talk and clouds of tobacco smoke, and Larus wondered whether he dar go in there

Larus arrives on the boat and sees the old sea dogs bel;ow deck.

Storm birds is told about the crew of the trawler Mávur which in which we are told the event of late February in 1959 as the fishing trawlers head from Iceland to the fishing grounds around the Grand banks just off Newfoundland. This was also the setting for the film and book The Perfect storm. The events of the voyage to fish is told by a young man Larus a young man of just 18 that is sent of by his parents although when his fellow crewmates arrive he gets embarrassed by them as they are a collection of salty seadogs and he is the new boy. The skipper has them knocking the ice of the boat as the weather starts turning to freeze the boats as the weather worsens we see the harshness of the sea that cruel sea of Monserrat as he had described it during the war years. So as they reach the fishing grounds but as it comes clear the boat and others around them are in distress they work  22 hours a day just trying to get through any downtime is spent forgetting the weather as at one point Larus talks about the books they are reading the radio Operator book chest were he finds war stories and biographies. another is reading Laxness. The story is on the edge as we find if they all make it as they try to get out of the weather back to the safety of Harbour. The events show how they dealt with the conditions as they find out what happens to the fellow fishermen on their boats just voice in the distant some too far away to help.

Larus continued to turn the pages of his book of maritime diasters when ever he had time to read, and its accounts became all the more horric because he knew they had been so close to such a tragedy.

The mess was often busy with card games in the evenings, and sometimes they played poker for matches or cigarettes.Some of the crew lounged around reading the various contents of the radio operator’s book chest – biographies, war stories; one of the engineers was reading Laxness, Iceland’s Nobel Prizer Winners, and would occasionally shake with silent laughter

Larus describes what they do in the free time on the boat.

This is almost a thriller as the tension is always there from their setting off but it is soon the men against the weather as the waves rage and the ice forms as the temperature sinks down. That is what is handled so well in the book is the conditions from the struggle keeping the ruining parts of the boat’s free so they can carry on. and struggle this is the classic of man’s battle with the elements that we have seen before from those North Atlantic convoys of “The Cruel Sea ” to the comradeship and battling spirit of the fishermen in The perfect storm as we see how a crew battle with nature itself and we find the true power of nature. This is a short book but full of colour and works in English as the translator brings the colour and conditions of the voyage to life. If you like an adventurous man against nature books then this is one for you. Have you a favorite book in that genre?

 

 

Freetown by Otto De Kat

Freetown by Otto De Kat

Dutch fiction

Original title – Freetown

Translator – Laura Watkinson

Source – review copy

Well here is the first bi-weekly review post from me and I have chosen a Dutch Novel From the Dutch writer Otto De Kat which is the pen name of the Dutch Publisher Jan Geurt Gaarlandt a publisher of Non-fiction and someone I would love to chat with as he has published a ten-volume on world Literature now that is one book that could do with being translated into English!  I read one of his earlier books Man on the Move a few years ago and have also read a couple of others that I was sent. I decided it was time to feature him again on the blog.

Sierra Leone, yes, that was where Ishael came from. I asked him where he’d lived befpre, hoping he would say something, and to was away the thought of my rash offer.

“He held his right hand to protect himselfand keep the dog in her place. I noticed the pale palm of of his hand with its dark edges.It was a momnet before he said:”Sierra Leone”>I tried to remember exactly whereit was, that country I’d never met anyone from Sierra Leone.It was only a place on the mao for me, somewhere involving Diamonds and civil war. But that wasa long time ago, and it didn’t make the headlines anymore

The offer to live with her and her trying to think where he was from

This book follows a couple that had split up in their sixties. Maria is one of those women that has made it through the world herself. She is in her sixties but she has taken in a young boy Ishmael he is a refugee from Sierra Leone he delivered her papers and they struck up a friendship that leads to him living with Maria this goes well they get on and over time the older woman looks on this guy like her son. SO when she wakes one day not long after he has become a Dutch citizen. So she turns to her old lover Vincent a man who loved her but it just wasn’t ever right but as they start to discuss their own past but also what has happened to Ishmael, this will take Maria back to the heart of where he came from and confront the ghost of and the loss of a boy.

I visited his village, Vince, I havent been back from Sierra Leone that long. For three wees, I was in Ishmael’s homeland instead of where I said I was. I’d told Maarten I really wanted to make a trip to france on my own. That was fine by him, he was busy with his own life.

“Three weeks- it seemed – like an ocean of time.But it tricjkled away into the Landscape, into the river, into the villages, int the endless people. I’ve been back two months now, but sometimes I wonder if I was ever there at all.

“My first time in Africa, I don’t think you’ve been there, have you? I remember you saying you’re a European through and through, You thought rome was far enough, you didn’t need to go any further than that, did you ? And maybe you’re right. A white person in Africa, it’s not right. I was suddenly very aware of my colour.”

Her view of being a white women in Africa as she hunts for Ishmael.

The book isn’t what it seems the story has a refugee but this isn’t a refugee story it is a story of the two old lovers and what happens about human nature when Maria reconnects with Vincent how we see has never really got over the split between the two of them. The past that looms large as they talk over their memories about what they have been through but there is also the present looming large especially in Maria’s mind and discovering where Ishmael disappeared to what was his story. I feel this is what Otto De Kat does well in his books is talk about the inner working of what makes us all human he peels the onion skins back of the past of Maria and Vincent as we see what lead them to the point they are at now. This is often as the two characters recall monologues about their relationship But then when we see the part of the book where they discuss Africa it shows how People from European view Africa in a certain way. It is what I expect from Dutch literatur4e something that has real soul and a subtle view of the world a sort of Quiet loud that remains with me as a reader if that makes sense.

Venice The Lion,the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Venice The lion, the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch travel memoir

Original title – Venetië-de leeuw, de stad en het wate

Translator – Laura Watkinson

Source – review copy

I have featured three books before by the great Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom, I thought it was more oh well I have a few to add at some point. He is one of my favorite writers especially his travel writing I loved his letters to Posiden the yearly ode to the Spanish Islands he has spent many summers visiting.  here we have another place that seems close to his heart Venice he has been traveling there for over fifty years and he always tries to stay somewhere new in the city and he seems to have read most if not all the novels short stories and nonfiction books around the city itself.

A first time, there is always a first time. It is 1964, a rickety old train from Communitst Yugoslavi, final destination; Venice. Beside me, a young woman, American. The long journey here left its mark on us. Everything is new. We take the city as it comes. We have noexpectations, except for those asscoiated with the city’s name, and so everything is good. It is all stored away in the secret tissue of the memory. The train, the cty, the name of the young woman. We all lose touch, lead different lives, find each other our lives, find each other again, much later in the other side of the world, tell each other our lives. More than Fifty years after, that first day, in 1964, will find its way into a story, a story called “Gondolas”.The city, everything that had vanished in the meantime, will form the backdrop for that story.

The opening remembering his first time in the city.

Nooteboom is a wander whether on foot or the vaparetto that cross the city he first arrived on from a train from Communist then Yugoslavia in 1964 he has tried to discover something new each time. The city is full of tales he talks of the old city under the Doges. The earliest writers like Boccacio describing the city. The labyrinth nature of the city from Borges’s short story of the city he explanation of the word in Dutch which has a different meaning than in English. Then many great writers that had later written about the city he tells us of James and Mann Pound and Kafka. Later he later stays in a hotel that Kafka wrote his sad letters to Felice. This is a man that loves to discover anew the city every time he drifts from Rushkin’s time in Venice. Later we are discussing Cassanova and he reminds me of the books of Miklos Szenkuthy who write a book about Cassanova which had caught my eye a while ago. He brings to life the city its ghosts and the very fabric of the place.

A friend had once, long ago, spent her wedding night here, and she would later tell methat Kafka had written his sad letter to Felice in this hotel, a letter that probably read as if it were at last. That same year he had sent her more than two hundred letters and cards, so the message in this letter must have come as a nasty surprise. He has, he writes, reached the conclusion that art and love do not go together, he fears that nothing would come of his work. He expresses it more clearly in his diary:”Coitus as puinshment for the happiness of being together. I shall isolate myself from everyone, living as ascetically as possible, more ascetically than a bachelor, that is the only way for me to endure marriage”

His visit to the Hotel that Kafka stayed in

This is a book for any lover of Lit and Venice as he brings the city to life through those writers that have written about it, I have never been to Venice but love anything to do with the city ever have since seen Michael Palin working as a bin man the recent BBC series following the everyday folk of the city. Cees is a man of book and this for me has given me a list of books to read. As travel to the city is near impossible for the moment with the coronavirus meaning travel is hard you can see the city anew and vibrant through Cees eyes his fifty years of getting lost and discovering new things all brought to life by one of my favorite translators Laura. Have you ever read Cees travel writing?  Have you a city you want to visit at some time?

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

German fiction

original title – Verzeichnis einiger Verluste

Translator – Jackie Smith

Source – Review Copy

This will be the first book by Judith Schalansky I did read Giraffes neck a few years ago when it was on the Booker longlist but never got round to reviewing it. Her books are work in art themselves having twice won the prize for the most attractive book in German with earlier books she studied Art History and Communication design this is her fifth novel four have been translated into English. The book is a collection of twelve stories that we had lost overtime in her intro she says things like the last Male white rhino meaning they will die out,  an animal from the barrier reef that had disappeared. A lost jet a crashed spacecraft so many things while she wrote this book. We are always losing or seing or world change.

The reprts describing this improbable patch of land were just detailed enough to plausibly prove that it did inded once exist, even if the chronometer never determined its exact postition, for neither Tasman nor Wallis, neither Bougainvile nor even a captain of some wayward whaling ship ever sighted its gentle shores. Again and Again I studied the routes of the south sea expeditions, followed the dashed and dotted lines accross the graticule and through the paper ocean, and compared them with the presumed postition of that island which, in a rash pf imperial setiment, i had mafrked in the bottom most empty square.

Tuanki a lost island of the south seas reported but since lost

We start with an Atholl that disappeared in 1842 or 43 that was there and disappeared in what was an earhtquake the story deals with the fact it was barely known then wasn’t ther as so few westerners had see it in the middle of the Paciffic.  Then the Caspian tiger that walked tfrom Northen turkey through Iran and Afghanstan to the ver west of china when it was there this sepecies died out twenty years ago. we follow the last of them Schalansky starts to beath life in those lost piece she has gagther he box of delights her cabinet of loss. A lost piece of Sappho a lost painting the great Casper David Friedrich. Lost Villa from a famlous groundbreaking architect. A former huge East german Palace this is a lament of what is so eay to lose but these are all things that hadn’t they been collect we may haven’t of fully heard off.

Designed by a collective of architects led by Heinz Graffunder at the East German Building academy, the symbolic goverment building was errected on the derelict land known as Marx-Engels-Platz, on the former site if Berlin’s city palace, which had been demolished in 1950 it took thirty-two months to construct, and was inaugurated on April 23, 1976 as the poeple’s Palace

Palace of the repbulic the lost former Palace of East Germany like the country nearly a figment of imagination.

This isa a collection fo ghost not ghost stories but the sense of what was in each case a n island in the middle of the sea there then gone this has often happened with  earhtquakes and change in ccurrents etc there are place we know now that that won’t be there one day or even the suprise lose like Monserat a coup,e of decade agos. I love the show Abandon engineerong as we see the carcas of what was her is another literary Elephant graveyard , we could all make are own in a way things we know ior we knew. I rememeber the thearte in atockport the Davenport I went at least four or five years to see the pantomine but now there is car park. this is a collection of things she has found over time like a collector a stamp album of loss. Her prose brings each of these stories to life. As with her earlier books this is also a stunningly beautiful work. We all have loss from the personal to the loss of animals, lost building a sort of nod to her East german past with the lose of the grand palace but also the loss of all that it was to be East German good and bad there is an Ost culture from the tv shows to the food and drink they had.Have you read any of her Books ?

 

The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Tag, an dem mein Großvater ein Held war

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

We will skip of from Spain and move to world war two set novella from Austria. I had read the crime Novel that Paulus Hochgatterer is best known for back in 2012 but it slipped under the review guide but I seem to remember I enjoyed it so when this slim volume fell through the door I had to have a double-take to see if it was the same writer but it was which for me was great I love seeing writers trying different styles of books over there writing career.

They say my name is Nelli. Sometimes I believe them. sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think my name is Elisabeth or Katharina. Or Isolde, like the young sales assistant in the hat shop. She’s the reason I go into town from time to time. When I stand outisde the shop and peer through tje window, I see Isolde’s torso floating around inside, nack and forth along the shelves. The head with its auburn plait floats in top. I can’t see anything from the waist down. I imagine her lower half having sat itself down somewhere. Perhaps all the toing and froing has become to exhausting. Perhaps it doesn’t like the plait or the way in wjich the upper half says .How may I help you ? But I don’t gell anyone these sort of things

The fragile sense of Nelli here shaken by her past and not sure of herself.

The book is set in the latter part of world war two in 1945 and our narrator is a young girl she has been sent to live with family in the farmlands of Lower Austria. There is a blur to how she got there almost a sense of a girl that had maybe seen too much of the war at home. Nelli was involved with the bombing at Nibelungen tank factories, she had stopped speaking so when the family takes in a fellow victim of the war an Emaciated Russian soldier all he seems to have is a rolled-up canvas that is his most precious object this above all he has chosen to keep safe. There is an illusion in the book that this picture could be a famous lost piece of art from the war The tower of Horse by Franz Marc the picture now lost may have been Mikhail’s picture they decide to hide him and keep him safe passing him off as a fellow Swabian like Nelli. But what happens when the Wehrmacht turns up with a feeling he may be there what will they Do?

Sitting on the left of the corner bench is a young man. I’ve never seen beforfe. He has long blond hair and reddish blond stubble, and is so thin that he looks on the verge of starvatgion. He is wearing trousers and a coat made of filthy canvas.He has one arm around something that could be a pipe or a piece of fence post. It reaches up to his shoulder when he’s sitting, and its wrapped in green oilcloth tied with a carrying strap. The man is as still as a statue and his eyes are fixed fixed on the floor “Who is that” Annemarie ask me softly. “No idea,” I say “Someone whose house has been bombed pr a spy, and I tell her it’s because that’s what I imagine a spy to look like.

Mikhail and one first things noticed is the wrapped up paining in the Oilskin.

This is a slim book but a book that lasts with you Nelli is a narrator that has seen the horror of war so when the Family hides Mikhail and how he is hidden by her family. The narrative is hers but there is descriptions of the world she is living in that bring the world alive of the farmlands of lower Austria. Nelli comes over well as a damaged figure Hochgaterer is a Child Psychiatrist by profession so he manages the fragile mind of a young girl that had seen more horrors than over will see in a whole lifetime. This is only just a 100 pages long but captures a little everyday corner of the war so well and a tale of hiding a fellow damaged soul in Mikhail that has had the worst horrors of the war. This a mix of the Machine gunners ,  whistle down the wind and A meal in winter stuck in a blender and transported to Austria.

The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

Norwegian fiction

Original title –  Søsterklokkene

Translator – Deborah Dawkin

Source – Personal copy

I reviewed his debut novel sixteen trees of the Somme, a couple of years ago. Lars Mytting first caught the English readers with his Non-fiction book about wood Norweigan wood chopping, stacking, and drying. Then his debut np0vel that tracked history via a tree and a coffin and a family history was touching so when I read it. So when this dropped in on winstonsdad’s tower. This is the first of three books and it is based around a wooden Stave church on the side of a lake that is meant to be moved to German to make way for the New.

The sister rarely left the Hekne farmstead, even though they got about better than folk might think. They walked in a waltz- like rhythm, as if carrying a brimful water pail between them. The slopes below the farm were the only think that defeated them. Hekne was situated on a very steep incline, and in the winter the slippery paths were treacherous. But since it was a sunny slope, the spring thaw came early in the year, sometimes by March, ad then the twins would come out with the springtime sun .

Henke was amoung the earliest settlements in the valley and the family had chosen one of the bestg spots for a faermstead. They owned not one , but two seters- summer farms further up the on the mountainside, each boasting a fine milking shed and dairy and a herd of well-fed cows that grazed on the deep green grass all summer.

The Hekne have long been there and have one of the best farms that the conjoined twins live in.

we first find out about the sister bell that is in the church. The church was made in the 1200’s and the bells where cast in silver after the story of two conjoined sisters Gunhild and Halfrid Hekne. The sisters learned to weave four-handed. whose story mixes myth and history and the story of the casting of the bells that are still two hundred years later in the church. But the myths have grown as the bells have a truly unique sound. So When the village of Butangen is given a new young priest Kai Schweigaard is trying to bring the parish into the modern world as the village is caught up in myths and folklore of the local area like that of the sisters and their bell. As part of that modernizing of the parish s the removal of the stave church, he has found that some Germans want it they send a young german architect to oversee this job now add to the mix that descendant of the sisters Astrid she is a headstrong twenty-year-old. She isn’t the usual village girl that wants to settle down she is caught between her modern mind and her family history add to that she falls for the German Gerhard and struggles to battle the new priest and his changes as she juggles her history and the wanting to find out more about Gehard why this man is a ray of light to her with his city ways. Then the bells take over!!!

Gerhard Schonauer stared after the girl for a long time, Her features made him want to draw her, there was a unique quality about her. She was quick and less reserved than the other villagers he had met that morning. The description in meyer’s seemed to sum them up precisely. “The Norwegians are a proud and strong race of Germanic descnet, They are more stoic and slower than the Swedes, but not a phlegmatic as Danes. They can seem very closed and sceptical, but once one earned their trust they are loyal and open-hearted, and they are outstanding sefarer, with the world’s best martitime pilots.

The first meeting of Astrid and Gerhard left a huge impression on him as he watched her walk off after first meeting.

This is a wonderful work there is a real feel of a village caught out of time in the way the voices of Astrid and the other locals have been translated with what feels like a country twang to there voices. The book is about change that old clash of an old and new world together and the actual history of a place the village is fictional but the small mountain village he describes and the way of life lived in the village is described as very well crafted in a Norwegian review of the work I looked up to see how much research he had done on the churches places and time. This is a novel that captures you from the first line to the last and brings the reader a real sense of place it is a well craft historical novel that has a love story, family history and folklore.

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

German fiction

original title – Tyll

Translator – Ross Benjamin

Source – review copy

I had thought I reviewed Daniel Kehlmann before but I had read F when it was on the old IFFP list but I didn’t get round to reviewing it rather like this year I think the time was running against me I had half read this in prep for the Booker prize but when it came to picking it up again I started and read it through in a couple of days. As I said I had read F by him and this is one I was sent and had planned to read as it mixes folklore, historic and a nod to the present in this work which is considered his best book.

Weeks pass before his legs allows him to get back on the rope. On the very first day, one of the baker’s daughter appears and sits down in the grass. He knows her by sight; her father often comes to the mill, because ever since Hanna Krell cursed him after a quarrrel he has been plagunesd by rheumatism. The pain won’t let him slepp, which is why he needs claus’s protective magic.

The boy consideres whether to chase her away. But first of all it wouldn’t be nic, and secondly he hasn’t forgotten that she won the stone throwing contest at the last village festival

As a youth learning the ropes.

The book focuses on the character of Till Eulenspiegel ( renamed Tyll Ulenspiegal here) the character has been in dutch and German folklore. He is a wandering chap a minstrel and jester all in one. But here we see him three hundred years after he first appeared in folklore since the 1500s the story here is set during the thirty years war. We see him growing up walking the rope in his home village that is like other villages but has a Grimm like feel with mentions of goblins and witches here is where the lines between the history of the time and the folk tales of the time. We see as he grows and events happen he has to leave his village to get into the wider world. Then as he leaves we see the events of the 1600s as he heads to the heart of what was called the never-ending war. The bloody battlefield real-life characters from the time are all interlink in what is a series of episodic nature as he meets mary queen of scots mother and her husband the king of Bohemia, counts and see the great battles of the thirty years war.

The fat count nodded and trued to imagine someone seriously shooting at him, aimingover the iron sights. At him, Martin von Wolkenstein, who had never done anyone wrong, with a real bullet made of lead. He looked down at himself.His back hurt, his bottom was sor from days in the saddle. He stroked his belly and imagined a bullet, he thought of the burnt goosehead, and the metall magic about which Athanasius Kircher had written a book on magnets: if you carried a magnetic stone of sufficent strengthin you pocket, you could deflect the bulletdsand make a man invunerable. The legendary scholar himself had tried it. Unfortunately, such strong magnets were rare and expensive.

The great german thinker Kircher

The story for me was a bit to fragment at the time I have scarce knowledge of the thirty years war and given time constraints I hadn’t time to read up which when I have time I would have done, Tyll is an interesting figure there is something of classic jester about him with his clever at times insight. Then there is a large chunk of Grimm here with talk of goblins and witches =. But then a  nod to the times with the madness of court life at times I was reminded of Blackadder here where the court is shown for its pompousness through Tyll’s eyes. Thi has a pinch of historic fiction a pinch of Grimm add some Tolkien and classic historic comedies. I may come back to this at some point when I have more time to read around the vents and setting but it is a book with a nod to the present as well with a reminder of what has been as a warning for what is happening.

The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

German Fiction

Original title  – Die Hungrigen und die Satten

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source = review copy

Well, it is to Germany next and the second novel by the German writer Timur Vermes his debut novel was a huge hit look who’s back which imagined Hitler returning and getting involved in politics in the modern age. This is his the second novel which title is a nod to the poem The wandering rat by Heinrich Heine

There are two types of rats:

The hungry and full.

The rich stay happily at home,

The hungry but emigrate.

The novel set in a near-future where Europe has closed its borders to those trying to get there from Africa.

And of course Astrid Von Roell was angry too. Not only because she was obliged to concoct the first story in its entirety, including the refugee model Ashanti 17, but also because on the first day she had to look for models on her own. Without consulting Nadeche, because the editoral team back home had already scheduled the model piece, And then to sit in Nadeche’s tent with senty or eighty photographs, which was enpugh in itself since Nadeche was premanently on the phone.

The first refugee piece where made but as Nadeche s[ends more time she falls for Lionel.

The book is a satire that is set ten years in the future an imagines that the refugee crisis has grown out of control so Europe has decided to shut up shop. So a massive camp of 150,000 refugees has grown up in the south of the Sahara as Europe has paid those north African countries to stop them trying to come to Europe and has put in place a strict limit of those that can come to  Europe meaning only those with a lot of money can get there. A German tv channel has decided to send one of the leading female stars to live in this camp Nadeche sends back a daily show as she gets to know the camp and those there from collecting wood to make fires, to those in the hospital. As she tries to make the camp seem more than it is for the public at home. Meanwhile, the government is trying to find a way to deal with these refugees without them ever reaching Europe. But as she spends more time in the camp Nadeche falls for a refugee Lionel he gets called in Germany where her reports start to get noticed.  Lionel has an idea and that is to lead an exodus of all the refugees this is initially greeted by Nadeche tv company as a great idea and as they move just 15 km a day it seems impossible that they will get to the German Austrian border they so want to get too. But then as the mass group of refugees start to get close to comfort those in charge have to decide what to do? what will they do?

Nadeche Hackenbusch and Lionel: the megastar has let her heart decide – now the fate of 150,00 people hangs on the success of this love affair.

By Astrid Von Roell

We all know the tale of the ugly duckling who turns into a dying swan. This time, however, it’s dofferent. The swan isn’t dying and the duckling isn’t ugly.Rather this is the story of a strong young woman prepared to do anything and everything for love, thereby conquering the hearts of the entire world. It is the story of a women reinventinghimself finally. Finally living the dream that no woman had ever dreamed before.Now Nadeche hackenbusch has made this dream come true; she has left her husband to acompany the great love you only meet once in lifem on his way to Europe on foot and alone. With 150,00 refugees

The Change we see later on in Nadeche from tv personality to poltical figure.

 

This is a tongue-in-cheek a what if like his previous book that put the question of what if Hitler returned what would he do.  Well, this takes the refugee question and says what if you stopped it would it go away. Would those trying to reach the dream of living in Europe and a life of plenty stop, well no as shown the camps swell and grow huge, Then he takes a swipe at the media Nadeche visit is like a real-life version of I’m a celebrity get me out of her the way they want suffering but photogenic suffering. But then the other question posed is what would happen if all those refugees waiting to come all arrived at once what would a country do? it is a question that hasn’t been asked since the Balkan conflict which did see many people from the Balkans go to Germany as refugees in the 1990’s I remember working in a German factory and at a Jugendwerkstatt with Bosnians, Croats, and Kosovans but they were European what if that huge even larger influx was from sub-Saharan africa would the welcome be different well the door is firmly shut but the question is what would the government do, what would public pinon be? As our recent election show the fearmongering press usually shows the way to everyone. This is a Wenders road movie remade into an apocalyptic African exodus. It is I’m a celebrity mixed with the worst sort of heartstring-pulling tv as they show the power of the media. As shown with Brexit the public can lap up lies and mistruths. Vermes shows us an Orwellian version of the refugee question.

 

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