Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin new translation

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

German fiction

Original title – Berlin Alexanderplatz

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

This is the first time in the seven years I have been blogging I am reviewing a book for the second time. I reviewed Berlin Alexanderplatz. But that was the first translation by Eugene Jolas, which had cut some of the original out and was inspired by Jolas fondness for Joyce. So when I heard Hofmann a translator, I admire was doing a new translation I was looking forward to it so to get sent a review copy was a treat. Alfred Doblin studied medicine in the years before world war one which meant he got to avoid the war. But the war had an impact on his views he wrote from 1915, but this book was the one that raised him to a national and international standing when it came out and is considered a masterpiece of German modernism.

Our hero has been successfully brought to Berlin. He has sworn to mend his ways, ad we wonder wheter we shouldn’t simply stop here.An ending her would be optimistic and straightforward, an ending seems to be at hand, and the whole thing wouuld have the advantage of brevity.

But Franz Biberkopf is not just abyone, I have not summned him for my own amusment, but for his heavy, true and iluminating fate to be experienced.

Franz Biberkopf has been burnt, now he stands there in berlin, feet apart and merry, and when he says he wants to be respectable, we believe this to be the case.

You willsee how for several weeks he succeeds. But that’s just a period of respite

The opening of chater two captures well his life cycle of Franz Biberkopf

 

So the approach Hofmann took was to make the book seem more like its German version where it is a wonderful mix of the world around the main character in the book. Franz Biberkopf. We meet Biberkopf as he is released after surviving a sentence for manslaughter. He has determined to try and go on the straight and narrow. He initially is drawn into a story told by a Jewish man who takes him to a rabbis house. But he manages to get out of what is a strange situation and ends up selling things we see him going through a number of different trades. Alongside this, we see the city around him as each small chapter is made up of a what happens to Franz but also the city around him.As he meets woman after woman. He also has a scene in a slaughterhouse where he sees how the meats that are sold are made. He tries to stay on the straight and narrow but he is a man drawn to the darker side of the town, But when he meets a man called Rheinhold a friend at first but later attacks Franz he has to head down the path of crime and gangs.As he gets involved more with the Pums gang.Franz is a man drawn by fate and maybe a liking for the darker easier side of life as he sees it.

Since Christmas is icumen in, Franz makes a switch into seasonal products, for a few mornings and afternoons it is shoelaces, first on his own, then with one Otto Luders, luders been out of work for two years, his wife takes in washing. Fat lina brought him along one day, he’s her uncle. For a few eeks in summer he was the Rudersdorf peppermint man with swizzle sticj and uniform. He and Franz wandered through the strets together, go inside the houses, ring doorbells and meet up afterwards

Franz is slipping down and getting in with the wrong sorts as the book goes on .

This manages to capture the world of Doblin book so much clearer than the Jolas did. we see a world this is different to Joyce’s modernism of an internal voice. No this is the world without filters Doblin tries to capture every detail to give the reader a full picture of the Berlin of the time the smells sounds and feeling of the place jump of the page. Franz Bibeerkopf is the dark side of the Isherwood World of Berlin, this is a man that has been to prison and tries to go straight but is drawn in by the wrong people as he spends his nights in Bierkellers and with women of a certain type. If John Dos Passos, Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski had a bastard child it would be Doblin this is like Dos Passos modernism a way of capturing the wider world and the personal struggle at the same time. Franz is like a character from A Waits song or a Bukowski novel a loser but trying to be more than he wants to be. I still say watching the Fassbinder series is worth it I watch it after reading the book the first time and am midway through a rewatching of it. As my next review is the 800th on the blog I pleased to meet a new version of a book I loved first time around.

Have you read either translation of the Book?

 

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To back of Beyond by Peter Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To back of beyond by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Weit über das Land

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – library book

I usually try over the new year to catch some books that may be on the man Booker longlist. A good place to start is writers that have been on the list before so this is the first of two books I have got from the library from previous longlisted writers. Peter Stamm has won a number of prizes in Germany for his writing which is described as being sparse.I have reviewed his books twice before on the blog, he is a writer I feel could be on the longlist this year.

When astrid realized that Thomas wasn’t lying beside her, she would suppose he was already up, even though she almost invaribly got up first. She would go upstairs half asleep and wake the children and go downstairs again. Ten minutes later, freshly showered and in her robe she would emerge from the bathroom and call the children, who were bound to be still in bed. Konrad!Ella! Get a move on! If you don’t get up now, you’ll be late,Always the same sentence.

Astrid goes into auto mode when Thomas goes.

Like his other books, this has a moment at the start of the tale. The moment this book starts is when a perfect or so it seems couple Thomas and Astrid with their 2.4 children return from a perfect holiday in Spain. Next Day Thomas walks out of there house and starts to do a Forest Gump and walk around Switzerland. Meanwhile, his with Astrid is like a rabbit caught in headlights and just stays as she is covering for her missing husband.Thomas initially stays in a caravan then heads to the mountain trying to live off the land as best he can stumble into a brothel. Well, Astrid tries to help the children then she decides to let the world know what has happened. Why did Thomas escape, why hasn’t Astrid acted sooner? This is about keeping face in a way for Astrid there perfect life had tiny cracks in but they failed to see them.

It was daybreak when Thomas awoke.The moon was high, but it didn’t shed much light in the brightening sky. The group if trees that Thomas had seen as an outline the previous nightwere just a few sick specimens with leafless crowns, their trunks a tangle of ivy. A sweetish smell hung in the air.

Thomas clothes were sodden, but he didn’t feel cold. He rubbed his hands on the damp grass and wiped the sleep from his eyes .

Thomas is in a dream state at times .

This is a novella and touches on what modern life is about in a way. Those who like Thomas just drift off this isn’t quite Christopher Mccandless into the wild Thomas isn’t making a point in a way he seems  more hunting for what is seldom seen these days in our towns and cities and that is as Kierkegaard said “I found I had less to say, until finally, I became silent, and began to listen.I discovered in silence, the voice of God. Maybe not quite God, but Thomas is seeking that clarity it brings to people sometimes. Their life isn’t all it seems this is classic Stamm in a way he has a way of going under the veneer of modern life. He has a way of placing his characters into situations using a starting point.Like in seven years he uses a classic storyline a man leaving his family in a mid-life crisis a Reg Perrin or Frank Bascombe life falling apart. What is your favourite Peter Stamm book?

The legend of the Holy drinker by Joseph Roth

 

Image of The Legend Of The Holy Drinker

The legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – Library book

 

I’m so sorry
I know exactly what you mean
Tired of being devilish
Sick of being wicked
Habitual, and untrue
Another starting over
Although it is the ending
I send regards to you
Standing on the steps
Steps of the cathedral
Watch the summer fade
Just trying to get to somewhere
Trying to get just anywhere
And I know it ain’t my day

On the steps of the cathedral by the mighty Mark Lanegan seems match this book his lyrics full of god and drinking source 

Well I had planned to read a few books by Joseph Roth for the week for him this German lit month but as ever time and other books caught up with me so I only got chance to read the shortest one I  got hold of but really enjoyed this Novella .Joseph Roth served on the eastern front in world war one , then became a Journalist on left-wing papers after the war .He was married , but his wife suffered mental illness for most of their marriage so was in a sanatorium .He published his first novel in 1923 , but it wasn’t to the early 1930’s and The books Job and The Radetzky march that he found real fame .Roth himself was a drinker ,this book was his final book .

On a spring evening in 1934 a gentleman of mature years descended one flights of stone steps that lead from the bridges over the Seine down to its banks .It is there that , as all over the world knows and so will hardly need reminding , the homeless poor of paris sleep or rather spend the night

The man who gives Andreas the money , finds him under that bridge

The legend of the holy drinker follows Andreas , a vagrant former coal miner , that because of a number of misfortunes he had become a down and out .But in the book we see this man get a number of pieces of good fortune starting with the mystery meeting with a man who gives him 200 francs .That he promises to ive back  via a statue of Saint Theresa of Liseux to give to a certain priest .The first thing Andreas uses the money for is  to go for a drink with it going straight to the nearest bar , but this leads to  a meeting with former friends , lovers lead him down a path of not giving the money to the right person  , moving in different circles we see the older version of Andreas shine through the man he used to be ,we also find out how he end up on the street after going to prison. Finally then there is a strange younger woman  called Theresa .But is all this long-term can one escape one’s fate ?

He woke up very early in the morning .Caroline was still asleep .A solitary bird was twittered outside the open window .He lay there for a while with open eyes , no more than a couple of minutes .During those minutes he was thinking .It seemed to him that not for long time had so many remarkable things happened to him as now ,in the space of this single week .

Andreas thinks about good fortune , but is it really ?

Now this was his last book , is Andreas in some part Roth I don’t know , he seemed from his bio to be struggling with drink and ,maybe this story of a man nearly redeeming himself was in some part what he wanted .Are we all haunted by our past ? Can we escape our past ? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes ? These are all questions one is asking one’s self whilst reading this book .Maybe Andreas is a wider figure the lost hope and dreams of many a man , but then given a chance to escape it .Is human nature to be repeat of what we were , can we break the cycle Andreas is maybe Roth trying to discover a way through his human nature but the world around him , this was 1939 Roth was a jew living in Paris maybe this is more a tale of some one looking for redemption .I know I musing on this one but it’s that type of book a fable like feel to his prose and a gentle wit and carefully drawn lead character makes me feel there is a lot more to this one than first appears .I also love the woodcut art that is at the start of each chapter .

have you ever read a book that leaves you with a lot of questions after reading it ?

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

seven years peter stamm

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Original title – Sieben Jahre

Source – Library

Well Peter Stamm is one of those writers that has been on the edge of my radar and wish list for a for a few years now and after reading this has jumped to writers I want to complete .So Peter Stamm studied various subjects as diverse as English ,business information (?) ,psychology and Psychopathology ,He had worked in a psychiatric ward as and intern after this  .Before becoming a freelance Journalist and then on into writing in his early thirties .He has won number of prizes in Switzerland ,Seven years is his tenth novel and the seventh to be translated to English .

Meet Ivona ,said Ferdy .She’s from Poland .This is Rudiger ,and this -is Alexander .He was standing behind me ,I had to almost vertically look up at him .Have a seat said Ferdy .The women put her glass down on the table and next to it her tissues and her book ,which was a romance novel showing a man and a women on horseback .

Their first meeting and maybe a subtle hint at what is coming .

So Seven years is a spin on the old seven-year itch story ,a phrase that has been coined by Psychologist as the time a couple that has had a monogamous relationship is likely to stray and to  have an affair .So the couple in this book are Alex and Sonia ,they are described as a sort of trendy  hip middle-aged couple into the hip things  and image they are both Architects ,on the hip edge of this Sonia loves the works of the Franco /Swiss architect and urbanist Le Corbusier .So we she her going her and there to see his buildings .  So it is a shock when the third part of what becomes a love triangle in this book is Ivona she is a rather dull plain women from Poland that had come into Alex’s life a number of years before he started the affair with her then and we are being told how it happened  .What develops is a very strange and almost awful relationship Alex like the fact that Ivona is the total opposite to his wife and when she tries to make her self more appeal he makes her stay the same ,she top him appears as an object a thing he has to use not often as a person .Whilst his wife is going on about a new house and this and that .This happened in the past and is told with a cold tone at times giving an insight into Alex as maybe an emotional devoid man.

I had known her body in all its details .The heavy Pendulous breasts ,the rolls of fat at her neck ,her naval ,the stray black hairs on her back ,and her many moles .I knew how she smelled and tasted .How her body responded to touch ,I knew it repertoire of familiar movements ,but when I saw Ivona sitting there ,I had to acknowledge that I din’t know the least thing about her , that she was a complete stranger to me .

Sonia was a conquered land in Alex’s eye and Ivona was a woman of mystery .

I was looking forward to this on a number of levels I had heard how easy Stamm is to read ,he is the book took me a day and a half to fly through but then kept me thinking about it for the next week or so which was the other thing I had heard was  that Stamm is a writer that lies with you long after you have put the book down ,and yes he does .The other thing I really like is the fact it is a Hofmann translation I have always found his translation to be top drawer clean and unfussy style  ,with real sense that it isn’t a translation .So Alex and Sonia what do I make of them they struck me as very much like a typical English couple in the age group and tastes something of the yes they’ve read the books , like the right films but at the heart of the couple is a real void all the things in the world can’t make up for the fact they are quite shallow and really uninteresting people at the heart of it  I was reminded very much of the women from the film of Nick Hornbys High fidelity Charlie played by Catherine Zeta Jones ,who John Cusacks character describe her and her friends as being some one you like to be with but when you there with them you realise  they are actually quite vacant people   .Where as Ivona the Christian book seller is described as dull woman  but the more the book goes on the more she leaps off  the page .A real tale of love ,lose and marriage told with a subtle and careful tone by Stamm.

Have you read this book ?

Which Stamm would you suggest next for me ?

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