An answer from the Silence by Max Frisch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An answer from the silence by Max Frisch

Swiss fiction

original title – Antwort aus der Stille

Translator – Mike Mitchell

Source – personal copy

I have twice before featured Max Frisch on the blog twice before those works were both out after the second world war and later works by Max Frisch. Now the fact that later in his life Frisch refused to have his earlier works in his collected works as he felt they didn’t represent his writing he in fact burnt the original manuscript of this book. So it hadn’t been widely read until this translation from Mike Mitchell. The book is said to have paralleled in some ways the change that Frisch took in his own life when he moved from a journalist too become an architect this was about the same time as he became a writer as well.

Or perhaops the solitary walker is thinking back. It’s a long valley and thirteen years is a long time ancd ge keeps going farther and farther back into his memory. Some things make him smile, a faint smile, either from embarassment and unacknowledged envy, it was at this wooden bridge that he told his grown-up brother , who had just got engaged, in youthfully open and impudent tones, that getting married was irdinary and that he, the seventeen year old, would never get married, for he wasn’t an irdinary person but an artist of inventoror something like that .

His first visit as he brother was in the same place as he is many years later .

This follows a few days in the life of Dr. Phil Balz Leuthold he is 30 years old and is due to marry his 21-year-old fiance Barbara. When he decides he wants to go and tackle the north ridge in the Alps this reminds him of a trip he took when he was much younger with he now in Africa married and distant older brother this is the opening as he remembers that trip with his brother.As he remembers he is by a stream and starts to carve a ship. He isn’t sure he is being watched by another person it is a Danish woman there to hike. Phil is embarrassed about the fact he was being like a child carving a ship. So he  then feels the need to impress her as he is drawn to this Danish women and her spirit they hike on and spend a night together this then makes Phil want to tactile the North ridge then he disappears for a number of days but what will happen to him will they find him what effect will it have on his life which of the two women in his life will he end up with !!

“Yes – the North Ridge”.

He sys it very modestly, very simply and natrually.But the young foreign woman desn’t know what it means; she doesn’t know she’s the first person he’s told and perhaps he’s telling her so there’s no way back for him; she just gets her knitting together, very calmlu as hi he’d been talking about some ordinary outing –

So he say himself that the North ridge was not supposed to be easy, at least no one has ever climbed it yet

And he wants to climb it now ?

The task he is facing the never climbed North Ridge

 

This is a novel of a turning point Phil hs lost his brother and is now facing that change from being a single man to being a married one so he goes to the Valley initially to clear his head but then thinking about his youth and the earlier visit to the same valley , he uses the lines that it felt smaller coming back which is something I think we can all associated with as we see things one way in youth and then another way ion adult how but then we still as adults want to cling to the past to that earlier summer by carving the shi. Then there is his indecision after meeting Irene in the valley and spending the night together that leads to him heading to the north ridge ! that time he spends there is what will shape his future his true turning point. I don’t understand why he distanced himself from this book in later life it is a great coming of age work.

Tumult By Hans Magnus Enzensberger

 

Tumult by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

German Memoir

Original title – Tumult

Translator – Mike Mitchell

I had a novel from Hans Magnus on my TBR pile, I vaguely remembered his name from when I lived in Germany in the early 1990’s. He is one of the most well regarded German man of letters. He is a poet, Championing Journalist, Translator and has been the editor of thGermanan book series Die Andere Bibliothek a sort of German version the Folio society. So as I say this caught my eye as it is a collection of pieces, he wrote in the sixties a time when he travelled the world at various conferences on literature.

That is the only part of his speech where you feel itmeans something to him personally. After a pause he abandons himself once more to his meandering associations, talks about anything andeverything in a way that sounds almost muddled and gossipy. Later on , a couple of fairly senior officals tell me they are very concerned about his garrulousness. The bos they say is incapble of keeping a secret to himself especially when it’s a case of real or presumed success.

Kruschev was removed a year after this as leader.

The first piece of the four long prose pieces that he wrote in the sixties. This first piece is a trip to Russia at the height of the cold war when Kruschev was the leader a man seen as one that could heal the wounds. He was a guest of the Soviet authorities.The first part is the time he spent with all the other writers.Later in the trip, he was the Lone German writer to be invited to spend time with the leader at his holiday home.Was he observes how the leader interacts with people? At a later conference, he would meet his with a relative of a Soviet writer.This meeting is recounted in his diary entries of the time. The later piece deal with a later trip to Cuba and again meeting fellow writers. The pieces I enjoyed is were he looked back on the people he meets and said what had happened to them. This is a time when writers were still considered kings among men and their words are important.

Yvegeny Yevtushenko’s also there. He’s the star of the congress. Surrounded by photographers. For Soviet conditions there’s something of Hollywood about his appearence. To my surprise, he immediately recalls our meeting in Leningrad. He even remembers our rock and roll evening outside the offical programmes.

I have the misfortune to be compared to him in some newpapers – and it seems as if the reverse is also true.Its the cliche of the angry young man. Yet a phenomenon such as Yevtushenko is only conceivable in Russia

A poet as a hero and he was one of the voice to fise under Kruschev thaw . This also echos Urgesic view of the writer in the Soviet era.

He meets a lot of the most well-known writers of the time. I was reminded of the words of the Croat writer Dubravka Urgesic in her book Thank you for not reading. About how the Soviet era put writers on a pedestal. a time now passed. He observes how a man that was on the verge of sending the world into Madness Kruschev was as a real person as he observed him.We see the world through Hans Magnus eyes but actually, learn very little of the man himself other than his views of the times he lived in the years before the Cuban missile crisis, the Paris riots. The writers he meet like Nelly Sachs whom he was the executor of her will.(a writer mentioned in Mireille Gansal memoir she translated her.) This is one for all world lit fans with an eye to history and a love of German Lit.

 

The tower by Uwe Tellkamp

 

The tower  tales from a lost country  by Uwe Tellkamp

Original title – Der turm Geschichte aus einem versunkenen land

German fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Source – review copy

Daniel: When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions. Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn’t life under the sun just a dream? Isn’t what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn’t before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?

Daniel the angel from Wings of desire seems  to be fitting as it is set just at same time as this book from the other side of the wall .

Well its a nice long book for German lit month today , The tower is an epic novel that won the German book prize in 2008 .The son of the a doctor he grew up in Dresden ,was studying medicine , but he then had to spend time in the East Germany army as a tank commander just before the wall fell in East Germany , he was draft into the army after he was considered political unreliability by the east german authorities .He published his first novel in 2000 , but it wasn’t til the tower came out he found real success .The book was made into a two-part tv series in Germany that was one of the most watched show of recent years when it was on German TV .

Anne took Meno and Christian to one side “.I think we should give it to him afterwards  , when there’s just family . I don’t know a lot of guests very well ; I don’t want it made public .Agreed ?”

Richard made a short speech of thanks .His final words brought a grin from Christian and Ezzo .”gut now , colleagues and friends , eat your fill .”

At the birthday party they are careful when giving gifts that maybe be considered wrong in the eyes of the east german authorities .

The tower follows the years before the wall fell in East Germany , we shown this through one families story .The Hoffman family in the tower region of Dresden ,  the parents like the writers own work in medicine .The son Christian , wants to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a doctor , but to do that he has to do his military service in the NPA (National People’s army ) .Whilst doing this he struggles to adjust to military life , sees a comrade die , he ends up getting the blame for this and spending more time in the army and in prison .Whilst at the start we see his father turning 50 and coping with the system in east Germany and practicing medicine .Then there is Uncle Meno Christians uncle , considered a member of the elite intellectual as he had studied in Moscow , he was to become a scientist , but in the end became a writer ,he is part of the literary elite and tries to put forward the truth in the way that is allowed .As he and his fellow writers struggle to write and get published .

Meno went to Leipzig book fair every year .Philipp put him up for those days and continued to do so after Hanna and Meno had separated , for the two men felt a liking , a quiet respect , for each other , what Hanna had once called ” a kind of awkward friendship ”

Meno staying with a writer friend Phillp londoner , thought to be Thomas Kuczynski according to the German  press .

Now its hard to sum up a thousand page novel .The tower had been on my radar to read since it won the German book  prize  and in English since Frisch brought it out in e-book  , but then it was also brought by Penguin which is lucky I like my ebooks but struggle to read long books on my kindle , been trying to read another thousand page german novel on it for a while , but never got that far .Anyway when this dropped through the door at the beginning of the month I was determined to read and finish it in time for German lit month .Epic is a word for this Tellkamp has tried to catch the fall of East Germany , through a thinly veiled story of his own life , From the father and working in East Germany , to Christians own story in the army ,.The uncles story of trying to be a writer in east germany .We get all this in a number of styles of writings diaries , first person narrative ,third person narrative and a lot of stream of consciousness  writing .What we get is like a collection of little piece snippets of their lives  of these family members stories brought and tied together to get the story of a country falling apart and also the inner tension of East Germany a country built on mistrust .He also used uncle Meno to discuss writing in east germany  a number of the people in his circle have since been worked out by German Journalist to be specific writers of the time .Well for me this is the best book about life in East Germany just before the wall fell , that said I not read much wolf but for the whole picture I can’t see a better book  to celebrate 25 years since the wall and east germany Fell .

Have you a favourite Epic book in translation ?

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