Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel

 

 

Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel

German fiction

Original title – Tanz am Kanal

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – Review copy

Well, I always love reading the Novellas Peirene, choose every year. Over the time I have blogged, Peirene has been publishing books. I have been reviewing them on this blog. This third book of the year is by Kerstein Hensel the German writer initially trained as a nurse in the former East Germany and then studied literature. This book originally published in Germany in 1994. Only a few years after the reunification of Germany. She has won numerous prizes for her works. Including the Lessing Prize for the body of her works.

I avoided Fraulein Brinkman. I knew that I had to do something to not stand out.The “I” was a sign in the register. From then on I did my fair share of staple throwing and chair rocking. My fellow pupils cheered me on and accepted me as one of them; Ha , the doctors kid wants to play too!

The first teacher at school had her down as an I from the intelligentisa the only one in the class !!

Told from the point of View of Gabriela. Gabriela is born into a family of Nobility in the Former East Germany. Her full surname is Von Haßiau. She is the daughter of a Surgeon, her mother is a society Hostess. Now, this would be great a wonderful start to life in the west but this is the old east of Germany. Gabriela is expected to follow in the family way so when she is just five she is appointed a Violin teacher. Although her playing never amounts to much it is her teacher that touches her. after she lost her Uncle the one they called the Bad German is shot by the regime. Frau Popiol and her red hair have a lasting impact on the young Gabrielia as she compares her first school teacher unfavourably to this woman. On her first day at school, her fellow pupils laugh at her name. As she is described by the teacher as A bourgeoisie relic for using the Von piece of her name. But as her father intervenes for her next day is different. But she has one friend at school. Katka is the poorest in the class is her friend they connect most to her mother’s dismay. THey get on til the teen years where Katka grows up after her first period. But Gabriela starts to go down hill. Ending up under the bridge living by the Kanal.We also see through her childish eyes. The family fall apart, early on in the book she describes her mother drinking. Then later finding her in bed with another man. Then Her father who she says only talks about Varicose and his clinic. He like many fell foul of the east German regime. We see all this as Gabriela tells her story when the wall falls down as a homeless woman in East German to a west German Magazine.

Katka left me standing there. I wasx suddenly alone. Wanted to get away. Where to? Whereever you want. I walked through the city. The city eneded aty the canal. Where to now? Yes or no.Wherever you want. I don’t know where I wantto go. Yes. No I’ve never been kissed. Don’t lie.On the canal there’s a little house. Who lives in this little house ? Yes of no. Steer clear of it. Why? don’t know wherever you want.Dance by the Canal

The passage icluding the title she had danced earlier there with Katka in thr town of Liebnitz she grew up in.

 

The parents say the daughter is Blnka when she was bad and Ehlchen when she was good.But this is a story of a girl that never really fits. Her parents you see from her point of view are distant then her school doesn’t work. This doesn’t help when her father won’t let her join in certain organizations within the school that all the other pupils are in but her. It is a story of a downfall. In the intro to the book on the Website says you look into the face of a homeless person and wonder why them not me. I get this sense myself. If our lives twist one way or another would we be Gabriela? What she shows is that even the highest can fall but also I feel the path is laid for Gabriela in a way. She has parents that we see maybe have other agenda in their lives but her and then she puts her self straight on the back foot at school. One downfall is a maybe the voice of thousands that fall through the cracks.  Also, shows the darker side of life on the streets when Gabriela has something happen and isn’t believed.

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A meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli

a-meal-in-winter

A meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli

French fiction

Orginal title – Un repas en hiver

Translator -Sam Taylor

Source – review copy

Hubert Mingarelli is a French writer ,he left school at 17 joined the navy and saw the world travelling around the Mediterranean and pacific .He took up writing in the late 1980’s and published his first book in 1992 .A meal in winter is his first book to be translated into English  .He won the Prix Médicis a major French lit prize in 2003 for an earlier book .

As usual , he gave us what we asked for ,and we left the next morning – Emmerich Bauer and myself ,We went at dawn before the first shootings .That meant missing breakfast ,but also meant not facing Graaf who would be filed with hatred we went over his head .

The three set off after getting the ok

I read this book one evening last November and was struck by it’s sheer power in the fact it is a simple story but with lots of power on the moral nature of man .The book has just five main characters they are three Nazi solders sent by their commander  not Lt Graff  there intimidate boss , to fetch a runaway Jewish boy / young man and a Pole they meet whilst doing this . The story starts when the three solder are sent out in the deep winter to recapture an escape Jew and deal with him as they see fit .The man has escaped but due to the weather and the place they are ,he hasn’t got to far but far enough for them all to get stuck , and is recaptured by the three .they then decide to take shelter and seek something to eat at the farm house ,then they are joined by a  very anti Semitic Pole .This simple meal and what happens during it may change the five men caught in the very deep winter of middle Europe .Each questions the actions .

The Pole seeming unwilling to stop staring at the Jew and his peeled-back lips expressed a sort of satisfaction .Bauer demanded .”what’s got into you ? ”

The Pole ,looking at Bauer ,quickly said a few words before his gaze swung back to the storeroom .And then he spoke in the universal language of Malice ,his head nodding maliciously .

The Pole shows his colours to the three men .

This book is short as I said at 138 pages long and not the biggest hardback ,but for what it lacks in size and length it makes up for in style ,this book is from the pen of a talented writer sparse is the story but deep as well .We see how the soldier did this to escape shooting ,the Jewish boy is almost like a mute witness but at the centre of it all an unnamed young man that is the target of the Pole when he arrives in the narrative .But for the soldier catching him is easier than killing others which is what they had to do .Moral questions are ask by all what forms values like a lot books that maybe focus on the German side of the conflict you see the different values of the men and when faced with someone truly anti Semitic ,they begin to question there own views .I review another book from this time yesterday from Hanna krall I felt these two actually suited being reviewed in consecutive days different styles of writing this sparse to the point no drifting the other drifting and full of the war ,this is just five people .

Do you like sparse narrative books when done well ?

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