Manja by Anna Gmeyner

manja

Manja by Anna Gmeyner

Austrian Fiction

Original title – Manja Ein Roman um fünf Kinde

Translator – Kate Phillips

Source – Library

[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
― Jim Henson,Source this summed the book up well for me 

So I decide for women in translation month to do a walk through the shelves of the local library to find something I didn’t know about and this was the one that I found ,I have other books from Persephone books including the Nemirovsky short story collection ,so another translation in the series was a real surprise for me ,but also a female writer from Austria which most of the books I have reviewed are male writers so it’s a welcome edition to the collection .Anna Gmeyner was born in Vienna ,born into a liberal Jewish family ,she married and divorced young she spent time in Paris and Berlin writing scripts as well as book .She fled to Scotland in 1933 ,this book was written in Exile in 1938 it was originally published in English under the title the wall and this is a new translation and brought back the original title .

The five bright stars of Cassiopeia could ,for a moment ,be seen above the church tower .The they disappeared behind scurrying black clouds .

The intro first lines sums up the five friend born on the same day I feel .

Manja is a story set in the inter war years in a small German town ,the book is told in five stories of five friends born on the same day from their birth to the early rumblings of the Nazis and war .The five friend Heini ,Franz ,Harry ,Karl and the title character Manja ,now this is four boys and a girl ,they become friends at school .But each has a different backgroung Heini is from a liberal family his father a doctor and a piano teacher mother .Harry comes from a rich family ,but his father is half jewish .Franz  is from a middle class  family his father Anton is drawn in by the Nazis .Karl famliy is working class his father is very left wing and Maja is from Poland orginally .We see the years from the children but also each of these five familes as they sail their course through the inter war years as others rise others start to feel that darkness of Nazism causing trouble for them .A clever way of portraying the inter war years from every angle of Austrian society and even throug Manja a Pole living in Austria .

At the wall where they had been meeting one another every saturday and wednesday evening for nearly four years ,Karl ,Franz,Harry and Heini were waiting for Manja ,who was coming today for the last time : tomorrow she was moving with her mother and brothers to another town .

The orginal english title refers to this wall where the kids meet .

Now this is a great choice for Women in translation month as Anna Gmeyner does just what Zweig does and that is write the opposite sex perfectly this is a tale of boys growing up and watching their fathers through their eye and it works as each sees what the years going by brings .It also wonderfully catches family life at time ,Gmeyner lived in German at the time the book is set so it has a similar feeling of being true ,I was reminded of Christopher  Isherwoods Berlin books ,which like this book  showed the slow rise of Nazis from a bit of a joke to a conquering force it became  .It plays well what happens when views of kids follow their parentsviews and lives as they twist and turn through out the years and we see our childhood friends through our parents Eyes ,the shift of Liberal attitudes of the twenties to the far right vision sees Harry’s family feeling the rise Nazism .The book was naturally banned at the time it came out and took a while to be reissued in Germany in 1984 .Have you read this book ?

persephone reading week cheerful weather for a wedding by julia strachey

 
 
 

Julia Strachey

Notes – 

Julia strachy was on the fringes of the bloomsbury group she was a cousin to the biograph Lytton Strachey  part of the famous stachey family,she was published by hogarth press orginally that was connected to the group  she also published another novel twenty years after this .It was book 38 in persephone releases . 

The book –  

The book follows dolly the main charcaters wedding day to the hon Owen Bigham , we start with the morning nerves and her brothers frolicking about downstairs on the sofa . 

Robert’s black shoes sticking on the arm of the sofa were crossed one over the other , and revealed a gleam of emerald between the shoes and the trousers . 

  

her mother flaps as the day progresses nerves run high drinks are taken to calm nerves ex’s appear Joseph that confides he is still in love with dolly  and aunts are abound ,In what seems a typical if a little fraught at times wedding day in  the thirties . 

My view – 

I was looking forward to reading this book and was disappoint it oozes the era ,Dolly’s brothers and the aunts made me think of Woodhouse and Wooster with his aunts .But this book is slightly darker than them ,Julia had wonderful observations and great dialogue in this book .The book is wonderfully produce with an elegant front cover and nice inner leaves .I m a little disappoint that this was the only book i ve got to read for Persephone week , but due to work and home commitments i haven’t had the time .This was a wonderful book to republish a lost gem from a writer connected to so many other writers . 

Links – 

the life of Julia Strachey – a 2 page pdf file 

book booty in sheffield

up them owls

          Today me and my darling wife went to Sheffield ,which meant i got chance to wander round Blackwell’s and Waterstones today ,which is always a treat for myself i got three books today :-

best european fiction 2010 ,this is Dalkey archives collection of short stories from 27 countries compiled by the Bosnian american writer Aleksandar Hemon ,this is Dalkey archives attempt to get Americans and others to read more european fiction ,i ve been looking forward to getting this book since i read about it earlier this year

Saplings by Noel Streatfield ,this is first of two book published by Persephone books the publisher republishes mainly female writers from twenties to fifties ,this particular story is set just before and during the second world war  and follows how a family copes with the wartime stresses .

cheerful weather for the wedding by Julia Strachey ,my second Persephone book is a novella from the Bloomsbury era a domestic tale ,i ve chosen two Persephone books for the Persephone reading week in may that i noticed on paperbackreaders blog

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