A cage in search of a bird by Florence Noiville

A cage in Search of a bird by Florence Noiville

French fiction

Original title – L’Illusion délirante d’être aimé

Translator – Teresa lavender Fagan

Source – Personal copy

I return to a writer that I had reviewed a while ago her non fiction work Literary miniatures a collection of her reviews and piece she had written for Le Monde where for a number of years she had been in charge of the foreign writers section of the paper she had interviewed most of the leading writers for the last twenty years. She has written four novel and a number of non fiction works. I picked this book as it just grabbed me as it deals with Mental Health as someone who works with people with mental health issues so this description of some one with De clerambault syndrome(he De clerambault was one of the first to look at mental illness in a new Wayne of his students was Lacan !!) a condition that sees some one try to become another person that usually ends in a bad way for one of the two people involved.

Wouldn’t it be best simply to talk directly with C? I screw up my courage and leave her a message. Why don’t we talk things over seriously? In the day rather than at night? Ten minutes later C calls back. She says she agrees, ‘of course she agrees’. We set a meeting for the next day, at a cafe near the Trocadéro. That evening I dive back into de Clérambault. *

Can she talk to her ?what will happen if she does ?she will find out reading about the syndrome

The book follows Laura she is living her best life as we would call it these days. She is in Paris(I love a visit to Paris )she is working in TV as a journalist and is on the up she has a bright future. So when she meets a old school friend who is just referred to through out the book as C she gets her a job at the TV she just feel she is helping her out but as she starts to try and get into Laura life and at first  it is first subtle then we sheC  e mail and becoming more and more obsessive around her as the syndrome takes its toll on C and so on Laura. As C makes her self part of her circle of friends and at every turn there is C, as she starts to almost want to Be Laura as she starts to worry we see her try and find out what is happening to Her and C. As things are turning against her as C starts to make her look bad and it is seen the Laura is the one getting Bullied by Laura then even when she is falling out with her partner. She finds a Psychiatrist and try and find out what this De Clerambult syndrome was that C has and is shocked with what she finds basically C is trying to be her and basically it will end up with either her of C in a really bad way. the book sees the tale unfurl as the tense and horror of events is clearer.

‘Do you remember my first wife, Ulrica?’ my friend Vincent asks me. ‘It was right after she was hired as a professor at the Sorbonne. Every day a guy came to talk to her after her classes, then followed her in the street. She found notes rolled up and stuffed in the keyhole at home. One day she read an anti-Semitic allusion on one of them. She finally spoke to me about it, and I picked up my phone and called the guy. I told him that if he continued I would call the police. Two days later I saw an announcement of his death in Le Monde— suicide.’

How she is so intrusive and paranoia is evident here

I liked the way this book was paced as we see C slowly become more and more like Laura and how Laura copes with this Woman,an trying to take over her life and position it feels like when you see someone trying to be you. the book has a thriller feel in its pacing as we see what is C love for Laura but also what happens when she tries to avoid it this is now called Erotomania the film Nurse Betty is also about the same condition and over time there has been a number of celebrities that have had people with the condition come into there lives and they have done things or stalked the celeb.This is a book that highlights an illness not to well known or mentioned. If you like books that have a thriller feel with out being a thriller that deal with Mental health this would be one for you. Have you read any similar book dealing with mental health issues ?

Winstons score B – a interesting tale of two woman when one wants to be the other with obsession and mental health issues.

Among the Almond trees by Hussein Barghouthi

Among the Almond trees by Hussein Barghouthi

Palestinian Memoir

Original title – Sa’ akin bayn al-Lawz

Source – personal copy

I wanted to add a lot more arabic literature this year but have failed so far I looked at a list from Arablit where they had some books coming out this year and this was one that was mentioned although I had to wait ages for it to arrive as the publication got pushed back of I had to wait for a reprint maybe. What had caught my eye about this book was the description which remind me of one of my fav orate books from year ago I saw Ramallah from Mourid Borghouti which was one of my favourite books and now years later sticks with me with the images of a man returning to his home of Ramallah after many years away. This has a similar premise we see Hussein come home to the countryside around Ramallah where he grew up. But this is a man that is near the end of his life coping with terminal cancer. He had Taught in Europe mainly in Hungary and was the found of the House of Poets in Palestine and also worked on a number of literary magazines. he passed away twenty years ago.

After an absence of thirty years I have returned to live in the countryside near Ramallah – “returned to the beauty that had been betrayed” I had exiled myself from my beginnings and chosen to live as an expatriate. I am one who has perfected “Beginnings” but not” endings”. My return therefore is an imperfect ending

The opening paragraph I was so touched with the ending comment to face death is so hard

As the translator says h=in his intro this is a man struggling with lymphoma and it is his thoughts of life and art but also how he is going to die and ascending into heaven. He has returned to a place that he left thirty years earlier he is near the end of his life and as we follow him as he walks out in the countryside around Ramallah the past and present and future all blend as he walks in the shadows of those almond trees in the day ion the night as he looks back and forward. The book is a poets looking and gathering the final curtain of his life the people he knew his wife and young child his parents. The mountains as memories of his youth flood in as we see a memory of place open up. as we see what was more wilderness in his day now changed but he still finds the wild parts of the area and the Monastery which look large in the story. He talks about people having country and cities of there names as he sees his city in the book.

Among my friends would be Ali Baba and Enkidu, and all those who were born and loved and lived in stories, Stories are the windows of the Spirit and the imagination. When, for example, quaddura spreads his abs on the roof of the monastery and sang and played his rabbi, looking out moonlit wadis, on orchards ploughed planted, on wide obscure distances, he opened a window for his voice in the moonlight space and his voice occupied an eternal domain. His song would then become the city of his name

Where are you from ?

I’m from the country of windows

Stories is often how people are remembered when they pass !

This is a short memoir of a man who has come home to far e the ghost of his past a poet a writer this book is a man looking at a police he once knew and reliving the past as he faces the end and trying to remember the past the translator mentions this as a work as a memory of place the ghosts of our past. I am someone that remembers most events in my life and the places they happen I am haunted and often relive them like Hussein does when he returns after all the years away from his homeland. It remind me of Sebald at time the way he used place to link to the past. This is one of two works he wrote near the end of his life they are both coming out from seagull book the other book Blue light is a flip of this book as it is set around his journey from Seattle with a homeless madman. This book is different to I saw Ramallah as  this is a lot more personal and lot more around the view of the end of your life. But it has the same feeling of loss in the past and returning to find the world you once knew gone or just there as ghosts in your memory. This is a powerful work of memoir of a man facing death. Do you have a favourite book set in Palestine ?

Winstons score – +A touching and sad memoir from a poet

Stu’s year of Books winstonsdad best of 2021

I am late to the mark here with my best-of list basically I’ve been reading other Blog and Vlogs best-of list for the last year and completely missed that I had not done my own hitting the ground review and reading-wise it isn’t till now I have decided to go back over the last year and pick those books that have stuck with me. Now this may be a different set of books from highlights I have pick of the months of last year as I feel books change after we read them some grow some just stay others just wilt away. So I am not a huge stats person to now I am moving forward using Goodreads a lot more as a way to track my reading and also gain some end of year stats. I reviewed 91 books from 30 countries. I had want to read more African books last year I had read a few more but there is room for a couple more this year. I read books from North and south America, Africa , Europe and Asia but missed books from Oceania and the Pacific which I need to fix this year.any way here are my books of the year I am doing them in the order I read them in the year.

At night all blood is black by David Diop

This tale of two African soldiers in the trenches a story that hasn’t been talked about a lot it follows what happens when your best friend is shot and the enemy is there and you have to get revenge.

30th April 1945 by Alexangder Kluge

Anyone that has followed this blog in the last couple of years will know a writer I am championing and absolutely love is Alexander Kluge here with have vignettes fact and fiction that circle the world on the day that is near the end of world war two.  His books are rabbitholes for the mind it is hard not to pick the other book by him I read but I will resist anyway go out pick him up !!

Tower by Bae Myung- Hoon

I read a hell of a lot more Korean books this year than I have previously and this was one that really stuck with me a futuristic tower building a dystopic world of interlinking stories that in place are funny.

A musical Offering by Luis Sagasti

I’m seeing a theme her of interlinking stories in the book here is another collection that has music at its heart and a diving board for the tales with like Kluge a mix of fact and fiction I loved his previous book I think he is my favourite Latin American writer at the moment

In memory of memory by Maria Steponova

Oh well, another book that drifts as she goes through her grand flat she looks back on her own families history and her homelands at the same time a book that is in that grey area between fiction and non-fiction in a way.

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Oh another collection here of prose and poetry piece that area a bio and tribute to the artist Joesph Cornell a lost gem from Dalkey a man that like to wander his home city of New york

The cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

A new translation of one of his lesser-known books a man is drawn onto a group of men that eat the cheapest meals every day in a government-run restaurant in Vienna. I am a long time Bernhard fan and it is always great to add another title to the list of books I have reviewed by him.

The return of Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Like Bernhard Antunes is a writer I love and this a bok that mix the past and those seafarers returning to Modern Lisbon much to there horror a writer that always deals with his own countries past so well and openly.

To see out the night by David Clerson

A writer whose novel I loved returns with a collection of short stories, I said in the review I am not a short story fan well going through this years choice I think I am a bigger fan than I think anyway QC have been brought use some great books from Quebec her we have people turning to great apes and secret cities under cities.

Special Needs by Lada Vukic

As many of you may know I work on a ward caring and helping get better people with Learning disabilities that are in crisis so I was wary of this book as it is hard to capture that voice of someone with learning disabilities without it seeming wrong but for me this is the best such voice I have read it is such a voice of someone with Autisms view of the world.

 

3 Minutes and 53 Seconds by Branko Prlja

A series of vignettes form a bildungsroman using the writers love of music and the songs for each year I like this as a lot of the songs I knew some I loved other I didn’t but it was a great way to show the upheaval in the  Balkans in his teen years having to move to a new city and his use of music to convey that another underrated gem from Dalkey

Three Bedrooms in Manhatten by Georges Simenon

I have been working through the Penguin books as they have brought out a lot of his books in New translations here is a book from his time in the US capturing those dark post-war years before the shining fifties to lost souls in a big city.

Well there they are my twelve books of the year as ever I feel I am on my own journey in books I love books that have interlink stories of vignettes around themes and also champing small presses and writers I have loved for a long time. What were your books of the year where did your journey take you last year did our paths cross?

 

Literary Miniatures by Florence Noiville

Literary Miniatures by Florence Noiville

French Literary criticism

collected from Le Monde des livres

Translator – Tersea Lavender Fagan

Source – Personal copy

I eread the descrption of this book and the faxct that Florence Noiville had been in charge of foreign literature for the French newspaper Le monde and had doe a regular column that interviewed the worlds great writers this is a selection of those interviews. Initally she started in the fiance world before becoming a literary critic in  1994 she has since also written two biographies one about the Nobel winning writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, also a number of novels and a number of works for younger readers around Myths.

Liscano admits this from the start – he wanted to write this book in the spirit of Buzzati. In honour of the author who had “saved” him. And because, he says, Like Picasso painted the MEninas to have a dialogue with Velazquez, every novelist writes to converse with his predecessors.”What do they talk about?” Alination, in the strict snse, that is everything that makes an individual becomes “other”- Buzzati speak of the army, but his allegory could be applied to poltiical parties, religions corporitions .. self – awareness is also lost in midst of society. Everything depends on where one places cursor between freedom and security

Carlos Liscano (who was translated in early 200s I have now found !)

The book is formed up of 29 interviews and encounters she has had with a number of the greatest writers. I knew about 80% of the writers had read most of those there is a few I hadn’t heard of as they appear to have not been translated into english yet. The book opens with the Late Aharon Appelfeld a writer I once briefly meet when he won the IFFP prize a Holocaust survivor he described himself as  “A Jew writing in Israel” about how he learned to read the bible. don Deillo interviewed around tjhe time he brought out a point omega and how at theat time following the deaths of MAiler and Bellow he was on the cuspo of being America great writer. Nadine Gordimer a writer that was at odds with the country she grew up in. I was remind of a Chinese writer I had read many years ago and I think I will be reading some time son Yu Hua. I read his chronicle of a blood merchant. Now fpr a writer I hadn’t heard of Carlos Liscano a writer that I think hasn’t been translated or very little has been translaqted into english a poltical prisoner he had read and connected wioth the writing of Irtalian writer Dino Buzzati a writer I have reviewed a couple of times on the blog. Then a firm favouriteof this blog Cees Nooteboom is interviewed and Florence is amazed as his language as he drifts from french(that he learned after not being able to insult a man after he trod on his foot) Then whilst being interviewed he slips to Flemish with his wife and then German and english all this on a spanish island Menorca he loves as shown in one of the books I have reviewed from him.

Nooteboom greets you in French, speaks to his wife in Flemish, answers the phone in Spanish, then German, finshes a sentence in ENglish and uses latin to talk about species – planted by his own hands – in his garden that is his pride and joy. Hibiscous, euphoirbia. plantago.. “the garden is a personal creation, he says looking at the tops of the trees. “THEre is a photo of me with Hugo Claus: palm trees are up to out knees. The Japanese say that a garden is the portrait of a soul. Mine must be rocky because thereare a loit here, like my poetry” -he regrests that this important part of his work has not been translated into french. “I’ve noticed that either you like stones or you don’t. The minorcans think they store the heat and posseses secret healing powers.”Like poems?”

The Great Cees Nootboom interviewed his great ability with Language.

I like this I love pen pictures of writers Although I had read a lot of the writers , A writer like Carlos Liscano is one I will be watching out for. Elsewhere it remind me of the craft of William Trevor as she describe him as a writer that chips away to make his stories a nod towards his previous career as a wood craver. I wish we had a section like this in one of our papers a small glimpse nto great writers but also a portal of discovery for readers the beuty is finding new voices Florence style pof interview draws you to the writer and want to discover more or rerread them. A great choice from seagull books as it a wonderful collection of pen pictures of the later part of the 20th and early part of the 21st century writers a good place to start on the cannon of great wrtiers of this time.

Winstons score – + A I love little gems like this another wonderful discovery from Seagull books !!

All the Land by Jo Lendle

All the Land by Jo Lendle

German fiction

original title – Alles Land.

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I’m on another of this year’s german lit choices. l I am now in Greenland partly for this book based on an actual person Alfred Wenger the son of the Minister for Berlin in the early thirties he was an explorer and scientist for the next book for my German Lit month books. A novel from Jo Lendle the Publisher of Hanser Verlag, he is the editor of the lit Magazine Akzente. He has lectured on German literature been involved in German pen. He has also translated a number of books including books by Jachym Topol. He has published a number of novels this is the first book by him I have read.

Alfred Wegener had more siblings than one would wish upon a person. They stood around him and stared at him, elbowing each other and pointing at him, some even grabbing over the woven edge of the willow cradle to pinch him , out of love.

It cost his mother some effort to hold the children back. The birth had taken twenty-four hours, a whole day . It Hard to unsettle a woman like Anna Wegener, but attempting to restrain this horde had her at her wit’s end

his Birth and the Orphans gather round see his birth

I hadn’t heard of Alfred Wegener when I read this book I read his Wiki page and got the sense he was like many of the British explorers of the time. What we see here is him in 1930 as he is stuck trying to survive in the middle of Greenland one of the most remote places in the world on the mid -ice as it is called and also one of the coldest on the planet as he and his team have set off to see if they can get by and to study the weather and survive the conditions this was his fourth trip to Greenland the first was around the time he had to meet his with Else. The book sees his attempts to be both a successful family man.  He was brought up by his parents in an Orphanage so he want to be a real father and husband. The fact he was called into to fight in world one means that the years away from his wife they have drifted apart. We see the romance and his earliest years growing up. He tried his best he thinks but as he looks back we see that wasn’t always so. this is what he is most famous for in a way his studies of weather and things like continental drift. This is a tale of one of those men that like his British counter parts tried to push back the barriers of what men can do endure and see. the furthest the coldest etc.

Early in 1906, he read in the newspaper about a plan for a Danish expedition to north-eastern Greenland, which was to spend two summers charting the coastline. Under the writer Mylius Erichsen’s command , they would attempt to cross the ice of the greenland sea to ereach the spot where the Germania expedtion had been forced to turn back in 1870, and set up a base from there, they hoped to explore the unknown section to cape bridgeman,

A base station in the ice. All that could be studied there! Wegener closed his eyes. It required some effort to gather his wishes.

The  report that maybe inspired him to do his expeditions to Greenland, a few years later.

This is the second novel based on this last expedition on his Wiki page for Alfred Wegener it said this last expedition had inspired John Buchan to write his novel A Prince of captivity three years after the events. What we have here is an in-depth novel about his life that mixes the actual facts with what Lendle feels must have been Wegener’s thoughts of his own life as they sit in freezing weather and looks back over his life. I loved the flow of the book I ‘ve always been a fan of stories around the pole regions things like the worst journey in the world which in parts this reminds me of or a film like Scott of the antarctic the is a part where they cut back on what they are carrying you can see where the story will end it reminds me in parts of Scoots story or more so the Shakleton Television series that followed his life as the relationship of husband and wife when they spent time apart was similar. Have you read any books by Lendle or have a favorite book set in the Polar regions. So if you like a tale of a man how tried his best in everything and in many ways was very human this is a book that you should enjoy. As he is a flawed character but aren’t we all !!

Winstons score – B+ A well-written novel about a man that we should know more about!

Dispatches from moments of calm by Alexander kluge and Gerhard Richter

Dispatches from moents of calm by Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter

German fiction

Original title – Nachricht von ruhigen Momenten

Translator – Nathaniel Mcbride

Source – personal copy

This book was written by Kluge when he took the set of pictures that the artist Gerhard Richter had used in the edition of the German Newspaper Die welt on 5 October 2012. Where all the photos on the paper had been replaced by Richter pictures which he had called moments of calm. He intends them to distract and be the opposite of the death and horror of the stories in the paper itself. After this paper, the writer Alexander Kluge took the picture and wrote vignettes to each of the pictures and what followed is this book that puts the pictures from Richter with the stories for them the Kluge wrote. They had worked together on an earlier book in December. Kluge as I have seen in his other books likes to connect with other writers and artists. this is my second book for this year’s German Lit month !

During an Argument in the smokers corner of a dance hall in Straubling on New Year’s Eve, a stranger pressed a burning cigarette intomthe eye of a 20 year old man and left without anyone trying to stop him. Did ot matterr to the people there they called an ambluance or that they persue the attacker? What, in pratical terms, could the others have done to prevent the attack? Everyone in the group was shocked and frightened by the stranger’s attack? Everyone in the group was shocked and frightened by the stranger’s aggression. The young smoker did not regain his sight in the eye that had been attacked. The police opened a criminal investigation.

The attack in a dance hall that was then followed by a piece on Rudolf steiner and sense of chance !!

As with Kluge’s other works, this is a set of unconnected vignettes that each takes one of the pictures as a springboard for a story or an anecdote. what we get is a look at everyday life from two great artists. the book has five sections and the are more stories than pictures as some pictures have two stories. In the usual Kluge style, he mixes fiction and fact as we see his reactions to the pictures. reactions that from sublime like he was to young for the digger as we have a picture of a small boy and a toy truck. A picture of dancers has a tale of a man losing sight in one of his eyes after leaving a dance hall and then Rudolf Steiner of the sense of chance. another story was on John Cage performing his works in frankfurt so when a fire breaks out and forces him out of the Opera house as it rages he grabs microphones probably to record the sound of the fire! as it is burnt to the ground. A woman clings to her child in a shipwreck sparked from a picture of a baby..Marx lost text reappearing is another story that appears.

During the final rehearsals for his Europeras 1 e32 at the Frankfurt operan house in the autumn of 1987, John cage was staying at the Hotel Frankfurter Hof. This meant that when he recieved the disturbing news that the opera house was on fire, he didn’t have to far to hurry to the scene. He took a tape recorder with him, and he had filled the pockets of his winter overcoat with various different kinds of special microphones, The city’s fire brigade had several of its units ready for an assauly on the stage house, the centre of the fire. In meantime, a firestorm had already devolped in this part of the opera house. It was simply too dangerous too send in the fire teams against it. They would have to let the fire burn.

In usual Kluge style it is a rabbit hole of vignettes how often when you read him you have to find out what is really true,  like the Cage story and what he has made up he weaves fact and fiction so well, what he does so well here is take each image as a springboard for either something directly connect to the picture or as a kernel for something very inventive style of writing and kluge knack of making the everyday burst to life is a talent as an evocative and thought-provoking writer. The book came by chance as Kluge was asked and came up straight away with the idea of stories to which Richter suggested another joint work. One odd connection is these two great German figures were only born five days apart in February 1932. I am fast becoming a huge fan of Kluge this will be the fourth book by him I will have reviewed I have another and will be getting others when I see them at a price I can afford. Have you read Kluge or are aware of Gerhard Richter’s artworks?

Winstons score – +A I just love Kluge’s style of literature so much

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

German Political fiction

Original title – Das Bohren Harter Bretter

Translator – Wieland Hoban

Source – personal copy

This is the third book by the German writer Alexander Kluge I have read he is fast becoming one of my favorite writers this collection caught my eye as it is slightly different it was a collection of 133 political stories. This is including a couple stories from his fellow German writer Reinhard Jirgl as Kluge says telling stories is a very social activity. Kluge is one of those writers that isn’t easy to pigeonhole, he has so many talents he is both a member of the group 47 writers but is also a leading light of the New German cinema. Kluge has also written a lot of things for television. He is a truly unique talented individual and should be better known over here!

 A number of tourists arrive at the Federal chancellery steamboat jett. They do not want to visit the Federal chancellery but, rather, the HOUSE OF THE CULTURES OF THE WORLD. In front of this heritage protected building, two stalls offer Baked potatoes and Bratwurst respectively, accompanied by beerr. A band is rehearsing loudly for the evening on the roof of the building. They already knew how to use the loudspeakers before they start rehearsing. The rehersal serves to mark there territory in the culturual garden.

Maybe a sly look at how peoples nedds and views have changed in recent years

The book is divided into five rough categories of stories like in his other books he uses a style that is all his own he creates a sort of mosaic with his stories. They stretch from the mundane things like the description of the steamboat jetty near the Federal Chancellory one of the small vignettes that create bigger pictures through Il Duce intelligence. Obama this is Kluge he jumps from place to place each short piece. What he dies is mix the real and fake together. There is pieces from Jirgl which imagine the events around the  Keneady Krushchev meeting and what happened. Funny tales like the highest mountain taking a comment from Gorky and then explain that there was first Lenin peak then there had been a higher Stalin peak found. he moves from the mundane German politicians through Russian Politics and the events like Glasnost then minor observances like the Big wheel at Chernobyl set up at the time for the annual Mayday that stayed for years after. He also looks at how we view politics and those who serve us. The title comes from an observance from Max Weber described politics as ” a strong, slow drilling through hard boards with both passion and judgment “. this is what spurred Kluge to write this collection that makes the reader think like his other books.

The same organizational power that kept all sections of the USSr going was responsible for the annual preparations for LABOUR DAY, 1May, as well as the pouros planning (carelessness, techinical concentrates and disruption of responsibilties) that led to the ACCIDENT IN BLOCK 4 at Chernobyl on 26 pril 1986. The town had already been evacuated. But the leisure facilities for the 1 May celebrations, no longer noticed by anyone, were still set up. Towering above them was a striking big wheel that stayed there for another two years because no one dared take own this contaminated device. It stood there rigidly waiting for te rust in the coming winter. The mute witness to a memorieal day and the scenic ruin, covered by invisible lava, of the technological district: TWO POLTICALLY OPPOSING SIGNS OF HUMN LABOUR.

A nugget of information a small footnote in history the MAY day wheeel left after the disaster in Chernobyl

Kluge is a hummingbird of a writer he likes to fly from flower to flower he has a mind that seems to never rest. The book is one of those that like his fellow German writer Sebald that defies pigeonholes and like Sbebald he loves to mix fiction, non-fiction biography, and photos the images help build with the stories and vignettes. it becomes like a web of knowledge an interconnection tube map of stops that lead us one way and then back and then cross over. All in all,  It makes us all think about what is politics what does it serves and also lifts the lid on the post-war german years. Also the philosophy of politics and the history of politics. this is what I have come to expect from Kluge his books have left me as a reader feeling like I have been to a buffet or like a cosmos where there is a bit of everything you are full the food is rich and the here his ideas small large the vignettes from a few lines to a few pages each can lead you one a different tangent of thought. Have you ever read Kluge? if so which shall I try next.

Winston score – B thought-provoking work from a writer that needs to be better known in the UK

 

 

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

German Memoir

original title – Nachruf auf Lebende

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I have a lot of books from Christa Wolf on my shelves but haven’t reviewed a book by her here on the blog until now. I have decided to start with a book about the start of her life, with a work that was published after she passed away found in her writings was this piece which she wrote in a four week period in the early seventies she had tried many times to write about her childhood here own families experience at the end of the second world war where here family left the home which after the war became part of Poland this is the period that covers that times as she has her last day at school as the family head further towards the center of Germany to avoid the oncoming Red Army. This was an experience and time she had tried many times to write about this time.

it embittered me that the Fuhrer’s portrait was torn from the walls in all the houses in the town. Our Fuhrer was an oil painting, sixty by forty centimetres, dressed in tones of grey. A red ribbon ran around his elegantly tilted grey peaked cap, the cord at the front was also grey. He didn’t look at us, insteadgazing rather precisely at the sliding glass door between the dining and living rooms, a door that made my friends consider our home modern, and displaying his strong straight nose to us in oprofile along with a single grey-blue eye, which was rigid and whiochwe therefore thought was firm. He gazed firmly, Not always, Frauelun Dr strauch had told ius when we talked about the uprising of the goths-

The loss of the pictures shows the changing tide and the quote from her favourite teacher later tried as a leading Nazis.

The book ties in with another work on her childhood patterns of youth she also wrote about her early years. But this is just about the escape from her hometown as they head to safety. As her family Leaves her hometown of Landberg on the Wrathe. so on 30th January in 1945. When her mother decides it is time for the family to head out of the town. As the story unfolds the young Christa can’t grasp how the regime has fallen apart the spot on the walls in the town where the Fuhrer portrait had been taken down as the locals await the appearance of the red army. Her school the Herman Goering school. her favorite teacher later arrests as a leading Nazi this is a young girl’s view of this world her family settled middle class her family ran the grocer’s shop like when her mother considered bringing the fur coat with her shows the class of her family. She finds it hard joining the escape as she had the doctrine from Nazis in her question of whether heading to safety is the best. This is a short period of time looked back at with a clear sense of the time. it is easy to see why Wolf struggled writing about this time.

Don’t forget what a wonderful childhood you both had! My mother had words like these at her disposal, she would put her hand on your shoulder to say them, and there was no face you could present to words like that. Why are you acting so stiff? we did have a wonderful childhoof and now it’s over, we were walk-ons in a oplay guaranteed a happy ending on the days of our birth, and now they were casting us into the midst of a tragedy, its laws absolutely unknown to us- although it is a little flattering in the far corner of one’s conscious mind to be entrusted with such a difficuly and productive role. fear immediately ceases once the loss one trembled at the thought of has come to pass. All at once, the thin dew of boredom that settles on circumstances too long immobile is blown away.

I loved this passage it shows how as children even the hieght of Nazism a perfect childhood could be had.

This was found in her writings after her death wolf was best known for the way she looked at the east german regime her first book coming out in the sixties. She wrote often at odds with the Stasi but with a socialist heart to her works, she only wrote one book that came out after unification which she was opposed to which question the Stasi’s actions at the time. the subtitle of this book is called taking flight as we see the young Christa loved her school her teachers her home and in a way was blinkered at that age to the wider vision but her experience is a personal testament of the time which is drawn from her own experience of the time. It is easy to see why it was a struggle to write about without inhibitions as she said as she looked back on the time and how her mother reacted through her eyes her mother strength shows through. I have the latter part of her life next on my list of Christa wolf’s books the last part of a series of diary entries she wrote for the same day for over fifty years. Have you read a book by her?

Winstons score – B  an interesting insight into her life that was a struggle to write

30th April 1945 by Alexander Kluge

30th April 1945 by Alexander Kluge(with an additional piece by Reinhard Jirgl)

German fiction

Original title – 30. April 1945 – Der Tag, an dem Hitler sich erschoß und die Westbindung der Deutschen begann

Translator – Wieland Hoban

Source – personal copy

I fell in love with Alexander \Kluge last year he had long been on my list of writers from Germany to read. Kluge was a leading light in both Literature and film and later on Tv he was a member of the Gruppe 47 writer that featured the like of Gunter Grass and Uwe Johnson for two and in many ways shaped post-war German literature. The discovery of him is the link for me to Sebald as he has a style of interlink vignettes and history like Sebald did. We also have the bargain of a few chapters from his fellow german writer Reinhard Jirgl who adds a few chapters he is another writer on my list to read his book the Unfinished came out last year and is one I want soon.

The most dangerous weapons of the second world war en route further westwards

At night along the Danube, trucks drove up to riverboats that lay hidden in the undergrowth on the riverbank. Barrels were loaded onto barges. The Barrels were unmarked. Even in the darkness, the captains of the six river vechicles were still advancing kilometre after kilometre on the Danube, going upstream, They were ensuring distance from the eastern enemy.

Only years later did those invlved find out that their task had been to prevent the enemy from getting their hands on the nerve gas, tabum, on the river. By day they were meant to look for shelter under overhanging branches on a distributary of the Danube. Before morning had broken, a motorboat caught upwith them and gave the command to unload the containers once more onto pioneer barges.

Thinks getting moved as the russians close in!

The full title of this book in German gives full insight into this book and that is the fact it is the day that Hitler had shot himself in the Bunker as the Russians drew closer to Berlin. As I said this is more a patchwork quilt of a novel that takes us on a tour of the west and eastern front at the time Hitler took his own life. there is a dark cloud over the Wehrmacht as they don’t yet know of Hitler’s passing but there are the red army and western forces heading towards the heart of Germany. Then the wider scope a Neutral ship in the water, the US at the time and there is Zurich we are told which films are shown at the time(and interesting mix of English and German films from the war which is an interesting insight). Then we move forward to Obama visiting Berlin to give a context of the change over a period of time. These 100 or such snippets build an interesting picture of the world at a crossroads in time.

He had Only Got Three of his students Through to Spandau-West

The educator Dr Friedrich Ruhl, who had led 18 pupils into a military intervention and only got three of them through to Berlin, attempted to report to the Ministry of Education, a ruin, where there was nonetheless work going on in some rooms. He was getting on the nerves of the porter, who was still active in his cubicle reinforced by wooden cladding, because he kept appearing day after day and asking for someone to report to. But there was no offical left in the remannts of the bulding to whom he could have spoken about pupils in a military intervention.

Elsewhere people run towards Berlin but loss his pupils along the way.

Like his other book, I reviewed by Kluge he uses short vignettes from a few lines to a few pages. to give small insights of the world at a moment of time I have seen in recent years Youtube use a similar effect to build films of a set day They did one for the new year a couple of years ago where everyone did what they did on the day thus like this showing a myriad of views it shows what a visual writer he is this is a man that isn’t after the shots going through Hitler’s brain no he wants to catch that exact moment outside that bunker as his homeland was on its knees bleeding as the war was coming to the end he also shows the before and after in small pieces that show how we end up with Hitler and also how the world moved on after. So I have to more books by kluge to read and I see there is a number more are four more from Seagull books for me to get. Have you read Kluge, do you see the connection to Sebald? He uses a similar way of layering the story he tales bit by bit I was especially reminded of  The rings of Saturn as we also dart here and there in this book like Sebald did in the rings.

The Jew Car by Franz Fühmann

The Jew Car by Franz  Fühmann

German short stories

Original title  Das Juden Auto

Translator  Isabel Fargo Cole

Source – personal copy

It is one of my favourite months German Lit month I always try and find a new writer or two to try and here is another new writer to me. Franz  Fühmann He was an East German writer but as shown in this book he was drawn in by the Nazis this book reflects his own circle as the start of him with the story of the Jew car and the end of the line grasping Socialism and the soviet ideals as the end of the nazis with the Nuremberg trials. He was a writer that wrote a lot for children but later life grew disillusion with the values of the East German government. He also translated Czech poems and literature he had a love for these writers so when the Prague spring happened he saw his views changed. He wrote a lot of letters to Christa wolf over the years and in the afterword, Isabel cole said he was working on a 1000 page novel that never saw the light of day.

A jew car , she spluttered, had appeared in the mountains, driving in the evening aling the lonely roads to snatch little girls and slaughter them and bake magic bread from their blood; it was a yellow car, all yellow, woth four jews inside, four swarthly, murderous jews with long knives, and all the knives were bloody, and blood was dripping from the running board, people had seen it as clear as day, and they’d slaughtered four girls so far, two from Witkowitz and two from Bohmisch-Krummaj they’d hung them by the feet and cut of their heads and drained the blood into vats , and we were piled on top of one another

Ithis part remind me of a similar story of hate used about witches in an episode of X files that had been also used in the war years.

I described this as short stories it is really a collection of Vignettes that could be described as a journey, it is that of the writer himself it starts when he is young and underlines the beginnings of the Nazis and the Anti-Jewish thoughts as the title story is the first story and it uses a tale of four Jewish men in a car as a scary tale for kids this is a classic piece of hate stories whether the people were Jews, Women, Witches, Black, Irish, etc the fact is as a young boy he is drawn to tell a tale of being chased by “The jews Car” . Then as he moves through school we see the growing influence of the Nazis as he is drawn in by a radio Drama of the Fuhrer as a soldier in world one his battle as a private in that war. That inspires him to join the Wehrmacht then he is sent to fight but he is bright with hope as he believes in what they are doing but as the stories move on our narrator sees the folly of the war and towards the end of the war sees the lines of each side coming close and he ends up on the soviet side of the end of the war. He is a POW as the trial happens.

I witnessed the founding of the German Democratic republic as a teaching assistant at an anti-facist school in Latvia – still a Soviet POW, but freer than before. I had come to the school in the autumn of 1947, and with the introductory courses on polticial econemey thr scales fell from my eyes: here was the answer to all the questions that drove me, and as I burrowed through the thick volummes of Karl Marx’s Capital, the stations of my life appeared, tangtibl;e as the desk where I sat, and my eyes now clearly, down the depths of time. The course lasted half a year, then I was asked whether I wanted to go home or stay on at the school as an assidtant. and I stayed.

The end story sees him go full circle in his views and see what he had done in the past !

This shows as he said in the leitmotif of the book “HOW deep does memory reach?” as I said the story has a circle feel to it as iot shows its writer go from the early years and his being drawn into Nazis views with the story of a blood-soaked car with four Jewish men with knives chasing kids.  To being a POW and discovering Marx Capital as this is happening there is the backdrop of the Nuremberg trials. I was reminded of the journey undertaken by the narrator was similar to those in the film Stalingrad which saw the characters loving being in the Wehrmacht then as they head to Stalingrad the cracks and true tale of what is happening to the country starts to dawn on them. As it sats in the full title of the book this is fourteen days of one mans life over two decades. It is one man’s vision of those years a personal journey that many people took and would have to reflect on or even just try and forget and that is being a Nazis. Like the silent trump supporters of today, post-war everyone would have avoided calling or admitting to being a Nazis but we know a lot more people were than ever admitted it. I read this collection in a day and enjoyed it and was gutted to find out his last book never saw the light of day this is a writer that lays open his life. Have you read this book or any others from the seagull books. this is a paperback reissue of one that came out a few years ago.

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