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.

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

Fire Doesn’t Burn by Ralf Rothmann

German Fiction

original title – Feuer brennt nicht

Translator – Mike Mitchell

Source – – personal copy

I am now with my next in my attempt to try and get to 100 books from Germany by the end of the year leaving 24 books to read before the end of the year. Here I have a book from Seagull books German list and the Novelist Ralf Rothmann. His works were initally based around the Ruhr arfea of Germany where he grew up but he has lived in Berlin for a number of year and this novel is one of his novels from berlin his works tend to deal with the Bourgeois side of german life.  Here he has a man facing two women in his life his wife and a former lover.

When the novel’s finished,he invites Alina to go on a trip with him and she chooses Amsterdam, where she’s never been before.He often went there during his younger days in West Germany because of the easily available joints and the concerts in the pardiso- and was repeatedly driven back home by the cold, damp wind in the narrow brick lanes He can only stand being close to the sea in the South. Moreover, he finds the ubiquitous crime a strain and when he says “Forget Amstersam”, she nods, sadly, but then she says that would be a good title for a book. At that he gives her a kiss and books a room in a hotel on the Prinzengracht.

Here we see the age gap between them shows her.

We meet Wolf a middle aged writer who initally had a passionate affair with the Alina but over the years there passion has faded. She was a bookseller who was twenty years younger than Wolf they lived seperate lives from each other in seperate apartments. He is thinking of moving from there area of berlin  where there apartments are next to each other that hasn’t been as trendy as it once was. So they decide to head out to the greener area of Berlin in Muggelsee. But the move isn’t the real problem what we have is a man scared of aging and getting old.As they move in together they seem to grow further apart than they were. So when an old Flame charlotte reappears in the writers life. As the affiar happens he uses the dog as an excuse to see charlotte. She is now a professer and writer herself that in some way seems like a writer that may be real. Here is a man in middle age crisis and is caught between to women.

But when, right at the beginning, he tests the water by telling her about Charlotte as an acquaintance from the past, he happened to meet in a cafe and they had drink and chat together, she stares at the floor and already looks hurt. Or of that just his imagination? Whatever, she certainly pale, which, with her complexion, means white. So, he doesn;t go on, he doesn;t want to upset her. “And ” she asks anyway, in an attempt at a lighthearted tone.She’s cutting up food for the dog, greyish-yellow tripe,”Did you end up in bed?”

Well you have read the book to find out what Wold answers after meeting charlotte after all those years !!

There is no doubt this is maybe autobipgraphical there is a similarity between wolf and Ralf. The writer himself has lived all aroundBerlin over thirty years after leaving his home area of the Ruhr region. There is also certain facts like the book wolf is most famous for is simila rto Ralf Rothmanns other works. Even Charlotte is a nod to another german writer that has the same name. What at the heart of this is a classic middle aged male scernario caught between his wife settled and saf and the danger of charlotte and rekinlding an old fire the danger is the excitment the clandestine nature of there meetings. The other great thing on this book is following the changing face of berlin where it is the heart of the post unification German as the east and west join here we see it from Wolfs eye. a new writer to the blog who I will try again as he has three other books translated into English Have you read Ralf Rothmann or any of the other Seagull books German list ?

 

Obscurity by Phillippe Jaccottet

Obscurity by Phillippe Jaccottet

Swiss fiction

Original title – l’Obscurite

Translator – Tess Lewis

Source – personal copy

Lizzy Siddal is doing a Seagull books fortnight well I decide to choose the books I own I have downloaded the 28 free ebooks well the ones I didn’t have. This is the debut novel of one of the best known French-language poets. Phillippe Jaccottet has written a lot of short verse prose pieces about nature. I read this qi=uote translated from french on his wiki the Jaccotean writing is “an aesthetic of measure and of the unspoken that in a way summed up a lot of what I thought of his novel. He has also translated a number of poets and writers from various languages.

When I returned to our native country, several years had passed since I’d last seen my master – I called him this because under him I’d learnt the essentials of what guided me. It was he, in fact, who had imposed the separation- he fered, no doubt rightly, that i might confuse the two of us, that in fiollowing him to closelty. I would lose all sense of personal existence. Becaues I was on another continent anc he had almost completely given up all involven=ment in public life his retirement to the country allowerd him, in a sense, to extingush the splendour of his reputation – I’d heard nothing more aboput him. i didn’t even know if he was still alive.

The return of his disciple to the homeland ?

The book has two parts and reflects on the return of a disciple of a Philosopher. Who has spent many years in the city spreading the word of his master’s philosophy hen he left his master was a happily married man with children. so when he loses touch with him he chooses to return to the small town where his master lived. There he finds the family home has disappeared and his master is no longer about. He tries to find out what happened then he remembers that his master was a fan of a certain poet he then tells him of his master downfall and he tracks him to a single room where he finds a changed man the second part of the book is the struggle of master and disciple when the master has now decided that his views and ideas were wrong and has since dived into the dark the firey brilliant mind that has been destroyed by his master when he lost his with and he sees a man crumble by disbelief when all he values in his philosophy has been shown up death.

Again he remined silent for a long  time, as if he really were considering the question and his possible guilt or perhaps simply because he was overcome with fatigue. As for me, I was exhausted from the sadness, the discomfot, the strain of paying attentio. I had seen the lights in the window go out one after the other, except for one or two. the facades behind these windows would soon be nothing more than expansesof shadow of black. The glass ceiling iver the basement gleamed in spots. I asked permission to light the candle I’d notice on the mantlepiece, left there no doubt for the power filures that were frequent in these old buildings.

He gets the sorrow of what happened to his master whilst he was away.

This is a poetic work with no names or location it is two lives one that looked up at one then on the return after years of promoting and belief in his master that he saw as a brilliant mind a successful man with a set of beliefs that work has been broken. As it says in one part nothing is true,  nothing except the pain of knowing it. This shows what happens when time breaks down on man and builds another over time. this is one of the reasons I like Seagull books and other the last few years have been buying within my budget as many as I can as this isn’t a book that is commercially appealing as it is philosophical with very little details about the characters in a way I was reminded of Beckett Godot it is sometimes what isn’t said or is there that is what matters in this book. Have you read Jaccottet? I have another of his books on my shelves that I plan to read this fortnight.

The hour between Dog and Wolf by Silke Scheuermann

The hour between dog and wolf by Silke Scheuermann

German fiction

Original title – Die Stunde zwischen Hund und Wolf.

Translator – Lucy Jones

Source – personal copy

I was reminded when Lizzy mentioned doing a seagull books fortnight as they have made 28 pdf of there books available for free over the last month of lockdown which is so generous. I have been buying their books for the last few years as they publish some great writers from around the world one of the free pdf is this book the debut novel from the German writer Silke Scheuremann. she has won many prizes and has written both short stories and poems in her time this was her first book to be translated into English.

Ines, who of course didn’t notice the blood stain – and why would she, it was very small – came to stand next to me, and we both leant on the balcony railing and looked down at the yard, gazing at the four bins andd the row of attrophied tomato plants in silence for several minutes. After a while, Ines began to rock back and forth, her arms wrapped around her body, her lips violet-blue with cold. Sometimes I said, tow boys from the neighburhood hang around here and play strange games, toturing each other. I paused here, picking up on a small inense sound, which turned out to be Ines chattering teeth. And although out of politness, she would hae probably carried on inpecting this dismal viewfor a good while longer

The two sister early meeting there is a coldness in there rleationship as well as Ines.

Our narrator has returned to her hometown of Frankfurt am Main and to her sister the Painter Ines. The sister has been traveling and living abroad for a number of years so when she returns. She is scared that her normal routine of giving her sister money for this and that that she had done for years and years is stopped. But no within a few days Ines is back and the two sisters go swimming the other sister looks at Ines body her life she was doing well and then fell into the bottle. Then Ines boyfriend  Kai The other sister is attracted to this man as the story unfolds she starts an affair with Kai and then starts to get closer in a strange way to her sister. What happens isn’t shown in any bias to one ofr the other no there is a factual observant eye to Scheuermann writing as the sister rewrite the relationship and the way they interact this is a common story of siblings being attracted to the same man but also the relationship of lending money of being a cash machine to one sister.

I steered Ines into her flay which was smaller than mine and furnished in a completely loveless way. I was surprised how the fuinture stood about like a group of akward acquaintances, a lone chair in the middle of the room. The sofahad been pulled out a few feet from the wall as if someone had lost something behind it and not pshed it back again. Ines flopped down straight away. She mumered something that sounded like, I feel sick. Water I thought, remembering what Kai had said, went intothe kitchen. There found a whole line up of empty bottles- rum,whisky, all sorts I opened the fridge and  stared at a single iluminated lemon I can’t be all there is . I thought and looked into the freezer compartment; and true enough, a bottle of vodka nearly rolled into my arms.

The sister sees how much her sister Ines drinks and maybe her vision of her changes over time!

This book was a hit in Germany when I read the Blurb it is maybe a book that would appeal to the female reader given the sister’s story this isn’t a romantic tryst story a three-way struggle no it is a straightforward story of modern relationships and what happens when you fall for sister boyfriend (which seems to crop up a lot on tv dramas and books ) this isn’t a book of blame and guilt but a story of falling in love modern life and sibling relationships. Add to that Ines drinking problems addiction adds a different dimension and one that her sister wants to help her out of her bottle it isn’t to later in the book you get insight into Ines who initially seems a dreadful character through her sister’s eye which eases over time. A tale of love, sibling rivalries, alcoholism, and failing at life.

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman (library of Bangladesh)

Bangladesh literature

Original title – Rokter Okkhor

Translator – Arunava Sinha

Source – personal copy

I read a while ago about the library of Bangladesh series of books I am a fan of publishers trying to collect together literature from a particular country. Seagull books have published books for us in the UK and US. Rizia Rahman is one of the most respect Bangledesh writers having published more than fifty novels. This was her fourth novel when it was published in 1978 she was inspired to write it from an article called the prostitutes of Dhaka. She was unable to visit the brothels but used Male journalist reports and photographs of them in the brothels to imagine there lives. She said when this came out in English received a lot of praise for the book, but also had to endure an equal amount of abuse.”

One side of the termite-ridden door of Bokul’s room has collapsed. Yasmin shivers at the sight of Bokul’s naked, unconscious form on the bed, lit by the reddish glow of the lamp. A wild animalseems to have sliced up her body with its claws. She is bleeding. A miserable Shanti is wiping her body with a rag. She doesn’t look as thpough she had a violent quarrel with Bokul this morning. Yasmin tells Zarina, who’s standing there, “MANNAN should have dettol in his shop. Get a bottle”

Violence is always just below the surface of those living in the brothel.

This is the second book in the last few months I have read based around a Brothel the other was the booker longlist 10 minutes 38 seconds by Elif Shafak. This like that book lifts the lid on the everyday life of those women in the brothel here in such a short book we get to know a number of the girls and their stories. We have Yasim she was involved in the war of liberation and is from a middle-class background unlike a lot of the girls she lives with she has had a hard time to wind up there. This is a woman who falls on hard times and is similar to the lead character in Elif’s book. Then we have some of the other girls some of them that dress like the movie stars of the day in a sort of escape from every day lives. Others try to get the richest clients and use that as a way to fame and fortune and the way out. She also captures those little arguments everyday tasks they have to do in-between clients the things that make their days in this bleak world go by the risk of diseases and abuse always in the background and everyone is just a day away from a fall that may stop them earning and having a living.

Mashi begins to abuse the women ” You line iof wores, what do you think you’re doing! You’ve become too big for your own good. I’m informing the police at once.They eat out of my hands, They’ll beat you all of you to a pulp”

Marjna stans up to her ” To hell with your police. You scare us with talk of police to exort money from us every month. You think we don’t understand?”

They try to stand up for themselves against those that are trying to exploit them.

This book is just 140 pages long but it does what I think great novellas do well and that seems like an epic trapped in a small book. This is a lifting of the veil on a world that one imagines in the time the book was written to now hasn’t changed much. Rizia has a sensitive eye for the girls of the brothels her writing is never judgemental and shows the lives of bones and all. How vulnerable they are they can be sold and moved on anytime. She captures their world. The men in this book are in the background but depicted as violent abusive wanton or as the pimps for the girls. There world is them on top of one another and the sense of this meaning that there is trouble always just around the corner as they compete for the men there. I was sad to read that Rizia Rahman had passed away last year she seemed an interesting writer that has just this book translated into English so far.

The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cold Centre by Inka Parei

German fiction

Original title –  Die Kältezentrale

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I move on this german lit month to a new writer a writer to the blog. Inka Parei,  who won many years ago the Ingeborg Bachmann award one of Germany’s biggest prizes. She has not written many novels only three in a twenty-year career. She studied German, sociology, political science and sinology. In an interview, she was drawn to the location of this novel. She also remarked that after writing the book she hadn’t gathered how the book had related to her own family history and some of her only families coming from Eat to West.

At some point I’d have had an answer and I’d have called Martha. She wouldn’t have said anything or expected anything. In a neutral voice, I’d have informed her of what I’d found out. Her breath escaping at the other end of the line would have grown gentle, like it hasn’t been for a long time now. She’d asked me how I was feeling and then, almost in the same breath, how the last few years had been. We’d laughed because there was suddenly so much to tell, astounded at how many little things make up the world, and we’d have wondered how we could have possibly have left all the tiny things that make people happy out of our lives for so long.

As he heads to his past and the present Berlin to find Answers fro his ex Martha.

The book starts with a chance call to our narrator from his ex-wife who is dying of Cancer which sends him back to Berlin. But as he does the past comes back to haunt him he worked in the 80’s in the air colling part of a german newspaper plant the cold center of the title. this Czech built unit never really worked and need constant monitoring this is maybe a nod towards the old east Germany. There is an event that happened then when him and what would become his future and then ex-wife spent time in the back of one of the truck there that had come from Ukraine and may have been contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster that may have caused her cancer. Alongside this, he is haunted by an event with a colleague Hansmann who fell from the roof of the building to his death could he have stopped this happening? As he drifts from then to now we see him recreating those dark days in the cold center his workmates and the death that he never recover from. What was up with those trucks at the time ?

The truck was just north of Kiev at the time of the reactor accident, she continued. So you can assume it was contaminated. Think how Hansmann must have felt when he put two and two together. He can’t stay at home. He’s in constant trouble at work. Then he thinkls one of you’s being kind to him but it tuerns out the place to sleep he;s offered is really a health risk.

But didn’t others use the truck as well?

I’m not saying they meant to harm him.

Radowski was kind of guy who’d go right ahead and eat the lettuce they suddenly toog off the shelves after the accident.

And who was it made Hansmann realize?

Me.

The past and the trucks from Ukraine haunt him in the past  and what happened then !!

Her works have been described as like detective novels and this is maybe as we go into his past it is in pieces there is a blurring of then and now but also an undercurrent of the old East Germany from the broken never probably working cold center as a metaphor for the country as a whole. Then there is the death he saw which he seems to have not recovered from. Then we have the ghost of Chernobyl is that which gave his wife Martha cancer she has in the present in the past. He has a man that has been broken by the events around a death that has haunted him over many years but he also brings us into the dark heart of East berlin behind the wall. I really liked this book and hope to get her other books for forthcoming German lit months. Have you read her books at all?

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.

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