To back of Beyond by Peter Stamm









To back of beyond by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Weit über das Land

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – library book

I usually try over the new year to catch some books that may be on the man Booker longlist. A good place to start is writers that have been on the list before so this is the first of two books I have got from the library from previous longlisted writers. Peter Stamm has won a number of prizes in Germany for his writing which is described as being sparse.I have reviewed his books twice before on the blog, he is a writer I feel could be on the longlist this year.

When astrid realized that Thomas wasn’t lying beside her, she would suppose he was already up, even though she almost invaribly got up first. She would go upstairs half asleep and wake the children and go downstairs again. Ten minutes later, freshly showered and in her robe she would emerge from the bathroom and call the children, who were bound to be still in bed. Konrad!Ella! Get a move on! If you don’t get up now, you’ll be late,Always the same sentence.

Astrid goes into auto mode when Thomas goes.

Like his other books, this has a moment at the start of the tale. The moment this book starts is when a perfect or so it seems couple Thomas and Astrid with their 2.4 children return from a perfect holiday in Spain. Next Day Thomas walks out of there house and starts to do a Forest Gump and walk around Switzerland. Meanwhile, his with Astrid is like a rabbit caught in headlights and just stays as she is covering for her missing husband.Thomas initially stays in a caravan then heads to the mountain trying to live off the land as best he can stumble into a brothel. Well, Astrid tries to help the children then she decides to let the world know what has happened. Why did Thomas escape, why hasn’t Astrid acted sooner? This is about keeping face in a way for Astrid there perfect life had tiny cracks in but they failed to see them.

It was daybreak when Thomas awoke.The moon was high, but it didn’t shed much light in the brightening sky. The group if trees that Thomas had seen as an outline the previous nightwere just a few sick specimens with leafless crowns, their trunks a tangle of ivy. A sweetish smell hung in the air.

Thomas clothes were sodden, but he didn’t feel cold. He rubbed his hands on the damp grass and wiped the sleep from his eyes .

Thomas is in a dream state at times .

This is a novella and touches on what modern life is about in a way. Those who like Thomas just drift off this isn’t quite Christopher Mccandless into the wild Thomas isn’t making a point in a way he seems  more hunting for what is seldom seen these days in our towns and cities and that is as Kierkegaard said “I found I had less to say, until finally, I became silent, and began to listen.I discovered in silence, the voice of God. Maybe not quite God, but Thomas is seeking that clarity it brings to people sometimes. Their life isn’t all it seems this is classic Stamm in a way he has a way of going under the veneer of modern life. He has a way of placing his characters into situations using a starting point.Like in seven years he uses a classic storyline a man leaving his family in a mid-life crisis a Reg Perrin or Frank Bascombe life falling apart. What is your favourite Peter Stamm book?


Behind the station by Arno Camenisch



Behind the station by Arno Camenisch

Swiss fiction

Original title – Hinter dem Bahnhof

Translator – Donal Mclaughlin

Source – personal copy

I feature the first book in the trilogy Arno Camenisch wrote The alp earlier this month. I had ordered this book first but when it arrived and I saw that it was the second book I decided to order the Alp. Which is the book he got more acclaim for? Though this book style wise is similar in tone to the other book.The third part of the book has also been translated into English. But I haven’t got a copy yet.

My Grandfather has seven and a half fingers. On his left hand he has five fingers. on his right hand, he has the thumb, the index finger and half a middle finger> Thats two and half fingers that are missing, he took off at the big band saw. He wears his wedding ring on the left ring finger. Nonno coughs and says, bot, don’t come to close to the band saw on me, or do you want your fingers pff. Nonno is the master of the band saw.

This echoed a [passage in the alp about missing fingers and maybe the harsh nature of life.

Like the Alp, this is a book set in a small alpine village of forty or so people. It is told from the point of view of a young boy. Who lives there with his brother and observes the world they live in. like in the earlier book” the alp “, this is a gritty view of alpine life for those less well off. A tale of village life growing up without any real hope in your heart. Also although through child’s eyes you see the tough nature of the world of his parents and even more so of his grandparents.Especially with the grandfather’s illness, a real feeling of hope is failing as the chief patriarch. This is tough as the narrator is only five years old elsewhere we see him and brother get into a number of scraps the brother falls the two get stuck in one part. A bleak internal look at the alpine life devoid of hope in many ways but also full of the wonderful quaint ways of village life.

We’ll have to spend the night in the chair lift and will miss Scaccia pensieri on tv tonight, my brother says, and mother will have to flush the rice and beetroot down the toilet. The last of the Chupa chups have also gone when we hear my father calling, the helicopter’s on its way. My brother looks at me. Behind the blue panes in his ski glasses, his eyes look like those of a fish. I don’t beleive it, I say , my father’s bored and joking for sure, there are no HelioKopter round here. My brother says, Maybe the heliokopter really is coming and it’ll throw us down rucksacks with new Chupa Chups and salami and cucumber sandwiches so we don’t get hungry during the night.

Somthung child like in this pasage but also harsh realism of the diet of the poor alpine people.

Like in the first part of the trilogy the names of the characters are just Family names so brother, father, mother aunt, uncle etc. The only people that we do see k=named are Italian immigrants that work the land. This is a very baron view of the world told from the internal thoughts of our nameless narrator. if Peter from the Hiedi stories had a novella written by Thomas Bernhard this would be near it there is a bitter undertow of hopelessness the village is like in the alp with the similar characters a place caught out of time with the surrounding world and our narrator even thou young could even have been like a Dickens child character for the way he viewed the world. There is a similar bleak nature to the likes of the young Oliver or even more so Pip as they both share a bleak world the world of the village of Oberlander is similar to that of Pips Marshland home.

Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier


Isle of the dead by Gerhard Meier

Swiss fiction

Original title – Toteninsel

Translator – Burton Pike

Source – personal copy

I said at the start of German lit month the new job has given me a little extra money to buy some second-hand copies for this year’s challenge. I got this book last year. But finally read it again, last week. As Gerhard Meir belongs with writers like Bernhard and Walser writers that need a couple of readings. Meier is by trade a designer and it wasn’t till he was ill and in his forties, he took up writing.He got a lot of recognition when Peter Handke shared his Franz Kafka prize money with him. He lived in a small village and avoided the limelight.

“I like to walk through this part of town,- Do you see a;; those things over there? Discarded parts from building the railroad, presumably. And through them the sky, at times bare, overcast, putting on its stars:Firefly-lights abouve the field full of parts.I like walking through it. And if I were a photographer, Bindschadle, these iron bones would be sold commercially so people could decorate their walls with them.

I loved this description as the bones of an industral past how often I walk [past these in Chesterfield!

This is a short novella of hundred pages. It follows two old guys Baur, now he is the talker of the two. Bindschadler is the quiet one, although I sense he has just got used to speaking when it is worth it and letting Baur fill the gaps. The two have been friends since they were in the army at a young age. The two wander along the river and talk the things that matter to the pair of them like art, writing and writers. The way the hometown has changed over the years .But as they talk the events and time they talk about drift and they seem caught in a past that has gone and like the title of the book which is a famous picture of an island that is rather unclear and has a number of different versions also is the cover is homage to the picture of the Isle of the dead . They are maybe an isle of a dead world in the words.

“Thus Bindschadler, one could say that Bartok’s music brings groves of plane trees to ballet dancing, bringing in what’s around them, while prayer moves mountains or wakes the dead, even when their bones lie neatly ordered in the eartg, which according to the usual opinon, is the right place for them,” Baur said

We followed the path accross the Dnnern meadow. Antonioni’s tennis scene from Blow-up came to mind, which was mimed without a tennis ball; saw the green of the court, which in the ligh from the searchlights appeared especially green

Bones agian a rcurring theme at times also the falk of music and film here.

If Samuel Beckett had ever been asked to an episode of last of the summer wine this would have been how it would have turned out. The Isle of the dead is considered a masterpiece of Swiss modernist fiction and has echoes of the like of Bernhard in the way he viewed the art world. Joyce as they walk he use the places around them as a metaphor for a changing world. This is a slow meandering book the talk is beautiful from the two full of subtle details like a macro lens on the lives the details they give away are so defined in the conversations between the two. The way two objects or animals get a symbiotic relationship the shared past of these two is like the intertwining of the branches of two great trees that is keeping them together but also from falling over.

The Alp by Arno Camenisch




The Alp by Arno Camenisch

Swiss fiction

original title – Sez Ner

Translator – Donal McLaughlin

Source – personal copy

Another new name for the blog. As I searched for books for this years German Lit month. Dalkey Archive has published a number of the leading Swiss writers over the last few years. This book is one of a number from that series I have bought over the last year or so. Arno Camenisch burst on to the scene when this book came out in both German and Rhaeto- Romanic. It was the first of a trilogy he wrote about rural Swiss life.

The farmhand has eight fingers, five on his left hand, and three on his right. His right he keeps mostly in his pocket, or resting on his thigh beneath the table.When he lies in the grass outside the hut, next to the pigpen, fast asleep with hos boots off and his socks off as well, the swineherd counts his toes.The farmhand sleeps in the afternoons as, by night, he’s out and about.He vanishes when everyone’s gone to bed, come back at some point during the night.

Thje loss of fingersshows the tough nature of the work these four men do.

When I took a picture of this book on twitter I called it the Anti Heidi. As for me, it portrays the Swiss rural community like it is, in many ways similar to the rural world of England.And that is a hard life for many of the people who work the land. The story is told by four unnamed characters they are the Dairyman, his farmhand, a cow herder and swine herd. What we see is the hardness of there lives the days they live milking herding animals. The jokes shared like if one hadn’t a dog he’d be a swineherd man.This is all told as we see tourist making the most of the Alps and the rich farmers. They read about a glorious past and another has just a fork to eat with. The tying of milk stools to their waist to sit on whilst milking is an ancient scene at times there world seems old-fashioned it is only when the modern world breaks in we see when the book is set.

The day-trippers wash off their walking boots in the fountain outside the hut.They take their shoes off, and their sweaty socks. The day-trippers sit at the edge of the fountain with their feet in the basin, The diop their dirty soles of their shoes in the water, use their finger to dig the dirt out of the sole. Thanks a lot,they say when the swineherd brings them a cup of milk, no worries,don’t mention it,, the swineherd says.That’s for the dirt in the fountain he thinks to himself.

The fountain they use t wash and drink from is used by trippers to clean their boots and socks …

There is a feeling that places change and sometimes people in that world don’t change. These four characters seem like flies caught in the amber of their time. Their lives are unchanging but shrinking as the modern world automates farming the feeling is these four men may be the last of the generation but there is also a deep sorrow in Camenisch portrayal of their world.Alongside a black humour that one only ever finds in these tightly knitted worlds of farm hands, miners, fishermen or shipyard workers. Those doing a day work that can see the funny side of the darkest parts of lives. I lived for many years in the northeast of England,  worked with a group of old people. The characters here reminded me in many ways of the way these four characters talked. An eye-opening view of alpine life. The real Heidi character in the modern world.

Year of the Drought by Roland Buti











Year of the drought by Roland Buri

Swiss fiction

Original title – Le Milieu de l’horizon

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – personnel copy

I saw a few reviews around the web a few weeks ago of this book.One from Melissa  and another from Grant it sounded like a book I would like.So I went and brought a copy for myself. It won the Swiss literature in 2014. Roland Buti studied history and became a history teacher in his hometown of Lausanne he has written a number of novels .But this is his first book to be translated into English.

Rudy was the son of a distant cousin in Seeland. He had come to live in our house before I was born.For me he had no age, as if he had never been a child  and would never grow old. His ruddy thick skin was a barrier that kept him separate from the outside world and this seemed to me part of a very particular form of bearitude that was his alone.

When I was right, I learned that he had Down’s syndrome,By then I had realised that Rudy’s status in our family was different from mine and my sister’s

Rudy remind me in some ways of Lennie from” of mice and men”

This is a story set in that hot summer of 1976 in a small swiss valley in the french speaking part of Switzerland. We follow this summer through the eyes of Gus the son of the farm that lives in the valley a rural and isolate place he lives there with his Father A big strong farming man , iut one that is trying to rescue the farm out of the hole it is drifting into due to the Summer. Jean the father does this by getting chickens but with the summer heat as the temperature inches up the dead chickens start piling up . The mother a stand offish woman who has led a sheltered life and wants her kids to have more . A sister Lea a musician then we have a cousin a lad with Downs that is struck by every woman he runs into maybe the woman for him. But he ends up in trouble, he remind me in some ways of Steinbeck’s great character Lennie. The summer isn’t going great when Cecile an old friend of the mother appears she sets the young man alight at first when he caught her one night in a night-gown, but then sees her with his own mother. But elsewhere Gus has awakenings with his friend Maddy as his world starts to fall apart and his father Jean starts to collapse as a man in front of his eyes as his farm and marriage implode in Heat and they year of the drought.

The dead hens in the dry grass looked as though they had never been animals. The stunted, twisted , pale bodies  were no longer part of nature; they were different from the assorted rubbish at the municipal dump.The anicent pact has been broken.

The farm is like the dead chickens and the Pact with the land has been broken by this summer.

This was compared to the seethaler novel a whole life . But this is much more a glimpse of that moment when a boy becomes a man. Also in the way Seethaler caught a world dying this is the end of a farm like the dead chickens drying in the sun and smelling out the place its a rotting corpse of a farm. This also follows Gus starting to notice the other sex , but also maybe seeing the cracks in the world around him for the first time. Buti build the tension , I was also reminded of Steinbeck in the way you see Jeans efforts as hopeless trying to get by but failing was a trait in Steinbeck’s books. A perfect summer read this book but as Grant says some of the images in the book will stick in the mind with you.


Barbarian Spring by Jonas Lüscher


Barbarian Spring by Jonas  Lüscher

Swiss fiction

Original title – Frühling der Barbaren

Translator – Peter Lewis

Source – review copy

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song.. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
..From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone

A verso of the Poem Ahmad Al-Za’tar by Mahmoud Darwish , seems to fit the feeling of this book .


Another novel from switzerland for German lit month and another from Haus publishing( I love the cover of this book a very german looking cover sparse just what is need on it )  .Jonas  Lüscher was born in Berne , and studied Philosophy , getting a master’s degree first teaching , since then he also did some work alongside the well-known philosopher Michael Hampe .Barbarian spring is his first novel it was shortlisted for the swiss book prize and longlisted in the German book prize .

Preising was all set , then , to exchange the fogs of midland Switzerland for the balmey Tunisian spring .He swapped his customary tweed jacket and Burgundy cords for a houndstooth jacket the colour of egg nog and a pair of chinos with sharp creases ; in all honesty, he found this ensemble ludicrous , but his housekeeper had laid it out ready for him and he was afraid of offending her by spurning it .

I was reminded of Frasier this is just the sort of thing he would do they worry about it .

Barbarian spring is really a double meaning in its title , the first being an older word for the Arab world and the Arab spring , the second and main one is the spring of a group of people who should know better that become barbaric in the face of the Arab spring happening around them .The story is the story of Preising a Swiss industrialist and rather like  a swiss version of Frasier or Niles from the programme Frasier as he is very picky in his ways .We meet him on route to a wedding of two friends from London they are getting married in a resort in Tunisia that has been built-in an Old Berber town and made into the height of western opulence as a hotel the couple haven’t spared any expense the bride arrives in her wonderful dress on the back of a camel  .The marriage goes ahead , but even as Preising is arriving for the Marriage you sense not all is right in the world around them .Add to this the crash in the markets  in London where the couple are from at this time as well .We have two groups living on the edge and a group of overpaid rich people getting  caught up in the Arab spring .

Sitting in the shade , Snaford started talking about the niceties of the Berber village societies and the role played by women , and preising , who’d read a bit about native peoples , chipped in from time to time .

Preising and one of the guests talk about the natives , but see the world from a western view .

Now this book is a story of what may have happened but what could have happened of course the two events in the book the Arab spring and the Market crashes happened a different times but what Jonas does in the book is imagine them happening in a future event and how this has a knock on effect on the Couple , their party and Preising .But also the people in the Resort around them those everyday Tunisians .This of course leads to the darker side of human nature taking hold not just survival but also what happens when there are no rules for everyone and effectively we are all on the same level for once caught in  a storm of events .Also certain scenes show one world smashing into another like a luxury coach crashing into a group of camels , in one way the part in the coach unhurt and the family that own the camel destroyed by this one event .Short but thought-provoking fiction , using an outside eye on recent events like the market crashes and Arab spring make for an exciting and different debut novel .

have you read any books about the Arab spring ?

The Truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

the truth about the Harry Qubert affair

The truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

Swiss fiction

Orginal title La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert

Translator – Sam Taylor

Source – review copy

It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita via goodreads


Well in the UK ,you bound to have seen this about it has been really pushed by Waterstones book shop here , which is good to see so often translated fiction doesn’t get the front windows or main tables in book shops .So to Joël Dicker ,he is Swiss writer ,he was born and schooled in Geneva ,he went to Paris to study for a year after school ,then returned and completed a degree in law in Switzerland ,he has always written this his first book has been a runaway success in Europe .it won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens Grand Prix du Roman de l’Academie Francaise prizes .

“He wrote that book for that girl , Marcus .For a fifteen-year-old girl .I can’t leave the plaque there .That’ not love – it’s disgusting .”

“I think it’s more complicated than that ,” I said .

“And I think you should keep your nose out of this , Marcus .You should go back to New York and stay far away from all this ”

Marcus is told to leave the Harry Quebert affair alone .


So what is the book about ,well it is told in two main time lines the first is in the summer of 1975 ,when the character of the title Harry Quebert is spending the summer in Somerset in New Hampshire ,finishing a book which he feels will cement his places as one of the best writers around  his book the origins of evil is maybe more than it first seemed .During this  time he befriends a young girl Nola Kellergran .Now she disappears at the end of this summer this brings us to the other timeline .For 33 years ,later her body is discovered in the yard of the house Harry Quebert was staying in that summer and she is holding a copy of Harry Quebert manuscript.This is where we meet Marcus Goldman ,now he  is a writer just starting his journey as a writer and was taught by Harry Quebrt so he decides to go to Somerset and find pout what really happened and prove that the man he knew so well isn’t the killer and get him free as Harry Quebert now sits in Jail .Along the way the Life of Nola Kellerman isn’t as simple or clean as it once seems as Marcus uncovers more and more about the men she was involved with that summer and what she was really doing .Does he find the killer ,does Harry walk free and what about the two books Harry’s and Marcus’s about Harry’s case ?

The masterpiece I had so desperately wanted to write …. Harry had written it .He had sat at a table in a diner and written words of absolute genius , wonderful sentences that had moved the whole country ,taking care to hide within his work the story of his love affair with Nola Kellergran

The Origins of Evil was Harry’s masterpiece and the book he was writing that summer .

Now this book is great for a début but you do feel after finishing it a good edit and maybe a few changes would have moved it into that instant classic band .But that said it is a wonderful Homage to all things America now Maclehose have gone with a Hopper painting for the cover here and yes this is the america of Hopper and Rockwell .What Joël Dicker has done is taken parts of recent American culture and mixed them so we have part of Twin peaks Nola Kellergran is rather like Laura Palmer in that the more the book unfolds like in the tv show twin peaks the more we gather she isn’t what she first seemed .Part Stephen King that New England and the small town of Somerset could have walked out of a king novel .Part Cold Case drama now I could pick one shpow out but there is a number of shows and books about Cold crime case solving Marcus Goldman is the classic writer turned detective .Part Lolita how many men were attracted to this young women ? Now this book also struck me as part written for a film or tv series ,now that isn’t a bad thing is it ,I mean stephen King has done it for years ,so keep your eyes out for a version of this for a film ,I would love to see a great director get this book in the hands of the likes of David Lynch or Wim Wenders it would really bring out  the darker side of the book out .So I look forward to seeing what Joël Dicker does next ?

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

seven years peter stamm

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Original title – Sieben Jahre

Source – Library

Well Peter Stamm is one of those writers that has been on the edge of my radar and wish list for a for a few years now and after reading this has jumped to writers I want to complete .So Peter Stamm studied various subjects as diverse as English ,business information (?) ,psychology and Psychopathology ,He had worked in a psychiatric ward as and intern after this  .Before becoming a freelance Journalist and then on into writing in his early thirties .He has won number of prizes in Switzerland ,Seven years is his tenth novel and the seventh to be translated to English .

Meet Ivona ,said Ferdy .She’s from Poland .This is Rudiger ,and this -is Alexander .He was standing behind me ,I had to almost vertically look up at him .Have a seat said Ferdy .The women put her glass down on the table and next to it her tissues and her book ,which was a romance novel showing a man and a women on horseback .

Their first meeting and maybe a subtle hint at what is coming .

So Seven years is a spin on the old seven-year itch story ,a phrase that has been coined by Psychologist as the time a couple that has had a monogamous relationship is likely to stray and to  have an affair .So the couple in this book are Alex and Sonia ,they are described as a sort of trendy  hip middle-aged couple into the hip things  and image they are both Architects ,on the hip edge of this Sonia loves the works of the Franco /Swiss architect and urbanist Le Corbusier .So we she her going her and there to see his buildings .  So it is a shock when the third part of what becomes a love triangle in this book is Ivona she is a rather dull plain women from Poland that had come into Alex’s life a number of years before he started the affair with her then and we are being told how it happened  .What develops is a very strange and almost awful relationship Alex like the fact that Ivona is the total opposite to his wife and when she tries to make her self more appeal he makes her stay the same ,she top him appears as an object a thing he has to use not often as a person .Whilst his wife is going on about a new house and this and that .This happened in the past and is told with a cold tone at times giving an insight into Alex as maybe an emotional devoid man.

I had known her body in all its details .The heavy Pendulous breasts ,the rolls of fat at her neck ,her naval ,the stray black hairs on her back ,and her many moles .I knew how she smelled and tasted .How her body responded to touch ,I knew it repertoire of familiar movements ,but when I saw Ivona sitting there ,I had to acknowledge that I din’t know the least thing about her , that she was a complete stranger to me .

Sonia was a conquered land in Alex’s eye and Ivona was a woman of mystery .

I was looking forward to this on a number of levels I had heard how easy Stamm is to read ,he is the book took me a day and a half to fly through but then kept me thinking about it for the next week or so which was the other thing I had heard was  that Stamm is a writer that lies with you long after you have put the book down ,and yes he does .The other thing I really like is the fact it is a Hofmann translation I have always found his translation to be top drawer clean and unfussy style  ,with real sense that it isn’t a translation .So Alex and Sonia what do I make of them they struck me as very much like a typical English couple in the age group and tastes something of the yes they’ve read the books , like the right films but at the heart of the couple is a real void all the things in the world can’t make up for the fact they are quite shallow and really uninteresting people at the heart of it  I was reminded very much of the women from the film of Nick Hornbys High fidelity Charlie played by Catherine Zeta Jones ,who John Cusacks character describe her and her friends as being some one you like to be with but when you there with them you realise  they are actually quite vacant people   .Where as Ivona the Christian book seller is described as dull woman  but the more the book goes on the more she leaps off  the page .A real tale of love ,lose and marriage told with a subtle and careful tone by Stamm.

Have you read this book ?

Which Stamm would you suggest next for me ?

Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe


Sea of ink by Richard Weihe

Swiss fiction

Original title – Meer der tusche

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy .

So I come to the last of the year of  small epics by Peirene press .I’ve  over last week or two have  reviewed the other two books  in the series .This the final choice for last year  was written by Richard Weihe .Richard is a Swiss writer .He studied in Zürich and Oxford ,he has written a number of  very poetic biographies of artist ,he also translates poems and plays from American English .He also presented a Swiss TV series on philosophy .So to sea of ink not a non fiction bio but a Novella following the life of Chinese painter Bada Shanren .

Micheal Stipe sang about a perfect circle ,he of course meant a perfect circle of friends ,but Bada Sharen the star of the novella spent six years trying to just draw the perfect circle freehand .This novella is a study and insight into the man as an artist ,that man Bada Sharen is one of the most revered Chinese artist .He was also a poet and showed talent from an early age,We see the young boy move through his life training to be a pain ter a monk and nearing the end of the book a descent into madness .The book is structured in very short snappy chapters little glimpse into his life,his working style and why he painted that way  ,we also are treated to 11 of his pictures ,we see a change in his art through the pictures his early examples seem less assured .Bada was a man who sort perfection in his art and maybe let his life fall to the side at times due to this  .

Bada Shanren had become a master and young painters came from far and wide to show him their work and seek advice .They generally brought small gifts ,ink tablets from their Provence or jars of jam ,and he would thank them politely .These visits were punctuated long periods of silence ,when he would immerse himself completely in his work .

Bada Shanren at the height of his powers as a master artist

I struggled with this I loved Weihe writing style and would read his work again at times I was reminded of Thomas Bernard another writer who used art and artist in his work , in his novels but Weihe is a far more  minimalist compared to him in his careful use of words and just the bones of the story or the description of Shanren working on one painting .  Yet again Jamie showed what a great translator he is ,he work on love virtually one of my favourite books of recent years and has translated other books I’ve read and a couple on my tbr pile ,so to see his name as a translator is always one I know I ll get along with .Back to the book I think what the problem was is Bada Shanren himself I just didn’t click with him as a character I admired his art but  just couldn’t connect with him as a person. I may return to this book at a later date ,if I knew more about chinese art and culture maybe I would be more engaged .But this is a book for anyone that likes art or is artistic .

Have you read this book ?

Have you a favourite novel about art ?

A perfect waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer

A perfect waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer

Swiss fiction

Translator – John Brownjohn

I went to library when the german lit month was first mention determined to try some new writers in German and this was one of them I got .I ,must admit the mention of magic mountain and the Downton abbey feel of Erneste the  waiter on the front sold it to me when I mention I got it some one from germany said of that is a LGBF book ,that peaked my interest more it is hard enough getting a book translated but very few LGBF make out through from their original language to english .

So we meet Erneste he is like the star waiter of a swiss hotel good at his job able to speak four languages he has it all going for him work wise ,so one of his perks for being the star waiter is he meets the passengers and new staff that arrive at the picturesque hotel by ferry .So one day he arrives and meet a new waiter a young German looking to expand his horizons Jakob and also two pretty young country girls as the book unfolds we see the two men grow closer but this is in 1935 and just over the border the dark shadow of the war is effecting the hotel as this happen the two men kiss and a new arrival an exiled German writer called Julius sends a spanner into the works for Ernste ,as he also has eyes for the young Jakob anyway Jakob goes back to Germany and then America  and Erneste carries on as a waiter til one day a letter arrives in 1966 many years later this sparks of the whole story being told as it is from Jakob who now is living in the us and has fallen on hard times since they last meet just before the war .

He sometimes caught himself yearning for the authentic Jakob while the real one was lying beside him .Although he could feel the warmth of him ,he kept thinking of the Jakob who had left him behind on the platform in Basel and then ,far away in Koln ,dissolved into thin air .

Erneste dream of Jakob .

This book is a great insight into gay love just before the world war two but also what happens when lovers move apart and go on very different paths in their lives ,also it catches that dream world just before the war where life in some ways in a place like the hotel where they worked was just perfect .We also see how people’s lives can arc one goes one way and another twists off like Jacob of to the US .I loved Sulzer style this is a gentle story of what at the time was a frowned on love between two men told with sensitivity and honesty .I really want to read some of his other books I think I ve found a special writer in Sulzer .I m sure large part of this is due to John Brownjohn translation skills as well holding the gentle prose together of this book .

Have you read any translated LGBF ?

Who is your favourite Swiss writer ?

March 2018
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