The Great Homecoming by Anna Kim

The Great Homecoming by Anna Kim

Austrian Fiction

Original title – Die große Heimkehr

Translator – Jamie Lee Searle

Source – copy via translator

I left this a bit as it was a book from I writer who I read a few years ago and didn’t review so this time around it deserved a great review. Anna Kim grew up initially in Germany then moved to Vienna she has been writing since 1999 and was sent by project mitSsprach gehts  to Greenland that visit formed two of her earlier novels which included the one I read a few years ago. She has one the European literature prize. This was her latest novel it came out in 2017 and saw her look back at her own Korean Heritage, This is what excited me about this book as it was interesting that a writer that had lived outside Korea looked at the history of her homeland. Plus one of my best friends, when I lived in Germany, was from Korea as well.  

No, I was drawn south, not North, I packed up the few things I owned and left Nosan, went wherever the wind blew me and the waves propelled me; on days when it rained, I would study the color of the rain from beneath the shelter of a tree, trying to memorize it, on other days I followed the traces of light until it disappeared in a valley. I traveled on foot, hiking cross-country, sleeping in caves,cornfields  and under bridges. My new friends were homeless like me, children, teenagers, refugees from the North, refugees from the south, people without ages or names who had become arbitary, transparent, during the search for their famlies. We shared the little foot we managed to beg, shared the warmth of our caves, we shared everything we owned, and yet we lost one another.

I was reminded here a bit of grave of fireflies with setsuko in a cave with her fireflies.

At the heart, if this story is a triangle of friendship two old friends Yunho and Johnny how are meeting after the conflict Yunho has been cut off from his family so heads to the hustle and bustle of Seoul, and his best friend this is where we meet the third main character in this Book Eve a little older than the two school friends she is the start of the book as well as the much older Yunho receives notice of her death as she has died in the US hence the book is his flashback through two turbulent years and the political events but also there is Yunho past this takes us back to the Japanese occupation of Korea a horrific time for the country, There is a lot of history but this for me fills out evens as the trio head as Junho also falls for his friend, lover but when a tragic event and a dead body cause a rift which side of the divide will they all end up on. This is all in a time when the city is full of spies refugees and chancers. A story of three lives in the post-war chaos of the two Koreas.

My rendezvous with eve were as clandestine as my conspiracy with sangok, Mihee and Jang, but it was this secret that proved fateful: whereever the needle goes, the thread must follow.

I don’t know whether she felt the same way; But I was happy, and as I zigzagged my way through the narrowest alleys and darkest corners of nocturnal seuol, which in my mind were part of Eve- for I cpuldn’t have envisaged her in any other place in the world, Eve the Korean woman withthe American name – it seemed a miricale to me that I was ableto find her, that I couldfool the blackness of the night.

The mysterious Eve is she more than they know.

This is a clever book it has another subplot of a Korean German writer returning to Korea to discover there past and the main story of the trio of friends. This is a mix of spy story love story post-war story and also a chunk of modern Korean history thrown in the mix. A European Epic take on post-war Korea. This is one of the best novels on the time I have read it uses the friendship and the way the characters move through the north and south which isn’t like it is today with its closed border but there is a sense that is growing closer as we see Yunho facing turning to the north and leaving Seoul to head to Pyongyang which at the time seem to be prosperous. Then Add Eve moon she is a dancer but she could have walked out of an Ian Fleming novel for being a character she is more than she seems to the boys. Jamie sent me this as she felt it was one of those books that flew under the Radar as it came out during COVID.Which is a shame it is a book that I was going to read at some point as it had been well received in Germany and was on my radar

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 ?

 

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping by Francis Nenik

German fiction

Original title – Vom Wunder der doppelten Biografieführung

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

I received the three books that are forthcoming this month from the new English Imprint V&Q. There was one from the description made me want to see if the writer had any other books in English. The writer Francis Nenik is a farmer by day and writer by night. He has published several novels this is what caught my eye he had published a work in loose leaves which reminds me of the great book by B S Johnson that has a similar format. the book coming out soon is similar to this as it follows the real-life of someone. Here is the life told in a short book of two poets.

The only person, it seems to take an interest in Nicholas Moore thenceforth is the man who steals his wallet in the crush at London’s petticoat lane market; containing not so much money as letters of inestimable value – letter that moore had exchanged over the years with the American poet Wallace Stevens and the British writer Osbert Sitwell.

All that remains is lonely, wasted land.Everywhere around him. Not only has Priscilla left, but she has also taken their daughter with her, and Moore has to give up theflat where three of them previously lived. He finds a new place to live (Where he stays for the rest of his life) : a small groud floor flat in a desolate part of Southeast London.

Moore life falls aprt when his wife leaves him. He does later remarry.

The two poets in this book only met through the letters they sent to each other but both had a lot in common in their careers. Nicholas Moore was in his day as well thought of and Known as Dylan Thomas. He wrote in the forties reaching his height in 1948 when he won a big prize after that he fell out of fashion and eventually took a job as a seed merchant that wrote the occasional poems. Meanwhile, in Brno a poet called Ivan Blatny aspiring and well regard through the forties. He ran off when he was part of a delegation to London in 1948. Meanwhile, the Nicholas moore whose wife had written down his poems leaves him he has to move into a small house that he lived in the rest of his life Ivan was like Nicholas a member of the new Apocalyptics Ivan was also in a group Skupina 42. After his arrival in the Uk he starts to have problems with his mental health. He ends up in Claybury hospital and this is where he writes to Nicholas there js a few letters between the men a swapping of biographies as both saw hard times after there bright youth but in later years had a few poems out in later life but never the success of earlier years. 

On the letters

The fact that not only the letters from Nicholas Moore to Ivan Blatny, but also those from Blatny to Moore have been preserved, is due to the fortuitous circumstance that Blatny made copies of his letters in a notebook contained in the file. The possibility that these copies might be mere drafts appears unlikely since the transcriptions contained no crossings out, etc. whether such drafts existed or Blatny committed his letters directly to paper cannot be determined with any certainty. No such drafts have been found to date. Nevertheless, the letter of 16th March 1963 shows that, at least in this particular case. Blatny wrote in several stages

the letters were kept and found between the two poets.

This is a short book 60 pages in a very small edition but he brings these two poets out of the literary bin both had fallen out of notice. we even have a small Blatny poem that Moore translates in a letter as he learns Czech to read his fellow poet’s work. A touching look at what happens when you burn bright when young then are forgotten. This is what appealed about the other forthcoming work he has to pick interesting lives sad in these cases the two men never met apart from in letters but their lives seem to have had so much similar in what happened with their writing. I can’t wait to read his longer work Nenik has mixed biography, epistolary style, and history with a bit of fiction to brew up something truly unique.

That was the month that was July 2020

  1. The treasure of Spanish civil war by Serge Pey
  2. Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas
  3. A glass eye by Miren Agur Meabe
  4. Fracture by Andres Neuman
  5. Vicious by Xurxo Borrazas
  6. Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong
  7. Rolling Fields by David Trueba
  8. A beautiful young woman by Julián López
  9. The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

It was the first of two months of Spanish lit month last month so we had a Spanish feel to the books reviewed last month. We started with a French novel set in Spain from a writer descended from a Spanish civil war refugee that grew up in a camp. THen a man is plagued by people creeping in as he tries to Write. Then we Had a Basque novel about a woman with a glass eye and a sort of history of the Glass eye in with it. Argentina is next stop a book set in Japan written by the wonderful Andre Neuman. THen a man on the run a story with a number of timelines intertwined and a baroque feel to the work. Then off to Taiwan and a young man learn his hunting techniques and the shrinking world around him. Then another son takes his father home and evaluates his life as a singer-songwriter as he does. Then back to Argentina and a son remembering his mother in fragments. I finish in the Austrian hills and a young girl and a Russian on the run in the last days of world war two.

Books of the month

First is Andre Neuman his story of one man that saw the bombs dropped on Japan and destroyed his home town then in the present the destruction of the nuclear power in the present,  as he is asked about these events and times by an Argentinan journalist. This is my Spanish lit month choice.

I had to chose this as it is such a touching book a son on his father a hard man to like but one that had taught him to hunt and he sees the world of his tribe shrinking around him over the passage of time. Also the environmental damage of these changes over his lifetime.

NOn-book matters

Well life is slowly freeing up we have a few more things to do one of those is swimming which I have enjoyed doing this last week or so getting up to pre lockdown levels of swimming which hurt but after a day or two I noticed my muscles hurt less. Another treat has been a coffee  the first in a few months still being very careful but this isn’t over yet. I also brought the 40th-anniversary edition in the vinyl of Joy Divison second albm unknown pleasures a haunting Album it also had three singles  in 12 include that came out from them around the same time including the towering Love will tear us apart

Next month

Well, a few more books from Spanish world. I m nor sure yet  100% yet I also have a couple of books the Balkans and Quebec to read. I  also hope to get near to ten books to try and get back near 100 books for the year, What are your plans for August. What was your highlight for July book wise ?

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Fractura

Translators – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – review copy

It has been a while since I reviewed a book by Andres Neuman. I met him when his first book made the shortlist of the old IFFP and I was lucky to have got invited to the award and managed a  chat with him which was amazing as he was aware of my blog. Anyway, the years have passed and when I saw this was out I was pleased it was on I managed to get a review copy of. this his latest to be translated to English as for me he is one of those writers that I want to read all he has written over time.

An earthquake fractures the present, shatters perspective, shifts memory plates.

As soon as Watanabe sticks his head out , a torrent of feet engulf him, He takes a deep breath before emerging. He is still has the feeling that the world is swaying slightly, that every object emits the memory of its instability.

Fortunately, everything outside appears more or less in it place he hadn’t been at all sure of this. The force of the jolts made him fear the worst.

I loved this pasaged it captured te earthquke and Yoshies life in one.

So the premise of this book is based around two characters the first is a retired Japanese Executive Yoshie Watanabe. His life has a circle like quality to it there is the beginning where he was one of the few people to survive the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagaski. the story starts when the earthquake in 2011 and the disaster that hit the nuclear plant at Fukushima. This is the bases of the story as he has seen so much and had spent a lot of time abroad in his life trying to escape the first nuclear disaster he had saw and he lost his family along the way. He is contacted by Pinedo an Argentinean journalist wanting to hear about Yoshie’s life as a man that had lived to see both the Nuclear bombs of world war two but the disaster and fractured world of the 2011 Earthquake. Yoshie has been around the world trying to run from his past but in this journey, he had been in a place like Vietnam and Madrid when major events happened around him. He is a man that has enjoyed his life but was damaged to start with so the fractured way he tells his life is how he lived it.

It was around that time that Phil Ochs rook his own life. According to him, he had died a long time ago. Later it was revealed that the FBI kept a five-hundred-page file on his activites. It still considered him a dangerous individual even after hi death.

Just like the country, I began a new life. I met up again with Richard. I think we had always liked each other, but when he was available I was with someone else and vice cersa. We had unfinished buiness. Despite claiming to be a liberated woman, I hadn’t yet learned how to live alone. I avoided the grieving process by eagerly moving on to the next challenge. Which is part of me indentified with Yoshie in this?

Phil ochs the protest singer in the sixties one of those times Yoshie was there to see!!

This is a story of one man’s life that is told in fragments. Using the journalist connects the story to Andre’s homeland which Yoshie had spent time. He is a sort of dumb witness to the 20th century by chance that happened to be at the crucial place at crucial times as he stands on the line between being safe and in danger by Fukushima power plant as he visits the place at the request of the journalist.” Sit by my side, come as close as the air, Share in a memory of gray; Wander in my words, dream about the pictures That I play of changes” is a song by Pil Ochs mentioned in the book due to the CIA keeping a huge file on this protest singer this captures Yoshie a bit as we wander in his words and the world he lived !! A rare story of some from Japan traveling the world. Have you read this ?

I Remember by Georges Perec

I Remember by Georges Perec

French Memoir

Original title – Je Me souviens

Translator – Philip Terry (with notes and Intro by David Bellos)

Source – personal copy

When I saw Gallic was bringing this out on the newish imprint Gallic Editions which has classic french lit. I decide I try this and have the JMG Le Le Clezio. I have featured Georges Perec three times on the blog and am working through his lesser-known books I initially reviewed Life a user manual which I reviewed alongside an art show inspired by his work.  Since then, he has featured his lost debut novel and a short novella. This is a collection of Aphorisms originally published as weekly pieces in Les Cashiers du Chemin between 1973 and 1977.

I remember that at the end of the war, my cousin Henri and I marked the advance of the allied armies with little flags bearing the names of the generals commanding the armies or the army corp. I’ve forgotten the names of almost all of these generals (BradleymPatton, Zhukov,etc.)But I remember the name of General De Larminat.

I remember thsat Michel Legrand make his debut under the name of “Big Mike”

I remember that a 400-meter spriotner was caught stealing in the cloakrooms of a sport stadium(and that , to avoid going to prison.He had to sign up for Indochina)

I remember the day Japan capitulated

I remember a piece by Earl Bostic that was called “Flamingo”

Here is a selction of them personal distant memoires and the war ending.

This is a selection of memories there is no real order it is just single aphorisms that all start with the two words I remember from personal insights such as his cousin Henri, A number of post-war memories like the yellow bread that France had immediately after the war, scarves made from Parachute silk. Then cultural references radio shows even crystal radio sets, actress in films, jazz performers. Sport a number of cyclists mentioned. What builds as Perec remembers and that isn’t the big things just no those little things make this an interesting insight into the man I’ve always been a fan of lists of peoples favourite films books etc and things like Desert island disc the little things that make us what we are and here we have lots of little crumbs of Perec’s life and loves. It is an interesting insight the 480 pieces build into a history of him as a person.

I remember that in the jungle book, Bagheera is the panther, Mowgli the boy, and Bandar Log the monkey (But what are the names of the bear and snake!)

I remember that Fausto Coppi had a lady friend called “The Woman in White”

I remember a cheese called “La Vache Serieuse”(“La Vache qui rit” took the manufacturers to court and won).

I remember a Mexican comic actor called Cantinflas(I think he was the one who played Passepartout in Around the world in Eighty days).

I remembrer the swimmer Alex Jany

I remember jaacques Duclos’ pigeons.I remember that Jean-Paul Satre worked on the script of John Huston’s Freud.

I felt a connection here I love cycling and I have read Satres Freud script I have to review it some day soon.

 

This was inspired in part by the American painter Joe Brainard who also wrote a number of a different list like this of aphorisms called I remember. He has a huge fan in Paul Auster and I was reminded of Auster story Augie march which got made in part to the film smoke which he took a picture each day which like this list seems not a lot but when you slowly work through the list it makes a picture of Perec and thee sort of chap he was. I feel it is like a collage of the man especially what he like listening to those old radio talent shows, certain French singers. Another work inspired by this work was Edouard Leve’s Autoportrait another series of Aphorisms that builds a picture of a writer. This is a nice collection of a writer that I for one have found fascinating over the years. Have you read this book?

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

Swedish fiction

Original title – Slaget om Troja

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy

Here is a work by the Greek Immigrant Swedish writer Theodor Kalifatides after doing his military service in Greece he emigrated in his early twenties to Sweden. First, as a teacher of philosophy as a school at the university, he was then editor of one of the best know Swedish literary magazines. He has written over forty novels he was one of the first writers to touch on immigration in Swedish fiction. He was chairman of Swedish pen in the nineties here he has taken a classic greek work and reworked it around the world war two.

So I thought I would do that too. I will tell you the story of the Iliad from memory for as long we’re sitting here.”It’s not as if we have anything else to do””

That was true. WE didn’t have anything else to do in the cave, apart from trying to protect ourselves from the assorted bugs.

“So when was thios war ?” Dimitra asked.

“”It was very long time ago- more than three thousand years,” Miss replied.

Dimittra sighed. “Can’t wait”.

Miss took no notice. I didn’t think it sounded very excing either, but as I said we didn’t have much else to do, so Miss began her story

She told of her hearing Homer from professional actor when she was a young girl. The boys aren’t to keen at first but they get gripped by it.

This is told from the perspective of a pupil at a small Greek village we never know his name his friend is called Dimitra. As it is nearing the end of the second world war and the Germans are still in Greece but there is a sense of the end. But they are being bombed when they end up in a cave and the young female teacher that they adore even when later she has found herself a boyfriend our narrator forgives her. She decides the best way to take the boy’s and girls’ minds of the bombing and what has been happening she decides to recount the Iliad from memory. As a child, she had seen it told to her by an old man a performer that went from town to town doing Homer works. Initially they arent keen but she grabs them with this 3000-year-old tale!So as the days go by we are given small chunks of the Trojan war this is interspersed with the events around the village as the children rush to her there teacher telling the next part of the story like Helen and her two loves that eventually they face each other in battle. These battles are mirrored in the real world.

The two armies rushed at each other like waves rushing towards the rocks, Honors were even to begin with, and both sides lost many men and horses it wasn’t until the afternoon that Acheans gained the upper hand, not least to agamemnon their supreme commander, who strode along mowing down his opponents like a farmer scything his wheat. He showed no mercy, not even when two inexperienced young men fell to their knees and begged for their lives. It is the first time we kill that is difficult after that, it quickly becomes habit.

The great Greek leader Agamemnon in the war is fearless and ruuthless as he kills at will maybe an echo to the present !!

This is a clever way to make the work of Homer available to new readers, I am not well-read in the classics .but this is a clever way to open the door to classics. He has made it readable by trim parts of the original but making you want to read the original. There is also a clever mirroring of the events that are read and the events in the present for Miss and her pupils. The Iliad showed the horrors of the Trojan war but we maybe could have done with a more violent present would have been interesting but the main character is just 15 and not yet a man he knows what is happening but isn’t involved so we just see the glimpse a 15 year would see of the war of the Nazi’s parading around. He had reworked The Iliad into a more mortal version of the work playing down the god’s role which given the setting of Miss telling the story to her adoring pupils is apt.

 

Winstonsdads Dozen books of the year 2020

Well it is the 2nd January and I am revealing my books of the year in no order these twelve are the ones that at the end of they year I felt had touched me most over the last twelve months.

1. Now, Now louison by Jean Fremon 

The French gallerist Jean Fremon tries to get into in the life of the renowned artist Louise Bourgeois with this miz of inner monologue, personal history, and antidotes another gem from Les fugitives.

2. Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova 

I now move onto the last night novel by a Czech writer. That captures a darker underbelly of a fragmented Prague of bums homeless people and Chavs

No photo description available.

3. The years by Anne Ernaux 

Just brilliant this should have won the booker but it is a Fineline between fiction and memoir as she looks back on her life and how she dealt with those ups and downs we all have in our own lifetimes.

4. Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen 

A look at the out fall of an attack on a normal everyday man and what happens when you have a severe brain injury.a short gem and another from a very small publisher.

 

Termin front cover.png

 

5. When death takes something from you give it back Carl’s book By Naja Marie Aidt

This touching memoir of her son who lost his life in shocking circumstances. Carl deals with a mother getting over the loss of her son at such a young age.

6. The train was on time by Heinrich  Böll

A long-overdue reissue of the debut work of Heinrich Boll on a train to the front there is a man daydreaming and remembering the war at the same time,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Doppelganger byDaša Drndić

Two novellas from the late Croat writer Daša Drndić her we see that love can be found in older age but we all have that baggage we carry and this is the case in these two getting together.

8. And the wind sees all by  Guðmundur Andri Thorsson

Here we see a mere moment caught from the whole of a village. The local choirmistress Kata is a stunning red dress head to choir practice . As we look behind the curtains in the small fishing villages we see the inner lives of those there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

It is a shock that two books from the Booker shortlist have made my best of year. This glimpses the life os a prostitute through those she knew in her brother and her life before her time in the brothel what drove her there in a series of smells and tastes that she had known throughout her life.

10. Ducks Newburyport by Lucy Elman 

I am one that tends to avoid hype but this 1000 page novel is the inner monologue of a midwest housewife living in the trump era rying to work out in a way how they got there where they are. A long journey but worth taking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Falstaff: Apotheosis by Pierre Senges

A reworking of the Falstaff character and his place in literature by the underappreciated French writer Pierre Senges someone we should all try I think.

12.The Trap by Ludovic Bruckstein 

Romanian fiction to round off this years best-of list and a look at a bygone world of villages that were full of Jewish life a lament of a world that has gone by. This is a lost gem of Mittel European writing brought to us from the great Istros books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well if there is a theme in these books it is to do with narrative om a whole they all challenge what is narrative for us the reader. I think this is what draws me so much to translated fiction and small press. Her is a huge thanks to those who have support this blog over the last twelve months.

Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

Austrian fiction

original title – Schule der Geläufigkeit.

Translator – Jean M Snook

I return to Austria with my next stop on German lit month and a writer I have featured before with his book the system of Vienna an inventive novel based around the tram stops in Vienna. An experimental writer Jonke. He studied many things history, philosophy, music theory and german studies but never complete any of his studies. He won most of the big literature prize in German including the Austrian state literature prize. In this book, he is said to have wanted to explore remembrance and the present.

Everything should be exactly as it was at last year’s party, answered the photographer’s sister. Whispering so that I wouldn’t understand, she consulted with her brother, who was passing by, after which he looked at me sternly, sizing me up, and with an expression that showed he was aware of the great responsibilty wieghing on him, hesaid in his most serious voiceas if he werer entusting me with managing the empty coffers of the city council. If you promise not to talk about it and not to give anything away, we can tell you something important, albeit confidential

The nioght has taken plannning and is run like a three at drama.

The book itself is two stories a novella book and a short story. I am focusing on the short story as it captures the feeling Jonke wanted and the is a remembrance in the present. It focuses on Anton he is a photograph and his sister Johanna they live in an elegant house with wonderful gardens they have decided the theme of this years garden party they have this year is the theme is that everyone has to do the same thing as the year before. They hired a painted Florian to create a cycle of painting that exactly copies the garden and then cover the garden with exact copies in pictures of the garden a cellist has to play his cello music on a piano. The guest is a mix of the high-class art and city officials which have a bizarre discussion about smoke in a part of the city between two officials who Jonke just refers to by their titles town planner and city manager  and then they have a musical pond, But how can you keep everything the same in the year that has passed it is the feeling of trying to hard are narrator fritz is a guest and he is maybe an unreliable narrator the second tale involves to brothers fritz again and his brother Otto not as talented as his brother he is a piano mover by trade I lived this comic observation Saki in style almost. They are stuck in an attic with a lot of pianos.

Several ladies and gentlemen who held high positions in the city administration had seated themselves on a corner of the terrace where there was a good view of the city lights at night, of course they were always thinking and talking about many and diverse problems of the municipality and , relaxed by the festive mood of the evening, they were exchangong their opinons on these matters much more freely than usual and in an informal manner.

A sort tongue in cheek look at the absurd nature of the city council and its officals is the case in the book!

Jonke was interested in using fiction like a musician and this is a piece that maybe shows how he used rhythms and phrases the title refers to the man called the godfather of modern piano teaching Carl Czerny Jonke tries to lift his style onto fiction. I am not a huge fan of classical music but the title of the second story refers to a piano work from Czerny. For me, it has feel of last year in Marienbad which sees a man return to Marienbad and see a woman he saw the year before but she had forgotten him. it is a book about what we can’t capture no matter what they do they can’t repeat the past and the more they try the more distant they go from the year before so to copy the garden in every detail is like capturing a photo it is a moment but the same moment a year later is different. this also clicked to another film scene that of the film Smoke and the picture that Auggie takes every day at the same time initially the other character flicks through them but he is told to look and yes its the same spot but the moment light day even on the same day a year apart is never the same a repeat is always slightly different. This is a thought-provoking work and I am pleased I still have two more works from Jonke on my shelves to review in forthcoming years, Have you read him ? what do you think to his style of writing?

The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

Swiss fiction

Original title – Das Versprechen

Translator – Joel Agee

Source – personal copy

I move on my german lit month reading to a new to me writer and a book that I have had a while and wanted to read. Frederich Durrenmatt was a multi-talented writer his theatre was often compared to that of Bertolt Brecht he was called the most original theorist. He was a critic of crime fiction and with this book he had worked on a crime script that he felt hadn’t a realistic ending this is the work he wrote as a result of that.as the subtitle goes a requiem for the detective novel.

Matthai had a hard time making senseof that jumbled report, the chief continued. “it was one of his old “clients” calling from Magendorf, a little hole in the wall near Zurich. The man was a peddlar named Von Gunten. Matthai wasn’t really in the mood to take this up this case on his last afternoon on his job. He had already brought his plane ticket, he’d be leaving in three days. But I was away at a conference of police chiefs and wasn’t expected back to the evening.

How Matthai is drawn in the case is by chance and meant his carreer never really ends

The book starts with a crime writer meeting the former head of Zurich Cantonal police who criticized his works as he says Chance plays no role in his works. So the writer then thinks up a new story and that is the main bases of the book that follows lieutenant Matthai. He is sent to find the killer of a small girl in a small town. The girl Gritli Moser was found in the woods killed with a razor. Matthai has to tell the parents about the loss of their small girl  . The crime was reported by von Gunten who found her but he is later convicted of something else and is connected to the two girls that earlier died in a similar way to Griti he is interviewed He then confesses. Matthai is just about to leave when he is drawn in another way by this case that initially then seemed shut as the young girl is buried but there is also the young girl’s drawings in the weeks and days before her death with images that may be known she may have known her killer? Matthai made a promise to get the killer and ends up running a petrol station to finally sort this case out or is it just a wild goose chase for this serial killer.

Back in Magendorf, Matthai met with his first difficulty. The emergency squad’s large van had driven into the village and was waiting for the inspector. The scene of the crim and its immediate vicinty had been carefully searched and cordoned off . Three plainclothes policemaen were hiding in the woods. Their assignment was to observe the passerbys. The rest of the squad was taken back to the city.

The other old crime novel cliche of the killer return ing to the scene of the crime here .

This shows the foibles of crime fiction and that is chance the obvious story Von Gunten fits that old inspector  Morse line that the person that finds the body may also be the killer. There is the picture pf the young girl that leads them in another direction what is the meaning of the hedgehog? What happens when you have got a confession and it was the wrong man it shows how someone can be haunted by that giving it all up to trap this killer to have that petrol station it is a strange twist in this book that shows how far one man will go with his pledge to the mother of the dead child. This is a book that reminds me of Paul auster at times another writer that has taken a different twist in his detective fiction this is a postmodernist crime novel that twists the tales and characters as far as you can. It has been made into a film I haven’t seen the recent us version but I believe it cuts a lot of the framing device out and resets the book in the US. The English version from the 90s seems near to the book and it has Richard E Grant in so I hope to watch that at some point.  Have you read this book? what do you think of the twists and turns in it ?

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