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 ?

The night circus by Uršuľa Kovalyk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night circus by Uršuľa Kovalyk

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Travesty šou

Translators – Peter and Julia Sherwood

I come to the second of three Slovakian writers currently touring the UK in part to celebrate 30 years since the velvet revolution. Her we have another strong Female writer. Uršuľa Kovalyk is a feminist writer and also works as a social worker. She has published three she has won the short story collections and two novels one of them is also available from this publisher Parthian. She has won the most prestigious literary prize in Slovak the Anasoft litera award and also the bibloteka award.

“That hair of yours is going to blind me one of these days” I say,  winding the car window down. Paula tosses her red mane and bares her teeth at me flirtatiously. A predator, I think. Not even a corpse could resist Paula’s sex appeal. She isn’t all that young or beautiful nor even particularely fit, but every time I see her I’ m ensanred by her charm, like a fly falling into a pot of honey. I tried to puzzle out what makes her so attractive. It must be her velvety voice or perhaps those taut blue veins on her beautiful neck that put me in this wicked frame of mind.

Predator her friend isn’t stunning but is appeal to twist men around her fingers.

This is part of the collection mention but has had a few stories added it is still a very tight collection of stories mainly female voices and also very short stories this collection is 98 pages long and in that we have 16 stories. We start with two women driving in a car that picks up a hitcher but one of them warns the other one Paula who she says is a predator, not a woman that lets the men hunt her but hints the men so when they pick up this man she is told to leave him alone. An unnamed person wakes in a room with a fridge that has parts of a large white dog that opens into another world. This story is maybe the most surreal in the collection. THen a woman Julia has sex with a man but her mind seems elsewhere before during and after the act itself. she is described as a porcelain doll, in fact, is described as a ghost.  A dying woman talks about sex with her three daughters. The title of the original collection Travisty show sees a fading star that was a famous singer but over the years her demand wained until there is a time when no invitations to events arrive at her door until a reunion invitation where she ends up at a strange stage show of her life with earlier versions of herself.

The evening takes the faintly lit room in its lazy embrace. Julia has just finished washing her body under the shower. It seems even paler than usual against the backdrop of brightly coloured towels hanging in the bathroom, She rubs in some aromatic oil and looks at her face in the mirror, lost in thought. The sound of an engine starting can be heard through the open window. He is waiting in bed. Julia is rubbing the oil into her dry skin, \slowly, her skin gfeedily devours the greasy drops of oil. It is white. Like a china bowl,Julia thinks.

Julia a pale girls just about to sleep with her partner but her mind seems elsewhere.

This is a tight collection of stories no weak tales each has a strong female voice the only one that is different is the dogs in the fridge which is a surreal tale. the others are mainly set at home. from the Julia in her bathroom then the bedroom, three daughters around the bed of there dying mother. There are other strange events transporting us to the rainforest. The real world is here but just to the left at times each character views the world through there own prism making this an interesting collection of stories of modern women’s lives in Slovak. Slithers of life and like real life itself some of these tales haven’t that big punch but leave you thinking. Have you read anything by this writer? I must also not this is one of my favorite covers this year.

The Rebels by Sándor Márai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rebels by Sándor Márai

Hungarian fiction

original title – A zendülők

Translator  – George Szirtes

Source – personal copy

When I was looking at the list of writers and books published in 1930 I saw this and remember I had it on my Shelves, in fact, I had read embers before I started blogging which is Sándor Márai is his better-known novel in English, I brought this to read this was his first novel. He was born into a Nobel Hungarian family. He traveled growing up spending time in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Paris. He did consider writing in German but chose to write in his native Hungarian. He wrote more than fifty books in his lifetime he has only had a fraction of his works translated into English.

For ther years Abel sat in the middle of the third row from the door. Erno was stationed behind him, Tibor to his right in the front row. That’s how they spent three years . One day at the beginning of the fourth year ABel was staring blankly ahead, bored with physics, slowly surveying the rows of other desks when his gaze settled on Tibor who had his head in his hands oblivous to evrything, absorbed, reading a book under the table. It wasn’t that Abel was particularly taken by the sight, nor was he the subject of some miraculous instantaneous illumination.

The boys at school and the gazes between them.

The rebels is set in a small Hungarian town that given that it is May 1918 is empty of male role models as we meet four boys that are just about to Graduate from School. Of course, this means that they may have to join the other missing males of the town at the front. There father range from a religious Zealot to a Colonel that expects his boy to do his duty. So these four Abel, Tibor, Bela and Erno decide they aren’t following there-fathers and brother that have gone to the front. They buy cloth to make a costume to wear and they rent a room to hideaway in. This club is their way of growing up as they try to be adult in there costumes and parading in front of one and other. There is a feeling of homoeroticism the same feeling you get in the novels of a writer like E M Forester, in fact, the growing relationship between the boys and the background of war remind me of the homoerotic undercurrent in J L Carr A month in the country as the bodies return and the try to set it aside in the club world this was like the working on the church and trying to forget the horrors of world war for the two characters in A month in the country.

The boys – this gang – in whose midst he suddenly happened to find himself, who seemed to have materialized around him, were not entirely what he would have chosen. He never dared to confess this to anyone. He was ready to sacrifice his life to the gang because the gang would have sacfificed theirs for him.The military ethos of his father had somehow percolated through to him and excerted a certain inluence. All for one and one for all.That “one” was Tibor.

There is an echo of three musketeers here with the all for one one for all !

This is an early book from this writer but he has so many more books to be translated into English. He had spent time in London in the twenties so I imagine he would read Foresters books maybe even have been aware of forester there is the same feeling of homoeroticism that he has in some of his works the sort of male friendship that all-male school or university get. He also captures the fear of the war on the youth of the day 1918 as the bodies come home the time has ticked as this is May and the have the club but then someone appears that could end the boy’s plans of being in their own world. It’s about rebelling against the expectations of society the fear of war also about discovering one’s self. an interesting second choice for the 1930 club! have you read this book?

Agnes by Peter Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnes by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Agnes

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

I have reviewed Peter Stamm three times before on the blog over the years. so when I got the chance to review his debut novel I jumped at the chance as he is a writer whose works I had enjoyed his other books. Agnes had come out in the UK but was never brought out in the US so it gave me a chance to go back twenty years this book came out in 98 in Germany and 2000 in English for the first time. He has written several novels but was a journalist iuntially and has written radio plays as well.

I was back in the library early the next morning, and even though I was waiting for Agnes, I had no trouble concentrating on my work. I knew she would come, and that we would talk anc smoke and drink coffee together. In my head our relationship was already much further advanced than it was in reality. I was already wondering abouther, beginning to have my doubts, though we hadn’t even been out together.

I was working well, reading and making notes, When Agnes arrived, around noon and she nodded to me, Once again, she put her foam rubber cushion down on a chair near me, spread out her things as she had done yesterday, picked up a book and started reading

The beginning of the relationship as they keep meeting in the library sharing coffee and a smoke,

 

An older writer he is unnamed is asked by his younger girlfriend Agnes a cellist studying physics and free spirit in her own way to write a story about her. Our narrator is in Chicago to write about luxury trains. He does what Agnes wants and writes about their relationship He does that but as they are happy and the everyday life of these two. The way they meet and fell in love but this doesn’t lead to the most interesting story about their relationship. As they work together on the story. But, when she tells him she is expecting a baby the narrative changes as he is older and doesn’t want a child he tells her that he doesn’t want the child this is a turning point in their relationship. but also in the story, he is writing about there relationship changes as he starts in that narrative to try and control the younger woman by making her into what he wants her to be as the two worlds the story and real life start to come intertwined as the relationship cracks apart.

We celebrated Christmas Eve together. It was some time since I’d shown Agnes what I’d written. Now I printed out the story on white paper and put it in a folder with a dedication.

“I haven’t got an ending yet,” I said,”But as soon as I do.Ill have the whole thing boiund into a little book for you ”

Agnes had knitted me a sweater

“God knows,I had enough wool, she said.

“Black wool”

“No I had it dyed. Light blue doesn’t really suit you.”I didn’t say anything. We were sitiing on the sofa, with a little christmas tree in front of us that Agnes had decorated with only candles.

Later on the feeling between the two has changed in the story.

As ever Stamm is a master of describing how relationships work but hew also is great at getting that moment when the relationships change the turning point so to speak that unseen event at the start of the narrative that initally seems like the perfect relationship even thou there is an age difference. This sees the writer trying to idealize Agnes later in the book. This is maybe free in style than his later books it is like he is trying a different way of writing in this book it is looser than his other books. But worth reading I alwaylike to try and see how a writer has grown this isn’t as cut and cleaned as say seven years but is still an interesting insight into the dynamics of relationships and also about writing about a relationship which when it is good can seem very boring. Have you read this book?

 

The Marquise of O by Heinrich Von Kleist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marquise of O by Heinrich Kleist

German Literature

Original title – Die Marquise von O

Translator – Nicholas Jacobs

Source – review copy

Well I have only one before reviewed a book where it has two translations that was the double translations of Cre Na Cille that came out a few years ago well I have an updated translation of one of the greatest German writers works that of Heinrich Von Kleist a writer that influenced writers in particular Kafka he was describer in the encyclopedia Britannica as Kleist’s whole life was filled by a restless striving after ideal and illusory happiness, and this is largely reflected in his work. He was by far the most important North German dramatist of the Romantic movement, and no other of the Romanticists approaches him in the energy with which he expresses patriotic indignation. I have reviewed this a part of a collection a number of years ago but didn’t focus on this story.

In M -, An important town in Northern Italy, the widowed Marquise of O – A women of impeccable reputation and mother of well-brought up children, made it known through the newspapers that she had inexplicably found herself in a certain condition, that the father of the child she would bear should make himself known, and that out of regard for her family she was resolved to marry him. The woman who under the pressure ofirremeediable circumstances took such a strange step, risking universal derison with such fortitudewas the daughter of Colonel G

A sort of whose the father Jeremy Kyle style forthe time

The Marquis of O is a novella set during the Napoleonic wars. it starts with a startling piece from a newspaper THat in M a town in Northern Italy has found herself in a certain condition and she wants the father of the child to make himself known. She is the daughter of Colonel G and has arrived at his home in this state after her husband died some years earlier. The early part of the book follows the events leading to the Marquise ending up this way. which saw her home overrun by Russian soldiers and at the risk of being used by them she is saved by Count F who then saves her but later appears to have died and then return and he tries to gain the hand of the Marquise but in the meantime she has been cast out and is returning to her dead husbands estate.

THe Marquise came with her two children to the forecourt of the castle where shooting, now at its heaviest, was already lighting up the night, forcing her, out of her mind where she sould turn next, back into the burning building. Her she was unfortunate enough to meet a band of hostile riflemen just as she was intending to slip out by the back door. At the sightof her they suddenly fell silent and slung their weapons over their shoulders and took her with them whilst making abominable gestures.Tugged and pulled this way and that by hte terrifying pack fighting among themselves

Her fate seems doomed her when she ran into the gun men by her old house

This has many twists in the tale and like the best of Kafka there is a little of not knowing who is who here with no full names just Colonel G , count F and Marquise of O remind me of the way Kafka never used characters full names them there is the hint that the Marquise may have been raped not clearly in the book but there is a feeling that something is wrong with how the baby was conceived.. Will the count ever be able to make the Marquise his Countess ? The book leans on the lines that see the Count take the MArquise when she is very tired from the group of Russian soldier is this when they had relations? it isn’t said but implied. It is also a studied into how people react under stress Her father the Marquise, the Count each act differently.  I enjoyed this new translation I remember the story didn’t grab me much in the collection as I choose two other stories to describe in the collection I hope that Pushkin get some of the other Von Kleist works to translate especially An Earthquake in Chile and Michael Kohlhaas which where the two stories I liked in the other collection.

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