Daughters by Lucy Fricke

Daughters by Lucy Fricke

German fiction

original title – Töchter

Translator – Sinead Crowe

Source – review copy

I now come to the last of the three books that V&Q brought out as the English language debuts so I made it the first book of this year’s German lit month. This is the fourth novel by Lucy Fricke she has previously won the Bavarian book prize and was a writer in residence for the German academy in Rome.  She also started the festival Ham.Lit a live lit festival in Hamburg she lives in Berlin and this is her first novel to be translated into English.

When Martha was born, this grim council block was brand new. Back then, young famlies were moving in, Now, the parents who remianed were dying here. Most of their kids had escaped, some of them by studying, going abroad for a while and moving to berlin like Martha, I imagine, I’d never been here before, tet it all felt familar. I grew up on a main road in Hamburg, in a building just like this one, in a flat in which I hated every object. We’d never talked about it, only mentioning our childhoods in anecdotes we were unable to laugh at. It was as if we’d just fallen lut of the sky one day – or been chucked out, more like. Martha and I were twenty when we first met, by which point we’d already severed ourselves from pur backgrounds

They never talked much about there lives til this road trio as they where friends as adults only.

I left this to last as of the three it was the one that appealed least to me. But as I read it I discovered a funny book that reminds me of a book I read years ago but more of that later. At the heart of the book is the relationship between two women Martha and Betty they are in the forties and are about to take a road trip. The premise of the trip is to take Kurt the father of Martha who is dying and wants to End his life and wants to go to one of those euthanasia clinics in Switzerland. As Martha takes him she asks Betty to come with her it is Betty that narrates the story of this road trip. She has children but has had a conveyer belt of men in her life. This sets up the book and the themes of father’s daughter partners life and death all this as they travel with Kurt. He had chosen his last night at a special hotel but when a call from his past means he cancels his appointment with death and takes a trip to his first lover and his past. This also is the backdrop to the story of the two women with Marhta’s lack of having a child and the constant men in Betty’s life her search for a father figure in her life. They end the trip far from where they started having spent time In Italy to visit a grave of a lost father figure and then finally Greece.

The hotel had looked luxurious on the internet. Now, though, we were standing in a small dark lobby, the bar was closed, the pool dorty, the rooms not yet ready yet. Kurt disappeared off to the toiler as soon as we arrived. The facade was being renovated, the receptionist informed us. which meant a view of scaffolding instead of Lake Constance, and builder gawping in at Kurt when he opened his eyes for the very ast time.

Martha tried to explain ti the young man that her father would be spending his last – literaally last- night here, a night that was probably as important as one’s wedding night, maybe even more so. Had the receptionist ever thought about that? could he imagine it  had he ever given a moment’s thpught to anything in his entire life

The last night is a disaster when he arrives and the place isn’t as it seemed for his last night on earth

I said at the start this reminds me of a book I read a while ago. That was Tomorrow Pamplona which was one of the first Peirene books that are also a road novel but unlike this book, it was a male road trip of a man in middle age like the characters in this book that has reached the point in their lives where they need ti to escape their lives and the use of a road trip in both novels is the catalyst for them thinking of what they are doing in there lives. Martha helps Kurt but has struggled not being able to conceive and has troubles with her father in the past. Betty has children and is very funny her wit makes this book a delight it is sardonic. Also her lack of a father figure growing up which leads to a side trip to Italy to visit the trombonist the one person her late mother had that she really connects with she wants to visit his grave. As the last of what has been three of the best novels from Germany I have read in recent years these bods well for future books from V&Q. If you want a book that is part Wim Wenders road trip, part chick flick, and part sentimental movie all in one book this is the one that appeals to all.

Journey through a Tragicomic Century by Francis Nenik

Journey through a Tragicomedy Century (The Absurd life of Hasso Grabner) by Franci Nenik

German Narrative non-fiction

Original title – Reise durch ein tragikomisches Jahrhundert. Das irrwitzige Leben des Hasso Grabner

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – review copy

I reviewed an earlier release from Francis Nenik. He is called the greatest unknown writer in Germany. I was caught by this book’s description so read the earlier work first. This is the first of three releases from the new publisher V&q books an English arm of a German publisher. the series is edited by the translator of this book the Berlin-based Katy Derbyshire. This was on a list of the 30 hottest books in Germany when it came out a few years ago. He has had a number of books translated into English.

On arrival he has to undress and is examined, numbered and showered. When he steps out of the washroom, he’s standing before me. Hasso Grabener, !.74 metres tall and 65 Kilogrammes heavy. He’s 23 years old, has a full head of brown hair and a large straight nose in a slightly haggard face. his chin is wide, his mouth of normal size, his lips averagely curved. Behind them is a complete set of teeth. He lookls quite healthy at first glance. His muscles are big and his bones are tonn. When he breathes in, he can extend his chest circumference to 93 centimetres, and when he breathes out there are still 81 centimetres left. He has no scars and tattoos, only a mole above the left corner of his mouth.His skin colour is white , his posture upright.

On his arrival to Buchenwald Hasso is healthy young man.

Francis Nenik discovered Hasso Grabner whilst he was researching a list of German poets for an essay. When one reads this book a narrative tale of his life and he led a life. He grew up in foster care after being born just before world war one. He got connected to socialism and communism at an early age. Of course as a young communist in Leipzig. Grabner is a chancer he eventually ends up in Buchenwald concentration camp eventually as the librarian in the prison library. He somehow manages to get let out and ends up in wartime Greece in Corfu in a penal troop but he helps the locals by letting them know to move the Jews out of the area. When they have to escape Greece he the fervent communist gets an Iron cross from the Germans. He settles in East Germany getting a job high up in the steelworks. Then becomes a writer but this leads to him being watched by the Stasi later in his career. he did in the mid 70’s.

Hasso Grabner, meanwhile, sticks out, continues his youth work, joins the Leipzig KPD’S district commitee, joins the Socialist unity party (SED), freshly cemented out of SPD and KPD in APril 46, immediately takes uo a ost in that party’s district council and, seeing as the unity party wants to see the youth united as well (And multiple burdens are a matter of course for Grabner the workhorse), is also chairman of Leipzig’s newly founded free Democratic Youth (FDJ) by March. Or not, as the case may be. The respective sources disagree on the matter. “HAsso Grabner becomes FDJ chairman, it says in one, while another stubbornly insists: “Alfred Nothnangel takes on chair of Leipzig FDJ”.

After the war he is a communist iun East Germany.

#This is like his earlier book I review one of those books that is written by someone with a love of history but also a love of those that have been passed by and in Hasso Grabner we have such a character. This is a life that shouldn’t be he was a chancer that maybe had mire lucj=k than most given his stubborn nature that must have helped. The book is a narrative journey through his life and those dreadful events over the last century. Nenik himself is a writer that isn’t all he says in his earlier book he said he was a full-time farmer but this may not be true. This is the first of three books from V&Q I am planning to review in my journey to get to 100 books from Germany under review. This is an interesting life story and a great debut from a new publisher.

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