Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Slovenian Fiction ? or non fiction > or just great prose

Original title – panorama

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source – review copy

Well I reviewed the first in the series yesterday and today I move on to the second of the three books from Slovenia istros books have published in partnership. This was the one I read first because of one passage on the back of the book describing it as reminiscent of W G Sebald , who else couldn’t pick it up the day it dropped through the door. Dusan is also a poet he has written four novels and collections of poetry and Short stories. This book is one of those books that really blends the line of what literature is and draws you into a personnel journey.

Like a mirage at the end of the road, without reflection or gleam,dark and grey, a geometric plane shadowed in pencil on a yellowed sheet of drawing paper – that’s what the sea looked like – shallow, motionless, monastery beer spilled into eternity on to a black stone floor, but mainly trapped in a wide, ever wider, nearly limitless landscape; the nearer I was to the shore, the greater, the more impressive was the bay, in the middle of which stood a black lighthouse on sharp rocks, no bigger than a wizard’s ring, hovering on the motionless surface, while the master’s pale hand, still wearing it proudly, had long ago sunk beneath the sea. Without braking, I went down off the asphalt road on to a wide, neatly mowed grassy area in front of the boathouse and rode up to the sea. I leaned the bicycle against a low breakwater that was protecting the lawn from the high tide and slowly made my way over the grey sand, between the slippery rocks, the black pebbles and the rotting seaweed, into the oneness, the residue and abandonment, the world that remained when that sunken, dead arm last unclenched its hand and released the silt on which I now stepped, I thought as the smell washed over me, as if I was standing in an old, abandoned, invisible maritime cemetery, eerily beautiful none the less, like the romantic landscapes of the Old Masters.

I’ve used one long quote today as it sums up so much I mention here and also the line a wizard ring matches up to line of Galway bay about returning to the claddagh ring

The book has 80 pictures that Dusan took on a trip from Ireland where he had been studying , we see him in Galway bay , I imagined the old irish folk song Galway bay which talked about coming into the town of Galway from the sea , a thing which a large number of people didn’t do more head the other way to the new world but this is the old world and a writer is seeing the storms drift in as he travels around Ireland  .He does this in the company of a driver his driver is like the writer is also from the Balkans an Albanian Gijini  who end up in Ireland and as a driver the two share many a conversation about place and times. there is also a strange sense of a switch of past and present he sees evidence of those that escaped galway back in the dark days as i said in a review last week I am always haunted by the pogues lyrics to the song thousands are sailing “on a coffin ship I came here and I never even got so far I could change my name ” a coffin in a boat is also an image we see in the book . We also see the writer heading back first in Belgium the old cities of the lowland country , I felt these place I visited on a school trip as a kid and drove through one night many year later on my own homeward journey to England from working alongside refugees and migrants in 1992 in Germany from the break down of Yugoslavia. Then back t the heart of the Balkans and Bosnia a sort of rebirth in Sarajevo  I remember the watching the film Torjiza about an orchestra escaping Sarajevo as the do a cow gives birth as they sing to calm the cow and this like the return is a rebirth of the writer.

THe pictures are real of the journey the words are what Dusan added after a way to show how the mind works and how images can make the mind fluid and words can mean more than pictures which is what Dusan wanted the images are there but maybe like those native americans photographed against there will as they felt it took their soul one wonders what they would make of todays Selfie obsessed culture ? Have the value of the photographic image is less than it use to be ? the title of the book is a homage to the artist Gerhard Richter photos and his photo realism in his paintings this is a book that shows that we still need a narrative to our photos . This is a book about language swimming in it like the cover art about what words mean how we use language  oplaces memories can all become a flurry of words more than a single image but a connection  like Sebald place leads to connection and like a fine line of a spider’s web from its centre in the Balkans Dusan works spins a thread around the old world meeting those like himself who have travelled from the home  a book about migration written before the migrant crisis hit but at its heart a story of the endless sense of migration man has been on the move  from those poor Irish souls drive by the poatoe famine to escape from Galway and many other place along that atlantic coast we see in those photos to the migrants that came from the polace that where run by countries to those displaced by war and persecution this is like  a sea of people and sometimes we see a tsunami and in other case a simple wave on settling like in Dusan book but another under the book and after the book that wipes out and redraws the lines that follows it like the simple plague to those lost irish souls , even in Belgium he is near the killing fields of Ypres another line changing event . So this book isn’t a novel or memoir . I discussed it with Susan and she told me about Dusan view it is just what is called in Slovenia Good prose , the idea of fiction non fiction is mainly an English language way of dividing books and then we have books like these that sail the line another watery line. Well I have written more than I have in a long time about a book such is this book it is one of those rare gems that hopefully will get the wider readership it truly deserves .

The emigrants by W G Sebald

 

Image result for the emigrants sebald

The emigrants by W G Sebald

German Fiction

Original title -Die Ausgewanderten

Source – Personnel copy

Translator – Michael Hulse

Well another November is on us again and it is German Lit month and as I sit writing my first post of the month on Halloween as tomorrow I am in London giving a talk to the Swedish translators group. I decided to kick of this years German lit month with a great  reread from one of my favourite writers Max Sebald was maybe better known in the Uk at the time he wrote. But know 15 years after his death we are slowly seeing writers influenced by him , I am at the moment reading one such writer from Slovenia.

The years of the second world war, and the decades after , were a blinding, bad time for me, about which i could not say a thing even if i wanted to . In 1960, when I had to give up my practice and my patents, i severed  my last ties with what they call the real world.Since then, almost mu only companions have been plants and animals.

Dr Henry selwyn had to escape the world into nature to get through life in the end

The Emigrants was the second book by Sebald I read after I read rings of Saturn by in 1998 , I got the two earlier books by him in the weeks after I finished Rings Saturn. So it is nearly twenty years since I read this book and this second reading hit me more than the first one. The story is of four emigres from Europe . A doctor his story remind me of my own connection years ago to a man from the Baltic states my friend was from Latvia where as DR Selwyn in the story comes from Lithuania . Else where in the last of the four tales we see Max Ferber a painter Talk about his mother and her childhood but also along side this is his life in Manchester which touched my life again My grandfather was county architect for Salford in the  60’s and some of the modern blocks that my grandfather was involved with designing . So as max is describing his mothers pasts I connect with my own past in his present . Another story involves the narrator talking about the fate of his former school teacher that escaped before the war.

As I expected, I have remained in Manchester to this day, ferber continued. It is now twenty-two years since I arrived, he said , and with every year that passes a change of place seems less conceivable. Manchester has taken possession of me for good. I cannot leave, I do not want to leave, I must not. WEven the visits I have to make to London once or twice a year oppress and upset me

The north had soaked into Ferber holding and keeping him there .

I wondered if the germans have a word like Saudade that wonderful portuguese word that is a feeling of longing missing and memories of a lost past. There is a similar word Sehnsucht a word about longing but the saudade word is better her as it is about the loss a world this book these four are survivors of the holocaust in their own ways ans the four tales each reflect what was lost , the past that can never be this is what Sebald does so well in his book through his mix of prose and images to draw us as the reader deep into the world that is lost from the simple pictures of a class before the war and a wondering of how many were left . This remind me of when I met Dasa drndic the Croat writer and talked about her book trieste which in the italian version has pages that can be torn out  of the list of Italian Jewish victims of the holocaust and the effect is to make the book and the story unstable and this is what Sebald does with his pictures glimpse of a dead past. A world now dead remember and lamented the loss of a jewish europe wiped out by the war and spread through out the world.

The rings of saturn by W G Sebald

sebald-rings_of_saturn

The rings of Saturn by W G Saturn

German literature

Original title – Die ringe des Saturn

Translator – Michael Hulse

Source – Personnel copy

 

would tell you about the things they put me through
The pain I’ve been subjected to
But the Lord himself would blush
The countless feasts laid at my feet
Forbidden fruits for me to eat
But I think your pulse would start to rush

Now I’m not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes
Try walking in my shoes

I choose Depeche Mode try walking in my shoes as we all feel we do this in this book

Well week two of German lit month and I finally get to review a book by my all time favourite German writer and the first book by him I read 16 years ago when it came out The rings of Saturn is one of those books you read and go I’ll never forget it and I want to read everything the writer has written at once .Well I did I later decide to leave a few of his lesser books for a later date. I have been meaning to return to reread them but have been held back by a fear of something I love being less on a second reading than it was on the first. So last week I watch Patience (after Sebald) the film by Grant Gee about this book I went well I got read it again Sebald lived in East Anglia at the time he wrote the book. He taught a UEA international Literature.

In august 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end. I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work. And in fact my hope was realized up to a point; for I have seldom felt so carefree as I did then, walking for hours in the day through the thinly populated countryside, which stretches inland from the coast I wonder now, however, whether ther might be something in the old superstition that certain ailments of the spirit and of the body are particularly likely to beset us uner the sign of the Dog Star

Linking dog day to a dog star is great and that is just the opening lines .

So rings of Saturn what is it , it’s not a novel, memoir, travel or biography a Christopher Maclehose said in the Gee film Sebald could be put anywhere in the shop. So rings of Saturn follows Sebald on a walk through East Anglia in his mind as he is taken to hospital. The hospital reminds him of Thomas Browne whose Skull is stored nearby .He is also a link to the two threads in the book Him as a writer he mentions brown a few times through the book and the fact Browne is descended from Silk merchants and Silk is another recurring theme in the book. From the silkworms of china to fish glistening like silk. As he follows the route his mind tells us both of place but also that wonderful knack Sebald has of digersion going off on a tangent inspired by a picture or a place to tell a story of something and somewhere. He also links back into his own past and the dark days of Germany’s years under Nazi rule.

Which the entire herring fisheries threatened to go under, beneath a truly catastrophic glut of herring. It is even said that vast shoals of herring were brought in towards the beaches by the wind and the tides and cast ashore, covering miles of the coast to a depth of two feet and more.The local people were able to salvage only a small portion of these herring harvested in baskets and crates .

I was reminded of the lady I support an old Herring girl, this also brought the image of those bodies drifting on to beaches of refugees I have seen recently on TV.

I often wonder how I would feel after rereading this book would it still be a favourite well the answer to that is yes and more so I feel inspired to go back to vertigo and the emigrants in the next year or so. For me time had served to connect me more with Sebald but also more with the story. In the film he talks to someone about having a friend from the small town of Goch where it is mentioned in connection to a map the man making the film knew someone from there , strangely I have been there as it was very near to Kleve where I lived many moons ago. Then there is Browne I reviewed his Urn Burial here which is one of my most view posts on this blog .Sebald also talks of Roger Casement a man whose connection to places I have been is strange he was converted to a catholic in Rhyl in Wales where my own grand parents lived for a time and then was in Ballymena in Ulster which is where my own Milly came from and I have also reviewed the book by LLosa The dream of the Celt all about Casement. Then there is a picture that Sebald connects to the Holocaust of a river of fish on one of the streets, but to me remind me of a woman I looked after that work as a herring girl following the fishing fleets up and down the coast getting the fish ready .As you see for me this book is about connections Seblads but then as a reader it is easy to connect your own life and books you have read.It is like the map that has been put together of the book following the walk but also connecting out to places mentioned in the book .Sebald maybe best capture how a mind can drift and the interconnections we all make at times.

 

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