Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Leporella" by Stefan Zweig. 1929






German Literature Month V has only a few days left.  I have greatly enjoyed participating in this wonderful event. I commend and thank the hosts for their hard work.  There are lots of wonderful edifying posts by event participants.  

I am debating with Ambrosia as  whether or not we will host a party this year.  

Works I Have So Far Read for G L V

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

6.  The Tanners by Robert Walser. a serious work of art

7. The Hotel Years Wandering Between the Wars by Joseph Hoffman, a brilliant collection of feuilletons translated and introduced by Michael Hoffman

8.  "The Dandelioln" by Wolfgang Borchert. 

9.   "The Foundling" by Heinrich Von Kleist

10.  "A Conversation Concerning Legs" by Alfred Lichenstein 

11.  A Homage to Paul Celan

12.  "The Criminal" by Veza Canetti 

13.  Rebellion by Joseph Roth. Between the wars

14.  The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - an amazing work of art

15.  The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun.  Sex and the City redone in the Weimer Republic  

16.  Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada.  A panoramic view of the Weimer Republic 

17.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig

18.  Fear by Stefan Zweig

19.  "Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig.

20.  "Oh Happy Eyes" by Ingeborg Bachman - no post

21.  Joseph Roth. Three Short stories published in Vienna Tales no post



Today is the last day of German Literature Month V.  The event really motivated me to read some great literature.  I will do a close out post probably tommorow but I offer my great gratitude to the Hosts for their hard work and support.  Without this event I might never have read Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, Gregor Von Rizzori, Herman Broch, Irmgard Bachman, Thomas Bernhard, Robert Walser, Heinrich Von Kleist or Gunter Grass.  

Stefan Zweig is one of my favorite authors.  Sometimes he may be melodramatic but he can tell a great story and has tremendous cultural depth.  He is entertaining, not for nothing was he once the most translated German language writer.

"Leporella" is a dramatic gripping story with no redeeming characters.  The center piece of the story is a mentally challenged woman who works as helper in the house of a Baron.  The Baron married his wife for her money, once married he resumed the ways of a dissolute playboy bachelor.  He was so uninterested in his wife the marriage was never consummated.  The wife is bitter over how she is treated, she tries to get back at her husband by withholding money from him but he gets around this.  One day one of his temporary loves, a young opera student refers to the helper as his "Leporella", a reference to a lover of Don Giovanni in the Mozart Opera and soon he starts to call her that.  She falls in love with the Baron when he gives her a trivial gift and even begins to procure girls for him.  I found that aspect of the story especially fascinating.  It was as if Leporella was vicariously having sex with the Baron.  She is presented as completely without sexual qualities, fit just to work.  Needless to say this does not work out well!

I don't want to spoil the fun of the plot other than to say there are several fascinating turns of events.  This is a look at a bitter world.  I greatlye givex  enjoyed this story.  As far as I know non German speakers cannot read it outside of The Collected Short Stories of Stefan Zweig published by Pushkin Press.

Mel ü

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector. 1977. Translated by Benjamin Moser 2011




"Silence. If one day God comes to earth there will be great silence. The silence is such that not even thought thinks."  From The Hour of the Star



The Hour of the Star is the last novel of the great Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector.  I have fallen deeply under her spell.   So far I have read all of her eight six short stories and her novel The Passion According to G. H.  

The Hour of the Star was first published shortly after her death.  It is an amazing work of art.  The story is narrated by a very urbane, sophisticated and more than a bit smug Rodrigo S.  He is relaying to us the life history of a poor girl from North Eastern Brazil (an impoverished area from which many seek escape in Rio de Jeniro).  Lispector grew up in the region, in Recife so she understood what it meant to be a woman from the north east in the ultra urban flash city of Rio.  The region has a distinct culture and food.  Rodrigo is telling the story of Macabee.  She is nothing like the stereotype of the oozing sexuality Carioca lady, she is scrawny, ugly, lacking in all feminine charm and undernourished.  She lives in a sprawling favella with four young women who work as typists.  She loves Coke A Cola, movies and her despicable user of a boyfriend.

The Hour of the Star sort of could be classified as bordering on meta fiction.  We see the narrator, fad from always right in his perceptions and way to snobbish to be secure, trying to find a way to explain Macabee to his readers, who he addresses.  He struggles with how to ms,e her come to reality, how to explain how she is somehow free as she has never seen a vision of herself with anything.  Long ago I read a very good book about life in a slum in Rio called Laughter in the Favella and I think there is some of this in this novel.  

It is also a work of philosophical reflections on the a wide range of topics. 

The Hour of the Star is a wonderful work of art.  



Mel u



Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson. 1882






"Anne was an ambitious first novel. It is an engrossing book, carrying readers along on a sea of absorbing observations and then sweeping them up in scenes of intense emotion. Its great originality is to be found in what many saw as her thoroughly American heroine and her loving tribute to Mackinac Island in the opening chapters, which many readers (including Henry James) felt was the novel’s strongest section."   From Constance Fenimore Woolson Portrait of a Lady Novelist by Anne Boyd Rioux

A couple of months ago I had never heard of Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840 to 1894, an American novelist, short story writer, travel author and poet).  Now I consider her a great writer. I am so glad to have found her and I thank Anne Boyd Rioux for this discovery.  There are no book blog posts but mine on Woolson which tells me she is virtually unknown.  I hope the two books of Anne Boyd Rioux being published in February of next year (you can pre-order on Amazon) will restore her reputation.  She is at least as good a writer as Edith Wharton, who I greatly admire.  For sure her range is wider than Wharton.  


One day I was looking at the new books for review on Edelweiss and I saw a biography of Woolson and a collection of her short stories, both by Anne Boyd Rioux.  I saw the collection of short stories had a preface by Colm Toibin whose opinion I greatly respect
and I also love a good literary biography sp I requested and was kindly given review copies of both books.  I first read the preface by Toibin which placed her in cultural context and sketched out her connection to Henry James.  The short story collection is called Miss Grief and Other Stories by Constance Fenimore Woolson (James Fenimore Cooper was her great uncle) so I decided to read the title story first.

 Rioux has provide very interesting short introductions to each story so I knew it was set in Florence (Woolson spent a lot of time there) and many see the story as Woolson drawing on her relationship to Henry James.  I loved the story and there are now posts on about twenty of her short stories on The Reading Life some by Ambrosia, mostly the set in Italy stories, and some by myself.  I am posting on the set in America short stories. All of the stories are wonderful works and some can stand with the best of all short stories.  In her excellent biography Rioux explains how Woolson fell from fashion and out of the American literary curriculum. 


Other than through reading Woolson all i know about her comes from the books of Rioux.  Next year I will post on her biography and Rioux has kindly agreed to due a Q and A session on The Reading Life.  

Anne at nearly six hundred pages is a long novel.  It can be taken as a coming of age story of a young American woman.  Rioux talled in her biography about how strongly Woolson was influenced by George Eliot, especially by The Mill on the Floss.  I had been planning to read this novel for about fifty years so I decided to read it before I read Anne.  The influence is strong, I saw it right away in the descriptions of nature in the opening chapter of Anne.  Anne was serialized for eighteen months in the very prestigious at the time Harper's Magazine.  In the opening chapter Woolson does a just wonderful job describing the atmosphere on Mackinac Island.


The plot line begins maybe about 1855, a few years before the American Civil War, which will play a big part in the story.  In those days Mackinaw Island was kind of a primitive place, lots of Indians still lived there.  (One could pull apart how Woolson portraits Indians in the opening section and twist it into something negative but in a deeper vein I think that is mean spirited and shows shallow reading.)
Anne's father is a physician, working for the army.  Anne's mother died and her father remained a woman who was of French and Indian Ancestory.  With her he had two sons and a another daughter.  This wife died also and Anne is kind of the head of the family now, her father is to a degree in his own world, withdrawn from the pain. 

 In the first chapter I bet Harper's readers felt they were in for a wild ride with so many plot lines left open.  In America in the1850s where your ancestors were from was very important, you were not just American but seen as German, English, French and so on American. Each nationality was seen  as having certain characteristics, for example Woolson in other works treets Germans as very hard working and thrifty, the French as pleasure lovers.  As we see in the great Victorian novels, extended family, partially because of the early deaths of the period, play an important part in the plot of Anne.  There is a domineering wealthy  spinster Aunt with a slightly mysterious past that plays a big role in the life of Anne that could come right out of a work by Balzac or Dickens.  

I am not inclined to retell the plot.  I will just talk a bit about some of the things I really like about the novel and some slight reservations I have.  

The novel has three, maybe three and a half segments.  The first part, Henry James says the best and it is wonderful, is set during her late childhood and early adult years on Maginaw Island.  She falls in love with a local man and he becomes her finance.  Then to begin the next section a wealthy spinster aunt living in New York State, offers to sponser her in college for women teachers and suppprt the family back on the island until Anne graduates.  This is kind of standard melodrama of the period though Woolson does it very well.  The college scenes are interesting and I saw the world of Anne expanding and her mind growing.   Of course there has to be at least one romance and there are two men interested in her.  One suitor is highly endorsed by her Aunt, wealthy family background.  As things get complicated Anne refuses the marriage proposal saying she was engaged, then, leaving out a lot of exciting action, remember every magazine segment had to end leaving readers wanting badly to know what will  happen next, Anne learns her fiancé has married her younger half sister!  Now she is free to marry and much drama ensues.  The aunt goes nuts when Anne refuses to marry the man she picks out for her.

The civil war breaks out and Anne and some lady friends of hers from school, volunteer as nurses, we are now in phase three of the story.  Now things get complicated and a bit weird.  I will leave it untold other than to say Anne turns into a murder mystery solving detective and saves a man from hanging.  

To me the weakness in Anne is in her romantic interests. I don't find the romantic leads very convincing.   I was glad things ended well for Anne.

There are numerous great minor characters, I loved the French cook, I would have liked to have seen more time devoted to the half sister but maybe this needed another novel.   The natural descriptions are very well done.  The great aunt is wonderful,
but her own romantic past and how it impacted the story made me groan at first but then I accepted it.  

Next year I hope to do a post sort of talking about the similarities and differences between Woolson and two literary ladies I have fallen for this year, Iréne Nemirovsky and Clarice Lispector.

I hope to read all of Woolson's novel, only five I  think, and as many of her short stories as I can download in Kindle editions, I am guessing thirty.  

To all into the 19th century American novel, give Anne a try.  

I bet this would be an excellent class room book for honors sections.

Mel u







Thursday, November 26, 2015

After Midnight by Irmgard Keun (1937, translated by Anthea Bell)









German Literature Month V has only about a week left.  I have greatly enjoyed participating in this wonderful event. I commend and thank the hosts for their hard work.  There are lots of wonderful edifying posts by event participants.  

I am debating with myself whether or not we will host a party this year.  

Works I Have So Far Read for G L V

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

6.  The Tanners by Robert Walser. a serious work of art

7. The Hotel Years Wandering Between the Wars by Joseph Hoffman, a brilliant collection of feuilletons translated and introduced by Michael Hoffman

8.  "The Dandelioln" by Wolfgang Borchert. 

9.   "The Foundling" by Heinrich Von Kleist

10.  "A Conversation Concerning Legs" by Alfred Lichenstein 

11.  A Homage to Paul Celan

12.  "The Criminal" by Veza Canetti 

13.  Rebellion by Joseph Roth. Between the wars

14.  The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - an amazing work of art

15.  The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun.  Sex and the City redone in the Weimer Republic  

16.  Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada.  A panoramic view of the Weimer Republic 

17.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig

18.  Fear by Stefan Zweig

19.  "Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig

A few days ago I read and posted on The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun (1905 to 1862, born in Berlin).  Keun's books were burned by the Nazis and it is a miracle that she escaped a similar fate.  The Artifical Silk Girl is sort of sort of like a story Dorthy Parker might have written about the life of a young woman in her early twenties on her on in Berlin in 1934 trying to get by on her looks and some flattery. I have seen it described as sort of like Sex in the City meets the Weimier Republic.  In it we see how the culture of Nazi Germany destroyed the self respect of the young woman.

The Artificial Sikj Girl is a very good work, After Midnight a good bit better.  It is the story of two young women in Betlin just before the wR starts.  Anti-Jewish laws were in place and everyone feared being turned in by those around them as a subversive.  The women social prize with Nazi soldiers and try to secure a decent life for themselves by finding men to take care of them.  It is not just about Nazi Germany but about how hard it is to keep your convictions when every day is a struggle just to have food.  The women get in trouble and they have their romances.  

This is a lively and exciting novel which I greatly enjoyed reading.  Fans of Vhridtopher Isherwood will love it.  

There is one more novel of Keun available in translation as a Kindle edition and I hope to read it in 2016 for German Literature VI.

Irmgard Keun (born 1905 in Berlin, died Cologne 1982) is widely considered the best female novelist of the Late 1930s in Germany.  Her work was banned as subversive by the Gestapo for her satirical portrayal of the impact of hyper-inflation and the creeping evil embodied in the rise of Nazi Germany which brought on a destruction of much of normal morality. She actually was crazy/brave enough to sue the Gestspo for banning her work, of course she lost.



Mel ü





Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig. 1925. A reread from German Literature IV, November 2014)


Mendel, real or not, I deeply regret your passing and your fate.  Ambrosia Boussweau 




"Over everything else, understandably, the crematoria smoke still hung its tragic pall. The unparalleled magnitude of that catastrophe seemed to demand silence before its enormity, both from Jews and Gentiles."  Simon Schama




German Literature Month V has only about a week left.  I have greatly enjoyed participating in this wonderful event. I commend and thank the hosts for their hard work.  There are lots of wonderful edifying posts by event participants.  

I am debating with myself whether or not we will host a party this year.  

Works I Have So Far Read for G L V

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

6.  The Tanners by Robert Walser. a serious work of art

7. The Hotel Years Wandering Between the Wars by Joseph Hoffman, a brilliant collection of feuilletons translated and introduced by Michael Hoffman

8.  "The Dandelioln" by Wolfgang Borchert. 

9.   "The Foundling" by Heinrich Von Kleist

10.  "A Conversation Concerning Legs" by Alfred Lichenstein 

11.  A Homage to Paul Celan

12.  "The Criminal" by Veza Canetti 

13.  Rebellion by Joseph Roth. Between the wars

14.  The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - an amazing work of art

15.  The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun.  Sex and the City redone in the Weimer Republic  

16.  Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada.  A panoramic view of the Weimer Republic 

17.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig

18.  Fear by Stefan Zweig

Last year during German Literature Month IV I expressed my great love for a short story by Stefan Zweig, "Mendel the Bibliophile".  I wanted to reread it this month but I was somehow afraid it would not live up to my expectations.  I was so delighted to find I liked it even more this time.  I will just more or less for myself talk about some of the things that struck me on the second reading.

In the last twelve months I have read a good bit of Yiddish literature, holocaust works, and nonfiction on the issues between the so called European Jew and the Yiddish Jew.  I know this is a sensitive topic subject to uninformed misunderstandings but this conflict is very important in understanding much of the history and literature of Germany and the so called Mittleeuropa region.  Stefan Zweig epitomized the fully assimilated European Jew, deeply urbane, highly cultured and very affluent from old family money.  People of this background were a embarrassed by the Yiddish speaking Jews of Eastern Europe and Russia.  I see now that one of the things "Mendel the Bibliophile" is about is this conflict.  The European Jew knows his real roots are with the Yiddish Jews but he is a bit embarrassed to admit this.  I also now understand why Mendel rocked back and forth as he read and why he read with such deep focus.  These are habits instilled in him from ancient traditions of study of the Torah.  The Yiddish culture was deeply into the reading life as were European Jews.  Joseph Roth has said the Prussian hatred of the Jews, he was writing from before the Holocaust begun, was a war on the book,on those who cherish reading and learning.

The narrator of the story has returned to the Gluck Cafe, from which Mendel dealt in books for thirty years.   His memory was amazing, ask him on any obscure work and he could tell you not just what it contained and when it was published, he could tell you how much it was worth and he could get you a copy.  He had contacts all over the book loving  world.  

World War One started but Mendel gave it little mind other than noticing some waiters were drafted to fight and that Herr Gluck's son was killed while serving in the  army.


Mendel maintained a vast correspondence.  He noticed his issues of a famous French journal devoted to rare books stopped coming eight months ago so he wrote to the office in Paris to inquire.  All out going mail was censored and two policemen had him brought in for questioning, asking him why he was corresponding with an enemy country?  Mendel is completely baffled, his work and the books transcend petty politics.  At first the police are planning to release him, then they found out he had as a child in the company of his family moved from Russia to Austria without official permission.  The officials are outraged to discover Mendel never bothered to apply for Austrian citizenship.  He is sent to a concentration camp as an enemy alien and kept there for two years until he was released when the war was over.  He returns to the cafe to find it has new owners who want to turn the coffee house into a sophisticated cafe.  Mendel in his thread  bare clothes, with his long beard and his custom of staying in the cafe 12 to 16 hours a day while buying only the two cups of coffee he could afford is not what the new owner wants.  Compressing a lot, he throws Mendel out one day accusing him of stealing a bread roll and tells him never to return.

The narrator has returned years later.  No one but an old lady who was a rest room attendant remembers Mendel.  She tells the man that Mendel's spirit was destroyed by what he saw in the concentration camp, by the agony of two years away from his reading and his work.  The close of the story is heart breaking.

Now on this reading I see the deep cultural clash in the story, the depiction of the base ignorance of the Prussian junker class and their servants, and a dark look at the future of all European Jews.

The only way I know that those who do not read German can read this amazing story is in The Collected Short Stories of Stefan Zweig published by Pushkin Press.

To any who would suggest, as big name critics and historians  such as   Hannah Arendt have, that Zweig never faced the fate of European Jews I would say you are just wrong.  Yes he fled Europe and could not face the world he thought was coming but it was not because he did not care but because he cared so much the pain killed him.  

I will be readi it  in 2016.  I found I recalled much of the story, but not all as I reread it.  

It is so interesting how being an illegal immigrant made the authorities fear Mendel.  


Mel ü






 








Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Dictator's Last Night by Yasmina Khadra (2015, translated by Julian Bell, 192 pages, published by Gallic Books)





The Dictator's Last Night by Yasmina Khadra is an amazing, simultaneously terrifying and hilarious, developing a powerful depiction of the stream of consciousness of Muamar Gaddafi.  Gaddafi, born in 1942 and killed October 21, 2011, was the dictator of Libya from 1969 to 2011.  He emerges from the pages of The Dictator's Last Night, as an ego maniacal paranoid, addicted to heroin, a life long rapist, who kept his people and country in near slavery.  He was quite willing to see Lybya destroyed before he would give up power.  As his last night on earth begins,Lybya is being attacked by Western war planes while his personal enemies begin to see his end coming.  Gaddafi has retreated to his city of birth, thinking he will be protected by his tribesmen.  Everyone who comes into contact with him, being in fear of his capricious and murderous temperament, conducts themselves in a totally subservient fashion.  He is called "Guiding Brother".  

Gaddafi never forgot anyone who angered or disrespected him.  There is a chilling account of how he took revenge on a woman, her husband and father, of a married woman who declined his sexual advances.  He trusts no one, not even his sons or his generals.  He does not seem to have a coherent ideology or a strong faith, he is driven by the pure lust for power, everyone is subhuman but him.

As I read on in The Last Night of the Dictator I was reminded of the work of Roberto Balano.

Much of the history of the world, and the 21th century is far from an exception, is driven by the fantasies and delusions of maniacs in positions of power.  There is a valuable lesson about the nature of power in The Last Night of the Dictator.  It is also a compelling narrative, very funny in places. I greatly enjoyed reading it and endorse it with out any reservations to all lovers of quality literature. 







About this author
- From Goodreads

Yasmina Khadra (Arabic: ياسمينة خضراء, literally "green jasmine") is the pen name of the Algerian author Mohammed Moulessehoul.
Moulessehoul, an officer in the Algerian army, adopted a woman's pseudonym to avoid military censorship. Despite the publication of many successful novels in Algeria, Moulessehoul only revealed his true identity in 2001 after leaving the army and going into exile and seclusion in France. Anonymity was the only way for him to survive and avoid censorship during the Algerian Civil War.
In 2004, Newsweek acclaimed him as "one of the rare writers capable of giving a meaning to the violence in Algeria today."
His novel The Swallows of Kabul, set in Afghanistan under the Taliban, was shortlisted for the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. L'Attentat won the Prix des libraires in 2006, a prize chosen by about five thousand bookstores in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada. 

I first became familiar with the work of Gallic Books when I received a review copy of a wonderful biography they recently published, Helena Rubenstein The Woman Who Invented Beauty by Michelle Fitoussi.  I urge anyone into quality French literature in translation visit their very well done webpage.  

Gallicbooks.com

Here is their mission statement

 Gallic Books was founded by francophiles and former Random House colleagues Jane Aitken and Pilar Webb, with the aim of making the best French writing available to English-speaking readers. Having published its first titles in 2007, Gallic now has a catalogue of more than 50 works of fiction and non-fiction, including historical crime series, contemporary noir, commercial and literary fiction, recently adding classics to the list.

If the world of the reading life has a capital city it is Paris.  Ambrosia Boussweau 

I look forward to reading the full and future oeuvre of Yasmine Khadra

Mel u 




Monday, November 23, 2015

Fear by Stefan Zweig (1925, forthcoming in the Pushkin Press edition of The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig, trans. by Anthea Bell)


"Rudi, Vanya, Rebecca, here we are a slice of Berlin life, another Ufa masterpiece, token La Bohème Student, token Slav, token Jewess, look at us: the Revolution. Of course there is no Revolution, not even in the Kinos, no German October , not under this “Republic.” The Revolution died—though Leni was only a young girl and not political—with Rosa Luxemburg. The best there is to believe in right now is a Revolution-in-exile-in-residence, a continuity, surviving at the bleak edge over these Weimar years, waiting its moment and its reincarnated Luxemburg. . . . AN ARMY OF LOVERS CAN BE BEATEN . These things appear on the walls of the Red districts in the course of the night. Nobody can track down author or painter for any of them, leading you to suspect they’re one and the same. Enough to make you believe in a folk-consciousness. They are not slogans so much as texts, revealed in order to be thought about, expanded on, translated into action by the people. . . ." Gravity's Rainbow

There are  many references   to Berlin in Gravity's Rainbow.  Why does this matter? Well it interests me so I decided to add some quotes to my posts for GL V.







I am estatic to once again be able to Participate in German Literature Month, elegantly and lovingly hosted by Lizzi's Literary Live and Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. This is my fourth year as a participant.   On the host blogs you will find the particularities of the event but the basic idea is to read literature first written in German (translated or not) and share your thoughts.  I began accumulating works for the event soon after the event ended last year and I began reading for it in mid-September.  



Works Read for G L V So Far

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

6.  The Tanners by Robert Walser. a serious work of art

7. The Hotel Years Wandering Between the Wars by Joseph Hoffman, a brilliant collection of feuilletons translated and introduced by Michael Hoffman

8.  "The Dandelioln" by Wolfgang Borchert. 

9.   "The Foundling" by Heinrich Von Kleist

10.  "A Conversation Concerning Legs" by Alfred Lichenstein 

11.  A Homage to Paul Celan

12.  "The Criminal" by Veza Canetti 

13.  Rebellion by Joseph Roth. Between the wars

14.  The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - an amazing work of art

15.  The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun.  Sex and the City redone in the Weimer Republic  

16.  Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada.  A panoramic view of the Weimer Republic 

17.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig

Pushkin Press has been very instrumental in publishing the work of Stefan Zweig in translation.  I salute them for this but I wish so much they would include in their collections date first published information. I really don't think, for example, that readers of his novella, Fear, should have to use Google to find first publication data.

Stefan Zweig was during his lifetime one of the best selling authors in the world and certainly the most translated from German.  His 1925 novella Fear showed me why he was so popular.  The narrative was so well done that I for sure felt the fear of the woman narrating the story.  The central character is a married woman with a young son and daughter, her husband is a prosperous attorney.  She lives a very comfortable worry free life.  Being carried away one day by a lust for some excitement she starts an affair with a young handsome piano teacher.  She is a very orderly woman has befits an upper class Viennese house wife and her liver becomes part of her well ordered routine, just as Sunday's are spent with her in laws, one afternoon a week is spent with her lover.  Then something terrible and terrifying happens, a woman confronts her an accuses her of stealing her man. She demands money to keep silent about the affair. The blackmailers demands more and more, threatening to go to her husband.  On one horrifying day the blackmailer shows up at her house, leaving with Frieda's wedding ring, telling her she will give her the pawn ticket.  Things get very scary and exciting now.  Frieda confronts her lover, who she has stopped seeing, and accuses him of being in conspiracy with the blackmailer.  He tells her she is crazy.  

I don't want to tell more of the exciting fear inducing plot.  The ending was interesting and kind of fun.  I  was surprised but not shocked by the denouement of the blackmail plot but I did enjoy the close.

Fear is dramatic, some would say melodramatic.  It is very  insightful portrait of an adulterous woman. I enjoyed reading it.  The description of the marriage and the woman's relationship to her children is superb. 

There are five novellas in the collection, I have now read four of them.  I will save the last one for another time.





Mel ü







Sunday, November 22, 2015

Journey Into the Past by Stefan . Collection forthcoming 2016








I am estatic to once again be able to Participate in German Literature Month, elegantly and lovingly hosted by Lizzi's Literary Live and Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. This is my fourth year as a participant.   On the host blogs you will find the particularities of the event but the basic idea is to read literature first written in German (translated or not) and share your thoughts.  I began accumulating works for the event soon after the event ended last year and I began reading for it in mid-September.  



Works Read for G L V So Far

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

6.  The Tanners by Robert Walser. a serious work of art

7. The Hotel Years Wandering Between the Wars by Joseph Hoffman, a brilliant collection of feuilletons translated and introduced by Michael Hoffman

8.  "The Dandelioln" by Wolfgang Borchert. 

9.   "The Foundling" by Heinrich Von Kleist

10.  "A Conversation Concerning Legs" by Alfred Lichenstein 

11.  A Homage to Paul Celan

12.  "The Criminal" by Veza Canetti 

13.  Rebellion by Joseph Roth. Between the wars

14.  The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - an amazing work of art

15.  The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun.  Sex and the City redone in the Weimer Republic  

16.  Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada.  A panoramic view of the Weimer Republic 

Pushkin Press has been very instrumental in publishing the work of Stefan Zweig in translation.  I salute them for this but I wish so much they would include in their collections date first published information. I really don't think, for example, that readers of his novella, Journey Into the Past should have to use Google to find Zweig began working on it in 1924 and kept  polishing it but never had it published.  It was in fact first published in 1976.  


Journey Into the Past is an intensely romantic work.    Ludwig, the central,character, is a young engineer when the story begins.  He is so hard working that the owner of the huge corporation he works for offers him s position as his personal assistant.  The job requires he move into the mansion of   his boss.  He develops a  relationship with the owner's wife.  They fall deeply in love, they kiss but they never have sex, being constrained by morality.  One day the boss offers him a job running a big mining operation in Mexico. He will have to be there for two years but he will be handsomely rewarded and given a top position in the company when he returns to Germany.   He hates to seperate from his love but he really cannot turn down this job.  He moves to Mexico and throws himself into his work, counting the days until he can go back to Germany.  He writes his love a long letter everyday.  He lives for the letters she sends him.   Just a few days before his return he gets the terrible news of the outbreak of World War I, German subjects have no way to get back home.  He is crushed but he throws himself into his work.  He no longer gets letters from the woman.  Time goes by and he gradually thinks of her less and less.  He marries a woman from a nice German family living in Mexico. He has sons.  He continues working for the company.  Eventually the war is over.   Soon he is asked to return to Germany to negotiate the closing of some very important business deals. He returns to Germany.

He, against his better judgment as a married man, calls tne home number of his old boss, after nine years it still works.  He finds the woman's husband and son were killed in the war.  At first the meeting is not totally comfortable for either, the man sees she has aged and he does not know if she still feels a passion for him.  He wants to at last have sex with her.  She agrees but she asks that they go to another city so they can have privacy.

The story is very well narrated but there nothing so far real remarkable about it.  Then something exciting and for sure not something we expect in a work by Zweig happens.  An endless prade passes in from of the hotel, the marchers are carrying red banners with swasticas on them.  The man has been gone so long he is shocked by the implications of the event. 

The story is very much about trying to return to old emotions, the role of memories voluntary and otherwise. 

This story is very exciting, some will say it is over done but that is not my feeling.

There are five novellas in this collection,   Here is the table of included works.

Burning Secret, A Chess Story, Fear, Confusion, and Journey into the Past. 

I have already read and posted on the first two and hope to work the other two in this month.


I was given a copy of this book for review purposes.

Mel ü






Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada. (1937, translated by Phillip Owens, 810 pages)


I offer my great thanks to Max ü for proving me with the Amazon gift card that allowed me to read Wolf Among Wolves.





I am estatic to once again be able to Participate in German Literature Month, elegantly and lovingly hosted by Lizzi's Literary Live and Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. This is my fourth year as a participant.   On the host blogs you will find the particularities of the event but the basic idea is to read literature first written in German (translated or not) and share your thoughts.  I began accumulating works for the event soon after the event ended last year and I began reading for it in mid-September.  



Works Read for G L V So Far

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

6.  The Tanners by Robert Walser. a serious work of art

7. The Hotel Years Wandering Between the Wars by Joseph Hoffman, a brilliant collection of feuilletons translated and introduced by Michael Hoffman

8.  "The Dandelioln" by Wolfgang Borchert. 

9.   "The Foundling" by Heinrich Von Kleist

10.  "A Conversation Concerning Legs" by Alfred Lichenstein 

11.  A Homage to Paul Celan

12.  "The Criminal" by Veza Canetti 

13.  Rebellion by Joseph Roth. Between the wars

14.  The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - an amazing work of art

15.  The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun.  Sex and the City redone in the Weimer Republic  


At the start of German Literature Month V I read Every Man Dies Alone by Henry Fallada.  Primo Levi called it the best book ever written on Nazi Germany.  I loved it and accept the author's pronouncement that he produced a work of genius.  It is consistently very exciting.  

Wolf Among Wolves, a longer book, focuses on the impact of the hyper-inflation in Germany in the years after WW One.  The German Mark went from four to the dollar to four billion to the dollar.  The thrifty German middle class saw the savings of a life time wiped out.  Those who had debts  to pay greatly benefited from the inflation.  

The story follows the fate of three German war veterans.  It focuses a lot on a young man who struggles to support his girl friend working as a professional gambler while living in Berlin.  Germany's defeat in the war has destroyed the pride of the country.  Heroin and cocaine are the drugs of choice.   Prostitution is rampant, many an ex soldier is portrayed as turning tricks for foreigners with American dollars come to,the city for the rampant vice.  Police and government officials are all on the make.  We receive frequent announcements of the fall of the mark.  There was a time when a savings of ten thousand marks was enough for a comfortable retirement.  Fallada lets us see how crushing the inflation was on the very thrift oriented German middle class.  The poor had to,struggle terribly just to survive.  Many of the rich had reserved in dollars or pounds.

Fallada vividly portrays the period.  You can see how hyper inflation made the Germans vulnerable to an ideology which blamed their miseries on the Jews.  There are lots of interesting scenes.  In one very interesting case we witness a mortgage being converted from payments in marks to payment in bread.
Gangsters gain control of society.  



Bio Data from Melville House
Before WWII, German writer Hans Fallada's novels were international bestsellers, on a par with those of his countrymen Thoman Mann and Herman Hesse. In America, Hollywood even turned his first big novel, Little Man, What Now? into a major motion picture

Learning the movie was made by a Jewish producer, however, the Nazis blocked Fallada's work from foreign rights sales, and began to pay him closer attention. When he refused to join the Nazi party he was arrested by the Gestapo--who eventually released him, but thereafter regularly summoned him for "discussions" of his work.

However, unlike Mann, Hesse, and others, Fallada refused to flee to safety, even when his British publisher, George Putnam, sent a private boat to rescue him. The pressure took its toll on Fallada, and he resorted increasingly to drugs and alcohol for relief. Not long after Goebbels ordered him to write an anti-Semitic novel he snapped and found himself imprisoned in an asylum for the "criminally insane"--considered a death sentence under Nazi rule. To forestall the inevitable, he pretended to write the assignment for Goebbels, while actually composing three encrypted books--including his tour de force novel The Drinker--in such dense code that they were not deciphered until long after his death.

Fallada outlasted the Reich and was freed at war's end. But he was a shattered man. To help him recover by putting him to work, Fallada's publisher gave him the Gestapo file of a simple, working-class couple who had resisted the Nazis. Inspired, Fallada completed Every Man Dies Alone in just twenty-four days.
Wolf Among Wolves  is thoroughly entertaining. The characters are very well done.  I would suggest that those new to,Fallafa ffirst read Every Man Dies Alone. The next of Fallada's book i shall read is A Small Circus.  
I hope others will share their experiences with Fallada and other novels depicting Weimer Germany share their experiences.

Mel ü