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 27, 2016

Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1895, translated by Hugh Rorrison andHelen Chambers, 1995)







http://rereadinglives.blogspot.com/2015/08/former-people-last-days-of-russian.html

I have read few 19th century German novels. I was very glad last year when j saw Effie Briest by Theodor Fontane was on short term sale as a Kindle for $1.95. Amazon reviewers described it as a German Madame Bovary.

After completing the novel I found an excellent article in The New Yorker by Daniel Mendelson focusing on the heroines in the novels of Theodor Fontane. After reading tgis article,I don't see a eyed or feel like writing a descriptive blog post. 

When we first meet the title character Effis Briest she is her late teens, the daughter of an affluent Prussian   family.  Fontane made me feel I was there with the family.  He does a very good job of letting us see how very young and naive Effie is when she agrees,with the urging of her parents, to marry a rich man twenty years her senior.  She is very excited and looking forward to having her own house.  There are very well done descriptions of buildings and natural scenery.  Throughout the figure of great Prussian Premier Bismark lurks in the background.  Gradually she becomes board and is led into an affair. 

Oxford University has three of Fontane's novels available as Kindles. I could see myself reading them one day.. My  first impression is he mostly read  as a cultural entity.

Mel ü 






Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"A Summer Novella" by Stefan Zweig (1906, translated by Anthea Bell)








My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (second reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)

7.  The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

8.  "The Ballarina and the Body" by Alfred Doblin

9.   Confession by Stefan Zweig

10. Schlump by Hans  Herbert Grimm

11.  "Flower Days" by Robert Walser (1911, no post)

12.  "A Summer Novella" by Stefan Zweig 

13.  "Kleisr in Thunder" by Robert Walser. (3rd reading, no post)


When I first saw the story title, "A Summer Novella" I assumed the work was a novella.  It is not and I cannot help but think this might be Zweig having a bit of fun with his readers.  Like many of his works, the story is structured as one man telling a story to another.  In this case the story is set at a nice hotel.  One man relays the events he set in motion when he made up an anonymous love letter, just for a joke, and sent it to a young girl staying at the hotel with her parents.  He can see she is shocked and intrigued.  He decides to send her more increasingly ardent letters.  He watches her reading them in the hotel dining room when her parents are not around.   Soon he sees her suriptiously eyeing a dashing young Italian man staying in the hotel.   She seems convinced he is her mystery lover.

The man listening to the story tells the narrator he should expand it into a novella.  

I found this a clever story.


Mel ü

 




Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge (1977, republished 2016 by Open Road Integrated Media)






Dame Beryl Bainbridge is regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific British novelists of her generation. Consistently praised by critics, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize five times, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the W. H. Smith Literary Award, and twice won the Whitbread Award for Novel of the Year.   She was born in Liverpool in 1932 and died in London in 2010.



Works Read to Date

Harriet Said

The Bottle Factory Outing

According to Queenie

Young Adolf

Sweet William 1976

An Awfully Big Adventure 1989

Injury Time


Injury Time is a witty, perceptive account of a middle aged married man's affair with a woman, Binny, who has three children.  Binny is tired of being the "woman on the side", only able to see Edward when he can squeeze in time away from his wife.  When Edward stops by her place, they have to wait until her ten year old goes to bed before they can have sex,leaving about fifteen minutes before Michael has to leave.  


Edward is a somewhat hapless chap, working in dull job and in a marriage with Helen which, if not loveless, is hardly passionate.  And he has a mistress – albeit one with three unruly children at home, and no intention of staying submissively in the shadows.  His mistress rejoices in the absurd name Binny. Binny is getting very sick of this.  Michael is always telling her how he wished he had more time for her.  Edwards mangeses an alibi for an evening and to try to calm down Binny,he invites a work friend and his wife over to Binny's place for dinner.  

The dinner party turns into a darkly hilarious disaster starting with Binny's a bit drunk friend and neighbor Anne intruding.  But then the real disaster occurs when three strangers,two men and a woman stage a random home invasion.  They have in mind holding the two couples as hostages against the police,seeking to arrest them.   The invaders tie them up.  Things get pretty weird.  I will leave the remaining plot untold.  



Open Road  Intergrated  Media  is a dynamic high quality  publisher with over 10,000 books and 2000 authors on their well organized web pages. The prices are very fair and the formatting of their E Books is flawless.  

The Beryl Bainbridge books are only being offered for sale in the USA

 


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

William Trevor May 24, 1928 to November 16, 2016


Sadness darkens The Reading Life World.  Please share with us your most cherished memories of reading his works.


Mr. Trevor, you will be truly missed but never forgotten.  Thank you for everything. 

Mel u

Ambrosia Boussweau 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Beryl Bainbridge A Biography Love By All Sorts of Means by Brendan King(2016)



Dame Beryl Bainbridge is regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific British novelists of her generation. Consistently praised by critics, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize five times, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the W. H. Smith Literary Award, and twice won the Whitbread Award for Novel of the Year.   She was born in Liverpool in 1932 and died in London in 2010.


Works Read to Date

Harriet Said

The Bottle Factory Outing

According to Queenie

Young Adolf

Sweet William 1976

An Awfully Big Adventure 1989

Birthday Boys 1991




Brendan King was Beryl Bainbridge's secretary and literary assistant for the final  23 years of her life.   Additionally he had unprecedented access to her letters and was on close terms with many of her friends, lovers, and publishers.   


Bainbridge's life was chaotic, full of excesses, lots of lovers, financial ups and downs, a good bit of whiskey.  Not to long ago I decided to read all of Bainbridge's seventeen novels.  So far I have read eight.  King devotes a lof of space to showing how about half of her novels arose from her early years working in the theater, The Bottle  Factory, one of my favorite of her novels, was inspired. by her work in such a place, and her romances.  (She at one point complied a list of seventeen lovers). We learn she liked sex, in addition to the lovers, it appears there may have been some same sex relations also there were a good number of no name one time encounters.  About half of her novels were contemporary set in England.  King tells us that about half way through her literary career Bainbridge felt she had fully mined her personal life and began to write historical fiction.  

King lets us see the importance having a good and caring publisher became to Bainbridge.  Her publisher even gave her a make work job in their office.  King shows us she was not a great money manager.  Some of her novels sold well and movies were made from a few of her books.  

King devotes a lot of space to explaining how her life produced her books,  we learn about her very serious research methods for her novel about Robert Scott's expedition to the South Pole, Birthday Boys.  Kings takes us deeply into Bainbridge's time working in regional British theater. 

Brendan King has written an illuminating highly emphatic very detailed biography.  He had intimate knowledge of her life and I felt I knew her through King's account of her life.  

Bainbridge was a warm, wise, and witty writer, best shared with a generous shot of rye whiskey.

Beryl Bainbridge A Biography Love By All Sorts of Means by Brendan King is s not just a  very good biography, it is a first rate social history and a brilliant account of a woman's struggling to make a living through her writings.  Bainbridge had her demons and King kelps us understand them.  He takes us through her most important relationships, her trials as a mother and a wife.  Bainbridge was also a painter it was a great pleasure to learn of this.


I am very glad I read this book.  I recommend it to all lovers of literary biographers and of course to fans of Dams Bainbridge.

Mel u 











Saturday, November 19, 2016

Schlump by Hans Herbert Grimm (1928, translated by Jamie Bulloch, 2016)








My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (second reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)

7.  The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

8.  "The Ballarina and the Body" by Alfred Doblin

9.   Confession by Stefan Zweig

10. Schlump by Hans  Herbert Grimm

11.  "Flower Days" by Robert Walser (1911, no post)


Schlump by Hans Herbert Grimm is the story of a German soldier's experiences, mostly in France during WW I.  It is not such much a linear plot as a collection of antedotes ranging from his happy times being in charge of an occupied French village to time in the trenches.  This book was very entertaining and for sure worth reading.

I am behind on my postings so this is the end of my post. 


HANS HERBERT GRIMM (1896–1950) was born in the town of Markneukirchen and fought in World War I. After the war he taught Spanish, French, and English in Altenburg, and published Schlump anonymously in 1928 to avoid drawing his employer’s attention to his pacifist beliefs. Schlump was not the commercial or popular success Grimm had hoped it would be, but his anonymity protected him when the book was burned by the Nazis in 1933. To avoid suspicion, Grimm joined the Nazi Party and worked as an interpreter in France during World War II. After the war, however, he was barred from teaching because of his party membership and began working in the theater and, later, in a sand mine. In 1950, two days after meeting with East German authorities, he committed suicide.  -From NYRB

I was given a review copy of this book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Nėmirovsky Question The Lfe, Death and Legacy of a Jewish Woman in 20th Century France by Susan Rubin Suleiman, forthcoming 2017




Irene Nemirosky was born Febuary 13, 1903,in Kiev, in The Ukraine, then in The Russian Empire 
Her family left Kiev in 1917 at the time of the Russian Revolution.  Her family lived in Finland for a year before settling permanently in Frsnce. She was sent by the Nazis to Auschwitz where she died August 13, 1942.  She wrote some twenty novels, all in French, plus la number of short stories.  Her acknowled by all master work was the posthumously published Suite Francaise.  I fbegan with tgis work in July of 2014 and went on to treat all of her translated available as Kindle works.  I love the work of Irene Nemirosky.  The Nazis in murdering  her just before she turned forty robbed the reading life universe of at least twenty more novels.

 




"Némirovsky was the very definition of a self-hating Jew. Does that sound too strong? Well, here is a Jewish writer who owed her success in France entre deux guerres in no small measure to her ability to pander to the forces of reaction, to the fascist right. Némirovsky's stories of corrupt Jews – some of them even have hooked noses, no less! – appeared in right-wing periodicals and won her the friendship of her editors, many of whom held positions of power in extreme-right political circles. When the racial laws in 1940 and 1941 cut off her ability to publish, she turned to those connections to seek special favors for herself". From an article by Ruth Franklin in The New Republic - source Wikepedia 

The Nemirosky Question The Life, Death and Legacy of a Jewish Writer in 20th Century France by  Susan Rubin Suleiman is a great work, fit to take a place among the finest literary biographies i have ever read.  I order to derive maximum benefit from this book you do need to have read much of Nemirosky's work, especially her first novel David Golder.  You also will require a basic knowledge of anti-Semiticism in France in the period. Many critics and literary pedagoges have suggested that, as Ruth Franklin put it, Nemirosky was the epitome of a self-hating Jew.  Suleiman's book is designed to prove this claim wrong.  

I first read this claim after reading David Golder upon doing some post read research.  Numerous sources can be found for this contention. My first untutored reaction was that this was an absurd claim based on a very shallow understanding of human nature. David Golder has elements mirroring the life of Nemirosky.  The lead character David Golden is Jewish banker who moved his family to Paris because of the Russian revolution and to escape pograms.  He rebuilt the family fortune through hard work and shrewd business practices.  He is described  as having a large hooked nose, his wife cares about nothing other than making a show of their money and is ashamed of her busband's roots among among Eastern European Jews.   The mother is abusive to the daughter, just as Nemirosky's was to her.   There are numerous other works that Suleiman talks about that depict Jews in a way that any right wing contemporary reader would relish.  Pre Nazi France had powerful elements  of anti-Semetic running through the country, from top to bottom.  Many Ftench citizens welcomed the ideas of the Nazis toward Jews.  (There are numerous histories on this, some reviewed on my blog)   Suleiman goes through the much of the work of Nemirosky showing us the evidence for this theory and explaining the deeper reading of her work.  As Suleiman tells us, a Jewish writer can depict Jewish characters in a negative way without being an anti-Semite just as William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor depicted some Americans from the old south in very  negative ways without the cost of prejudice being placed on them.  The African American writer Zora Houston has horrific characters,mostly men behaving as would fit a racist stereo type in the Pre World War II American South in her stories but this does not make her self hating.  

There are elements in Nemirosky's behavior that superficially seem to give credence to the notion she was a self hating Jew.  She and her husband both converted to Catholicism, Nemirosky published short stories in right wing literary journals.  She never taught her daughters about their birth heritage faith. These publications often contained, next to her story, pure hate based articles on Jews, portrayed as a blight on France.  Some see in her mother's rejection of her the psychological roots of this in which she was made to feel ashamed of her looks.  Nemirosky came to need the income generated by her writings so she had to approach anti-Jewish publishers with kid gloves and some in examination of her life see this as a betrayal of her culture.  

Suleiman's work shows great psychological depth,  she spends a good bit of time talking about how cultural identities  are formed.  I was fascinated by her account of the lives of Nemirosky's daughters.  

She tells the wonderful back story of the posthumous publication of Suite Francaise, nearly sixty years after Nemirosky's murder.  I have heard it before but it was marvelous to hear it again.  

I found Suleiman's refutation of the notion Nemirosky was a self-hating Jew completely convincing.she also goes into much detail about her life and the state of France furing Nemirosky's  time.

I thank Prof. Suleiman  for writing this book, elegant, beautiful and profound.  Nemirosky's work is a world  class cultural treasure. 


https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/no-easy-answers-susan-rubin-suleiman-on-the-nemirovsky-question/. Avery good article from The Los Angeles Review of Books (link added Nov.27,2016)


Suleiman was born in Budapest and came to the U.S. with her parents as a child. She is the C. Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and professor of comparative literature at Harvard, where she has chaired the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures and the Department of Comparative Literature. She is currently Acting Chair of Romance Languages and Literatures. Her books include Authoritarian Fictions: The Ideological Novel as a Literary Genre (1983), Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde (1990), Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature (1994), the memoir Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook (1996), and Crises of Memory and the Second World War (2006). She has edited and co-edited several volumes, including Exile and Creativity (1998), Contemporary Jewish Writing in Hungary (2003), and most recently French Global: A New Approach to Literary History (with C. McDonald), 2010. Suleiman has won many honors, including the Radcliffe Medal for Distinguished Achievement (1990), and a decoration by the French Government as Officer of the Order of Academic Palms (Palmes Académiques) in 1992. She has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship, and been an invited Fellow at the Collegium Budapest Institute for Advanced Study in Budapest and at the Center for Advanced Study of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo. In 2005-06 she was a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute. During the 2009-2010 academic year, she was the invited Shapiro Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Academic Degrees: Ph.D., A.M., Harvard University; A.B., Barnard College

Research Interests: 20th-Century French Literature and Culture; Avant-Garde Movements and Theories of the Avant-Garde; Feminist Theory; Problems of Narrative; Writers and Politics; Trauma and Memory; Holocaust Literature and Film. From Harvard.edu

I was kindly given a review copy of this book by Yale University Press.

Mel u




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge (1991, reissued 2016 by Open Road Intergrated Media)



Dame Beryl Bainbridge is regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific British novelists of her generation. Consistently praised by critics, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize five times, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the W. H. Smith Literary Award, and twice won the Whitbread Award for Novel of the Year.   She was born in Liverpool in 1932 and died in London in 2010.






Works Read to Date

Harriet Said

The Bottle Factory Outing

According to Queenie

Young Adolf

Sweet William 1976

An Awfully Big Adventure 1989

Birthday Boys 1991



Beryl Bainbridge is highly emphatic, able to move from the consciousness of teenage girls, to an imagined young Adolf Hitler on a holiday in England, to blue collar women working in a bottle factory to Samuel Johnson and the Thrales in late 18th century London.

About half of Bainbridge's seventeen novels draw on her own life experiences in the theater and her at times tumultuous personal life.  The rest are historical works carefully researched and very well imagined.  Back in Bainbridge's day research meant more than a quick Google search, you actually had to go to a library, get books and read them.  

Birthday Boys tells the story of Robert Scott's 1913 expedition to Antartica.   There are five narrators, each giving us a different look at the expedition.  There is Petty Officer Tiff Evans, the medical officer Doctor Edward Wilson, Lt. Harry Bower, the ships captain Lawrence Oliver and the leader Robert Scott.  The objective of the expedition is to be the first group of explorers to reach the South Pole.  Unfortunately, a Norwegian team beats them by a month. 

Each of the narrators has their own perspective on the trip.  One hopes his accumulated pay on return will be enough to set up pub in his home town, another worries about how the long trio, up to three years, will impact his marriage, the ship Captain has pecuniary concerns and of course Robert Scott dreams of glory for England and himself.

I thought the most enthralling parts of Birthday Boys was in the account of the triip across the ice.  Bainbridge does just a wonderful job describing the terrifying beauty of the landscape and the horrific hardships of the trip.  The men remain very British, very civilized as death seems to close upon them.

Birthday Boys is a very powerful work of empathy and imagination.

I am now reading her Injury Time. 


Open Road  Intergrated  Media  is a dynamic high quality  publisher with over 10,000 books and 2000 authors on their well organized web pages. The prices are very fair and the formatting of their E Books is flawless.  

The Beryl Bainbridge books are only being offered for sale in the USA


Mel u


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Confusion by Stefan Zweig (1927, a novella, translated by Anthea Bell)



"One of the most callous criticisms of Stefan Zweig’s suicide along with his wife Lotte came from Thomas Mann. “He can’t have killed himself out of grief, let alone desperation. His suicide note is quite inadequate. What on earth does he mean with the reconstruction of life that he found so difficult? The fair sex must have something to do with it, a scandal in the offing?”  From Yiyun Li, 



Includes these works
Burning Secret
Chess Game
Fear 
Confusion
Journey to the Past






My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (second reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)

7.  The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

8.  "The Ballarina and the Body" by Alfred Doblin

9.   Confession by Stefan Zweig

Confession is one of the five works included in The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig, translated by Anthea Bell. Socially unacceptable romantic entanglements and out of the publicly
approved forms of sexuality are frequent themes in Zweig's work.  In the novella I just retread, Journey into the Past,a young man and the wife of his mentor and benefactor fall in love.  

For the time being some of my posts will be brief.  The election of Trump has made me too sad,to feel why bother. 

The best thing about this novella are the descriptions the narrator, he is looking back from any years ago,on his younger days patrolling Berlin looking for easy women and prostitutes.  The professor has adRk secret also.he is a closeted homosexual.  The narrator's description of gay cruising in Berlin, rent boys, back alley sex and all was very well done.

For those wanting wanting to get into Zeiwg, this collection would be a good start. ,

I love as given a review copy of this book.

 



Friday, November 11, 2016

The Ballerina and the Body" - A Short Story by Alfred Doblin, 1925, Author of Berlin Alexanderplatz (translated by Damion Searles








My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (s cond reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)

7.  The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

8.  "The Ballarina and the Body" by Alfred Doblin




"She went to the hospital the next day. In the carriage she sobbed with rage beneath her blanket. She wanted to spit on her suffering body, she jeered at it bitterly; it disgusted her, this bad flesh whose company she was bound to. Her eyes widened with muted fear when she looked at these limbs now eluding her. How powerless she was, oh how powerless she was."  





My Post on Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin 



Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin (1878 to 1957) is Weimer Germany's greatest literary work.  It is considered to be the first German literary work to use techniques of James Joyce, an influence acknowledged by Döblin.  Döblin was a practicing neuro-psychiatrist.  He left Germany just before his books were burned.  



A bit more than a year ago I read Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin.  If you want to experience life  in Weimer Germany, read this work of genius.  I was very happy to be given a DRC by The New York Review of Books of a forthcoming collection  of his short stories.  There is a generous selections of stories in the collection, ranging from three to fifty pages.  In the advance edition I have there is no first publication data.

"The Ballarina and the Body" is a very hard edged story. The subject of the story was placed in a Ballarina company at age eleven. At the time of the story girls were placed with Ballarina companies partially as a way of "getting them of the family ledger" and also in the hopes they would find a rich husband or benefactor. The original readwrs of the story would have known this, even if modern readers might not.  At age eighteen the girl is injured terribly, she is sent to a hospital where she will undergo every painful tteatments.  She feels the doctors and others see her as of no value as she can no longer dance.  She comes to hate her body.  The ending is very powerful.

"As before, when she had thrown cold water over everything voluptuous in the dance, when her taut body had wavered like a flame, she wanted to feel her will again. She wanted to dance a waltz, a wonderful sweet waltz, with the one who had become her master, with the body. With a movement of her will she could take him by the hand once again, this body, the slothful beast, and fling it down, fling it around, and it was her master no more. A triumphant hate churned up from inside her—it didn’t go to the right and she to the left, but she, they, they leapt together. She wanted to roll him on the ground, the hobbling dwarfish barrel, trundle it head over heels, stuff sand in its maw."



Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald (1992)







My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (s cond reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)

7.  The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

W. G. Sebald is considered one of the greatest post World War Two German language novelists.  During German Language Month in November 2013 I posted upon his novel Austerlitz.  

The Emigrants centers on the post WWII lives of four elderly Jewish men who have moved from Germany to either England or the USA after the war.  We follow there seemingly separate lives and we see the lasting impact of the Holocaust.

Those in need of a detailed account of the novel will find it on Wikepedia. 



      1944 to 2001

The Emigrants deserves a much more detailed post than I have done.

Ambrosia Boussweau 

"Did He Do It" by Stefan Zweig (first published 1987, in The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig, translated by Anthea Bell)






This will be the fifth year The Reading Life has participated in German Literature Month.  This event is one  of the reason it is great to be part of the international book blog community.  Last year I was motivated to read world class literary works by writers like Thomas Mann, Hermann Broch, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Hesse as well as lesser know treasures.  I learned a lot from the many very erudite posts by coparticipants and from those by our very generous hosts Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.  You will find excellent reading suggestions and planned events on their blog.  To participate all you have to do is to post on any work originally written in German and put your link on the event blog.  

My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (s cond reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)


The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig, translated by the award winning Althea Bell, with twenty one stories and a novella is a magnificent,  beautiful book.  I have been reading and posting on the stories through now three German Litetature Month events.  I do have one complaint.  No where are we provided with first publication information.  I learned from an Amazon reviewer who kindly listed all first publication dates that "Did He Do It" as not published until 1987, forty five years after Zweig died but I have no idea why. Where was this story all those years,  did Zweig feel it was not worthy?  Did a journal editor reject it?  If you know the back story on this work, please leave a comment. (Added note,thanks to Jonsthan I have first publication data, some editions of the collection have this)

"Did He Do It" centers on a dog.  I acknowledge it as a bit smaltzy, maybe that is why a journal editor somewhere long ago declined to publish the work.  The story is set in rural England.  It is depicted as a beautiful calm care free place.  Biographical readers of Zweig might see his longing for a civilized place to live.  A married couple is getting to know their new neighbors.  The man has a good job in London.  They first get to know the wife who seems to have a sadness about her.  Then they meet her husband.  He is a person of great enthusiasm for everything.  His wife is great, his job wonderful.  He seems to wear his wife out with his exuberance. There only lacuna is their childlessness.  The couple next door d
Decide they need a dog, a band their friend's dog just gave birth to a litter of Bulldogs. .  The man falls in love with the dog who becomes the ultimate spoiled brat, dominating the household.  The build up of the household power of the dog is very well done.  Then the dog's life takes a huge down turn when the husband forgets all about his when his wife becomes pregnant.  When the baby is born he is completely shocked when he is actually relegated to a yard dog.  I pretty much saw the ending coming as will you.  It was still exciting and scary.

"Did He Do It" was fun to read.  

Please share your favorite Zweig works with us. 

Mel ü








Tuesday, November 8, 2016

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge (1989, republished in 2016 by Open Road Integrated Media)


Dame Beryl Bainbridge is regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific British novelists of her generation. Consistently praised by critics, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize five times, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the W. H. Smith Literary Award, and twice won the Whitbread Award for Novel of the Year.   She was born in Liverpool in 1932 and died in London in 2010.




"The plaster saints were not real. Dickens was her real patron, and she was the only writer of our day who had a truly Dickensian gift. Like Dickens, she used all the buried ghosts of a presumably unhappy childhood to produce a gallery of literary comedy. She would sometimes stand in Bayham Street, Camden Town, and a look of real reverence came over her face as we recalled the child Dickens leaving from that address each morning on the long walk down to the boot-blacking factory in the Strand." - from her obituary in The Observor 2010 




Works Read to Date

Harriet Said

The Bottle Factory Outing

According to Queenie

Young Adolf

Sweet William 1976

An Awfully Big Adventure 1989

Beryl Bainbridge is highly emphatic, able to move from the consciousness of teenage girls, to an imagined young Adolf Hitler on a holiday in England, to blue collar women working in a bottle factory to Samuel Johnson and the Thrales in late 18th century London


An Awfully Big Adventure is set shortly after World War II, things are still rationed and life is a bit hard.  The men in the story all have war stories.  Most of the plot action resolves around the sexual dynamics  and backstage politics at a regional English playhouse putting on a production of Peter Pain.  The central character is teenage Sarah Bradshaw, from the poor side of Liverpool, living with her aunt and uncle, her parents having passed. Bainbridge has a keen insight into young girls without firm parental supervision, trying to find there way into the sdult world, especially into sex. 

I think the obituary writer for The Observor is quite right in saying Bainbridge has an almost Dickensian ability to mine her childhood experiences for literary material.  In the case of An Awfully Big Adventure, she drew on her experiences starting when she was sixteen as a helper in a Liverpool theater.  Rural theater was struggling to come back after the war and Bainbridge depicts this very subtly in the novel. 

Sarah develops an infatuation with an older male actor and is frustrated and confused when he shows no interest in her. The compsny is preparing to put on a production of Peter Pan and it is hard to miss the comment Bainbridge is making on men in the theater.  

An Awfully Big Adventure is witty, wicked, and wry.  I am very glad I have decided to read all the Bainbridge I can. 



Open Road  Intergrated  Media  is a dynamic high quality  publisher with over 10,000 books and 2000 authors on their well organized web pages. The prices are very fair and the formatting of their E Books is flawless.  

The Beryl Bainbridge books are only being offered for sale in the USA



Mel u





The Piano Teacher by Elfrirde Jelinek (1983)












This will be the fifth year The Reading Life has participated in German Literature Month.  This event is one  of the reason it is great to be part of the international book blog community.  Last year I was motivated to read world class literary works by writers like Thomas Mann, Hermann Broch, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Hesse as well as lesser know treasures.  I learned a lot from the many very erudite posts by coparticipants and from those by our very generous hosts Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.  You will find excellent reading suggestions and planned events on their blog.  To participate all you have to do is to post on any work originally written in German and put your link on the event blog.   

After just a few days there are alrrady lots of interesting and insightful,posts for the event.  It is a great source of new reading ideas.



The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek is  at times shocking in it depiction of sexual sadism and masocism between a seemingly refined female piano teacher and her younger student. It is an a acute depiction of the impact of repression on a middle aged female piano teacher in contemporary Vienna.

The plot follows the development of a sadomaschoistic relationship of Erika Kohut, a piano teacher, and her younger male pupil.  The affair produces terrible results for both. 

Erika lives with her very dominating mother.  In the opening episode the two get in a terrible fight because Erika bought herself a new dress even though her mother thinks they should save their money for a new apartment.  The fight is so bad Erika tears out some of her mother's hair.

Erika likes to carry large musical instruments on the city train so she can hurt people by bumping the insturments into them.  She likes to go to sexual shows to see sadistic sex acts.   Childhood memories are skillfully woven into the story.  

Gradually a young male engineering student comes to watch Erika in a performance, becomes hsr student and develops an infatuation for her.  Erika, partially in revolt against her mother, begins a sexual relationship, of sorts, with her student.  She always dictates what he is to do to her.  The sexual scenes are long, detailed, violent and the man is there to preform, to be near tortured by Erika's abuse of his genitals.  Eventually the man cannot bear being totally dominated and used.  His reaction is itself the reversal of the sexual master slave dialect played out in The Piano Teacher. He is 17, she 38, matching closely the age differences of Erika to,her mother and the mother  to her father.

I found the novel very interesting.  The trip we take through the sexual underworld of modern Vienna has mythic overlays of all sorts.  The sex scenes are very well done.  The story's plot also depicts the reverse of the often treated female rape fantasy in which only an act of violent rebellion can potentially free both male and female from the fantasy structure.

For sure I would read more by Jelinek.

Bio Data- Extracted from Nobel Prize Official Webpage.  

Recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Literature, Elfriede Jelinek is an Austrian poet, playwright, and novelist. Born to a Catholic-Viennese mother and a Jewish-Czech father in Mürzzuschlag, Styria, Jelinek grew up in Vienna and lost many members of her family to the Holocaust.

Jelinek studied music intensively from an early age. She graduated from the Vienna Conservatory and studied theater and art history at the University of Vienna. In a 2004 interview Jelinek explained, “My training in music and composition then led me to a kind of musical language process in which, for example, the sound of the words I play with has to expose their true meaning against their will[,] so to speak.”

She published her first collection of poetry, Lisas Schatten (1967), at the age of 21. Discussing the influence of writer H.C. Atrmann, founder of the Vienna Group, on her work, Jelinek said that “if you want to say something, you have to let the language itself say it, because language is usually more meaningful than the mere content that one wishes to convey.” Jelinek’s poetry is at once syntactically demanding and brightly image-driven. Her stark, frequently violent images are richly complicated by their jostling, fragile, and lyrical interactions.

Her writing interrogates the relationship between sexual power and social structure, and marks her as a controversial figure in her homeland. She was a member of the Communist Party from 1974 to 1991, and she voiced her opposition to the far-right Freedom Party. On awarding Jelinek the Nobel Prize, the committee praised “her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power.”

Jelinek has also been awarded the Heinrich Böll Prize, the Büchner Prize, and the Kessing Prize for Criticism. She has translated work by Goethe and Botho Strauss, and her 1988 novel, The Piano Teacher, was made into a feature film in 2001.

Mel ü