Stacks of books were piled high all over the house – not just arranged in neat rows on bookshelves, the way other people kept them, oh no! The books in Mo and Meggie’s house were stacked under tables, on chairs, in the corners of the rooms. There were books in the kitchen and books in the lavatory. Books on the TV set, and in the wardrobe, small piles of books, tall piles of books, books thick and thin, books, old and new. (Cornelia Funke, Inkheart)
So how does your house measure up? I reckon I can tick about 80% of those boxes. Although Mo and Meggie have missed a trick by not realising the value of under-bed storage space!
However, it has now reached a point where my reading couch has been invaded. This simply cannot go on.
So 2010 will be the year when I don’t buy a single book I realise a lifelong ambition – I’m going to convert one room into a bona fide library. Which room? That’s subject to negotiation at the moment – my first objective is to ensure that it isn’t the smallest room in the house.
But I digress.
Bookpiles may be cluttering and dust-collecting but they are always welcome. None more so than these.
2009 has been a bonus year for Germanophiles. Is that due to the very special celebration that tomorrow will bring? Or has the German Book Prize elevated interest in German literature in general? However, there is such a flood of Germany-related / translated from German titles now available that I wonder if it is now possible to do a German-literature degree without actually reading the language. Not that I am complaining. As you can see I am capitalising on this bounty.
I think a short tour is called for. We begin in the Oxford corner – the pile back left. Let’s start bottom-up because I know that you’re going to ask what The Oxford Companion to English Literature is doing in a post about the German counterpart. It’s simply because the scope of the 7th edition has been expanded, not only to cover the contemporary English literary scene, but also much translated fiction. So lots of illuminating entries about German literature. I found the entry on Wertherism very helpful during my recent rereading of Goethe’s Sorrows of the Young Werther. The scale of this book contrasts with A Very Short Introduction to German Literature at the top of the pile. Not my favourite Oxford title to be fair. It’s scope being literature from the pens of authors from Germany. So no insights on my favourite Austrians, Schnitzler and Zweig, or the Swiss Keller to name a few. The middle of the pile is populated by a half-dozen recently-rejacketed Oxford Classics – gorgeous aren’t they? Glad to see a healthy looking virtual German bookshelf here. The books in my pile: Gottfried von Eschenbach, Parzival and Titurel; Friedrich Schiller Don Carlos and Mary Stuart; E.T.A Hoffman The Golden Pot and Other Stories; and 3 titles from Kafka, The Castle, The Trial, Metamorphosis and Other Stories. The final book in the pile is a recent historical study of Hindenburg. It’s always fascinating to read about the conditions that led to the rise of Nazism.
The pile back right has 3 recent publications from Pushkin Press. Wondrak and other Stories and Confusion by bloggers-favourite Stefan Zweig. (Needless to say I eagerly anticipate the arrival of his autobiography The World of Yesterday.) Books 3 and 4 from the top are from Haus Publishing: Alex Capus A Matter of Time, made irresistible by comparisons with Daniel Kehlmann’s Measuring the World; Siegfried Lenz’s novella A Minute’s Silence arriving just in time for the November Novella Challenge. Second from bottom is the latest in Dennis Jackson’s fine translations of the works of Theodor Storm. I’ve had this for a while – saving it for a rainy day. There’s bound to be one or two of those any day now. Beneath that there’s another selection from the One World Classics German bookshelf, Goethe’s Elective Affinities. Self’s Murder, the bottom book is the final thriller in Bernhard Schlink’s (yes, he of The Reader fame) trilogy.
The book standing back centre is the eagerly anticipated new translation of Günther Grass’s The Tin Drum. A seminal work, a masterpiece. Would anyone be interested in a readalong?
We’ll discuss the front-centre bookpile tomorrow for two reasons: 1) this post is already long enough and 2) the books in it are relevant to the a city that will be partying a little more than it normally does … and Lizzy’s Literary Life may just party along. In any event there are going to be some giveaways.