I am, as is to be expected, in full German literature month warm-up mode and my coffee table books of the month reflect that. They are not the usual glossy picture-laden volumes, but they are ideally suited for a quick 20-minute snatched read. Besides they’re books that I’m reading between books, a chapter or two here and there, when in the specific mood. And specific is the word when it comes to the one at the top of the pile.
The Tale of Bluebeard in German Literature from the Eighteenth Century to The Present – is that specific or obscure? You/I can blame Cornelia Funke for this because Bluebeard appears in her latest novel, Fearless, which I read as I travelled along the Grimm Fairy Tale Way this summer. This all seems to have sparked the fascination with fairy tales that a fictional Wilhelm Grimm spoke of in Günter Grass’s novel, The Rat.(See fotenote.)
Wußten wir, Bruder, nicht immer schon, welche Macht unsere Märchen über die Menschen haben?
(Brother, haven’t we always known the power our fairy tales exert over human beings?)
I am now on a reading trail that has led me to previously unimagined places and the first piece of academic writing I’ve read for years. I’m taking it slowly. I have to. The text is peppered with French, German and feminist literary theory; the latter giving my eyebrows a workout that Mr Motivator would be proud of. More on that in German Literature Month.
The second and third books are more accessible. Danubia, a personal history of Habsburg Europe, is a companion piece to Simon Winder’s bestselling Germania. Now I have a confession to make. Germania was a DNF for me two years ago. Admirable in its aim of proving there is much more to German history than the period that began in 1933, it has a frivolous tone which I couldn’t digest whilst in the midst of a real life sense of humour failure. So this time round I’ve decided to use it as a reference book, looking up places and people as They cross my path in related reading. Danubia, which charts the troubled history of Habsburg Europe, is in the author’s words, a “less sunny” work. I’m finding it very readable and might just find myself powering through its 512 pages much more quickly than anticipated.
Footnote – The first of many titles to be added to my wishlist as I work my way through The Tale of Bluebeard ….