We’re just past the half-way point of German Literature Month now and great things are happening out there in blogland if the contributor index is anything to go by. I’ve tried to keep it up to date in those rare instances when the.contributor has forgotten but I’m not promising that I’ve caught everything. So please check it out, fill in any gaps and make sure that your hard work gets the plug it deserves.
How are we doing with the 50:50 female:male challenge? It’s at 35:65 just now. Hopefully that will improve during what is our second ladies’ week.
I’m going to start with a couple of short stories from the Penguin anthology Tales of the German Imagination from the Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann. The fact that only two of the 28 stories were penned by ladies shows that the challenge Caroline and I set is not so easy. While there is a good selection of translated German-language fiction available, many more male authors are translated than female. Still those who are make for excellent reading and I hope you’re enjoying discovering some new names.
I hadn’t read either of the authoresses in this anthology: Ingeborg Bachmann and Unica Zürn and on the basis of these samples, 6 and 5 pages respectively, I shall seek out more.
How to review such short stories? I have no idea. Let’s see how this goes.
There’s no better beginning than Once Upon A Time to take the reader from reality into the past and the story establishes is premise very quickly. Somewhere in the land which is today Hungary, the princess is deposed by tribes from the East and held prisoner. She refuses to be pawned off as a bride to the hoary-haired King of the Huns or the aged King of the Avars, but unless she can escape she faces death for her refusal. Enter her rescuer, a stranger in a long black coat who keeps his face hidden. The middle section describes the sometimes mystical journey back to the princess’s homeland. Of course, she falls desperately in love with her rescuer but he remains aloof and she must return alone. It is the first of many thorns through her heart.
There are a number of subversions that I very much enjoyed: the fact that the Princess prefers death to being bedded down by some decrepit old monarch; that her rescuer is the very opposite of a knight in shining armour and that there is no happy ever after. However, the origin of the rescuer is never explained and that makes the story feel incomplete. Then there is the strange sentence: In the night the Princess had grown a second face. What? How? Is this a mistranslation? It is explained in the book’s appendix that this is an excerpt from Bachmann’s novel Malina. So perhaps in context some of these quibbles are resolved
Unica Zürn – The Experiment or The Victory of The Children (1950)
This story has a satirical edge that’s right up my street. Even though it contains such absurdity, there is an elemental truth about humanity at its core.
The story opens with a child psychologist observing children at play. Typical patterns emerge: fights over trivialites, feverish participation by the competitive, anxiety on the part of the shy. Following his advice, the government determines that these individual behaviours are to be consigned to the past. It is time to introduce the collective toy. These toys are huge, so big that it is impossible for a child to play with them alone. Conventional toys are removed from the shops and only collective toys can be purchased, Come Christmas and one family buys a doll which is 3-metres tall. The children drag it off to their playroom. I shan’t reveal what the psychologist finds when hours later he opens the door. Suffice to say the individualists are not to be tamed so easily …..