Archive for the ‘chat’ Category


It felt quieter than in previous years, though that may be relative, now that I’m able to check the linky more frequently.  In the end though, it wasn’t as quiet as it seemed.  30 bloggers contributed over 100 reviews!  That makes November a great month for German Literature.

If there are any reviews still at the work-in-progess stage, feel free to publish  and add them to the linky by 21:00 hours Wednesday 6.12.2017.  I’ll be publishing the now traditional GLM Author Index the following day.

As for the quality of the reviews – WOW!  Juliana gave me an object lesson in how to write about a book I couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for. And the Old Book Aporeciator, who joined us for the first time (WELCOME), wrote a review that prompted me to discover one of my books of the year. (It wins my book of the month accolade – see below.)

Thank you to everyone who joined in, with particular thanks to the regulars: Mel and Stu, who all published at least 10 reviews each.  Thanks guys, your support is amazing!

And Tony, I loved our conversation regarding Buddenbrooks – almost as much as I love the novel itself! As usual, you win the trophy for most original post.  Providing an original translation for German Literature Month is what I call going above and beyond …..

Finally, thanks to my co-hostess, Caroline, who found herself fighting a sudden and prolonged patch of ill-health, but nevertheless produced a couple of excellent reviews.  Get well soon, Caroline.

I had a productive GLM –  despite the building works going on around me.  The house has been re-rendered, the garage roof has been replaced.  Things will be no less noisy in December.  The bath overflow cracked and the water damage has wreaked havoc on the dining room.  Cue plumbers, plasterers and decorators all round during December.  The joys!

But I digress from the business at hand – a summary of my reading month

F65AA0A1-8A74-4AFF-B819-6EF1E13C0D74Read/reviewed November 2017

Buddenbrooks: A Literary Conversation in Four Parts
This House is Mine – Dörte Hansen
Kruso – Lutz Seiler
Memoirs of A Polar Bear– Yoko Tawada
Imperium – Christian Kracht
The Mentor – Daniel Kehlmann
In the Restaurant – Christoph Ribbat
Grieshuus – Theodor Storm
Eagles and Angels – Juli Zeh
How A Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by A Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog – Johann Peter Hebel

Six Degrees of Separation: From Less than Zero to The Inspector Barlach Mysteries

2017 Reading Statistics
YTD 92 Read, 8 Audio Books, 10 DNF
November 2017 8 Read 2 DNF


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In this month’s 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate, I am leaping from Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero straight to the realms of German literature and staying there for the duration.  What else would I do during German Literature Month?

1) Less than Zero was Bret Easton EllIs’s debut novel, published in 1986.

2) Happy Birthday, Turk! was Jacob Arjouni’s debut crime novel, also published in 1986.  It is narrated in the plain matter-of-fact style of the hard-boiled.

3) In absolute contrast to the lushness of Patrick Süsskind’s phenomenally successful historical crime novel, Perfume.  Also a debut novel, published in 1986. John E Woods’s English translation won the PEN Translation prize in 1987.

4) Tess Lewis is latest recipient of that prize for her translation of Maja Haderlap’s Angel of Oblivion.  The German original won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2011.

5) There is another link to the author of Malina.  Both Haderlap and Bachmann were born in the Austrian state of Carinthia.

6)  Ingeborg Bachmann wrote Malina in response to Max Frisch’s Gantenbein, which she saw as a betrayal of their 5-year relationship.  I haven’t read either book (yet), but given the tumultuous nature of their love affair, I am somewhat eager to get to them.

7) Frisch was a member of the left-wing Swiss writing group, Gruppe Olten.  So, too, was Friedrich Dürrenmatt, author of the last book in this month’s chain, The Inspector Barlach Mysteries, which I read, appropriately enough, for last year’s #germanlitmonth.

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Es ist so weit!

I have done the admin.  The Linky for German Literature Month contributions – be they plans, reviews, posting of favourite poems, quotes, sample texts, etc, etc – is now available over on http://www.germanlitmonth.blogspot.co.uk. This may be the swansong for that site as Blogger becomes ever more incompatible with IOS even when using Chrome. So much for interoperability standards. I only just managed to get it up and running this year, so let’s make the most of it. I’d love to see lots and lots of German Literature related linkies appearing over there. 😉

One final piece of admin – please let me know if you’re intending to join Caroline and me for our 7th celebration of G-lit, so that I can add you to the GLM VII participants list. Remember the month is fully read-as-you-please – one book, one poem, 20 books or 2000 poems: the choice is entirely yours. The only rule is that whatever you read must have been written originally in German.

There are two readalongs for the social readers among you. I will discuss Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of A Polar Bear on 15th November and Caroline will discuss Leon Feuchtwanger’s The Oppermanns on the 29th.

Admin over, onto the fun bit – reading plans!

As most of you will know, I retired last year, and have spent significant amounts of time in Germany since then. I have been mainly exploring new-to-me places in the North (Hamburg, Altes Land, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and reading novels set there. Sufficient, in fact, to keep me reviewing during the first half of the month. In the second half  I shall concentrate on German works longlisted for the inaugural Warwick Women in Translation Prize, and, if time permits throw in one or two surprises as well! I’ve still to read the novels for the second half of the month, but it should be doable … as long as there are no snags with ongoing renovations to the house. These should have all been finished a while ago, but the Scottish weather has been messing everyone around and plans are way behind.

I’m sure it will be all right on the night. I just wish someone would tell me which night that will be!

Enough – it is time to begin.

Herzlich Willkommen!  One and all.  Do tell me about your reading plans. Which German-language beauties have you got your eye on this year?

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October 2017: Wrap-up


Books Read October 2017

October was a quality month both in terms of reading and blogging.  Even if the books read count was not particularly high, and I haven’t caught up with my backlog of reviews.  I purposely slowed down in my reading and thought about things more.  That, together with a reading diet of classic and contemporary novels, fictional and non-fictional short stories, a history and a comic book, turned out to be very satisfying.

Book of the Month: The Moth – All These Wonders

Baking with Kafka – Tom Gauld
New Boy – Tracy Chevalier (Read August)
Autumn – Ali Smith
The Moth: This is A True Story / All These Wonders
A Small Town in Germany – John Le Carré

Six Degrees of Separation: From Like Water to Chocolate to October
German Literature Month VI: (Belated) Author Index

2017 Reading Statistics
YTD 83 Read, 8 Audio Books, 8 DNF
October 2017 7 Read

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This month’s 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate, begins with a book club read from years ago, of which I remember not a word! I read a synopsis. Still nothing.   However, it appears that the novel, which contains many Mexican recipes, is also an ode to the love of food.  In that case …

… there’s nothing I love more than a German cake, but I always found that baking a German recipe in Scotland never truly worked. Classic German Baking has modified the recipes to American measures and ingredients, and they work perfectly, even on the other side of the Pond.  The crustless baked cheese cake is to die for ….

as is Kafka’s Lemon Drizzle Cake, albeit for completely different reasons!  It is presented in Tom Gauld’s Baking with Kafka.   So too is a Wolf Hall Activity Fun Book, which I would buy in a heartbeat, if ever one were to be produced.

Which brings me to Wolf Hall, surely the finest historical novel and Booker Winner ever (regardless of what happens next Tuesday).  As we know, it concerns Thomas Cromwell and his aiding and abetting, along with the Seymours, of  Henry VIII’s conquest of Anne Boleyn. Predators all, and the Seymour family seat, Wulfhall in Wiltshire,  could not have been more aptly named.

While on the subject of predatory buildings, there’s one in Daniel Kehlmann’s latest novella, You Should Have Left. I won’t say too much here, as I will be reviewing during German Literature Month.  I will say though that one protagonist has to make the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to escape.

Sydney Carton also did a far, far better thing than he had ever done before in Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. The setting of that novel, during the French Revolution, provides the link to the final book in this month’s chain.

Fittingly, for it is the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and that is the subject of China Miéville’s latest and my current read, simply entitled October.

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September Wrap-Up

It’s been a busy month – just not on the blog or in reading terms, comparatively speaking.  I’ve been travelling.  Actually I was only at home for seven days in September!  So, the fact that four books were read and five blog posts (excluding the August Wrap-Up) published should be regarded as a valiant effort!


Books Read September 2017

The two German translations at the bottom of the read-in-September pile  (Kruso, This House is Mine) provide clues as to where I’ve been spending my time. Reviews will appear during German Literature Month in November.

Spring Garden – Tomoka Shibasaki
Excavating Kafka – James Hawes  (Book of the Month – let not the paucity of competition fool you.  This is an astounding read!)

6 Degrees of Separation – From Wild Swans to Wives and Stunners
Announcing German Literature Month VII
A Literary Tour of Schleswig-Holstein: Lübeck amd The Buddenbrooks House

2017 Reading Statistics
YTD 77 Read, 8 Audio Books, 8 DNF
August 2017 4 Read

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Kate has opened this month’s journey with the bestselling Wild Swans by Jung Chang. Everyone was reading this in the 1990s – everyone except me, that is,

Neither have I read John Spurling’s The Ten Thousand Things – also set in China.  It won the Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize in 2015, and is the only winner I have yet to read. I intend to do so before the end of this year.

Talking of completist reading, I have only one book remaining from this year’s Walter Scott Historical Fiction shortlist – Charlotte Hobson’s The Vanishing Futurist.

The thought of vanishing leads me to The Disappearances, an excellent young adult novel recently published by Pushkin Press, with one of the most beautiful covers of 2017.

I do love a beautiful book, and each year I make a point of determining the most beautiful book in the Edinburgh Book Festival Bookshop.  A copy of this year’s winner made its way home with me a fortnight ago. That would be The Sketchbook of Edinburgh.

Most of my book shopping is done in Edinburgh, and when I’m looking for something special – like a copy of the Moxon Tennyson – I head for the second-hand bookshop paradise in the West Port. The Pre-Raphaelite woodcuts are what make this edition so special. Here are a couple graced with the presence of the real Lizzie.

Lizzie was, of course, the original stunner, but there were others – Effi, Fanny, Jane, et al, and in Wives and Stunners, Henrietta Garnett, tells their stories.  Men may have created the most famous paintings, but where would they have been without their muses?

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