Grass, Günter "Crabwalk"

(German Title: Im Krebsgang) - 2002

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read 

This book had been my suggestion because we always look for novels by authors from different countries. We haven't read many German books, so I thought, let's read a Grass. This author has never been an "easy" person, born in Danzig to Polish-German parents, raised Catholic, moved to West Germany as a young guy, he is strongly left-wing and will say what he thinks needs saying. He is a journalist and a sculptor/graphic artist.

A lot of our members found the book very hard to read. Why do translations of books into English always have to be so bad? We've made this experience again and again. Mind you, in this case, I can't really blame the translator too much, a lot of the conversations, especially by the narrator's mother, are in Pomeranian and even difficult to read in the original German version.

We had various members who started a couple of times until they finally finished it. Some of their remarks: I appreciate that he wrote it. This book caused a big stir in Germany when it came out I understand German shame factor. I realized how oppressive and burdensome it is for children to have to live with parents' ambitions. Paul Pokriefke wanted to be a normal person, his mother Tulla wrote him off completely and transferred all her ambitions to her grandson. Germans shouldn't dwell on their past. A lot of people don't want them to forget, the hatred is still there. They show it on TV, remind you every year. "Victimization gives them power." I appreciated the father's love for his son, he stands by him. You need not stand up against this great machine. What is going on at the moment? We talked about the Neo-Nazism in several European countries. The truth is, all European countries had and have Nazis.

Even though this was probably one of the toughest reads for most, it was a great foundation for a very interesting discussion. It leads to so many different topics. I don't think anyone should be surprised to know that the author was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Oh, and someone remarked they were astonished by the fast that there were six times as many deaths on the Wilhelm Gustloff as there were on the Titanic, yet you never hear about it.

From the back cover:
"Günter Grass has been wrestling with Germany's past for decades now, but no book since The Tin Drum has generated as much excitement as this engrossing account of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. A German cruise ship turned refugee carrier, it was attacked by a Soviet submarine in January 1945. Some 9,000 people went down in the Baltic Sea, making it the deadliest maritime disaster of all time.
Born to an unwed mother on a lifeboat the night of the attack, Paul Pokriefke is a middle-aged journalist trying to piece together the tragic events. While his mother sees her whole existence in terms of that calamitous moment, Paul wishes their life could have been less touched by the past. For his teenage son, who dabbles in the dark, far-right corners of the Internet, the Gustloff embodies the denial of Germany's wartime suffering.
'Scuttling backward to move forward,'
Crabwalk is at once a captivating tale of a tragedy at sea and a fearless examination of the ways different generations of Germans now view their past."

Günter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

The First Man by Albert Camus

(French title: Le premier homme) - 1994

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

Albert Camus is probably my favourite French author and this being an autobiography, I just couldn't reject it. However, this is an unfinished manuscript that was found when the author died in a car crash, hasn't been edited or altered, we get just the raw draft. I am sure this book would have been a lot more enjoyable had the author had the chance to work on it a little longer.

But it is what it is and I am happy this document was found and finally published because it does give us quite an insight into the author's life, especially his youth and also his quest for his father. We get a good idea about the man himself, how his philosophy came to fruition, how his mind works.

On the other hand, his daughter mentions in the introduction that her father might have changed a lot of his thoughts in the book, it might not have been as personal, if he had had the chance to work on it. I would have loved for the author to live a lot longer and write many more stories but at least we get this glimpse of him.

This was my third book by Camus and it won't be my last, that's for sure.

I read this book in the original French language.

From the back cover:
"The unfinished manuscript of The First Man was discovered in the wreckage of car accident in which Camus died in 1960. Although it was not published for over thirty years, it was an instant bestseller when it finally appeared in 1994. The 'first man' is Jacques Cormery, whose poverty-stricken childhood in Algiers is made bearable by his love for his silent and illiterate mother, and by the teacher who transforms his view of the world. The most autobiographical of Camus's novels, it gives profound insights into his life and the powerful themes underlying his work."

Albert Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times".

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

Chronicles. Volume One by Bob Dylan


2004

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

Last year's recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I don't need his book to know he totally deserved it but he talks about his life and that is quite interesting.

As I wrote in my post "Nobel Prize for Literature 2016", I look forward to the day where the newest winner of the Prize for Literature is announced and - together with the rest of the world - I was very astonished about last year's announcement. Totally unexpected but well deserved, Bob Dylan received the honour in 2016.

Bob Dylan, the hero of my youth, has written so many brilliant songs with wonderful texts and I could probably go on and write about every single one of his songs whose lyrics I know by heart. But - as this is about literature, I read his biography instead. The 75-year-old rock legend writes about his life. Or is he? I have read many comments that this is not written by him but that it is mainly a collection of what other people wrote about him.

However, I did enjoy learning about his life. I am not a reader of gossip magazines so I hardly ever know whether my favourite singers or actors are single, married, divorced, gay, have children ... Sometimes I find it out via Wikipedia but that is usually just in combination with a search for one of their films or songs.

Again, I love Bob Dylan's work. His lyrics are as important today as they were sixty years ago. The times were ready to be a-changing back then and it is time they are a-changing again. Let's all listen to his songs and make this a better world.

From the back cover:
"This is the first spellbinding volume of the three-volume memoir of one of the greatest musical legends of all time. In CHRONICLES Volume I, Bob Dylan takes us back to the early 1960s when he arrived in New York to launch his phenomenal career. This is Dylan's story in his own words - a personal view of his motivations, frustrations and remarkable creativity. Publication of CHRONICLES Volume I is a publishing and cultural event of the highest magnitude."

Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read". 

A Strangeness in my Mind by Orhan Pamuk

(Turkish Title: Kafamda Bir Tuhaflık) - 2014

Reviewed by Marianne
from "Let's Read"


Orhan Pamuk is definitely one of my favourite authors. I love reading Nobel Prize winners and he won the Nobel Prize. I love reading the winners of the German Peace Prize and he won the German Peace Prize (before winning the Nobel Prize). I love reading Turkish books and he writes Turkish books. So, what's not to love?

In this novel, he describes the life of a Turkish guy who marries the sister of the girl he has fallen in love with. The characters are about my age which makes it even more interesting, comparing my life with that of similar people in Turkey. You get to know the protagonist and his family and friends very well and you get to like them, no matter what.

What I also like about his books is that he doesn't shy away from talking about political problems in the country. How do poor people move up on the social ladder? They don't. What about women's rights? There hardly are any. How do they treat minorities (like the Kurds)? Not good.

As always, the author's home city Istanbul plays a major part in this novel. You can see in his portrayal that he loves his city but that he also sees the negative parts of it.

A great account of ordinary people, a lovely tale that starts good but grows on you with every page you turn.

From the back cover:
"A Strangeness In My Mind is a novel Orhan Pamuk has worked on for six years. It is the story of boza seller Mevlut, the woman to whom he wrote three years' worth of love letters, and their life in Istanbul.
In the four decades between 1969 and 2012, Mevlut works a number of different jobs on the streets of Istanbul, from selling yoghurt and cooked rice, to guarding a car park. He observes many different kinds of people thronging the streets, he watches most of the city get demolished and re-built, and he sees migrants from Anatolia making a fortune; at the same time, he witnesses all of the transformative moments, political clashes, and military coups that shape the country. He always wonders what it is that separates him from everyone else - the source of that strangeness in his mind. But he never stops selling boza during winter evenings and trying to understand who his beloved really is.
What matters more in love: what we wish for, or what our fate has in store? Do our choices dictate whether we will be happy or not, or are these things determined by forces beyond our control?
A Strangeness In My Mind tries to answer these questions while portraying the tensions between urban life and family life, and the fury and helplessness of women inside their homes."

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.

You can read more about the books I read by one of my favourite authors here.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.   

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