M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

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Monday, November 24, 2014

"Twilight" by Stefan Zweig (1928?)


         Madame de Prie 1698 to 1727


My favorite works by Zweig are first "Mendel the Bibliophile"then Chess, and The Post Office Girl.  Today I am enthusiastically adding "Twilight" to this list.



There are still several days left in German Literature Month IV.  Lots of time left to participate. There are already over a hundred posts, reading through them is much like a fine class in German literature at a top academy.




Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014



1.   Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

2.   Gertrude by Hermann Hesse 

3.  "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)

4.  Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

5.  Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925

6.  Life Goes On by Hans Keilson

7.  Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

8.  "The Wall" by Jurek Becker

9.  "Romeo" by Jurek Becker

10.   "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.

11.  Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser

13.  "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler 

14.  Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker

15.  The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,

16.  "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke  1894

17.  "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950

18.  "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924

19.  "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810

20.  Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923

21.  Concrete 1982

22.  "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913

23.  "Incident at Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig (1924)

24.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig 1927

25.  "The Sandman" by E. T. A. Hoffmann 1817

26.  "The Secrets of the Princess of Kagran" by Ingeborg Bachmann 1971

27.  "Twilight" by Stefan Zweig 1928

One of my goals for GL IV was to read a number of short stories by Stefan Zweig in the Pushkin Press edition of The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig.  So far this month I have read six of his short stories.   Zweig was a highly regarded history, his biography of Marie Antoinette was a best seller.  Zweig has rightly been praised for the acuity of his portrayal of the pyches of women in turmoil.  

"Twilight" focuses on Madame de Prie (1698 to 1727), daughter of a finance minister of France and at one time mistress to King Louis XV.  She was highly influential in deciding royal appointments and arranged the marriage of the King to a dynastastically  appropriate Nobel woman. When she fell from favor with the King, she was sent into exhile on her estate.  She remained incredibly wealthy though inspite of her many pleas she was never allowed to return to the court.  The angst generated by this loss of power and adulation drove her to suicide by poison at 29.  Zweig gets the facts exactly right in his story but it probably took him longer than a few minutes on Wikepedia.

The greatness of this story lies in how Zweig lets us see how devastated Madame de Prie was by her fall.  She comes across as a throughly nasty, very self centered, unfeeling a cruel woman.  Zweig perfectly depicts the stages of her grief.  We see her try to be friends with servant girls, and become enraged when she discovers no one at court even mentions her.  She takes a young country man as a lover, when she is through with him he gives him a letter to present to a duke in Paris naming the young man to office.  The young man rushes to Paris not knowing there is no such person.   I am leaving out a lot of the wonderful details of the story.

The close of the story in which Zweig graphically describes her suicude by poison sent  chills through me.


Mel von ü



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"The Secrets of the Princess of Kagran" by Ingeborg Bachmann (1971)

 "The stranger smiled:  my people are older than all the peoples in the world and are scattered by the winds of time".  






There are still several days left in German Literature Month IV.  Lots of time left to participate. There are already over a hundred posts, reading through them is much like a fine class in German literature at a top academy.




Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014



1.   Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

2.   Gertrude by Hermann Hesse 

3.  "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)

4.  Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

5.  Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925

6.  Life Goes On by Hans Keilson

7.  Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

8.  "The Wall" by Jurek Becker

9.  "Romeo" by Jurek Becker

10.   "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.

11.  Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser

13.  "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler 

14.  Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker

15.  The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,

16.  "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke  1894

17.  "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950

18.  "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924

19.  "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810

20.  Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923

21.  Concrete 1982

22.  "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913

23.  "Incident at Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig (1924)

24.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig 1927

25.  "The Sandman" by E. T. A. Hoffmann 1817

26.  "The Secrets of the Princess of Kagran" by Ingeborg Bachmann 1971

Ingeborg Bachmann (1923 to 1976, Austria) worked as a drama writer for Austrian radio stations for a long time but is best known for her poetry.  I read "The Secrets of the Princess of Kagran" in an anthology I really like, Tales of the German Imagination From Grimm to Bachmann, edited, introduced and beautifully translated by Peter Wortsman.  She is one of two women writers featured in the collection.  

Wortsman tells us that Bachmann was drawn to write this fairy tale like story upon the death of the poet Paul Celan, with whom she had a long on and off tumultuous relationship.  As the story opens the realm of Kagran, a mythical principality, has been overrun by barbarous invaders.  The only way the princess can save her position is to marry the leader of the invaders, an idea that repels her.  One of the most charming things about this story are is the historical place names created by Bachmann, it feels like a proto-history of the Austro-Hungarian region from five thousand years ago.  A mysterious man enters the story and the princess at once seems him as her savior and loves him.  He appears seemingly out of nowhere from a shadow world very remote from her current world.

The images are very striking and the story line is intriguing.  We have seen other stories from Germania about immediate fixation,sexual and otherwise, on a just met stranger whom you see as your redemmer, your savior to whom you owe unthinking allegiance. 


Mel von ü













Sunday, November 23, 2014

"The Sandman" by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1816 to 1817)








The schedule and guidelines for participation are on the event webpage.  Just reading the  posts of all the other participants is tremendously informative. There is an interesting contest or two and some prizes to be won.  One of the tasks participants are charged with is reading a work first published in 2014 and this collection qualifies.  

I am very happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   Events like this are one of the great things about being part of the international book blog community.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into a month long event and I offer my thanks to Lizzy and Caroline


Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014



1.   Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

2.   Gertrude by Hermann Hesse 

3.  "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)

4.  Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

5.  Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925

6.  Life Goes On by Hans Keilson

7.  Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

8.  "The Wall" by Jurek Becker

9.  "Romeo" by Jurek Becker

10.   "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.

11.  Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser

13.  "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler 

14.  Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker

15.  The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,

16.  "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke  1894

17.  "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950

18.  "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924

19.  "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810

20.  Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923

21.  Concrete 1982

22.  "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913

23.  "Incident at Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig (1924)

24.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig 1927

25.  "The Sandman" by E. T. A. Hoffmann 1817

Ernest Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (he changed his middle name in honor of Mozart-1776 to 1822, born Königsberg, Prussia) was a highly regarded music critic, composer, and a theater director but it his fantastic short works of fiction, often composed very rapidly that have brought him immortality.  Operas and ballets have been made from his stories.  Peter Wortsman in his brief bio on Hoffman tells us that Freud studied Hoffman's writings, especially "The Sandman" deeply.

The plot is complicated and narrated in an interesting sophisticated fashion.  The story starts out with a letter from Nathanael to the brother of his fiancé in which he relays dreams or visions he has had of The Sandman. The Sandman was a character in Germanic folklore said to come when childen sleep and take their eyes to feed to his own children.  He awakes, or maybe he kept dreaming.  He goes into his father's study where the father's lawyer is demonstrating an automaton.   The lawyer hears Nathanel and grabs fire tongs to remove his eyes.  Ok strange so far but this is just the start and it gets much stranger. 

I do not want to spoil the intriguing plot for first time readers. I read this in a very excellant anthology, Tales of the German Imagination, edited, introduced and translated by Peter Wortsman. My bio data on Hoffmann comes from there.

Older public domain translations of Hoffman's short fictions can be found at EBooks@Adelaide





Mel von ü

"The Governess" by Stefan Zweig (1927)

A Story of the End of Innocence for two Young Girls





My favorite works by Zweig are first "Mendel the Bibliophile"then Chess, and The Post Office Girl



There are still several days left in German Literature Month IV.  Lots of time left to participate. There are already over a hundred posts, reading through them is much like a fine class in German literature at a top academy.






The schedule and guidelines for participation are on the event webpage.  Just reading the  posts of all the other participants is tremendously informative. There is an interesting contest or two and some prizes to be won.  One of the tasks participants are charged with is reading a work first published in 2014 and this collection qualifies.  

I am very happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   Events like this are one of the great things about being part of the international book blog community.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into a month long event and I offer my thanks to Lizzy and Caroline


Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014



1.   Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

2.   Gertrude by Hermann Hesse 

3.  "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)

4.  Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

5.  Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925

6.  Life Goes On by Hans Keilson

7.  Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

8.  "The Wall" by Jurek Becker

9.  "Romeo" by Jurek Becker

10.   "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.

11.  Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser

13.  "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler 

14.  Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker

15.  The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,

16.  "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke  1894

17.  "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950

18.  "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924

19.  "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810

20.  Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923

21.  Concrete 1982

22.  "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913

23.  "Incident at Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig (1924)

24.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig


Stefan Zweig is, among numerous other gifts, a wonderful story teller.  "The Governess" is an excellant, probably risqué for the time it was published, story about what happens when two near adolescent girls listen at a closed door when their governess talks to Otto.  It is a very insightful look at how being raised partially by servants impacts children's relationships to their parents.

The girls have noticed that their governess has been distracted, not her happy self as of late.  They wonder if she could be in love.  They are shocked when,listening through the door, they hear their governness ask Otto, "What will we do with the baby?".  The girls think it must mean she has a baby, but they reason how can that be as only married ladies like their mother can have a baby.  Soon they see adults as liers and deceivers.  They ease drop as their mother, with whom they don't seem very close, cruelly fire the governness, calling her a woman of low morals not fit to be around her daughters.

Their father became very hateful to the governness.  They had never before seen this side of him.  No one will give the girls the truth. Their own behavior changes, they become deceitful in small ways, untrusting of adults.

There is sense of expulsion from Eden, lost paradises, often false Utopias, in much of Zweig's work.

A decent enough story.




Mel von ü

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Incident on Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig

A World War One Story About a Lost Russian Soldier



My favorite works by Zweig are first "Mendel the Bibliophile"then Chess, and The Post Office Girl



There are still several days left in German Literature Month IV.  Lots of time left to participate. There are already over a hundred posts, reading through them is much like a fine class in German literature at a top academy.






The schedule and guidelines for participation are on the event webpage.  Just reading the  posts of all the other participants is tremendously informative. There is an interesting contest or two and some prizes to be won.  One of the tasks participants are charged with is reading a work first published in 2014 and this collection qualifies.  

I am very happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   Events like this are one of the great things about being part of the international book blog community.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into a month long event and I offer my thanks to Lizzy and Caroline


Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014



1.   Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

2.   Gertrude by Hermann Hesse 

3.  "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)

4.  Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

5.  Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925

6.  Life Goes On by Hans Keilson

7.  Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

8.  "The Wall" by Jurek Becker

9.  "Romeo" by Jurek Becker

10.   "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.

11.  Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser

13.  "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler 

14.  Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker

15.  The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,

16.  "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke  1894

17.  "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950

18.  "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924

19.  "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810

20.  Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923

21.  Concrete 1982

22.  "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913

23.  "Incident at Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig (1924)

I enjoy reading Stefan Zweig.   One of his gifts was  a great talent for story telling.  "Incident at Lake Geneva" is the first set in time of World War One story I have read by  Zweig.   It really is a good very moving compassionate story about a lost Russian solider who is found naked on a raft in Lake Geneva in Switzerland by fisherman.  He cannot understand him, he keeps saying over and over a word I guessed was "Russia".  At first all the villagers take him for a mad man, talking gibberish.  Then they bring in a man who knows a bit of several languages, including Russian.  Once commutation is established we learn he had been drafted into the Russian army to fight in France. He was transported all the way from his home in Siberia. On the first day in France he is shot in the leg.  While in a field hospital he asks where Russia was and they point toward Lake Geneva. He knows nothing of the world outside of his village and thought Russia was on the other side of the lake.m He wants only to get back to his wife and children.  He is put up temporarily in a hotel after much debate about what to do with him.   He asks when can he go home and is told  "after the war and only God knows when that will be".  Boris's last hope is to appeal to the Czar.



Boris has no idea what "disposed" means but now his last hope is crushed.  The next day he is founded dead in the lake, drowning in an effort to get back to Russia.


This is a very moving story.

Mel von ü




"Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser (1913, translated by Christopher Middleton)

 Posts on Robert Walser

"Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser is as powerful a short story as I have yet read.  
Mel u







"He wants to abandon himself to the entire catastrophe of being a poet:  the best thing for me is to be destroyed as quickly as possible"

"Kleist wants a brutal war, to fight in a battle, to himself he seems a miserable superfluous person"




There are still several days left in German Literature Month IV.  Lots of time left to participate. There are already over a hundred posts, reading through them is much like a fine class in German literature at a top academy.






The schedule and guidelines for participation are on the event webpage.  Just reading the  posts of all the other participants is tremendously informative. There is an interesting contest or two and some prizes to be won.  One of the tasks participants are charged with is reading a work first published in 2014 and this collection qualifies.  

I am very happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   Events like this are one of the great things about being part of the international book blog community.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into a month long event and I offer my thanks to Lizzy and Caroline


Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014



1.   Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

2.   Gertrude by Hermann Hesse 

3.  "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)

4.  Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

5.  Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925

6.  Life Goes On by Hans Keilson

7.  Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

8.  "The Wall" by Jurek Becker

9.  "Romeo" by Jurek Becker

10.   "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.

11.  Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser

13.  "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler 

14.  Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker

15.  The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,

16.  "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke  1894

17.  "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950

18.  "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924

19.  "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810

20.  Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923

21.  Concrete 1982

22.  "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913

"The last paragraph with its excruciating modulation seals an account of mental ruin as good as anything I know in literature". - Susan Sontag

I have read Robert Walser's "Kleist in Thun" five times.  I will continue to read it over and over for the rest of my life.  It is high art, in the Sontagian categories, fully on a par with Middleton, the dramas of Aesylcus, Proust, and "The Dead".  I accept this sounds hyperbolic but I do not think many who have read it deeply will disagree.

The story weaves in and out of the consciousness of Heinrich von Kleist, the narrator and the evident persona of Walser.  Kleist has gone in retreat to a small hotel on an island in the River Aare in Thun located in the canon of Bern in Zwitgerland to write, to have peace, to be alone, to think, to be Kleist.

I do not feel now inclined to say more about  "Kleist in Thun".  I will post a few images of the area and a one of Kleist.







I hope to read and post my experiences with at least two more works by Robert Walser for GL IV.

Mel von ü



Friday, November 21, 2014

Pierrette by Honore de Balzac (1840, a Novel - Part one of The Celibates Trilogy - A Component of The Human Comedy)



My Posts on Balzac




Pierrette is the story of the life and death of a young woman, Pierrette Lorraine.  Pierrette, an orphan, lived with her grandmother until the failing health of the grandmother caused Pierrette to be placed in a children's home.  Her only other relatives are two much older cousins, brother and sister.  They are retired from the cloth trade, called "mergers" at the time.  They are well off but very cheap and grasping. They think Pierrette may be due an inheritance from the grandmother so they take her in and become her guardian.

The cousins make Pierrette be an all purpose servant in order to,in their minds, pay for her room and board.  They ruin her health in the process and commit what are even in 1840 criminal acts of child abuse, acts that will ultimately lead to early death. Pierrette has one loyal friend, a boy her age, about fifteen now (prime marriage years).  There is a lot of drama involving the marriage plans of the cousins and the search for a suitable husband for the girl.  The novel is replete with plots and deceptions. The cousins are pure evil.

In the perhaps most interesting segment of this short novel (maybe 150 pages) we see how child abuse was dealt with by the legal system.  

Pierrette is described by Goodreads reviewers,most of whom liked it a lot, as do I, as a "tear jerker".


28 of 91

I have now begun work two in The Celibates Trilogy,  The Vicar of Tours.

Mel u