Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Who is Martha? By Marjana Gaponenko-2012, translated by Arabelle Spencer, 2014



Works Read So Far for German Literature Month, November, 2017

1.   Vertigo by W. G. Sebald, 1990
2.    The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter, 2006
3.    “An Earthquake in Chile” by Heinrich Von Kleist 1809


“I am looking for my own romanticism and find it in the midst of reality, in irony.”. - Marjana Gaponenko 

One of my goals for this year’s German Literature Month is to read some works from the Twenty First Century.  I recently read, from 2006, The Last Weynfeldt, by the Swiss author Martin Suter.  Today I am posting upon a work by a Ukrainian author, Marjana Gaponenko, written originally in German, published in 2012 and translated in 2014.  

Like The Last Weynfeldt,  lead character of Who is Martha? I an older man, a confirmed bachelor, highly cultured with few intimate friends.  We meet him at age 96, his doctor has just told him he has cancer.  He decides rather than go through gruelling chemotherapy that he will live out the rest of his life in luxury.  

Luka Levadski, a Ukrainian Jew, retired from a distinguished career as an orthiologist.  He has lived most of his life in Berlin, he feels the historical irony in this, living in a city once dedicated to the extermination of Jews and a deadly enemy of the Ukraine, but he does not dwell on this.  Above all he loves birds, especially their songs and method of communication.  He decides he will spend his remaining days at the sumptuous elite Hotel Imperial in Vienna.

In remarkable shape for 96 years old, he begins to realise he needs he needs help with the day to day affairs of his life.  He speaks with the hotel concierge who appoints a Palestinian bellman to help him.  We see Levadskj gradually moving out of his comfort zone getting to know Habib.  He makes a friend, another older man living at The Imperial and his world widens.

The very real pleasure of Who is Martha? (Hint, she is not his long lost Lady love) is in being drawn into the consciousness of Levadski, seeing him bravely cope with imminent death keeping a sense each day is worthwhile.

For all interested in quality translations of literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, I highly recommend you visit the webpage of the publisher of this book, New Vessel  Press

They have several recent publications that would be perfect for German Literature Month.

Marjana Gaponenko was born in 1981 in Odessa, Ukraine. She fell in love with the German language as a young girl, and began writing in German when she was sixteen. She has a degree in German studies from Odessa University. Who is Martha? is her second novel and was awarded the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize in 2013. She has also published volumes of poetry and lives in Vienna and Mainz..  from the publisher’s webpage.  

Avant Bousweau 


Mudpuddle said...

a German novel by a Ukrainian lady... sounds quite entertaining; i'll look for it... the subject is of interest to those of us in our upper years...

Mel u said...

Mudpuddle. Maybe there is a big literary market in German than in Ukrainian.

Anonymous said...

I loved this book, and I second your recommendation of New Vessel Press. I always like to browse their catalog.