Category Archives: Books

“Logic for Democrats”?

The title (“Logic for Democrats”) makes you curious. The discomfort, however, begins when you read the author’s name.

The author of this book has so far been mainly “well-known” for his frequent rude troll attacks in social media – one of his victims was recently Sascha Lobo, one of Germany’s most well-known bloggers and journalists -, often stirred up by his adlatus, an influential, but mediocre journalist in the literary sphere, and by a few articles in a magazine (whose title “Hohe Luft” means “High Air” – although “Heisse Luft”, i.e. “Hot Air” would be more suitable considering the quality and writing style of many essays in that journal).

In his essays in above mentioned magazine, the author frequently falls into exactly those logical fallacies and Kategorienfehler that he likes to attack with inquisitive eagerness and great philistine arrogance, when he has – allegedly! – discovered them in the writing and thinking of others, even intruding again and again the privacy of those who don’t agree with him, despite their warnings and pleads to refrain from that. A virtual stalker and Rechthaber of the most unpleasant category.

That a FB troll of all people feels entitled to write a book on how to discuss political issues with a certain group of people (the populists that are a phenomenon in most Western countries again) came not only to me as a big surprise. It is precisely this subject for which the author is self-evidently not at all equipped, as is obvious from his behaviour in public discussions. There is a lack of basic qualities, such as a minimum of respect for the opponent, or the understanding that sometimes even an opponent may be right, a thought that as it seems would never occur to the author of this book, judging from the verbal crusades and pogroms he is waging on people who haven’t even addressed him in a discussion or with a simple statement. And if the author seriously believes that his book will help in any discussion with populists, then he is completely delusional.

A pity that a renowned publisher gave this author a big stage, and that this book, written in a very blurred style that clearly aims at deceiving the reader regarding the rather poor content is now praised by a part of the German media as a great achievement; that tells me something about the actual state of intellectual life in Germany, I am afraid. 

“When the sun of culture stands low, even dwarfs cast long shadows.” (Karl Kraus)

Image result for logik fuer demokraten

Daniel-Pascal Zorn: Logik für Demokraten, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2017

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Business Trip to Sweden

“Since he had to go on a business trip to Sweden anyway, he decided to use this opportunity to finally get rid of some rather annoying obligation, and to pick up that silly medal from those pedantic academics who were permanently pestering him on the phone and via the media…”

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Literarisches Quartett: Einer fehlt!?

Hier und da lese ich, wie sehr manchem Maxim Biller beim Literarischen Quartett fehlt bzw. fehlen wird. Also, mir fehlt er nicht, und das ist gar nicht böse gemeint. Eine Literatursendung, bei der vier Kiepenheuer & Witsch-Autoren erstaunlich niveaulos und platt über vier Bücher reden, die bei Kiepenheuer & Witsch erschienen sind, wird mir nicht fehlen, Maxim Biller hin oder her.

(So war’s zumindest, als ich mir diese Sendung zuletzt angetan habe. Erinnerte mich an die “Schimanski”-Schleichwerbung für Lutschbonbons im “Tatort” in meiner Jugend, die allerdings viel subtiler daherkam.)

 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Vasil Praskov: feiertage

feiertage

am 1. mai
lesen die anarchisten tschechow

die dame führt ihr hündchen vor
trägt einen beutel für die scheisse

am 1. juni bringe ich mich um

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празници

на 1 май
анархистите четат чехов

дамата извежда кученцето
носи пликче за лайната

на 1 юни се самоубивам

 

Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

Васил Прасков. Слабини

Vasil Praskov: Slabini (Васил Прасков: Слабини), Pergament, Sofia 2015

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Aret Vartanyan: A Breath of Istanbul

A Breath of Istanbul, a novel by Aret Vartanyan, an author whose name I had never heard before, has all the ingredients to make me curious: set in the fascinating city of Istanbul, the story is told by a narrator who comes from a mixed Greek-Armenian family. He has spent years in Greece, but after a divorce the still comparatively young man returns to his birthplace Istanbul. While we readers get to know him, his new girlfriend Zeynep, and his other friends who in a way represent different layers of the Turkish society – there is a couple that is obviously cheating on each other, another (gay) couple, an Armenian craftsman, a Kurdish childhood friend working in the rather shady construction business, but also workers, a homeless boy, a drag queen, and so on – the story picks up speed in the moment when a group of elderly people approach the narrator to help them with a project they dream of: they want to establish a home for elderly people of different ethnic groups and also give those old Greeks and Armenians that left the country but still feel a strong longing for their birthplace, a possibility to live their last years peacefully in the city of their dreams: Istanbul. But the group of elderly people who want to set a good example for the coexistence of people of different ethnic background are not the only one’s to have an eye on the property that would be just perfect for this project…

An interesting story, no doubt. There were parts I really enjoyed, like the description of a visit in Büyükada, the biggest of the Princes’ Islands, which had almost a touch of Cechov, or the childhood memories of the narrator. What put me off on the other side were the fact that the way in which the story unfolded was very conventional and predictable, and also the narrator himself. A narrator of such a novel does not need to be necessarily a nice person, and he can be even unreliable – but it should be at least an interesting character. To me, the narrator of this book was not interesting. We never learn exactly what he is doing for a living – he seems to be something like a writer, although the reader wonders what exactly he is writing, and where exactly does the money come from to enjoy a rather carefree life without ever bothering to have a regular job or to think about how to pay his rent -, on the other hand, everybody (or almost everybody) loves him for reasons I fail to understand. The most gorgeous women want to sleep with him all the time, because, you know, they “feel his vibes”. Well, I am not a woman, and I didn’t feel them. Strangely, also the men in the book fall for his charm, everybody does incredible things, such as the jeweller who hands over a fortune just like that to the narrator, because our narrator guy is just great, and “his” project (which is actually the project of some brave old ladies), and the shady construction “business man” almost immediately becomes a helper in the project, just because he and the narrator turn out to be childhood friends. You get the drift. It’s all so realistic, you know.

The narrator’s opinions and pseudo-philosophical musings about women, love, friendship, life, history, are so full of clichés and platitudes, and at the same time he is so full of himself that it would have reminded me more than once of Paulo Coelho, an author about whose writing I tell you my honest opinion here, even if the name of that dreaded writer would not have been explicitly mentioned twice in this novel.

A little bit more of Orhan Pamuk, and a little bit less of Paulo Coelho, and it could have been a reasonably good book. 

9786053110156: A Breath of Istanbul

Aret Vartanyan: A Breath of Istanbul (transl. by Kader Cekerek), Destek, Istanbul 2015

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


Khairi Hamdan: Entlang der Mauern des Schweigens

Entlang der Mauern des Schweigens und der Ewigkeit
kämpfen die Buchstaben gegen das Vergessen an,
das die Namen der Toten versiegelt,
nachdem der Wind ihr Leben
davongetragen hat.

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Покрай стените на мълчанието и вечността
буквите се борят срещу забравата,
запечатват имената на мъртвите,
след като вятърът е отнел
живота им.

Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen: Thomas Hübner

Хайри Хамдан: един живот не е достатъчен (Khairi Hamdan: ein leben ist nicht genug), Pergament, Sofia 2016

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
© Hajri Hamdan and IK Pergament, 2016
 

“The 21st Century Greatest Novels”

The BBC asked a number of well-known literary critics to name “The 21st Century greatest novels”. And just as I imagined it: all the 12 books on the top of the list are written in English!
 
That says little about “The 21st Century greatest novels”, but a lot about the state of (mono-) culture in the English-speaking countries, where hardly three percent of the published books are works translated from other languages.
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Frisch aus der Druckerei

Die Rezensionsexemplare von “Germanii”, dem von mir übersetzten Gedichtband von Vladislav Hristov, sind da – und sie sehen gut aus!

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Rezensenten und Blogger: bei Interesse an diesem neuen Gedichtband bitte melden! (mail@rhizome-bg.com) – Ein paar Besprechungsexemplare sind noch vorhanden.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 
© Photo: Elitsa Osenska, 2017

Vorankündigung: Vladislav Hristov – Germanii

Der Gedichtband “Germanii” des renommierten bulgarischen Dichters Vladislav Hristov erscheint in Kürze auf deutsch. Im Original erschien das Buch 2014 im Verlag Ergo in Sofia. Das Buch wurde von mir übersetzt, und ich bin natürlich ziemlich aufgeregt, meine erste längere Arbeit als Übersetzer bald in Buchform publiziert zu sehen.

Der Band bildet den Auftakt der Buchreihe “Stimmen aus Bulgarien”, in denen der Verlag Rhizome aus Sofia dem deutschsprachigen Lesepublikum bulgarische Literatur zeitgenössischer Autoren vorstellen wird. Diese Buchreihe wird von Elitsa Osenska und mir herausgegeben werden. Als zweites Buch ist ein Band mit Erzählungen von Jordanka Beleva geplant.

Vladislav Hristov wurde 1976 in Shumen, Bulgarien, geboren. Er lebt und arbeitet als Journalist und Photograph in Sofia.

Seine Gedichte wurden u.a. in den internationalen Literaturzeitschriften “Granta”, “Cider Press Review” und “Drunken Boat” veröffentlicht.

Er gewann zahlreiche Literaturpreise und Ehrungen: für Kurzprosa die Auszeichnung von LiterNet & eRunsMagazine (2007), den Nationalpreis für Haiku zu einem freien Thema (2010), den internationalen Haiku-Wettbewerb “Cherry blossom” (2011), und zwei der bedeutendsten bulgarischen Auszeichnungen für Dichtkunst – den Dobromir-Tonev-Preis (2015), und den Slavejkov-Preis (2015).

In drei aufeinanderfolgenden Jahren war er in der Rangliste der 100 kreativsten europäischen Haiku-Verfasser aufgeführt, und im Jahr 2016 fanden mehrere seiner Haiku Aufnahme in ein japanisches Universitätslehrbuch zum Thema.

Er ist Mitglied der “Haiku Foundation”. Seine Haiku sind u.a. in der Zeitschrift der Amerikanischen Haiku-Vereinigung “Frogpond”, in “World Haiku Review”, der Zeitschrift des Internationalen Haiku-Clubs, sowie in “Simply Haiku”, “The Heron’s Nest” und vielen anderen Zeitschriften veröffentlicht.

Im Jahr 2011 wurde eine Auswahl seiner Haiku von der deutschen Website “Haiku heute” und später in deren Jahrbuch publiziert.

Texte von Hristov sind in 16 Sprachen übersetzt. Auf bulgarisch liegen folgende Bücher von ihm vor: “Bilder von Kindern” (Kurzprosa, 2010), Enso (Gedichte, 2012 – nominiert für die höchste Auszeichnung für Dichtkunst in Bulgarien, den Ivan-Nikolov-Preis), “Phi” (Gedichte, 2013), “Germanii” (Gedichte, 2014) und “Countdown” (Gedichte, 2016). Ein Band mit Publizistik ist in Vorbereitung.

Eine kleine Kostprobe aus dem Band kann man hier finden.

Literaturkritiker, Rezensenten und Buchblogger, die das Buch besprechen wollen und ein Rezensionsexemplar zugesandt bekommen wollen, senden mir bitte eine Nachricht als Kommentar zu diesem Posting, am besten unter Angabe des Mediums, in dem die Rezension erscheinen soll. 

Weitere Informationen zum Buch mit genauem Erscheinungsdatum und Bestelldetails folgen bald an dieser Stelle in Kürze.

Der Buchumschlag stammt von Ivo Rafailov, der auch die bulgarische Originalausgabe gestaltet hat.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
© Ivo Rafailov, 2014-7 (Umschlaggraphik)
 

 


Georgi Markov – a footnote on a recent edition

I am reading right now (in Bulgarian) a three-volume edition of the essays of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, who is for me one of the most remarkable Eastern European intellectuals of the time between the end of WWII and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Unfortunately he is in the West mainly known for the fact that he was assassinated in a rather bizarre way by a hit-man in the service of the Bulgarian State Security, and not for his work and the brilliant analysis of the Bulgarian and other regimes in Eastern Europe.

The edition contains many essays that are – according to the information in the books – published here for the first time in print, and it is remarkable how fresh and highly relevant these essays that are at least four decades old, are today. A fact that says also something very unpleasant about the situation in Bulgaria – still very much run by the networks of people with links to the former Bulgarian State Security and their underlings – and most other Eastern European countries.

The publisher, who brought recently among others also Varlam Shalamov, Yevgenia Ginzburg, and works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the Bulgarian readers, has to be praised for this deed.

However, I have also to mention that the footnotes are to me very annoying. While some of them are ridiculously inadequate – is it really necessary to try to explain in two lines who Thomas Mann or Pablo Picasso were, and does the fact that the publisher added these footnotes mean that this edition is intended for an audience that is missing even an elementary Bildung? -, others are inaccurate, and even manipulative.

One example: Pablo Neruda is described in a footnote as an author that was “occupied by communist ideas”, which is clearly a strong understatement; he was in reality a Stalinist hardliner and active GPU/NKWD agent with blood on his hands; he played a big role in the Trotsky assassination, and allegedly some others, and he personally took care of deleting non-Stalinist leftists from the list of people that would be granted a place on a rescue ship and visa to Chile, people desperately trying to leave unoccupied France in 1940; Neruda knew perfectly well that his selection (I am almost tempted to write Selektion here) was in fact a death sentence for almost all of them, executed either by the Nazis, or by the assassination squads of Stalin (Victor Serge has written in detail about such murderous “intellectuals” as Neruda). The footnote about Neruda is in this context extremely misleading.

Another example is Günter Grass, who according to the footnote was a “far-left” writer. For those who don’t know it, Grass was a life-long supporter of the German Social Democrats, even when he left the party for few years out of disappointment; he wrote speeches for his close friend, Chancellor Willy Brandt, one of the most fervent German anti-Communists, and he was himself a lifelong anti-Communist. The German Social Democrats, and also Grass himself, were never “far-left”, and the footnote is either reflecting a completely uninformed editor, or is – what I don’t hope, but cannot completely dismiss as a possibility – intentionally manipulative, “far-left” being in Bulgaria a common epithet for a Communist sympathiser.

On the other hand, it is mentioned that Salvador Dali left Spain after the Civil War, but “refrained from political activities”; those who don’t know who Dali really was, might get the impression that he was an active anti-fascist who left the country to avoid persecution – while the truth is exactly the opposite: he showed a servile attitude towards the dictator Franco and open sympathies for fascism, and he had even the bad taste to (figuratively speaking) spit on the grave of his former best friend Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by Dali’s new friends. There was a reason why Max Ernst crossed the street when he got sight of Dali during his emigration, and it was not only for artistic reasons that he didn’t want to face his shameless plagiarist!

Unfortunately, all intellectuals with sympathies for the (democratic) left seem to be described in a way similar to Grass, while in cases of intellectuals or artists with fascist sympathies a sudden amnesia seems to have taken hold of the editors. 

But not only when it comes to Western artists and intellectuals, this edition goes astray; almost all Bulgarian authors – most of them household names for the readers of this edition; even the famous Blaga Dimitrova has her two-line resume – have a footnote; only Lyubomir Levchev, a key figure of Bulgarian literary life in the time of Communism is not worthy(?) of a footnote. This gifted poet, a close friend of Markov while the later dissident was still living in Bulgaria, who made a career as an orthodox Communist literary functionary, played for example a very active role in the persecution and partly expulsion of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria in the 1980’s (euphemistically called “Revival process” by the Communists), a role in which he seems to take pride until today.

I doubt very much that the missing footnote for Lyubomir Levchev was an editorial oversight (I have privately my suspicion for which reason the footnote is missing), and this missing footnote, together with the other inadequate, wrong, and manipulative footnotes decrease my pleasure in this otherwise great and valuable edition very much. I hope that this edition will see many reprints, and that many especially young Bulgarians will read it – but with more appropriate and correct footnotes!

Георги Марков: До моя съвременник; Ненаписаната българска харта; Ходенето на българина по мъките (3 volumes), Communitas Foundation, Sofia 2015-2016

My remarks are mainly based on the first of the three volumes, which I have finished so far.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.