Tag Archives: Thomas Brasch

Reading/Reviewing Plans

The end of the year is approaching with fast steps. This year I haven’t been so active as a blogger as last year until recently – German Lit Month brought me back to the usual pace – and I have done more blog posts on poetry and translations than the year before; also I did more posts in German and one in Bulgarian too. Book blogging is a dynamic process and the focus of such places will always be subject to small unplanned changes, but I will keep also in the next year my habit to publish reviews of books that were interesting to me.

As you already know when you follow this blog on a regular basis, my taste in books is rather eclectic. I am definitely not a person who is permanently scanning bestseller lists or is jumping in on discussions about books that were – usually for marketing reasons – the “talk of the town”. Therefore I avoided so far reviewing books by Houellebecq or Knausgård; it is difficult to not be influenced by the public discussion that focuses frequently on aspects that have very little to do with the literary quality of the books by such authors but a lot with their public persona and their sometimes very controversial opinions about certain topics. Not that the books by these authors are necessarily bad, but I prefer to read without too much background noise. So I will come also to these authors, but most probably not in the near future.

My blog tries to be diverse, but without quota. But of course my choice is subjective and I am aware of the fact that probably most readers will find many authors/books on this list that are completely unknown to them. If you look for just another blog that is reviewing again and again the same exclusively Anglo-saxon authors, then this might not be the best place for you. If you are eager to discover something new, then you are most welcome. 

There are no ads on this blog and this will also not change in the future. There is zero financial interest from my side to keep this blog alive, I do it just for fun. Please don’t send unsolicitated review copies if you are an author or a publisher. In rare cases I might accept a review copy when contacted first but only when I have already an interest in the book. All blog posts contain of course my own – sometimes idiosyncratic – opinion for what it is worth. In general I tend to write reviews on the positive side. When a book disappoints me, I tend to not write a review unless there is a strong reason to do otherwise.

These are the books presently on my “To-be-read” pile; which means they are the one’s that i will most probably read and review within the coming months. But as always with such lists, they are permanently subject to changes, additions, removals. Therefore I (and also the readers of this blog) will take this list as an orientation and not as a strict task on which I have to work one by one. 

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Jim al-Khalili: The House of Wisdom

Ryunosunke Akutagawa: Kappa

Rabih Alameddine: The Hakawati

Sinan Antoon: The Corpse Washer

Toufic Youssef Aouad: Le Pain

Abhijit Banerjee / Esther Duflo: Poor Economics

Hoda Barakat: Le Royaume de cette terre

Adolfo Bioy Casares: The Invention of Morel

Max Blecher: Scarred Hearts

Nicolas Born: The Deception

Thomas Brasch: Vor den Vätern sterben die Söhne

Joseph Brodsky: On Grief and Reason

Alina Bronsky: Just Call Me Superhero

Alina Bronsky: The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine

Dino Buzzati: The Tartar Steppe

Leila S. Chudori: Pulang

Beqe Cufaj: projekt@party 

Mahmoud Darwish: Memory of Forgetfulness

Oei Hong Djien: Art & Collecting Art

Dimitre Dinev: Engelszungen (Angel’s Tongues)

Anton Donchev: Time of Parting

Jabbour Douaihy: June Rain

Michael R. Dove: The Banana Tree at the Gate

Jennifer DuBois: A Partial History of Lost Causes

Isabelle Eberhardt: Works

Tristan Egolf: Lord of the Barnyard

Deyan Enev: Circus Bulgaria

Jenny Erpenbeck: The End of Days

Patrick Leigh Fermor: Mani

Milena Michiko Flašar: I called him Necktie

David Fromkin: A Peace to End All Peace

Carlos Fuentes: Terra Nostra

Amitav Ghosh: In an Antique Land

Georg K. Glaser: Geheimnis und Gewalt (Secret and Violence)

Georgi Gospodinov: Natural Novel

Georgi Gospodinov: The Physics of Sorrow

Elizabeth Gowing: Edith and I

David Graeber: The Utopia of Rules

Garth Greenwell: What Belongs to You

Knut Hamsun: Hunger

Ludwig Harig: Die Hortensien der Frau von Roselius

Johann Peter Hebel: Calendar Stories

Christoph Hein: Settlement

Wolfgang Hilbig: The Sleep of the Righteous

Albert Hofmann / Ernst Jünger: LSD

Hans Henny Jahnn: Fluss ohne Ufer (River without Banks) (Part II)

Franz Jung: Der Weg nach unten

Ismail Kadare: Broken April

Ismail Kadare: The Palace of Dreams

Douglas Kammen and Katharine McGregor (Editors): The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia: 1965-1968

Rosen Karamfilov: Kolene (Knees)

Orhan Kemal: The Prisoners

Irmgard Keun: Nach Mitternacht

Georg Klein: Libidissi

Friedrich August Klingemann: Bonaventura’s Nightwatches

Fatos Kongoli: The Loser

Theodor Kramer: Poems

Friedo Lampe: Septembergewitter (Thunderstorm in September)

Clarice Lispector: The Hour of the Star

Naguib Mahfouz: The Cairo Trilogy

Curzio Malaparte: Kaputt

Thomas Mann: Joseph and His Brothers

Sandor Marai: Embers

Sean McMeekin: The Berlin-Baghdad Express

Multatuli: Max Havelaar

Alice Munro: Open Secrets

Marie NDiaye: Three Strong Women

Irene Nemirovsky: Suite française 

Ben Okri: The Famished Road

Laksmi Pamuntjak: The Question of Red

Victor Pelevin: Omon Ra

Georges Perec: Life. A User’s Manual

Leo Perutz: By Night Under the Stone Bridge

Boris Pilnyak: Mahogany

Alek Popov: Black Box

Milen Ruskov: Thrown Into Nature

Boris Savinkov: Memoirs of a Terrorist

Eric Schneider: Zurück nach Java

Daniel Paul Schreber: Memoirs of My Nervous Illness

Carl Seelig: Wandering with Robert Walser

Victor Serge: The Case of Comrade Tulayev

Anthony Shadid: House of Stones

Varlam Shalamov: Kolyma Tales

Raja Shehadeh: A Rift in Time

Alexander Shpatov: #LiveFromSofia

Werner Sonne: Staatsräson?

Andrzej Stasiuk: On the Way to Babadag

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar: The Time Regulation Institute

Pramoedya Ananta Toer: A Mute’s Soliloquy

Pramoedya Ananta Toer: The Buru Quartet (4 vol.)

Lionel Trilling: The Middle of the Journey

Iliya Trojanov: The Collector of Worlds

Bernward Vesper: Die Reise (The Journey)

Robert Walser: Jakob von Gunten

Peter Weiss: The Aesthetics of Resistance

Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence

Marguerite Yourcenar: Coup de Grace

Galina Zlatareva: The Medallion

Arnold Zweig: The Case of Sergeant Grisha

Stay tuned – and feel free to comment any of my blog posts. Your contributions are very much appreciated. You are also invited to subscribe to this blog if you like.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. 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.

The Simple Art of Poetry

I admit it: I have a preference for poems written in a simple, almost sparse language. And that say many things with comparatively few words.

Günter Eich’s Inventur (Inventory) was one of the first examples of this kind of poetry I came across when I was very young.

Inventur


Dies ist meine Mütze,
dies ist mein Mantel,
hier mein Rasierzeug
im Beutel aus Leinen. 

Konservenbüchse:
Mein Teller, mein Becher,
ich hab in das Weißblech
den Namen geritzt. 

Geritzt hier mit diesem
kostbaren Nagel,
den vor begehrlichen
Augen ich berge. 

Im Brotbeutel sind
ein Paar wollene Socken
und einiges, was ich
niemand verrate, 

so dient es als Kissen
nachts meinem Kopf.
Die Pappe hier liegt
zwischen mir und der Erde.

Die Bleistiftmine
lieb ich am meisten:
Tags schreibt sie mir Verse,
die nachts ich erdacht. 

Dies ist mein Notizbuch,
dies meine Zeltbahn,
dies ist mein Handtuch,
dies ist mein Zwirn. 

 

Inventory
 
This is my cap,  
this is my overcoat,  
here is my shave kit  
in its linen pouch.  

Some field rations:  
my dish, my tumbler,  
here in the tin-plate  
I’ve scratched my name.   

Scratched it here with this  
precious nail  
I keep concealed  
from coveting eyes.   

In the bread bag I have  
a pair of wool socks  
and a few things that I  
discuss with no one,  

and these form a pillow  
for my head at night.  
Some cardboard lies  
between me and the ground.   

The pencil’s the thing  
I love the most:  
By day it writes verses  
I make up at night.   

This is my notebook,  
this my rain gear,  
this is my towel,  
this is my twine. 

(Translated by Joshua Mehigan)

Later I discovered many other interesting and beautiful examples of this genre. There are of course too many to quote them all, so I will just present a very few examples here:

Open House

My secrets cry aloud.
I have no need for tongue.
My heart keeps open house,
My doors are widely swung.
An epic of the eyes
My love, with no disguise. 

(Theodore Huebner Roethke a distant relative)

Another one:

Was ich habe, will ich nicht verlieren, aber
wo ich bin, will ich nicht bleiben, aber
die ich liebe, will ich nicht verlassen, aber
die ich kenne, will ich nicht mehr sehen, aber
wo ich lebe, da will ich nicht sterben, aber
wo ich sterbe, da will ich nicht hin:
Bleiben will ich, wo ich nie gewesen bin.

 
What I have, I don’t want to lose, but
where I am, I don’t want to stay, but
the one I love, I don’t want to leave, but
the ones I know, I don’t want to see again, but
where I live, I don’t want to die, but
where I’ll die, I don’t want to go:
I want to stay where I have never been. 

(Thomas Brasch, translated by Thomas Hübner) 

The following poem is already a kind of modern classic:

Was es ist
 
 Es ist Unsinn
sagt die Vernunft
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe
 
Es ist Unglück
sagt die Berechnung
Es ist nichts als Schmerz
sagt die Angst
Es ist aussichtslos
sagt die Einsicht
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe
 
Es ist lächerlich
sagt der Stolz
Es ist leichtsinnig
sagt die Vorsicht
Es ist unmöglich
sagt die Erfahrung
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe
 
What it is
 
It is nonsense
says reason
It is what it is
says love
 
It is misfortune
says calculation
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It is hopeless
says insight
It is what it is
says love
 
It is laughable
says pride
It is frivolous
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says love 

(Erich Fried, translated by Gwilym Williams) 

 And here is a quite famous example:

This is Just to Say
 
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
 
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
 
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold  

(William Carlos Williams) 

The shortest possible form of a poem is of course the haiku. Therefore here some examples from the great master of the haiku genre, Matsuo Basho:

Waking in the night;
The lamp is low,
The oil freezing.
 –
 It has rained enough
To turn the stubble on the field
Black.

 Winter rain
Falls on the cow-shed
A cock crows.

 The leeks
Newly washed white,-
How cold it is!

 The sea darkens;
The voices of the wild ducks
Are faintly white.

Ill on a journey;
My dreams wander
Over a withered moor. 

(translated by Robert Hass)

These are examples by well-known or even famous authors. But frequently lesser-known (but equally gifted) poets produce works that deserve to be noted, read, distributed and recommended. And I don’t want to conclude this short choice of poems without giving the floor to a poet that is probably unknown to most of you. I discovered this author only recently, after a close friend presented me a copy of his newest collection of poetry. I am talking about the Bulgarian poet Vladislav Hristov (born 1976), and his book Fi (Фи). (Thank you, Eli! And thank you, Vladislav Hristov, for the dedication in my copy!).

Hristov is undoubtedly one of the best haiku poets of our times: 

изгонената котка
само тя
видя звездопада
 
cat shooed away
only she saw
the meteor shower 

(Translated by Maya Lyubenova)

Also in his new collection the tone is laconic, sparse, but always evocative:

дясната ръка
държи книгата
лявата
ръката на любимия
всяка нова страница
е раздяла
 
the right hand
holds the book
the left
the hand of the beloved
each new page
is shared

снимането на ангел
е много лесно:
просто кажи обичам те
преди да натиснеш копчето
 
photographing an angel
is very simple:
just say I love you
before you press the button

сънувах тарковски
седнал на пода
в детската ви стая
андрюша какво правиш тук
той мълчи
вцепених се от ужас:
ами ако ме попита
същото
 
I dreamt Tarkovsky
sat on the floor
in your children’s room
andryusha what are you doing here
he was silent
frozen in horror:
what if you asked me
the same 

(Translations by Thomas Hübner)

Vladislav Hristov is an extraordinarily versatile and talented poet/photographer/artist. He writes also interesting short prose, and it would be nice to see more of his works translated and published in other languages.

Ergo Books, his Bulgarian publisher, is to be congratulated for the efforts they are undertaking to promote contemporary Bulgarian poetry. Beside from Vladislav Hristov, they publish also the poetry of Jana Punkina, Miroslav Hristov, Jordanka Beleva, Dimana Ivanova, Palmi Ranchev, Maria Vasileva, Margarit Zhekov, Kamen Kostov, and Ivaylo Ivanov, amongst others.

Fi

 Vladislav Hristov: Fi, Ergo Books, Sofia 2013 (in Bulgarian language)

 

Günter Eich: Abgelegene Gehöfte. Schauer, Frankfurt am Main, 1948 (transl.: Poetry, Apr2009, Vol. 194, Issue 1, p37)

Theodore Roethke: Open House. Knopf, New York, 1941

Thomas Brasch: Die nennen das Schrei. Gesammelte Gedichte. Suhrkamp, Berlin, 2013

Erich Fried: Es ist was es ist. Wagenbach, Berlin 1983 (transl.: http://poet-in-residence.blogspot.com/2009/06/coming-soon-erich-fried.html)

William Carlos Williams: The Collected Poems, Volume I, 1909-1939. New Directions, New York, 1991

Matsuo Basho: Poems, e-book 2004 (http://www.poemhunter.com/i/ebooks/pdf/matsuo_basho_2004_9.pdf)

 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014. 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.