Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Back Reviews Reel: March 2016

This month three years ago, it was the turn of the letters E, F, U and V in my double alphabet of writers. I started with the fictionalised memoir A Man’s Place by Annie Ernaux that evokes the author’s father raising her in a small town in post-war Normandy, France. Then I moved on to Germany with the comical novel Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes about Adolf Hitler who one day miraculously regains consciousness in present-day Berlin instead of on the sofa in his Führerbunker beside his newly-wed wife Eva in 1945 as he last remembers. Another fictionalised childhood, this time from New Zealand, is at the centre of the 1957 autobiographical satire Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame. My final read of March 2016 was the classical collection Abel Sanchez and Other Stories by Miguel de Unamuno containing three tales revolving each around a protagonist caught in suffering.

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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/03/mans-place-by-annie-ernaux.html
Written more than ten years after the death of the author’s father, A Man’s Place by Annie Ernaux is her literary tribute to him and to their relationship. The story traces his life from the moment when he was born into the poor family of an illiterate farm labourer and a home weaver in rural Normandy. Having left school early, he seems doomed to a life without perspective like his ancestors, but military service opens up to him the opportunity for social rise. He works in a factory and he starts a family. Together with his wife he sets up a café-grocery shop in a small town, but strangely he keeps feeling inferior and out of place. As hoped, his daughter climbs even higher in society, but as a result they become increasingly estranged. Then he dies…
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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/03/look-whos-back-by-timur-vermes.html
The controversial novel Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes explores in a satirical way if Adolf Hitler or someone like him could rise to power again in present-day Germany. For this purpose, the author makes the original dictator enter a time warp from his suicide in the Führerbunker to Berlin in 2011. Taking him for a gifted comedian living his role in daily life, the owner of the kiosk where Hitler first realises that sixty-six years have passed decides to help the obviously jobless and homeless stranger to start a career in the entertainment business. Thus Hitler has his first appearance in a popular TV comedy show giving a through and through fascist speech in the old style. People love the funny Hitler impersonator not seeing that he intends to get back to power…
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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/03/owls-do-cry-by-janet-frame.html
The setting of Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame is New Zealand after World War II. Daphne is the second of four siblings in a working-class family constantly struggling to make ends meet. Their favourite playing ground is the rubbish dump nearby where they dig up all kinds of “treasures” and where fate takes a horrible turn the day when thirteen-year-old Francie accompanies her siblings there one last time before starting as domestic help. In a moment of inattention Francie stumbles into death which pushes Daphne into the role of eldest sister and primary care giver for her epileptic younger brother Toby and for her youngest sister Chick. Daphne begins to take refuge in an imaginary world of her own ever more often until years later her family has to take her to a mental hospital…
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http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com/2016/03/abel-sanchez-and-other-stories-by-miguel-de-unamuno.html
Three tales first published between 1904 and 1931 combine to the volume Abel Sanchez and Other Stories by Miguel de Unamuno. In each story the literary philosopher and precursor of the existentialist movement in Europe, who felt somehow torn between religion and reason, presents a protagonist in great suffering. The modern version of the biblical story of Cain and Abel from the title focuses on a man whose whole existence is overshadowed by the life-long envy of his best friend. Then there’s the gifted physician who wants to be accepted as a writer, too, but realises that his extremely imaginative stories drive away his patients and glides into madness. And the Catholic priest who outwardly lives the sacrificing life of a saint is inwardly torn because he has long lost faith.
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