Jul 262014

No idea whether you’re interested, but here’s some more about my reading habits.

Like I said, most of what I read is in English. Once I had the ambition to learn Spanish, in order to read Mario Vargas Llosa or Gabriel García Márquez, but, well, life is short and you can only learn so much. I had to use the pretty good German translations, and the same thing was true for Albert Camus, Andrzej Szczypiorski or Italo Calvino, to name just a few.

I do happen to read and write English well enough to be able to enjoy English literature though, and therefore, whenever I am able to read the original version of a book, of course I do it.

I got back to German literature (Austrian even) last fall with my second (and equally unsuccessful) attempt at Robert Musil’s “Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften”, I’ve read the whole Kafka a few years ago, and I deeply enjoyed Stefan Zweig‘s “Die Welt von Gestern” this winter.

After that I read a lot of dystopian Science Fiction. “The Hunger Games”, “Lockstep” by Karl Schroeder, “Daemon” and “FreedomTM” by Daniel Suarez, they all paint a future of a world sliding into totalitarianism, and although Suarez offers an entirely satisfying solution (at least to this computer programmer), it is sometimes naively optimistic and depends on the unlikely chance of a dying genius spending his last years solving the problems of a future he won’t even see. Basically it is the techno equivalent of divine intervention. Still, it’s satisfying 🙂

But after all that and in the light (or shade) of recent events, I just needed something more optimistic. Stefan Zweig’s “Sternstunden der Menschheit” was a wonderful book and I can’t even begin to describe how greatly I enjoyed for instance the chapter about Haendel’s “Messiah”. I followed up with Sten Nadolny’s “Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit“, a beautiful fictional biography about the British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, a book that I’ve promised myself to read for 34 years and that suddenly got back in focus when its author turned seventy – a man whom I remember being younger than I am now, when I heard him read in 1980 at the competition for the yearly Ingeborg Bachmann Prize.

I have quite a few English books on my virtual shelves, but after finishing Nadolny’s masterwork, I wanted to read at least one more German book. The author of “Hundert Tage”, Lukas Bärfuss, is certainly not widely known, especially as most of his works are in drama. He did write three novels though, and for his last one he earned a prize in 2013. I don’t remember what prize, I just found him because I was searching the Wikipedia page “2013 in Literature” for people unknown to me who earned a prize – just as Nadolny had in 1980.

I know, it’s a strange way to find literature, but is it so very different from reading what your newspaper recommends? Try it one time, you may be in for one or the other surprise.

The Song of the Day, unrelated again, is Cab Calloway’s “Lonesome Nights”, a song that’s at least a good match for our lone bicycle. Hear it on YouTube.

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