Book-a-Day Challenge Day 20

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Andrei Tarkovsky is probably my all time favorite film director with a very specific cinematic athetic.

Few directors I think have worked so consistently with the same symbols and motives, creating an atmospheric strange ambiguity, that has a mesmerizing effect.

Bird uses an interesting approach to his peruse of Tarkovsky’s interesting techniques, his way of filming and creating his special atmosphere by arranging the films into elemental categories of Water, Fire, Earth and Air.

SolarisIvan’s ChildhoodMirrorNostalgiaAndrei Rublev, and Sacrifice are explored deeply and though the book also considers Tarkovsky’s work in radio, theatre, and opera—as well as his work as an actor, screenwriter, and film theorist—Bird throughout keeps his focus firmly on Tarkovsky as a consummate filmmaker.

The book is interesting but quite academic/dry at times. But is is definitely great fun watching the movie and in parallel reading about it from a theoretical point of view. Definitely a great present for every Tarkovsky fan.

Which is your favorite film director? Do you know Tarkovsky and do you have a favorite movie by him? My favorites are definitely Stalker and Solaris which I have both seen several times now.

 

Book-a-Day-Challenge Day 17

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OK it looks to me as if Sorokin is the illegitimate brainchild of David Lynch, Dostojewski and Shirley Jackson. It all starts idyllic enough with a country doctor named Garin being stuck in a snowstorm in a little village without any horses for his vehicle. He is on his way to a remote village with some medicine for the people there who face an outbreak of a mysterious plague. But things quickly begin to take a completely different turn when Gorin and the naïve coachman Kosma meet dwarfs and giants on their sledge ride (pulled by tiny tiny horses), the plague turns people into Zombies, the radio is showing live pictures, a paste lets felt grow and more weird things are happening.

Sorokin created a fairy tale with some ingredients of a high tech science fiction world. He shows a grotesque imaginary Russia on the brink of times. An optimistic and at the same time highly disturbing book which I tremendously enjoyed.

“Vodka after tea keeps the soul frost-free!” 

Highly recommended and an especially great read if you are sitting on the train and there is a bit of a snow storm outside.

Have you read anything by Sorokin? What else could you recommend?

Check out Daphne du Maurier’s “Ein Tropfen Zeit“ which has an equally weird atmosphere and of course the master of the new weird genre Jeff Vandermeer with his Area X trilogy.

Book-a-Day x-mas Challenge

It’s this time of the year again and I’m introducing a book a day that caught my interest. You will find old and new, obscure and mainstream titles next to each other so hopefully an interesting mix.

I would like to start today with a book I had picked from the shelves for the wonderful #autorinnenschuber and got sucked into it before I could place it back on the shelf.

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Mind you, this is no comfy feelgood literature. This book is hard, it hurts and it is one of the most painful description of the horrors of WW2 that I ever read.

Agota Kristof (1935-2011) was a Hungarian author who lived Switzerland, and the wrote in french. Das große Heft (The Notebook in english) is the first volume of a trilogy. It quite difficult to describe the ambiance of this weird and chilling story. I have read a lot of books on WW2, but can’t think of many that that made such a strong emotional impression on me.  It paints the impact of war on the people enduring its horrors in cold and dark pictures.

The story is told in the first person plural by twins named Claus and Lucas, who were taken by their mother from the city to the countryside where they should stay with their grandmother until the war is over. This granny is not a warm and welcoming spirit, she is quite mean and unwelcoming and in response to their harsh environment at home and with the war outside, the both numb themselves. They practice surpressing their emotions and harden themselves in physical excercises.

They response to life and its uncertainties in a pragmatic and often amoral way, taken advantage of any situation that promises them a benefit. But there are also moments of altruism that come about very unexpectedly when they help others even less fortunately in life than themselves.

 The book ends in a very unexpected way and left me pretty speechless.

I rarely encountered a book as terrifying, numbing and painful as this one. It has immense emotional power which is only increased by the minimalistic language and will haunt you for a long time. I highly recommend this slender book even though it is a tough read.

Combine Agota Kristof’s „The Notebook“ with Ilse Aichinger’s „Die größere Hoffnung“ and Anna Funder’s „All that I am/Alles was ich bin„.

I’m looking forward to seeing you back here tomorrow where I promise it will be a little more light-hearted.

Do you know the book? What was your impression and did you read the rest of the trilogy?

„Das große Heft“ was published in Piper Verlag.

Prag by the Book

Nach der Buchmesse in Leipzig verschlug es mich direkt im Anschluss auf eine Konferenz nach Prag. Meine Teilnahme an einer Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema „Women in Telco“ war der Hauptgrund dieser Reise, die Diskusison war leider ziemlich schwach, aus verschiedensten Gründen. Immerhin ergab sich noch ein sehr interessantes Abendessen mit einer der Teilnehmerinnen.

Da es im Anschluss nach Berlin zur „New Work Experience“ gehen sollte, genehmigte ich mir einen Tag Urlaub dazwischen, denn das Hin- und Her wäre ziemlich unsinnig. Den Tag nutzte ich dann ausgiebig um Prag zu entdecken und natürlich bin ich nicht ohne Kafka im Gepäck verreist.

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Die Stadt zeigte sich von seiner sonnigsten Seite. Bier war tatsächlich allgegenwärtig und das tschechische Bier ist meines Erachtens tatsächlich eines der besten der Welt. Kein Wunder, dass die Tschechen mehr Bier pro Kopf pro Jahr trinken, als jede andere Nation. Ich mochte insbesondere das Staropramen, die fleischlastige tschechische Küche fand ich allerdings heftig. Als Vegetarier biste da innerhalb von ein paar Tagen tot glaube ich 😉

Ich habe unglaublich freundliche Menschen getroffen, der Satz „I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers“ hat sich hier absolut bewahrheitet, ich fühlte mich enorm sicher in Prag und bin zum Glück auch vor Taschendieben verschont geblieben, vor denen mich etliche Menschen gewarnt hatten.

Kafkas „Schloss“ war die perfekte Reiselektüre für diesen Trip und ich kann das kleine Kafka-Museum in der Cihelna sehr empfehlen. Dunkel und atmosphärisch schafft es die Ausstellung die verschwimmenden Grenzen zwischen Realität und Kafkas Werken zu beleuchten. Mir gefiel es sehr, war aber auch froh im Anschluss wieder in der Sonne zu sein, man fühlte sich schon recht beklommen da drin.

Prag ist in 10 Distrikte aufgeteilt, die über drei Metro-Linien und ein sagenhaft effizientes Tram-System miteinander verbunden sind. Das jüdische Viertel „Josephstadt“ ist eines der spannendsten Ecken der Stadt mit seinem alten jüdischen Friedhof, dem Golem-Museum und den Synagogen.

Natürlich kann man auch nicht wirklich in Prag gewesen sein ohne über die weltberühmte 0,5km lange Karlsbrücke gelaufen zu sein, mit den 16 Heiligenfiguren. Die Brücke ist im Dunkeln oder im Nebel am mysteriösesten und schönsten finde ich.

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Ich freue mich schon auf meinen nächsten Besuch. Auch literarisch gibt es noch eine Menge zu entdecken neben Kafka und Kundera. Welche Reiselektüre hättet ihr eingepackt?

 Ahoi Prag – Ahoi Kafka ! Zatím!