Allegedly Because of Snow – Angeblich wegen Schnee (2013) A Winter Book edited by Babette Schaefer

Angeblich wegen Schnee

Consider this as a hybrid post for German Literature Month as two-thirds of the book include texts from other countries but it’s such an excellent book that I had to write about it now.

I found this snowy anthology in the bookshop recently and don’t think I’ve ever finished a collection of short stories this quickly. Anthologies are always a gamble and often at least half of the texts included don’t work for me. I think in this case there was maybe one story I didn’t like, everything else was either good or excellent.

If you are familiar with German anthologies you might now that they will consist of more than just German authors. This one is no exception. Of the 18 texts, stories and poems included, 11 are written by German writing authors, the others are from different other countries.

I’ll start with the German writing authors first.

Judith Zander – Germany. Zander is a poet. Her poem isn’t easily accessible but interesting. She has a way with words, combines metaphor and creates new words. She has not been translated so far.

Christopher Kloeble – Germany. Very interesting story of someone who takes revenge on a rapist. He hasn’t been translated yet.

Alex Capus – Switzerland. Several of Capus’ novels have been translated. Léon and Louise – A Matter of Time – Almost Like Spring. He is not an author who has tempted me so far. This story is rooted in the 60s. The narrator looks back on his childhood. An older self speaks to the younger person who goes through feelings of shame and inadequacy. The style was too unadorned for me, but I could imagine that would work well for others.

Arno Geiger – Austria. Geiger always receives a lot of positive feedback and prizes for his novels. One of which We Are Doing Fine has been translated. This anthology contains a chapter taken from the novel Anna nicht vergessen – Don’t forget Anna) and it’s told from the point of view of an obsessive compulsive stalker. Chilling.

Antje Rávic Strubel – Germany. Rávic Strubel is one of the younger authors of the anthology. She was born in the former GDR. The story in this anthology shows a writer with a powerful voice and a knack for quirky stories rooted in the hip culture of modern-day Germany.

Mascha Kaléko – Germany. Kaléko was a very famous Jewish-German poet, one whose trademark it was to write about the working life of typists, life in a big city, and small, mundane things. She was one of those who left Germany early. She emigrated to the US in 1938. It seems her work hasn’t been translated, which is a shame as the poems are like very short stories, evocative and beautiful.

Peter Schwiefert – Germany. I hadn’t heard of Peter Schwiefert before but the letter included in this anthology, which has been taken from the collection edited by his sister Angelika Schrobsdorff was quite a discovery. It’s a letter to his mother Elke who has been portrayed by Angelika in the book You Are Not Like Other Mothers. Peter Schwiefert died fighting for the Allies in France, in 1940. From Angelikas’ biography of her mother it is known that she was an amazing woman. Very free for her time. The tone of the letter of her son shows an intimate and very loving relationship. I’ll certainly read Angelika’s book and the collection of Peter’s letters to his mother.

Ingo Schulze – Germany. Schulze was born in the former GDR. Since his first publications Simple Stories and 33 Moments of Happiness (both available in English) he is one of the most important German authors. The text included here is taken from Orangen und Engle (Oranges and Angels) – sketches from Italy. I loved this so much, it put me in the mood to read everything he’s written. It’s an autobiographical story, set in Italy where Schulze spent some time. His most striking talent is to paint with words and to capture another culture, other cities with a few words but at the same time, he gives us an intimate view of a writer’s life.

Siegfried Lenz – Germany. Lenz is one of the German classics. Many of his books like The German Lesson – A Minute of Silence – Stella and many more have been translated. The story in the anthology is taken from a collection of short stories. It’s about ice fishing. Not much of a story but written in masterful style.

Peter Handke – Austria. Handke is a modern classic of Austrian literature and widely translated (The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – Short Letter, Long Farewell – Slow Homecoming). I reviewed his A Sorrow Beyond Dreams here Like Grass he’s not as much liked in Germany or Austria anymore due to problematic political statements. As a writer he’s highly acclaimed. He’s not one of the most accessible but praised for his unique style. The text here is a short part taken from a novel. It’s the only contribution in the book that didn’t do much for me. It was well written but taken out of context it felt odd.

Thomas Glavinic – Austria. Glavinic is an interesting author and I’ve been meaning to read him for a while. The piece in this book was taken from a novel and while I didn’t really see where the novel as a whole would go, it made me curious to read more of him and I could see why critics and readers alike are drawn to his writing. These are some of the titles available in English The Camera Killer – Night Work – Pull Yourself Together. I’d like to read The Camera Killer, story of a double murder of which is said “ it is a disturbing game planned and executed with disturbing perfection.”

The other authors

Graham Swift -UK. I don’t think I need to introduce Graham Swift. The excerpt was taken from the novel Wish You Were Here. It didn’t really work as a standalone, but made me curious to read the book. I’ve read Swift before and liked him quite a bit.

Muriel Barbery – France. The anthology includes a chapter from her novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I’ve got it here and am pretty sure I’ll read it soon. It was one of the best contributions in this book. Dense, multilayered, original.

Mikko Rimminen – Finland. Rimminen was another new to me author. The text included was fast-paced and action-driven. It’s been taken from one of his novels. He’s been translated into Italian, French, German but not English so far.

David Guterson – US. I never felt like reading Snow Falling on Cedars but the excerpt in this anthology put me in the mood. I can see why some people may think he overdid it with the descriptions but I loved it.

Gyula Krúdy – Hungary. I’ve been meaning to read Hungarian author Krúdy for years now and keep on collecting his books. The short story here is a wonderful end-of the-year story full of melancholia and nostalgia. Of all the stories in the book I’d say this and the piece by Polish writer Wlodzimierz Odojewski were the most emotional and amazing regarding style. Krúdy’s work has been translated. Life is a DreamSunflower

Fan Wu – China/US.  Fan Wu is the author of February Flowers a novel I’d love to read since the story included in the anthology was one of the best. She was born in China and writes in English and Chinese. The story included here is a psychological portrait, rooted in a Chinese setting. Really appealing. Most of her stories are available in English in magazines like Granta, The Missouri Review  . . .

Wlodzimierz Odojewski -PolandThe biggest discovery was this new to me Polish author. His story takes place in an apartment at night, in winter. Young Marek and his older cousin Karola stay behind when thier parents go to church. The darkness invades the place and Marek feels a happiness like never before. The story is rich in atmosphere and relates memories of a childhood during war. The war is not very present, there are just hints here and there. Odojewski has been translated into several languages but not English. I’ve ordered one of his novellas and am really looking forward to start it.

Do you know any of these authors?

Songs of Love & Death edited by George R.R.Martin and Gardner Dozois

Songs of Love and Death

It took me over a year to finish this anthology. No wonder, Songs of Love & Death is quite chunky, over 600 pages. The individual stories are all rather long, around 50 pages each. The subtitle of the book is All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love which is not entirely accurate as most stories have a happy ending.

While I didn’t like all of the stories equally, I liked that there were so many different genres or rather sub genres of fantasy and romance. Historical Romance, Sci-fi Romance, Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy. Most of the authors were new to me but there were also people like Neil Gaiman, Peter S. Beagle, Lisa Tuttle and Tanith Lee.

Many people bought this anthology for Diana Gabaldon’s story A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows. It’s a tale set in her Outlander series with characters who are important in the series or rather back story of some characters. I can’t say I liked it much. It’s the story of an RAF pilot on a mission to Poland. His plane crashes and he somehow lands in another time. He tries hard to get back to his wife and young son. I suppose that when you are familiar with the series that it’s an interesting story but when you are not it’s not very gripping.

That’s a problem of some of the other stories too. Many of the authors write series and the stories are set in those worlds. Reading just one small story about those worlds can be a bit confusing. Fortunately most writers submitted an original standalone story.

Each story comes with an introduction, naming the author’s genre and most important work. It’s certainly the first time that I have read sci-fi romance. It wasn’t my cup of tea but quite interesting.

These were my favourite stories:

Jim Butcher’s Love Hurts tells a tale of love sickness with an interesting twist.

Carrie Vaughn’s Rooftops is nothing special as story but the voice is charming and made me buy the first in her Kitty Norville series.

M.L.N. Hanover Hurt Me is a horror story dealing with abusive relationships. Really good.

Robin Hobb’s Blue Boots was just a very lovely love story set in pre-industrial England.

Neil Gaiman’s The Thing About Cassandra is typical Gaiman. So original. A story with a really stunning twist that shows that you have to be careful when you make things up.

Lisa Tuttle’s His Wolf was my favourite. It’s some sort of werewolf story but including a real wolf. The story as such is so realistic, the characters so well drawn, one forgets easily that it’s fantasy.

Peter S. Beagle’s Kaskia is a sic-fi story. Very eerie. Has the computer come alive or what is going on here?

Yasmine Galenorn is another writer I didn’t know. Her Man in the Mirror is a very unusual ghost/horror story of a man trapped between the worlds. It has a bittersweet ending.

I was quite disappointed in Tanith Lee’s story Under/Above the Water, and didn’t really understand Marjorie M. Liu’s dystopian vampire story After the Blood. Too bad, both stories are very well written.

With the exception of a few stories the anthology is much more romance than dark fantasy. If that is your thing, don’t miss it. But even if you prefer Dark Fantasy and Fantasy you will still find at least half a dozen really great stories. I guess what I liked most and what made this overall a really enjoyable experience was to discover so many new subgenres. That was really fun. A bit like eating a box of Quality Street.

Delia has reviewed this a while back here.

A warning for the George R.R.Martin fans – he is only the editor, he didn’t contribute to the collection.

Jenny Erpenbeck, Clemens Meyer and Berlin City-Lit Giveaway -The Winners

It’s finally Sunday again and here are our three lucky winners drawn by random.org list generator.

The winner of Clemens Meyer’s short story collection All the Lights, courtesy of And Other Stories, is

Rise from in in lieu of a field guide

Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation which we give away courtesy of Portobello Books has been won by

neer from A Hot Cup of Pleasure 

City-Lit Berlin, a contribution from Oxygen Books goes to

John (I think your site isn’t up and running yet?)

Happy reading, Rise, neer and John!

Please send me your contact details via beautyisasleepingcat at gmail dot com.

The giveaways are part of Lizzy and my German Literature Month in November.

The next giveaway will take place on Wednesday 26 October.

Btw. Those who won can participate again. 🙂

Wednesdays are wunderbar – Jenny Erpenbeck, Clemens Meyer and Berlin City-Lit Giveaway

Today we have a double giveaway. One on Lizzy‘s blog (that will be posted around 18.00 UK time) and the other one here. The giveaways are part of our German Literature Month in November.

Lizzy is giving away Pereine titles  (Next World Novella, Portrait of The Mother as A Young Woman and Maybe This Time) and two copies of Berlin City-Lit (see below). Her giveaway is UK only.

I’m very happy to be able to offer you three great book choices.

The first is Clemens Meyer’s short story collection All the Lights, courtesy of And Other Stories. Meyer started as a very young author and since he has entered the literary scene he has received a lot of praise.

Fifteen stories, laconic yet full of longing, from the young star of German fiction.’ GQ ‘The best crafted, toughest and most heart-rending stories in Germany.’ Spiegel ‘Respect to him. He’s the real deal.”

A man bets all he has on a horserace to pay for an expensive operation for his dog. A young refugee wants to box her way straight off the boat to the top of the sport. Old friends talk all night after meeting up by chance. She imagines their future together…Stories about people who have lost out in life and in love, and about their hopes for one really big win, the chance to make something of their lives. In silent apartments, desolate warehouses, prisons and down by the river, Meyer strikes the tone of our harsh times, and finds the grace notes, the bright lights shining in the dark.

The second book is Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation which we give away courtesy of Portobello Books. I’m sure you have seen the one or the other review of this book. It was a huge success in Germany and is now equally appreciated everywhere else.

`This haunting novel beautifully dramatises how ordinary lives are affected by history’

By the side of a lake in Brandenburg, a young architect builds the house of his dreams – a summerhouse with wrought-iron balconies, stained-glass windows the color of jewels, and a bedroom with a hidden closet, all set within a beautiful garden. But the land on which he builds has a dark history of violence that began with the drowning of a young woman in the grip of madness and that grows darker still over the course of the century: the Jewish neighbors disappear one by one; the Red Army requisitions the house, burning the furniture and trampling the garden; a young East German attempts to swim his way to freedom in the West; a couple return from brutal exile in Siberia and leave the house to their granddaughter, who is forced to relinquish her claim upon it and sell to new owners intent upon demolition. Reaching far into the past, and recovering what was lost and what was buried, Jenny Erpenbeck tells an exquisitely crafted, stealthily chilling story of a house and its inhabitants, and a country and its ghosts.

The third book is a contribution from Oxygen Books. You can win a copy of City-Lit Berlin. An anthology of stories set in Berlin. There are a lot of interesting authors included. Many German ones but also others.

If you would like to win one of those books, or enter for more than one, please let me know which ones you would like. Ideally you would read and review the book that you win.

Don’t forget to visit Lizzy’s Literary Life if you are located in the UK. She will post this evening (18.00 UK time).

The giveaway is open internationally, the books will be shipped by the editors. The winners will be announced on Sunday 23 October 20.00 – European – (Zürich) time.