Wednesday, March 23, 2011

reads: Alain de Botton, Imre Kertész, Joe Bauer, Herta Müller, Christa Wolf (or: paper timelines)

i hadn't planned it, but the books and essays i am reading these days are mainly non-fiction. (which is a little odd, this definition by negation.) a better approach to group them might be: they are all about history and timelines.

the books, or: How Proust (and time) Can Change Your Life
there is Alain de Botton, who reflects on Proust, and the lessons we can draw from his life. Botton's book is from 1979 - while Marcel Proust lived from 1871-1922 (Proust/wiki), with his best known work being the novel-in-7-parts: "In Search of Lost Time" / "À la recherche du temps perdu".

time is also the theme of the other book i am reading. it's "Dossier" by Imre Kertész, who was born a couple of years after Proust died, in 1929. Kertész is a Hungarian Jewish author, a Holocaust concentration camp survivor, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002 "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history". (Kertész/wiki). in "Dossier", he reflects his life and his writing in a dialogue with himself.

and in between them, i read Joe Bauer - he is essayist for one of the regional newspapers here in the South of Germay, and in 2009, his essays turned into a collection that covers tram rides and city walks, but also reaches back to the time of the RAF - and further back, to the third Reich, with "Die Chemie der Erinnerung" - "The Chemistry of Remembering". the essay is about an art project that remembers the deportation of Stuttgart jews from the northern railway station - which turned into an abandoned area in the city later. a photographer focused on the area in 2004, and tried to find clues of the time. he took pictures, and then put a set of the railway images in the ground for weeks. the images were transformed by the elements in the ground. (some are online, here: Spurensuche)

connected essays (and the dilemma of our society) 
and more timelines and traces of the past: the national "Zeit" (Time") newspaper celebrated its 65th anniversary with a "best of" journal, with essays from authors. included: Christa Wolf - probably one of the most influential and known writers from the former East Germany. she was born in 1929, like Kertész. (Wolf/wiki). in 1965, she protested against the censorship of writers at the national literary meeting - and wrote about that moment in 2009. Wolf also wrote a novel after Tschernobyl, "Störfall" - and now was interviewed about Fukushima. Unafraid of challenging statements, she stated a thought that made me keep the page:
"Je bequemer wir leben, auch durch die massenhafte Herstellung zum Teil überflüssiger Industriewaren, desto näher kommen wir einer Zerstörung unserer Welt. Wir müssen das Dilemma unserer Gesellschaft endlich diskutieren." -
"The more comfortable we live, also based on the mass production of partly unneeded industrial goods, the closer we move towards the destruction of our world. We finally need to discuss the dilemma of our society."  (link)

also included in the journal: Herta Müller, born in 1953 in Romania, now living in Germany, and still processing the life under a totalitarian regime. i wrote about her recently (Everything I Possess), and it was moving to read an essay Müller wrote back in 1986 when she was under watch, and wasn't allowed to travel anywhere. here are some lines from it:
"Wenn ich mich tragen könnte
Und wenn ich reden könnte, flüstern, sagen, schrein. Was würde sich, wenn ich mich tragen könnte, unterm Knöchel ändern und nicht noch einmal derselbe Schuh für meinen Körper sein." -

"If I could carry myself
And if I could talk, whisper, say, scream. What would, if I could carry myself, change beyond the ankle, and not again be the same shoe for my body."

time needs time
reading those books and essays also makes me think that time needs time. that some things need years to reach the surface. and that pages are one way to let them take shape.


Anonymous said...

Your How Proust Can Change Your Life has the same cover as mine (did). I think it is no longer in any box anywhere. :)

Dorothee Lang said...

hi Rose! thanks again for suggesting Botton's Proust. really enjoying the read. i ordered it second-hand, btw - maybe it once was yours.

Anonymous said...

If it was mine, it probably has passages marked, in pencil. :)