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Old 06-05-2017   #51
xylokopos
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?



I read Gotthelf's novella in two sittings.

I am not sure when I first heard of it; it is entirely possible that I learned of the existence of this author from Bolaño - he mentions the Swiss pastor Bitzius [ Gotthelf's real name] in 2666. I have been meaning to read it ever since I read Chessex, who wrote very bleakly about Swiss Calvinists and their obsession with Sin and Retribution.

The Black Spider is the story of a curse; or rather, of a deal with the devil gone wrong. After a christening in an idyllic Bernese village, an old man is asked about a blackened window post in his house. He recounts a story that took place in the Middle Ages, when the villagers were serfs to the Teutonic knights, who ruled from their castle on the hill. In order to comply to their master's cruel demands, they entered into a bargain with the devil, who in turn demanded an unbaptized child as payment. When the villagers reneged on their promise, terrible satanic vengeance was visited upon them.

It is a beautifully written book - pastoral beauty frames the horror of the tale. It is a folk tale or a morality play or a pastor's terrifying sermon against indulgence and moral decline. It is also properly shocking and revolting and bound to induce arachnophobia to the reader.

Highly recommended.


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Old 06-28-2017   #52
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?

I am halfway through Georg Heym's The Thief and Other Stories and I shall be the third one in this thread to recommend that collection without the slightest reservation. His language has a magnificent expressive fluidity and if you are like me, you will appreciate his interspersing biblical quotation or allusion among violent, natural imagery.

Heym died at 24.


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Old 06-28-2017   #53
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?

Quote Originally Posted by xylokopos View Post
I am halfway through Georg Heym's The Thief and Other Stories and I shall be the third one in this thread to recommend that collection without the slightest reservation. His language has a magnificent expressive fluidity and if you are like me, you will appreciate his interspersing biblical quotation or allusion among violent, natural imagery.

Heym died at 24.

I enjoyed The Lunatic very much.Such a fascinating depiction of Peter Kurten.

They were watching, out there past men's knowing, where stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.”
― Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West
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Old 07-05-2017   #54
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?

Quote Originally Posted by Vice View Post
Such a fascinating depiction of Peter Kurten
An intriguing notion! But do the dates fit? Or is it the opposite, life imitating art? The story was published just before Heym died, in 1911, if I am not mistaken. Had Kurten committed any serious crimes that had already come to light by that time? His litany of perverse aggressions was revealed in his trial before his execution, around twenty years later. I think Lang's M, which was released that year (1931), was loosely based on Kurten. In any case, whichever way inspiration went, what an extraordinary and evil synergy!

I read the last couple of stories on the train back from work today. Jonathan and The Ship were relentlessly depressing. I think the last author I read that had such an unyielding and hopeless vision for his protagonists was Hedayat.

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Old 07-05-2017   #55
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?

Indeed M is loosely based on some details regarding the modus operandi of Peter Kurten...Peter Lorre plays a fantastic role.

There is also the short story Singing Blood by Reggie Oliver from the Delicate Toxins anthology that brings back some memories

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Old 07-06-2017   #56
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?

Not sure if anyone else on the Ligotti site has mentioned The Nightwatches of Bonaventura, published anonymously in German in 1804. If a weirder novel was published before this date I'd like to know about it (it's even stranger than Potocki's Saragossa Manuscript).

From the University of Chicago Press blurb:

"The Nightwatches of Bonaventura is a dark, twisted, and comic novel, one part Poe and one part Beckett. The narrator and antihero is ... a nightwatchman named Kreuzgang, a failed poet, actor and puppeteer who claims to be the spawn of the devil himself. As a nightwatchman, Kreuzgang takes voyeuristic pleasure in spying on the follies of his fellow citizens, and every night he makes his rounds and stops to peer into a window or door, where he observes framed scenes of murder, despair, theft, romance... For him, life is a grotesque, macabre, and base joke played by a mechanical, heartless force."

Add to that a gothic atmosphere and a poetic rhetoric that anticipates Lautréamont. A book that deserves to be much better known than it currently is.
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Old 10-24-2017   #57
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?




I am not sure that a review of Krzhizhanovsky's Autobiography of a Corpse belongs here; he was a Soviet citizen, living in Moscow and writing in Russian. Then again, he was born in the Ukraine to Polish parents and therefore was at least East European in origin. And as every schoolboy knows, Eastern Europe borders Central Europe thus rendering Krzhizhanovsky a relatively viable candidate for inclusion in this thread.

Autobiography of a Corpse was not published during the author's lifetime. It is hard to classify. The best I can do is the following:

This book is a strange mix of absurdist social satire, psychogeography, and philosophical parable. It references philosophers, social theories, scientific experiments and literary movements constantly; it features Leibniz as the Inventor of Optimism, a machine that turns human resentment into an energy source, a man who collects cracks, another man whose goal in life is to bite his own elbow, and a long sequence of manic perambulators that criss cross Moscow; it introduces talking toads from the rivers of the underworld and human reflections living inside other people's eyes.

Since the stories take place in Moscow in the aftermath of the October Revolution and the Russian Civil war, they do survey a Moscow that is overcrowded, energized, filled with war orphans sleeping inside cement trucks for warmth, writers, censors and bureaucrats engaged in silent warfare and post-Revolutionary fervor that razes ancient churches to the ground. But there is no Socialist Realism here and too many ambivalent allusions to slogans, crowds marching and governmental policies. It is therefore not a big surprise that these stories were not accepted for publication.

Krzhizhanovsky is obsessed with notions of personhood and identity. The "I" is usually italicized and further qualified in his stories, which are mostly written in the first person. Notions of the average person or the use of "person" in statistics, abound. There is a hilarious reflection on population density: the narrator is terrified by the statement regarding an area having "0.6 people per square mile" since as a child he takes it literally. In another story, Ises and Nots are presented like characters. Fissures in time are investigated and the dichotomy between the transcendent and the immanent is given a magnificent treatment in the story that concludes this collection, called Postmark: Moscow.

This is a great short story collection and I absolutely recommend it. If you are like me, mostly reading on the train to and from work, you experience the added pleasure of seeing people trying to mentally pronounce Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky when they glance at the cover.

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Old 10-24-2017   #58
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Re: What other central european authors do you read?

I think earlier in the thread I mentioned having Hugo von Hofmannsthal on my shelves.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/...Chandos_Letter

Since then, I've actually read the book. It is well worth it, especially for the title story. I think it was almost exactly a year ago now that I read it. There's a real sense of existential mystery to the stories.

"Irreverence is a greater oaf than Superstition" - W.H. Auden
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