There will be a Thomas Mann Magic Mountain post on here any day soon, but meanwhile there is nothing like an armchair visit to Mitteleuropa whilst sitting waiting for the Polar Vortex to arrive. It only took that reading of A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor to set the bookish train in motion because as I journeyed with Patrick, books various flitted in and out of my mind. Some were prompted by his mention of the author, others by the place or the circumstance, and I have spent a pleasurable hour or so wandering around my shelves and digging around in the blog archives.
I still have no intention of reading Proust (though please do continue with your persuasive reasons as to why I should, never say never etc) but I came across a couple of books about him that survived the cull but have been gathering dust.
Proust's Overcoat - The True Story of One Man's Passion For All Things Proust by Lorenza Foschini comes with a high five puff from Linda Grant " A riveting story...A peach of a book.'
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret, the reminisces of his housekeeper by the woman who it was said by Proust knew everything about him.
It is a long time since I read Embers by Sandor Marai and Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb but I remember them both as exceptional books. I've written about Esther's Inheritance also by Sandor Marai here.
No reading journey to Mitteleuropa is complete without Joseph Roth. The Radetzky Bridge gleaned a mention from Patrick so The Radetzky March makes it onto the pile. Looking back I see I have had Roth-mania more often than I had realised...Rebellion, Job, Flight Without End, Hotel Savoy, The Wandering Jews all victims of early posts on here.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, walking across Europe in 1933, had no idea what was to come but as I read I felt a real sense of foreboding, especially in Vienna, and reached for another book of the sui generis category, The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. I had the privilege to talk with Edmund about this book at Port Eliot Festival many moons ago and the emotion of that event will never leave me, nor his five star assessment of an early piece of my pottery oeuvre (bless him for being so nice).
Anything by Irene Nemirovsky fits the remit perfectly because, though Patrick Leigh Fermor is largely unaware of it, the diaspora is beginning in the far reaches of Europe, exile is becoming a reality for many, and I think Irene captures the essence of it in so many of her books. I've read all those in translation now, so I'll just have to start over until more arrive, my thoughts on most of them are gathered together here
Irmgard Keun drifted onto my reading radar when I started to explore the authors whose books were banned and The Artificial Silk Girl is a real favourite. Doris, a young German woman, finds herself out of her depth in 1930's Germany and her plight is deeply compelling...
'I constantly find myself in situations where I don't know something and I have to pretend.'
I have a beautiful little hardback edition of Kathie von Ankum's translation and I treasure it, whilst Child of All Nations was another excellent read.
I clearly remember an intense Mitteleuropa reading phase when Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schniztler and Jaroslav Hasek all had an outing so it has been good to pick them up again and feel an affinity with A Time of Gifts because they all get a mention.
And of course I am sure you will all have lots of other suggestions...over to you...
And stay warm everyone.