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review 2018-07-19 15:46
Podcast #112 is up!
The Sinews of Habsburg Power: Lower Austria in a Fiscal-Military State 1650-1820 - William D. Godsey Jr.

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview William D. Godsey about his study of how the Estate of Lower Austria evolved to finance Habsburg power in the 17th and 18th centuries. Enjoy!

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review 2018-07-15 08:02
Texanischer Sommer
Ein feiner dunkler Riss (German Edition) - Heide Franck,Joe R. Lansdale

Texas, Ende der 1950er-Jahre. Der 13jährige Stanley hat bis vor Kurzem noch an den Weihnachtsmann geglaubt. 1958 muss er dann auch noch lernen, woher die Kinder kommen, was Rassismus ist und wie gewaltigtätig die Menschen um ihn herum sein können. Gleichzeitig erlebt er einen unvergesslichen Sommer, weil er einer Spukgestalt auf die Schliche kommt.

Stanleys Familie zieht in einen kleinen Ort, wo sein Vater ab sofort das hiesige Autokino betreibt. Der Sommer zieht ins Land und Stan macht einen merkwürdigen Fund: mitten im Wald hinter dem Haus befindet sich die Ruine einer abgebrannten Villa und er kommt dadurch einem Geheimnis auf die Spur.

Im Sommer 1958 wird Stanley sehr viel für sein Leben lernen. Er stellt Nachforschungen zu seiner Entdeckung an und stellt sich einer aufregenden Gespensterjagd, die Konsequenzen haben wird.

Dem Leser wird direkt von Stanley seine Geschichte erzählt. Dabei ist es sehr unterhaltsam, die Welt aus den Augen eines 13jährigen Jungen zu betrachten, der noch dazu ein wirklich feiner Kerl ist. Stan mag Comics, ist sehr an den Hintergründen um den Spuk interessiert und packt daheim mit an. Er merkt, dass manch andere Kinder im Texas der 50er-Jahre ganz andere Pflichten als er zu erfüllen haben und weiß, dass er in eine gute Familie hineingeboren ist.

Oberflächlich betrachtet geht es um Stanleys Kindheit und wie er langsam erwachsen wird. Hier finden sich deutliche Züge eines Coming-of-Age-Romans, weil sich Stan im Laufe des Sommers rätselhafte Zusammenhänge erschließen. 

"Man denkt, man wär erwachsen, und irgendwann weiß man, man wird es nie." (S. 268)

Ihm wird erklärt woher die Babys kommen und wie man das mit einem Ballon verhindern kann. Er sieht, dass Gewalt zwar keine Lösung, aber ein herkömmliches Mittel ist, und begreift, dass viele Menschen Rassisten sind. 

Diese tiefgreifenden Themen sind ganz typisch für Lansdale und er webt sie gekonnt in die Handlung ein. Mir gefällt, wie geschmeidig die Ereignisse ineinandergreifen und wie locker der Tonfall bei allen Situationen bleibt. Dabei zeichnet sich Lansdale durch seine rohe Ausdrucksweise aus und kann gleichzeitig poetisch werden. 

Die Handlung ist eher ruhig erzählt und weist trotzdem einige dramatisch sowie spannende Momente auf. Zentral ist Stans Sommer, wobei das Geheimnis mal mehr, mal weniger in den Vordergrund rückt. Es gibt nur eine Angelegenheit, die der Autor meiner Meinung nach am Ende nicht zum Abschluss bringt und deshalb mein einziger Kritikpunkt ist. 

Besonderes Augenmerk liegt auf der Zeit der 1950er-Jahre, die Lansdale dem Leser in jedem Moment spüren lässt. Man könnte beim Lesen fast nostalgisch werden, weil man richtig im damaligen Flair abtauchen kann. Charme aber auch Schattenseiten brodeln durch die Seiten, während man mit Stanley im Autokino sitzt, mit dem Fahrrad Spukhäuser erkundet oder ganz einfach mit Hund Nub draußen spielt. 

Mich hat Joe R. Lansdale erneut in die dichte Atmosphäre seiner Erzählung gezogen und mir eine berührende Geschichte erzählt. Es ist alles dabei, was einen guten Roman ausmacht und ich will unbedingt mehr von dem Autor lesen. 

„Ein feiner dunkler Riss“ ist ein bewegender Coming-of-Age-Roman mit kriminalistischer Spannung, mitreißenden Gruselmomenten und eindringlichem Flair, den ich nur empfehlen kann.

Source: zeit-fuer-neue-genres.blogspot.co.at
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text 2018-07-07 16:19
Reading progress update: I've read 48 out of 343 pages.
Above Suspicion - Helen MacInnes

Oh, wow.  I'm only a few chapters in, but this is feeling mighty topical already -- even more so given that it's not historical fiction but was actually published in 1941 (note: it's set in the summer of 1939):

 

"'It is really very sad for a German to find how misjudged and abused his country is.  Of course, our enemies control the Press in foreign countries, and they have been very busy.  They have clever tongues.'

'Have they?  It is strange, isn't it, how criticism of Germany has grown even in countries which were once really very close to her.  I wonder how it could have happened.'"

(P. 25)

 

"'You are a very prejudiced person, I can see.  I suppose you will now lecture me gravely on the wickedness of Germany's claims to natural Lebensraum.  It is easy to talk when you have a large Empire.'

'On the contrary, Herr von Aschenhausen, I like to think of all people having their Lebensraum, whether they are Germans or Jews or Czechs or Poles.'

His voice grated.  He was really angry.  'It is just such thoughts as these which have weakened Britain.  In the last twenty-five years she could have established herself as ruler of the world.  Instead, she makes a Commonwealth out of an Empire, and they won't even fight to help her when she has to fight.  She leaves the riches of India untapped; she urges a representative government on Indians who were about to refuse it.  She alienates Italy with sanctions.  She weakens herself all the time and she thinks it is an improvement.'"

(P. 27)

 

"'Well, I suppose if a nation allows concentration camps, it will find it hard to believe that other people don't use similar methods.  Cheeer up, old girl, who cares what a lot of uncivilised people think anyway?  It's only the opinion of the civilised that really matters.'

'Yes, but it looks as if a lot of the civilised will be killed because they ignored the thoughts of the uncivilised.  Ignoring doesn't expose them, you know, Richard.'"

(P. 32)

 

"[...] And then bastards like von Aschenhausen come along all smiles and bows.  And wonder why people are not enthusiastic about them.  They blackmailed us with bombers one year, and go back on the agreement they had extorted out of us, and then expect to be welcomed as friends.  All within nine months."

(P. 33)

 

"There's nothing like self-pity for thoroughly dissipating a man.  And when a nation indulges in that luxury it finds itself with a dictator.  Wrongs and injustices come in at the door and reason flies out of the window.  It's a solution which does not flatter the human race."

(P. 43)

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review 2018-06-22 16:35
A good assessment of a German statesman
Adenauer - Ronald Eckford Mill Irving

Twice in the last two centuries Germany was directed by an elderly man who exercised disproportionate control over their nation's development at a critical time in their history. The first was Otto von Bismarck, who created the German empire in 1871 and presided over its development for nearly two decades. The second was Konrad Adenauer, who became the first chancellor of postwar West Germany in 1949, guiding its transition in the postwar era from a collection of occupied territories through its postwar rehabilitation and subsequent emergence as a cornerstone of a more unified Europe. Much like Bismarck, Adenauer rose to power through unlikely circumstances, but unlike Bismarck he left behind him a governing system that proved more capable of enduring without him.

 

In writing a biography of Adenauer for Longman's "Profiles in Power" series, Ronald Irving faces the task of providing both an account of Adenauer's life and an examination of how he exercised his authority. This he succeeds in doing, providing an account that is understandably weighted towards analysis of his time as chancellor but still sets it within the details of Adenauer's long life. This balance is important to Irving's interpretation of Adenauer, whom he sees as a product of his early life as a Catholic Rhinelander in Wilhelmine Germany. By the time the Second Reich collapsed in 1918 Adenauer was already mayor of Cologne, an office he would occupy for the span of the Weimar Republic. Forced out of office by the Nazis, Adenauer returned to politics after the war determined to prevent a recurrence of the Third Reich by establishing a true representative democracy in Germany, first by creating a national conservative political party across confessional lines, then by serving as chancellor of West Germany for fourteen years.

 

Nearly three-quarters of Irving's book is spent on Adenauer's postwar career, giving him the opportunity to detail the scope of the chancellor's achievement. He is particularly good at explaining Adenauer's foreign policy — both the reestablishment of a sovereign Germany and his efforts towards greater European integration — and his role in West German politics. While some background on the context of Adenauer's times helps to fully benefit from the nuance of Irving's analysis, even people seeking an English-language introduction to Adenauer will find much to value in this short, insightful study.

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review 2018-06-17 09:35
Elizabeth and Her German Garden
Elizabeth and Her German Garden (The Penguin English Library) - Elizabeth von Arnim

I loved this - I think I first heard about it from a mention by Themis-Athena, but had to await its publication here before reading it.  It's a slim tome, but packed; at 104 pages, what I originally thought would be a fast read instead took me a couple of days, despite my being absorbed in it.

 

Mostly, it's a celebration of gardens, the outdoors, and nature, as written by one new to all of it.  But buried in the narrative, structured loosely like a diary, are moments of scathing wit, social commentary, and on the part of her husband, not a little misogyny.  Elizabeth and her German Garden was originally published in 1898 and though its language is of the time, Elizabeth is refreshingly modern.  Her thoughts, attitude, and personality are in almost all ways indistinguishable from the average 21st century woman's voice.  I loved her and her scathing, dry wit.

 

My only complaint about the book is it was slightly too short.  After lamenting two years of summer droughts that kept her in suspense of her garden's potential, the book ends at the very start of April and spring; I desperately want to know if she finally got to see her garden in all its glory!  Did the yellow border work out?  Enquiring minds are left hanging!

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