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review 2017-12-13 21:39
The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
The Post-Office Girl (New York Review Books Classics) - Stefan Zweig

This is an odd novel, which makes sense, since it was left unfinished at the author’s death. It is a blistering look at economic inequality, set in Austria after WWI and examined through the stories of characters whose circumstances appear to prevent them from ever getting ahead.

Christine is a young woman who was born middle class, but has lived a life of drudgery since her teenage years, when her family lost both money and menfolk to the war. Out of the blue, a rich American aunt invites her to spend two weeks in a Swiss resort, where she flourishes. But on returning home, she is left hating her working-class life, and soon meets a disaffected war veteran who, through many long speeches, provides the intellectual basis for her discontent.

The first half of the book was a lot of fun to read; after an initial slow start, I was quickly absorbed by the story and eager to learn what would happen next. The second half is interesting and brings Zweig’s themes to the forefront, though it is much darker. The end is ambiguous, leaving the characters’ fates up in the air. It is well-written and engaging throughout. The characters feel three-dimensional and realistic, though I wondered in the second half whether Christine is representative of the way an actual Austrian woman in the 1920s would have thought, or only the way a man at the time would have envisioned one (to her, even an active decision to have sex is necessarily an act of submission, and she claims that as a woman she can’t undertake bold action herself, though she can do anything if following her man). And there are a few rough edges and loose ends: I wondered what Christine could have talked about to the moneyed international jet set, which she does constantly and with great animation; without TV or Internet, and without revealing any details of her life, they seem entirely without common ground. I also wondered why she never thought about following up on

(view spoiler)

the older man who was interested in marrying her; she may not have realized that, but he stood by her and invited her to visit his castle,

(spoiler show)

which she for some reason never considered as an option later.

But at any rate, this is a short novel and a very engaging read. It moves fairly quickly and the translation is excellent. A pleasant surprise. 

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review 2017-11-24 16:26
Unresolved conflict
Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir - Ingeborg Day

I read Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day on recommendation from a patron. She assured me that I would love it and that it was right up my alley as it was a nonfiction book that covered events from WWII. What hooked me into reading it was that it was covering the events of WWII from the perspective of someone who was on the 'other side' aka the Nazi perspective (as opposed to the 3rd person nonfiction narrative or survivor memoir). Ingeborg wanted to uncover the secrets of her father's past and hopefully work out exactly what his role was as a member of the Nazi Party and SS. She revisited old memories of times spent living in shared accommodation with other families, rationing, and the charged silence around the dinner table. She continually reiterated that she had no memories of her parents ever saying anything about Jewish people or showing any violence whatsoever toward anyone...and yet the undertones of the book were very anti-Semitic. I honestly found this a very uncomfortable book to read especially considering that she seemed to vacillate on her own beliefs and feelings towards those who were slaughtered en masse while her father served as a member of the Nazi party. (Her conflicting beliefs made this a very disjointed read.) For those interested in knowing just what his role was and his innermost beliefs, you will be sorely disappointed. There is no clear cut conclusion to be found among the pages of Ghost Waltz. The author herself couldn't seem to work out her own feelings much less those of a man who she had no contact with as an adult (there was an event after she left home which led to a rift). This wasn't my favorite read of the year for multiple reasons but mostly for those stated above: anti-Semitic sentiment and unsatisfactory conclusion. It's a 2/10 for me. :-/

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2017-06-22 07:32
Aldi rozszerza ofertę książek elektronicznych na Austrię

 

W październiku zeszłego roku niemiecka sieć Aldi rozpoczęła sprzedaż książek elektronicznych na rynku niemieckim. Powołano w tym celu księgarnię internetową Aldi life eBooks. Teraz przyszedł czas na rynek austriacki w postaci sklepu „Hofer life”, który ma ofertę podobną do niemieckiego pierwowzoru. Od dziś w ofercie sieci handlowej znajduje się tablet Medion E6912, wyposażony m.in. w aplikację do czytania książek oraz odtwarzania strumieniowego muzyki (Napster). Do oferty dołączono też bon 10 EUR na zakupy e-booków w firmowej księgarni. Sprzęt będzie oferowany za niecałe 100 EUR, czyli o 30 EUR taniej, niż pierwotna cena w RFN. Więcej szczegółów na jego temat podałem przy okazji premiery usługi (wpis: „Aldi life eBooks - niemiecka sieć sklepów wchodzi na rynek e-booków”).

 

Hofer Life - austriacka wersja księgarni sieci Aldi (źródło: https://www.hoferlife.at)

 

Aldi (w Austrii występujący jako Hofer) to mocna marka na rynku niemieckim. Można się spodziewać, że firma będzie się starała wykorzystać przywiązanie klientów, wychodząc poza tradycyjną ofertę. Być może efekty działania księgarni w RFN są na tyle zachęcające, że firma zdecydowała się przejść na kolejny rynek. Szkoda, że wciąż z tym samym tabletem, a nie ciekawym czytnikiem...

 

Tablet Medion od dziś w promocyjnej ofercie na terenie Austrii (źródło: https://www.hofer.at)

 

 

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text 2017-01-03 16:33
Reading progress update: I've read 35%.
The Enemies of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy) - Sally Christie I had promised myself that after the second installment of these books, I wasn't even going to look at the third novel. Write me down for another broken personal promise. So far in this novel there is a man who is making wigs out of the hairs of his conquests. That doesn't seem so weird right? It's not the kind of hair you have on your head.
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review 2016-11-01 11:00
When a Woman Loves a Man: The Jib Door by Marlen Haushofer
The Jib Door - Marlen Haushofer
Die Tapetentür - Marlen Haushofer

It’s a well-known truth that love has the potential to make blind for anything unpleasant involved and at all times writers gladly took up the theme to dwell on the tangle and the suffering that results from it. In the history of literature there are scores of novels – all-time classics and probably many more forgotten ones – surrounding ill-matched couples whose relationships are doomed from the start however much they try to bridge the factual, emotional, social or psychological divide. The Jib Door by Marlen Haushofer is an impressive, though often overlooked example of an Austrian novel dealing with passionate love leading into a marriage that is based on the desperate longing to escape loneliness in a “normal” life with a husband and self-denial. First published in 1957, the primarily male critics of the time showed all but enthusiasm for the book because they had neither an interest in nor an understanding for what might be called the female condition in a patriarchal society.

 

The Jib Door is a short novel set in Vienna of the late 1950s that covers a period of only twelve months in the life of thirty-year-old Annette. To tell her story the author skilfully alternates third-person narrative focussing on the protagonist and diary entries that allow a more personal look into her soul. Above all the latter show Annette as a very intelligent and well-read young woman (she likes Kant and Schopenhauer) who despite all contents herself with an unchallenging job as a librarian. From the beginning the novel’s tone is melancholic which corresponds perfectly with her sad past and dull present. Of her family there’s nobody left but her much adored uncle Eugen who raised her together with his rather rigid late wife Johanna. Her mother died when she was two years old and her father, who couldn’t cope with the situation, fled to South America some time later. For years she has been living on her own in her little Viennese apartment enjoying her independence and even being alone. She has many friends with whom she meets regularly and in her adult life she already had several love affairs, but they all ended in boredom and disappointment. Her current relationship is no exception and when her lover leaves her for a job in Paris, she feels relief rather than regret. Then one day she receives a letter from the solicitor Gregor Xanthner because her father has died and she needs to sign papers. To her he seems the paragon of health and happiness, and yet, she doesn’t feel attracted to him at first. However, the more Annette sees of him, the more she falls for him although her friends can’t stand him and she knows that he’ll inevitably hurt her. Annette becomes Gregor’s lover and when she gets pregnant, she gives up her job, her apartment, her independence to marry him and share his life. But he isn’t interested in her as a person and Annette feels increasingly lonely. Moreover, she knows that he betrays her with others when he doesn’t come home for dinner at night. She still clings to him hiding her knowledge and all the while her belly is growing rounder and rounder…

 

In this second novel of hers – that like her other works gives the impression of being at least partly autobiographical – the author paints a very sensitive, psychologically deep and impressive portrait of a young woman in post-war Vienna who longs for love and slides eyes wide open into a relationship that brings her despair and pain instead. Consequently, the protagonist’s pointed reflections on men and love turn out to be rather resigned and gloomy. The Jib Door by Marlen Haushofer definitely isn’t a cheerful book, but thanks to its simple and unpretentious language it was despite all a mere treat to read. And it deserves a much wider audience.

 

The Jib Door - Marlen Haushofer 

 

This Austrian writer’s best remembered and most acclaimed work to this day is a rather impressive dystopian novel that she wrote in the early 1960s. It’s titled The Wall and in June 2014 I reviewed it here on Edith’s Miscellany .

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