Peter Adolphsen: Brummstein (The Brummstein)

The latest addition to my website is Peter Adolphsen‘s Brummstein (The Brummstein). Though a Danish writer, Adolphsen sets his book mainly in Switzerland and Germany. It tells the story of strange stone fragments, collected from the Hölloch Cave in the Swiss Alps. Josef Siedler, who collected them believed that the cave was a gateway to a mysterious subterranean civilisation (Hölloch means Hell hole in German). He did not find the civilisation but he did finds these humming stones. Much of the book is about what happens to the stones after his death, as they are passed to his nephew and then to various people in Nazi Germany, East Germany and post-war Germany. Adolphsen tells the often unusual stories of these people and, as Siedler’s note explaining their origin remains with them, we are left wondering whether someone else will go to Hölloch and explore further. It is a most original book and a very well-told story.

Jonathan Coe: Mr Wilder and Me

The latest addition to my website is Jonathan Coe‘s Mr Wilder and Me. This is a funny and serious story about a young woman who accidentally gets involved in the making of Billy Wilder‘s second-to-last film Fedora, leading her to a career in composing film music. We follow in some detail the making of he film that does not, on the whole, go well but we also get a serious side, as Wilder, a Jew whose family were murdered in the Holocaust, confronts Holocaust denial. Our heroine/narrator Calista (she is part Greek) carries on the story to the present day where her career, like Wilder’s, is taking a downward turn. Another superb book from Coe, both funny and serious and, as always, telling a good story.

Sándor Márai: A sziget [The Island]

The latest addition to my website is Sándor Márai‘s A sziget [The Island]. This novel, available in seven other languages but not English, tells the story of Viktor Henrik Askenazi, a Frenchman of Hungarian origin, who is a professor of Greek and Asia Minor languages in Paris, married to Anna, with a daughter and also with a mistress, Elise. He leaves Anna to live with Elise. He struggles with his relationships and eventually leaves Elise to live on his own, though still seeing Anna. At the suggestion of friends, he goes off on holiday to what is now Croatia, staying on an island, not far from Dubrovnik. Initially he does nothing but when he learns that Anna has gone off to Brazil, following a letter from him asking for a divorce, and he sees and follows an attractive German woman in the hotel, he slowly becomes agitated and slips into insanity. This is the story of a man who needs structure in his life and when that goes, he goes as well.