Painter, musician, bibliophile...
In this colletion which spans several centuries, each story brings back something of a world forever lost to us. But perhaps we can find "einen Duft als wie aus alten Zeiten," in the words of an old song.
Here we have the morality tales of Goethe and Schiller, the drama of Schnitzler, the psychological realism of Mann, a haunting tale for a winter evening from von Hofmannsthal, and comic turns from Hebel and Lampe. Griffin's glorious narration with music and sound effects make the stories just that much better than they appear on the page. What a wonderful way to spend a quiet afternoon!
I was happily surprised to hear a selection from Friedo Lampe (1899-1945), whose work never did very well during his lifetime. He annoyed the Nazi regime, which didn't help matters, only to die when he was shot by the Russians during the invasion. His comic caper "The Enchanted Cabinet" evokes the seaside atmosphere of five o'clock tea dances and amusements of German vacations in the pre-war period. (Lampe was quite gifted with capturing regional dialects, which isn't something that can be translated into English). May more readers make his acquaintance through this tale.
I'd love to hear Griffin read a collection of Zweig or Schnitzler. And may I ask: where is Volume 2? More, please....as soon as possible.
Having done German to English and English to German translations myself, I particularly appreciated the late Joachim Neugroschel's brief explanation of the challenges he faced in translating Mann. As he said, "Each author has his melodies, and each style, each language, its own music." (Those who are not interested in this can easily chapter-skip to the first story!)
The collection includes: The Will for Happiness, Tristan, Little Herr Friedemann, Tobias Mindernickel, Little Lizzie, Gladius Dei, The Starvelings, The Wunderkind, The Harsh Hour, Tonio Kroeger, The Blood of the Walsungs, and Death in Venice.
Mann is not an easy author to read, and these stories and two novellas are not the light entertainment provided by some collections of short pieces. However, whether or not one likes what he has to say, he is a thought-provoking writer and rarely leaves one unmoved.
His characters are unlikely to be forgotten. Since I first read the stories many years ago, I have never forgotten the tragic figure of Friedemann , the incestuous twins Sieglinde and Siegmund Aarenhold, the religious zealot Hieronymous, or Kroeger, the "artist who must die to everyday life."
Paul Hecht's narration is wonderful, both in his characterizations and pronunciation of German. He was a joy to listen to from start to finish.
Mann in translation on audio is not easy to find, so if you've been curious about his writing, make this collection your introduction. Don't be put off by the reams of literary interpretations and speculations out there. Listen to the stories for yourself. You may be surprised at what you find.
"Der Graf Luna," published in 1955, is an almost forgotten gem. In this production, Charlton Griffin not only dusts it off but polishes it until it gleams.
The book opens with the protagonist, Alexander Jessiersky, an Austrian national visiting Rome, announcing he is going into the catacombs to search for two missing (and presumed dead) French priests. Why is he there, and what is he really looking for?
The protagonist is a man of his times in many ways. After the Anschluss and consequent invasion, Jessiersky is encouraged to buy the property of Count Luna. The count refuses to cooperate. This is not because he has any evident political opposition, but he is suspicious of the instability and value of the new currency. For his failure to submit, officials denounce Luna as a "monarchist sympathizer," brand him an enemy of the state, and send him to Mauthausen concentration camp.
Jessiersky, "though he himself had not done anything, had out of his inactivity failed to do what should have been done" and "allowed his subordinates to do as they chose." Deeply depressed over the realization that "the world is apparently ruled by misunderstanding," he attempts to find Luna and ease his misery by visiting his surviving relatives. Jessiersky's search for truth leads him into extraordinary situations and places, including the Roman catacombs.
Taken for itself, the story is a creative mystery with unusual characters. For that it's worth a listen. But looking deeper, one finds word play, metaphors, philosophy, poetic turns of phrase, and magical realism. Questions about personal responsibility and complicity, as well as the nature of reality itself, abound. The final scenes manage to be haunting, philosophical, chilling, and beautiful all at once.
I'd love to see English-language audible editions of the works by the many talented writers of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire: Lernet-Holenia, Stefan Zweig, Sándor Márai, Arthur Schnitzler, Joseph Roth, and more. All deserve a wider audience.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The Story of the Volsungs is a classic Icelandic saga, written in the 13th century from much older oral fragments of songs. Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris??? 1888 translation of the saga is fast-paced, coherent, heroic, tragic, and darkly beautiful. It is mostly prose, but includes many passages of poetry or songs. It influenced H. Rider Haggard???s The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, J. R. R. Tolkien???s oeuvre (especially the Silmarillion), and Poul Anderson???s The Broken Sword. If you like such tragic fantastic adventure fiction, if you are interested in Norsemen (Vikings!), or if you enjoy reading epics for their insights into human nature and their windows into different cultures, you should listen to this audiobook.
It begins with a useful 48-minute introduction by H. Halliday Sparling about the historical, religious, political, and cultural context of the Norsemen and of their sagas, which is followed by an 8-minute preface by Magnusson and Morris about their translation.
The saga depicts the interrelated fates of two great Norse families, the Volsungs and the Guikings. From the opening sequence, in which Sigi, grandfather of Volsung, kills a thrall who outperforms him in hunting and then hides his body in a snowdrift, the people in the saga are prey to overwhelming ambition, pride, envy, love, and hate. So there are plenty of battles, with kings killing kings and heroes dealing death till their arms are ???red with blood, even to the shoulders,??? and murders, brothers killing brothers, sons fathers, and mothers children, with poison, sword, or fire. The Norns have already decided the people???s dooms.
There are also fantastic elements aplenty: men change into wolves, nightmares reveal disastrous futures, magic potions make men forget, magical swords are re-forged, Odin interferes with advice, boon, or doom, and so on. There are many great scenes, like Sigurd talking with a dragon about its cursed treasure or finding the sleep-spelled shield-maiden, Brynhild, ???clad in a byrny as closely set on her as though it had grown to her flesh.??? The characters are compelling because they???re so heroic and flawed. Any character might be loathsome one moment and admirable the next, or vice versa.
The saga is not an easy listen, because many characters??? names sound similar and because of the archaic Malory-esque language used by Morris to evoke a timeless and heroic age (so the free online text might be helpful). But there is a dark, spare, grand, and beautiful poetry in his translation, and reader Antony Ferguson treats the text with restraint and fluency, subtly highlighting its terse turns and beautiful flights and rich alliteration, as in the following excerpt:
"So Regin makes a sword, and gives it into Sigurd???s hands. He took the sword, and said???'Behold thy smithying, Regin!' and therewith smote it into the anvil, and the sword brake; so he cast down the brand, and bade him forge a better."
I am very glad to have listened to this saga.