Justified Grievance

Why wasn’t I invited to this?

Any event which involves a “comedic Catalonian tale of four brothers who have never known each other… an Austrian exposure of generational estrangement…an ancient Belgian family mystery… [and a] homely portrait of German domestic bliss which is masking deep divides” ought also to involve yours truly, no?

Thirty plus years piercing the mists of European literary culture, and this is how you repay me!

[P.S. In an early form of this post I mistakenly spelled ‘grievance’ like so: ‘greivance’. Those who have a grievance, or greivance, in regards to this tragic error, are kindly asked to shelve it for now]

Time and Underpants (or What Is It All About?)

To be typed into a search engine one day: Why do people insist on asking search engines questions they can’t possibly answer?

As long-time readers will be aware, search-terms fascinate me. There is a tendency for them to be either eccentric, banal, or both. Here, for instance, is a recent example:

what was the european novel about?

I can’t help thinking that this particular web-surfer has unrealistically high expectations. Like any tool, the internet will help you get a job done. It may provide the nails for you to build a cabinet – what it won’t do is assemble the cabinet all on its own.

Having said that, I am a kindly soul in a kindly mood, so here – for your immediate edification – is a brief answer to the question above:

Apes, abstinence, adventure, amorality, baguettes, bathos, bathrobes, Belgium, coiffure, coffee, combat, death, delinquents, delicatessens, eugenics, eternity, equivocation, France, farce, families, gigolos, Germany, glamour, hagiography, hesitation, heretics, Iceland, indoctrination, infants, jam, jounalism, jurisdiction, kissing, kleptomania, knives, light, life, love, machinery, masculinity, marmalade, nihilism, nostalgia, nouveau riche, old wives tales, oligopoly, onanism, paradise, pretence, politics, quarrels, quarantine, quattrocentro, rats, relics, retribution, sex, Scandanavia, seafaring, tea, testoterone, time, underpants, unification, uprooting, valuation, variation, vegetables, women, weaponry, weakness, xenophobia, xylophones, x-rays, yesterday, yogurt, Yugoslavia (former federal republic of), Zionism, zoophytes and zealots.

Conversation (State of Play)

Over breakfast, my wife says I’ve been sipping orange juice ‘angrily’. I deny the charge. She shrugs her slim shoulders. ‘In any case,’ she says, ‘you can’t say you haven’t massacred that egg’. I look down at my plate. It’s true: my spoon-work was a little on the violent side. ‘You sent egg shell to all four corners of the room,’ she notes, calmly. ‘What’s wrong?’

Nothing is wrong. Not really. Nothing too serious anyway. After all, I’ve been ignored before. In fact, I’ve been ignored pretty much all the way along. The obscure regions of European literature are just that: obscure. Not many people pass this way. That’s the way it has always been and the way it always will be. Yevgeny Nonik will never be found cosying up to a mouse-brained celebrity chef on the end-of-year bestseller lists. Not whilst I’m still living, anyway.

So why do I still harbour expectations? Why do I still imagine that I deserve a little more attention than I am currently receiving? Is it really so presumptuous to assume that an article on pineapples and active reading should attract more than the merest handful of fans it has so far gathered? Perhaps so.

Or perhaps I’m simply not going the right way about my business. I confess: things haven’t quite panned out as planned this year. The Underneath the Bunker site overhaul is, to all intents and purposes, several months behind schedule, whilst the Yevgeny Nonik book is, at present, almost non-existent. Other projects, meanwhile, meander with insouciance. Even this blog has been quieter than usual the last few weeks. But then you can’t blame me. This is all a lot of work for one man to get through with so little feedback. Even my hate-mail is on the decline. Sad times.

Still, 2010 is full of promise. The promise, not least, of more to come. For despite my present mood (brought about, mainly, by the ‘joys’ of the season) I have no intention of stopping. No, no, no. So long as eighty year old Andorrans are still writing experimental novels, so I will be writing about them. You haven’t got rid of me yet, apathetic non-readers! Georgy Riecke is still here, quietly spreading the sweet treacle of obscure european culture over the rough dry bread of contemporary criticism.

There, I’ve said it. Now, who’s ready for some half-hearted Christmas quizzing?

A Few New Works

As noted earlier in the year, 2009 always looked as if it would be a good one for contemporary European literature. At least half a dozen of the authors who featured on my 2005 list promised us new titles, from Hamish Wishart (whose short story collection, Sore Chasm, was published at the beginning of April) to Dinos Tierotis (whose second novel, The Golden Bomber Jacket, hit the bookshelves, albeit lightly, in May). If I have failed to mention these two works before now, it is not because I haven’t given them any attention; merely that other books (Turgidovsky’s Delicious Air, for instance) have taken precedence. What is more, as you will know, I am not one to be rushed into thrusting forth my critical opinion. One takes the cake out of the oven only when it is cooked. Then one consumes the cake. Thus is one becrumbed (which is an entirely different matter, to be considered on another day).

The summer, meanwhile, was set to provide a fitting climax to the literary riches of the spring, symbolised by the possible appearance of the long-awaited Poppies: Book Two, by Jaymer Veers. Ah, what more could a fan of obscure European literature ask for than the sequel to Poppies: Book One? Does not the very thought of it make your earlobes tingle and small toes twitch?

Forgive me, then, for dumping on your eager shoulders the dank and despondent news that Poppies: Book Two will not, in fact, be published this summer – nor, indeed, this year. Why? It’s a mystery. Some argue that there are ‘small teething problems’, whilst others claim that there is ‘no book at all’. Veers himself has been conspicuously quiet.
More on this later, perhaps.

In the meantime I am pleased, nay relieved, to be able to counter this saddening announcement with the information that Boris Yashmilye’s new novel is due at the end of July. There is a tendency amongst many of the writers I admire, as you may have noticed, to toss out books at the rate of one or two a decade, if that. Yashmilye is a blessed exception. His last novel, Out, Damned, was only published a couple of years ago (though it never found an English publisher, translations are readily available – or you may choose to read it in the original Bulgarian if you so desire). Hot on the heels of this, now, comes The Bastard, which, if the the frantic wasp of rumour is to be believed, is set to confirm Yashmilye’s triumphant return to form (his second and third novels, you may recall, were largely disappointing).

More on this when more there is.

Vulgarity and Venus Bear

Things slip. Frogs from mossy rocks. Lies from politician’s lips. Promises from our minds.

Had this blog an army of readers they might have noticed my neglecting to follow up a shoal of issues brought up by a large proportion of my posts. Fortunately it hasn’t – and loose ends have been allowed to remain untied. And for this I praise the gods (and all their horses too).

Nevertheless, I may as well take the time I find today to trudge back in the direction of an earlier interest or two. About a week ago I posted (mostly here) on the subject of a certain folk-tale known as La Chauve-Souris et le pot de chambre – a story I thought to have inspired the work of Kirios Quebec. In a pre-meditated response to this post – and to Quebec himself – I also received a brief complaint from the affable Mr. Andrew K – who doth appear to shake his head at the ‘vulgarity’ of these bat-genitalia-related literary matters. “Such subjects should surely and literally be left beneath the bed of obscurity” he argues.

Well, indeed. Perhaps I ought to have stated, in response to this, that other versions of this tale (of which there are no less than eight) are much less vulgar than the one I posted. I ought also to have noted that there is much less vulgarity hanging about the side-streets of European literature (or my version of it, at least) than he may imagine. Despite the eternally spurious reputation of the genre, you may find that my list of Great European Novels is in fact relatively unplastered in smut. And oo too, I would say, is the work of the example he gives: Mr Kirios Quebec.

As has often been noted, Quebec is what we might call a philoprogenitive fellow. His fecund personality and pen produce work of many colours, some less vulgar than others. Indeed, in an even earlier comment Mr. K himself brings to light a Quebec story that is not the slightest bit vulgar at all. I refer, of course, to that amiable short story The Loudness of the Humming-Bird Meets the Silence of the Ghostdriver, which Mr. K correctly – and charmingly – associates with the work of the Peruvian Pre-Raphaelites.

For those unfortunate enough to have received a ‘proper’ education, you might like to be reminded that the Peruvian Pre-Raphealites were a ever-changing group of Lima-based artists centred around Nolberto Çinto, who in last two decades of the nineteenth century created a strange collection of paintings, mostly inspired by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais (though in some works I also see the influence of the celebrated ‘insane’ painter Richard Dadd). The most famous – and weirdest – of their works is undoubtedly Çinto’s 1897 work Venus Bear, a near copy of Rossetti’s Venus Verticordia, substituting the woman for a, well, bear (I should love to share this wonderful image with you – but as yet I have been unable to find one).

An obsession with detail, a propensity for whimsy and an moderate interest in the intensity of colour – all these attributes of the Peruvian Pre-Raphealities are utilised to great effect in Quebec’s story, which is (for those who do not know) thought of by most Quebecian scholars to be an early study for the later novel, Sounds of Copulation, a work described by one critic as  ‘a love story which stops in the middle of the first sexual encounter and has two hundred more pages inviting the reader to finish the story and bring it to some suitable climax’.

So, like I said – not the least bit vulgar.