Summerhouse, Later: Storiesby Judith Hermann
In nine luminous stories of love and loss, loneliness and hope, Judith Hermann's stunning debut collection paints a vivid and poignant picture of a generation ready and anxious to turn their back on the past, to risk uncertainty in search of a fresh, if fragile, equilibrium. An international bestseller and translated into twelve languages, Summerhouse, Later/b>… See more details below
In nine luminous stories of love and loss, loneliness and hope, Judith Hermann's stunning debut collection paints a vivid and poignant picture of a generation ready and anxious to turn their back on the past, to risk uncertainty in search of a fresh, if fragile, equilibrium. An international bestseller and translated into twelve languages, Summerhouse, Later heralds the arrival of one of Germanys most arresting new literary talents.
A restless man hopes to find permanence in the purchase of a summerhouse outside Berlin. A young girl, trapped in a paralyzing web of family stories and secrets, finally manages to break free. A granddaughter struggles to lay her grandmother's ghosts to rest. A successful and simplistic artist becomes inexplicably obsessed with an elusive and strangely sinister young girl.
Against the backdrop of contemporary Berlin, possibly Europe's most vibrant and exhilarating city, Hermann's characters are as kaleidoscopic and extraordinary as their metropolis, united mostly in a furious and dogged pursuit of the elusive specter of "living in the moment." They're people who, in one way or another, constantly challenge the madness of the modern world and whose dreams of transcending the ordinary for that "narrow strip of sky over the rooftops" are deeply felt and perfectly rendered.
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- 5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.49(d)
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My first and only visit to a therapist cost me my red coral bracelet and my lover.
The red coral bracelet came from Russia. It came from St. Petersburg, to be more precise, and it was more than one hundred years old. My great-grandmother had worn it on her left wrist; it had cost my great-grandfather his life. Is that the story I want to tell? I'm not sure. Not really sure -'
My great-grandmother was beautiful. She went to Russia with my great-grandfather because my great-grandfather was building furnaces there for the Russian people. My great-grandfather rented a large apartment for my great-grandmother on Vasilevsky Ostrov, one of the islands of St. Petersburg. The Greater and the Lesser Neva lapped at the shores of Vasilevsky Ostrov, and if my great-grandmother had stood on the tips of her toes to look out the window of her apartment on Maly Prospekt she would have seen the river and the great Kronstadt Bay. But my great-grandmother did not want to see the river or Kronstadt Bay or the beautiful tall houses on Maly Prospekt. She did not want to look out of the window at a foreign land. She drew the heavy red velvet drapes and shut the doors -' the rugs swallowed all sound, and my great-grandmother sat on the sofas, the chairs, or the four-poster beds, rocking back and forth, homesick for Germany. The light in the large apartment on Maly Prospekt was dim, like the light at the bottom of the sea, and my great-grandmother may have thought that this foreign place, that St. Petersburg, that all of Russia was nothing but a deep, twilight dream from whichshe would soon awaken.
My great-grandfather, though, was traveling all over the country building furnaces for the Russian people. He built shaft furnaces and roasting kilns and self-dumping reverberatory furnaces and Livermore furnaces. He stayed away for a long time. He wrote letters to my great-grandmother, and whenever one of these letters arrived my great-grandmother would open the heavy red drapes just a little and read by the narrow chink of daylight:
I would like to explain to you that the Hasenclever furnace we are building here consists of muffles that are connected to each other by vertical channels and are heated by the flames of a grate firing furnace -' you remember, don't you, the retort furnace I built in the Blome Wildnis in Holstein, which you liked so much at the time? Well, in the Hasenclever furnace the ore is also loaded through an opening in the top muffle and . . .
Reading these letters made my great-grandmother very weary. She could no longer recall the retort furnace in the Blome Wildnis but she did remember the Blome Wildnis, the pastures and the flat countryside, the hay bales in the fields and the taste of cold, sweet apple cider in the summer. She let the room subside once more into its twilight and lay down wearily on one of the sofas, repeating, “Blome Wildnis, Blome Wildnis.” It sounded like a children's song, like a lullaby; it sounded nice.
In those years, not only foreign businessmen and their families, but also many Russian artists and scholars lived on Vasilevsky Ostrov. Inevitably, they heard of the German woman, the beautiful pale one with the fair hair who was said to live up on Maly Prospekt, almost always by herself and in rooms as dark, soft, and cool as the sea. The artists and scholars went to see her. My great-grandmother gestured with her small weary hand, asking them to come in. She spoke little, she scarcely understood anything they said, slowly and dreamily she gazed at them from under heavy eyelids. The artists and scholars sat down on the deep, soft sofas and chairs, sinking into the heavy, dark materials; the maids brought black cinnamoned tea with huckleberry and blackberry jam. My great-grandmother warmed her cold hands on the samovar and felt much too tired to ask the artists and scholars to leave. And so they stayed. And they looked at my great-grandmother, and my great-grandmother melted into the dusk and became something melancholy, beautiful, and foreign. And since melancholy and beauty and foreignness are essential traits of the Russian soul, the artists and scholars fell in love with my great-grandmother, and my great-grandmother let herself be loved by them.
My great-grandfather stayed away for a long time. And so my great-grandmother let herself be loved for a long time -' she did it cautiously and prudently, and she made hardly any mistakes. Warming her cold hands on the samovar and her chilled soul on the ardent hearts of her lovers, she learned to distinguish'in that strange, soft language of theirs -' the words “You are the most tender of all birches.” She read the letters about the smelting furnaces, the Deville furnaces, and the tube furnaces in the narrow chink of daylight and burned them all in the fireplace. She allowed herself to be loved; in the evening before falling asleep she sang the song about the Blome Wildnis, sang it to herself, and when her lovers looked at her inquiringly, she smiled and said nothing.
My great-grandfather promised to come back soon, to take her back to Germany soon. But he did not come.
The first, the second, and then the third St. Petersburg winter passed, and still my great-grandfather was busy building furnaces in the Russian vastness, and still my great-grandmother was waiting for the day when she could return home to Germany. She wrote to him in the taiga. He replied that he would come back soon but that he would have to leave again one more time, just one last time'but then, then, he promised, then they could leave.Summerhouse, Later. Copyright © by Judith Hermann. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Each story is captivating in its own subtle way. I was drawn into different vantages and ended up relating to the characters and their obscure situations, whether I wanted to or not. More than once in my life I have found myself suffering the characters' chaos and laughed aloud at the irony. Grossly real [like life], I highly recommend to this to anyone who enjoys tasting other realities.
this book was really good! each story was well written and keep me wanting more