Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Die Manns (The Mann Family) by Tilmann Lahme

One of my favourite books is Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. It was Thomas Mann's first novel and it was published in 1901. It gave him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929. Tilmann Lahme's biography of the Mann family is an interesting account of a family where the author rose above everyone else.

Thomas Mann was born in 1875, but the biography starts in 1922 when he was already an established writer with part of his production behind him. It covers the years in Germany, the exile years during World War II (France, Switzerland, and the USA), the peace years, and the final years in Switzerland. 

The Manns was a troubled family. The mother Katia, took care of the family and the business that was Thomas Mann. They had six children; Klaus, Erika, Golo, Monika, Elisabeth och Michael. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reviewed the book and this extract says it all. "Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, says Tolstoy. One should read this book to  understand the meaning of it." (my transl.) How true. This is a peculiar family and one cannot help reflecting that it might depend on Thomas Mann himself. Protected by his own family by his wife, he demanded peace and quiet to write. He was put on a pedestal, treated almost godlike. The children's only wish is an acknowledgment from their father.  It never comes. Furthermore, he did keep favourites, and not very discreetly. Maybe that is a reason why, almost all of them, had problems in their adult lives. Some of them did, occasionally, make good careers, but it came at a cost. 

All of the children, except Golo, lived off their parents. None of them did well in school. They jumped from education to education, work to work, and had difficulties settling down on their own, finding their place in life. There is a strange interdependency between the family members. The could not live with each other, but neither without each other. In 1933, the first day in exile, Golo writes in his diary: "Now the family is all I have; it can never end well..." (my transl.)

Thomas Mann struggled with homosexual tendencies, which was mostly reflected through his novellas,  Death in Venice being the most known such work. Three of his children were also homosexual, Klaus, and Golo, and Erika was bisexual. Klaus and Erika went in their father's footsteps, writing books, articles, and manifestos. Especially, Klaus and Erika, political to the left, tended to oppose life in most of its forms.  They also tried acting, especially Erika, but she got tired of acting when she did not get the main role from the beginning. Michael, the youngest, was a talented violin player. He, however, never wanted to leave the safe world of lessons to go into performing. He finally did and had some kind of career. Monika never really made it off at all. One wonders if the idea that achievements come easy was due to their successful father. 

The most successful of the children were Golo and Elisabeth. The latter became an internationally recognised expert on maritime law and policy and the protection of the environment. She received numerous rewards from various countries for her work. Golo studied history (after trying out numerous different educations), wrote books, and became a successful and famous historian. He was the only one who went for a career and life without constantly asking the parents for money. 

Egocentric is the word that comes to mind when describing the Mann family.  It is the main character of the family members, except Katia. She was quite different from the rest of them but very loyal to the Mann family as a concept. Maybe because her role was to be the practical person taking care of everything. There is however a lack of structure in the education of the children. Although one may not say they were spoilt, there was leniency towards them, which might explain their not too happy adult lives. There is always the idea that if anything goes wrong it is somebody else's fault. If there is a lack of money, somebody should give them money. This includes Thomas Mann. Although wealthy there were times when money was lacking. The family could not understand why their rich friends could not just give them the money they needed. 

Their life in exile was a rather pleasant one compared to a lot of their fellow exiles. In 1939 Klaus Mann's novel The Volcano was published. He considered it his best novel and worked on it for two years. It received good reviews when it was published and his fellow emigration colleagues felt he had described their lives well. "Possibly it would have been in place with "a little more poverty and despair over money," "a little more misery, dirt and darkness" in a novel about emigration, says Stefan Zweig. Klaus Mann has not experienced any of this, and thus he has not described it."(my transl).

Lahme's biography is well researched and makes for interesting reading. There are a lot on Mann's views on the politics in Germany, the war years, and the following return to Europe after the exile, not mentioned here. It reads like an exciting book where you wonder what will happen next to the family.

The Mann family saw the world according to their eyes. When it did not live up to their expectations, they went on with a few white, and sometimes, not so white lies. This was most notable with Klaus and Erika. While reading the biography, one is more than amazed at how they lived their lives. Although sometimes a little bit shocked about their actions, their attitude towards each other, towards other people and towards the world, it is a fascinating account of a family out of the extraordinary. 

Monday, 13 July 2020

Paris in July - French movies

Paris in July, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea. Everything French and Paris is interesting for this group of bloggers.

I wanted to watch a French film, but have not yet got through D'après une histories vraie (Based on a True Story). In the meantime, I wanted to recommend a couple of other French films that I love.

I really enjoyed  Coco Avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel), about the French fashion icon. This is her story before she got famous. It is beautifully filmed and shows a woman determined to make something of herself and her talent. Audrey Tautou makes an excellent performance as Coco. 

Another French icon is Colette. Keira Knightley plays Colette in the film with the same name. It is the story of how she became a successful writer, and the obstacles she faced on the way. For a long time, she had to publish her books under the name of her husband. 

Both films highlight strong women who had to fight hard to make it in a men's world. I found both films very interesting. 

One of my favourite French movies is The Intouchables. It is about an aristocrat, who after he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, hires a young man from the projects to be his caregiver. Superbly acted by François Cluzet and Omar Sy. Two different kinds of people, from different worlds, meet, clash, fight, and become friends. It is about how we all can take lessons from each other, how we can learn from people different from us, and how someone, locked into his own world, can come out on the other side. It is a charming film and a must-see. (Links to trailers under titles).

Monday, 6 July 2020

Paris in July - A Magical Room by Ingrid Svensson, part II

Paris in July, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea. Head back to her page to see posts from participants in this annual challenge.

I continue from my last post about two other literary salon hostesses in 1920s Paris; Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach.

Adrienne Monnier

had no connections to the literary world when she opened her book shop on 7, rue de l'Odéon in 1915.  Her mother encouraged her to read and her father provided financial support.  Reading was not her only interest, she also enjoyed theatre and music. Debussy became a favourite. 

The area where she opened her shop was not so exclusive then as it is today. It was, at the time, home to bohemian students who needed cheap housing. Her bookshop, La Maison des Amis des Livres,  was surrounded by shops, a theatre and cafés and people soon found their way there. From 1921 Sylvia Beach opened her shop on the other side of the street. "The researcher Laure Murat is speaking about rue de l'Odéon as the Atlantic, a transfer route that unites the French and the new world". 

The bookshop was a magic room, used as a meeting point, a book shop, a lending library, and a salon. Monnier herself described it as a "small, grey shop". It was simply decorated as far as furniture was concerned. The walls were filled with writers' portraits, writers she favoured. It resembled an exhibition in the end. 

Monnier was an outgoing person and made contacts easily. She developed her bookshop, arranging events and meetings with writers. Quite modern in her approach how to turn people's interest to her shop. She advertised, started a membership scheme to borrow books. Her idea was that to buy a book one either had to have read it or know about it. She promoted books and writers in a way so even people without money could enjoy her shop. Very soon her shop was a melting pot of literary and cultural gatherings.

In 1921 Sylvia Beach moved in with Monnier, and they became an established pair. They lived together and worked opposite each other. This lead to a direction into the English language and promotion of new writers both from Europe and the other side of the Atlantic. Although they were two independent women, it seems that they supported mainly male writers. Could, of course, be that there were not that many female writers at the time. There were a lot of women engaged in the work of the shops, but not as writers. 

Monnier also wrote herself, poetry, and articles, which received good reviews. She also ventured into publishing books and starting magazines. Apart from her work in her shop, she was very productive in other literary fields as well as fighting for female voting rights. There is a lot more information about this remarkable woman, but I stop here.

Sylvia Beach

"My loves were Adrienne Monnier and James Joyce and Shakespeare and Company" (my transl.)

Sylvia Beach might be the most famous, or remembered of the ladies who kept a salon. Mainly because her bookshop Shakespeare & Company is quite famous. Born in the US she arrived in Paris in 1916 together with her sister Cyprian who already lived in Paris. Cyprian was hoping for a carrier in films.

Sylvia had studied languages and spoke Italian and Spanish, apart from French. Her aim was to immerse herself in French literature. She started out as a volunteer (this is during the war) in agriculture and vineyards. After the war, she worked for the Red Cross in Serbia as a secretary and translator. 

At the end of 1919 she was back in Paris with Adrienne Monnier. Meeting Adrienne had a significant influence over her life. Together with Adrienne Sylvia developed into a powerful, goal-oriented, and independent woman.

She opened her bookshop on 17 November 1919, in a Paris changing after the war. A new era opened up. Art was changing and the new writers were arriving. Her bookshop was much more colourful than Monnier's. Carpets, art, antique furniture filled up the rooms, and there was even a kitchen. The new Englishspeaking literature was rather unknown in France, as was the modern American one. Sylvia Beach found her niche here. She wanted to introduce Anglo-Saxon literature in the original language, which was a genius initiative. After the war, Paris saw an influx of Americans who found their way to her cozy bookshop. Many writers left the US due to limitations in freedom of the press. 

Sylvia sold and lend books, and could not imagine selling books she did not like herself. She enjoyed when customers sat down in an armchair and read from the book before deciding whether to buy it or not. On her shelves, one could find Sherwood Anderson, Charlotte Brontë, Beowulf, Robert McAlmon, Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingways, Samuel Richardson, and Dorothy Richardson. She mixed old with new. 

As Adrienne Monnier, she knew how to attract people by using promotion, signs, and display books and magazines in the windows. She promoted literary magazines, supporting new up-coming writers and poets. The important writers published extracts from there coming books in various magazines, like Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. 

In 1921 she moves her bookshop to 12, rue de l'Odéon, opposite Adrienne Monnier. At the same time, she moved in with Adrienne where she stayed until 1936. "Sylvia had alert eyes, a brown velvet jacket and was kind", writes Hemingway. She let him borrow books on credit when he did not have any money. It was here he found his way to the Russian authors. It opened a new world to him: "to read in a city like Paris, where you could live and work well, no matter how poor you were, was like receiving a great treasure." (my transl). Maybe that was part of Sylvia's talent that she could encourage and detect talent. The story of James Joyce and Ulysses is well known. 

The 1920s was the glorious period for Shakespeare & Company. During the 1930s depression Americans went back to the US. The number of Americans in Paris went down from 20 000 to 4 000 persons. André Gide started an aid campaign to help Sylvia Beach keep the bookshop. It worked for some time, but with the onset of the war, she had to close in 1941. In 1942 she was taken to a detention center in Vittel, where she spent six months with other American and British women who stayed on in France. 

Returning back to Paris, she did not want to open the bookshop again. She settled down at the top floor of the shop where she used to store books, and spent the 1940s working for the Red Cross and other charities. After the suicide of Adrienne Monnier her life turned darker.  She died in 1962 and the papers she left behind are kept at different universities in the US. The name of her bookshop is still alive. Now situated on 37, rue de la Bûcherie, it is a different bookshop where only the name connects it to Sylvia Beach. 

All in all, a very interesting book of which the three posts I have written contains just a fraction. Unfortunately, the book it is not translated. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

A Magical Room, Saloons in 1920s Paris by Ingrid Svensson

Better late than never as they say. This post was supposed to go up last year. At a museum in Sweden I found a book about 1920s saloons in Paris. Very interesting and it generated the post: Paris in July - French Saloons.  As promised then, here is the first of two posts about four of the main hostesses. 
Still picking from the "Magical Rom" and events from Paris in the 1920s. There were four main characters who put their mark on the literary scene of the time; Gertrude Stein, Natalie Clifford Barney, Adrienne Monnier, and Sylvia Beach. For most of you, they are already well known. These ladies had one thing in common, as well as many of the women holding salons, in that they were all lesbians. This was maybe one reason why they ended up in Paris, being more liberal (although you had to be discreet) than many other countries, and the US specifically. They were very creative and talented and did a lot for the cultural scene in Paris, introducing new talents and helping them to survive and make their breakthrough.

Gertrude Stein
"It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing."
She was a patron of the arts. She and her brother were collectors of art, buying from young, unknown artists from early on, such as Pablo Picasso, whom she met already in 1905. In 1907 she met Alice B. Toklas and the rest is history as they say. They enjoyed a life-long relationship and complimented each other in many ways. Saturdays, their home was open to a mixture of artists, writers, and ex-pats. The evenings usually started with dinner for a few chosen friends. Afterward, everyone who knocked on the door was welcomed. "The salon was not a place for snobs, here everyone socialised freely and simply, in a somewhat chaotic environment full of life and discussions." "The salon became a springboard for innovation."(my translation).

Natalie Clifford Barney

was American and daughter of the railway magnate Albert Clifford Barney and artist Alice Pike Barney. She came from a wealthy family and used her money to support poor artists. She published a few of her own books as well. Sapfo was an important poet for her identification.  She rented a house in Neuilly, with a garden, perfect for parties. Among her visitors were Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, and authors Anna de Noilles, Colette, Marie de Régnier, Renée Vivien, and Lucie Delarue-Mardrus. From 1909 she rented a house in the court of rue Jacob 20, where she for many years held a lavish salon. The last one was held almost 60 years later in 1968. It was during the 1910s and 1920s that her salon had its peak. It could be up to 200 guests. Apart from the salon, she held a reception once a month for about 100-150 persons. Samuel Putnam was of the opinion that she was the only one who held a salon as they were held in the 18th century. Here you saw wit and elegance come together. Leaders in literature met with scientists and doctors. She was not interested in the formal merits, it was man who interested her: "I'm not a bibliophile but humanophile: it's the strange human specimens I seek."Her salon was lavishly decorated, full of colours and old furniture. One can imagine that the people who visited here, were transferred back to the original salons of times past.

The next post will cover Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Paris in July 2020

Tamara at Thyme for Tea is hosting another Paris in July. I am happy to participate again. One of my favourite challenge. Looking forward to seeing fellow Paris-bloggers to see what you are up to this year.  Simple rules; we talk about everything Paris and French. Ill-prepared this year, so no high-level plans for the month. Here are some ideas I might fulfil. 
Usually, I do a French dinner, but considering the times, this will be out of the question this year. I might make up a dinner menu at least. 

I still have an unfinished post from last year(!) about saloons in Paris in the 1920s, which I will finalise.

Someone recommended R.A. Scotti's Vanished Smile, about the theft of Mona Lisa at the beginning of the 20th century. I have never heard about this theft, but it sounds interesting. Especially, since I know the painting came back to the museum. Will try to find the book. 

I will go to the library and see what French they have. Maybe I will try two of my favourite French thriller writers; Michel Bussi and Fred Vargas. They never disappoint. 

I had a look on my own shelves. Unfortunately, not too much connected to France. I found three books though where I can make a French connection. 
  • Bussy-Rabutin - Histoire amoureuse des Gaules - bought it at his castle when we visited some years ago. My French is poor, but I might be able to read a few chapters.
  • Charles Mackay - Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. "This classic catalogue of some of the more outré enthusiasms - speculative, social, religious and just plain daft - serves as a salutary reminder that the follies of mankind are not unique to the moderns world." I have found some connections to France, so let's see what follies I can find.
  • Göran Norrby - The Rise and Fall of the House of von Fersen, 1561-1879. A Swedish biography about the von Fersen family. Axel von Fersen was rumoured to be the lover of Marie Antoinette, and also tried to help them flee. Unsuccessfully. 
There are of course many interesting French writers that I may add to the list.

I will also check out some French films, TV-series and music. 

I might go back to our French travels and find a few pictures and stories.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

before we met by Lucie Whitehouse

" A whirlwind romance. A perfect marriage.
Hannah Reilly has seized her chance at happiness. Until the day her husband doesn't come home...
Can you ever really know what happened before you met?"
Hannah goes to Heathrow to meet her husband, en route from the US.  It is his usual weekend visit. However, this weekend he is not on the plane and he is not available on his phone. Hannah naturally worries that something has happened. When he finally contact her by message, she is relieved.

When she by chance is told that he is supposed to be with her in Rome, her mind moves towards the idea he is having an affair. She starts investigating and more and more mysterious details are detected.

This is a kind of 'Gaslight' story. Is Hannah just imagining things? Everybody seems convinced that she is the love of his life. The more she detects an unknown part of his life, the more the mystery is shrouded in darkness.

This is a story keeping you hooked and guessing until the very end. It is creepy and thrilling, and you don't really know whom you should believe in. Since we follow Hannah step by step, we are there with her, sharing her feelings and fears as she finds out more about her husband's life before they met. A book, difficult to put down.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Catching up

A while now since my last post. I don't know what is happening, but time seems to go very fast. We are still self-isolating, although we do venture out a little bit more. Being careful and keeping distances. It is quite comfortable to have no demands on you because there is not so much you can do in comparison to normal times. I recently asked my husband how we will be able to cope with all the things to do, once we are back to normal. These days I am only capable of concentrating on the few daily tasks that we have. I do long for normal times, misunderstand me right, and hope that the lack of energy I feel now, will come back. It is heavy to think that we might have to stay like this for another year. We are continuing our walks in the area and have discovered a lot of nice national parks and areas to walk or bike. If this situation would not have occurred, I don't think we ever would have had time for these discoveries.

I read 11 books in May. Many of them very good. So far so good for my personal challenge of reading 7 books from my shelves every month (from April). I have done well so far; 8 in April and 7 in May. My other personal challenge of reading more non-fiction books this year is not looking that good; only 4 books this year. Well, there are times to come. I find that easy-going thrillers are the best books to read during these times.

Today is a new month and new efforts. I have, as usual, several options to choose from. I have also started listening to the first book in Lucina Riley's Seven Sisters series. Fascinating from the first sentence. I will try to listen through it fastly, so I can download the e-books from the library.

I have four books on the go, which I hope to finalise this month. All from my own shelves. They are: before we met by Lucie Whitehouse, Laterna magica by Ingmar Bergman, Inheritance (The story of Knole & the Sackvilles) by Robert Sackville-West, and Nattens historia (The history of the night) by Gunnar Broberg. Three of them are non-fiction. Hopefully, they can occupy my mind for a while.

I hope that you are all safe and using the time to read and exercise.

Monday, 18 May 2020

3 x Alexander Söderberg

Another fantastic book from my bookshelves. The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg was published already in 2012 (in Swedish, 2013 in English). While reading, I realised it is the first part of a trilogy. I remember it got excellent reviews when it was first published, although I did not realise it was such a long time ago. This is one of the best thrillers I have read. Quite different from anything else in this genre. Once finishing the first book I downloaded the following two e-books from the library; The Other Son and The Good Wolf. I read them both in two days. Simply could not put them down.
"When Sophie Brinkmann meets Hector Guzman, she knows everything that she needs to: he’s handsome, he’s charming and he makes her happy. But what she doesn’t know is that Hector has some nasty friends, some even nastier enemies, and an unscrupulous police operation relentlessly following his every move. With her house under surveillance by the law and her life under threat from drug traffickers, gangsters and hitmen, Sophie must decide who she can trust – and whose side she really wants to be on."
It might be difficult to understand how an ordinary nurse like Sophie falls in love with a criminal type like Hector Guzman. I think this is the reason why Söderberg's novels have a certain appeal. The characters are well-drawn. They are not categorised into bad people being bad, and good people being good. Both sides have good and bad streaks. Nothing is black and white in this account of what is happening when an innocent nurse, by chance, is entering into the world of international crime.

One can have a doubt about how someone like Sophie can handle all the criminal elements she meets. It is a violent story. Once you have seen a brutal murder would you not call the police? Once you realise that your boyfriend is the leader of an international criminal gang, would you not, at least, try to get out of it? There are questions here that do not get an answer. Once you are on the train, maybe you just have to continue.

The tempo is extremely high through all of the three books, and I, at least, found myself holding my breath. Constantly moving forwards, even when there seem to be quiet moments. We meet gangsters, thugs, and both honest and corrupt policemen, and women. In all of this, Sophie has to balance on a tight-rope to be able to come out of this alive, as well as protecting her son.

As the story unfolds, the plot is becoming more complicated, as the international gangs are taking the stake higher and higher. The more complicated the plot is becoming, the more you ask yourself how this will end. Well, the end came quite as a surprise. Considering there really are no winners in this story, I think it was all right.

It seems the first book will be filmed, but no further details available.  It will be interesting to see who will play Sophie, Hector, and Albert, and all the other characters. I can't wait to see what the movie producers will make of it.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Gabriel Farago x 2

Gabriel Farago is an international, bestselling Australian author of the Jack Rogan mysteries. I have already enjoyed several of his books, among them The Kimberley Secret and Professor K: The Final Quest. His hero, Jack Rogan, is a man entirely to my liking. He is an Australian journalist, interested in history and mysteries. Charming, talented, and with a certain kind of humour, he seems to fit in anywhere.  It was nice to meet him again in two books I read during my Caribbean holiday over Christmas and New Year:  The Forgotten Painting and The Curious Case of the Missing Head.

The Forgotten Painting

I divide the books about Jack Rogan into the earlier ones and the later ones. The earlier ones, of which The Forgotten Painting is one, is of a more 'simple' structure, than the newer books by Farago. I classify them as an old fashion mystery book à la Agatha Christie. They are based on a mystery in the past which Rogan is trying to solve.
"When celebrated author Jack Rogan stumbles upon a hidden diary, he can’t resist investigating. Honouring the last wish of a dying friend, he is irresistibly drawn into a web of intriguing clues, hinting at a long forgotten treasure. 
Joining forces with Cecilia Crawford, a glamorous New York journalist, and Tristan, a remarkable boy with psychic powers, Jack soon finds himself on a precarious journey of discovery, exposing dark secrets from a distant, violent time, when life was cheap and cruelty ruled without mercy. 
Will Rogan succeed? Can he find the forgotten treasure he has been searching for, or will it be lost forever, depriving the world of a masterpiece that belongs to all mankind."
The forgotten treasure is a painting, lost since World War II.  Rogan's quest to find the treasure, mentioned in a diary, takes him all over Europe, from the dens of forgers into the most exclusive auctioneering houses of Europe. But it does not end there. Are the clues Rogan found really true or is someone playing with them?

Gabriel Farago notes that The Forgotten Painting is a novella, and thus shorter than his ordinary novels. He chose this genre as a way to introduce new readers to his work. It does work very well. Personally, I love mysteries of this kind, and when we think we know the answer to the mystery, the story takes another turn. A good introduction to Farago's hero.

The Curious Case of the Missing Head

With his later books, Gabriel Farago has entered into the world of international crime, and he does it with great skills. The stories are well built up and very complex. The different storylines are skillfully merging in the end.
"Esteemed Australian journalist Jack Rogan is on a mission to solve the disappearance of his mother in the 70s. But when a friend needs help rescuing a kidnapped world-renowned astrophysicist, he doesn’t hesitate. Struggling with more questions than answers, his investigation leads them aboard a hellish hospital ship, where instead of finding the kidnap victim, he’s confronted with a decapitated corpse. 
As the search intensifies, Jack bumps up against diabolical cartels with hidden agendas. And when his research reveals dubious experiments, a criminal on death row, and a shocking revelation about his mother’s fate, he must uncover how it’s all linked.
Can Jack unravel the twisted connections and catch the scientist’s killer, or will the next obituary published be his own? 
The Curious Case of the Missing Head is the fifth standalone novel in the page-turning Jack Rogan Mysteries series. If you like meticulous theoretical science, exponentially increasing intensity, and astonishing surprises, then you’ll love Gabriel Farago’s hair-raising medical thriller."
This is a thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last. Farago's thrillers are so well researched. Often science plays a big role in the stories, as here, and it is impressive how much detail we are given. That is what makes his stories seem trustworthy.

What I also like with this novel, as well as with Farago's other novels, is that the characters are carefully sketched. Usually, people are either good or bad. Farago gives both the good and the bad ones more dimensional characters.

In principle, there are two mysteries in this novel; the long-ago disappearance of Rogan's mother and the kidnapping of a scientist. You wonder how Farago will be able to tie together two such separate stories in the end, but he does.

The Jack Rogan mysteries can be read in any order. Each book has a story that is finalised in the end. As I said, I love some of the earlier books where you meet Rogan as he starts his 'career' as an investigating journalist. However, it is no problem to start with later books, where the stories are more complex.

On Gabriel Farago's website, you can get a free download of some of his earlier books. His newsletters are also worth subscribing too.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

The Strauss Family by Peter Prange

This book Die Strauß- Dynastie was published in 1993, so it has been a long time with me. I love classical music, and some of the best and most beautiful music comes from the Strauß family. It seems that Peter Prange wrote the book from a manuscript. That is maybe why, at least in the beginning, it is a bit difficult to come into. A bit of static writing. However, as I came further into the story, the exciting, and rather sad, history of this family took over.

It is an unusually talented family, all the sons were into music. Maybe Johann was the most talented, but the other two brothers, Joseph and Eduard, made their marks at the time. Johann Strauß, the elder, left his wife and family to move in with his mistress. It was a big change for the family, even if the husband/father paid for them. The mother, Anna, became a rather miserable figure. Although one must admire her stamina, she was a powerful woman and reigned her family, that is, her children with an iron hand. Having said that, she also dedicated her life to her sons and their music.

The brothers did not get along very well, which also affected the family. Johann Strauß, the younger, left his home at a rather young age, and sort of distanced himself from them. His career is interesting and his fame did not come without sacrifices. Both father and son traveled extensively over Europe and America, leaving the political climate of Vienna.

A fascinating family who ruled the dancing scene of Vienna for most of their lives. Their music is still popular today, and that says something of its charm and quality. Reading about their lives gives another aspect to their music, the times they lived in, and the faith of a family who was striving in different directions. An amazing and interesting account of a talented family who put their marks on the world.