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Archive for the ‘Nobel Prize Winners’ Category

It is the first day of November and it is the start of German Literature Month hosted by Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy from Lizzy’s Literary Life. This event steps into its second decade today, and it is one of my favourite reading events of the year, and so I am very excited!

German writers are famous for their novellas and so I thought I’ll start with one. I’ve wanted to read Heinrich Böll for a long time and so read his first book ‘The Train was on Time‘.

Andreas is a soldier in the German army during the Second World War. When the story starts, he is deployed into the Eastern Front. Andreas has a premonition that he is going to die soon. He even roughly knows where. He calculates the when while he is on the train and he is filled with dread. But he meets two fellow soldiers on the train, and an easy camaraderie develops between them, and they start hanging out together. One of them taken on the leadership role of the gang, and takes the other two under his wing. What happens after that forms the rest of the story. Does Andreas’ premonition come true? You have to read the book to find out.

I loved ‘The Train was on Time‘. The dread of a soldier going out to war is so beautifully and realistically depicted in the story. The camaraderie of the three soldiers and the experiences they share is also wonderfully depicted. In the second half of the book a character called Olina makes her appearance, and the long conversation that she has with Andreas is one of the beautiful and magical parts of the book. Heinrich Böll’s prose has the classic long sentences loved by German writers and is a pleasure to read.

One of the things that I discovered through the book was Sauternes, which is a French sweet wine. I love learning about new wines, and I love dessert wines and so this was a pleasurable discovery. My favourite dessert wine is a Canadian icewine called Inniskillin. Now I can’t wait to try Sauternes. So exciting!

The Train was on Time‘ is a nuanced war novel (or an anti-war novel). It is also a beautiful love story, though not a conventional one.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

“Soon. Soon. Soon. Soon. When is Soon? What a terrible word: Soon. Soon can mean in one second, Soon can mean in one year. Soon is a terrible word. This Soon compresses the future, shrinks it, offers no certainty, no certainty whatever, it stands for absolute uncertainty. Soon is nothing and Soon is a lot. Soon is everything…”

“It’s a terrible thing to maltreat a person because that person seems ugly to you. There are no ugly people.”

“Suddenly he realized they were already in Poland. His heart stood still for a moment, missed another beat as if the artery had suddenly knotted, blocking off the blood. Never again will I be in Germany, Germany’s gone. The train left Germany while I was asleep. Somewhere there was a line, an invisible line across a field or right through the middle of a village, and that was the border, and the train passed callously over it, and I was no longer in Germany, and no one woke me so I could have one more look out into the night and at least see a piece of the night that hung over Germany. Of course no one knows I shan’t see it again, no one knows I’m going to die, no one on the train. Never again will I see the Rhine. The Rhine! The Rhine! Never again! This train is simply taking me along, carting me off to Przemy´sl, and there’s Poland, hopeless hapless Poland, and I’ll never see the Rhine, never smell it again, that exquisite tang of water and seaweed that coats and clings to every stone along the banks of the Rhine. Never again the avenues along the Rhine, the gardens behind the villas, and the boats, so bright and clean and gay, and the bridges, those splendid bridges, spare and elegant, leaping over the water like great slender animals.”

“He waited until it was dark. He had no idea how long it took, he had forgotten the girl, forgotten the wine, the whole house, and all he saw was a last little bit of the forest whose treetops caught a few final glints from the setting sun, a few tiny glints from the sun. Some reddish gleams, exquisite, indescribably beautiful on those treetops. A tiny crown of light, the last light he would ever see. Now it was gone … no, there was still a bit, a tiny little bit on the tallest of the trees, the one that reached up the highest and could still catch something of the golden reflection that would remain for only half a second … until it was all gone. It’s still there, he thought, holding his breath … still a particle of light up there on the treetop … an absurd little shimmer of sunlight, and no one in the world but me is watching it. Still there … still there, it was like a smile that faded very slowly … still there, and now it was gone! The light has gone out, the lantern has vanished, and I shall never see it again…”

Have you read ‘The Train was on Time‘? What do you think about it? And, which is your favourite sweet / dessert wine? 😊

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