Friday, March 24, 2006

"Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!" by Conrad Aiken

Ah--a shipboard romance: the stuff of Hollywood and of clich├ęs. This one doesn't quite avoid all the conventions, but it does give a certain poignancy and clarity to class and cultural differences of the early twentieth century, as the narrator follows the transatlantic voyage of an Irish working girl whose one wish is unfortunately fulfilled. Read by Scoot. Time 38:04. Maybe the longest story we've posted yet!

We had thought for a long time of including Conrad Aiken's stunning "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" here, but that story is even longer than this one, and with so many people having read it in some anthology or other, it might be superfluous to feature it here. Unfortunately, much of Aiken's prose is shockingly out-of-print, although his poetry remains more accessible. Aiken used to be one of the most famous writers around, but apparently his stock has fallen in this post-postmodern world (well, how many writers born before 1900, if not 1970, haven't see that happen?). However, perhaps still relevant even so, Aiken's grave figures in the popular book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (he was born on the banks of the Savannah River, though after his parents' violent deaths, he was raised in Massachusetts), and he is the father of writer Joan Aiken.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Lake Ghosts" by Ilse Aichinger

Three ghosts, three histories, one lake in Germany. This is a somewhat enigmatic, impressionistic European travelogue, taking us to a place where few of us might want to fish or swim. Translated from the German by Harry Steinhauer. Read by Scoot. Time 10:37.

In 1996, it says here, Ilse Aichinger signed a declaration for spelling reform in Germany. And about time, we concur! Well, that may be somewhat inconsequential when considering the life of this Austrian writer in general. Like so many other writers, she studied to be a doctor but wound up writing for a living instead. Her books have dealt with Nazi persecution and how the last great war changed the lives of women and Jews in so many ways. Aichinger's first book was published in 1945 and the latest in her long career in 2001--and, who knows, there may yet be more.