The novella by Urs Faes, translated from the German by Jamie Lee Searle, is possibly the first German translated fiction that I’ve read and it’s simply b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.
Set during the period between Christmas and Twelfth Night, it tells the story of Manfred, returning to his childhood village after 40 years, hoping to seek a reconciliation with his estranged younger brother Sebastian after a huge falling out over the inheritance of the family farm.
The festive season is a joyous period for some, but for others, it’s a period that reminds them of fraught relationships, estranged families and a sense of lingering loss and regret.
The prose is hauntingly beautiful, conveyed through Jamie Lee Searle’s exquisite translation. You can easily tell that there’s great care being taken for the work by both the author and translator, and there’s just so many beautiful turns of phrases. It can be a quick read, but I found myself slowing down to savor each and every line. The blend of nature, folklore, religion, traditional tales and superstition is captivating and I will myself to slow down and take in each and every single word.
In particular, the descriptions of the wintry landscape was evocative and makes for a wonderfully atmospheric read.
I could almost see the snowy landscape, feel the bleakness, the cold and it was as if I had been transported to Europe’s Black Forest, a place where I’ve never set foot in. I’ve only seen fluttering of snow in Korea and even as I read this in sunny Singapore, I could slip in so effortlessly into the wintry depths of the novella.
A story told, a story from the past, would never truly fade once it had moved someone. The act of remembering, of reading, was like a return, a homecoming into a story. He was never closer to himself than in the remembered and read
This is my favorite quote from the novella. There’s aplenty.
I borrowed a copy from the library, but I’m thinking of getting it for my bookshelf. I’ll definitely want to read this again.