Monday, May 14, 2007

Verse novels VI: Christoph Ransmayr

Last November, I went to hear Christoph Ransmayr read from Der fliegende Berg, his verse novel about two Irish brothers and their attempt to climb an extremely isolated mountain in Tibet. I had already started the book before the reading and was about halfway through, and since everything Ransmayr read was in the first half of the book, it was all familiar to me. So I was especially struck by how much of the reading Ransmayr was doing from memory, although the book was open in front of him the whole time.

Der fliegende Berg is a brilliant, powerful book, perhaps not quite as utterly astonishing as Ransmayr's masterpiece, The Last World, but still more than worth reading. The only drawback for anyone reading this post who does not know German is that Der fliegende Berg is not yet available in English, and Ransmayr told me after the reading that Knopf, his usual English-language publisher, does not want to publish the book as a verse novel. They would love to publish it, but only as prose. As Ransmayr would not allow that, the book had no English-language publisher as of November.

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