Literary Giveaway Blog Hop – A Mother of a Book

Greetings to all those visiting Tony’s Reading List as part of the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop (and I hope you are going to visit all the other participants too!).  Today on my little blog, there will, as promised, be a giveaway – the down side is that you’ll have to sit through the review first (it’s a small price to pay, no?).

Friedrich Christian Delius, the recipient of this year’s Georg-Büchner Prize, is a well-known and highly successful German author, and as you would expect, Bildnis der Mutter als junge Frau (Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman), a 2006 novella, is a wonderful piece of writing.  For those of you who are not fluent in the teutonic tongue, don’t panic – the wonderful Peirene Press have an equally wonderful English-language version available 🙂

The story follows Margherita, a young, pregnant German woman, who has been left to spend the time leading up to the birth of her first child alone, after her husband was called away on business.  Which doesn’t sound so bad until you hear that she is in Rome, in January 1943, and that the business her husband has been called away to is on the North African war front…

In one long sentence spanning 120 pages, we literally follow Margherita on her way through the eternal city.  Ostensibly, we are watching a young woman stroll to her church to watch a concert; in reality, we are privy to her internal musings and are able, by sifting through the confused thought patterns, to gradually build up an image of Margherita, her life, Rome, Germany, the War, Christianity – everything.

Margherita is a product of her time, a faithful member of the German Girls’ League, conditioned to love her husband, bear many children and support the ideals of the Fatherland, and it is is tempting to see her as a vapid, clinging woman, unwilling to give an opinion and unable to function properly, even to stray from the straight line between her home and her church, without her husband.  However, the longer the story goes on, the more she opens up, and the less convinced she appears that what is happening back in her homeland (and all around the edges of Europe) is right.

The main source of her doubts can be found in her deep faith, and the quiet warnings from both her father and her husband about the way the Führer has effectively put himself on a pedestal alongside God.  Once we begin to see past her seemingly-blind obedience to her country, cracks appear in the facade.  Margherita worries about the difficulty of reconciling her national and spiritual duties, lamenting:

“die täglichen Konflikte zwischen Kreuz und Hakenkreuz”, p.100
(“the daily conflicts between the cross and the swastika”)

In this light, her seeming indifference to what is going on is in fact a form of defence mechanism, protecting her from her own inner turmoil and doubt.

This Christian theme pervades the book, with Margherita stranded on an island of Evangelism in the middle of the most Catholic city in the world.  She seeks comfort in her church, comparing its rituals favourably with the more ostentatious scenes she sees elsewhere in the eternal city.  However, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Delius is playing with the reader a little in this respect, with his portrait of the pregnant young woman, wandering around in a time of conflict, the father of the child absent and seen only in her thoughts.  Is it any coincidence that Margherita’s trip to the Vatican takes place on the occasion of the holiday of the “unbefleckten Empfängnis” (p.17) – or, in English, the immaculate conception…

Whether this is really the author’s intent, or a happy accident (or, more likely, just the blogger’s overactive imagination), what it all adds up to is a brief, leisurely, compelling stroll through a beautiful city, a brief moment in time and a period of world history which will never be forgotten.  The magic of this novella is that Delius is able to cover all aspects of his story from the micro to the macro in such a short space of time (and in such a seemingly limited style).

And the sentence?  Well, I’m not 100% convinced, and there were a few times when I really thought it was continuing simply because it had already been going for so long that it would have been a shame to end it.  Still, I’m not going to criticise such minor details when the book is such a success overall – and especially not when (for the writer) it is a particularly personal affair.

If you want to know what I mean by that, just look up Herr Delius’ date (and place) of birth…


So on to the giveaway!  I will be giving away a copy of the book reviewed above, either in the original German or in the 2010 Peirene Press English-language version.  If you want to enter, simply:

  – comment on this post, stating whether you want the English or German version
  – write the word ‘please‘ somewhere in your comment; manners are important 🙂

  – a contact e-mail would be nice, but I will endeavour to track down the winner!
  – commenting on my review is welcome but not obligatory 😉

This competition is open to all, but please note that I will be using The Book Depository to send this prize, so it is limited to people living in countries where The Book Depository has free delivery.  Entries will close at midnight (Melbourne time) on Thursday, the 30th of June, 2011, and I’ll be announcing the winner shortly after.  Good luck to all, and to all a good night…


58 thoughts on “Literary Giveaway Blog Hop – A Mother of a Book

  1. Hello & pleasant period of time to you Sir, have heard of this book & please would you put my name forward for consideration. It will be the English version as my Deutsche is not as great as your own, I offer you my hearty thanks & invite you to take part in The Natty Hat Comp, as part of this Giveaway.


  2. What a pleasant surprise. I love everything Peirene does, so I don't need a copy of the book 🙂 though I would love to gift one to someone if that's an option. The single sentence thing is a real dilemma – I wonder in a few years time if that will be the only thing people remember about the book. Like Hitchcock's Rope, for example – better known for the long takes than the insight into one of the 20th century's crystallising moments.


  3. Tony, you're a bit early with the Hop, the link to the other participants won't work until Saturday European time.

    I've heard a lot about this book, of course. There has been a lot of Peirene-love around the blogs I read!

    I love it that you want people to be polite in their comment – very good!

    Do not enter me in the giveaway, though, I do not enjoy books with an overly religious theme (and reading very long sentences, a la Bolano is not for me either).

    Good luck with the giveaway, hope you get a lot of visitors to your blog!


  4. Oh my goodness, this is the book that is the long sentence! I read something about it so long ago, and then could never remember what it was! It sounds kind of beautiful though :). I would like the English version please, since, much as I would like to be bi/multilingual, I'm really not. Yet.

    Email: devouringtexts [at] gmail [dot] com


  5. I checked, I checked to see if The Book Depository delivered to Canada and it does, it does! I'm so excited!


    The story sounds so incredibly interesting- I've never heard of it! And I'd love to read it, so if I don't win I'm going to get it some other way. 🙂

    I'm torn: I want the the German version because I don't have nearly enough German books, but I'm afraid if I read it in German I won't enjoy it as much…

    Ah well, I shall enter to win the German version, please. And thank you very much for bringing this book to my attention. 🙂

    -Eva (


  6. What a great giveaway! I'd love to win the English version please (I studied Japanese at school, not very useful in this situation). My email is samstillreading(at)gmail(dot)com.
    Thank you!


  7. A new author to me and sadly although I still speak German after working there for 3 years in the early '70s I have to read very slowly when the book is in German.

    So I would be interested in getting the English translation.

    Thank you for the giveaway and for being prepared to ship worldwide.

    Please send it to South Africa !

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com


  8. I'd love to read the English version, please. I'm trying to read more books in translation, since I've recently read some depressing statistics on how many non-English language writers that Americans read. This book sounds interesting – I wonder if the name Margherita is a reference to Bulgakov's The Master And Margarita another book with a religious theme and lots of wondering around a city.

    You can contact me at mrsethjones[at]yahoo[dot].com.

    My blog, where I review free audiobooks, is Free Listens.


  9. Thank you for a wonderful giveaway! I'd love to win a copy in English please.

    debnance at gmail dot com

    My mother has been sick and I never got around to signing up to participate in the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop. But I've started a monthly giveaway on my blog and I've got a June Giveaway going on this month at my blog, and I'd love to invite you to stop by and throw your name in the hat for Anna and the French Kiss! It's a US giveaway only this month, but next month, I'll be offering an international giveaway for a $25 Amazon card!


  10. Please enter my name for your giveaway. This sounds like a fantastic book. It would be interesting to read the perspective of a woman in Germany at that time. I can't imagine how difficult that inner struggle would be when your country is asking you to participate in something you know to be wrong. Great review! Now I really want to read it. If I do win, I'd need the English version. 🙂 Thanks for the chance to win! And you're right–manners are important! 🙂


  11. Tony this sounds like an amazing read. Please enter me for an English copy.
    Best wishes and thanks for a chance to win this fantabulous giveaway!


  12. Please enter me in for The English version please,please,please,please, please,!!

    and you know I comment whenever I can! Thanks.



  13. I'd like to read this in English, please. At first, I wasn't certain that I'd enjoy the style of writing but your analysis of Margherita's crisis of faith intrigues me greatly.

    Thanks for the chance to win!


  14. This sounds like a challenging but fascinating book. I would love to be entered in the draw for this in English please. Thank you for offering such an interesting title.



  15. You make this book sound like something I'd like to read. I would like to be entered for the English version, please and thank you. Glad I found your blog and will take a good look around.


  16. Hello. I love the Peirene Press novellas, and have had this book on my TBR pile for ages. So, please could you enter me into the giveaway for the English version of the book. My email is cerievans1 at gmail dot com. Thanks


  17. I'd love to be please entered in to the (English language) giveaway! I'm very curious to see about the “one long sentence spanning 120 pages.” Hmm. And it sounds like a moving book.



  18. Thank you for the giveaway!! Please send the english version if I win!! Although I have some German in me I don't read the language at all!!


  19. Tony,

    It's nice to virtually meet you through your reviews. Thank you for this lovely giveaway.

    I would like to be be entered to win the English version, please.

    I have followed you through GFC, so you may contact me via that means or via email:

    Sabrina dot Whitehead at gmail dot com.



    S. Jaede


  20. Thank you so much for offering such a unique book! Please enter me to win the English version. Despite being raised in Wiesbaden, my reading is much faster in English these days.

    careofkiddos {at} msn {dot} com


  21. I'm very excited about your giveaway book. Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman sounds like a wonderful story. And I only recently discovered Peirene Press and their wonderful selection of books. I would be thrilled to win this book for both these reasons.
    I'd very much appreciate if you would, please enter me in your giveaway!

    Thank you!
    ~ Amy


  22. I *have* been meaning to polish up my rusty school German… but I'm not sure whether a one-sentence book is the right place to start? :\ Anywho, awesome giveaway! I had expected JLit but you always know how to surprise me. 🙂


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