Rivers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

The book offers a collection of novellas and as you will expect from the title, a river plays a part in all of them and the sometimes gently and sometimes stormy waters connect the stories. 

Dutch author Martin Michael Driessen's writing is of utter beauty and has you at first slowly floating along, carefully watching out not to miss a single sentence of his tales. 
His build up is simply exciting and watch out, you never know, where Driessen will take you after the next bend. 

Rivers won the ECI Literature Prize and it's without doubt very well deserved. 

Yes, I loved them all, but because I'm from the Rhine region in Germany, it's Voyage to the Moon, the second novella, which has to be my favourite. 
There we follow a logger, Konrad, along the rivers first Main then Rhine, from his small hometown in Franken/Frankonia all the way to the end in the Netherlands where the Rhine empties into the North Sea. 
This is a journey through time, life and place and it looks at chances we missed or others we never had. 

An exceptional read.
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"Rivers" is a collection of one short story and two novellas which centered around the rivers. Unique stories written in beautiful prose (probably excellent translation, too.) At times, even full of life ironies. 

Cleverly using the natures of rivers as symbolism-- unpredictable, calm, turbulent, peaceful, fickle and powerful-- we have three stories that span across countries and time periods that illustrate the meandering cycles of life. 

I am usually not a fan of short stories, but I highly enjoyed the three well-written stories presented in this collection by the award-winning author Martin Michael Driessen. These stories are short and by no means they are page turners. I took my time and some thoughts to fully appreciate them and they did not disappoint. I will sure want to read more by the author if there are future translations on his other works.
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This trio of novellas has its focus the fact that each pivots on the river, the Aisne, that runs through them. The first, ‘Fleuve Sauvage’, is the rather strange story of a drunken actor on a boat in the river. Full of his musings which range across the mediocre: “Do you really want to quit drinking? he thought as he lit a cigarette. It’s not happiness, but it sure does feel like it. More than anything else you know.” Without spoiling the dénouement, I felt as though I’d surged through high tide with this one, only to emerge a little puzzled at the end. 

The second, ‘Voyage to the Moon: Life is a Dream’ was the rather engaging story, set at the beginning of the last century. A logger, Konrad, travels with his lumber from a small Franconian village to the North Sea. This is both a voyage through time, as well as a voyage through the man’s life, and the realisation that time brings a narrowing of choices. 

“Do you know what’s so bad about getting old?” Konrad asked.
“Yeah,” said the farmer, “that I have to hire you to carry crates for me.” “It’s not so much having to give up the things you used to have. It’s the realization that there are things you’ll never get.”

This is also a story of class differences in that long-ago time, shot through with the impossibility of homosexuality for a character whom Konrad will encounter in his life’s voyages. 

But the most engaging story was the last ‘Pierre and Adèle’ in which the two represent warring factions of two feuding neighbours in Brittany. Divided by the river, the boundaries of the farms are ever in doubt, and there is seemingly no solution to the dilemma. Witty, and engaging, this lengthy novella carries us along its streams.
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"River", originally published in 2016 as "Rivieren" and translated from Dutch by Johnathan Reeder for an english release, was written by Martin Michael Driessen. It's a relatively short book over all, less than 200 pages. It contains three stories that are all connected by the theme of rivers.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the stories. I liked one of them more than the other two, but it's not uncommon for me to favor one story in a collection over the others. I definitely can't speak on how well the translation was done, but it's definitely quite a good read. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who wants a short collection to read.
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