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Rome one January afternoon in 1943. A young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. Innocent and naïve, the war is for her little more than a day-dream, until she realizes that her husband might never return. This is a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need to safeguard innocence and integrity at any cost - even at the r Rome one January afternoon in 1943. A young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. Innocent and naïve, the war is for her little more than a day-dream, until she realizes that her husband might never return. This is a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need to safeguard innocence and integrity at any cost - even at the risk of excluding reality.


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Rome one January afternoon in 1943. A young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. Innocent and naïve, the war is for her little more than a day-dream, until she realizes that her husband might never return. This is a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need to safeguard innocence and integrity at any cost - even at the r Rome one January afternoon in 1943. A young German woman is on her way to listen to a Bach concert at the Lutheran church. Innocent and naïve, the war is for her little more than a day-dream, until she realizes that her husband might never return. This is a mesmerizing psychological portrait of the human need to safeguard innocence and integrity at any cost - even at the risk of excluding reality.

30 review for Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman

  1. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    This brief, evocative novella takes place during a late afternoon stroll in 1943. A very young, pregnant German woman is separated from her husband, who is stationed in North Africa during World War II. She is staying in Rome, in a guest room in a hospital for the elderly, run by German nuns in what seems to be the Prati neighborhood, between Vatican City and the historic center. Her obstetrician instructs her to "walk, young lady, walk" for the health of the child, soon to be born. Margaret look This brief, evocative novella takes place during a late afternoon stroll in 1943. A very young, pregnant German woman is separated from her husband, who is stationed in North Africa during World War II. She is staying in Rome, in a guest room in a hospital for the elderly, run by German nuns in what seems to be the Prati neighborhood, between Vatican City and the historic center. Her obstetrician instructs her to "walk, young lady, walk" for the health of the child, soon to be born. Margaret looks forward to these daily constitutions to the Lutheran Gospel on Via Sicilia, and today she is on her way to hear a Bach concert. She considers her beginning and end points as two German islands "in a sea of Rome," a bewildering city, for the most part, to an innocent, devout Protestant. Margaret is terrified to admit thoughts of her own that are not consecrated by the Bible and the Reich. Does Margaret's naiveté shield her from the uncertainty of war? Or does she wrap herself in the flag and confine her catechism to the Bible as a camouflage from doubt? As she walks through the ancient streets of Rome, memories of her past and questions about her future surface and trouble her. There are also divides between what she learned about Brotherly Love from her preacher father, and the message from Hitler's Germany. New ideas threaten to shift her current perspective--or at least question it, such as the German position on war, the attitude toward Jews and Italians, and whether her station and circumstances are propitious or unfortunate. Moreover, she worries whether she should explore other views or scrutinize the authority of the principles/morals/values she's been taught. Some ideas circle around, generating more powerful internal conflicts as they materialize, and threaten to shake her resolve. And throughout is her concern about her husband, Gert, whose letters she holds sacred. And Margaret walks, and crosses the Tiber via the Ponte Margherita, smiling at the name of the bridge. The obelisks on Piazza del Popolo and the sculptures with the lion fountains provoke more memories, as well as thoughts about the strength of the city--the Eternal City that has survived many wars--and is older than Christ himself. The Christian cross at the tip of the obelisks comforts her, in that "the Christian symbol triumphed over the heathen one." The circumlocution of her thoughts has its own logic, which includes her benevolence toward the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, because Martin Luther, the great Protestant, had once stayed there. And why were there so many eagles in Rome? They looked softer here, less stern than the German eagles. This is a story of contemplation, all told in one sentence. However, despite the Joycean title, this is written in a gentle, poetic, accessible style. The frequent paragraphs prevent weariness and provide white space, and the natural pauses are inherent and organic. Jamie Bulloch's translation from the German is superb. (I don't speak German, but can sense a clunky or awkward translation.) This is a seamless narrative of a stroll through the streets of Rome, as well as a sensitive, soulful sojourn of a mother as a young woman.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    A Walk Through Rome Friedrich Christian Delius is the winner of Germany's highly prestigious Georg-Büchner Prize, but this, I believe, is the first of his books to be translated into English. And a very fluid translation too, by Jamie Bulloch—important in that the whole novella, though divided into paragraphs, is a single run-on sentence, a third-person stream of consciousness that is virtually impossible to stop reading. "Walk, young lady, walk if you want to walk, the child will like it if you w A Walk Through Rome Friedrich Christian Delius is the winner of Germany's highly prestigious Georg-Büchner Prize, but this, I believe, is the first of his books to be translated into English. And a very fluid translation too, by Jamie Bulloch—important in that the whole novella, though divided into paragraphs, is a single run-on sentence, a third-person stream of consciousness that is virtually impossible to stop reading. "Walk, young lady, walk if you want to walk, the child will like it if you walk," so speaks the Italian doctor to the title character, a young German woman in Rome, eight months pregnant. And walk she does, by a route that is easy to follow today, from the Waldensian hostel in the Trastevere, over the Ponte Margherita (the Italian version of her own name, Margaret), through the Piazza del Popolo, ascending the Pincio to take in its view towards St. Peter's, then along towards Santa Trinità dei Monti via the Spanish Steps, ending at the Lutheran Church on the Via Sicilia, where she attends a concert of Bach and Haydn. It is a practical walk, threading the arch-Catholic city from one outpost of German Protestantism to another. It is also a very beautiful one, but the mother-to-be notices very little. She is not well educated, speaks no Italian, and feels isolated in a culture that she barely trusts. Besides, she is waiting for her husband to return to show her around properly. For the year is 1943, and he, though wounded on the Russian front, has unexpectedly been recalled to service following the German defeat at El Alamein, only one day after his pregnant wife had traveled to Rome to be with him. The use of Rome as a mirror to reflect the mid-century German psyche reminds me of Wolfgang Koeppen's powerful Death In Rome, set in the immediately postwar years. But Delius writes at the turning-point of the war itself. He is also the more understated writer, confining himself to the thoughts of this modest young woman during her hour-long walk. At first she seems simple and unquestioning, content to leave difficult decisions to her betters. But as time passes, and she worries if she will ever see her husband again, she begins to question the discrepancies between the attitudes indoctrinated in her by the League of German Girls and the Christian beliefs of her husband and father. The concert in the church provides a magnificent climax, as her prayers interleave with the text of Bach's great Cantata 56 ("Ach, wie flüchtig"), about the brevity of human life. Without ever spelling anything out, Delius gives an excellent sense of how the German people could have fallen under the spell of the Führer, but also have found the spiritual strength to recover their moral center afterwards. I have never seen the two phases summarized so compactly in such a short span, and with barely a mention of the horrors that have become so familiar. Instead he conveys volumes indirectly; even the mere mention of buildings in Germany such as the Wartburg Castle or the Minster in Bad Doberan (see below) implies moral values that will outlast mere regimes. And Delius himself? One fact: he was born in 1943… in Rome. ====== You can, of course, enjoy the book for its words alone, or follow the mother's walk with an illustrated guide to Rome. But here is a small gallery of buildings referred to in the text. They share a sense of monumental austerity, and the Wartburg in particular has always been associated with German knightly values (it is also the setting of Wagner's Tannhäuser): The Lutheran Christuskirche in Rome The Wartburg, Germany The Wartburg in an 1814 engraving The Minster at Bad Doberan

  3. 5 out of 5

    Friederike Knabe

    The doctor's sound advice to the heavily pregnant young woman, "walk if you like, the child will enjoy it too...", provides Friedrich Christian Delius, renowned German author and 2011 recipient of the most prestigious German language literary award, the Georg-Büchner-Preis, with a unique opening and an overall frame for his novella, "Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman". The book is unusual in several ways, both in content and in structure. I felt immediately drawn into the story, for person The doctor's sound advice to the heavily pregnant young woman, "walk if you like, the child will enjoy it too...", provides Friedrich Christian Delius, renowned German author and 2011 recipient of the most prestigious German language literary award, the Georg-Büchner-Preis, with a unique opening and an overall frame for his novella, "Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman". The book is unusual in several ways, both in content and in structure. I felt immediately drawn into the story, for personal as well as literary reasons. Seen as a whole, the Portrait is an imagined, affectionately written self-portrait of the mother, using the literary device of inner monologue to enable the reader to follow the young woman's observations, emotions and intimate reflections as she takes an hour's walk on a sunny winter afternoon in a foreign city. The city is Rome, the time is January 1943... Delius creates a delicate portrait of one specific young woman, describing her sense of happiness for being in a "beautiful refuge", mixed in with her worries about being left alone after her husband is suddenly called to North African front. While we are easily captivated by this one person's musings, wonderment and self-questioning, we become soon aware that the author uses her story to bring out emotions and reflections that may well have been common or even typical for young German women during those war years, wherever they happened to be. He casts a focused light on an facet of German society at the time that has rarely, if at all, been treated in literary form. Many young women of our mother's generation -Delius is my senior by only a couple of years - , unless they were victims or actively involved in political or war actions, made every effort to maintain that naïve innocence and isolation from concrete events in Germany and in the wider theatre of war at the Eastern front. They preferred to concentrate on their young children, their family and their husbands away, yet emotionally close. As much as possible, they tended to overlook what was easy to see: arrests, deportations, brutality and violence. They referred to their fathers, husbands, brothers, expected them to protect them and filter out any unpleasant news item. "It was better not to know too much" is the young woman's concern and it was that of many of her generation. She shrugs away any bad news that she cannot avoid noticing and consoles herself that "the good news were found anyway only in personal letters..." Written in elegant and subtle rhythmic prose, the novella is unusually structured into very short paragraphs, each ending with a comma and with no full stop until the end of the book, that is the complete text is in fact one sentence. This text arrangement emulates the young woman's slow and careful walk from her residence to a Protestant church where an afternoon choral concert is scheduled, it also suggests the linked moments of walk and pause, moments to take in the view around her or of reflection about family and events far away. Finally, Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is also a beautiful and touching multi-dimensional love story: that of the young woman and her husband; that of the author for his own mother who in whatever creative and fictionalized way was certainly the model, and, last but not least, the love for the city of Rome, its rich and beautiful architecture, its place in history and its special atmosphere and surroundings.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    A novel in a single sentence. That was what intrigued me about this book. To be honest I generally avoid World War Two books - not because I don't think it's important, but just because I feel as if I have already overdosed on books, films, TV programmes etc etc exploring every angle of the war, and I'd need a really good reason to read about that again, rather than any of the infinite number of other places and times. The innovative narrative structure gave me that reason. It turns out, however, A novel in a single sentence. That was what intrigued me about this book. To be honest I generally avoid World War Two books - not because I don't think it's important, but just because I feel as if I have already overdosed on books, films, TV programmes etc etc exploring every angle of the war, and I'd need a really good reason to read about that again, rather than any of the infinite number of other places and times. The innovative narrative structure gave me that reason. It turns out, however, that it's not really a single sentence. I mean, it's true that there are no full-stops, but the sentence doesn't really run on continuously for the whole book. In some places it does, but in many others the sentence basically ends, and the author goes on to a new thought in a new paragraph, just using a comma instead of a full-stop. For example, from a page opened at random: "...this sort of thing happened more often in Catholic countries, he had written, but she had been right to get off the bus straight away, since that incident she had kept as far away from crowds as possible...." The phrase "Since that incident" should really be a new sentence - it's a new thought, and there's a grammatical break between it and what went before. The whole one-sentence thing quite quickly began to feel like a bit of a cheat. But as I read the book more, the style grew on me. I began to think about why he had written it in this way, and realised it's not just a gimmick - it's a clever reflection of the way we think. The whole book is an interior monologue of a woman walking to church one day in 1943, and her thoughts meander around between present and past with a mesmerising fluidity. And this, really, is how we think when we're just walking along letting our thoughts wander. I went for a long walk on Hampstead Heath recently and did exactly the same thing. There was no break between the thoughts, no division between one thing and the next. Past, present and future all merged in my head, and I went from one thing to the next without a break or logical transition. By the end of the book I was convinced that writing in a single sentence was an effective way of communicating this fluidity of thought processes. It's true that it's not technically a single sentence, but I suppose the only way to write for 125 pages in a single sentence would be to clutter up the book with a whole lot of ugly conjunctions. Maybe just having a comma and moving on to the next thing was the best way to do it. The character interested me as well. She is very young, very innocent, very trusting, quite careful to avoid thinking about things she doesn't understand or want to think about, quite happy to trust in God or her husband or some other authority to work things out for her. She is wary of her friend Ilse, who raises uncomfortable questions such as why it was necessary to hate the British and Americans - just the question itself makes her feel "guilty, confused and horrified" and she decides to distance herself from Ilse or "at the very least stop getting into discussions with her". Another revealing passage, after saying she needed to discuss "her Jewish thoughts" with Gert: "On her own she could not work out what you were allowed and not allowed to say, what you should think and what you ought not to think, and how to cope with her ambivalent feelings, all she could do was to keep these things to herself until his return" There is a clear link between her religion and subservience - for her, religion is about faith to the point of fatalism, accepting God's will and not questioning anything, the effort "to bring your own will into harmony with the will of God, and thereby find the greatest freedom in obedience". It's clear to see how this young woman, clearly a good person with a kind heart, would fall perfectly into line with the crimes of the Nazi government. By doing good she would be complicit in evil. It's a very compelling characterisation. This is the third book published by Peirene Press, and all three have been of a very high standard. Personally I'd recommend Beside the Sea as my favourite, but this book is also well worth a read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    NO SPOILERS On completion: This is a very short novel, and it only shows how perhaps one young, pregnant German woman might have viewed the world around her. It takes place during WW2. She is in Rome and she doesn't think there is any value in learning the language. In my opinion she is extremely naive. She criticizes other religions. Religion is very important to her; it gives her solace, it helps her when she has problems. I don't criticize this, but I have difficulty relationg to such a person NO SPOILERS On completion: This is a very short novel, and it only shows how perhaps one young, pregnant German woman might have viewed the world around her. It takes place during WW2. She is in Rome and she doesn't think there is any value in learning the language. In my opinion she is extremely naive. She criticizes other religions. Religion is very important to her; it gives her solace, it helps her when she has problems. I don't criticize this, but I have difficulty relationg to such a person. The book is written as a stream of consciouness. Due to this, you, the reader, cannot fasten on to another character in the novel, if you feel alienated to her. There are surely people like her, and perhaps it is a good depiction of such a person, but I cannot relate to her. The lack of punctuation isn't really a problem, but neither is it a plus. I see it as a gimmick. I didn't enjoy reading this. I do not know why it has won prizes. Well, we all like different things. I am only giving it one star. I will swap it with someone who does want to read it! Through page 28: At first I adored this! Now it is harder to keep going. There are no sentences. No periods. The narrative is stream of consciousness - the thoughts being that of a young, naive, pregnant German woman. She is staying at a German "maternity home/hospital" in Rome run be Evangelical nuns. Her husband is off fighting in Tunisia, WW2. The writing takes the form of how a person thinks. This is more of a novella than a novel.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    This book is written in ONE, very, very, long sentence. The whole book. One sentence. 125 pages. One sentence. But it works. It's poetic. Although I feel the need for periods right now. Many periods. Periods everywhere. This stream of consciousness however wasn't particularly absorbing. Period. This book is written in ONE, very, very, long sentence. The whole book. One sentence. 125 pages. One sentence. But it works. It's poetic. Although I feel the need for periods right now. Many periods. Periods everywhere. This stream of consciousness however wasn't particularly absorbing. Period.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    An eight month pregnant young wife of a German solider waits for him in Rome only for him to be redeployed immediately. She walks to the Lutheran Church to listen to a Bach concert and on her way thinks about her life there, how it has changed, how distant she feels from everything around her and remembers the few moments she has spent with her husband and wonders whether he will return to her or not. She is not despondent for she has a deep faith and whenever her thoughts selfishly turn towards An eight month pregnant young wife of a German solider waits for him in Rome only for him to be redeployed immediately. She walks to the Lutheran Church to listen to a Bach concert and on her way thinks about her life there, how it has changed, how distant she feels from everything around her and remembers the few moments she has spent with her husband and wonders whether he will return to her or not. She is not despondent for she has a deep faith and whenever her thoughts selfishly turn towards herself she tells herself that war is God's most difficult trial, lamenting: God, who is love, delivers this all to us, that it may benefit us in the end, A spellbinding portrait of one woman's internal conversation, her method of coping with the strangeness of her environment, talking herself into it being okay and rationalising why they have found themselves in this situation, though it is not enough to prevent her from dreaming of the life she wishes they were living, something that seems like a fantasy, as she realises the probability of his return grow slimmer as each day passes. My full review here at Word by Word.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Portrait of a Mother as a Young Woman is one long 117-page long sentence, in a third-person stream of consciousness. It took me a few pages to realise! Sounds painful, right? But actually the translation by Jamie Bulloch is fluid and poetic. The novella follows a young German Nazi supporter Margherita's internal monologue as she walks through occupied Rome one day in 1943 during WWII. I felt like I understood Margherita and her world, the naivety and contradictions of her thoughts and feelings f Portrait of a Mother as a Young Woman is one long 117-page long sentence, in a third-person stream of consciousness. It took me a few pages to realise! Sounds painful, right? But actually the translation by Jamie Bulloch is fluid and poetic. The novella follows a young German Nazi supporter Margherita's internal monologue as she walks through occupied Rome one day in 1943 during WWII. I felt like I understood Margherita and her world, the naivety and contradictions of her thoughts and feelings felt real. She wanted the war to end, but she didn't because that meant Germany would have lost. This may have been inspired by his German mother, as the author was born in 1943 in Rome I loved it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    BeccaAudra Smith

    The Joycean title drew me to this book, as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one book I actually put down and stopped reading I was so repelled by the sermon style sin talk. It's pretty rare I don't finish so titles that rip it off somehow feel like it's a second chance. The mother in the story is in her eight month of pregnancy, and we follow her thoughts in an interior monologue with no full stops. It is described as a 117 page long sentence due to this device. The rhythm of it carries The Joycean title drew me to this book, as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one book I actually put down and stopped reading I was so repelled by the sermon style sin talk. It's pretty rare I don't finish so titles that rip it off somehow feel like it's a second chance. The mother in the story is in her eight month of pregnancy, and we follow her thoughts in an interior monologue with no full stops. It is described as a 117 page long sentence due to this device. The rhythm of it carries you through the prose, the effect works well with the voice of the mother, Margherita. It conveys the sense of a flow of thoughts that are interrupted by memories, tangents, rebellious thoughts that she quickly stifles. The sense of being in a foreign place helped me identify with the woman, and it seemed sad that because she was harassed by a man touching her on a bus she stopped even trying to learn Italian, the repercussions of that act have been to alienate her further. Her isolation means the other character, Ilse, seems especially vivid, her loud anti-war opinions disturb Margherita and often disrupt the peace she draws around herself. If the books message is to suggest humanity in what we now perceive with horror, a Nazi trained, German League educated mother ready to train the next generation, there is hope conveyed in her religious thoughts that stress community and her associations with her parents, her love for her husband, her tears during the concert. The book preface suggests, 'If we can relate to her we come close to understanding the forces that were shaping an entire generation'. Review bu Hunter: 'through a resolutely empathetic portrait, Delius gently nudges us toward recognizing the humanity of our enemies'. It is easy to read, if in places hard to emphasize it has redeeming moments that keep you going. Read more: http://wordswithoutborders.org/book-r...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Jones

    A young girl is stranded in Rome by the war. Her Pastor husband has been posted to north Africa - a bare two days after her arrival - and she’s alone and in the last month of her pregnancy. She lives with protestant German nuns, sharing a room with another woman whose fiancé has been interned in Australia. The Italians are unwelcoming, and the war is going badly, but the girl has no desire to return to northern Germany and the frugal, evangelical territory of her childhood. Instead she waits, fo A young girl is stranded in Rome by the war. Her Pastor husband has been posted to north Africa - a bare two days after her arrival - and she’s alone and in the last month of her pregnancy. She lives with protestant German nuns, sharing a room with another woman whose fiancé has been interned in Australia. The Italians are unwelcoming, and the war is going badly, but the girl has no desire to return to northern Germany and the frugal, evangelical territory of her childhood. Instead she waits, for her husband to return, for her baby to arrive, and - the reader feels - for some kind of epiphany. The events of the story occur within a single day, and are narrated in real time while the girl takes her customary daily walk across Rome, on the doctor’s instructions. It took me a while to realise that there are no full stops in this story, just a rhythmic prose that carries you forward on a journey through one of the most beautiful of cities, and through the mind and the life of the young girl. ‘the immense city of Rome, still seemed to her like a sea which she had to cross, checked by the fear of all those things unknown, of the yawning depths of this city, its double and triple floors and layers, of the many thousand similar columns, towers, domes, facades, ruins and street corners . . .’ The ending is very moving and it leaves you wanting to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again. It’s a beautiful, reflective piece of prose, as lyrical and perfectly structured as a poem. Not surprising perhaps, as the author is also a poet and one of Germany’s finest contemporary authors. It seems criminal that this is the only one of his fourteen novels that I can find in English, not to mention the five poetry collections.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thing Two

    What interests me the most in this novella is the sentence structure, since there is only one really long sentence! And yet, it didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of this story of a young, newly-wed, pregnant woman, alone in Rome during World War II, as her husband is in Algeria fighting the Americans. The story is evidently of Delius' mother, who was pregnant in Rome during World War II. I don't often get to see the vision of WWII through the eyes of a German, but I understood her fear of Am What interests me the most in this novella is the sentence structure, since there is only one really long sentence! And yet, it didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of this story of a young, newly-wed, pregnant woman, alone in Rome during World War II, as her husband is in Algeria fighting the Americans. The story is evidently of Delius' mother, who was pregnant in Rome during World War II. I don't often get to see the vision of WWII through the eyes of a German, but I understood her fear of Americans. http://www.complete-review.com/review...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Found this quite compelling - and felt quite breathless by the end! A whole book in one sentence is quite an achievement!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Johnna

    ★★★★☆ This 1-sentence, 119 page book invoked so much conflicting thought!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid Wassenaar

    I really wanted to like this novella, but I'm afraid I found its so-called technical innovation (written in a single sentence) an affectation. I realise I must be deficient in something, but I much prefer the artistry behind Woolf's stream of consciousness. I also found the protagonist difficult to stay with -- it is the portrait of a stifled consciousness in wartime, trying to grapple with an fascistic ideology that subjects her to imprisonment and subjugation of every kind, while announcing to I really wanted to like this novella, but I'm afraid I found its so-called technical innovation (written in a single sentence) an affectation. I realise I must be deficient in something, but I much prefer the artistry behind Woolf's stream of consciousness. I also found the protagonist difficult to stay with -- it is the portrait of a stifled consciousness in wartime, trying to grapple with an fascistic ideology that subjects her to imprisonment and subjugation of every kind, while announcing to her that she is on the "winning" side. Her disavowal of truths that keep thrusting themselves towards her consciousness, her attempt to keep order over thoughts that threaten to sweep her away, become in the end the reader's frustration. Her transfiguration of her ambivalence into redemptive music by Bach does not ring true, and the "plot" of the novella seems completely circular, while claiming to be triumphant. If this is the message Delius was trying to send, he succeeded, but only in telling me what I already knew.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amos Ruiz

    During WWII, a pregnant young lady takes a stroll through Rome and ruminates on her life – family, country, and God. Yes, a novel without dialogue – like this one – is a bit niche; and yet, there was something pure and unapologetic about this narration of almost exclusive interiority. I don’t know, I found it compelling. But I didn’t enjoy the barrage of visual descriptions of Rome. Likewise I found the overuse of its Christian/religious theme, which the author never strays too far from, tiresome. During WWII, a pregnant young lady takes a stroll through Rome and ruminates on her life – family, country, and God. Yes, a novel without dialogue – like this one – is a bit niche; and yet, there was something pure and unapologetic about this narration of almost exclusive interiority. I don’t know, I found it compelling. But I didn’t enjoy the barrage of visual descriptions of Rome. Likewise I found the overuse of its Christian/religious theme, which the author never strays too far from, tiresome. Which is a shame because the rest (although admittedly there wasn’t that much left over after all that Christianity and all those Roman buildings) was remarkable – especially the depiction of how the misery of WWII permeated to every person and every aspect of their life, even a pregnant civilian far from the frontline. So, overall a decent alternative novella, just not one to my taste. —Amos Ruiz, author of SPILT PEPPERCORNS

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    Creeping uncertainty leaves Margherita uncomfortable with her new surroundings, and she spends the walk trying to reorient her thoughts to a happier, propaganda-filled view of Italy as a society and of Germany’s future. Margherita’s default to naivety makes for a contemplative read: Is this a form of self-preservation, the last influence of Nazi propaganda, or both? Did the Nazi adoption of religious iconography, which Margherita realizes in the course of her walk, make her as a religious person Creeping uncertainty leaves Margherita uncomfortable with her new surroundings, and she spends the walk trying to reorient her thoughts to a happier, propaganda-filled view of Italy as a society and of Germany’s future. Margherita’s default to naivety makes for a contemplative read: Is this a form of self-preservation, the last influence of Nazi propaganda, or both? Did the Nazi adoption of religious iconography, which Margherita realizes in the course of her walk, make her as a religious person more susceptible to adherence? For such a short walk (and an even shorter novella), Delius offers a number of intriguing observations about the formation of national identity through political propaganda and religion. I fear I only scratched the surface of this deeply contemplative book with my first read! And now I want to book a flight to Rome and talk a rambling walk of my own, thanks to the beauty of Delius’ writing. On the topic of Delius’ writing, I have to say the stylistic presentation is quite unique. The story is printed as one long sentence lasting 125 pages, which sounds off-putting, but worked thanks to paragraph indentations and a ready number of commas. It adds rather than detracts from the lyrical nature of this novella.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    This is a strange little novella. Written as a stream of consciousness in one long run on sentence. It focuses on a young woman, 8 months pregnant and separated from her spouse who is a German soldier during WW2. The woman is spending her day in the protected city of Rome, living with nuns and walking the city as her doctor tells her that walking is good for the baby. Not much actually happens, she inwardly questions the war and purposefully does not to speak out loud against the Fuhrer and the This is a strange little novella. Written as a stream of consciousness in one long run on sentence. It focuses on a young woman, 8 months pregnant and separated from her spouse who is a German soldier during WW2. The woman is spending her day in the protected city of Rome, living with nuns and walking the city as her doctor tells her that walking is good for the baby. Not much actually happens, she inwardly questions the war and purposefully does not to speak out loud against the Fuhrer and the Axis Powers. I found it a bit boring.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    A young woman with child is advised by her doctor to walk for the health of her and her unborn child. As she walks in and near WW2 areas, she tells us about it from her own P.O.V. It may seem narrow minded or even self centered to some, but I feel there is yet a deeper story in this novella saying look this is what it looks like and what can one do about such horrors when protecting ones own..I liked this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne O'connor

    An odd format - very stream-of-consciousness. Odder still that this was written in 2006 and is set in 1942 - it feels older and contemporary with writings of the 1950’s. But, it is s translation from German, so perhaps that is the reason? If you’re looking for any real “story”, you won’t find it here, but it will give you lots to ponder.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This really is an extraordinary little book. Not at all what i expected and it took a few pages for me to get into it but it got better and better. It is one sentence. That's right one sentence and it read like the flow of a river. This really is an extraordinary little book. Not at all what i expected and it took a few pages for me to get into it but it got better and better. It is one sentence. That's right one sentence and it read like the flow of a river.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sam Davison

    I liked this book despite getting a tad impatient towards the end. A young German girl walks through war time Rome to a concert. Along the way, she reglects on the differences between Pritestanism and Catholicism, between religion and the NaXi ethos, about her unborn child etc.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vikki Gremel

    Translates from German. Good book - threw me off at first since it is one giant sentence separated only by commas. It is a pregnant German woman’s stream of consciousness during WWII while her Nazi husband is off fighting in Africa. Makes you think about the “other side” of the war.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alecksa

    If you’ve ever been to Rome, this will beautifully reanimate the stone streets of your memory.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin Lyn

    It was an okay read probley better in the OG language

  25. 4 out of 5

    Crispin Semmens

    A novella length sentence meandering through the thoughts, feelings and often anxieties of a German mother-to-be on her way to church in Rome during WWII. Evocative.

  26. 4 out of 5

    amber

    If you can I recommend reading this all in one go. I read about half of it at once and liked it much better that way than reading it in bits and pieces for the second half.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    In 1943 Friedrich Delius's mother was twenty-one, alone, and eight months pregnant in Rome, waiting in a kind of limbo for the return of her husband from North Africa. The product of an austere Lutheran upbringing, she is innocent and naïve and prefers to trust that everything is in God's hands. She worries about her freethinking roommate Ilse, who converses with the Italian servants and has the habit of broaching subjects that make the young mother uncomfortable. It is now January and she has b In 1943 Friedrich Delius's mother was twenty-one, alone, and eight months pregnant in Rome, waiting in a kind of limbo for the return of her husband from North Africa. The product of an austere Lutheran upbringing, she is innocent and naïve and prefers to trust that everything is in God's hands. She worries about her freethinking roommate Ilse, who converses with the Italian servants and has the habit of broaching subjects that make the young mother uncomfortable. It is now January and she has been in Rome for nine weeks. Tonight she is headed to a performance at the local German Protestant church. Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is constructed as a single sentence that follows her thoughts on love, war, faith, and the Eternal City from the time she leaves her apartment to her musical experience at the concert. Delius's single, rambling sentence is rich with psychological depth and the ancient, opulent grandeur of Rome. The visual sensuality of a "steeply towering, chocolate-box villa, busy with hemispheres, columns, mouldings, recesses and statues" is set against the distant influence of a father "who would consider the stone-sculptured naked boys indecent" (88). Between her father and her husband, the young mother seems incapable of forming an opinion of her own. It is this blind acceptance of patriarchal authority that holds her back from appreciating the new and unfamiliar and, by extension, from confronting disturbing questions. But she can in no way be called a bad person. She recognizes her privileged position in a time of great suffering and realizes that is is "un-Christian to shed tears for one's own misfortune and to forget the far greater misfortunes of others, the joys of life were limitless, each day she could delight in her child, and today she might look forward to the church concert, . . ." (40). What becomes increasingly clear instead is that she is instead a flawed person, just like anyone else. Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is a portrait of cognitive dissonance and the inability to overcome personal barriers. Which bring us to the proverbial elephant in the room. In his mock essay "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," Borges argues that the interpretation of a text is as much influenced by the reader's own background as it is by what the author actually wrote. Although Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is a contemporary novel (2007), its perspective as that of an ordinary German woman during World War II gives it a sort of double layering. The young mother knows absolutely nothing about the Holocaust and focuses exclusively on the war itself. She does recall her father and husband's concerns about how Hitler and his racial theories heretically elevate man to divine status and has her own doubts about the alleged inferiority of the Jews. But she sets her potential dissent aside and opts to wait for her husband's opinion on the matter. Although the novel's voice is entirely her own, the reader perceives, like Borges's narrator, a deeper meaning in this young woman's willful obliviousness. From our vantage point in the future, she is, as one German review puts it, an "unthinking perpetrator." The fact that Delius portrays her so realistically and so sympathetically gives her innocent thoughts and feelings a distinctly surreal edge. Although Delius's narrative style - The Sentence - takes some getting used to, it is perfect for his blend of stream-of-consciousness and physical movement. His mother's impressions of the "hospitable and harsh, beautiful and uncanny city" mirror her own awareness of the tumult engulfing the world. In these dangerous times, she leans on her hopes for the future, just as she clings to "her little islands of reassurance, such as crosses on obelisks or the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, along the side façade of which she now walked towards the Pincio steps, the only one of the over-elaborate, profoundly grandiose churches in which she did not feel alienated, . . ." (31). Her literal and emotional journey culminates in a musical climax grants her relief but preserves her naivety. It is questionable whether there is any real character growth but I think that's what Delius intended. Overall, The Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is a beautiful and honest character study and comes highly recommended. Review Copy Original Review

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peyton

    Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is a short, experimental piece of fiction in the form of a single run-on sentence. Delius convincingly evokes a day in the life of a young woman from Germany living in Rome waiting for her husband to return from fighting in WW2 in Africa. He explores, through this character, the ways the human mind can (even passively) find cracks in propaganda and the cognitive dissonance that creates. The writing style is beautiful and delicate, reflecting the protagonis Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman is a short, experimental piece of fiction in the form of a single run-on sentence. Delius convincingly evokes a day in the life of a young woman from Germany living in Rome waiting for her husband to return from fighting in WW2 in Africa. He explores, through this character, the ways the human mind can (even passively) find cracks in propaganda and the cognitive dissonance that creates. The writing style is beautiful and delicate, reflecting the protagonist's tenuous and sheltered view of the military/political events around her. I highly recommend this novella.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    This book is one long sentence, a fairly accurate representation of the strange string of thoughts you have on a long walk, or the letters you begin to draft in your head to a loved one throughout the day. While I appreciate the novelty of the formatting (seriously, there is only one period in the entire text) I found it difficult to stay engaged because of the main character's tangential thoughts and only worked through it because I signed up for the Good Reads yearly book challenge. My one pos This book is one long sentence, a fairly accurate representation of the strange string of thoughts you have on a long walk, or the letters you begin to draft in your head to a loved one throughout the day. While I appreciate the novelty of the formatting (seriously, there is only one period in the entire text) I found it difficult to stay engaged because of the main character's tangential thoughts and only worked through it because I signed up for the Good Reads yearly book challenge. My one positive take-away: In "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" Milan Kundera writes, "...beauty is a spark which flares up when two ages meet across the distance of time, that beauty is a clean sweep of chronology, a rebellion against time." (p52) Friedrich Christian Delius reinforced this definition of beauty for me in this: "she could almost sing along silently to the slow aria, and just as she took every word from the Bible as assistance and encouragement, this penetrated to the very depths of her soul, inspired by biblical and other powerful phrases and by the clear sight of a beseeching and thanking I, which was also her I, which found its own thoughts expressed in every sung syllable, my Redeemer wipes my tears away, that is exactly how it had just been, but she could never have put it so beautifully, perhaps she might not have been able even to think it, astonished at the miracle that, with a single cantata, this Johann Sebastian Bach, two hundred years after his time, could understand and express the feelings of a twenty-one-year-old woman, highly pregnant and alone, cast away from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, in limbo in the middle of a terrible war, and could soother her, but not just her," (p115-116)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fernando

    From my Instagram account @Onebookonecountry #Reading the one long sentence that is Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman takes us to the kind of moments when we are alone with our #thoughts and don't want anyone around to know how we are feeling. In this #novella, Delius, still in his mother's womb, accompanies young Margherita in a stroll through Nazi-occupied #Rome in 1943. She is alone in a foreign city without speaking the language. Everything around her feels hostile yet she does not despa From my Instagram account @Onebookonecountry #Reading the one long sentence that is Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman takes us to the kind of moments when we are alone with our #thoughts and don't want anyone around to know how we are feeling. In this #novella, Delius, still in his mother's womb, accompanies young Margherita in a stroll through Nazi-occupied #Rome in 1943. She is alone in a foreign city without speaking the language. Everything around her feels hostile yet she does not despair for she has a sense of Nazi patriotism, #Lutheran piety and matrimonial duty. Soon after Margherita arrives, though, her husband is sent to the front in the Africa theatre of operations. This sudden change of plans triggers questions in the expecting #mother's head that touch her Lutheran #faith, her unwavering support for the #German State and her new role as a mother. The format of an internal #monologue allows us to access these intimate doubts that a traditional #novel format would not. Delius gently gifts us this beautiful picture of the very beginning of his life. This edition is by @peirenepress #peirenepress More European books here #onebookEurope More German books here #onebookGermany

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