After talking about not being able to find contemporary literature from different countries in Europe and the world, I went back to my story collection to look what I have, here is what I have found.
The Laughter by Heinrich Böll
Here is a review by my fellow blogger http://englishisme.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/review-on-the-laugher-by-heinrich-boll/
“The Laugher” by Heinrich Boll, is a short story about a man whose profession is to laugh. He laughs at night clubs when comedians perform, he laughs in movies and TV shows, and at any other occasion that needs his talents. Although he is very good at laughing, he detests the fact that his laugh is fake, and when not laughing, he has a very solemn disposition. The Laugher is written in first person, which allows readers to understand the narrator – also the main character – and his thoughts on his job. The underlying message that is brought across through the laugher’s story is to never do something you detest. The laugher was in a position in which he detested the work that he did, and came to be annoyed with others when they wanted to laugh. It is quite saddening for readers to hear the laugher talk about how he never actually heard his own spontaneous laugh, but rather, only heard the fake, boisterous laughter that accompanied comedies and movies. The story is short and to-the-point, allowing the content of the story to shine through, instead of having to search for the meaning. The Laugher is an excellent story able to inspire people to do what they want to do, and what they enjoy doing. The Laugher is an interesting story, whose themes should be considered thoroughly. Being stuck in such a position as the main character is no laughing matter.
and here is the story.
Here is another one by Dino Buzzati
The Falling Girl
Marta was nineteen. She looked out over the roof of the skyscraper, and seeing the city below shining in the dusk, she was overcome with dizziness.
The skyscraper was silver, supreme and fortunate in that most beautiful and pure evening, as here and there the wind stirred a few fine filaments of cloud against an absolutely incredible blue background. It was in fact the hour when the city is seized by inspiration and whoever is not blind is swept away by it. From that airy height the girl saw the streets and the masses of buildings writhing in the long spas`m of sunset, and at the point where the white of the houses ended, the blue of the sea began. Seen from above, the sea looked as if it were rising. And since the veils of the night were advancing from the east, the city became a sweet abyss burning with pulsating lights. Within it were powerful men, and women who were even more powerful, furs and violins, cars glossy as onyx, the neon signs of nightclubs, the entrance halls of darkened mansions, fountains, diamonds, old silent gardens, parties, desires, affairs, and, above all, that consuming sorcery of the evening which provokes dreams of greatness and glory.
Seeing these things, Marta hopelessly leaned out over the railing and let herself go. She felt as if she were hovering in the air, but she was falling. Given the extraordinary height of the skyscraper, the streets and squares down at the bottom were very far away. Who knows how long it would take her to get there. Yet the girl was falling.
At that hour the terraces and balconies of the top floors were filled with rich and elegant people who were having cocktails and making silly conversation. They were scattered in crowds, and their talk muffled the music. Marta passed before them and several people looked out to watch her.
Flights of that kind (mostly by girls, in fact) were not rare in the skyscraper and they constituted an interesting diversion for the tenants; this was also the reason why the price of those apartments was very high.
The sun had not yet completely set and it did its best to illuminate Marta’s simple clothing. She wore a modest, inexpensive spring dress bought off the rack. Yet the lyrical light of the sunset exalted it somewhat, making it chic.
From the millionaires’ balconies, gallant hands were stretched out toward her, offering flowers and cocktails. “Miss, would you like a drink? . . . Gentle butterfly, why not stop a minute with us?”
She laughed, hovering, happy (but meanwhile she was falling): “No, thanks, friends. I can’t. I’m in a hurry.”
“Where are you headed?” they asked her.
“Ah, don’t make me say,” Marta answered, waving her hands in a friendly good-bye.
A young man, tall, dark, very distinguished, extended an arm to snatch her. She liked him. And yet Marta quickly defended herself: “How dare you, sir?” and she had time to give him a little tap on the nose.
The beautiful people, then, were interested in her and that filled her with satisfaction. She felt fascinating, stylish. On the flower-filled terraces, amid the bustle of waiters in white and the bursts of exotic songs, there was talk for a few minutes, perhaps less, of the young woman who was passing by (from top to bottom, on a vertical course). Some thought her pretty, others thought her so-so, everyone found her interesting.
“You have your entire life before you,” they told her, “why are you in such a hurry? You still have time to rush around and busy yourself. Stop with us for a little while, it’s only a modest little party among friends, really, you’ll have a good time.”
She made an attempt to answer but the force of gravity had already quickly carried her to the floor below, then two, three, four floors below; in fact, exactly as you gaily rush around when you are just nineteen years old.
Of course, the distance that separated her from the bottom, that is, from street level, was immense. It is true that she began falling just a little while ago, but the street always seemed very far away,
In the meantime, however, the sun had plunged into the sea; one could see it disappear, transformed into a shimmering red dish mushroom. As a result, it no longer emitted its vivifying rays to light up the girl’s dress and make her a seductive comet.
It was a good thing that the windows and terraces of the skyscraper were almost all illuminated and the bright reflections completely gilded her as she gradually passed by.
Now Marta no longer saw just groups of carefree people inside the-apartments; at times there were even some businesses where the employees, in black or blue aprons, were sitting at desks in long rows. Several of them were young people as old as or older than she, and weary of the day by now, every once in a while they raised their eyes from their duties and from typewriters.
In this way they too saw her, and a few ran to the windows. “Where are you going? Why so fast? Who are you?” they shouted to her. One could divine something akin to envy in their words.
“They’re waiting for me down there,” she answered. “I can’t stop. Forgive me.” And again she laughed, wavering on her headlong fall, but it wasn’t like her previous laughter anymore. The night had craftily fallen and Marta started to feel cold.
Meanwhile, looking downward, she saw a bright halo of lights at the entrance of a building. Here long blacks cars were stopping (from the great distance they looked as small as ants), and men and women were getting out, anxious to go inside. She seemed to make out the sparkling of jewels in that swarm. Above the entrance flags were flying.
They were obviously giving a large party, exactly the kind Marta dreamed of ever since she was a child. Heaven help her if she missed it. Down there opportunity was waiting for her, fate, romance, the true inauguration of her life. Would she arrive in time?
She spitefully noticed that another girl was falling about thirty meters above her. She was decidedly prettier than Marta and she wore a rather classy evening gown. For some unknown reason she came down much faster than Marta, so that in a few moments she passed by her and disappeared below, even though Marta was calling her. Without doubt she would get to the party before Marta; perhaps she had a plan all worked out to supplant her.
Then she realized that they weren’t alone. Along the sides of the skyscraper many other young women were plunging downward, their faces taut with the excitement of the flight, their hands cheerfully waving as if to say: look at us, here we are, entertain us, is not the world ours?
It was a contest, then. And she only had a shabby little dress while those other girls were dressed smartly like high fashion models and some even wrapped luxurious mink stoles tightly around their bare shoulders. So self-assured when she began the leap, Marta now felt a tremor growing inside her; perhaps it was just the cold; but it may have been fear too, the fear of having made an error without remedy.
It seemed to be late at night now. The windows were darkened one after another, the echoes of music became more rare, the offices were empty, young men no longer leaned out from the windowsills extending their hands. What time was it? At the entrance to the building down below– which in the meantime had grown larger, and one could now distinguish all the architectural details—the lights were still burning, but the bustle of cars had stopped. Every now and then, in fact, small groups of people came out of the main floor wearily drawing away. Then the lights of the entrance were also turned off.
Marta felt her heart tightening. Alas, she wouldn’t reach the ball in time. Glancing upwards she saw the pinnacle of the skyscraper in all its cruel power. It was almost completely dark. On the top floors a few windows here and there were still lit. And above the top the first glimmer of dawn was spreading.
In a dining recess on the twenty-eighth floor a man about forty years old was having his morning coffee and reading his newspaper while his wife tidied up the room. A clock on the sideboard indicated 8:45. A shadow suddenly passed before the window.
“Alberto!” the wife shouted. “Did you see that? A woman passed by.”
“Who was it?” he said without raising his eyes from the news paper.
“An old woman,” the wife answered. “A decrepit old woman. She looked frightened.”
“It’s always like that,” the man muttered. “At these low floors only falling old women pass by. You can see beautiful girls from the hundred floor up. Those apartments don’t cost so much for nothing.”
“At least down here there’s the advantage,” observed the wife, “that you can hear the thud when they touch the ground”
“This time not even that,” he said, shaking his head, after he stood listening for a few minutes. Then he had another sip of coffee.
Translated by Lawrence Venuti
Adults sometimes say, “This is the best time of your life, and you don’t even know it.” Imagine that an adult in your life made this comment. Respond using thought-shots and an analogy.
This is a story I like and it has stayed in my head
How to Avoid Traveling by George Mikes
‘Travel’ is the name of a modern disease which became *rampant in the mid-fifties andis still spreading. The disease — its scientific name is travelitis furiosus — is carried bya germ called prosperity. Its symptoms are easily recognizable. The patient growsrestless in the early spring and starts rushing about from one travel agent to anothercollecting useless information about places he does not intend to visit; then he, orusually she, will do a round of tailors, summer sales, sports shops and spend three anda half times as much as he or she can afford; finally, in August, the patient will board aplane, train, coach or car and proceed to foreign parts along with thousands of fellow-sufferers not because he is interested in or attracted by the place he is bound for norbecause he can afford to go, but simply because he cannot afford not to. The disease ishighly infectious. Nowadays you catch foreign travel rather as you caught influenza inthe twenties, only more so.
The result is that in the summer months (and in the last few years also during the winterseason) everybody is on the move. In Positano you hear no Italian but only German (forEngland is not the only victim of the disease); in some French parts you cannot getalong unless you speak American; and the official language of the Costa Bravo s isEnglish.
What is the aim of all this travelling? Each nationality has its own different one. TheAmericans want to take photographs of themselves in: (a) Trafalgar Square with thepigeons, (b) in St Mark’s Square, Venice, with the pigeons and (c) in front of the Arc deTriomphe, in Paris, without pigeons. The idea is simply to collect documentary proof thatthey have been there. The German travels to check up ‘ on his guide-books: when hesees that the Ponte di Rialto is really at its proper venue, that the Leaning Tower is in itsappointed place in Pisa and is leaning at the promised i angle — he ticks these thingsoff in his guide-book and returns home with the gratifying feeling that he has not beenswindled. But why do the English travel?
First, because their neighbour does and they have caught the bug from him. Secondly,they used to be taught that travel broadens the mind and although they have by nowdiscovered the sad truth that whatever travel may do to the mind, Swiss or German foodcertainly broadens other parts of the body, the old notion still lingers on. But lastly —and perhaps mainly — they travel to avoid foreigners. Here, in our cosmopolitanEngland, one is always exposed to the danger of meeting all sorts of peculiar aliens.Not so on one’s journeys in Europe, if one manages things intelligently. I know manyEnglish people who travel in groups, stay in hotels where even the staff is English, eatroast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Sundays and Welsh rarebit and steak-and-kidneypudding on weekdays, all over Europe. The main aim of the Englishman abroad is tomeet people; I mean, of course, nice English people from next door or from the nextstreet. Normally one avoids one’s neighbour (‘It is best to keep yourself to yourself, ‘Weleave others alone and want to be left alone’, etc. , etc. ). If you meet your next doorneighbour in the High Street or at your front door you pretend not to see him or, at best,nod coolly; but if you meet him in Capri or Granada, you embrace him fondly and standhim a drink or two; and you may even discover that he is quite a nice chap after all andboth of you might just as well have stayed at home in Chipping Norton.
All this, however, refers to travelling for the general public.
If you want to avoid giving the unfortunate impression that you belong to the lower-middle class, you must learn the elementary snobbery of travelling:
1) Avoid any place frequented by others. Declare: all the hotels are full, one cannot getin anywhere. (No one will ever remark: hotels are full of people who actually managedto get in. )
2) Carry this a stage further and try to avoid all places interesting enough to attract otherpeople — or, as others prefer to put it — you must get off the beaten track. In practicethis means that in Italy you avoid Venice and Florence but visit a few filthy and poverty-stricken fishing villages no one has ever heard of; and if your misfortune does take youto Florence, you avoid the Uffizi Gallery and refuse to look at Michelangelo’s David. Youvisit, instead, a dirty little pub on the outskirts where Tuscan food is supposed to bedivine and where you can listen to a drunken and deaf accordion player.
3) The main problem is, of course, where to go? This is not an easy question. The hoipolloi may go to Paris or Spain, but such an obvious choice will certainly not do foranyone with a little self-respect. There is a small international set that leads the fashionand you must watch them. Some years ago they discovered Capri, but now Capri isteeming with rich German and English businessmen, so you can’t go near the place.Majorca was next on the list, but Majorca has become quite ridiculous in the last fewyears: it is now an odd mixture of Munich and Oxford Street, and has nothing to offer(because, needless to say, beauty and sunshine do not count). At the moment I mayrecommend Tangier; Rhodes is fairly safe too. The year after that, who knows, Caprimay be tried again.
Remember: travel is supposed to make you sophisticated. When buying your souvenirsand later when most casually — you really must practice how to be casual — you referto any foreign food, you should speak of these things in the vernacular. Even friedchicken sounds rather romantic when you speak of Backhendl ,
It is possible, however, that the mania for travelling is declining. I wonder if a Romanfriend of mine was simply an eccentric or the forerunner of a new era in snobbery.
‘I no longer travel at all’, he told me. ‘I stay here because I want to meet my friends fromall over the world. ‘
‘What exactly do you mean? ‘ I asked.
‘It is simple,’ he explained. ‘Whenever I go to London, my friend Smith is sure to be inTokyo and Brown in Sicily. If I go to Paris, Dupont is sure to be in London and Lebrun inMadagascar or Lyons. And so on. But if I stay in Rome, all my friends are absolutelysure to turn up at one time or another. The world means people for me. I stay herebecause I want to see the world. ‘
And he added after a short pause:
‘Besides, staying at home broadens the mind?
I will continue this story hunt as you can see from my previous posts. Have fun reading!
One more story found. Tobermory by Saki.