Every Seventh Wave – Daniel Glattauer (trans. Jamie Bulloch & Katharina Bielenberg)

imgres-1Love Virtually finishes fittingly but abruptly.  I’ve seen other bloggers say they felt a sequel wasn’t necessary.  You could argue that second Lindt bunny on Easter Monday wasn’t necessary, but it was very nice!

It is difficult for me to write much about what happens in Every Seventh Wave because anything I write will spoil the plot of this book and Love Virtually.  And I do hate to spoil anything for anyone (although I did inadvertently tell all my bookclub pals the end of On the Beach the other day à la the Netflix advert).  I read Every Seventh Wave in a day, then went back and read chunks of it again and I actually think Glattauer wrote a really decent sequel with this book, not overly mushy or sentimental, it doesn’t feel sloppy or rushed.  If anything I think it’s well thought through, polished and more balanced than Love Virtually.  In Love Virtually I always felt Glattauer’s characterisation of Leo was more believable than Emmi, his personality and desires were better developed than hers and he was given more opportunity to show who he was.  In Every Seventh Wave Glattauer gives Leo lots of great romantic lines again (“..you are part of me.  I carry you around with me always, across all continents and emotional landscapes..” melt), making him the sort of literary character a weak willed reader like me can easily fall for for a few days, but I felt that Emmi really came into her own in this book.

In Love Virtually it often seemed as though Emmi was a woman who didn’t really know her own mind, like she was going through a crisis of confidence; what is her life about and where is it leading her?  Don’t get me wrong, Glattauer gives her plenty of gutsy lines, she often shows her intellect and quick understanding of a situation as well as a sense of humour, but although she never admits it there is an underlying lack of confidence as though she really isn’t sure what she is doing or why.

In Every Seventh Wave, despite her home life almost imploding and going through a lot of personal hurt, she comes out the other side knowing her mind clearly.  Leo is the one being completely dim in this book.  Emmi sends him so many veiled hints about her feelings and her life – he just never quite understands or asks her the right questions.  Her correspondence is measured and seems well thought through, she wants the penny to drop for Leo without her having to spell everything out for him, but oh my word, it takes him a while – I had to stop myself from screaming “wake up Leo ffs – why can’t you understand what she’s telling you!”

On reflection, I think Every Seventh Wave is a much more romantic book than Love Virtually.  There is more at stake for them in this book, you could argue they’ve even got more to lose.  There are some fantastic drunken emails from Leo (a lesson to us all; stay away from the computer when you’ve had a few), and some funny straight talking ones from Emmi, she even gets her own romantic lines, like when she tells Leo about the Seventh Wave.

One thing I do really love about both books, although it seems quite old fashioned, is Leo and Emmi’s salutations to each other and they way they often conclude their emails.  There is a lot of “Leo, my dear”  “Emmi, my love”  “dearest Emmi” “adieu my good friend” on so on.  I’m surprised at myself, because normally that sort of thing would grate, but I adored it.  In fact, Trueblood and I have perfected the art of this sort of speak in our texts to each other – pathetic, I know, but it keeps us amused!

Again, the translation seems flawless, although as a German speaker I did notice some bits that were obvious Germanisms, but friends who have read it were oblivious, so credit must be given to the husband and wife translating team.  In fact I was so fascinated by the translation process I asked Jamie Bulloch if he would be kind enough to answer a few questions about his work.  He kindly agreed and I will be posting his answers tomorrow.

I definitely think it’s worth reading both books, they go nicely together and there’s enough in both to keep you interested – there will not be another Emmi and Leo book anyway.  I’d like to finish with a lovely email from Leo to Emmi which explains a little of how he feels and gives a flavour of the quality of the translation.

Subject: Meaningful stuff

Let me get this clear, Emmi.

  1. What you mean to me means at least as much to me as what I mean to you.
  2. It’s precisely because you do mean so much to me that it means a lot to me that I might also mean a lot to you.
  3. If you hadn’t meant so much to me, it wouldn’t have mattered to me how much I mean to you.
  4. But as it does really matter, this means that you mean so much to me that it has to matter how much I mean to you.
  5. If you knew how much you meant to me, you would understand why I don’t want to stop meaning something to you.
  6. Conclusion one: You obviously had no idea how much you meant to me.
  7. Conclusion two: Maybe you do now.
  8. I’m tired.  Goodnight.
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3 thoughts on “Every Seventh Wave – Daniel Glattauer (trans. Jamie Bulloch & Katharina Bielenberg)”

  1. Heh, I like your comparison of this sequel to that second Lindt bunny! While I am still not sure if a sequel was necessary, I do agree that it was a joy to read. Like you, I think Emmi was definitely allowed to shine more in this book, and I appreciated that a lot.

    1. I remember your review Iris. While some sequels feel like they are done for the money or to cash in on the success of the first story, I felt that ESW didn’t feel like that and completed the Emmi and Leo story quite nicely.

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