Monthly Archives: September 2016

Leseratte Ecke!

Hello everyone! I thought I’d do a post on all the books I’m reading this semester. Taking a German literature class and reading for fun occasionally intersect, especially once you realize that there are so many interesting German novels out there to read!
(Definitely going to recommend Ich muß nicht immer Kaviar sein by Johannes Mario Simmel. It’s German spies with plenty of espionage and cooking. There’s a show that came out in the 70s based on it.)


For German:

  1. Geschichte vom alten Kind by Jenny Erpenbeck:
    Literally, Story of the Old Child. Ominous, isn’t it? This one I just finished last week. It’s 125 pages of fluid thought and disturbing images. A 14 year old is found on a busy street at night and sent to a children’s home for orphans. The twist? She’s actually a 30 year old woman pretending to be a child. It’s so creepy and the imagery is disturbing but in retrospect, the parallels with the GDR and opinions about it, whether positive or negative, are so well and seamlessly done that it takes a second read to realize it can be interpreted that way. Go Erpenbeck!

    Interest Rating: 5/5, Reading Difficulty: 5/5, Creepiness Rating: 5/5
    Status: Read

  2. Fräulein Else by Arthur Schnitzler:
    Literally, Ms. Else, though Fräulein isn’t used to address an unmarried woman anymore, replaced by the simple (and more respectful, in my opinion) Frau. So: Else needs money for her poor dad. She’s gotta ask some creepy old guy for it. It’s probably not going to go well. This is for later in the semester, but I’m excited to read it. The author, Arthur Schnitzler, is Austrian as opposed to the more modern, German author Erpenbeck. Any stylistic/diction differences should be interesting! This one is also probably going to scar me.

    Interest Rating: from what I’ve seen? 5/5, Reading Difficulty: i just looked at the 1st page and 5/5, Creepiness Rating: 5/5 (anything involving unmarried women and creepy old men is going to be 5/5)
    Status: Not Read Yet

  3. Der amre Heinrich by Hartmann von Aue:
    Literally, Poor Henry. Yay, medieval text! However, the version we have for class has the medieval German on one page, then the modern German translation on the next page. So, different versions of German text within German text: German-ception (Inception joke for those of you who are wondering). What’s this one about? Well, Heinrich needs a virgin to sacrifice herself or else he’ll die. And the 14 year old virgin sacrifice thinks it’s her destiny to die for him. Apparently, before she has her heart ripped out, he has a moment of: Oh wait. Maybe this is … wrong? No kidding, buddy. I have a feeling I may also be scarred by this one.

    Interest Rating: to be honest I’m not sure I wanna read about virgin sacrifices so 4/5, Reading Difficulty: 11/5 because medieval German, Creepiness Rating: 100/5 SHE’S A 14 YEAR OLD VIRGIN C’MON
    Status: Not Read Yet (but do I really want to? Probs not. But I have to, however I won’t enjoy it…)

That’s it in the MUST READ section for German. My Russian course is at a beginner level so I’m still learning parts of speech and the alphabet. I don’t think I’m up to par for reading Russian literature – I mean, have you seen some of it? I’ve read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky but I don’t think I can imagine reading it in it’s original Russian quite yet.

Moving on to For Fun:

  1. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman – A Italian-Jewish teen falls for the man staying at his parents’ villa over the summer. The story follows the time they spend together and apart. Because I’m a terrible person, I read the last paragraph of the novel and saw that the title is the last line of the book and started to cry because I could tell it was going to break my heart into pieces. If you’re looking into GLBTQ fiction, I recommend this one. A film is coming out in 2017 with Armie Hammer (The Social Network, The Lone Ranger, The Man From U.N.K.L.E., and Mirror Mirror) and Timothée Chalamet (Men, Women, & Children and Interstellar).

    Interest Rating: 5/5, Reading Difficulty: 1/5, Creepiness Rating: 1/5
    Status: There are three parts, and I’ve made it through Part 1 in my spare time, so 1/3 read

  2. Great Tales of Horror Anthology by H.P. Lovecraft:
    Super creepy Lovecraftian classics. If you’re looking for entertaining tales with endings that hook you and then leave you with the most unsettling of feelings, this is for you. There are some films made, but most of them are terrible. HOWEVER, if you’re interested in GERMAN, there is an amazing version of The Color Out of Space done in German called Die Farbe (just The Color). The title is appropriate as the whole film is done in black and white except for the mysterious color wreaking havoc. I just recommend that you stop the film right after the protagonist realizes what happened to his father. The ending got changed from the original one and it’s confusing and not good at all. Besides that, it’s an amazingly done German film! If you don’t love yourself, or just want a laugh, watch the 2001 film Dagon, done after the story The Shadow Over Insmouth and not Dagon, both by Lovecraft.

    Interest Rating: 5/5, Reading Difficulty: 2/5 for some odd 20th century vocabulary and vernacular, Creepiness Rating: 5/5 since that’s the whole point!
    Status: Mostly done reading. It is an anthology, after all.

  3. The Pendragon by Catherine Christian:
    Anyone else love Arthuriana and Arthurian mythos? Because I definitely do (that half-edited novel-esque thing sitting in my documents that I work on every few days is a testament to that). This is, yet another, retelling of the King Arthur tale, taking a more historic approach. I took an Arthurian Lit. course my 2nd semester as a first year and yes, there is a historical version of Arthur that the myths may be based upon. Regardless, I saw it in a small second hand book shop at the end of Market Street in St. Andrews and picked it up with greedy hands.  I’ve read and watched so many versions, even written my own, and it doesn’t matter; I will forever be captivated by this story and everything it could be interpreted as. I’m also a historical buff (something St. Andrews is amazing for) and this historical take is bound to be interesting!

    Interest Rating: ∞/5 there is no limit to my interest or love, Reading Difficulty: 0/5 there is literally none – I was born to read this kind of stuff, Creepiness Rating: probably 5/5 since there is some later-on incest in some versions and a flick through this version shows me that’s going to be a thing here too, so…
    Status: Not Read YET

Alright! That’s it. Thanks for tuning in this week at my Leseratte Ecke (Bookworm Corner/Nook) for class books and for fun books. Maybe some history next week!

Learn A Little, Live A Lot


St. Salvatore’s Quad, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Photo taken by Maxx Borges, 15 September 2016.

Hey everyone! Apologies for the late update.

To start: what’s worse than running across town for a class in 10 minutes? When you’re running across town for a class in 10 minutes with a twisted ankle and a bad head-cold! Yikes! I’ve been busy this past week and though not all of it ended in rainbows and butterflies, it was definitely still worth it. It gets a little long, so there’s more under the cut!

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A Breath of Fresh Air


Photo shows green foliage, semi-cloudy sky over open ocean with jetties of rock jutting out into the water. Taken by Maxx Borges, near a cliff-side by St. James Catholic Church, St. Andrews, Fyfe, Scotland. 04 September 2016.

For those of you just checking in, or for those that haven’t read my About Me page (don’t worry, I don’t blame you), I’m Maxx! I’m a third year student at Whitman College studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and I just finished my first week here. In all, I feel a bit like a fish out of water, and as a third year student, it’s a bit disconcerting. I’ll lay it out for you.

Fresher’s Week is the start of it. It’s an entire week dedicated to those students who have only just arrived in St. Andrews and have no idea what’s going on. Unlike the US universities, it’s this intense process where there are over 30 events going on every day and you have to get to them all on your own. Most first year students – affectionately called Freshers – are expecting this kind of whirlwind and confusion. To be honest, as a third year student, I really wasn’t. Back at my home university, I’m already considered an upperclassman, I know my way around campus, and I know what I’m doing. Well, for the most part. But I guess that’s one of the reasons I decided to go abroad: to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. St. Andrews may be a cozy place for some, but for me, it was like being on another planet.

Street signs not actually on the street but on the walls of buildings? Cars coming at me from the ‘wrong’ direction? A campus spread out over the entire village almost 15 minutes from where I live in student housing? Modules???

It’s overwhelming, like being a first year at my home university all over again, except this time, I can’t claim inexperience and beg everyone around me for help. Most of my classes are for 2nd and 3rd years, to top it all off. And they definitely don’t pander to the students here. What to do when you’re freaking out about getting what you need done and still having fun? Breathe. Maybe it’s stereotypical of me, but sitting for a second and gathering myself has been such a help these last few days while running around to get the classes I need at times that don’t clash with each other.

Speaking of, I just came back from my first class, Beginning Russian. Man, I’ve never seen so many squiggle lines in my life. But that’s not the point. The point is that classes have started, people are figuring things out and stumbling along like baby deer on shaky legs, and it’s okay. I’m not the only one and it’s all okay. I’ve heard too many people wistfully wax poetic about how they would do their whole first year differently if they had known then what they know now. And as I sit here reflecting, worrying about massive amounts of text to read in books I don’t yet have, I realize that that’s exactly what I can do. I have that advantage of having third year knowledge and going through a first year (or rather, semester) somewhere completely new. All of those people I wished I had talked to? I can talk to them here. All of those events or clubs I wanted to attend but was too afraid to go to on my own? I’m going to them. The classes I thought I couldn’t handle? I am handling them. Yes, it’s not exactly the same, but what in life is? When you have a second chance to experience things and you have some sort of guideline, why not make changes?

I think a lot of it has to do with being okay with yourself and letting go. Being determined to keep things the same in a place that doesn’t even play by the same rules seems a little silly and a whole lot unwise. There is so much to offer here and so many smiling, though unfamiliar faces, like the girl from Bulgaria that gently corrected my Russian pronunciations and called them cute when I succeeded; like the guy from northern England who chatted with me about Star Trek: The Original Series while we were waiting for our food to be done in the communal kitchen’s wonky microwave; like the sweet girl from southern Scotland who got me a tiny cake when she found out it was my birthday last Saturday. I don’t talk much, as a rule; I’m more fond of listening. As someone already set in their ways, with friends back home and a routine to follow, it’s hard being thrust in a setting where you have to do those things, to give and to take, to speak and to listen in equal amounts with people that may not necessarily even understand the culture you come from. It’s hard to go into the unknown with a smile on your face, a nervous twist in your stomach, and a healthy sense of adventure.

But that challenge? That’s why I went abroad.

Updates expected to be on Monday evenings.