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The Bohemian Flats

The Bohemian Flats: A Novel

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Bohemian Flats
    Book Description:

    InThe Bohemian Flats, Mary Relindes Ellis's rich, imaginative gift carries us from the bourgeois world of fin de siècle Germany to a vibrant immigrant enclave in the heart of the Midwest and to the killing fields of World War I.

    Shell shock, as it was called, lands Raimund Kaufmann in a London hospital, a victim of the war but also of his own, and his brother's, efforts to get out of Germany and build a new life in America. While his recovery eludes him, his memory returns us to Minneapolis, to the Flats, a milling community on the Mississippi River, where Raimund and his brother Albert have sought respite from the oppressive hand of their older brother, now the master of the family farm and brewery. In Minnesota the brothers confront different forms of prejudice, but they also find a chance to remake their lives according to their own principles and wishes-until the war makes their German roots inescapable.

    Following these lives,The Bohemian Flatsconjures both the sweep of irresistible history and the intimate reality of a man, and a family, caught up in it. From a nineteenth-century German farm to the thriving, wildly diverse immigrant village below Minneapolis on the Mississippi to the European front in World War I, and returning to twentieth-century America-this is a story that takes a reader to the far reaches of human experience and the depths of the human heart.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4209-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
  3. PROLOGUE London, 1919
    (pp. 1-8)

    He is on the wrong side of the river. He gauges the Mississippi’s width, thinks about the strength of the current at that section of the river. A few feet behind him is a tree-covered rise of limestone known as the Father Hennepin bluff. It is an easy walk to the stone arch bridge, north of where he stands and where he can cross on foot. But he decides to swim across because the river is narrow enough here, having been diminished by the St. Anthony Falls. He takes off his dress shoes, his socks, his suit jacket and pants,...

  4. JOIE DE VIVRE Minneapolis, 1896–1899
    (pp. 9-46)

    Raimund wavers at the ticket office. The shipping agent drums his fat fingers, occasionally reaching up to rub the waxed ends of his silver moustache. Raimund reads and rereads the ticket prices. $100 for first class, $60 for second, and $24 for steerage. This may be his only trip on a big ship. He ponders the imagined luxuries of first class.

    “Hurry up, young man! They are lowering the gangways.” Thegangways. He looks out the small window facing the docked ship and sees that two bridge walks are being lowered. The designation of each ramp is obvious from the...

  5. HISTORIE Augsburg, 1881–1896
    (pp. 47-114)

    It was the day before their tenth birthday. Raimund was talking about miracles with his best friend, Leo Kritz. Wasn’t it a miracle, he said, that Leo was born in the same year, on the same day, and nearly the same hour as he was?

    “Maybe,” Leo answered. They were sitting on the steps of the Rathaus, the regal town hall in Augsburg. Leo had a deck of cards so that they could practice the American game of poker.

    “You Lutherans don’t believe in them.”

    “We do so,” Leo responded without looking up from what Raimund suspected was a winning...

  6. ROLLING BILLY Voyage to America, 1899
    (pp. 115-134)

    Otto’s reaction to raimund’s disappearance was volcanic. He sent petitions to authorities in all major cities of Europe, believing his brother still on the continent. His pig-eyed rage propelled more changes in the family. Annaliese, freed from the tyranny of her marriage and not wishing to endure a second dynasty of control by her oldest son and his equally domineering wife, was permitted by the priest to break convention and enter the Franciscan Kloster of Maria Stern in Augsburg. Otto declared his mother dead to him and refused to visit her in the convent.

    Ten months after Raimund’s disappearance, Albert...

  7. THE FLATS Minneapolis, 1899–1905
    (pp. 135-170)

    Raimund, albert, magdalena, and the two young boys stand on the Washington Avenue Bridge and look down, their eyes squinting against the slant of the October sun. Magdalena does not see the mighty Mississippi that Tempy had said was two miles wide. Instead she sees its more juvenile but no less muscular self, a quarter of a mile wide. The river, aided by centuries of time and given additional thrust to its volume by the St. Anthony Falls before it was dammed, cuts a deep channel between two limestone bluffs. The bluff on the east side of the river juts...

  8. CHIPPEWA CROSSING Northern Wisconsin, 1905–1912
    (pp. 171-224)

    Aburly man with a dirty knit cap, tobacco-stained teeth, and a crumb-flecked beard meets them as they step down from the train in Park Falls.

    “Are you Roman Zelinski?” Albert asks.

    “I am! And you are the Kaufmanns!” he booms. Stench envelops them as he reaches forward to shake Albert’s hand. Magdalena nudges the boys. They suck in their breaths and shake the man’s hand. Then they step back and stare with squint-eyed fascination at the scarred lid that covers Roman’s left eye. The skin is blistered and thick as though it has been fried like an egg.

    “You are...

  9. RENASCENCE Minneapolis, France, Germany, 1914–1919
    (pp. 225-308)

    Winter was banished yesterday.

    Eberhard opens his eyes, looks to the window, and sees the dark receding and the light beginning. He gets up, dresses, and leaves the bedroom. His uncle’s bedroom door is slightly ajar. Raymond was so drunk the evening before that he fell across the middle of the bed. Sometime in the night he must have righted himself and is now sleeping with his head against the headboard. His snoring is deep and Eberhard bets that he will sleep through most of the morning, waking up at noon with a terrible hangover. He indulged as much as...

  10. THE LAST FIGHT Minneapolis, 1923–1950
    (pp. 309-320)

    He wakes up, his mouth tasting as muddy and gritty as if he had been in the river. Unlike a new dream whose details do not linger into consciousness, Raymond has had this dream before, and it is more distressing because it persists, because he can remember every detail of it, and nothing about it has changed over the past eight months. He reminds himself to make a note in his journal of its occurrence. The last time had been two months earlier during the night after the funeral.

    He gets up and shuffles to the kitchen. He stokes the...

  11. EPILOGUE Minneapolis, 1968
    (pp. 321-322)

    This morning raymond gets up as usual, has a cup of coffee and a prune pastry that he has saved from the day before. He shaves, and then puts on his best suit. He waits until midafternoon, knowing that there will be few students on campus as the spring quarter has ended. Then he takes the bus on University Avenue, gets off in front of Folwell Hall, and walks with the aid of his cane to the river flats behind Coffman Union.

    He sits on a bench close to the shore, watches the sun slide down in the sky. He...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 323-325)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-326)