Peter Adolphsen: Brummstein (The Brummstein)
If you want to know about the formation of our planet and, in particular, the formation of Europe (from the geological, not historical perspective) and even more particularly, the formation of the Swiss Alps, then this is the book for you. If such matters do not interest you, fear not. While relevant and important, you can and will enjoy this very short but highly original novel for much more.
Once Adolphsen has explained the geology, we land at the Hölloch Cave in the Swiss Alps. Hölloch is the German for Hell hole, not least because the cave apparently has a direct connection to Hell.
Hans Julius Widmer-Osterwalder was the first to really exploit the cave commercially. He had visited it with his wife in 1899 and was so fascinated it, he bought the land by the entrance. He then brought in over a hundred workers to install electricity, build walkways and enlarge bottlenecks. He built a luxurious hotel and even planned to build a rail link. It did not work as the caves were remote and the admission cost was high and the company went bankrupt.
Josef and Andrea Siedler were one couple who did visit before the bankruptcy. Josef was influenced by the theories of Eduard Suess, an Austrian geologist. He believed that between the mantle and the Earth’s contracting core the subterranean or intra-terranean race would be found. He was also influenced by Edward Bulwer-Lytton‘s bookThe Coming Race about a superior subterranean master race. When Siedler learned of Hölloch, he was convinced that this was the gateway to the subterranean race.
They took the official tour but that was no use, so Josef hired an expert guide. The guide took him deep down but even the guide got fed up with Josef’s ideas and left Josef to explore further on his own. He found a rock which looked like granite but was darker. (We later learn that it is amphibolite, also known as hornblende slate). It seemed to have a humming come from it. When he pressed his ear to it the sound of almost ten geological days or 125 million years of earthquakes roared against his eardrum. He took some fragments and returned home.
This is, essentially, where the book begins, as we follow the fate of his fragments, as they pass from hand to hand, down through a series of people. We also follow their stories. The Siedlers die and the stones move to his nephew, then into Nazi Germany, East Germany under Communism, an art gallery, and elsewhere, always with the various owners vowing to go to Hölloch to investigate further (Josef had left a note about their origin and the other owners followed) till, finally, someone does.
What makes this novel is the original stories, mixed with pathos, originality and suspense, as we wonder how or, indeed, if the stones will get to their original destination, or if one of the owners will find out more about their origin and the strange humming they make. The stones play various unusual roles in bringing people together but also as regards their nature. Given its short length, this is a most original novel.
By the way, the untranslated Danish title means simply buzzing stone.
First published 2003 by Samleren
First published in English in 2011 by AmazonCrossing
Translator: Charlotte Barslund