Category Archives: German Matters

German places and poetry and my humble attempts at translation- oh and yes, politics!

Mein Herr Marquis- The Laughing Song

 

Mein Herr Marquis, ein Mann wie Sie
Sollt’ besser das verstehn,
Darum rate ich, ja genauer sich
Die Leute anzusehen!
Die Hand ist doch wohl gar zo fein, hahaha.
Dies Füsschen so zierlich und klein, hahaha.
Die Sprache, die ich führe
Die Taille, die Tournüre,
Dergleichen finden Sie
Bei einer Zofe nie!
Gestehn müssen Sie fürwahr,
Sehr komisch dieser Irrtum war!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha,
Ist die Sache, hahaha.
Drum verzeihn Sie, hahaha,
Wenn ich lache, hahaha!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha
Ist die Sache, hahaha!

Sehr komisch, Herr Marquis, sind Sie!
Mit dem Profil im griech’schen Stil
Beschenkte mich Natur:
Wenn nicht dies Gesicht schon genügend spricht,
So sehn Sie die Figur!
Schaun durch die Lorgnette Sie dann, ah,
Sich diese Toilette nur an, ah
Mir scheint wohl, die Liebe
Macht Ihre Augen trübe,
Der schönen Zofe Bild
Hat ganz Ihr Herz erfüllt!
Nun sehen Sie sie überall,
Sehr komisch ist fürwahr der Fall!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha
Ist die Sache, hahaha
Drum verzeihn Sie, hahaha,
Wenn ich lache, hahaha!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha,
Ist die Sache, hahaha  etc.

English Translation

 

My Lord Marquis, a man like you
should better understand that,
Therefore I advise you to look more
accurately at people!
My hand is surely far too fine, hahaha.
My foot so dainty and small, hahaha.
In a manner of speaking
My waist, my bustle,
The likes of things you’ll never find
on a maid!
You really must admit,
This mistake was very funny!
Yes, very funny, hahaha,
This thing is, hahaha.
You’ll have to forgive me, hahaha,
If I laugh, hahaha!
Yes, very funny, hahaha
This thing is, hahaha!

Very comical, Marquis, you are!
With this profile in Grecian style
being a gift of nature;
If this face doesn’t give it away,
Just look at my figure!
Just look through the eye-glass, then, ah,
At this outfit I am wearing, ah
It seems to me that love
Has clouded your eyes,
The chambermaid image
Has fulfilled all your heart!
Now you see her everywhere,
Very funny indeed, is this situation!
Yes, very funny, hahaha
This thing is, hahaha.
You’ll have to forgive me, hahaha,
If I laugh, hahaha!
Yes, very funny, hahaha
This thing is, hahaha!

Thoughts on history in the making

We seem currently to be going through a period of iconoclasm which has an interesting history itself. One of my favourite plays is “Forty Years On” by Alan Bennett. It often seems to me that British, and particularly English, society resembles some sort of minor public school. Hence I can easily hear John Gielgud intoning Ecclesiastes 44-1:-

Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. 2The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning. 3Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies: 4Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions.

Now, when I googled this a moment ago, I discovered that the first six words of the title refers to a book written some 75 years ago by Agee and Evans with photographs of tenant farmers and their dreadful plight in the depression. The verse from Ecclesiastes was obscured and immediately raises the question about how the meaning of the past can be changed or indeed obscured. It also raises the questions about for whom history might be written, recorded or commemorated.

However, before examining the text, consider the last sentence….” meet For the people, WISE and ELOQUENT are their instructions”. Well it would be nice if the present incumbents of the senior management team were wise and concerned for the people and by no means can the repetitive bumbling be described as eloquence.

(Incidentally, I remember hearing that controversial Cornishman D.M. Thomas remarking once that we had moved from reading Isaiah to watching dire television in two generations!)

Now before we start praising famous men, let alone building statues to them, we also need to consider women and children. The statue which really brought pimples to the skin and still does was near the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin which shows those children going to the West in the Kindertransport and those from whom they have been sundered, facing the death camps in the East. Then, also very moving is the statue by Kathe Kollwitz. This sculpture is under an oculus and exposed to the rain, snow and cold symbolising the suffering of civilians during World War II. It is a pieta- a woman with her dead child. She had lost her son, Peter on the battlefield in the First World War.

At this point I should like to recommend a book and close with a couple of quotations which I think are worth pondering. The book is by Rachel Hewitt and is called “A Revolution in Feeling” It deals with the changes of feelings during the 1790s. To quote from the dust jacket;” Every society in every age, feels differently, and from the seismic shifts of the 1790s Britain emerged the contours of our contemporary attitude to need, longing and emotion”.

Now from that complex but original thinker Walter Benjamin, This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

WALTER BENJAMIN, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Here we return to eloquence again, a reminder that style in historical writers engage our interest from Hazlitt-

The history of mankind is a romance, a mask, a tragedy, constructed upon the principles of POETICAL JUSTICE; it is a noble or royal hunt, in which what is sport to the few is death to the many, and in which the spectators halloo and encourage the strong to set upon the weak, and cry havoc in the chase, though they do not share in the spoil.

WILLIAM HAZLITT, Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays

Finally

Finally, I listened to a radio programme last night about refugees in camps across the Channel in France desperate to escape persecution and many of them, children in conditions cramped as in a slave ship. What are we going to do to alleviate their situation?

When German trains saved Jewish kids - EXBERLINER.com

Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture 'Mother with her Dead Son', Neue Wache ...

Notes

On Iconoclasm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Iconoclasm

There may be elements of magical thinking in relation to monuments as clearly their destruction does not entail the erasure of the past or the racist structures still in existence. It might be argued that in their removal they can become instrumental towards that aim. Some may also consider that they are works of art which raises further questions about aesthetics – content and form etc.

 

 

Suggestions for reading material when confined to barracks

Ex-Premier Harold MacMillan’s reputation has had it’s vacillations. However, many recall his stoically reading in a trench Aeschylus’ Prometheus in Greek. So whatever isolation we are advised or requested to endure in our very much more comfortable domestic surroundings, suitable reading matter might become Chicken Soup for the Soul. Glancing around the town’s charity shops and my own bookshelves has given me the opportunity to select some books suitable for longer reading. Here are my suggestions:-

A Pacifist’s War by Frances Partridge

Diaries by Frances Partridge, dating from 1945-60, which provide an account of her association with the Bloomsbury group and focus on her life at Ham Spray in the Wiltshire downs with her partner Ralph, where they exchanged visits with a variety of notable friends. It is an engaging read set against the backdrop of uncertain news. The pace of life in the country in wartime is described with underlying courage and compassion.

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics

This volume is listed as a New York Times Best Seller as well as a Sunday Times Bestseller by a prominent journalist and broadcaster, Tim Marshall. When you are felling imprisoned and suffering from severe cabin fever then the spatial constraints of geography assist a useful understanding of the consequent political history. This is what one Amazon reviewer  writes, “I found this book to be an excellent concise summary of how the political world has developed to where it is today. I found the section on Russia particularly interesting and it opened my eyes to some factors driving the current position.The author has an incredible grasp of world affairs and our history. It made me wish I had spent more time in this area and has given me a thirst to spend more time in future.
It has turned me into even more of a dinner bore as I am now able to explain the background behind many of the current world conflicts with such confidence that I go unchallenged! “(Tri Jules)#

Fabled Shore – From the Pyrenees to Portugal by Rose Macaulay 

The author wrote, when this book was published in 1949, “A Greek mariner from Marseilles compiled in the sixth century B.C. a topographical sailing book of his voyage from the Lands of Tin in the northern seas, down the western coast of Portugal and round the Sacred Cape, and so along the southern coast of the Iberian peninsula, through the Pillars, and along the Mediterranean coast to Marseilles, his home. The later part of this sailing book, from the Tartessos region (near Cadiz) to Marseilles, had great detail, describing each bay, each cape, each port, for the benefit of those Greek merchant mariners who adventured and trafficked down that far and fabulous coast to the Pillars of Hercules, and beyond these into the dark and questionable Atlantic where the silver mountains stood back from the Tartessian shore.”#

Fluent in Greek and Latin this book is fluently written and also an introduction to Rose Macaulay’s novels and other writings. There is an interesting biography of Macaulay –

Rose Macaulay: A Biography by Sarah LeFanu

1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear by James Shapiro

Well, it was the year of terrorist activity and also the return of the plague but this is book, now available in paperback, traces Shakespeare’s life and times from the autumn of 1605, when he took an old and anonymous Elizabethan play, The Chronicle History of King Leir, and transformed it into his most searing tragedy, King Lear. Well researched and written this is a,fine sequel to the author’s earlier book, 1599.

If, however, you prefer to take it on the chin you could always read Thomas MannDer Tod in Venedig in German or even Albert Camus’s La Peste in French. You might be better off reading Proust in the original if your language skills are up to it- I have an easier version;

Image result for les temps perdus en BD 

 

 

 

Herbstwanderung

Herbstwanderung

Golden und rot leuchtende Blätter
in tief stehender Sonne.
Farben explodieren
verschwenderisch
trunken
vergehend.

Reife Früchte
Beeren unbekannten Namens
aromatische Fülle
Ahnung von Fäulnis.

Vögel sammeln sich
Kraniche ziehen
Wespen umsummen das Obst
Waldtiere bereiten sich vor.

Altweiberfäden zeigen sich
in schrägen Sonnenstrahlen,
auf Spinnweben glitzern Tautropfen,
ein Blatt dreht sich herabfallend
in seiner farbigen Schönheit.

Es riecht feucht
intensiv
erdig
nach Pilzen
nassem Holz
Tannennadeln
sich zersetzenden Blättern
Wildschweinen.
Dieser Geruch:
unvergesslich
Heimat.

Ich sammle bunte Zweige
die letzten Blüten
Äste mit Beeren
anmutige Gräser –
sie werden das Zimmer schmücken.

Bald sind die Zweige kahl,
tragen die Äste nur noch sich selbst
die Gräser hängen,
sie haben ihre Schönheit überlebt.
Die Vase bleibt leer.

Bald wird der weich-feuchte Waldboden
frosthart
Schnee bedeckt die abgestorbenen Blätter.
Die große Stille zieht ein.

Text from Renate Augenstein

Lazy Days -Listening to the Radio and Podcasts

It is a time when political matters appear to be quite falling apart as the boring pedantic  Johnson  scrabbles his way to power. The badly led opposition seems occupied in necessary self-immolation.Consequently, everyone needs some relief from the current tedium and the dear old Radio Times proves useful as it suggests highly interesting programmes in odd recherche places.

New angles on post-war Germany and Austria

proved to be one such opportunity and last night’s programme compared by the heyzerik  but delightful  Anne McElvoy with Florian Huber, Sophie Hardach, Adam Scovell and Tom Smith have produced a very interesting programme. If you have time, you will find it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sjx

Thefull  details are at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0006sjx-

Among the topics discussed is the work of the great Austrian novelist and prize-winner, Thomas Bernhard

Image result for thomas bernhard

The programme includes Bernhard’s account of his days in the Cafe Braunerhof.

Image result for cafe braunerhof vienna

 

.The following 1948nEast German poster sets the tone of the programme too.https://www.reddit.com/r/PropagandaPosters/duplicates/2znorc/this_east_german_postwar_poster_shows_how_the/

For anyone interested in literary podcasts and programmes, the following link may prove of use-

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2019/feb/the-best-literary-podcasts-for-book-lovers/

 

 

The ingenious poetry of Szymborska

I love these lines from this Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet, Wislawa  Symborska:-

“We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.” They come from her poem “Some like poetry” which can be read at http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/wislawa_szymborska/poems/11678

Her poems are also available in German from Suhrkamp

Budapest circa 1913 – “Sunset”-a brilliant, intriguing film by László Nemes

One of the better reviews on this film comes from Paul Whitington at https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-reviews/sunset-review-kafkaesque-melodramatic-enthralling-38163466.html where he writes:-

Laszlo Nemes’ sumptuously photographed drama is set in 1913 in Budapest, where the existential anxieties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are embodied in the slender form of Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), a young woman with a dark past.

She bears the name of the city’s most stylish hat store, Leiter’s: her parents died there in a fire when she was two, and Irisz was raised elsewhere but now returns, looking for work, and answers.

Instead she finds secrets, a wall of silence, and dark rumours about a murderous brother she never knew she had.

Full of dark portents of the continental carnage to come, Sunset is Kafkaesque, melodramatic, enthralling.”

This is not an easy film to understand and it certainly is not in the usual genre of an historical film. Much is about the contrast between the superficial elegance and the arduous and dangerous conflicts beneath this attractive outward view. However, it has to be said that I very much enjoyed the visual presentation of the surface; the milliner’s store with its stupendous colourful hats and the horse drawn carriages. History crept in when a news-vendor announces that the Austro-Hungarian empire is to launch another battleship- jogging the memory that this primarily land locked empire held a port at Trieste. As I have yet to visit Budapest, although I have visited both Vienna and Bratislava, this area intrigues me. This point in time too is the subject to much of the concerns of the novels of Joseph Roth and the magnificent films of that other brilliant Hungarian director, from a previous generation, stván Szabó. Also, for good measure, the Empress Sisi arrives from Vienna in a somewhat grumpy personification. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduchess_Elisabeth_Marie_of_Austria

Image result for laszlo nemes sunset

In thinking about this film, I remembered that the famous psychoanalyist, Melanie Klein was living in Budapest at this time. She received her psychoanalytic education with Sándor Ferenczi in Budapest during World War I. She specialized in his advice in child analysis and became one of the first in this field. I mention this because much of the film really deals with states of mind like confusion, exclusion and certain feminist attitudes. It is interesting to see what the film is saying about issues in the contemporary world and in its concentration upon one individual’s perceptions and their attempts to understand relationships with siblings, we seem to be in territory where Klein’s work is uniquely valuable. Here is her photograph wearing an elegant hat.

Image result for Melanie Klein in Budapest

A slideshow of Klein’s life and theories may be found at https://slideplayer.com/slide/6193313/

 

Watching this film, one is reminded that the film-maker has stated that he has been influenced by Stanley Kubrick and indeed some of the themes do seem rather similar to those Kubrick examines in “91/2 Weeks”. This latter film was an adaptation, of course, of Arthur Schnitzler’s  “Traumnovelle” (Dream Story” but without the anti-anti-Semitic aspects of the earlier work which seems based upon Viennese secret societies. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/24/alternative-ending-discovered-to-book-behind-eyes-wide-shut  

 

 

 

Der September-Kästner

“Der September

Das ist ein Abschied mit Standarten
aus Pflaumenblau und Apfelgrün.
Goldlack und Astern flaggt der Garten,
und tausend Königskerzen glühn.

Winsculpture-Tremenheere- September 2018

Das ist ein Abschied mit Posaunen,
mit Erntedank und Bauernball.
Kuhglockenläutend ziehn die braunen
und bunten Herden in den Stall.

Das ist ein Abschied mit Gerüchen
aus einer fast vergessenen Welt.
Mus und Gelee kocht in den Küchen.
Kartoffelfeuer qualmt im Feld.

Das ist ein Abschied mit Getümmel,
mit Huhn am Spieß und Bier im Krug.
Luftschaukeln möchten in den Himmel.
Doch sind sie wohl nicht fromm genug.

Die Stare gehen auf die Reise.
Altweibersommer weht im Wind.
Das ist ein Abschied laut und leise.
Die Karussells drehn sich im Kreise.
Und was vorüber schien, beginnt.”

(Aus: Kästner, DIE DREIZEHN MONATE)

Well here is a rough translation by a good friend.
It´s September

This is a farewell with flags
coloured plum-blue and apple-green.
The garden is flagging wallflowers and asters,
and thousand mulleins glow.

This is a farewell with trombones,
with guldize and farmers´ ball.
Tolling their cowbells the brown
and colourful herds are stable bound.

This is a farewell with scents
of a long forlorn world.
Jams and Jellies simmer in the kitchens.
Potato fire smoulders in the field.

This is a farewell with turmoil,
with chicken on skewer and beer in jug.
Swingboats want to go to heaven
But they might not be piously enough.

The starlings start their journey.
Gossamer waves in the wind.
This is farewell noisy and gentle.
The merry-go-rounds are spinning in circles.
And what seemed past, starts.