Category Archives: German Matters

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

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.

Early Aviation in West Cornwall

Image result for grahame white aviation+fleet in mounts bay

The first flight over Penzance was a short affair lasting just 3 minutes at a height of 200 feet. This was achieved in a rather fragile biplane called a Farman with a propeller in the rear. This was around 6.00 p.m. on Saturday July 23rd, 1910. The pilot was the renowned Claude Grahame-White whose purpose was to fly over the three fleets assembled in the bay where they were expected to be informally reviewed by the recently crowned King George V. Poor weather had delayed the flight and high winds curtailed this first effort.

Grahame-White’s second flight from Marazion at 9.00p.m. that same evening was more impressive. It lasted some 15 minutes over the now illuminated fleet. Among the 200 ships present he was able to identify the flagship of the Home fleet, The Dreadnought, and the Admiralty yacht, The Enchantress. It had been his intention to show the vulnerability of the Navy to aerial attack. He had been supported in this endeavour by the photographer of The Daily Mirror, Vaughan T Paul. Grahame-White had learnt to fly at Reims under Bleriot who was the first to cross the Channel, the previous year in 1909. The next month Grahame-White flew his Farnham biplane over Washington landing close to the White House.

Despite the attention which it attracted this was not the first heavier than air flight to take place in the Duchy. Jack Humphries, a Dental Surgeon from Fowey had observed bird flight and made at least two flights with gliders from nearby cliffs. In 1912, the French aviator Henri Salmet, with the financial support of Lord Northcliffe arrived with his Bleriot machine on the 14th of June in Falmouth. He had intended to fly over Lands End, however the headwinds proved too strong for the monoplane.

On 24th September 1913, the Hamburg born Gustav Hamel, just 24 years old, arrived at Trengwainton from whence he flew his Bleriot monoplane over Penzance where he could be seen clearly from the Market Place, Market Jew Street and then to Newlyn Coombe and on to St Ives and was greeted by a large crowd upon his return. After meeting Lord and Lady St Leven and the local M.P., Mr T. Bedford Bolitho who examined his aircraft. The energetic Hamel flew off once more at 5.30 and returned having fulfilled his ambition of being the first aviator to have flown over Lands End.

Hamel and Grahame-White collaborated in the development of Hendon airfield which became a flying school, a site for aircraft manufacture and later taken over by the R.A.F. and is now its museum. Ballooning at Hendon had taken place as early as 1862. Airship bases were built in Cornwall during 1915 and 1916. For example, the Royal Naval Air Station Mullion was developed on a 320-acre site near the village of Cury and the first airship transported here by train. This Lizard Airship Station was later to contain a hydrogen producing plant and a small Marconi transmitter. Its situation was ideal for attacking U-boats in accordance with the intentions of the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher.

Image result for Lizard Airship Station

 

Artists and Illustrators published from London in1933

Perusing the London Illustrated News from early 1933, is to immerse oneself in a world which seems remote from our own yet the events shape our modern attitudes. The Empire appears secure with photographs of Imperial India, the Viceroy and his family surrounded by flunkies. Trouble is afoot in Moscow where staff from the British Embassy have been arrested and there are sketches of the process of interrogation where the accused stands and the commissar slouches at his desk. There are photographs of new pontoons in Venice, new aircraft -flying boats with generous accommodation and strange giro-copters whose instability proves as unsurprising as their appearance. Compared with the same publication twenty years before there are regular pages on the “kinema” and engravings are no longer to be seen. Platinum blondes are much in vogue as the photographs of beauty queens clearly portray and the permanent wave has arrived everywhere. The photographs of the rise of the Nazis and their integration with members of the German ruling class made more and more obvious. Marches stream through Potsdam and already in New York 20 000 people assemble and crowd in a square to protest at the persecution of Jews. Street signs are being changed near the Tiergarten in Berlin to celebrate the German “victory” at Jutland.

The desperate state of the unemployed and the slum conditions in South London are a constant theme. A conference on the world depression is held with representatives from 66 countries is held in London at the Geology museum then in Jermyn Street- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Economic_Conference. It will be torpedoed by the American President-the dispute relates to the exchange rates between the dollar and other currencies. This all bespeaks a world portrayed by the artist George Grosz whose sketchbooks can be seen at the V and A just across from the Natural History Museum, where the Geological museum now resides. However, the Illustrated News had its own artists and illustrators who like Grosz captured the atmosphere of the times.

Image result for steven spurrier artist

Prominent on these pages is the work of Steven Spurrier RA (13 July 1878 – 11 March 1961) whose work may be glimpsed at the Tate. He was educated at Heatherley’s, an independent Art School off Baker Street which specialised in portraiture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heatherley_School_of_Fine_Art

Related image

The next artist whose work proliferates on the pages in 1933 was a brilliant caricaturist and lithographer whoc came from the Channel Isles. He has been called the English Daumier and at the age of 19 was employed by the Daily Chronicle – this was Edmund Blampied (30 March 1886 – 26 August 1966). Blampied was particularly fine at depicting the social conditions at this period of poverty and dire exigence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Blampied Ink and sepia wash being particularly suited to this subject. There is an interesting interview with Blampied at https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/Edmund_Blampied_-_an_interview

Image result for blampied artist

The third artist who worked for the London Illustrated News and made sketches at the London Economic Conference was Werner Knoth(1895-1981)  who was a trained businessman and a draftsman, at first self-taught, then studied from 1934 to 1938 in Paris. He was an art dealer in Spain, later a press artist in Hamburg and exhibition organizer. During the Second World War he was taken prisoner of war; his works were destroyed in the bombing. Returning to Hamburg, he drew portraits, theatre and opera sketches. A German citizen employed by the Illustrated News in 1933 and educated at https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hochschule_f%C3%BCr_bildende_K%C3%BCnste_Hamburg

Image result for werner knoth maler  Image result for werner knoth maler

The portrait on the right is of Ulrich Erfurth (1910–1986) who was a German film director.