Writing in Exile-the Land of Lost Content

The lines from A.E.Housman are well known:-

Into my heart an air that kills
 From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
 What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
 I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
 And cannot come again.

The condition of being in Exile, is one common element in the human condition. It is certainly an important factor in Irish culture as is well pointed out in this excerpt from The Guardian on Beckett and Joyce – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/feb/28/ireland-exile-culture

Here Sean O’Hagan mentions,”This sense of spiritual as well as cultural displacement was evoked, too, by the poet Patrick Kavanagh, who walked the streets around Ealing Broadway in 1953 willing himself to remember his native Monaghan “until a world comes to life – morning, the silent bog”. In the second half of that same decade, an estimated half a million people left Ireland to begin their lives all over again, abroad.” There is spiritual exile, linguistic exile and the sense of personal exile when someone close dies or moves away, in an emotional or geographical sense.

George Klaar (1920-2009)
George Klaar (1920-2009)

TLW I have just been reading a deeply moving account of lost Austrian-Jewish culture in George Klaar’s Last Waltz in Vienna and was sorry to hear of his passing.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/george-clare-memoirist-who-recalled-life-in-nazi-vienna-and-postwar-berlin-1726060.html .This threnody mentions his experiences not only in Vienna but also in Berlin, from where Klaar attempted his escape from the Nazis, initially to Ireland. A different approach and general introduction to exilliteratur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exilliteratur) is to be found in Martin Maunthner’s book on German Writers in French Exile 1933-1940. Mauthner was born in Leningrad of  Austrian parents. He worked in journalism and with the

Katharina Mann in Munich in 1905-she later converted to Lutheranism
Katharina Mann in Munich in 1905-she later converted to Lutheranism

European Commission in Brussels as a senior information officer. He also worked with Randolph Churchill on the biography of the latter’s father. In fact the book centres around a small port near Toulon. It makes much mention too of Aldous Huxley, Somerset Maugham,H.G.Wells, Muggeridge and Mosley. The French writers, Malraux and Gide are included in this account of the émigré community which provides an introduction to the intellectual drama and the tragic zeitgeist of this seven year period. The major figures are naturally Thomas, whose wife Katia came from a wealthy Jewish family of mathematicians, and his francophile brother Heinrich Mann, as well as Thomas’s son Klaus who engaged in a bitter battle of words at one stage with the Berlin based, Gottfried Benn- before the latter was to realise the full implication of Goebbel’s authoritarian drive from 1933 to achieve the synchronisation of the arts (Gleichschaltung) from his Ministry of Propaganda as Weimar collapse. Directed against Bolshevism it engendered militarism and focussed on anti-semitism taking in gypsies and homosexuals on the way and ending in the horrors of the Holocaust. This was all under the title of popular enlightenment. The account by Mauthner lacks the stylistic verve of George Klaar’s biographical account which affords an insight into the historical development of fascism upon Jewish life in Vienna.

Many Jews who were physically harassed and otherwise threatened by the Nazis and travelled to many locations and were exiled to Amsterdam, Stockholm, Zürich, London, Prague, Moscow as well as across the Atlantic to both North and South America. Martin Mauthner’s book seems to have three great strengths. It shows the wide variety of responses of individual refugees and their attempts to organise opposition to Hitler and the hampering difficulties other countries governments and other organisations presented. There is considerable detail about individuals like Feuchtwanger and Schwarzschild, famous at the time and now unfortunately neglected as well as journalists, publishers, cartoonists and illustrators. This book confines itself to writers, poets and playwrights but is particularly intriguing on the splits with the communists and within the United Front. The cruel trials under the auspices of Stalin proving a profound sticking point; also the different approaches in the Spanish Civil War.

Leopold Schwarzschild Editor of Das Neue Tagebuch
Leopold Schwarzschild
Editor of Das Neue Tagebuch

Just this morning I recieved an interesting posting concerning classical antiquity from http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.co.uk/ with a version of Ovid’s Tristia and the mortifying effects of having to leave his wife behind in charge of his posessions.

Illa dolōre āmēns tenebrīs nārrātur obortīs
   sēmjanimis mediā prōcubuisse domō,
utque resurrēxit foedātis pulvere turpī
  crīnibus et gelidā membra levāvit humō,
sē modo, dēsertōs modo complōrāsse Penātēs,
  nōmen et ēreptī saepe vocāsse virī,
nec gemuisse minus, quam sī nātaeve meumve
 vīdisset strūctōs corpus habēre, rogōs,
et voluisse morī, moriendō pōnere sēnsus,
   respectūque tamen nōn periisse meī.
Vīvat, et absentem, quoniam sīc fāta tulērunt,
    vīvat et auxiliō sublevet usque suō.

Translated by A.Z.Foreman as:-

I’m told she fainted from grief, mind plunged in dark,   
   And fell half-dead right there in our house.
When she came round, with disheveled dust-fouled hair,   
   Staggering up from the cold hard ground,
She wept for herself, for a house abandoned, screaming   
   Her stolen man’s name time after time,
Wailing as though she’d witnessed our daughter’s body   
   Or mine, upon the high-stacked pyre;
And longed for death, to kill the horror and hardship,   
   Yet out of regard for me she lived.
Long may she live! And in life give aid to her absent   
   Love, whose exile the Fates have willed. Tristia

Erinnerung an die Marie A. (Berthold Brecht)

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An jenem Tag im blauen Mond September
Still unter einem jungen Pflaumenbaum
Da hielt ich sie, die stille bleiche Liebe
In meinem Arm wie einen holden Traum.
Und über uns im schönen Sommerhimmel
War eine Wolke, die ich lange sah
Sie war sehr weiß und ungeheuer oben
Und als ich aufsah, war sie nimmer da.

Seit jenem Tag sind viele, viele Monde
Geschwommen still hinunter und vorbei.
Die Plaumenbäume sind wohl abgehauen
Und fragst du mich, was mit der Liebe sei?
So sag ich dir: Ich kann mich nicht erinnern
Und doch, gewiß, ich weiß schon, was du meinst.
Doch ihr Gesicht, das weiß ich wirklich nimmer
Ich weiß nur mehr: ich küßte sie dereinst.

Und auch den Kuß, ich hätt ihn längst vergessen
Wenn nicht die Wolke da gewesen wär
Die weiß ich noch und werd ich immer wissen
Sie war sehr weiß und kam von oben her.
Die Pflaumenbäume blühn vielleicht noch immer
Und jene Frau hat jetzt vielleicht das siebte Kind
Doch jene Wolke blühte nur Minuten
Und als ich aufsah, schwand sie schon im Wind.

Autor: Berthold Brecht
Titel: Gedichte 1918-1929
Verlag: Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1960

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This poem has been translated by the well-known poet, by Derek Mahon, where at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Mahon it is mentioned that he is interested in established verse forms and ekphrasis:(the poetic interpretation of visual art). Here is his version of Brecht which can be found in that excellent collection, The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems edited by Michael Hoffmann.

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A Cloud

One evening in the blue month of September

We lay at peace beneath an apple bough:

I took her in my arms, my gentle lover,

And held her closely like a dream come true-

While far up in the tranquil summer heaven

There was a cloud, I saw it high and clear.

It was so white and so immense above us

And, as I watched, it was no longer there.

 

Since then so very many different evenings

Have drifted past in the general flow.

Perhaps the apple orchard has been flattened;

And if you ask me where the girl is now

I have to admit I really don’t remember.

I can imagine what you’re going to say

But even her face I truly can’t recapture

I only know I kissed it there that day.

 

Even the kiss I would have long forgotten

If that cloud had not been there too-

I see it and will always see it plainly,

So white and unexpected in the blue.

Perhaps the apple-boughs are back in blossom,

Maybe she holds a fourth child on her knees;

The cloud, though, hung there for a moment only

And, as I watched, it broke up in the breeze.

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Another Brecht Love PoemIch will mit dem gehen, den ich liebeIch will mit dem gehen, den ich liebe.
Ich will nicht ausrechnen, was es kostet.
Ich will nicht nachdenken, ob es gut ist.
Ich will nicht wissen, ob er mich liebt.
Ich will mit ihm gehen, den ich liebe.
I want to go with the one I loveI want to go with the one I love.
I do not want to calculate the cost.
I do not want to think about whether it’s good.
I do not want to know whether he loves me.
I want to go with whom I love.