One of the few not too arduous & diaphoretic tasks in these days of sweltering heat is putting books back into shelves. And before I cramp them back into their wooden jails I take their fingerprints and photograph … So in absolutely not special or sorted, but purely random succession follow the titles of books I read over the last two months.

MELNIKOW, Madgalena ; DUERR, Hans Peter (Eds.) : Rudolf Rocker. Aus den Memoiren eines deutschen Anarchisten. Einleitung von Augustin SOUCHY. Nachwort von Diego Abad de SANTILLÁN. 1. Auflage, Frankfurt / Main 1974 (edition suhrkamp, 711)
ROCKER (1873-1958) (Ger., Eng.) was an important figure of the German and international anarchistic movement, with an exemplary biography that led from the native Rhineland, via Paris to London (of course with internment through WWI and deportation) back to Germany in 1919, then via Spain into exile in the US. On this life journey he met nearly everyone who played a role in the very different “movement” of people who did not accept the rule of man over man. A fierce opponent to the old school social-demokratic party in the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic, a fierce critic of the communists who replaced the autocratic rule of the czar with the dictatorial regime of their own party, of course in opposition to all those nationalistic & fascists movements of his time, ROCKER seemingly never gave up on his ideals of a free & just society for all, while he lived through an æra that all too directly showed the exact opposite, that all too violent 20th century with its hecatombs of dead men and lakes of blood.
Whether the editor M. MELNIKOW is the gallery owner of the same name (1938-2017) I can not verify, but I think it is likely. Hans Peter DUERR (Ger., Eng.) is a German anthropologist ; we met Augustin SOUCHY (1892-1984) (Ger., Eng.) before on this blog, I read his autobiography ; de SANTILLÁN  (1897-1983) (Ger., Eng.) was an important figure in the Spanish speaking anarchistic movement.

VIERENGEL, Rudolf : Miltenberg. Ein kultur- und kunstgeschichtlicher Wegweiser durch die alte Stadt am Main mit Betrachtungen über Großheubach, Kloster Engelberg, Kleinheubach und Bürgstadt. Mit zahlreichen Aufnahmen von Lala AUFSBERG und Leo GUNDERMANN. Amorbach 1962
Oh so idyllic. VIERENGEL was a local newspaper man, who wrote some pretty bleak nonsense in the 1930s, a la mode. It can be nice to use such an old guide book. Not that I plan to travel to Miltenberg.

LUNARDI, Heinrich : 900 Jahre Nürnberg. 600 Jahre Nürnberger Uhren. Wien, Stuttgart 1974
It is what the title says, a catalogue of clocks and clockmakers from Nuremberg. Sadly I could find no additional biographical information about LUNARDI, but he published several titles that deal with the history of clocks or chronometers. These are simply stunning objects. If you want to see clocks, turn to the Deutsche Uhrenmuseum, or visit the Uhrenmuseum in Vienna, of course LUNARDI wrote a guide book (in 1973).

DROMMER, Günther (Ed.) : Markus WOLF : Die Kunst der Verstellung. Dokumente, Gespräche, Interviews. Berlin 1998
Texts by Mischa WOLF (1923-2006) (Ger., Eng., obit.) about his life and times. He died on a 9th of November. Doesn’t get much more German. I could not find additional information about the editor DROMMER. He seemingly lives in or around Berlin, is (possibly) in his seventies.

Gemeindeverwaltung Pfaffenhofen (Ed.) : 700 Jahre Weiler a.[n] d.[er] Z.[aber] einst und jetzt. Pfaffenhofen 1983
Weiler an der Zaber (Ger.) is a village in the rural district Heilbronn. Here absolutely nothing happened. Of course the place was burnt down several times – goodness, the usual. But that’s about it. Absolutely unspectacular. It stumbled into history because a guy called Lupold von Weiler was used as witness for a contract dated 15th of June 1279. “Weiler” is such a non-descriptive name for a “hamlet”, it really says nothing. The “Weiler” Lupold came from is definitely identified as the place at the bank of the “river” Zaber (Ger., Eng.). Nothing, really. It is fascinating.

Gemeindevorstand Bickenbach (Ed.) : 1100 Jahre bickenbach uffm sand. Chronik der Gemeinde Bickenbach 874-1974. Darmstadt 1973
They scrapped all & everything together and filled more than 400 pages – impressive. Bickenbach (Ger., Eng.) is somewhere in Hassia. When you have read through this tome, it will hold no secrets for you anymore.

HAGENOW, Gerd : Aus dem Weingarten der Antike. Der Wein in Dichtung, Brauchtum und Alltag. Mainz 1982 (Kulturgeschichte der antiken Welt, 12)
Finally a title that deals with an important cultural issue – wine in the ancient world. HAGENOW deals with the different aspects of wine and wine drinking, of the role in daily life, for symposia, in poetics and philosophy – and also speaks in a lengthy chapter about wine-growing. As some of the ancients said – the Muses have the pleasant scent of wine already in the morning … cheerio.

GRÜMBKE, Johann Jacob : Streifzüge durch das Rügenland. Herausgegeben von Albert Burkhardt. Leipzig, 2.Auflage 1991
GRÜMBKE (1771-1849) (Ger.) was born in Bergen auf Rügen. He became the founder of the local historiography. His “Streifzüge” (I think it’s best given as “wanderings”) were published for the first time in 1805, the little book can be considered to be a classic of the genre “travel literature”. GRÜMBKE lived as independent scholar, I think he found his vocation in describing the nature & the history of his native homeland, and simply (and hopefully, happily) followed the call. The university of Greifswald gave him a doctor honoris causa for his lifetime achievement.

WIPPLINGER, Eva : Fayencen deutscher Manufakturen aus der Staatlichen Galerie Moritzburg in Halle / Saale. Leipzig, 3. verbesserte Auflage 1990 (Die Schatzkammer, 16)
Fayence, faience, (Ger., Eng.) after the Italian town Faenca, is pottery with a tin glaze. I lack the knowledge of the special words to describe what ungesinterte Irdenware is. I think that is not necessary to know, as long as one understands that it is by no means porcellaine – what is made from a totally different earth.
Eva WIPPLINGER is the grande dame of German numismatics. She had her 90th birthday end of March 2018, seemingly in good health, celebrated of course in Moritzburg. A nice little booklet with good photographies – that shockingly do explain and illustrate what is mentioned in the text !

WASSERMANN, Charles : Unter polnischer Verwaltung. Tagebuch 1957. Gütersloh 1957
Charles WASSERMANN (and his wife Jacqueline !) travel through the former German areas in the East that after WWII are “under Polish administration”. WASSERMANN does not get tired to describe how awful and bleak life seems to be in Ostpreussen, Danzig, Ostpommern, Ostbrandenburg, and of course, Silesia. I am not quiet sure what to make of this text.
WASSERMANN (1924-1978) (about) was the son of the writers Jacob WASSSERMANN (Ger., Eng.) and Marta KARLWEIS (Ger.). Jacob may be known nowadays for Der Fall Maurizius / The Maurizius Case (1928). Marta wrote her own stuff, and was largely forgotten after 1933, Jacob’s books were burnt of course. The son Charles followed his mother into emigration, for him first England, Swiss for her, later together Canada.
He became a citizen there and worked as journalist, among other contracts, as correspondent for Eastern Europe for the CBC (from 1953). WASSERMANN suffered from severe diabetes, it turned him blind, he finally died in 1978, his wife survived him for 17 years.

BÖCKELMANN, Frank ; LEUBE, Dietrich : Das Katastrophenalbum. Folge 1, Nr. 1-58 : An einem Tag wie jedem anderen und Menetekel. Nördlingen 1985
A collection of catastrophies, strange, sometimes terrifying things that happened on a “normal day”. I really wonder if the editors did a second volume. BÖCKELMANN (Ger.) is a German author and cultural scientist, LEUBE a journalist about whom I could not find more..

This is it so far. Perhaps you find something interesting for you.


LESSING Makes Himself At Home

(The following is a continuation of this post.)

We left our hero when he came to Wolfenbuettel (Ger., Eng.). The year is 1770.
The first part of the 1760s LESSING had worked as secretary of the already mentioned Prussian general von TAUENTZIEN. In 1765 he went back to Berlin, back to the existence as free lance writer, critic, man of the theater. In 1767 he goes to Hamburg, with high hopes, to work on the newly founded Nationaltheater (Ger., Eng.). And because he learned a little from his earlier adventures, LESSING becomes partner in a printing house, what is meant as economical basis for his literary work. This also allows him to publish his own writings and a journal. He is back in the saddle, so to speak, after his military detour. The work at the theater leads to his “Hamburgische Dramaturgie” (Ger., Eng., here you go), other publications follow. LESSING arrives in the Hamburgian society, meets people there – he does not inhabit the proverbial ivory tower. Among people he got acquainted with is the family of the merchant KÖNIG.
In 1769 the party is over, LESSING is more or less banquerotte.
He accepts the position as librarian in Wolfenbuettel. I think he is interested in the library itself, but the need for a steady income is also a non deniable factor. His departure from Hamburg gets delayed several times, in the end he has to sell his private library (!) – achGOtt, who can imagine & appreciate what this means to a man whose existence is based on the written word ?
On the other hand is the Herzog-August-Bibliothek waiting, the HAB (Ger., Eng.). But let’s face it : Wolfenbuettel was in the 18th century a tiny town in the Northern marshlands where the proverbial dog is buried. The geographical situation did not change (and the dog was not exhumed), it was the same after WWII, just with the addition of the inner-German border ; and when the famous librarian RAABE (Ger.) came here (in the 1960s) he described (at least in my memory) the fog first. And the wetness. The darkness and the cold. It was not cold and wet when LESSING was presented as librarian there in May 1770 ; but in one of the next winters they could not work, because the ink had frozen in the bottles.
The building itself could kindly be described as a multi-purpose-hall. But one can concisely call it the Marstall (Ger., Eng.), the horse stables, with some galleries for book storing. The famous Rotunde was the arena where horses were trained and moved. Simple creature comfort for librarians was not in the specification book, or at least not high up : Heating, anyone ?
LESSING found himself billeted in the old castle (Ger., Eng.) – the court had moved to Braunschweig, the house was empty since 1753 – and there he lived alone in some rooms for the next seven years.
He found a vast book repository, some old servants, and a secretarius called Karl Johann Anton von CICHIN (1723-1795), he will survive LESSING. I found no biographical information about von CICHIN, but according to all I read about the man, and according to the notes CICHIN left (cited by LESSINGS biographer HILDEBRANDT), he was a very unpleasant character. A Dominican monk, what alone is enough to prod my curiosity – how comes a canis DOmini  to the Protestant court of Braunschweig, and how does he stay there ?
The older idea about LESSING as librarian was not very nice, some even thought that he did more harm than good in this position. But I think nowadays the common persuasion is that LESSING immersed himself into the task, he did draw a plan for cataloguing, but the realisation of this project was torpedoed by CICHIN.
Even in the biographical entry for LESSINGs successor, the first real librarian of the HAB, Ernst Theodor LANGER (1743-1820), the “Unbrauchbarkeit des Bibliotheksecretärs v. Cichin” (the uselessness of secretary v. CICHIN) is mentioned.
But LESSING makes the best from his situation. He works himself into the library and its treasure of manuscripts. The first fruit is his publication about “Berengar Turonensis”. He writes for the theatre, his “Emilia Galotti” comes out and goes over the ramp in 1772. He starts – or better : gets dragged into – his worst public polemic fight with the Hamburgian Pastor GOEZE (Ger., Eng.), about the Fragmente eines Ungenannten, “Fragments of an Unknown’s Text” (Ger.). These “fragments” are not “found in the library”, as LESSING states, in fact he smuggled the manuscript in. It was written by REIMARUS (Ger, Eng.), and can be understood to be one of the most important texts of the age of enlightenment (think : Deism) –  the public fight was pretty ugly, nevertheless.
But the important things are happening outside the Gelehrtenrepublik.
LESSING, past forty in 1770, gets engaged to Eva KÖNIG (Ger., Eng.), the widow of the mentioned Hamburgian merchant, who had died on a business trip in Venezia. They engage in 1771, but it will take some time until they tie the knot, on the 8th of October 1776.
And things get better !
The court decides to ramp up his income. And : They even pay it !
An adequate housing is taken care for : What today is known as Lessinghaus (Ger., Eng.) is cleared, cleaned and modernised for the bibliothecarius and his wife. He gets his own entrance to the HAB.
In the new house they live, here she gives birth to their first son, Traugott, on the 25th of December 1777.
Here the son dies right after birth.
Here Eva dies on the 10th of January 1778.
Here he writes in a letter : “My wife is dead ; now I too had this experience. I am glad that no such experiences are left for me to make ; I am feeling light.”

His fight with GOEZE heats up over the following months, but I insist that it is GOEZE who takes the argument ad hominem & leaves the factual level, who starts real nastiness. In the course of events LESSINGs exemption from censorship is revoked by the court, he can not publish freely any more.
In this situation he writes his “Nathan” (Ger., Eng.), the avowal, the affirmation to tolerance, not only religious tolerance, but tolerance as a value in general. Published in April 1779 it was first not successful with the audience – too intellectual, too much reflexion. Only IFFLANDs and GOETHEs stagings after 1802 made it a success.
After that he declines. Still writing & publishing, visitors to the library, but his vigor … the end comes in the form of some strokes (“Steckfluss” they call it) at his secondary home in Braunschweig, in the house of the merchant ANGOTT – you can not criticise this man for having a bolthole at a wine merchant’s !
Present are his step-daughter Amalia KÖNIG, he dies in the arms of a young Jewish man called DAVESON, determined, serene, voll Besinnung bis in den letzten Augenblick.
What a life. What payne, what struggle – the struggle to be one self, to define oneself, to think independently – to be free.


LESSING Enters the Building

If one visited a German school for some years, and had to study the school subject “Deutsch” / “German”, chances are very good that one encountered Mr LESSING (1729-1781) (Ger., Eng.). A classic *. It is possible that our imaginary student read Sara Sampson (Ger., Eng.) (1755), and it is possible that he remembers the “Ring-Parabel” from LESSINGs Nathan (Ger., Eng.) (1779).
What would be a good thing, and I’d call it a success.
But what does it mean to be “a classic” ?
It is a label pinned onto some people, artists, writers, public intellectuals avant la lettre, right after they have lived their lives. Later generations of scholars reach a consensus, and finally agree that this one or that one embodies something that goes further than his own reach, something that is significant for an epoch, or a generation. Being labeled “a classic” afterwards, post festum, when already dead, and hence unable to discuss the reasons for this label, seems to be a little unfair. Flattering of course. Why do I talk about this here, when I want to tell about Mr LESSING ? Would he strongly reject to be called “a classic” ? Would he love it ?
I do not know. I have no deep enough knowledge about the man to make a serious suggestion, but I think one thing is for sure : He would not “just accept” it and smile. LESSING was not afraid of a public argument, in fact he was a flamboyant polemicist – and he was always – always – “marching to his own drum” **. This meant that he was not saving people he called friends from his public critique, even when this led to, well, unfriendly feelings. I think in the end, verity was the most powerful and true value for him, and of course the ability to think for oneself. And this makes him a classic of the age of enlightenment. And he formed the new or modern German theatre of the eighteenth century.
He was born in Kamentz in the Oberlausitz, right into a family of protestant orthodoxy. Conservative to the bone. His father loved him, and recognised himself in this son. LESSING years later – when his father had died – realised how similar they were, especially in their irascibility. Only after the death of my father I realised how similar I am to him, not a shock, but something that makes one think. Old LESSING wanted his son to study and made it possible by asking for a stipendium for his son, which was granted. And the son went and skipped the studies and wrote for the theatre, ach what a shame : THEATRE ! Whores, gays, polymorphous pervertism !
And the string of disappointments went on and on (money ! marriage ! family !) ; they both must have felt terrible at times.
LESSING went to Leipzig. Later to Berlin. Than to Hamburg – where he worked on the theatre again and wrote his famous Hamburgische Dramaturgie (Ger., Eng.) between 1767 and 1769. I skip dates – if you are interested in the time line, see the linked articles please. For some years he went away from it all – simply vanished without notice. Only months later he resurfaced in Breslau as secretary of the Prussian general Bogislav von TAUENTZIEN (Ger., Eng.) (1710-1791). He did the general’s letters, administration etc. and spent his free time playing cards and drinking : He (the classic !) lived as a gambler through these years, and even later seems to have had a weak spot for this kind of amusement.
I want to focus on his time in Wolfenbüttel.



* For the following I use & refer heavily on HILDEBRANDT, Dieter : Lessing. Eine Biographie. Reinbek 1990 (first : Lessing. Biographie einer Emanzipation. München Wien 1979)
** Many thanks to LẌ for clarifying in his comment to this post from where the expression origins.


Books ! Away With Them !

Perhaps I should create a new category “books”, it would be easier for me to find the last reading list.
Here is what I read over the last few months, time to sort them back in.

SIEBER, Helmut : Oberlausitz. Frankfurt/Main 1968
Where (or what) is the Oberlausitz (Ger., Eng.), you may ask – and I would have asked the same question before I read this little book. It is the Eastern part of Saxony, main towns there are Görlitz and Bautzen. The latter is known (at least for people of a certain age) for the jail, Bautzen II (Ger.). Notable inmates were the writers Walter KEMPOWSKI (Ger., Eng.) and Erich LOEST (Ger., Eng.). Can’t say much about LOEST, all I remember is “realism” and painful honesty. KEMPOWSKI wrote a fictive family history in two (or three) volumes. His last project was called Das Echolot (Ger.). He collages from a wide range of sources and concentrates on various dates, June-December 1941, January/February 1943, January/February 1945 and the end of the war in Germany. Both authors worked their fingers to the bone on this oh-so-German history.
SIEBERs little tome gives a good historical description of the region and brings some nice b/w photographs.

BRANDT, Rüdiger : Konrad von Würzburg. Darmstadt 1987 (Erträge der Forschung, 249)
Konrad (Ger., Eng.) is born in Würzburg between 1220 and 1230. He is one of the twelve masters of minnesang, his œvre includes nearly all literary genres of his age. He lived and died in Basel.
BRANDT gives a concise overview about the history of scholarship dealing with Konrad – of course this book is now thirty years old, but what BRANDT had to say about his predecessors is still valuable and noteworthy.

WUNDERLI, Peter (Ed.) : Reisen in reale and mythische Ferne. Reiseliteratur in Mittelalter und Renaissance. Düsseldorf 1993 (Studia Humaniora, 22)
The university of Düsseldorf had a lecture series (“Ringvorlesung”) in winter semester 1990/91. The chosen topic was “travelling”, travel literature of Medieval and Renaissance times. Very informative. Subjects are maps, the Sinai as entrance to the other world, Brendan’s (Ger., Eng.) navigatio, Marco Polo, Afanasij Nikitin (Ger., Eng.), Herberstein, Kolumbus. Good lectures intended for a mixed audience, well readable and informative.
WUNDERLI (Ger.) is a Swiss romanist.

WIECZOREK, Ulrich : Bayern im Blick früher Flieger und Ballonfahrer. Dachau 1994
As the title says, subject of the small volume is the early ærial image of Bavaria. Major cities, landscape, and natural environments still intact are shown. Additionally the technical development of  ærial photography is explained.
WIECZOREK (died 2010) was professor for didactics of geography at the Augsburg university.

DEROLEZ, R.L.M. : Götter und Mythen der Germanen. Wiesbaden 1976 (originaly : De Godsdienst der Germanen, Roermond 1959)
René Lodewijk Maurits DEROLEZ (1921-2005) (Ger.) was a Belgian Germanic medievalist and runologist. Both his major works, his 1954 habilitation about runes, and this text about Germanic Gods and Myths, are still worth to be read, usable and citable. Good translation by Julie von WATTENWYL.

VANDENBERG, Philipp : Das Geheimnis der Orakel. München 1979
Yes, when a title starts with “The Secrets of …” a little preoccupation may set in, the concoction may be a little sensational. Despite its subtitle on the front page (“Archaeologists decipher the best-kept secret of the ancient world”) this is a well-done piece of travel journalism. VANDENBERG actually visited places like Dodona, Didyma, Klaros, Delphi, Oropos, Epidauros, Lebadeia, interviewed archeologists, used historical sources, and modern literature. I think this is what could be called popular science, the tome even has a register.
VADENBERG (born Klaus Dieter HARTEL, Ger.) writes non-fiction, historical novels and crime.

KOLLER, Liselotte : Wohnkultur mit Serienmöbeln. München 1969
Of course there must be a book about ameublement. This picture book shows how the rooms in an appartement were tastefully furnished at the end of the Sixties. From living room and dining table, via sleeping room to balcony and garden, it is all there. Even children’s room, garderobe and “Our Unterhaltungsgeräte as furnishing problem” are treated. The Unterhaltungsgeräte in question are tv-sets (with blinds !) radios and lp-players, together with the fitting relaxing chairs, floor-standing ashtrays included. Oh dear, some images look all too familiar.
Ms KOLLER, about whom I could find no more information, seemingly specialised in the topic of interior design in the Sixties, I saw at least two other titles by her from the late Sixties.

HILDEBRANDT, Dieter : Lessing. Eine Biographie. Reinbek 1990 (first : Lessing. Biographie einer Emanzipation. München Wien 1979)
This is what I am actually reading, after some tries. HILDEBRANDT (Ger.) is a promoted literary scholar who made his living by writing critiques and essays, in short with journalistic work. His biography of LESSING is refreshing, still after nearly forty years, because of his view on the man, his live work & thinking, without the philological, scientific point of view. He shows the oh so great LESSING (I say this in true admiration without any irony !) as human being, shoving him from the piedestal where too learned veneration installed him over time. It is a witty, learned, insightful text that comes close to the person LESSING – who, btw, was born in Kamenz (Ger., Eng.), a town in (you guessed it !) the Oberlausitz : The circle is completed.

Perhaps some of these texts can be a little prod for your own further reading.