Tag: culture

If You Write It, They Will Read It

Now let’s imagine you are a nobleman, living at the beginning of the 16th century in Middle Europe. You hang around the court of the Emperor and help to administer the Reich.
Your ruler decides to promote you and sent you as ambassador to the Czar.
What do you do ?
Certainly you turn to your database – that is the library – and look for a tome, manuscript or print, that describes what you need to know, like where to go, how to travel, whom to bribe.
Shock Hubbub, Panick & Confusion – no such book : You have to write it yourself !
Enter Sigmund von HERBERSTEIN (1486-1566) (Ger., Eng.).
Sigmund was a third son, so his chances to inherit a lot were pretty small. But his father took care to give his son a good education, and – what is even more important – this education fell on a good soil : Sigmund was interested in nearly everything, and very curious.
From 1514 on he lives at the court of Emperor Maximilian I. (1459-1519) (Ger., Eng.), he stays in service until 1553, for nearly forty years.
At the beginning of the 16th century existed only few permanent representations, usually a ruler choose one person for a special commission, a special envoy. HERBERSTEIN carried out 69 such missions, 30 saw him visiting Hungary, 15 took him to Poland and two into the Moscow State.
The first major journey was not successful. He was sent to Denmark in 1516 : Isabella (1501-1526) von Habsburg was married to king Christian II. of Denmark, who had earlier met an Netherlandish girl, taken her to Copenhagen and lived openly with her. The girl’s mother, an innkeeper called Willems, seemingly run the state. The king not only deeply insulted his wife, but also the house of Habsburg in toto, and there was no successor in sight due to a lack of consummation. Within a few years this remarkably dumb sovereign had insulted all rulers in the neighbourhood, was forced to flee the country and take asylum in The Netherlands where his legal wife died.
HERBERSTEIN should admonish the crowned ass, what he did to no avail, but in such a way that the king was not upset (and not cancelled his connection to the House of Habsburg). Interestingly Sigmund’s last mission in 1553 was to accompany another young Habsburgian princess, Catherine, to Cracow, right into another unhappy marriage.
Also Sigmund’s second mission in 1517 was not successful, when he was sent to Moscow to broker an armistice between Poland and the Moscow State. Nevertheless he showed great diplomatic skill in this mission – and he stayed in business. He reported to the Emperor personally, and old Maximilian seemingly was fascinated by the stories about this strange land & country in the East. So when a second mission to Moscow was necessary in 1526, now under the emperors Charles V. and Ferdinand I., it was only natural to have Sigmund take part in it – even Madrid (Charles V.) proposed his name. HERBERSTEIN was not only sent over in diplomaticis, but Ferdinand told him to collect any information about the country, the society, and put special emphasis on the religious situation. In the end Sigmund von HERBERSTEIN was sent to write the first regional and cultural study about unknown Russia.
He returned back to the Emperor’s court at the 13th of February 1527, and shortly afterwards presented his report. Sadly we know nothing about this report’s fate. In the 1530s Sigmund was looking for a humanist to work on his text, to have it stylistically improved, but we do not know what came out of this. It is not clear if the text that was finally printed 22 years later – in 1549 : Instant success, 20 more imprints until 1600 – is identical or, if not, how close related to the first version.
HERBERSTEIN lived on to see the success of his book, and in his autobiographical writings, which are also very instructive, he mentions that knowing the Slovenian language was very helpful for him. Sigmund was born in Wippach in Slovenia, and he put a lot of effort in learning the language of his peasants as a youth. So knowing a Slavonic language was very helpful for him on his travels in the East, less perhaps in Poland where the nobility was fluid in Latin and Italian, two other languages Sigmund verifiably spoke.
His text * is an interesting read, still after five hundred years.

* I used : HERBERSTEIN, Sigmund von : Das alte Rußland. In Anlehung an die älteste deutsche Ausgabe aus dem Lateinischen übertragen von Wolfram von den STEINEN. Mit einem Nachwort von Walter LEITSCH. Unter herausgeberischer Mitarbeit von Paul KÖNIG. 2. Auflage Zürich 1985 (Manesse Bibliothek der Weltgeschichte) (Rerum Moscoviticarum commentarii).
LEITSCH (1926-2010) was an Austrian professor of history at the university of Vienna, I used his Nachwort / postface.


Some moons ago Melanie gave a quick outline of an idea for a text, persons shapeshifting into cats would feature – if I knew something ?
Well, not much. There is of course the motif of a person, usually a woman, who turns into a cat, saied cat gets hurt while roaming around, and in the next morning the person is found with a matching wound, be it a broken leg, a hurt back or where ever the cat was hit. This dates back to Gervasius Tilberiensis (Ger., Eng.), late 12th century that is. A motif found around witches, sorceresses, maleficae. This would be a Werkatze (Ger., Eng.) – “wer” in this connection is not “wer = who”, but an older word meaning “man”.
I looked into my usual sources, but the Deutsche Wörterbuch  (DWB) (Ger., Eng., link) does not know the lemma “Werkatze”, under “Katze”, turning into a cat is mentioned, but not specially treated.
The Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens (HdA) (Ger. only) mentions the shapeshifting  cat / human (Band 4, Spalte 1117 f., unter “Katze, 9”) and refers to “Hexe [witch] 3, 1871 f.”, where additional examples are listed. The HdA is outdated and only as reference for source materials usable. The actual lexicon is the Enzyklopädie des Märchens (EM) (Ger., Eng., help for using it online, but its German only anyway), in volume 7, 1099-1109, the cat is treated, but the article brings no new material.
Then I remembered a little book by Sergius GOLOWIN, Das Geheimnis der Tiermenschen. Von Vampiren, Nixen, Werwölfen und ähnlichen Geschöpfen (The Secret of “animal-men” [?]. About Vampires, Mermaids, Werewolves and Similar Creatures), Basel 1993. GOLOWIN (Ger., Eng.) (1930-2006) was a kind of leading figure of the counterculture in Switzerland since the sixties. A librarian by trade he discovered the (magic) literature of the Early Modern Period for himself (in the 1950s when absolutely no one, with the possible exception of Arno SCHMIDT, was interested in this old Plunder, rubbish, clobber), put this together with stories and fairy tales he was told by his Ukrainian grandmother, and developed a keen interest in magic, drugs, and whatnot. Very interesting person – and he wrote a book about cats : Göttin Katze – Das magische Tier an unserer Seite (Goddess Cat, the Magic Animal at Our Side), 1989. As it seems there is no English translation, perhaps an Italian one (Gatto, amico, mago, 2005). But I am sorry, I have not read the book.
In the end I think all necessary can be found in the already mentioned articles about the Werkatze.

Ich Will Silvaner

I had to look into the diary to be sure that it was only one week ago when we gathered in the Lorenzkirche (Ger., Eng.) in Nuremberg to say farewell to our friend M.B. The pastor said she had expected perhaps 25 souls to turn up, in the end there were more than sixty people in the church and at the following get-together – that of course took place at her favourite spot, the Kaffehaus in the local library (Ger.), her second living-room. I came home late, a bit tipsy.
On Monday the festivities for the Tag der deutschen Einheit, or German Unity Day (Ger., Eng.) took place in Dresden. And of course the “concerned citizens” showed up in all their brutal stupidity, this time top brass could not ignore them. Only one reporter described that the “concerned citizens” not only yelled and hollered at the main political figures of Germany, chancellor, federal president and head of parliament, but also made very tasteful “Affengeräusche”, imitations of ape-sounds (“Ugh ugh ugh !”) when people of colour went over the red carpet towards the main events – GOd, who cares about them nigger ambassadors ?
Nevertheless the Ministerpräsident of Saxony, the host of this event and head honcho of the uncivilised masses over there, later described  the whole ceremony as “well done” & “gelungen”, successful. Maybe he’s glad that Merkel was not hit with a bottle.
One has to accept that racism and neo-nazism has reached a certain part of the German society. I think around 20 percent of the population is more or less openly racist and fascist – that is the average : There are areas in the East of Germany that are nowadays totally brown. Notably in Mecklenburg and Saxony.
This is depressing – I never thought that it would come back. But I am a product of the old Western Germany, a state and a society that do not exist anymore, I was socialised and educated there. Those who yell, march and bomb are young, mostly of East-German origin and today stand in a tradition : They continue what their parents started 25 years ago when they burned houses of refugees, of course with the “niggers” and “Fidschis” still inside.
Today it is the “Arabic” migrant – it is absolutely pointless to start to argument and explain that these humans are not necessarily of Arabic origin or of Muslim faith – for them it’s all the same : Simple explanations rule ! The people of Turkish origin I know do look a bit concerned. It is only a question of time until the first mosque is burned down.
All this nonsense is depressing : the brutality ; the stupidity ; the sheer impertinence of those liars & manipulators who gain political capital from the idiocy of stupid people ; the Verbrechervisagen who all of a sudden show up in German parliaments, from local to the federal level. Of course we see a new nationalism in the whole of Europe, a very dangerous development. BTW those states of the “Vishegrad Group” (Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic & notorious Hungary, Ger., Eng.) came up with a new word for cherry picking – they now speak of “flexible Solidarität”, flexible solidarity, what means nothing else but that they take what they like (mostly cash) and refute what they dislike, for example refugees. Because they have “principles” you know, like “holy” “nation” “first” or such crap.
But it cost you only three hundred thousand Euro to become a Hungarian citizen, of the “holy” “nation” : If you invest in this shithole of a country they throw their lousy passport at you. So much for “principles” …
This is not very uplifting, all in all.
I drove my kids around, at least some useful activity, and it pays the rent. Other things happened over the last ten days, mostly nice and positive. But I could not drag meself together and come up with a Sunday Music – the first time since … don’t know when I started this, and I am sorry for this breach or disruption of a long run. I like continuity.
Right now I should do some household chores, but frankly can’t be arsed to do this, Monday’s another day, eh ?!
I find it consoling or comforting to see beauty in the wounderful autumn lights early in the morning, when I drive into the rising sun, and in the late afternoon, when I drive West. All the human stupidity, all the brutality will one day be gone, done away with, there is a chance for development towards the ideal, the enlightened humane human being. And all the beauty I see reminds me of the limitedness of my own existence, the mortality of everything that is. It is autumn, and everything has a blue edge.
Rory GALLAGHER, I’m Not Awake Yet, just so.




Long and boring bla ahead, sorry. If you like, skip the artsy fartsy stuff & go to the music at the end of this post. It is not that much uplifting.

The ever venerable Dianhmow posted about a kind of contest here, gently providing a link to the winners here. Here is the link to a pdf showing all entries / finalists of the “2016 LIBRIS AWARDS”.
Dinahmow had photographed one of the entries – please see it at the bottom of her blog post. It is described as “Winner of the Regional Artists’ Award. May-Britt Mosshammer. “Tapping the Knowledge.” Books, bronze, paper”. I steal the pic and put it next – wait a minute …


Mosshammers Tap


… here we are. “Tapping the Knowledge”.
And there it drips. Or flows. Or whatever.

For me – do I have to declare that here on my blog I talk about meself only (btw I know that it’s the wrong form, I stole it from Søren Knudsen) – books are tools. Books are a lot of things to a lot of people, even for those who do not read. They are means of escape, they are respected as holy, persecuted as and understood as dangers to faith, virginity, public order … a text, written or printed, distributed in a bound form, hence transportable and most of all reproducable can be seen as dangerous, as revelation, as simple means for “fun” and “recreation”, as transport for knowledge (what ever this may be) … it is a book.
I grew up with books, and some dogs, but at some point the dogs had to go and the books stayed. Reading was in the household of my parents a normal activity, regardless whether it was the newspaper, a more or less funny novel for distraction or a historical text, regardless of the latter’s quality. My parents were not historians. Education, what translates in visiting a “good” school, was seen as the means to better the situation in general, and reading was apart of it, of the job. My education was very good, I went to a traditional humanistic German Gymnasium, and of course we were reading, well, books. History was (my) the main topic (I was fortunately in one of the early years that could pick out their individual topics – if I had to do the last examination (Abitur) in something like chemistry I would have ruined all of my grades, so it was Latin and history and I survived) and our teacher (all of them, but especially the last) was very good. In fact when I went to university and attended the first obligatory “Einführungsseminar”  / introductionary seminar I thought I was in 12th grade again.
Reading books was always essential. Using a real library at a university, where you could have texts at your hand within some hours, where you could see images with a short delay – and this was all before the digitalisation and the web – was a great experience that in this form will never come back. Best was – in the eighties – that you could even have originals sent from Munich or the HAB (a place I still today, despite my anger over the scientific business & all, would crawl on my legs & arms to to have a job in the depot) within days : You actually had’em in your hands !
And of course the magazines. They held a lot of printed stuff you never knew existed until you found it in a catalogue, or somewhere cited. All this was done by grey sheets of terrible printed paper that you filled out, either by hand or with a type writer – and all this became better and better with the digitalisation : Nowadays you can read stuff at a workstation within the campus that was unreachable twenty years ago. (There is a large danger to it too, but I am not willing to talk about this now.)

The book as it is, is first of all a tool for me. Then it is also an object – I do not want to say of desire. There are no books I really wanted to possess simply because they are books. But there are objects that come in the form of a book that I very much like – because of the paper, the binding, the typography. A car can bring you from place A to place B. It can be a Dacia 1.5 Diesel, it can be a … Dodge Charger SRT – no I do not want to digress on cars, the Dodge has to be enough. Paper alone is such a large and rich field – in the region is a papermill, and the man (whom I know of course) makes some very fine examples of paper for different uses ; printing – oh my ! – ; binding – there is so much nonsense that can be done in this respect – and who ever invented the glue-thing shall rot in hell eternally ! And I will not start about typography – I keep venerating some housegods like TSCHICHOLD, and that is enough.
A friend is an acknowledged artist, one of her techniques is printing, I stand in awe about the possibilities – and I dare to say sometimes that I do not like the outcome. But this is a very rare thing to occur, and I basically know what to do different. (And we once were invited to take part in one of her œvres, so I reclaim something of a “Vorschuss” !)
My taste is conservative regarding typography – I f.e. always try to use something that is Garamond-related as font – I know that one of my most favourite readers (‘a friend’) does not like this type of font family, but I am sorry, can’t without.

Much bla about nothing so far. Terrible introspection into an empty stomach, perhaps filled with hot air only. Ein Windbeutel.
So what about this object up there ?

Frankly, I … do not like it.
And, as already said in a comment on Dinahmow’s blog, I am not really sure about the “why”.
What do you have on tap – is a question one expects in a tavern. I have a problem with “knowledge” in general, as differenced from information. There are texts in the form of a book, like “Der Schattenfotograf” by Wolfdietrich Schnurre that in my humble opinion keeps a lot of insight and meaning – but that can not be “tapped”. There is a lot of knowledge, imho wisdom even, in this text (and this man), but there is nothing to be tapped – for all and everyone. There is nothing that runs out when you turn the spigot. There is no spigot. Even to the Bible or the Koran no spigot is attached.
Books create books, it can be a bit of an inbred, especially in historical matters. What runs out of the spigot depends always and only on the one who turns it.
Perhaps my idea of “art” is terribly outdated – I do not know. All I know is that Art is what one sees as Art. This thing above in my eyes is a joke, it is in my humble opinion a first involvement with the idea of the book and its history, given my education and more or less “intellectual” background”. This is a thing that is okay in the first-year-seminar. It is a joke, a light shot from the hip, more or less funny, but I would not give it an award. Yes, of course, it is just me, and my “idea” of what a book is and can be.
It is half-done. Put something under the spigot, like a bucket and fill it with something you like : A mirror (ach ja, die Selbsterkenntnis, good old self-awareness), a piece of crap if you like, overflowing shredded paper, or a flower – I am not the artist, and of course it is absolutely arrogant from me to judge this thing, but I am allowed and free to say what it causes in me. The initial anger is gone, but I do not take this thing serious, and I would not have given it an award.

Vanitas vanitatum – here’s the soundtrack :