Can Books Steam ?

Yesterday evening I started to write another “book” post, but could not “make” it. There was no happiness in it. I had to collect the tomes from their usual place, and transferred them to my desk. As usual in absolutely random order, the first one about building the Residenz. I looked at it, and the whole heap, and thought “This is what distracts you ?” Retreat, escape, vanity too. Maybe you can tell that I felt a little blue.
Of course the virus, the infection rate here is steeply going up. And it is not “just because we test more”, it is undenyable that the infections do rise, not just in Germany, but in the whole of Europe. It is just a matter of time when the death rate will climb again, when intense care units will be filled – and what is most shocking, it is the lack of personal that does the most harm. Hospitals are these days lead as profit oriented enterprises, so when people are not needed they are redundant, hence “set free”, freigesetzt, the usual lie for fired : No more contract for you, go and ask for dole.
There is organised helplessness, inefficiency, no united national answer to the challenge. At a moment when all experts say that we are at a tipping point, that we are very close to loosing the edge while we still can “manage” what will happen, individual interests of the single German states rule over the federal common good of the society as a whole.
The seemingly never ending Brexit nonsense, and the USAmerican malarky do not help to ease the outlook. Spin it on a bit, and the winter looks very bleak and uninviting.
For the first time I feel hopeless. Dumbness, aggression, and uglyness are going to win. The books are just cheap placebos. I should burn the damn crap, would be better for my breathing anyway to have dust free rooms.
And roast a sausage over the fire. What reminds me of a Spanish author whose name I forgot. He wrote crime novels, and his detective just did that : Read a book, rip it apart, burn it, cook something. Even my memories come out of books. A paper life.

Sunday Music

Due to circumstances this Sunday Music is a Monday Music. I hope you enjoy it nevertheless.
It’s a short piano piece by LISZT (Ger., Eng.), Trübe Wolken, or Nuages Gris, Grey Clouds, performed by Andreas BOYDE (Ger., Eng.). There is a very interesting version by RICHTER on youtube, but I did not link it because the coughing and wheezing of the audience is really annoying, exquisitely timed to spoil the most intimate moments. And in Andrè LAPLANTE‘s (Eng.) version it’s the pianist himself who snirfles through three wonderful minutes. I found it so disturbing when I realised that I was not longer listening to LISZT, but waited for the pianist to wheeze again. BOYDE’s performance lasts a bit over three minutes, than follows a terrible mood-killing advertisement, so be warned. (Best click “stop” at 3:05.)
The weather changed, I have headaches. The heat nearly killed my beloved computer. Things need to be done, written, phoned yadayadayada … I think I’m a bit in a mood. Grey clouds in the sky, rain & distant flashes last night, still hot today – its extraordinary quiet all around, no rush from trains or the autobahn, no traffic on the village street, maybe they all went South to sizzle on Italy’s beaches, Teutonengrill in full swing.
Looking at the news is particularly depressing, seemingly every hormon-driven completely brainless dumbo,  who can use a gun, feels the need to parade his hero-ness & worthiness around, best achieved by killing innocents, bystanders and people who dare not be part of the idiot’s religion / party / peer group / whatever.
The “enlightenment” came to a grinding stop 500 meters East of Vienna, there barbarism begins. Where is the promised comet ? The silly thing is long overdue, its time for a global reset.



… bla bla …

… I’d like to write about something like the Frankenkamera, or the Pre-Raphaelites, strange places like Grodno, or anything, but it does not work. I would like to visit all the blogs in my list of “favorites”, as it is called by the machine, and say something more or less funny, witty even, but it does not work: I am not funny or witty, I am just terribly tired.
No, no terrible things happened, nobody died in the last six weeks, no projects went down the drain causing major desperation, just the normal grind. But it reaches the substance now, slowly like the damn drip of water holing the stone. Waiting is a trap.
Of course there are things to be done, like taking care of the business website, doing more on g+ – what could be fun, given the strange mix of people, who added me to their circles -, or just hovering the room … No, chez mago is not turning into a filthy flea pit, I iron my shirts and brush my shoes, no neglect.  Living under the bridge, cracking up another can of  cheap beer, the usual and normal fears of the slowly but steadily sinking middle class … I have cheap white and my desk. “It” still works, I still have an aim (kind of), an idea about what I want.
And there is always science, what we call arrogantly Kultur-Wissenschaft, history or else (Volkskunde once), a large playground, a lot of fields and topics to play and fool around with, to use the brain, to wonder and get emotional about … all this wanking does not pay. But it keeps one away from total desperation, it’s always amazing with what kind of nonsense one can make it into the news and for what utter bullshit one can rake in Forschungsgelder.
I visited a kind of informal coloquium in the last week, saw a lot of people I knew for some time, it could have been a kind of family reunion … and I felt a bit out of place, like the “ex” who occasionally visited. I did basically feel not well and left early.
I learned very early the fine art of camouflage, it’s like a suit I wear. Kleider machen Leute, clothes make people, but not humans.

Just some music.


Here should appear a youtube, but wp does not want to link.
Here is the link.
Some strange music by Ted REICHMAN. Give it a chance.



The Book as Entrance to the World

Das Buch als Eingang zur Welt” is a small essay by Stefan Zweig (Ger., Eng.), first published in the Pester Lloyd (Ger., Eng.) from 15th of August 1931. It describes how Zweig meets on a ship from Italy to Algier (Ger., Eng.) a young sailor and befriends with him. In Neapel (Ger., Eng.) the young man receives a letter and asks Zweig to read it to him. It takes a little time until the author realizes that his young friend is an Analphabet, an illiterate.
This starts a trail of thoughts for Zweig and he tries to understand how a life without reading, a life without books must be, what a life without books would mean to himself. Thinking for example of “Algier” the fact that Cervantes (Ger., Eng.)  was wounded while he took part in the assault on the city under emperor Charles the Fifth flashes up – “two thousands years of connections and relations hustled from my brain, all that read from my childhood days onwards enriched this single word”. Let alone the imaginary worlds, the adventures in strange and distant worlds created by an author’s phantasy, the emotions stirred by poetry – remembering situations, feelings, insights, they all are connected in some way or another with a book.

Stefan Zweig is a child of the enlightened Jewish bourgeoisie of the late 19th century and so absolutely “k.u.k österreichisch” as it seemingly possibly can be. This is not the place to explain in detail what “k.u.k.” encloses and means. I will only give a rough scetch of his life.
He had a privileged upcoming and childhood and most part of his life was free from economical worries. He started to write early and his family did not object his idea of becoming a kind of literate; his father only wanted him to finish his studies, what he did truely. He was a “man of the world”, well travelled, well connected. Herzl – yes, Theodor (Ger., Eng.) – was Redacteur of the times’ leading Austrian newspaper Neue Freie Presse (Ger., Eng.) and accepted young Zweig’s collaboration  – I think it ended only 1938.
At the beginning of WWI for a brief time span Zweig kind of followed the national drunkness, but only very short. He served voluntarily in the “Kriegsarchiv“, what was part of the “Kriegspressequartier” – a kind of early propaganda service, Austrian edition. Here writers like Ginzkey, Csokor, Paul Stefan, Polgar, Ehrenstein, Trebitsch served, later joined by a certain Rilke. In the end they had to tell lies and to produce two patriotical journals (“Österreich-Ungarn in Waffen” and “Donauland“) and hated it. Zweig was sent on a journey through Galizien  (Ger., Eng.) where he collected firsthand impressions of the heroic murder. He reacted in a typical way, writing his drama Jeremias*, a profound denomination towards pacifism, humanism and enlightenment.
After war and revolution Zweig settled in Salzburg and a very productive and successful time started for him. He became a best selling author, specialized in biographical narrations (Lebensbilder). 1934 saw fightings in Wien between leftwing and rightwing militias, Zweig’s house became searched through for weapons – maybe because militant pacifists hoard machine guns. This incident and the worsening general political situation bring Zweig to the decision to take permanent residence in London. 1936 he travels for the first time to southern America, Brasilien. He keeps on travelling, giving lectures and 1941 he settles for the last time in a new house, in Petropolis in Brasilia. Here, together with his second wife Lotte, he kills himself by Veronal on the 22nd of February 1942. She seemingly waited until he had passed away and used Morphium to follow him.

After the first worldwar Zweig – and others like the great Ernst Robert Curtius (Ger., Eng.) for example –  nurtured the idea that a kind of “Geisteselite” or “Geistesaristokratie” should take over, should seek gubernance and responsibility, after the old way of politics had miserably failed. It followed an idea that Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (Ger., Eng.) (1724-1803) already had formulated in his utopy of a “Gelehrtenrepublik” (Ger., Eng.). It is – at least in the German variant – mostly based on Goethes humanism and describes a position and countenance free from dogmata, a kind of spiritual and educated federalism. Goethe’s idea of “Weltliteratur“, “world literature” is fundamental for all this. It describes not the summary of the world’s literature, or a kind of canonical list of “must reads”, it is the process of a border transgressing communication and understanding (völkerübergreifende Verständigung). As Robert Faesi put it 1947 (!) : “Weltliteratur ist für Goethe der geistige Raum, in welchem die Völker mit der Stimme ihrer Dichter und Schriftsteller nicht mehr nur zu sich selbst oder von sich selbst, sondern zu einander sprechen; ein Gespräch zwischen den Nationen, ein Austausch der geistigen Güter.“ “World literature for Goethe is a spiritual space, in which the nations raise their own voices through their poets and writers – not to speak about themselves and talk to themselves, but to talk to each other: a communication between nations, an echange of spiritual goods.”

Zweig was optimistic until 1914, the old would go, a new generation formed by peace and progress would take over. He understood very early that things would change dramatically. A new Europe had to emerge. The optimism stayed with him through the 1920s and started to fade in the 1930s. 1942 the brown Reich was storming from victory to victory; all he despised – the brutality, the stupidity, the sheer perversion of all human – was seemingly unstoppable marching on and on. And his strength was gone. His religion, his belief in the human, was gone. Veronal seemed to be the only way out.

* Bodmer, Thomas: Jeremias. Ein Bekenntnis zu Pazifismus, Humanismus und Weltbürgertum. In: „Das Buch als Eingang zur Welt“, herausgegeben von Joachim Brügge, Internationale Stefan Zweig-Gesellschaft Salzburg (Schriftenreihe des Stefan Zweig Centre Salzburg, 1), Würzburg 2009