books

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.

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books

Vom Nachttisch Geräumt

Time to collect the books that are balancing in a heap on the bedside stand and to put them back into the shelves. Here is a list of the titles I read over the last few months.

FULD, Werner : Walter Benjamin. Eine Biographie. Reinbek September 1990 (zuerst : München, Wien 1979)
If one studies the intellectual European history of the last century, chances are good that one sooner or later meets Herrn W. BENJAMIN (Ger., Eng.). Or an image of BENJAMIN created by admirers or critics. Undoubtedly BENJAMIN is an important intellectual, but that does not mean that he always was recognised as one. Like other European writers of the first half of the bloody twentieth century he was forgotten after 1945, re-discovered, and of course en-grossed (vereinnahmt) by different people – the fact that his magnum opus (Passagenwerk, Arcades Project (Ger., Eng.)) is a ruin makes such an usurpation a lot easier. Interestingly a lot of interpretations & secondary literature was published about BENJAMINs works, but there was no biography until Werner FULD (Ger.) published the first one in 1979. And what a life it was. BENJAMIN was notoriously late – in all, an expert in missing chances & taking unneccessary detours. En passant FULD points to where BENJAMIN may have taken suggestions from, and who took (not necessarily mentioned) suggestions from BENJAMINs writings (STERNBERGER, who always denied it ; ADORNO, who said nothing). The last years were miserable in the Paris exile, he became severely ill. Finally he tried to flee over the Pyrenees. On the 12th of September 1940 young Golo MANN had pulled his old uncle Heinrich and his wife, accompanied by the married couples WERFEL & FEUCHTWANGER, over the mountains into Spain – BENJAMIN on the 26th was late, he and the group he travelled with learned that the border station was closed. So he sat down and swallowed the morphine tablets he had (25 from originally fifty, he had given the rest to Arthur KOESTLER), it seems not to be clear whether he died on that mountain or later in Port Bou. Someone bought a grave for him, but there was no marker, after five years it was cleared anyway. I find it remarkable that (according to FULD) BENJAMIN gave to one member of the group, a woman called Gurland, a farewell-letter to ADORNO : She read it and then burned it. Say chutzpà.

ANDRASCHKO, Ferdinand : Schloß Schwarzenberg im Wandel der Zeiten.
In : Schwarzenbergische Archive (Hg.) : Schwarzenbergischer Almanach XXXII (1959), Murau 1959 (133-242)
Just what it says in the title, a history of the castle Schwarzenberg (Ger.). I can not say much about Dr. ANDRASCHKO (about), I do not understand Czech. He worked for more than forty years in the archives of the Schwarzenberg family, his article is very well written.

HASENFUß, Josef ; ENGLERT, E.A.; SCHÜLL, G.S.H. ; ROOS, A. ; BILZ, O. : Hafenlohr, Windheim und Marienbrunn. Aus der Vergangenheit in die Gegenwart zur 650 Jahrfeier. Ohne Ort 1974
Just one of these small publications published in celebration of an anniversary, here 650 years Hafenlohr. And because HASENFUß (Ger.) and his contributors are professionals, it is a well researched little history of said village and its surroundings.

BÄCHLER, Hagen ; SCHLECHTE, Monika : Sächsisches Barock. Aus der Zeit von Matthes Daniel Pöppelmann. 3. Auflage, Leipzig 1990 (zuerst Leipzig 1986 ; Die Schatzkammer, Sonderband)
Someone who “likes” “the baroque” must look into the Saxonian works of arts, the “Dresdner Barock” (Ger.) especially. Most of this was built by Matthäus Daniel PÖPPELMANN (Ger., Eng.). BÄCHLER (Ger.) is a German art historian specialised in this field.

GROSCH, Wilhelm : Blaufuss. Ein Dorf der Gold- und Münzstadt Kremnitz. Entstehung, Untergang und Neubeginn. Stuttgart 1996
Kremnica (Ger., Eng.), German Kremnitz, is a mining town in Middle or Central Slovakia. In the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period it was an important gold mining area. I think there still is mining. The town incorporated some villages, one of these was called Blaufuß (“blue foot”), today Krahule (Ger., Eng.). Herr GROSCH was born in this village in 1932 and published the history of his native place.

WIRSING, Karl-Heinz : Geselligkeit im Würzburg des Biedermeier. Mainfränkische Hefte 73 (1980)
A little history of the social life of Würzburg in the first half of the 19th century. “Biedermeier” (Ger., Eng.) is the time between 1815 and 1848, between the new organisation of Europe at the Viennese Congress, it’s “restauration”, and the revolutionary activities of the 1840s. This age of political stagnation in Central Europe produced a style of its own in the arts, home decoration etc. WIRSING (1907-1999 ; Ger.) was a Franconian art historian specialised in the history of his hometown.

KUHN, Rudolf : St.Achatius zu Grünsfeldhausen. Würzburg 1964
The church of St.Achatius (Ger.) in the village Grünsfeldhausen is an octogonal building that dates back into the 12th or 13th century. It is pretty likely built by a noble person, a knight, who took part in the crusades (most likely the third, (Ger., Eng.)) and had seen the Grabeskirche, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Ger., Eng., tour) in Jerusalem. This kind of architecture is not too common, and it is pretty unique that in a small area four of these octogonal churches can be found, with those in Oberwittighausen and Standorf still standing, while the one in Gaurettersheim sadly was demolished.

SCHÄFER, Werner : Straubing im Ersten Weltkrieg. Ein Beitrag zur Vorgeschichte der Revolution von 1918/19 in Bayern. In : Beiheft zum Jahresbericht des Historischen Vereins für Straubing und Umgebung, 80 (1977/78)
Yes, there was a revolution in Germany after the end of WWI, Bavaria became a “Räterepublik”. But what was before ? How did people live, what fuelled the tension that finally erupted into revolutionary action ? Straubing (Ger., Eng.) is a provincial town in Lower Bavaria next to the Danube river. Nothing fancy, really. But one of the first towns in Bavaria where the Novemberrevolution (Ger., Eng.) took part, they must have been really fed up – or precisely not, but hungry and damn angry. And Herr SCHÄFER, about whom I could not find more information, describes how it came together. A microhistory.

GOEZ, Werner : Gestalten des Hochmittelalters. Personengeschichtliche Essays im allgemeinhistorischen Kontext. Darmstadt 1983
The first time I understood why bishop Adalbero of Würzburg was important. History is made by people, humans act. I think it is more important to learn as much as possible about those who acted – how, when and why – than to speak about abstract ideas that may have made someone come to a decision, or not. Of course it depends on the sources, and their critique. And one needs a broader knowledge of time and age, of the whole æra the historical person lived in. The professor for Medieval History Werner GOEZ (Ger.) was such a man with an overview, and he wrote nicely. GOEZ (1929-2003) was first professor in Würzburg and then from 1969 until 1997 in Erlangen.

Perhaps you can find something interesting or motivational for own study ; if not, excuse me for boring you stiff.

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Sunday Music

Sunday Music

It snows, continuously & gently. Small flakes. The clouds are so very low that one can touch them. But it is much lighter than yesterday, when the fog barely lifted and the whole day was spent in a dark grey, while today it is a white grey, without even the slightest idea of “sun”. The forecast says that it will become warmer within coming night, and tomorrow we’ll have temperatures well over the freezing point, abundant rain, and wind becoming stronger & stronger. And so for the coming days. But it is only a small disruption, afterwards winter will come with might.
This Sunday Music is a piece called East Side Drive composed by Mundell LOWE (Ger., Eng.), a very interesting jazz guitarist. (Here a link to his 1955 version of Cheek to Cheek.) He also composed film music, and today’s piece is part of the soundtrack for Satan in High Heels (Eng.), I am sure it was the cinematographic highlight of 1962.
I find it always astounding what one can pack into three minutes.
I hope you enjoy the music. May the coming week be a peaceful one.

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books

Aufräum’

Zeit zum Aufräum’. So the smallish pile of books needs to be attacked – smallish, tiny, ach … In no special order follow titles of books I read since the last list was published sometime in September.

Aperture Masters of Photography : Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Cologne 1997
Nicely done reproductions of ALVAREZ BRAVOs (Ger., Eng., Getty)  b/w photographs. A small tome with an essay by A.D. COLEMAN (Eng.). No special reason, I just wanted to look at good photography.
The same goes for another volume of the mentioned series :

Aperture Masters of Photography : Paul Strand. Cologne 1997
With an essay by Mark HAWORTH-BOOTH (Eng., website). I always admired Paul STRAND (Ger., Eng., Heilbrunn), somewhere around here is his New England book. Just look and enjoy.

DEUERLEIN, Ernst G. ; PAULUS, Herbert ; WILHELM, Hermann : Beiträge zur Kunstpflege in Erlangen. 50 Jahre Kunstverein Erlangen 1904-1954. Erlangen 1954
Erlangen (Ger., Eng.) is a city in Middle Franconia. There are no special things to know about Erlangen. Of course interested citizens founded an art society, and after ups & downs they presented themselves and the rest of the world with a festschrift for the fifty year jumbilee. Here it is.

SPROTTE, Bernhard : Geleit im Tauberland. Als Nünberger Kaufleute zur Frankfurter Messe zogen. Wertheim 1973 (Veröffentlichungen d. Historischen Vereins Wertheim, 1)
Merchants need to go to the market. Large markets were held through the Middle Ages right into Early Modern Times in free cities, like Frankfurt am Main, Nürnberg, Augsburg, and others. To travel safe merchants formed convoys and bought an escort from local rulers. For these domini terrae it was a good business ; fares, taxes and of course the segments where who had the right to escort, were fixed, but nevertheless disputed from time to time.
The valley of the Tauber is a natural East-West connection for travelling merchants. Also there were turnings towards Würzburg, in generally Northern direction, and to the South, generally in direction of the very rich Augsburg. SPROTTE, about whom I could find nothing more, depicts these aspects of the local history (of traffic, of commerce, of public safety) in a clear and even entertaining way. Of course it is only interesting for a local historian, and / or for someone who knows the area and places.

GOMBRICH, Ernst H.: Die Krise der Kulturgeschichte. Gedanken zum Wertproblem in den Geisteswissenschaften. München, September 1991
(zuerst : Ideals and Idols, Oxford 1979)
Damn, I wish I had read this twenty or more years ago. I always thought of GOMBRICH (Ger., Eng., archive) as an art historian – yes he is this too, but he is a cultural historian. I will not repeat here what Sir Ernst has thought, written & discussed in his unique way. This book, or better these articles published in one tome, are still today definitely worth a read, and thought or two.

WEIGAND, Waldemar : Das Königliche Spiel. Eine kulturgeschichtliche Studie. Berlin 1959
It is a small history of chess, with the emphasis of the origins. Simply nice. Could find nothing more on Mr WEIGAND.

GLENDINNING, Victoria : Edith Sitwell. 1. Auflage dt., Frankfurt (am Main) 1995
(zuerst : Edith Sitwell. A Unicorn Among Lions. 1981. Übersetzt von Karl A. KLEWER)
Edith (Ger., Eng.) and her brothers, reviled and revered. I think Ms GLENDINNING (Ger., Eng.) did an outstanding good biography of Ms SITWELL. She never ridicules her, never puts her on a piedestal, no worship, no bashing, but a clear view on this unique lady. Even if you are not especially interested in English poetry, or the intrigues etc. – just follow this strange person through her life, I find it terribly interesting.

That’s it. Maybe you found something interesting, and hence will start reading ?

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