Sunday Music

I want to bring to your attention that blogging-friend AUSTERE was interviewed.
She translated “Hon’ble Minister Jagubhai” by the Gujarati author Pravinsinh CHAVDA into English (see here) – and her name is printed on the front cover ! You may find it strange that I mention this, the front cover – but if I remember it correctly the first translator whose name was ever printed on the cover of a German book was Harry ROWOHLT’s (Ger., Eng.) sometimes in the 1980s : Before that translators were hardly mentioned at all. Translating is one of the main tasks of any cultural occupation, we do it all in one way or another every day, and AUSTERE does it pretty good. And she writes her own texts, concise, dense, that’s why I read her blog for some years now.

This Sunday Music is a little number by Mary OSBORNE (Ger., Eng., obit.), No Moon At All ; she sings and plays a bit on her guitar, hope you like it.
(I only found out that the original uploader on youtube did not allow “playback on other websites” when I looked at the preview and clicked the video, so it’s one click more, and it starts on youtube  in a new window – ach, warum muß alles immer so kompliziert sein ?)




A. V. Thelen

As  I read somewhere, THELEN was told that he was no “real” emigrant when he came to Western Germany and met the writers of the “Gruppe 47” (Ger., Eng.) – that must have been 1953, when he took part in the group’s meeting in Bebenhausen; also the critic F.[ritze] J.[arnich’ drauf hören!] RADDATZ (Ger.) wrote that THELEN  went to the South for the warm weather and the cheap living costs only, and in no way was a political writer an did not fight against nazism. RADDATZ is wrong, as usual.
Albert THELEN (1903-1989) (Ger., Eng., long interesting German article) choose as alter ego the name Vigoleis, as he says himself a reference to the “Wigalois” (Text, pictures sadly gone from castle Runkelstein – you gotta love this name!) by Wirnt von Grafenberg (Ger.). He quits the Gymnasium in 1919 and learns the profession of a fitter (Schlosser) in a weaving mill, works briefly as technical draftsman, and in 1925 starts to study in Cologne (German studies, philosophy, history of art). Later he visits the university of Münster and in 1928 he works as assistant to Prof. Karl D’ESTER (1881-1960) (Munzinger; a not uncontroversial man) at the Internationale Presse-Ausstellung Pressa (Ger., article), where he meets his later wife Beatrice. From 1928 until 1931 THELEN works on the poultry farm of his brother Julius to make ends meet, 1929 his first small article is published.
1931 he leaves Germany and lives together with Beatrice on Mallorca (Ger., Eng.). This time of their lives is documented in THELEN’s main oeuvre Die Insel des zweiten Gesichts. They marry 1934 in Barcelona, nearly starve and only narrowly escape the falangists (Ger., Eng.) in 1936, reaching an English ship last second. Vigoleis and Beatrice were on the to-be-shot-list of the German consul. From 1934 until 1940 THELEN writes for the Netherlandish newspaper Het Vaderland in Den Haag under the pseudonym Leopold Fabrizius. This connection seemingly was made possible through his friend Hendrik MARSMANN (Ger., Eng.). Together with MARSMANN Vigoleis translates works of the Portuguese poet and mystic Teixeira de PASCOAES  (1877-1952) (Ger.) – a text of this author fell in Vigoleis’ hands in the beginning of the thirties, in an adventurous translation; the two men start an intense exchange of letters in November 1935, after the death of Vigoleis’ father.
The escape from Mallorca leads them via Marseille to Auressio (Ger., Eng.) in the canton Ticino (Ger., Eng.), where the couples MARSMANN and THELEN now and then live and work together. This ends with the beginning of the war. THELEN receives an invitation by Teixeira de PASCOAES to come to the vineyards of his family in Sao Joao de Gatao near Amarante (Ger., Eng.) in Northern Portugal (pics). Here Vigoleis and Beatrice arrive on the 2nd of September 1939 and stay until 1947, in between living in a mountain village Travanca do Monte (pics). Vigoleis was not able to convince his friend Hendrik to follow him to Portugal, he wanted to immigrate to England. Sadly their ship sunk, MARSMANN drowned.
The years until 1947 were productive and seemingly good years for Vigoleis and Beatrice, he works as editor and translator. After the war they move to Amsterdam from 1947 to 1954, then first to Ascona (Casa Rocca Vispa, built 1930), later to Blonay (La Colline), where they manage the estates of a Netherlandish friend living in Mexico, Elita LÜTTMANN (I could find nothing about her). These properties are sold in 1973, so they move to Lausanne, and finally in 1983 to Germany, where he dies 1986. Beatrice lives three years longer.
THELEN played with the language and enjoyed to spin a yarn, to fabulate. His main work is seen as standing in the tradition of the Schelmenromane (Ger., Eng.), the picaresque novels – something the all so heroic men of few words, who dominated the German literature after WWII, regarded as unacceptable and hopelessly outdated. As long as he lived THELEN was not “accepted”, a bit like SCHMIDT (about) maybe, but for other reasons. SCHMIDT took himself far too serious and generally knew all and everything better, while THELEN in a way never took it too serious: I think he disliked a certain “Deutschheit”. The academic interest in THELEN was remarkable small as long as he lived, in contrast to other authors of his age – I do not want to use the word “generation”. The first and only conference about THELEN took place in Münster in 2003.
His “Island” may be worth a try.

Snow by von Schirach

In the Sueddeutsche Zeitung from this Christmas I read a short story, Schnee by Ferdinand von Schirach. He works as lawyer in Berlin. The man’s writing is cristal-clear, he constructs his text well. And I like his point of view. I learned that von Schirach has published a collection of shortstories this autumn and it was received well by critics and readers. For an interesting interview with the man go here (German only).
I translated the story and hopefully can give you an impression of the original text (it’s the post below). Von Schirachs text is seemingly einfach and that is far away from simple. He changes the view, the perspective, and is near to his personage – although the text prima facie is distant and reserved. A distant observer who allows himself some empathy. The titel of his book Verbrecher litteraly would be given as “criminals”; I’d prefer “wrongdoers” (Uebeltaeter). There is no discussion about that sinking the axe in the wife’s forehead is a crime, but why did he do it. Explaining does not mean excusing. It helps to find the adequate, the just sentence.

Words are important, can be fascinating. They can be charged with meaning, with power, unknown to the user. Nation for example. And words can discharge, explode in one’s face, like humans. Von Schirach uses words cautiously. And changes the view. As lawyer one has to keep distance to the accused, to their stories, but at the same time the only chance for a good defence lies in there, in the story and its telling, the explanation. Again: no excuses, explanation only. In his stories the author bridges this distance, lets the acting person speak, shares his or her point of view. Hassan drives through town and thinks of Jana, describing her as einfach und klar. These seemingly simple words are difficult to translate, especially einfach. It is not “simple”, Jana is not a simple person. I thought about a German replacement – reflecting the author’s intention and interpreting – and decided myself for gerade. So it is “straightforward”. Another seemingly simple word is schön. I find it untranslatable.
I am sure that von Schirach’s stories will be translated to English and probably other languages, and really wonder how it will be done.

One has to weight it out. A lot is in a single word and by translating you give weight to one or another meaning, subtext, variation, accent – how you may call it. So the translation always – always – shows how the translator read the text. And in the best case he carries the subtext of the writer with it.
All I’m saying is, that words are dangerous toys. They come along innocent enough, but their results can be cruel. And again an explanation is needed, another story has to be told. Another just sentence is needed.