Dear readers of my blog,

once again it is current events that perturb the "regular" issuing of my new project in the chronological order of the composition of its parts. Last week, walking up and down in the station hall of Leer, I recalled another occasion 25 years ago, and these memories triggered the following poem. I have since then asked it to be summed up, analyzed and commented on, and I upload it now for it to be heard as well since even with an automatic reading this will show what it is all about. Wish you a pleasant reading,

all best wishes,

Jörg W. Rademacher

 

Dear readers of my blog,

this is not yet what I announced to start publishing this year. At the same, the sequence of seven poems on James Joyce, published to coincide with the 80th anniversary of his death tomorrow, is taken from the collection that I hope to present here in the next few months.

Reading Joyce's works since the autumn of 1983, which was earlier than I started to study Oscar Wilde who was not on the syllabus of Dundee University at the time, I have been writing on his life and work since 1984. One of my student essays at Dundee University was on his first novel "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man". At the time, I did not know that this title is in a way derived from the first chapter of "The Picture of Dorian Gray", which, in another way, is also a novel portraying an artist.

Turning from criticism to biography, I published a biography of James Joyce in 2004, which was re-issued in 2009 when I had so much left over, which simply did not fit into the framework of a non-fiction book, that I took advantage of travelling to Luxembourg to write the following pieces. "Written to the moment", they both refer to the moment of writing them and to moments in Joyce's life.

Since all social and cultural activities have been ruled out, a celebration planned at Nuremberg last weekend had to be cancelled, too. Projected by the indefatigable Maria Eger, everybody who would have liked to attend now needs to do what is still possible: read Joyce, think of Joyce, cook the food he wrote about, listen to the music he referred to and wait for the moment when social gatherings in his name are again a possibility.

Normally, posting a blog post, sorry for that untimely repetition does not mean I need to return to the text three or four times in an hour but in Joyce's and Wilde's case this is necessary because both of them could be called famous or infamous for their tendency to revise what they had written. So I need to do so, too, when writing about either of them.

With this fifth version - you see I added a paragraph at least every second revision I made - I hope to have reached the end for the time being but you should never say never for others may spot corrections.

 

James Joyce’s Life Revisited

I

Minestrone at Zürich

Unused to clean pavements

either in Dublin or in Trieste

Joyce was wont to crack the odd joke

when after the journey across Austria

his family of four finally set foot

on clean Bahnhofstrasse later also publishing a poem.

Not a Cape of Good Hope

for the discoverer of good old Europe

in autumn 1904 the Pension Hoffnung

eleven years on became the point

of departure for one of the

least momentous of such phases as the portrait –

he had had an unnamed protagonist

say in a forgotten essay – of an artist

was to consist of. Rather than ladling

out the soup prepared by herself

which like many of these chores wasn’t her

cup of tea his mate preferred patronising

the same restaurants where he one day

would spot his favourite white wine:

Fendant de Sion. Such a generous even

Profligate patron as JJ wouldn’t mind

having a sponsor let alone a patron

himself and he happened to acquire one in Zürich.

While some recall the arrival of the

first anonymous cheque to have coincided

with one of JJ’s fits of blindness

there are others who have him happily

act the spendthrift he freely admitted

to have been from his father’s side.

With Dublin a city he left for good

in 1912 after only three visits since 1904

and Trieste a haven he couldn’t care for less

after the war while Rome proved intolerable

after seven months and Paris the

place where he finally found fame

it was Zürich which he turned to first

in October 1904 and last

36 yeas later when the second war

made him & his family leave the city of light

for the darkness of the Zone libre

where his peaceful mission of Finnegans Wake

remained unknown even at the

Hôtel de la Paix. Writing letters

at a pace he had never written

prose or poetry before he eventually succeeded

in obtaining travel permits for his loved ones

except for daughter Lucia lingering in occupied France.

The day he breathed his last

in hospital where he’d hardly wanted to be

he’d stopped writing letters some days before

trying to help his brother Stanislaus

stuck in the clutches

of another régime in another war

for the only reason that he couldn’t

but clutch the little comfort

he’d always craved

and remained unwilling to yield

for the sake of freely carrying around

his portable fatherland:

the English language that brother James

would always take with him first

then the family portraits

never the pot to stir porridge in

or Irish stew before it was yet again

time to say good-bye.

Düsseldorf – Remagen, 5 July 2009

 

 

II

Travelling around

Surely not descended from tinkers

JJ early learned though the lesson of travelling light

when as the eldest of many surviving siblings

he witnessed the dwindling of family possessions

the household moved with from home to home

in the North of Dublin so that once himself

a family man he insisted on keeping

a flat in Trieste although his brother

would’ve to pay the rent in their absence.

Travel light but keep your pied à terre in either

Trieste Zürich or Paris furnished or unfurnished

that he might return and pick up papers

ready to be recycled for his current chapter

or ask someone like Italo Svevo

aka Hector Aron Schmitz to take it

to Paris thus sparing the post office

the responsibility of losing such a precious

parcel of papers only JJ could use

for any other purpose than lighting a fire –

which view of course he didn’t share.

Trier, Hille’s Hostel, 6 July 2009

 

 

III

English as a foreign language

Teaching his mother tongue which his father taught him

by telling him tales or singing him more or less silly songs

proved to be his main source of income

once he had got off the boat in the port of Pula.

At first it was Austrian naval officers

supposed to start talking English

aping their master from Dublin a Bachelor of Arts

used to one on one tuition himself

having acquired a more than working knowledge

of Dantesque Italian in his tutorials at University

College which he would later choose to commemorate

by placing his teacher of Italian

in chapter ten of Ulysses. Meanwhile he had a full day

but complained about the meagre remuneration

given there was a flat to pay for & their habit

of dining out not to forget cigarettes to smoke

a whole set of teeth to be done &

a broadside against the Dublin literati

to be printed with the odd drink not the

smallest expense so if he wanted to learn German

too he would’ve to teach the colleague

another lesson of English – though in his epistles

dispatched regularly to all four corners

of the Dublin universe he never says whether he did do so.

In Rome however where his evening classes

at the École de langues were to provide

him & his with the extra funds for food

his day job at the bank failed to produce

JJ one day refused to stand neither

the enormous number of eight adult students

nor the impudent request a man

he called a Roman peasant uttered

to have the English grammar explained in Italian.

So matters came to a head the Dubliner

gave up banking teaching & dining in Rome

for yet more private lessons in Trieste

where all through summer autumn & winter of 1906/1907

brother Stannie had had to fend off creditors

and where he now would’ve to ingratiate

himself again for the sake of a family of three soon four

to find a flat & students willing to pay

perhaps in advance for the simple reason

that brother James felt fed up with having noone

to walk the streets at night while

enjoying an exchange of ideas. Unlike Baudelaire

who had been declared incapable of business at age 22

but couldn’t avoid indebting himself which meant

he was stuck in either Paris or Bruxelles

JJ also trained by Jesuits only ever

proved to be scrupulous about words

especially spoken ones he sought to keep absolutely beyond

reproof so while he taught people from all walks of life

it took some time until he met the only

Italian writer among his students who’d

published two novels long since forgotten

and who later wrote perceptively both

about Dubliners A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man &

about a performance of Exiles in London.

Socially though the two families

were hardly on a par since the Irishman

remained forever chained & manacled to the part

of underpaid teacher of English as a foreign

language sometime badly paid bookkeeper

in Livia Schmitz’ father’s shipyard Veneziani

as well all of which no generous advance

payments for one year of private tuition

in 1909 nor any other proofs of literary friendship

could make up for since a Joyce

like a Dickens couldn’t but continue

to feel outclassed so that once arrived in Paris

he tried not to teach English any longer

waiting – not in vain – for both money and fame to arrive.

Lobby of the city of Luxembourg Youth Hostel, 7 July 2009

 

 

IV

Drama

Epiphanies wasn’t what he called such moments

in his life when his own & his loved ones’

safety seemed at stake nor did he adopt

a phrase like “moments of being”

for instants of sudden recognition on his characters’ part.

While never neglecting to mix dramatic narrative

& poetic modes of rendering perceptions

the only play he ever composed entitled Exiles

had no dramatic action on stage at all

unless you term public & secular confessions dramatic.

Making explicit what had hitherto been part of

epistolary novels like Clarissa Harlowe

& Les Liaisons dangereuses being somewhat his forte

he was in no need of staging fist fights or police raids

in his fiction for a brothel imagined promised much more fun.

This he did in his longest dramatic text

chapter 15 of Ulysses aka “Circe”

by those who don’t accept Joyce’s indignation expressed

in letters when he realised that once he had leaked

chapter titles to certain individuals the same

trusted people would not fail to spread the word

world-wide so that “Telemachus” through “Scylla and

Charybdis” to “Ithaca” & “Penelope” have become

household words rather remain privy to

the happy few the minority of one sought to please.

Anything but dramatic are 136 removals

in his life for such was his attitude towards

possessions that rather than furnishing a flat

which he did but three or four times

he preferred to move in and out of rooms

fully provided with all but books

papers & ancestral portraits

all of which were left behind when the Joyces

like many Parisians fled for the Zone libre

in May/June 1940. If anything this was

pure drama given that a writer – a subject as much as

Alan Bennett’s sovereign – was a reader first

and will always continue reading unless his work

library or both is missing with Joyce

having published Finnegans Wake in May 1939

he even lacked the project which earlier

had kept his sense of being a writer

alive despite all the worries both his

children were wont to caused him

thus he lacked a purpose & a profession

filling his pockets with stones every morning

like Molloy in the later eponymous novel –

before walking the streets of St. Gérand-le-Puy


where he used them one by one to stone the dogs

flocking around him just as he had envisaged

an anonymous protagonist to be beset by the pack

of what were dogs figuratively speaking

hunting the stag that could only flash the antlers

in what was the 22-year-old Joyce’s moving image

of the social strife any outsider would face in Ireland.

Whether he had just put into words his hallucinations

or whether he had anticipated the witch hunts

regularly staged by the media today it was

just nine months & a day after

dating this essay duly rejected by the editors of Dana

as unprintable since they didn’t understand it

that JJ went abroad boarding the ship

unaccompanied it seemed but he had pulled the strings

so it became known only after their departure –

a petty intrigue played at the expense of

his enraged father – that he was followed

by Nora Barnacle whose name meaning goose

made for a nice pun since JJ could thus

hope to be one of the many lucky geese

who in former times had left Ireland never to return.

Trier, in the kitchen of Hille’s Hostel, 6 July 2009

 

 

V

Publishers

Invisible facilitators of printed matter

these VIP for writers are sometimes

also photographed like Sylvia Beach

in the doorway to her Anglo-American

lending-library in the Rue de l’Odéon Paris

where true lovers of JJ

remember her standing face to face

with her first & only author but

these days photographs are wont to be

tinkered with recklessly with Joyce’s

white tennis shoes & his stick more

focused than heretofore and

the people walking past on the opposite

pavement appearing suddenly to be more than

street furniture so that at long last

after looking at it repeatedly it dawned

on me that Sylvia Beach couldn’t be

made to disappear without harming the picture

though in real life Joyce abandoned her

when he thought her in the way of a more

profitable contract with a publisher in New York

who would make Ulysses a financial success as well.

Lobby of the city of Luxembourg Youth Hostel, 7 July, 12 noon

 

 

VI

Correspondences

At age 15 I discovered retaining

the complete text of a drama

by Gerhart Hauptmann we had studied at school

wasn’t something I needed to work hard for

so until recently it never occurred to me that

Joyce when unable to find an English translation

of the current Hauptmann play

Vor Sonnenaufgang worked hard

to make his own English version or was extremely doué

after having learned German for that purpose.

He may have accomplished the same surprising

feat regard to Henrik Ibsen

whose native tongue he is also said to

have mastered well enough to translate

his own letter into Norwegian and to

have read the last play When We Dead Awaken

in the original. A poly-linguist Joyce

corresponded fluently in at least four languages –

it’s no surprise then finding him

reading Hauptmann in German

or Wilde in Italian whose drama Salomé

he also wrote an essay on

published in Italian to coincide

with the première of the opera in Trieste.

Corresponding in a professional capacity

as he did for some months in a Roman bank

however didn’t please him

his counterparts or correspondents being all but genuine

he lacked a purpose in life

which could only be writing

and if he had to teach English

he also accepted this under certain conditions

for a limited period while remaining a socialist

concerning one point only: he refused to do

many of the chores he couldn’t see a profit in

so that he only exceptionally earned

his living as a hack. An Irish gentleman

he considered himself to be so when famous at last

Joyce took up polite correspondence with

Writers whom he had met or admired earlier

and who like George Moore W. B. Yeats

& Gerhart Hauptmann belonged to a generation

he at least in polite conversation

or more often in as polite correspondences looked up to.

The story of how he used his brother Stannie

& Ezra Pound himself an acquaintance of Hauptmann’s

in Rapallo to have his copy of Vor Sonnenaufgang

Before Sunrise signed by the Nobel Laureate of 1912

needn’t be retold but it’s interesting

to note that Joyce refused to publish youthful

tour de force but sought to clinch the relationship

he thought to have established by asking

for an autograph while Hauptmann also

in private said in his diaries that he had

lost his way in Joyce’s Ulysses just as

George Moore wrote about that book’s French version

Joyce had given him in 1929.

Just as colours and sounds happily correspond

in Baudelaire’s poem “Correspondances”

and as Rimbaud makes vowel sounds correspondents

people interests & works in a later age

fail to find each other being merely juxtaposed

so that Joyce had he been able to perceive that

wouldn’t have choked with anger on learning

that his wreath for Moore’s funeral

went unmentioned by the press

and that unlike Hauptmann & his spouse

the Joyces were unnamed too on Yeats’s death.

He kept up many strands of correspondence

all his life managing not to lose too many friends

though he didn’t correspond well

to people’s expectations standing out

& thus being passed over

while all he tried to do in later life

was to toe the line of politeness

when in terms of his literary work

he had reached a point of no return.

Trier, in the yard of Hille’s Hostel, 5 July 2009

 

VII

Stations of the Cross

Listening to but not watching

the ceremony televised live worldwide to commemorate

the “Sphinx of Pop” as put by Durs Grünbein

I couldn’t but think of JJ’s life

in terms of seven stations of the cross

which is a given in Catholic liturgy not only

a fig of the literary imagination

in Nuremberg it was Adam Kraft who halved

the customary fourteen stations

with Joyce becoming a pictorial Jesus Christ bearing his cross

accompanied by a host of Dublin hecklers

in a photo collage prepared to render

the late mediæval Catholic atmosphere

within an early 20th century society

redolent of a Corpus Christi procession –

bodies in bloom-like – as you can still witness it

and participate in traditional parishes all over Europe

where however JJ’s formula of refusing

to be a “literary Jesus Christ” who would

die for his passion rather than give up writing

would necessarily be condemned as blasphemer

with the result that his post-Catholic claim

to be a literary martyr misunderstood by all

but the closest and staunchest friends

would ring wrong in their ears

making his struggle a literary image of his day & age

not the scrupulous chart

of what he perceived & felt when still in Ireland

but the gratuitous action of an amoral man fouling the nest.

Cafeteria of the city of Luxembourg Youth Hostel, 7 July 2009

So, dear readers, when you have worked through all this, which I had to do in order to place all the references to place and time of writing, to italicise titles as well as uncommon words from languages other than English, you know what is the lot of someone like James Joyce who in late 1939 during the "funny war", the "drôle de guerre", was said to have placed commas in his last novel Finnegans Wake. Today, we have got the lockdown or shutdown with Ireland recently much affected because of decisions taken at the wrong time. People there deserve both our sympathy and our support. Perhaps reading this on the internet can be supportive, too. Do spread the word,

all best wishes,

Jörg W. Rademacher

 

 

The die is cast:

Hugo, Wilde, Ford, and Joyce, who's next?

Dear readers of my blog,

This being the first time that I go for a series of blog posts in the sense of the term “work in progress”, first coined by Ford Madox Ford for the publication of instalments of what was to become Finnegans Wake, the last work in prose by James Joyce, let me simply ask you for forgiveness to have to look through a roughly similar text once again before discovering re-written or added passages – including new episodes or anecdotes.

 

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

having been reminded of my silence online by some readers, I must say that I don't regret to have read, written, and translated – in the dark, so to speak – for the past two months or so. Of course, it is not that I have forgotten to speak up about things, though, seriously, with so much change in the air owing to the virus crisis, it has not been easy to reconcile the restart of complete school populations in Lower Saxony with free time activities such as running a blog and website concerned with Oscar Wilde and anything under the sun that can possibly be related to him and his works.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

once again there is a moment of time to spare which I would like to devote to reporting on books bought, read and re-read in the past few months. Some such acquisitions relate in more senses than one to the current crisis. First, their acquisition was the result of our being allowed to browse in the shops once more. Second, they all relate to the problems of mankind to adapt to health crises, whether in the 19th or the 21st century. In parenthesis, before I begin in earnest, and it is important to be earnest now, let me say that this sentence is the only one alluding to Oscar Wilde this time. Perhaps you can point out a link after having read this post. Thank you in advance. As ever, I will acknowledge such help.

To give you an overview, I first list the titles with all the bibliographical details:

On 6 May 2020 I bought several books at Weener, a little town, still in East Frisia, but on the western side of the River Ems where I had a moment to spend in the local bookstore. Earlier, I had been wandering round the old port or talking to a dear friend on the mobile for in early April everything was closed and the streets were deserted.

Paolo Giordano, In Zeiten der Ansteckung, translated from the Italian by Barbara Kleiner, Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2020, 80 pp., 8.00 €.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

certainly it is not a very convincing move to announce a few days ago I would not write on Graham Swift again for some time to come and to do so within less than a week. It might have been otherwise in a study with piles of work undone and lots of papers lost for the time being in files difficult to find because of being in no order whatsoever.

At the moment, though, owing to a refurbishment of my study that I had been thinking of for some time and which was realized, delivered and mounted by a local company of joiners according to my plans last week, I for once see through many angles of my work that normally seem to be hidden away. As a result, I also looked through newspaper articles kept during the period when the schools were completely closed, and there was one article I came across just after having uploaded the last blog post which dealt with Mothering Sunday as well as with Here We Are by Graham Swift.

While rereading this good article I recalled my first perusal and a silent wish on my part not to allow myself to fall under the spell of the reviewer's drift. In fact, this did not happen, though I still agree with most of his observations on both novels. Lothar Müller from the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, based in Munich, insists on Swift's view of all people being “secret agents”, both in the literal sense of following Joseph Conrad's novel of that title, which is an influence on Jane Fairchild, the narrator in Mothering Sunday, and in the figurative sense of living with their secrets all their lives.

 

Preface:

Dear readers of my blog,

this third blog on Graham Swift is the last for some time. I need to re-read the other two novels in my possession or watch one or the other film to add more to my tally. Apart from this teaser, the entries are only roughly alike. I do apologize for this but since I like writing in English as much as I like to put things into words in German but for different reasons I refuse always to try to eliminate through translation processes what can only best be said in either one or the other language. So, if you want to have the best of both worlds, do as I do, try to read both German and English.

Vorwort:

Liebe Leser meines Blogs,

dieser dritte Blog zu Graham Swift ist der vorerst letzte. Ich muß nämlich die beiden anderen Romane in meinem Besitz wieder lesen oder die ein oder andere Verfilmung schauen, um noch weitere schreiben zu können. Von diesem Appetithappen abgesehen, sind die Blogeinträge nur im Großen Ganzen einander ähnlich. Dafür bitte ich um Verzeihung, doch da ich so gern auf Englisch schreibe, wie ich auf Deutsch formuliere – aus jeweils unterschiedlichen Gründen –, lehne ich es ab, stets durch Übersetzungsvorgänge auszuschalten, was nur in entweder in der einen oder der anderen Sprache am besten zu sagen wäre. Wer also die beste beider Welten wünscht, möge bitte auf deutsch und englisch lesen.

 

 

Liebe Leser des literarischen Blogs,

Zeiten ohne Drang, dem fußballerischen Weltgeschehen nicht nur durch Verfolgen der Nachrichten, sondern auch durch Mitfiebern am Bildschirm auf der Spur zu bleiben wie in diesem Juni, wenn die lange geplante Europameisterschaft zum 60. Jahrestag der ersten im Jahr 1960 zunächst einmal entfällt, sind auch Momente, da die Literatur ihren Rang als Freizeitbeschäftigung wieder gewinnt. Denn Lesen ist überall möglich, selbst hinter der Maske im IC oder RE, ob zu Hause oder vor dem Bahnhof in der Morgensonne am Waterlootag, am kleinen Bildschirm oder mit dem Buch, das riecht und anzufaßbar ist, in der Hand. Lesen geschieht ja vielfältig, mit und ohne Bleistift, als Zeitvertreib oder als Möglichkeit, andere Welten zu entdecken als diejenige, in der man sich gerade aufhält.

 

Dear readers of this literary blog,

you may not miss watching international football now with Liverpool FC winning their first league title since 1990 when the likes of Ian Rush were still around to win silverware for them. With Jürgen Klopp the first-ever German manager to clinch that title, even fans of Schalke 04, the arch-enemy of Klopp's former Borussia Dortmund – that in 1966 beat Liverpool FC in a memorable Cup winner's Cup Final in Glasgow with the winning goal so surprising for the cameraman that you also see the goal being retrieved from the back of the net – now wish him well. At this time, we would have been watching the Euro 2020 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of that competition this year. Actually, reading has come to the fore for many, I reckon, who can do this everywhere even now, either at home in your armchair or behind a mask or “face-covering” when seated in an IC or regional train or when basking in the morning sun on Waterloo Day, which, of course, does not trigger the same associations everywhere. You may do reading in many ways, with or without a pencil, as a simple pastime or as a means to discover worlds other those where you find yourself at the moment.

 

 

Liebe Leser des literarischen Blogs,

erneut auf Deutsch und Englisch wende ich mich an Sie und Euch mit einer Besprechung. Graham Swift ist bei weitem unter den englischen Autoren der Gegenwart mein Lieblingsschriftsteller. Die meisten mag ich nach einem Roman nicht wieder erlesen. Bei Swift war es rasch gegangen, der Wunsch, ihn immer wieder zu lesen und wurde in fast drei Jahrzehnten nie enttäuscht. Es wird drei Blog-Posts geben zu ihm. Hier der erste:

 

Dear readers of my blog,

Mothering Sunday is the first short novel by Graham Swift I read. And it is not going to be the last for his style is of such crispness that you feel it even in the German translation by Susanne Höbel who I once met over a period of three or four days in early May 1996 at Villa Waldberta at Feldafing near Munich where we both took part in a seminar on translation criticism.

 

 

Liebe Leserin, lieber Leser dieses auch literarischen Blog-Posts,

erstmals erscheinen heute alle vier Rezensionen der bis 2018 publizierten ersten Bände der Normandie-Thriller von Benjamin Cors zusammen. So hatte ich sie im Frühherbst 2018 geschrieben und allesamt zum Abdruck in einer Regionalzeitung geschickt. Nur die ersten beiden Besprechungen sind auch erschienen, und zwar in anderer Form als hier. Die Normandie habe ich bislang nur zweimal besucht, 1985 und 2005, als ich unvergeßliche zwei Wochen als begleitende Lehrkraft eines Schüleraustausches erlebte. Insofern ist gerade jetzt, da das Reisen besonders ins Ausland, besonders mit Gruppen unter große Vorbehalte gestellt ist, solch eine Romanserie von großer, gerade auch emotionaler Bedeutung. Viel Vergnügen bei der Lektüre. Das gewählte Format entspricht dem für potentielle Rezensionen in der Presse.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

while the following summaries of the German thrillers written by Benjamin Cors have already been posted, the German originals were written with a view of being published in a regional paper. Two did not appear as I wrote them, and, indeed, I am sure I have only the right to re-publish them as I first wrote. The last two have not yet appeared in German, and since I told the publishers that I wanted to write about the whole series it is only now that I can be as good as my word. And, to be honest, I am longing to read the fifth volume in that series that has just appeared in German. The format is as if these short reviews were to appear in the printed press.

Jörg W. Rademacher, 17th June 2020

 

 

 

Turning from online to classroom teaching

Dear readers of my blog,

direct contacts still being limited to occasional conversations over the phone, particularly if to meet traveling across borders would be involved, it is only rarely that I actually speak to one or the other of you. I did, though, last week, and several people – as had happened in my immediate environs before the shutdown – encouraged me to devise the next blog.

It may sound strange to you that someone who likes to discuss things literary and political as much as I do should find it difficult to come up with more than two blogs in the past nine weeks of limited movement in Germany. Actually, I had thought I might provide a regular up-date on what is going on here in the light of Oscar Wilde with a special focus on his annus terribilis in the spring of 1895. It is quite simple: the times we are going through at the moment have made me think of many more things than just those events my online calendar for 2020 seemed to record for another year of commemorations of different sorts.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

with more than three weeks gone after the announcement of the shutdown and Holy Week under way, I do feel the urge to depict in words my impressions of empty streets in small country towns when pedestrian areas are deserted but for market days when at least greengrocers, butchers, the odd fishmonger, baker and cheese merchant as well as now, once again, the seller of flowers and plants, allow people in Leer to queue in quite their own way before the market tents or trailers.

Last Saturday, for example,

 

Dear readers of my blog,

after all of Europe and much of the rest of the world has been subjected to a confinement in people’s houses and/or gardens with quite a few of them also with limited access as to visitors, for they are high-risk patients, I feel very strongly that I need to say something in public, since it is simply impossible to know where to begin contacting people outside your personal and local circle if the only thing is – apart from using social media – to start ringing up Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is a matter of concentration on the most vital contacts, those old-age pensioners, for example, the age of one’s parents or those parents themselves who cannot receive visits from either their children or grandchildren and whose only current personal contacts are the nursing personnel. Some of these old men and women still do their own reading and react not only like seasoned practitioners to this crisis mode of life, others cannot but recall the last great crisis they underwent in their own lives, the Second World War, that is. The problem, however, is that those who are prepared for this crisis are a small minority. For, to put it in a nutshell:

The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people to sit quietly in their rooms.”

This sentence written by the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal I found in the collection entitled “Life I Do Not Understand You”, edited by Danny Morrison, Belfast, 2019.

 

A Calendar in Progress –

Blog post 17 March 2020: Prefaces in French and Italian

Dear readers of my blog,

this at long last the ultimate installment of this year’s calendar project with its prefaces translated into French and Italian. I would have liked to upload them much sooner but at the beginning of this year one thing after another kept my attention away from the Internet, while it is now with almost a curfew for most activities in Germany – even playgrounds have been banned because of possible infections – that the Internet alongside the telephone and snail mail are the most important interactive means of communication for many if not most computer literate people. All the others could easily

 

Dear readers of my blog,

it is almost to the day a month since my last intervention on the Internet, please allow for my absence in such personally and politically intense times when even the editor-in-chief of our local and regional daily paper cannot but tone down his language. Sometimes silence is more than gold when if you had spoken too early or too rashly would have meant that it is worth a lot less than silver.

 

Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with

the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no

yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.” (The Canterville Ghost, The Canterville Ghost|OSCAR WILDE|Free download|PDF EPUB|Freeditorial https://freeditorial.com/en/books/the-canterville-ghost [Access: 15th February 2020])

Dear readers of my blog,

seeking consolation when ones loved ones or close relatives die is a painful process these days for for many death has become a taboo zone where to tread means to pass on uncharted territory.

 

1. Vorrede

Fast drei Jahre lang konnte ich für die in Leer erscheinende Ostfriesenzeitung Buchbesprechungen verfassen. Diese eher zufällig zustande gekommene Tätigkeit, zufällig, weil der 2017 verantwortliche Redakteur nebenan wohnte, endet im November 2019 plötzlich. Es gibt dafür Gründe, die bekanntzugeben der Zeitung selbst obliegen.

Nun ist eine ganze Region ohne jede Literaturseite. Ich hatte zwar schon an der Aufmachung gemerkt, daß die Außenwelt an sich noch weniger Thema in Ostfriesland sein sollte, weil es da ja doch andere Medien gibt und weil sich viele Lesende gar nicht für die ganze Zeitung interessieren, was aus einer jüngst veranstalteten Umfrage hervorging. Ein Ergebnis war wohl auch, daß die Literaturseite kaum gelesen wurde – welch Wunder bei einer Seite, die einmal monatlich an jeweils anderer Stelle erschien und die mir selbst erst nach etlichen Jahren des Abonnements überhaupt aufgefallen war. Obwohl ich an Ostfriesland stets interessiert war, hatte ich die jahrelange Dominanz von Regionalkrimis bei den rezensierten Büchern als mindestens so störend empfunden wie manche Buchhändler, mit denen ich darüber sprach.

Die Rezensionen erscheinen hier in chronologischer Folge fast immer im genauen Wortlaut der Vorlage, die ich der Redaktion geschickt hatte, denn nur der gehört unzweifelhaft mir als dem Urheber. Mein Text wurde mehr oder minder verändert, manchmal gekürzt, manchmal auch – leider – fehlerhaft, jeweils ohne Rücksprache zu halten. Beschwert habe ich mich jedoch darüber nie. So wird gemeinhin gearbeitet, auch bei überregionalen Blättern, in denen ich in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten immer mal wieder Übersetzungen veröffentlicht hatte.

Als Rezensent einer Tageszeitung habe ich insgesamt positive Erfahrungen gemacht, ähnlich den zehn Jahren von 1995 bis 2005, in denen ich für den Evangelischen Buchberater in Göttingen tätig war. (Es handelt sich hier nicht um einen Vergleich zwei ganz unterschiedlich arbeitender Publikationsorgane mit entsprechend divergierenden Zielgruppen, sondern lediglich um die Schilderung meiner Erfahrungen.) Als Rezensent des Buchberaters hatte ich nämlich gelernt, auf engem Raum ein Buch vorzustellen und zu beurteilen, allerdings unter der Bedingung, daß die von der Redaktion ausgesuchten Bücher in der Regel so zu besprechen waren, daß nur ein Bruchteil in die Rubrik „entbehrlich“ gelangte. Das waren meiner Ansicht nach bei gut 1000 Titeln pro Quartal in allen Sparten zusammengenommen immer viel zu wenige. Für diejenigen, die nicht wissen, was der Buchberater tut, sei hinzugefügt, er soll Orientierung geben für die evangelischen Büchereien, die ihrerseits in Größe und Ausrichtung sehr unterschiedlich sind. Wenn ich eine solche in Münster oder Ostfriesland betrat, wußte ich kaum je, wie die Verantwortlichen mit Hilfe des Buchberaters ihre Medien hätten bestellen sollen. Ich fand immer und habe es mehrfach schriftlich kundgetan, daß weniger mehr gewesen wäre.

Für die Ostfriesenzeitung habe ich nur Titel ausgewählt , die ich im eigenen Bücherschrank hätte behalten wollen. Deshalb gibt es auch keine „Ausschußware“ und schon gar keinen „Verriß“. Dafür wären mir die wenigen Zeilen pro Monat doch stets zu kostbar gewesen. Wer die Literaturseiten der vergangenen Jahre noch einmal anschaut, wird feststellen, daß die beteiligten Redakteure und Autoren in ihren Berichten und Rezensionen in der Regel den vorgestellten Personen und Büchern sehr gewogen waren.

An dieser Stelle werde ich also zunächst den Urtext meiner gesammelten Rezensionen aus drei Jahren präsentieren, jeweils ergänzt um einen kurzen Text, der meine Motivation darlegt, genau dieses Buch zu besprechen. Später werde ich dann eine eigene, wohl eher unregelmäßig Literaturkolumne betreiben, eingeschränkt sicherlich dadurch, daß ich den Versuch, alles im Lichte Oscar Wildes zu betrachten, hier nicht werde lassen können. Mit Wilde denke ich, Bücher nicht nach Oberflächenmerkmalen wie Auflage, Titelbild, medialer Präsenz usw. auszuwählen, sondern nach dem nur über Jahre und über Versuch und Irrtum auszubildenden literarischen Geschmack, der nichts mit Konzepten einer Redaktion oder auch zentralen Vorgaben zu tun hat, sondern dem Individuum eigen ist, das dafür auch allein Verantwortung übernimmt. Wilde ist nicht der erste und ohnehin nicht der letzte Schriftsteller, der im literarischen Betrieb seiner Zeit ganz nach oben gelangte, um dann um so tiefer zu fallen. Auch ist er in seiner letzten Phase als gesellschaftlich Ausgestoßener, der nur noch anonym oder unter Pseudonym überhaupt öffentlich wirksam wurde, durchaus bis heute ein Vorbild für jene, die tatsächlich weiter künstlerisch tätig sein wollen, ohne sich der Unbill der Veröffentlichung mit all ihren Verpflichtungen in der Medienwelt auszusetzen, dies aber freiwillig tun.

Jörg W. Rademacher, 29.12.2019

 

 

 

Oscar Wilde Kalender 2020



Texte ausgewählt, geschrieben, übersetzt und herausgegeben von

Jörg W. Rademacher (Leer)



Collagenwerk von

Ulrich Hoepfner (Leipzig)

1895: Annus terribilis Wildensis:

Kurze Chronik eines angekündigten sozialen Todes: Niedergang und Sturz einer Ikone des Ästhetizismus

Vorwort

Um der 125. Wiederkehr des Jahres von Oscar Wildes Sturz 1895 zu gedenken, ist es nötig, vom bisher in dieser Kalenderserie verfolgten Kurs abzuweichen: nämlich auf die ausgetretenen Pfade der Chronologie zurückzukehren. Nur dann werden Menschen, die lange nach Wildes Tod geboren wurden, sich direkt mit seinem Zeitalter verbunden fühlen. Wenigstens war dies mein Gefühl, als ich die Hochzeitsurkunde und den Totenschein von Constance Wilde erhielt – genau, als mich die von Merlin Holland, Wildes einzigem Enkel, gescannten Dokumente per Internet erreichten. Plötzlich erhielt diese Arbeit der Kalendergestaltung für mich einen neuen Sinn. Jetzt fühle ich mich den Ereignissen von Wildes Leben ganz nahe.

 

Oscar Wilde Calendar 2020



Texts chosen, written and edited

by Jörg W. Rademacher (Leer)



Collage work

by Ulrich Hoepfner (Leipzig)



1895: Annus terribilis Wildensis:

Brief Chronology of an announced social Death: Decline and Fall of an Icon of Aestheticism

Preface

To commemorate the 125th anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s Fall in 1895, it is necessary to deviate from the course pursued so far in this series of calendars: to return to the trodden paths of chronology, that is. It is only then that people born long after Wilde’s death can still feel connected directly to his day and age. At least this is what I felt when I received the marriage certificate and the death notice of Constance Wilde – precisely, as scans made by Merlin Holland, Wilde’s only grandson reached me via the Internet. Suddenly doing these calendars took on quite a different meaning for me. Now I feel quite close to the events of Wilde’s life.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

back only a day after my last post, you might think I am not pressed for time in this pre-Xmas period. In fact, I am, like everyone else. Anyhow, it is necessary to comment on current events in the light of Oscar Wilde. Let me first correct an error I made today – not for the first time, I am afraid to say, and certainly not for the last, since Wilde himself was prone to make himself younger than he actually was. I wrote that in 1894 when my grandfathers were born in December he was thirty, he was forty, in fact. So please accept my apologies for this error.

Second, I must come back to the General Election result and its repercussions in the UK on Thursday last. In his essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (1891), Wilde once wrote: “All modes of government are failures. 

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

while it is no surprise to see that “Get Brexit done – vote true Blue” has prevailed in the General Election yesterday, it does hurt though that the same party that eventually took the UK to Europe took the risk to dismantle the whole country to take it out again forty-six years later. Of course, I did not realise in the summer of 1974 what historic period I had first entered England and Wales but I distinctly recall the sugar and toilet-paper crisis that made people queue up outside the local shops in Aberdovey to get hold of what they needed for the usual provisions from the former colonies did not seem to have been supplanted in sufficient quantities by European or home-based providers. What with hindsight made for many a good laugh may become the order of the day very soon, and everybody will have to bear the brunt for this. This is perhaps the only saving grace for those who did not hesitate to risk the future of the country's youth, for, unfortunately, in a country where “the rest is history” is a common phrase to relegate all uncomfortable truths to the archives only looked at by bookish fellows, people may all too easily forget who got them in the scrapes that can still not been fathomed at the moment.

I do a have personal reason to write like this, as you can imagine, for today was a very special day for me, given that it is the 125th anniversary of my paternal grandfather. He was born when Oscar Wilde was thirty and a father of two sons. Like my maternal grandfather, three days his elder, Wilhelm Rademacher fought in the First World War, and like him, he was the exact coeval of Aldous Huxley in whose centenary year, which was also theirs, thought no-one in the two families ever spoke about that fact then, I took a most passionate part in the organising of the Centenary Symposium dedicated to the life and works of Huxley held at Münster University. It is only now that I realise to the full why I was so passionate, risking very much, not least an academic career, to make it succeed. It was something I did by proxy – though unwittingly so. Only when in the process of clearing the family home and the literary papers of my father did I grasp what kind of activity I had been involved in since I chose to study modern languages and literature and to stick to writing and translating while teaching at a school some time later. So I was driven to write a poem about my paternal grandfather, my father and myself as grandson. Here it is:

Father Son & Grandson

 

Dear readers of my blog,

again it is after a period of prolonged silence in these digitized columns that I resume my communications, while October and November have been extremely eventful months both in terms of Oscar Wilde and my other favourite subject, the study of the Shoah.

On 11th October 2019, the Italian translation of Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was presented by Sara Pini, a Ph. D. student at Bologna University in the most prestigious hall of that well-renowned alma mater. Though the book entitled Il ritratto di Dorian Gray. Stesura del 1890 and published by Elsinor Verlag, followed my edition, I was unable to attend this occasion. Unfortunately, life makes you very often take hard decisions. In most cases, it is impossible to please everyone, including all facets of one's own personality. So I was extremely relieved when learning two days before the event that the books had arrived safe and sound in Italy.

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

perhaps you all know the saying that who defends him- or herself accuses him- or herself. So I am not going to explain away my silence in these parts. Soon the Wildean reasons will be given in terms of a report on what is going on at Bologna University at the moment. Since I regret not to be able to be there on the occasion of the foundation of the new Italian Society of Oscar Wilde and all that that entails, including the presentation of a new translation of The Picture of Dorian Gray by the translator, Sara Pini, I limit myself to introducing a piece of prose to you that I needed to write following the great non-event in Germany last Monday.



A Birthday Party without Guests

Reading Harold Pinters play The Birthday Party when a young man of twenty-two, I noticed an acerbity of tone and bitterness of language as a whole that rang familiar, while I felt unable to say why it had such a family touch or even sting.

 

 

 

Liebe Leser meines Blogs,

erstmals schreibe ich nun auch einmal in deutscher Sprache, nicht ganz uneigennützig, denn Übersetzungen  von Oscar Wilde, noch dazu ihre Rezeption auf Englisch anzuzeigen, scheint mir müßig. Es ist vielleicht nicht unwichtig zu zeigen, daß die Übersetzungsgeschichte des berühmten Sozialismus-Essays keineswegs lang ist. Deshalb nutze ich die Gelegenheit der Veröffentlichung meiner eigenen deutschen Version zur Präsentation der jüngeren deutschen Texte in Form einer Bibliographie, wie sie auch im Internet zu finden ist.

Dear readers of my blog,

while all sorts of personal and professional obligations have kept me from having my say in the current crisis evolving around Brexit, it is clear that there was another reason for silence: like most Europeans with friends and acquaintances in Britain, I do not want to interfere in what seems a monumental conflict both within the Tory Party and across all sections of society in the United Kingdom. What has changed, however, since the arrival of the present resident at 10 Downing Street is that both the opposition parties in Westminster, prominently led by the SNP and the Liberal Democrats and the Tory rebels have had occasion to meet regularly to start “grown-up” talks “across the house”, so that another sign of the dilapidation of the current government was its loss of the majority of one seat on Tuesday when a former Government minister changed sides.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

little did I imagine when first thinking of presenting this book of excerpts to you that this post would become a belated obituary of a writer I only really started to appreciate during our summer holiday.

Toni Morrison, born in Ohio on 18th February 1931, died in New York City on 5th August 2019. In a way I try to pay homage today to a brave woman whose writings when I finally turned to them convinced me at once of a quality I am now sorry not to have tasted of before 15th and 16th July last when I read Race, a short book of essays and extracts from novels I had never even heard talk about.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

when on holiday for most of last month I had leisure to read and write on books I had received as gift, some of which I am going to keep, while there are others that do not fit into any of my collections. All the same, I want to place on record my view of them, perhaps recommend them to you as worth your while.

Julian Barnes is an English writer many people have continued to praise to me. A friend of mine has also written several essays on him which I was privy to peruse before publication, so he was a familiar name when his novel The only story arrived in a birthday parcel.

Here are the publication details:

Julian Barnes, The only story, London: Vintage, 2019 (2018). 216 pp.

ISBN 987-1-52911-066-1

Youll find out about the price yourself. Allow me to recommend your local bookseller!

 

Dear readers of my blog,

having returned from the class trip to Berlin – where it was as hot as it had been in the same calendar week in 2012 and where I was strictly offline concentrating on people and places around me – it took me five working-days to live up to the demands a commuters professional and family life imposes in both analogical and digital terms.

 

I now hope to resume a more or less regular blog on “Oscar Wilde and Company” which catch-title, following several trains of thought both on Baltrum beach in the summer and in Berlin streets last week, as well as on the phone to some friends of long standing, should be read in context with a sub-title: “German, Jewish, Irish, and Romance Studies”. While there are several posts in waiting, today I want to turn your attention to a query that reached me from a friend based at Heidelberg, a Kleist and Kafka scholar and editor as well as an Anglophile, who needs help with a quotation taking from George Bernard Shaw and cited in one of Kafkas notebooks (“Quarthefte”).

 

The situation is a bit complicated. Having discovered that the quote – you find the German translation and the original below – stems from the “Preface” to the first American publication of “The irrational knot” (1905), my friend is puzzled by the fact that this text is missing from the first German edition “Die törichte Heirat”, translated by Wilhelm Cremer (Berlin 1909), someone who also translated Oscar Wilde into German at the time.

 

Since Franz Kafka did not have any English, his question simply is where did he find the text of the “Preface”? He and I would be extremely grateful if someone came up with a solution.

 

German translation:

FK zitiert im November 1911 GB Shaw:
„Aber trotzdem ich ein starker junger Mensch war und meine Familie sich in üblen Umständen befand, warf ich mich nicht in den Kampf des Lebens; ich warf meine Mutter hinein und liess mich von ihr erhalten. Ich war meinem alten Vater keine Stütze, im Gegenteil, ich hieng mich an seine Rockschösse.“

English original text:
„I was an ablebodied and ableminded young man in the strength of my youth; and my family, then heavily embarrassed, needed my help urgently. That I should have chosen to be a burden to them instead was, according to all the conventions of peasant lad fiction, monstrous. Well, without a blush I embraced the monstrosity. I did not throw myself into the struggle for life: I threw my mother into it. I was not a staff to my father's old age: I hung on to his coat tails.”

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

coming back to you now after having listened several times to the plug-in myself , I hope you do enjoy some of the infelicities of pronunciation inevitable as much as I do. For me, this experience – which is easily explained in terms of the automatic oral reproduction of the blog – called to mind many occasions when my second name was mispronounced in the English-speaking world. After some moments of irritation when I was young I started collecting them as precious moments of linguistic slips the speakers themselves were unaware of and which continued to amuse me as they accumulated over the years. One day I had enough of this perhaps because then I had finally started moving in circles where such things do not occur, so I decided to put pen to paper and wrote what after long gestation has now become a prose text. I am grateful to a Berlin novelist, now in retirement from the public, for suggesting to me to look back sine ira et studio, without anger and with care, that is, at about fifty such texts written over the last two decades and to make up my mind about which one could stand as a poem, while turning the others into prose pieces, which I also did for the following one.

My passion for Oscar Wilde also figures in it.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

summer has fulfilled expectations of heat waves as well as of life slowing down a bit when there is no PC asking you to communicate on the World Wide Web. Indeed, I enjoyed being offline on the East Frisian island of Baltrum very much. In terms of reading matter it was only books and newspapers.

At the same time, thinking through things as well as projects already begun is much easier when horses' hooves and children's shouts and screeches as well as tantrums are the only outside noises apart from those made by the once to threetimes daily ferry or the birds once the tide is in. While I had intended to have an audio/a video section added to this website, which is soon going online for the first time, it was through an e-mail from one of the readers of this blog that I decided to have a plug-in installed as well. So, as of today, you can both read this blog and listen to it when on a train, for example.

I checked some samples today, eliminating, for example, the asterisks from the prose text "Anglo-German Portraits" contained in the Thirtheenth Summer Blog Post. If there are any other infelicities which show up because of the text now being listened to rather than being read by yourself, please do not hesitate to point them out to me.

 

Summer Blog Post Seventeen

Dear readers of my blog,

this being the last instalment of my World Cup Diary for 2014, I don't want to delay your reading of the final chapter by any current remarks other than that referring to the elimination of the German Women's Football Team from this year's World Cup in France at the hands of a strong Swedish side. The latter broke the deadlock after a series of defeats lasting more than twenty years. So it was their turn today, and from what I watched and read they well deserved it. The semifinals have now four physically strong sides facing each other: England vs. USA; Sweden vs. the Netherlands. Perhaps the US can be prevented from winning yet again or even reaching the final.

Leer, 29th June 2019

45

With just over two minutes’ delay we succeeded in leaving the apartment to find us half an hour later at the latter end of a not interminable queue of basically young and youngish people waiting for the “petit guichet” to open at 7.30 p.m. Only when we did arrive at the end of the queue and I discerned the figure of 95 seats with limited visibility was it clear after all that we would enter the Comédie française 1680 on the night. With tickets priced at 5 € per person you cannot complain if you have a wooden seat, half a seat or nothing at all to sit on while you try to bow across the railing to discover what is going on below. We are early, so that we can look leisurely at the gallery of busts of famous French dramatists which includes, of course, Molière and Voltaire.

The former’s last “comédie-ballet”, Le malade imaginaire, is on the play-bill tonight but I must admit that I have never read that play before, nor have I so much as attended the performance of a classical French play at such a prestigious venue. It is what the French call a “spectacle”, spectacular in the sense that everything seems calculated at achieving some effect but I’m not convinced of every single spectacular moment as a part and parcel of an organic whole.

 

Summer Blog Post Sixteen

Dear readers of my blog,

writing to the moment” is a sentence made famous by the essayist of partly Irish descent William Hazlitt, and it still makes sense – either for a diarist or a blogger. I have been keeping diaries since 1987, most of which lying in drawers or kept in chests and hardly ever looked at, let alone exploited systematically. At the moment, they are still only an arm's length away and could help solve some questions where memories either fail to exist or keep cropping up in an inconclusive manner. For the year 1994, however, the calendar I used only allowed for noting appointments and perhaps some cryptic remarks. So I rely on other sources. And memories of all shades start to accumulate once they had been triggered by one or two key-words.

Having browsed for the first time and for some minutes in the review copy of Aldous Huxley, a biography by Uwe Rasch and Gerhard Wagner (Theiss, 2019), the first comprehensive book of its kind to appear in German, I was immediately struck by the remark that – as opposed to most of his contemporaries – Huxley lost the largest part of his personal library as well as the MSS and TS of his works in a fire in California in 1961. This certainly is a serious impediment for any literary biographer. When working for the centenary Symposium held at Münster in 1994, I was of course aware of this but having moved on I must admit that I had completely forgotten about this tragic event in Huxley's life, though I later recalled that I also studied the typescript of Island a lot, the only novel that was still unpublished in 1961.

 

 

Summer Blog Post 15

Dear readers of my blog,

Wilde's four years at Oxford ended in a “Double First”, and it is said everyone was surprised by this success. If today the last six months before the finals at Oxford are still without any tutorials and lectures, it is highly probable that this was already the case in his time. So nobody knew what he did when not socialising. Working seriously, as the authors of Bluffocracy (2018) is not encouraged in certain courses, least in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, PPE in short, which since 1920 has “created” quite a lot of Prime Ministers, not least David Cameron, the architect of the current catastrophe of Britain, while Theresa May had studied geography, also at Oxford University. The current favourite in the leadership contest, however, like Wilde read Greats but his degree was only an upper second class one.

 

Summer Blog Post Fourteen

Dear readers of my blog,

summer time being football tournament time on several continents, I had reason to write my impressions both in 2010, 2014 and last year, in 2018, and this year I also recall what happened forty-five years ago, since the calendar is the same as in 1974, and suddenly the idea arose to think of the past in periods of five years.

In 1974, at age twelve,I watched my first World Cup taking place in Germany, and the day after the final in Munich we did a one-day-class trip to the Overseas Museum at Bremen when all the twelve-year-old children of 6e were packed in one carriage with four seats on each side of the narrow aisle, the boys all wearing shorts. While I fail to recall anything we may have said about the World Cup, I have always remembered the location of the museum just outside Bremen Main Station. Later in the summer, I would travel to Britain for the first time, taking the boat at Calais and becoming very seasick on the voyage out.

 

Summer Blog Post Thirteen

Dear readers of my blog,

there was no procrastination on my part concerning no. 13, I can admit that without any remorse. On the contrary, for various reasons, unmentionable here, I rather like this number. My week since Tuesday has been so busy that I was simply unable to continue this blog.

Today, however, with the summer recess at school coming ever closer, and most of all duties now to be fulfilled when I am there rather than when staying at home, I again felt up to thinking of continuation. The poetic text I insert today before football takes over has been in the making for at least fifteen years, while I had the first idea when attending the 65th anniversary symposium held for Hans Walter Gabler at Innsbruck in late January 2003. At the time, though, I thought it might become a study. Now I am happy to see it has become a prose text consisting of short paragraphs rather than a poem which it was until early 2018 when one of the dedicatees had raised doubts about the justification I had for some texts to type them in the form of verse rather than prose.

Anglo-German relations:

An anthology of pen-portraits

 

Summer Blog Post Twelve

Dear readers of my blog,

working in several languages is my bread-winning job. Mostly, I change between German and English, German and French. Recently, however, a fourth language has returned, Italian. Eighteen years ago, I was delighted to spend about a mid-winter week in Bologna where a Ford Madox Ford conference was held which I attended realizing that among the forty odd speakers I was the only one in my late thirties not to have a proper university job. Since the publication of an illustrated biography and the translation of the first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray in an uncensored edition had not allowed me to breathe more freely owing to a sharp increase of royalties, this insight into my economic situation as a translator and writer kept me busy for another few months until I realized that it was time to change professions.

 

Summer Blog Post Eleven

Dear readers of my blog,

if father and son are both writers, the chances they see similar things similarly and at the same time, while not necessarily talking about their parallel activities, are high. This is what I found out two years ago when trying to find those papers that should be preserved by the Westphalian Writers’ Archives at Münster that had agreed to take my father’s literary estate. Mind, he is still alive and now again an active reader, something he had always been but mostly with a purpose in mind. In his present situation, he can do what he likes, and so I send him my current work once it is published.

 

Summer Blog Post Ten

Dear readers of my blog,

today is “Bloomsday”, now universally celebrated by fans of James Joyce's novel Ulysses as the festival of a single day in the Dublin of 1904. Eighteen years ago, I was invited to speak to an audience at Nuremberg about the third chapter, entitled “Proteus”. Then, I still travelled from Münster in Westphalia to whatever haunts I was asked to share with readers of James Joyce. At the time, I had already realized that this period of my life was running out of steam for I earned hardly anything from the proceeds of my pen as translator and writer of biographies – the first one of which on Oscar Wilde had been published in September 2000. So the contact with Maria Eger at Nuremberg started by a phone call of hers some time earlier was rewarding in the sense that I felt my hobby-horse was going to remain one in the future and that I would not be obliged to toe the academic as well as the commercial line for much longer.

Exhilarated by the perspective of doing what I wanted to do, I also wrote a poem to introduce my talk. Here it is: To this day most of my occasional poems have not seen the light of day, while a blog provides me with a good opportunity to combine literary interests in Wilde and Joyce as well as others such as politics and football.

 

Summer Blog Post Nine

Dear readers of my blog,

as you can see when typing in https://site.unibo.it/wetell-school, there is an interesting summer school about storytelling as an important impulse to create civic awareness which is going to take place at Bologna University in early July. As an active teacher of modern languages, I often revert to telling stories, most of them experienced myself, in order to catch students' attention, particularly when they are too young to understand abstract concepts such as civic responsibility, awareness and difficult lessons to be learned from history.

Both Oscar Wilde, the main subject of this blog, and Tanya Josefowitz as well as Anne Frank tell stories rather than spread their word in terms of theories. Even when addressing theoretical subjects Wilde more often than not uses the literary form of a dialogue with fictitious characters to tell the story he has in mind.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

returning late on Wednesday evening after an extremely long day at Ulrichsgymnasium Norden, I had hoped to relax on day one after Anne Frank's 90th birthday. The opposite was the case, since a day filled with meetings including the odd one with some of my students who had just received their matriculation results made it difficult to stop thinking about the day and the last two years spent with about thirty-five of this year's graduates. And while one student said that Anne Frank was just one witness to her, others who had accompanied groups to see the travelling exhibition two years ago saw her as the symbol of resistance she still is today.

 

Summer Blog Post Seven

Dear readers of my blog,

yesterday, I also discovered that for decades a friend of Anne Frank, Laureen Nussbaum, that is, had fought for the publication of the diary in the form Anne Frank had herself re-written it in, rather than in the collation prepared by Otto Frank. In a sense, he had censored his daughter's work by mixing the two versions. At the moment, I can only speculate about the new translation, while my own impression of the German used in the collated edition is that it is much too flowery. But I say this on the basis of having compared two or three pages of the German with the very terse English text I read the whole diary in.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

writing on the 90th birthday of Anne Frank who died in Bergen-Belsen, Lower Saxony, in February or March 1945, it is not difficult to establish a relationship with Oscar Wilde – though many of the multitude of her readers might not know yet why.

I was quite excited on discovering the following quotations and have been looking forward to introduce Anne Frank into this blog for some time. Maybe you are surprised, too.

Starting on 1st July 1944, roughly 75 years ago, that is, Anne noted some excerpt from “An Ideal Husband” in her “Book of Beautiful Sentences” which is included in the “Complete Works” but not in the diary as translated into English, for example.

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

writing up on ongoing football events, while professional obligations – picking up the loose threads at the end of the school year as well as awarding prizes or waiting for possible oral exams – concern certain administrative tasks – is not an easy job when the main topic is supposed to be Oscar Wilde. All the same, you can always try to think about the Irishman's work in terms of current events. On Whit Monday, for example, I tried to rethink the ending of my preface to the essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism” in the sense of Irish history from Wilde's lifetime to the present day crisis. This is all the more useful as the current crisis of the United Kingdom touches both Ireland as a whole and the European Union. I like to play with figure, so that the very last sentence I noted runs as follows: “It is since 2016 at the very latest that the Irish know why they once joined the EU, and facing twenty-six other European states united behind the Republic of Ireland, British politicians should have learned by now that this situation is highly symbolic of what is going to happen sooner or later: the twenty-six counties of Ireland will one day be re-united!”

 

 

Summer Blog Post Four

Dear readers of my blog,

while it is gratifying to note that Internet activity in the past six months has resulted in finding this blog through the normal search machine, this view on Oscar Wilde is still perhaps only perceived by very few – the “happy few”, he might have quipped. Rightly so, since it needs some reflection to be able to think beyond the trodden paths and and to undeceive oneself about what is going on around us. Wilde was always able to point out undercurrents while apparently being someone who assimilated himself well in the English society of his day and age.

He was a conservative at heart, an Irish patriot, and someone who knew when he saw an injustice. This is one strand of his thought prominent in the essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism”, a new German edition of which Elsinor Verlag has just published in my translation. Here are the bibliographical details:

Oscar Wilde

Des Menschen Seele im Sozialismus

Aus dem Englischen neu übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen

sowie einem Vorwort versehen von Jörg W. Rademacher

Nachwort von Michael Szczekalla

Taschenbuch | 108 pp. | € 12,00 [D]

Elsinor Verlag, Coesfeld

ISBN 978-3-942788-42-7

 

 

while it would be worth our while conversing about football as Wilde's contemporaries might have talked the scandals about town in the interval of a comedy of manners performed at the Haymarket, for example, I still want to link both activities. So tonight I compared the published review of a novel that appeared on 31st May 2019 with what I had sent in some weeks before. As usual in recent months, the editor cut the text. Let's not speculate here.

I'd rather have you read in English what I actually wrote about Alexander Pechmann's novel “The Hooded Crow” (“Die Nebelkrähe”) and what I would have liked to write if there had been more space to do so

 

Dear readers of my blog,

watching the highlights of the Nations League semi-finals with Portugal beating Switzerland and the Netherlands coming back against England to win following two decisive defensive blunders in extra-time, I thought that the old truth still holds: no matter how good you are up front, it is always the back four and the goalkeeper who make you lose a match and a title. You can never control Cristiano Ronaldo absolutely, nor can you prevent the Dutch from attacking, but as in 2018 when both Bayern Munich and Liverpool lost to Real Madrid for lack of cynicism, the team beaten on Wednesday or Thursday last failed to control the ball when in their own third of the ground.

Friday, 7th June 2019


Before uploading this post, let me briefly say that watching women’s football matches live at the World Cup in Germany in 2011 has made me a fan of their more playful variant as well. So I tuned in the first half of the France v. South Korea tie yesterday evening and have just followed the highlights of Germany v. China. The Équipe tricolore seem to justify their status as favourites in their home tournament, while the young German side, who beat France some months ago, had to work very hard to clinch the match by one goal to nil, showing some frightening weaknesses – similar to those blunders made by the English defence on Thursday – which, however, the Chinese failed to profit from, someone only prevented by a ball hitting the post from taking the lead.

Saturday, 8th June 2019

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

before you start to wonder about what I am doing now, let me briefly explain that opening my drawer of unpublished texts on football matches I do not intend to leave the literary sphere at all. Having decided early on, way before I had come of age that watching football would be the activity I might stick to rather than trying in vain to imitate my peers, I was glad one day to discover that Oscar Wilde had been a strictly non-playing member of an Oxford University Cricket Club. At least he was a club member. I never joined a football club. At the same time, as a man of letters with many favourite writers I also like many different football teams and ways of playing the game. So writing about it allows me to combine two passions, and since the book market in that respect does not like to accommodate books like the one I wrote five years ago I try my luck by dividing the diary entries into blog posts. Some of them will certainly include references to events taking place this summer, while the gist recalls impressions from the Brazil World Cup in 2014.

 

Dear readers of my blog,

on day one after the latest European Elections I cannot but reflect on this event that has had eleven editions since 1979 when, just turned seventeen, I only could take part by counting votes in Unna, Westphalia, where I grew up.

Today, Monday, 27th May 2019, I did not wake up to see surprising banner headlines, as did Britons back in June 2016 who had gone to bed thinking that the Remainers would clinch the day only to wake up with the Leavers being the winners who have not, as it seems now, taken all.

 

On Wednesday, 8th May 2019, the 74th anniversary of VE Day as well as the 70th anniversary of the vote taken by the "Parliamentary Council" that allowed the German Basic Law to be signed on 23rd May 1949, about 35 people attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition "Tanya Josefowitz and Anne Frank at 90. A Life of Resistance" in room F0 of the arts building of Ulrichsgymnasium Norden. The headmaster, Mr. Wolfgang Grätz, spoke briefly on the impossibility of finding words to sum up the horrors committed before and during World War Two. Then Frau Elke Scheiner read three passages chosen from "I Remember" in the translation originally made for the laying of stepping-stones in front of the house in Worms where the Kagan family had lived until February 1938.

An exhibition of posters prepared by classes 9b (Anne Frank) and 10b (Tanya Josefowitz) is going to open in the arts building at Ulrichsgymnasium Norden on 8th May 2019. The opening ceremony is at 3.30 p.m. in Room F03, at Fräuleinshof, Norden. Frau Elke Scheiner, the initiator of the project and personal friend of Tanya Josefowitz is going to read passages from the memoir in German. Thereafter, the exhibition is open Monday to Friday to 24th May with special events to be announced for 17th May and for 12th June, the 90th birthday of either Tanya Josefowitz or Anne Frank.

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

returning from Marseilles on Sunday last, where I had attended the spring conference of the Relais de la Mémoire, I had just a little bit of respite, staying at home for merely one or two hours more, only to learn the next day that my early train had been cancelled. This piece of news from one of the regular commuters to Norden immediately brought back the main hitch of our journey to the Mediterranean. We were only fifteen minutes late in Frankfort for the TGV to Marseilles, and at the information desk a friendly lady told us that we would be held up in Lyons that evening – only two hours by TGV from Marseilles!

We had not anticipated such an adventure, while having been kept in the dark by the very unfriendly conductor on the train to Frankfort about “such internal matters” not concerning the traveller as catching

 

 

Dear readers of my blog,

today I am writing my new post on the eve of a trip to Marseilles. As some of you may know my bread-winning job is teaching modern languages at a Gymnasium in East Frisia, which is in the North-Western pocket of Germany just facing the Netherlands. So whenever we travel South, we start off at the North Sea and don't stop until we have reached the Mediterranean, covering about 1,600 km in the process and linking our school with three Lycées at Marseilles plus several others from Paris, Tournai, Vienna and one grammar school from Newcastle. This is the last pre-Brexit meeting of the organisation called Relai de la Mémoire Junior, originally founded in 1989 by survivors of the Shoah and former deportees and resistance fighters to keep alive the memory of the atrocities committed in the Second World War.

As it happens, both Oscar Wilde, the main topic of this blog and website, and Tanya Josefowitz, the Jewish lady I have been writing about lately in my posts, also pass on memories of traumatic experiences. And like John Bercow, the current very controversial Speaker of the House of Commons, Wilde and Josefowitz like to be witty, too.

 

7th March 2019

Dear readers of my blog,

while teaching writing various text types to my students – no matter whether in English, French, or German – I consider writing myself quite a challenge since it means to negotiate between what I regard as essential for adolescents who need to write for “marks” or “credits” and what I feel imperative to do once writing needs to pass the “reality test”. In writing a blog, I am glad to notice that not all bloggers keep addressing their audience throughout the entry, and that there are also quite sober ways of talking to the readers on the Internet.

Today I begin by publishing a poem based on a research into the words following that of “translator” in an English dictionary which I wrote when I was still recovering from two years of immersion into the world of Oscar Wilde. Here it is:

 

 

Welcome to my blog,

Writing post-Holocaust remembrance day, after the 27th of January, that is, I only need to mention that this year, at Leer, the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945 was devoted to gay men whom the National-Socialists as of 1935 had totally criminalized. So Oscar Wilde’s predicament is present among us even if he died already in 1900. Having just completed the translation into English of biographical sketches of detainees held in Esterwegen and other Emsland Concentration and Convicts’ Camps between 1933 and 1945, I was reminded more than once of Oscar Wilde – in particular since the men detained for that reason were not prominent at. Unlike Wilde, or, the Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936, Carl von Ossietzky, they had no-one to “talk about them”. At the same time, Wilde’s prison writings are a constant reminder of what literature can do. It is in this vein that I want to introduce another book which has now arrived at the production stage.

Welcome to my blog,

little did I imagine before that without adding too many extra pages to my website that I would start, within a few months of beginning this adventure, to unfold many of my interests that I have only had the chance to develop in the criticism section of Irland Almanach. This was an annual I co-edited with four German friends which from 1999 through 2002 portrayed things Irish in German but which the publishers for lack of funds sadly discontinued after the fourth isssue entitled "The Celtic Tiger". One aspect we dealt with was music of all kinds, in my case classical music. So I had been looking forward to a concert at Leer, East Frisia, for some months in which Andrew Manze was to conduct the Radiophilharmonic Orchestra Hanover in a programme with Beethoven, Brahms, the violin concerto, and the Fifth Symphony in D-Major by Ralph Vaughan-Williams. I had hoped for a festival, and I was not deceived. However, in the context both of this blog and the current crisis in the British Isles the concert told me another story, too, which I'd like to unfold now if you care to follow me here.

Welcome to my blog,

it is not unusual for people interested in Oscar Wilde also to be fascinated by politics. Not least since it has become clear that he was more than intrigued by both the Parnell affairs and the movement towards Home Rule for Ireland. More than twenty years after the Belfast Agreement reached on Good Friday 1998, it is certainly clear to the Irish - not including a substantial faction in the North - that what was agreed on then was only possible within the European Union. These days, many commentators both sides of the Channel recall that in general they have always admired and loved the British excentricity while underestimating the problems underlying an inbred skepticism of Europe and the European Union and the very excentricity have always posed for those looking behind the scenes.

 

Welcome to my blog,

today I am going to present you my impressions of a series of detective novels I read last year and of which I wrote four short reviews in German – as yet unpublished. Since all I do here somehow relates to Oscar Wilde, let me briefly state why I consider these books important. Like Wilde who was Irish and lived in England, looking at both countries with the eyes of an outsider, Benjamin Cors looks at France from outside since he lives in Germany and writes in German. It is through Wilde that I have become familiar with such an attitude which means that, superficially, there is a close assimilation to the host culture and language, while, subliminally, there are other currents as well. As a translator, I have become particularly aware of such undercurrents, and I want to point them out in review and other articles which I will insert into my blog at irregular intervals. Consequently, I am going to give them general titles as well as numbers.

 

Welcome to my Oscar Wilde blog,

while it is not yet clear whether this is going to be a monthly blog or a bi-monthly one, it is pretty clear to me that I have been looking for such a mode of communication for quite some time since Oscar Wilde is still very much a public figure who might have taken a controversial part in many a debate if he had survived the turn of the last century.

 

Georges Victor-Hugo (1868-1925): Prussian Schoolmaster

writing on Oscar Wilde on a regular basis means to start searching for points of reference in one's everyday life. This week it was his 164th birthday when I had no chance to think of him for I needed to push on with a major marking task at school. The next day, however, 17th October 2018, I had much time to think things over as I took several trains to the South-West of Germany, the university town of Tübingen, that is. It was here that German writer and Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse did an apprenticeship in a bookstore, and I still remember quite clearly the stuffy place I browsed in once or twice when I first stayed in the town in April and, once again, in September and October 1990.

it has been my wish to spread the word about Oscar Wilde for a long time, while I hesitated to go beyond having books and articles printed. I still do distrust web mechanisms when they are controlled by large money-making institutions, just as I do not fancy one-sided presentations for the sake of silencing minority views. So it took a long time until I finally decided to launch my own blog, concentrating on Oscar Wilde rather than trying to present all my interests.