Summer Blog Post Three

Wilde and Football

Summer Blog Post Three

Summer Blog Post Three

Dear readers of my blog,

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.

Pechmann has translated many English and Irish books into German, so that he is certainly aware of the different cultures in the British isles. He may have written this novel for hidden reasons as well as obvious ones.

It is quite clear that he is fascinated both with the First World War and its aftermath in the 1920s on an individual psychological level, something Virginia Woolf had already written about in her novel “Mrs. Dalloway”.

The hidden agenda I perceive in the well-written book has something to do with the fact that translators as experts of foreign cultures are hardly ever allowed to write as they would be if the text had not been a translation but their own creation in German, in this case. This simply means that you may easily get away with inventing certain terms if it’s your own language. Neologisms become a much more difficult issue if you act as a translator. Every time you need to argue with the responsible editor, if not with the author himself or herself.

Back to the novel in hand: Pechmann tells the story of Peter Vane, the name ringing a bell with anyone aware of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” as that of Sybil Vane, the actor, her mother, and brother.

Peter Vane, a mathematician who survived World War One in the hope of eventually clinching a place at a London University to read maths, was not allowed to read novels when a child. His life, as told in bits and pieces, while he tries to resolve the riddle of the many voices haunting his present, is closely linked to the afterlife of Oscar Wilde. Not the least puzzling thing is a photograph a friend in the trenches had given him before disappearing.

Anybody who knows “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and Wilde’s life as well as his afterlife appearances in sessions of researchers of the supernatural will like this story torn between reality and obsessions.

Leer, Saturdary 8th June 2019



5

Walking the streets of Vienna and roaming the quarters in my tramway seat, I perceive both the glamour of today’s shopping areas and the dilapidation if not misery of yesteryear’s glory if a street or a building is not considered worth conservation. Breakfast partaken of in a local bakery makes this meal almost as French in style as it surpasses the tastiness of many such products nowadays available in many places outside either Austria or Vienna. Eating out Irish or French yesterday, choosing fish in either case, I’m in for another French menu today in the Palais where, surrounded by a huge park, the Institut français de Vienne is located. It’s a pity that they are going to sell the premises after almost seventy years.

In what is part of the two-day Salon du livre I attend a presentation of philosophy picture books for children considered “too opaque” for primary school and “too rich in illustrations” for secondary school students by the French national body responsible for the selection of didactic materials. In fact, Jean-Paul Mongin, the young series editor and author of some of its instalments, explains that both book buyers and the children whom he had had the chance to meet at readings and in workshops reacted quite differently, if not in direct opposition to what the officials expected. There is no reason to believe that, given the right context, children will fail to respond to philosophical questions put in the right narrative and imaginative context. Unafraid of “sanctions” and feeling sure of not having to “learn the answers to questions” that are going to be asked of them in a test, Mongin goes on, these pupils would and did respond without any restraint, thus taking off their usual masks of either indifference or boredom.

       At the book fair in the park, I acquire a copy of Beaumarchais’ three Figaro plays, perusing the chronology right away, which only confirms my idea expressed on buying the book that Vienna is the right place for this volume since it wasn’t only here that Mozart’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro was written, it was as a secret agent that Beaumarchais had come to Vienna in pursuit of a rumour about the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette remaining without issue.

Vienna, Hotel Baronesse, Saturday, 14th June 2014

 

***

Retrospective or pre-match films show that the experts agree on the Spanish disaster as opposed to the Dutch triumph, while the German players seem very reticent when asked for comments. They are waiting for their own first clash with Portugal on Monday.

       An inspiring reading by the member of the Académie française, Dany Laferrière, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, at the French Institute, which was actually an interview interspersed with a few passages of prose and poetry read by the interviewer, proved more than a preview for the dinner provided by the mobile crêperie and and also mobile wine bar into which the raw wooden benches and tables of the book fair had been converted by means of lily-white paper banners.

Signing all the copies of his books that had been for sale in the lobby of the red salon, Dany Laferrière makes a point of asking for everyone’s name before drawing a flower and noting in my case: “For Jörg, I give you my voice.” Clearly recalling my words about the sensuousness of his voice, which he said he would pass on to his mother, Dany Laferrière seems to be a man of the words he doesn’t keep to himself but reserves for the writing in which he sets out to “distribute his anguish” in the world. He is self-confident but also modest and doesn’t mention that he as a writer allows many people to find words for their various individual predicaments. In the novel I buy after the reading, Vers le Sud [1], I even find a Wildean aphorism explaining my own attitude before I had met Lafferière: “Well, well! I like encountering the man before finding about the works.” The first-person narrator’s interlocutor replies, following a moment of surprise: “I am like that, too … If I don’t like the man, even if the works are brilliant, the latter won’t interest me…” (p. 114)

       When it was almost dark I walked over to the public viewing space in the former General Hospital where it seemed as if Uruguay was winning one nil until Costa Rica scored twice within three minutes. They added a third after 84 minutes, showing that the old hands of Uruguay, like those of Spain, had probably seen their zenith three years ago when they won Copa América.

       The midnight game at Manaus (our time, that is), is another surprise as both teams have clear goalmouth opportunities before scoring one each in the first half. The German experts favour the English team. I don’t. The Italian defence is not comparable to that of earlier teams, but after two missed chances in time added on of the first half Mario Balotelli finally scores early in the second.

       This time it looks like Italy could survive the first two or three minutes after taking the lead. The reporter keeps wishing for Rooney’s first-ever World Cup goal. He did provide a perfect assist for Sturridge’s equalizer. Another close miss by Rooney a few minutes later proves that Italy must not try only to hold on to their lead. Buffon’s substitute has much work on his hands with his defenders conceding more corners than in times bygone. At full time it is England one Italy two.

Vienna, Hotel Baronesse, 1.50 a.m., Sunday, 15th June 2014

 


[1] Paris: Livre de Poche, 2012.

 

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