Monthly Archives: January 2016

Котката на ШрьодингЕР в медиите

Ето интервюто на Силвия Чолева с Милена Николова и Виктор Мухтаров за Котката на ШрьодингЕР в БНР.

milena6

Photo: Anne Meurer

И тук намерите интервюто на Стефан Кръстев с Милена за BG Север (Плевен).

Photo: Chris Enchev, Book Design and illustrations: Victor Muhtarov, Tita Koicheva, Sava Muhtarov
© Photo Anne Meurer 
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Представяне на книгата Котката на ШрьодингЕР!

Не забравяйте: сряда 19.00, +това, Ул. Марин Дринов 30, София – представяне на книгата Котката на ШрьодингЕР! Очакваме ви! 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shady Side

Norman Tweed Whitaker, the “hero” of this biography is a Dickensian figure: he was both, full of genius and a devil at the same time. Coming from an educated upper middle class family – his father was a high school principle in Philadelphia – Whitaker (1890-1975) became a patent attorney that held also a degree in German literature; his great talent as a chess player made him a dangerous opponent for any player and earned him the US Master title and in 1965 the title of an International Master (that was before the “title inflation” when this title meant still a lot).

Among the masters he defeated in serious games were the legendary players Frank Marshall, David Janowski and Samuel Reshevsky, for decades America’s strongest player (all of them were contenders for the World Championship title); in simuls he even won against Emanuel Lasker and the young Capablanca. The book contains more than 500 games played by Whitaker, some of them annotated. Whitaker was a dangerous tactician with a good endgame knowledge, but the patience for positional play was something he obviously lacked – a mirror of his personality maybe.

Also as a chess promoter Whitaker did more than probably anybody else in the United States for decades to make the game popular: he gave countless exhibition and simultaneous games, organized tournaments, raised funds, worked as a trainer and founded chess clubs, traveled a big deal in the U.S. and abroad to promote the game, co-authored a chess endgame book  – and quarreled a lot with the U.S. Chess Association and people who prevented him to earn the recognition he thought he deserved. He saw himself frequently as a victim of some conspiracy of vicious people that used the threat to expose very personal information about him in order to discredit him and to sidestep him whenever it was possible for them.

This all may be not particularly interesting outside the very specialized circle of chess players or those interested in chess history. But there is an element in this biography that makes it interesting for a wider audience. Whitaker, the cultivated, well-educated patent attorney from a good family and with the chess interest and talent was also a ruthless con man with a long criminal record.

Whitaker was convicted for crimes such as interstate car theft, insurance fraud, extortion and blackmailing (he claimed to know the whereabouts of the kidnapped and murdered Lindbergh baby and was arrested when he tried to extort money for allegedly returning the baby), selling morphine and other drugs via mail, and finally also child molesting. (This list is not complete.)

Grandmaster Arnold Denker who knew him well said about Whitaker:

“His advanced education, high intelligence, command of foreign languages, expensive wardrobe, plentiful ready cash, skill at chess, and confident personal manner all aided in fooling many unsuspecting victims.”

A criminal “career” that spanned over several decades and that earned him various convictions and many years in the jails of Leavenworth and Alcatraz. Therefore it is not surprising that in this well researched and written biography by chess historian John S. Hilbert not only chess masters, but also the Lindbergh family, J. Edgar Hoover and Al Capone (with whom he made friends while serving time in Alcatraz) play a certain role.

What turns a talented, intelligent and rather successful man with a good profession into a criminal? And how did this part of his personality coexist with that of a serious, energetic chess promoter with good contacts in many places? The rather unsettling and surprising answer is: we don’t know. There is no warning sign, no early childhood trauma, no history of being depraved of love and affection by his family that turned Norman T. Whitaker into the ruthless criminal he was. It seems that after the first arrest in 1921 and the following conviction – which was so shocking to his father that he died of a heart attack when he learned about the car theft – Whitaker’s life was like on an inclined plane from which there was no turning back.

An interesting book not only for chess players – thanks to the author’s clever choice of documents and his ability to present us his subject as a person with such contradictory characteristics that they hardly seem to fit into one human being, we get to know a fascinating, weird personality.

„What is it in us that lies, whores, steals, and murders?” (Georg Büchner: Danton’s Death) – that enigma remains still unresolved.

John S. Hilbert: Shady Side: The Life and Crimes of Norman Tweed Whitaker, Chess Master, Caissa Editions, Yorklyn 2000 (ed. Dale Brandreth)

Arnold Denker: Stormin’ Norman, in: ibid, The Bobby Fischer I Knew And Other Stories, p. 262-274, Hypermodern Press 1995

Norman T. Whitaker / Glenn E. Hartleb: 365 Ausgewählte Endspiele: Eines Für Jeden Tag Im Jahr, Selbstverlag, Heidelberg 1960

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Two anecdotes about Robert Musil

As mentioned some time ago, I am an unsystematic collector of anecdotes that have writers as subject. Here are two of them about one of the giants of German 20th century literature, Robert Musil.

Musil worked for decades on his unfinished masterpiece Man without Qualities and published comparatively little during his lifetime. As a result of his obsessive efforts, Musil was always living in very precarious financial conditions and during his exile in Switzerland during the last years of his life, he was really destitute.

Musil seemed to have been a proud, extremely self-assured, maybe even arrogant person who had a very high opinion regarding his own abilities as a writer and he detested writers that were (contrary to him) popular and successful. With particular disdain he looked at the output of Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann. While he couldn’t deny that Thomas Mann had talent – and success! – and he probably hated him just because of that, Stefan Zweig was another case. Zweig was according to Musil shallow, superficial, trivial, always responding to the requirements of the market that liked to read another collection of (in Musil’s opinion) not very accomplished novellas or another biography in Reader’s Digest style, Zweig’s slickness and wish to fit in, to be the centre of the attention of a circle of rich people and of the literary establishment, always very much concerned about increasing his bank account, his collection of antiquities and old manuscripts. In short: Stefan Zweig was for Musil the personification of everything that was wrong with the literature of his time.  

Hans Mayer, the great German-Jewish literary critic, writes in his autobiography Ein Deutscher auf Widerruf  how he visited Musil at his home in Switzerland during their emigration. It was 1940, and there was a widespread fear that the Nazis might invade also Switzerland.

“Musil couldn’t get into the USA, and Mayer was suggesting the relative obtainability of Colombian visas as a pis aller. Musil, he wrote, ‘looked at me askance and said: Stefan Zweig’s in South America. It wasn’t a bon mot. The great ironist wasn’t a witty conversationalist. He meant it … If Zweig was living in South America somewhere, that took care of the continent for Musil.’” (quoted by Michael Hofmann: Vermicular Dither, London Review of Books, 28. January 2010)

In the third volume of his autobiography, Elias Canetti describes how he after completion of the manuscript of Die Blendung (Auto-da-fe) in 1931 sent it as a parcel with an accompanying letter to Thomas Mann, hoping that Mann would read it (and possibly recommend it to a publisher). Alas, the parcel came back unopened with a polite letter by Mann, telling the unpublished author that he was not able to read the book due to his work schedule (Mann was working on his multi-volume Joseph novel at that time). The disappointed Canetti put the manuscript aside for a long time, until Hermann Broch arranged a few readings for him in Vienna. One of them was also attended by Musil who allegedly said to Broch: “He reads better than myself.” (Not surprisingly, Canetti was an extremely gifted stage performer in the mould of Karl Kraus.)

Later on, when the novel was finally published in 1935, Canetti wrote again to Mann, who now – four years later! – congratulated Canetti and wrote also very positively about the novel (which in all probability he hadn’t read except for a few pages). With this letter in his pocket and beaming with self-confidence Canetti was running into Musil one day when Musil brought it about himself to also congratulate Canetti. Not knowing about Musil’s strong antipathy regarding Thomas Mann, Canetti blurted out: “Thank you, also Thomas Mann praises my book!” – to which Musil answered with a short “So…”, turning around and ignoring Canetti for the rest of his life.

In defence of Zweig and Mann it has to be added that both writers supported many of their colleagues in need particularly during their time of emigration. Musil was during his last years ironically mainly living from a grant he received from an organisation that supported writers in need and that was mainly funded by – Thomas Mann. Musil knew about that and felt probably terribly humiliated.

Hans Mayer: Ein Deutscher auf Widerruf, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1982/84 (2 vol.) – there is unfortunately no English translation of this highly interesting autobiography.

Elias Canetti: The Play of the Eyes (Das Augenspiel), translated by Ralph Manheim, Farrar Straus Giroux 2006

Michael Hofmann: Vermicular Dither, London Review of Books, Vol. 32, No. 02, p. 9-12, 28 January 2010 – Hofmann’s article is a real assassination of Zweig; very, very harsh and spiteful indeed, but nevertheless worth reading because he points at various serious flaws in Zweig’s writing. 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Котката на ШрьодингЕР – Schrödinger’s Cat: разговор в БНР / A conversation in Bulgarian National Radio

Tomorrow there will be an interview with Milena G. Nikolova, the author and Victor Muhtarov, the main illustrator of our first book (Котката на ШрьодингЕР – Schrödinger’s Cat) in Bulgarian National Radio (BNR).

Literary critic and author Silvia Choleva will talk with them about the book in the framework of ARTEFIR, program “Hristo Botev”, between 12.15 and 14.30. Stay tuned!

Очаквайте утре, 21 януари, четвъртък, в АРТЕФИР на програма “Христо Ботев” на БНР, между 12.15 до 14.30 часа, разговорна на Силвия Чолева с Milena Nikolova и Victor Muhtarov относно авторството им и очакваното от всички нас Представяне на книгата “Котката на Шрьодингер. Субатомен памфлет в реално време” – тяхно съвместно дело, която книга съвсем скоро ще можете да държите и в ръцете си.

Котката на ШрьодингЕР – субатомен памфлет в реално време / Schrödinger’s Cat – a subatomic pamphlet in real time

Автор / Аuthor : Милена Г. Николова / Milena G. Nikolova
Илюстрации / Illustrations: Виктор Мухтаров, Тита Койчева, Сава Мухтаров / Victor Muhtarov, Tita Koicheva, Sava Muhtarov
Издател / Publisher: Ризома / Rhizome, София / Sofia

ISBN 978-619-90544-0-6

Translation rights, more information and a pdf file of the English translation are available on request.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Котката на ШрьодингЕР – Schrödinger’s Cat

Our first book project is ready and is being published these days:

Cat_S_cover

“Schrödinger’s cat, one of the most eccentric protagonists of quantum mechanics, philosophizes in a loud and lyrical manner over its schizophrenic state. Locked up in a box together with a deadly mechanism that can be triggered by the decay of a radioactive nucleus the cat is in a superposed, undecidable state: both dead and alive.

In this paradoxical and hopeless situation the cat begins to analyze itself at various levels. It realizes, for example, that its state of indecision and in-between-ness also bears terrific advantages: it frees from the responsibility to necessarily make a decision. To be – not to be, either – or, male – female, one cat – other cat, nothing but binary codes! Meow! The cat uses this unique opportunity to indulge in rhetorical games by mixing gender, political, cultural, linguistic and racial identity-related differences.

As fleet-footed and playful as a cat, the illustrations made by Victor Muhtarov, Tita and their son Sava lead us through the cat’s pamphlet full of profound black humor.”

Един от най-ексцентричните персонажи на квантовата механика, котката на Шрьодингер*, размишлява на глас, лирично, над шизофреничното си състояние. Затворено от Шрьодингер в кутия с летален механизъм съдържащ атомно ядро в период на полуразпад и отрова, котето, поради липса на алтернативи, е изпълнено с мазохистична любов към безпощадния си създател. То знае, че е част от мисловен експеримент, в който съдбата му е свързана със състоянието на полуразпадналото се атомно ядро. Докато кутията е затворена и наблюдателят не вижда развитието на събитията в нея то е ни живо – ни умряло.
Парадоксалната ситуация на котето, (което само по себе си е само една парадоксална мисъл на един учен) го подтиква към самоанализ на много различни нива. Оказва се, че състоянието на междинност и неопределеност има своите предимства. Отпада отговорността да се вземат решения, отваря се пространство за реторични игри и смесвания на полови, културни, политически, езикови и расови различия в идентичността. Вътрешните конфликти се появяват отново едва при случайната конфронтация с външни наблюдатели изискващи от котето да заеме конкретна позиция. Но диалозите с тях също така му помагат да достигне до новo, съществено прозрение: усещането за право на личен избор и мнение е илюзорно. Всичко зависи от състоянието на атомното ядро в механизма. При тези обстоятелства котето е просто един киборг, сливащ биологични и механични компоненти в една система. Спасение или изход за него може да има само ако системата се отвори.
––––––––
*Котката на Шрьодингер е мисловен експеримент от квантовата механика, представен от Ервин Шрьодингер през 1935 г., с цел да покаже, че пренасянето на понятия от квантовата механика в макросистемите, например обекти с размерите на котка, създава неочаквани проблеми. Според класическата физика, подлежаща основно на законите на Нютон, един обект от макроскопичния свят може да се намира само в едно от множество възможни състояния, а не в няколко състояния едновременно. В квантовата механика, за разлика от класическата физика, една частица може да се намира в няколко състояния едновременно.

(from the book’s FB page)

Котката на ШрьодингЕР – субатомен памфлет в реално време / Schrödinger’s Cat – a subatomic pamphlet in real time

Автор / Аuthor : Милена Г. Николова / Milena G. Nikolova
Илюстрации / Illustrations: Виктор Мухтаров, Тита Койчева, Сава Мухтаров / Victor Muhtarov, Tita Koicheva, Sava Muhtarov
Издател / Publisher: Ризома / Rhizome, София / Sofia

ISBN 978-619-90544-0-6

Information about the book launching event will follow. 

My special thanks to Milena, Victor, Tita, Sava, our editor Kris Enchev and of course to my co-publisher Elitsa Osenska to whom I am deeply indebted.

Translation rights, more information and a pdf file of the English translation are available on request.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


За Кьолн и социални медии в България

Голяма част от коментарите за събитията в Кьолн и в други градове в Германия които прочетох в FB на български са отвратителни, ехидни, злобни, пълен с подлост и аз съм много разочарован от много хора които изпускат такива коментари за тази тема.

Колко сте злорадо, самодоволни – ужасно!

От къде идват вашата патологична омраза към другите хора?

Защо се радвате толкова много когато на други хора се случи нещо лошо?

И аз не говоря за 3-4 коментари, но за стотици.

homo homini lupus: “Човек за човека е вълк”- това е много несправедливо за вълците които са повече по-солидарно помежду си отколкото повечето хора.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bulgarian Literature Month June 2016

Regular readers of this blog will know that Bulgarian literature is very dear to me. This year, I am planning to devote one month to reading exclusively Bulgarian literature.

Since Bulgarian is a so-called “small” language (small regarding the number of speakers, but not of course regarding the literary potential) and is not located in a region that is usually very much in the centre of attention, not much Bulgarian literature is being translated. But there are a few hopeful developments. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation supports the translation of Bulgarian literature in English, the Traduki program sponsors translations in German and South-Eastern European languages and there are now also translation grants from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture/National Cultural Fund plus a few smaller initiatives that also support translations in specific languages.

One of my own modest attempts to support and promote Bulgarian literature is this blog where I frequently review Bulgarian books or translate as a teaser a few lines of poetry by various authors. I firmly believe in the potential of the Bulgarian literature also to be interesting for an international audience. Therefore I will this year have my personal Bulgarian Literature Month in June.

During this month I will publish reviews, a few translations, and maybe a few other things related to Bulgarian literature. More details will follow in May, but for busy readers and bloggers, this early announcement might give you time to think about if you would like to join with at least one post.

There will be no rules, except that the posts need to be related to Bulgarian literature in the widest sense; non-fiction is allowed too, as are books written by Bulgarian-born authors that write in another language, or other works that have in the widest sense a connection with Bulgaria.

If you are a book blogger and you are interested to join, send me a short note. If you don’t have a blog of your own but would be interested to review a book, email me as well. I am considering also to allow guest posts during this month.

In May I will make a few reading suggestions and post more information. A few ideas you can get already from an article by Svetlozar Zhelev in Words Without Borders, but there is more to discover.

It is an experiment and it will be interesting to see if someone is joining in this somehow exotic reading month. 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Address Unknown

Address Unknown is a short epistolary novella with a fascinating plot and a strong message; it was first published in 1938 and its author, Kressmann Taylor, is today almost forgotten.

Max and Martin own a successful art gallery in San Francisco. They are not only business partners but best friends. The bachelor Max is a frequent and welcome guest at Martin’s home and quasi a member of the family; the delicate situation that Max’ sister and Martin have an affair about which Max is aware but keeps quiet to Martin’s wife adds an element of complicity to the relationship between the two friends.

Martin, who has never succeeded in becoming a real American, decides to return to Germany with his growing family. It is the year 1932, and a catastrophe is casting already its long shadows on Germany and Europe. What we read are the fictitious letters and a telegram between Max and Martin, which are an exemplary document for the shocking developments on a large scale in Germany.

The first letters contain the exchange of joint pleasant memoirs, some business news, family developments and also a growing amount of political statements. The friendship between the two once close friends doesn’t survive very long the seizing of the power by the Nazis on 30 January, 1933.

Although Martin has in San Francisco never voiced anti-Semitic opinions, he suddenly talks about the inferiority of the Jews as a race, patronizes local Nazi leaders and finally requests from his former close friend to stop communicating with him. Max reluctantly agrees, but asks for a last time desperately for help from his former friend. His sister has disappeared from her Berlin home and Max’ last letter has returned to him with the stamp “Address Unknown” on it which makes Max fear the worst.

When Martin writes in one of his letters to Max that the pogroms happen because “you (i.e. the Jews) are lamenting all the time, but you don’t have the courage to fight back”, he is committing a serious error that will cost him dearly.

As readers we can relate to both main characters, even to Martin. He is neither a sadist nor a born Jew-hater. He is a victim of the times and political circumstances in which he is entangled; he is a weakling and coward; he has too much to lose and he loves his wealth which he likes to show off a little bit too much – the combination of these characteristics make him the perfect Nazi follower and tool of their policy – just as millions of others that would have been in all probability decent persons and good friends, were it not for the specific circumstances in which they lived.

In a time of growing racism, populism and fascism in many countries, I would like to see this small book read much more; it is an antidote against these evils – and it sets an example that indeed individuals can fight back the Nazis or similar regimes and their followers; maybe not all is lost as long as people are aware that they are usually not completely powerless and can sometimes fight back with success.

A small and very impressive book.

(Kathrine) Kressmann Taylor: Address Unknown, Washington Square Press 2001

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


An everyday occurrence

An excellent book by one of my favourite Turkish authors! I am happy that this book is available now also in Bulgarian.

But why does the Bulgarian publisher use three photos on the cover and the back and is not even mentioning the photographer (most probably Ara Güler)? – this is a very bad, disrespectful habit, and it is infringing the moral right of the author of these photographs. Maybe it was an oversight, but in any case I wish publishers in Bulgaria would be more sensitive regarding intellectual property rights and the moral rights of an author. Bulgaria has signed international conventions and is a member state of relevant international bodies – so this is not something that can be treated the way it is in this case and even more outrageous in another case that occurred recently where a big part of the content of a book was copied and re-published without mentioning even the original authors – an obvious act of theft.

It would be good if the Bulgarian Book Association would enforce a Code of Ethics that excludes and penalizes such practices – instead of issuing high penalties to exhibitors on the Book Fair in Sofia that leave their booth on the last day a few minutes before the official closing.

Do you know about similar cases of copyright fraud or lack of acknowledgement of the moral and intellectual property rights of authors in your country?

Sait Faik Abasıyanık: Malki Hora (Саит Фаик Абасъянък: Малки Хора), transl. Kadrie Dzhesur, Prozoretz, Sofia 2015  – a German edition, published by Unionsverlag in 1991 under the title Ein Lastkahn eines Lebens seems to be out of print; there is no English translation according to my knowledge.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.