Monthly Archives: April 2016

Das BGH-Urteil zur VG-Wort-Ausschüttung

Es ist schon ein wenig überraschend, wie sich in Deutschland die Diskussion über das jüngste BGH-Urteil zum Urheberrecht und zur Verteilung der Kopierabgabe (und der finanziell weit weniger ergiebigen Bibliotheksabgabe) durch die VG Wort gestaltet: da wird von Vielen so getan, als ob uns der BGH etwas Neues sagt, was nicht schon längst auf europäischer Ebene geklärt war (siehe EuGH-Urteil HP vs. Reprobel), da giften sich Autoren, die die Verleger in ihrer Haltung unterstützen und Autoren, die die Verleger als Ausbeuter ansehen in sozialen Medien und anderen öffentlichen Stellungnahmen in manchmal recht unfeiner Weise an – häufig ohne verstanden zu haben, um was es eigentlich geht. Und dann teilen uns auch noch Philosophen(!) ihre maßgebliche Interpretation schwieriger urheberrechtlicher Fragestellungen mit – das hat durchaus manchmal etwas Belustigendes, auch wenn das Thema natürlich für alle Beteiligten sehr ernst ist. 

Dass das deutsche System der Verteilung der Urheberrechtsabgaben auf Kopien in seiner gegenwärtigen Form – Aufteilung auf Autoren und Verlage zu gleichen Teilen – europarechtswidrig ist, war im übrigen seit dem o.g. Reprobel-Urteil längst klar. Aus demselben Urteil geht auch hervor, dass wir hier nicht nur Zeuge einer Umverteilung von Geldern von den Verlegern hin zu den Autoren werden, sondern auch, dass die eingesammelten Beträge der Kopierabgabe europaweit in Ländern mit vergleichbaren Systemen (also z.B. Deutschland, Frankreich, Belgien, Niederlande) einen starken Rückgang erleben werden (aufgrund des Verbots der doppelten Abgabenerhebung pro Gerät und Kopie bei Kopierern), von der hauptsächlich die Gerätehersteller und –importeure dieser Geräte profitieren werden; ein weiterer Grund für den starken Rückgang der Ertragskraft der Kopierabgabe liegt in der wachsenden Bedeutung von virtuell gespeicherten Kopien – die Cloud unterliegt nun mal keiner Kopierabgabe und die Bedeutung der klassischen Speichermedien wird auch in Zukunft weiterhin drastisch abnehmen.

Aus all dem ergibt sich daher ohnehin schon, dass das bestehende System der Verteilung der Kopierabgabe durch die VG Wort nicht nur rechtswidrig, sondern auch aus technologischen Gründen nicht zukunftsfähig ist und man früher oder später über ein grundlegend neues System der Autorenentlohnung für “fair use”-Kopien nachdenken muss.

Länder wie Norwegen oder Finnland sind da schon sehr viel weiter. Dort gibt es vom Steuerzahler finanzierte Fonds, aus denen die Autoren für Kopien ihrer Werke kompensiert werden, und man muss kein Hellseher sein um zu verstehen, dass auch in Deutschland früher oder später ein nicht nach Speichermedien diskriminierendes und von tatsächlichem Kopieren unabhängiges System eingeführt werden wird, welches aus Steuermitteln getragen sein wird. 

Dass das Reprobel-Urteil und sein BGH-Folgeurteil selbstredend zu einer starken Reduktion publizierter Titel – insbesondere “riskante” weniger marktgängige Titel – und sehr wahrscheinlich auch zu einem tendenziellen Absenken der generellen Autorenhonrare in Deutschland führen wird, sei nur nebenbei bemerkt. Einige Verlage werden wegen erheblicher rückwirkender Forderungen wohl in die Insolvenz getrieben werden. Es sei denn, man findet schnell ein vernünftiges Nachfolgemodell.

Anstatt sich also in unsinnigen Zankereien zu verlieren, sollten alle Beteiligten sich schnellstmöglich zusammensetzen und ein zukunftsfähiges und nachhaltiges Nachfolgemodell entwickeln; dabei muss selbstverständlich auch der Gesetzgeber einbezogen werden. Zum Nulltarif, d.h. ohne finanzielle Einbeziehung der öffentlichen Haushalte und des Steuerzahlers wird eine vernünftige und rechtskonforme Lösung im Sinne aller Beteiligten wohl nicht zu haben sein. 

© 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.

News from Retardistan (6): “Citizen Arrest”

My opinion on the so-called “citizen arrest” of refugees/migrants by self-proclaimed vigilante groups in Bulgaria (which consist mainly of criminal thugs with a long track record of delinquency, and of other “subjects” from the dregs of the Bulgarian society):

The so-called “citizen arrest”, the detention of people who cross the border by citizens who are not part of the police forces or other entitled state organs, is a criminal act – as is obvious by the law, and by the statements of the Bulgarian Attorney General and by the Ministry of Interior. It is according to the Bulgarian Penal Code a criminal offence, punishable with up to six years prison. The vigilante are obviously criminals, and those who applaud their actions are applauding the actions of criminals.

It is up to the relevant authorities alone to exercise law and order. It is up to the relevant authorities alone to decide if someone that entered the country has broken any law by doing so. It is up to the relevant authorities alone to decide if someone has a right to stay in the country or not. It is up to the relevant authorities alone to decide if someone will be granted asylum or not.

A constitutional state can under no circumstances allow that self-proclaimed groups arm themselves and declare themselves as taking over part of the tasks and responsibilities of the government and the state institutions of the executive power. A constitutional state must guarantee at all times that he and he alone exercises the sole executive power and must guarantee at all times that the constitutional rights and human rights of Bulgarian citizens and all other people are respected and that they are protected by the law at all times. A constitutional state has a monopoly on the using of force and violence within clearly defined legitimate limits; any group or person who is acting outside this framework and without legitimacy must be considered a criminal and put on trial.

Politicians that promote or encourage such groups show that they are openly supporting criminal acts against people and against the constitutional system of Bulgaria. It goes without saying that such politicians are not fit for service; in case they have an office, they must immediately step down and face the legal consequences of their words and actions.

The relevant law enforcement institutions need to urgently scrutinize this obvious breach of the law by Bulgarian politicians. That goes also for politicians like Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who must step down immediately after his unsupportable statements and actions in this context, but also for ex-president Parvanov, or for ex-Foreign Minister Passy, and many others who openly support and promote criminal groups. (I am not even mentioning here for obvious reasons the ATAKA nutcases, the VMRO racists, the DPS mutra cronies and the so-called “patriots” from the right and left parties, whose activities should be also for many other reasons scrutinized by the law enforcement agencies.)

I am truly shocked by the huge support the bloodthirsty thugs who hunt down refugees and other people in Bulgaria who don’t look sufficiently “Bulgarian” with machetes, clubs, and other murder weapons have in public and social media and in all layers of Bulgarian society. The level of verbal and physical brutality, the open racism I witness every time I am in Bulgaria against minorities and vulnerable groups is deeply disturbing and I have recently more and more moments when I am becoming very pessimistic regarding the long-term perspectives for this country, which seems – as I think now frequently – to have lost its soul, heart and ethics. And even its mind. 

© 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.

I love science!

Scientific progress never stops – there seems to be no field in which day by day scientists make new discoveries. While I can of course not keep track of all of them, from time to time I come across something that really gets me interested. Such as this new study in the field of psychology. OK, that’s not the study itself but just a short media report on it, but don’t be such a language Nazi!

Because, as this study by scientists from the University of Michigan suggests, people obsessed with grammar are not as nice as the rest of us.

The study: the scientists showed three different sets of emails to a group of people; one set was with no mistakes, one set contained typos, and one set contained grammatical errors. The participants had to judge the three sets, and the individual participants showed of course differences in their attitude towards mistakes. The participants in this test underwent also psychological tests based on the so-called Big Five Personality index – and guess what? There is indeed a correlation between being an “agreeable” person and judging grammar errors lightly, as being not very important, and on the other hand being a “less agreeable” person who is more intolerant and harsh when it comes to accept grammatical errors.

In short: nice people accept typos and grammatical errors, not so nice people who care for orthography and correct grammar, score very low in the Big Five Personality index, and are therefore rightfully referred to as grammar Nazis.

Me thinks that this is wonderful news! Although, as a social scientist, I had at first some serious doubts regarding the chosen methodology, but then I realized that this is all not important. After all, I am an agreeable person with a high Big Five Personality index score.

It is wonderful news for various reasons:

School children will not need any longer to be tortured by less agreeable teachers who are so terribly intolerant as to insist on correct writing and grammar. We want these grammar Nazis out of school asap! If I think about how many traumas these children had to suffer – and all just because of some not so nice people who torture them with orthography and grammar, it just makes me sad.

Publishers will be very glad too – they will need no longer go through the process of proofreading and editing of texts. That will save them a lot of money, will make the books cheaper and the readers more happy! Just to think about that maybe several grammar policemen were tormenting the author with their unpleasant and unagreeable character, forcing him to correct his orthography, and – imagine! – even his grammatical errors is so sickening for me! Thank God that we will get rid of this pest now, and will be finally read texts that are free from the influence of the grammar Nazis. These new books will teach them to be more nice in the future! And for the hopeless cases: they should just let us agreeable people alone and stick to their Karl Kraus books…

And finally: this new scientific study is a relief for all of us. No more checking my writing for typos, no more thinking about how exactly I will formulate a sentence in order to express what I want to say – the empathic readers will understand probably (more or less) what I wanted to say, even when my grammar is a bit “creative” and my orthography “charming” – and whoever dares to correct me just proves that he has a character deficit. 

Isn’t that nice? I love science!

© 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.

100 Grams of Vodka

100 Gramm Wodka: a book about a three-month trip through Russia and Kazakhstan, written by Fredy Gareis, a German journalist who was born in Almaty (then Alma-Ata) but who emigrated with his family to Germany, the home country of his ancestors when he was still a toddler.

As a child, Fredy Gareis was not particularly interested in the stories and discussions about the past of the family in the Soviet Union. That his mother obviously wanted to completely wipe out any memories of her past didn’t help little Fredy to understand where he really came from and what was the story behind those long kitchen meetings with relatives that were a part of his childhood in Germany. But while growing older and becoming a journalist, the wish to get to know more about the country in which he was born (now divided into several independent states, then the Soviet Union) and to reconnect himself with his and his family’s past became stronger.

The passing on of several older relatives within a short period, and the feeling to have missed a chance to learn more from them finally triggered an urgent wish to visit Russia and Kazakhstan, partly to see how life is now in this vast region, but mainly driven by the wish to see the places in Kazakhstan and Siberia where his family came from and suffered in the Stalin era and thereafter as descendants of those Germans who came to Russia and the Ukraine after Catherine the Great had invited her fellow countrymen to settle there. Once held in great esteem for their industriousness, with their own Autonomous Soviet Republic at the Volga, WWII was the big catastrophe for this community that catapulted those who survived it to Siberia or the Central Asian Republics, frequently as slave labourers in the GULag.

100 Gramm Wodka is an interesting book which contains insightful travel notes and also reports about many meetings with different people from a big variety of geographic and social origins, and therefore a kind of mosaic of this part of the world. A deep dive into the history of the Russian Germans who were considered as Germans in Russia, and who are now – after the biggest part of them has re-emigrated to the homeland of their ancestors – considered to be Russians by their fellow countrymen in Germany; it seems to be their fate to never really belong to the community within which they live and to be always considered as outsiders. A road and railroad trip past thousands of kilometers of steppe, heading to Magadan and Vladivostok at the Pacific – and a love declaration to the incredible people that live in this region. But how on earth could the author possibly survive all this Vodka that the hospitable local people offered him together with huge amounts of food on all kind of occasions?

A translation of this excellent piece of travel journalism is recommended. After reading it, the probability is very high that you will plan to go on a visit there. And if you are more of an armchair traveller, you will still enjoy this trip from Saint Petersburg to Moscow, Lake Baikal, Kazakhstan, the Raspberry Lake, and the wide expanse of Siberia, a terra incognita even for most Russians.

Fredy Gareis: 100 Gramm Wodka, Malik 2015

© 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.

Coup de Grâce

Coup de Grâce is a short novel by Marguerite Yourcenar, published a few months before the outbreak of WWII. It is the account of the tragic relationship of three people, told by one of them in retrospect.

Erich von Lhomond, the narrator, is a German officer of the Legion Condor who was wounded in the Spanish Civil War and is recovering in Italy which gives him an opportunity to look back at events that happened briefly after WWI, and that had a lasting impact on his life.

Erich and his close childhood friend Conrad took part in the fighting in the Baltics in 1919 between the Red and the Czarist Army; the so-called White Russians were supported in this civil war by German Freikorps (in which Erich and Conrad serve as officers), paramilitary groups with strong nationalist, anti-communist, and frequently anti-Semitic convictions (many later Nazi leaders served in Freikorps units); the situation was rather complex since there were already independent states in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania who were caught somehow in between. The fighting in the Baltics with its atrocities, summary executions of prisoners, or massacres of people who were just suspected of being sympathetic to the other side foreshadowed in many respects what was to come about twenty years later. It is despite its great importance for the understanding of the history of this century a today almost forgotten episode.

The action of the biggest part of the book takes place in Kratovice, the castle-like family home of Conrad and his sister Sophie whom Erich and Conrad meet again after a long time. In their youth and adolescence, the three of them formed a very close triangle, and they used to share their thoughts, dreams, and secrets. But the war and their growing-up has changed things between them. While Erich and Conrad share a homoerotic attachment to each other, Sophie falls in love with Erich and declares her feelings very openly to him – but Erich is not responding to her feelings.

Yourcenar focuses on the development of the relationship of these three young people, that are tormented by their feelings and also the political situation. An additional complication is the fact that Sophie has sympathies for the Reds, and doesn’t hide it. After being rejected by Erich, she starts a number of short affairs with other soldiers, probably in the hope to arouse Erich’s jealousy. But Erich keeps his calm at least on the outward. Only once, after another compromising short affair of Sophie, he gives her a dressing-down that destroys her last hopes in ever arousing serious interest in her:

“Toutes les réponses eussent été bonnes, sauf celle sur quoi je trébuchai par irritation, par timidité, par hâte de blesser en retour. Il y a au fond de chacun de nous un goujat insolent et obtus, et ce fut lui qui riposta:

– Les filles de trottoir n’ont pas à se charger de la police des mœurs, chère amie.”

“All responses would have been good except the one on which I stumbled by irritation, by shyness, by aiming to hurt back. Deep within each of us there is an insolent and obtuse bounder, and it was he who replied:

– Pavement princesses do not have to take on the vice squad, dear friend.”

This moment seems to mark the turning point of Sophie’s feelings; she is soon leaving Kratovice without giving note to anyone, obviously with the intention to join the Reds.

What follows is the evacuation of Kratovice and the withdrawal of Erich’s unit, skirmishes in which Conrad is mortally wounded, and a truly breathtaking last meeting of Erich and Sophie who has been taken prisoner. I prefer not to reveal more of the story here, but the title of the book gives already away a lot.

This short novel is in my opinion one of the really great works of French 20th Century literature. There are many reasons to consider this book as at least very remarkable.

One reason is the intelligent choice of the central “hero” of the book. The narrator and main character Erich is an ambiguous and therefore interesting character. With his refined and chivalrous manners and his interest in literature and art he is not the heel-clicking stereotype of a German soldier you can see in many Hollywood movies, but probably a more typical example of the old Prussian military elite that was predominantly of French-Huguenot origin – as Erich himself.

Although being historically on the “wrong” side – being part of the military machinery that was responsible for the rise of fascism in Europe and other parts of the world – he is an intelligent man able of introspection and empathy. That is self-evident in his relations with Sophie, but also in his opinion about Grigori Loew, the man with which Sophie was living while siding with the Reds. Loew is a Jew and convinced communist, but nevertheless Erich thinks more highly of him than of most his own brothers in arms:

“…il avait sur lui un exemplaire du Livre d’Heures de Rilke, que Conrad aussi avait aimé. Ce Grigori avait été probablement le seul homme dans ce pays et à cette époque avec qui j’aurais pu causer agréablement pendant un quart d’heure. Il faut reconnaître que cette manie juive de s’élever au-dessus de la friperie paternelle avait produit chez Grigori Loew ces beaux fruits psychologiques que sont le dévouement à une cause, le goût de la poésie lyrique, l’amitié envers une jeune fille ardente, et finalement, le privilège un peu galvaudé d’une belle mort.”   

“… he had a copy of the Book of Hours of Rilke with him, that Conrad also had loved. This Grigori had probably been the only man in this country and at that time with whom I could have conversed nicely for a quarter of an hour. It has to be recognized that this Jewish obsession to rise above his father’s thrift had produced at Grigori Loew these beautiful psychological fruits like the dedication to a cause, the taste for lyric poetry, the friendship toward a fiery young girl, and finally the somewhat overused privilege of a beautiful death.”

In retrospect, Erich realizes that the communist Russian Jew Grigori Loew was in a way his own mirror image; he also realizes that Sophie’s last wish to which he had complied was indeed an act of revenge that overshadowed Erich’s whole future life. His life after the catastrophic events seems to matter very little to him; he is also aware of the fact that his engagement in diverse conflicts all over the world (Manchuria, Latin America, Spain) have turned the once honourable soldier into a mercenary and adventurer (who will in all probability be soon part of the Nazi aggression in WWII).

There are many other reasons to estimate Yourcenar’s book very highly: the crisp and elegant language, the deep psychological insights in the motivation and the different psycho-sexual orientations of the characters, the dialogues and atmospheric depth of the setting in the family castle of the de Reval family – I enjoyed this gem of a book very much. It made me curious to read more by Yourcenar.

I read the book in the original French; it turned out to be a surprisingly easy read.

An interesting movie is based on the novel: Der Fangschuss (1976), by Volker Schlöndorff (cinematography: Igor Luther).


Marguerite Yourcenar: Le Coup de Grâce, Folio 2016
Marguerite Yourcenar: Coup de Grâce, translated by Grace Frick, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1981
The text quotes in this blog post are translated from the French by Thomas Hübner.
© 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.

Mortality

About 40% of the people that live in the United States – the situation in other industrialized countries is not very different – develop at least once in their lives cancer and although the 5-year survival rate has drastically increased for various types of cancer in the last years as a result of new cures and more efficient treatment, it is still the single most important lethal disease beside heart and coronary-related diseases. Almost anyone of us, even when we are lucky and never get ill from cancer ourselves, have a close person that is or will be ill with this life-threatening disease. Apart from the medical aspects, the main question in this context is: how are we dealing with such a diagnosis? And on a more philosophical level: how are we coming to terms with our own mortality in the face of cancer?

Christopher Hitchens was a kind of rock star among the journalists in the Anglo-Saxon world. He was an extremely prolific author on various topics, editor and contributor to the most important and intellectually most stimulating periodicals, author of about 25 books. His most popular works are probably his autobiography Hitch-22, his critical essay about Mother Teresa The Missionary Position, his attack on Henry Kissinger whom he considered a war criminal in The Trial of Henry Kissinger, and his book against religions God is Not Great. There was hardly any public debate which didn’t see Hitchens involved, his outspokenness, his quick-wittedness, his intelligence and charisma, and his ability to write a light-hearted yet passionate prose that gave every reader the feeling that Hitchens was speaking to him personally made him a unique figure with many devoted readers, but also with many opponents or even enemies.

On June 8, 2010, while on a book promotion tour for his book Hitch-22, Hitchens felt suddenly an excruciating pain in his chest and thorax. A medical emergency team arrived at Hitchens’ hotel room and brought him to the hospital.

“I had the time to wonder why they needed so many boots and helmets and so much heavy backup equipment, but now that I view the scene in retrospect I see it as a gentle and firm deportation, taking me from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.”

From now on, Hitchens was an inhabitant of what he calls “Tumortown”. With his usual professionalism he decided to write about his experience and the book Mortality we have in our hands as readers is the result of this professional approach. The book is a slightly edited version of a series of articles that appeared during Hitchens’ illness in Vanity Fair, a last chapter written by him consists of aphoristic jottings that are related to the text of these articles but which the author could not edit – Hitchens died on December 15, 2011 from esophageal cancer.

Although the book doesn’t hide the authors’ sufferings, his hopes for a successful treatment, his ordeal of going through a long series of chemotherapies, it is also the story of a man who doesn’t cower in the face of his fate, a man who tries to keep his dignity until the very end.

The most interesting parts of the book were for me those pages in which the author describes how the cancer affected his relation to the people around him, particularly to his family and close friends. Another strong part of the book is the description of the stages through which probably each mortally ill person has to go. And it is probably very good when one can – like Hitchens – answer the question “Why me?” very quickly with a “Why not?”, and focus on more important questions and problems. Cancer is for sure not a punishment for allegedly committed sins, even when some disgusting fundamentalist pseudo-“Christian” activists were cheering loudly when the cancer diagnosis of Hitchens became public.

One of the really fascinating parts of the book deals with what the author calls “cancer etiquette”. How should we talk to a cancer patient? What kind of remarks are appropriate, what kind are not? Too much interest in the details of the disease and the state of affairs of the patient can be really painful for the ill person – but too little interest as well. How to keep the right balance? Also the question if we should pray for a sick person and let him/her know it is rather tricky – in particular when the patient is like Hitchens an atheist.

The chapter that deals with Hitchens’ atheism was for me the least interesting. Also in his other books where he was attacking religions or religious leaders, it was never clear to me why he took anecdotal evidence of misbehaviour of clerics, or any religiously motivated violence as a proof for the non-existence of God. Not that I cannot understand someone who is an atheist, but Hitchens’ line of argumentation seemed to me always rather shallow, and his description of the famous bet by Blaise Pascal is completely misrepresenting the brilliant French mathematician and believer. (I admit that I disagree with quite a lot of Hitchens’ standpoints, and found his unconditional support of the Iraq war as shameful as some of his radically anti-Zionist statements that crossed in my opinion the line to anti-Semitism.) I cannot blame Hitchens for not reflecting the fact that he – in possession of health insurance, and as a personal friend of leading scientists – was in an extremely privileged position; millions and millions of Americans would not have the slightest chance to get even basic tests performed on them in absence of health insurance; also his rather undifferentiated condemnation of people who oppose the “use” of human embryos for the purpose of medical research was understandable for me – but the ethical dilemma in that field was something Hitchens obviously could not see. But who am I to blame a person who is desperate to prolonging his life for such a point of view!

Who wants to understand how the world looks like for an intelligent person after the diagnosis “cancer” should read Mortality. It is – despite the above mentioned reservations – an honest, thought-provoking book. The same cannot be said for all books written from first-hand experience; Hitchens mentions Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture as a bad, “sugary” example:

“Pausch used to work for Disney and it shows.”

Mortality may not be an uplifting read; but a necessary one. 

Front Cover

Christopher Hitchens: Mortality, Twelve, New York 2012

 

Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture, Hachette 2014

see also:

Oliver Sacks: My Own Life, The New York Times, Feb.

Fritz Zorn: Mars, Kindler, München 1977 (in German)

Wolfgang Herrndorf: Arbeit und Struktur, blog 2010-2013 (in German)

© 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.

Woman of the Dead

I have seen several favourable reviews of Woman of the Dead by Austrian crime fiction writer Bernhard Aichner. Therefore I expected something at least entertaining, maybe even well written. However…

Let me not bother you with the plot and come straight to the point: this is pulp fiction of the lowest class. The writing consists of strangely clipped sentences, and a pseudo-literary style that reads unintentionally funny at times, especially in the German original. The development of the story is entirely predictable, and the author seems to be a big fan of graphic descriptions of completely unmotivated violence. The more disgusting, the better, seems to be the credo of this author.

I didn’t enjoy this book even a little bit, and after I read a truly revolting FB posting of Herr Aichner in which he is inviting his FB friends to describe an “efficient, creative and spectacular torture method”, and which was promptly answered by more than a hundred obviously sexually aroused resident FB perverts who describe with obvious glee and sadistic pleasure in all graphic and sick details the contents of their demented torture fantasies (the most “creative” and disgusting will be used by Herr Aichner in his next book), I realized that this author writes not for me, but for that part of the population with strong anal-sadistic predisposition – people who would torture me or you to death with orgiastic pleasure, if they just had an opportunity. His books are obviously meant as arousal templates and masturbation help for those sick people, pornography for sadists. It seems that he is very successful in servicing to the needs of this lower segment of humanity.

My apologies for the explicit language in this blog post, but I was rarely more disgusted by any book or author and I strongly recommend you not to waste your time with the poorly written shmutz Herr Aichner is producing.

25216299

Bernhard Aichner: Woman of the Dead, translated by Anthea Bell, Orion 2015

© 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.

 


Visit to a bookstore: Herceg Novi

I am travelling quite a lot; and I am reading quite a lot – no surprise that I visit also many bookstores while travelling. Therefore I will start here a small series with short portraits and impressions from book shops I visited and that deserve to be recommended. As you will see, I will focus mainly on small independent bookstores with a high-quality selection of books.

The excellent weather last weekend was the perfect excuse for a trip by bus from Prishtina/Kosovo (where I am working right now in an interesting project) to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. If you haven’t been there: it is a spectacular and very beautiful place! The contrasts of the high Montenegrin mountains and the bay with its rather unique topography, the Mediterranean climate and the old towns like Kotor (also sometimes known as Cattaro), Perast, or Herceg Novi are stunning.

As usual when I visit a place, I gather some prior information on the locations I want to see (this time Herceg Novi and Perast) – and of course bookstores also belong in that category. So I was rather pleased to find a very nice independent book shop in Herceg Novi, Salt Bookstore, a family business run by Viktorija Malović, wife of the author Nikola Malović.

The bookstore is a great place to find a small but well-curated selection of books in English and of course a high-quality selection of books in Serbian/Montenegrin language. Salt is also a small publishing house that focuses on literature related to the history and culture of the Bay of Kotor, and all the editions Viktorija Malović showed me are done with greatest care and obvious devotion to the subject. One of the books from their own publishing house is Bernard Sullivan’s Hiker’s Guide, The Austro-Hungarian Fortresses of Montenegro; the mountains around the Bay of Kotor are just perfect for hiking and with this guide book you will be not only always oriented where you are but you will be also informed about the many remains of forts, bunkers and other remains from the Austro-Hungarians you will come across during your hike which offers truly unforgettable views to this part of the Adria.

Nikola Malović is a well-known Serbian novelist from Montenegro and it would be interesting to see some of his books translated in a language that is accessible to me. Since I don’t read Serbian, I limited myself to buying a few books in English: David Albahari’s short stories Learning Cyrillic, Momo Kapor’s collection of feuilletons A Guide to the Serbian Mentality (with illustrations by the author), and an exhibition catalogue about Serbian literature during WWI.

The bookstore is a very nice place to learn more about the Bay of Kotor, and you can find always something interesting there – so don’t miss the place when you visit the Bay of Kotor. Herceg Novi, although very modest in size, even hosts a book fair and the place has always been a favourite place of many writers from the region, such as Ivo Andrić. Somehow you feel that this is a place for “bookish” people.    

Now that I am thinking of it: Montenegro has recently made a major shift in its geo-political orientation: it has become a NATO member, and it is a candidate country of the EU. Montenegro has always had very close ties with Russia, and it is not by chance that the country was extremely popular among Russian tourists, which now for various political reasons seem to stay away from Montenegro. The huge gap that this is causing in the state budget, and the threat this is to the many people whose livelihood depends on tourism is a huge problem – once again the average population has to pay the prize for a political decision and it is easy to understand that EU and particularly NATO are not the most popular institutions in Montenegro right now. But this doesn’t affect the people’s natural hospitality and therefore I can only recommend you again very strongly a visit in this beautiful country, and particularly the Bay of Kotor.

(And no, the Montenegrin Ministry of Tourism doesn’t sponsor me… ;-))

Bernard Sullivan: The Austro-Hungarian Fortresses of Montenegro: A Hiker’s Guide, Knjižara So, Herceg Novi 2015

David Albahari: Learning Cyrillic, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać, Geopoetika, Belgrade 2012

Momo Kapor: A Guide to the Serbian Mentality, translated by John White, Ružica White, Branimir Bakić, Danira Parenta, Goran Kričković, Nevenka Kojić, Ana Selić, and Mirjana Dragović, Dereta, Belgrade 2014

Nada Mirkov-Bogdanović / Milena Dordijević: Serbian Literature in the First World War, Exhibition Catalogue, National Library of Serbia / National and University Library of the Republic of Srpska, Belgrade / Banja Luka 2014

Nikola Malović: Jedro Nade, Laguna, Belgrade 2014

More information on Salt Bookstore in Herceg Novi you can find here or on their website.

© 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.

News from Retardistan (5): The silence of the lambs

Honestly, I cannot understand why most Bulgarian intellectuals don’t say a word about the fact that many of the places where they are usually buying their books are being more and more turned into locations where Nazi publishers are selling pamphlets that are advertising an inhumane ideology, racial hatred and mass murder. No wonder that in this climate, anti-Semitism shows its ugly face also outside the bookstores as this excerpt from the excellent book A Guide to Jewish Bulgaria shows.

It seems to be normal for most Bulgarian intellectuals to see Hitler’s My Struggle, Henry Ford’s The International Jew, and other extremely revolting books that either advertise mass murder, deny the Holocaust, or are apologies of war criminals being prominently advertised and promoted literally almost everywhere, or what is the reason for the silence of most of the Bulgarian intellectual elite in this case?

Do they think that the widespread promotion of such books in their country doesn’t concern them? Do they think someone might be offended when they raise their voice to confront those people who help to distribute extermination manuals? Are they afraid to be physically threatened if they speak out against right-wing extremism and Nazism? (I have to admit that this is unfortunately a very real threat as I learned during my public argument with a revisionist and anti-Semitic so-called “historian” – the “fan mail” by his friends gave me a very interesting insight in the moral scruffiness and deprivation of this part of the extreme right wing of the intellectual lumpenproletariat in Bulgaria; it contrasted rather typically and unfavourably with the almost complete lack of public support for my position by most of my intellectual friends – but do not worry, I have an extremely high frustration tolerance.)

Do they think it is a sign of democracy and freedom of expression when those who either deny the holocaust or who would like to commit mass murder, erect concentration camps, and sterilize by force certain groups of the Bulgarian population if they could are not only allowed to propagate their inhumane ideology without limits, but are even supported by a coalition of silent intellectuals and a public that seems to be completely uninformed about history and uninterested in what is going on in their country, in which revisionists, fascists and openly Nazi groups are taking more and more over the public discourse on certain topics? What kind of “democrats” would have the idea to promote a law that bans the use of certain communist symbols under threat of a prison sentence, but who seem to be fine with the promotion of mass murder under the banner of revisionism, fascism, and Nazism?

Hate speech against minorities is not the exception, but the rule in Bulgaria, and very few people seem to care. A real democracy and pluralist society requires that people raise their voice and set limits to this domination of the public sphere by revisionist, fascist and Nazi propaganda; intellectuals have a particular responsibility to speak out when it comes to these issues. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Bulgarian intellectuals seems to be sound asleep – this intellectual indolence, laziness and cowardice when it comes to confront this pest in Bulgaria is something very sad, disappointing, and depressing. 

Fortunately a few bookstores are consciously not following this trend and a few intellectuals voice their concern. A few bookstores and a few intellectuals, yes. But a real public discussion on a large scale about this problem doesn’t take place, nor seem many people who should know it better even to be aware at all of the issue. As long as it is like this, the enemies of democracy and a pluralist society have a field day in Bulgaria.

————————————————————————————————————————————

The above mentioned book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Jewish and/or Bulgarian history:

Dimana Trankova, Anthony Georgieff: A Guide to Jewish Bulgaria, Vagabond Media, Sofia 2011

© 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.