Tag Archives: Friedrich von Schiller

German Literature Month 2015 – wrap-up

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German Literature Month in November was again an extremely interesting event, just like last year. The two unfatigable hosts Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat) and Lizzy (Lizzy’s Literary Life) once again created an event with plenty of opportunities to join in. In the end 44 bloggers had published 166 posts, mainly about fiction and poetry, but also including some featured articles and several non-fiction reviews.

Over the years, this event has become increasingly popular and the index on the website that links to all articles that were published in all editions of the German Literature Month has become a major resource for anyone who wants to get informed about German literature. Check it out, the variety of authors and opinions is truly amazing! (Thanks, Lizzy!)

Interestingly, the most reviewed author this year was Stefan Zweig (14 reviews of 12 works), followed by Schiller (10 posts related to Schiller’s works and books about Schiller). Goethe on the contrary was ignored by everybody – maybe we should include a Goethe week next year?

After several months of being not very active, this event has brought me back to blogging on a more regular basis. I discovered plenty of new books, got reminded of some others I should re-read again in the future and I also discovered a few book blogs which I hadn’t known before but will follow in the future. It was fun to read the comments and to comment myself sometimes. I read literally all reviews, but time restrictions prevented me so far to comment on all of them.  Just like last year  I thoroughly enjoyed this event, and just like last year, I won a giveaway, Ulrich Plenzdorf’s Werther novel which I will review one day of course. (Thanks, Caroline!)

This year, I published ten posts – compared to eight last year. Beside a featured anecdote about Jean Paul, nine of the posts were reviews:

Veza Canetti: The Tortoises

Thomas Kling: Collected Poems

Schilleriana (9 publications of Deutsche Schillergesellschaft)

Hans Magnus Enzensberger: New Selected Poems

Walther von der Vogelweide: Poems

Detlef Opitz: The Books Murderer

Jean Paul: The strange company at New Year’s Eve

Joseph Roth: Letters from Germany

Gertrud Kolmar: Poems

Several of the books I had intended to read for German Lit Month, I had to postpone for the time being, while others popped up in the last moment. I reviewed/presented more poetry than last years and a bit less prose by contemporary authors. Who knows what I will be up to next year?!

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. 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 early “Dying Earth” scenario

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This blog post is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

The narrator of this story, a man with a rich imagination, and prone to both bouts of migraine and frequent visions is walking up and down his study for hours. It is New Year’s Eve of 1799, the last day of the 18th century. The writer waits for the return of his wife who is out for a visit to a sick friend, promising that she will be back “still in this century.”

The last day of a year, and even more so the last day of a century is reason for contemplation, but our narrator has again a terrible migraine attack – and suddenly it happens:

after closing his eyes for a while and upon reopening them again he realizes that there is a group of five people, among them a little child in his room and he has no idea who they are or how they entered. The group’s appearance is rather odd, not so much frightening and a dialogue between the narrator and the group is developing that covers most of the story. This dialogue deals mainly with the prospectives for the future. The tone, partly serious, partly humorous keeps a kind of balance that makes us readers wonder what the author is up to. One of the narrator’s guests gets more and more excited and develops a truly apocalyptic scenario for the future that is the climax of this story:

“Es gibt einmal einen letzten Menschen – er wird auf einem Berg unter dem Äquator stehen und herabschauen auf die Wasser, welche die weite Erde überziehen – festes Eis glänzet an den Polen herauf der Mond und die Sonne hängen ausgebreitet und tief und nur blutig über der kleinen Erde, wie zwei trübe feindliche Augen oder Kometen – das aufgetürmte Gewölke strömet eilig durch den Himmel und stürzet sich ins Meer und fährt wieder empor, und nur der Blitz schwebt mit glühenden Flügeln zwischen Himmel und Meer und scheidet sie – Schau auf zum Himmel, letzter Mensch! Auf deiner Erde ist schon alles vergangen – deine großen Ströme ruhen aufgelöset im Meere.”

“There will one day be a last man – he will stand on a mountain under the Equator, and look down upon the waters which welter over the wide earth – firmly from the poles gleams upward the unchangeable ice – the moon and the sun hang broad and bloody over the little earth, like two eyes full of hate. For the earth’s spiral orbit has brought it nearer and nearer to the sun, and the moon’s spiral has enlarged the face with which it looks ever steadfastly toward our planet, and their strong attraction caused the oceans to roll together round the Equator – and then the whole atmosphere with its vapors rushes up from the poles after the water, and still as the attraction increases, a frightful flood of electric fluid pours and swells over all. The clouds, piled up in mountain-towers stream quickly across the sky, and plunge into the sea, and then rush upward again, while the lightning  on burning wings flashes from Heaven to the Ocean and cleaves them asunder. Look up to the Heaven, thou last man! All on thy earth has disappeared – all its rivers have been swallowed up in its sea.” (translation by J.F.C., The Western Messenger, November 1838) 

Believing that midnight is approaching, the uninvited guests are leaving – but it turns out that when the authors wife comes home from her visit it is one hour before midnight. Remarking her husband’s mood, the wife sings and plays on the piano one of his favourite tunes and the usual order of things is re-established. The vision was most probably something only imagined by her husband. 

This short story by Jean Paul Friedrich Richter – known in Germany as Jean Paul only – Die wunderbare Gesellschaft in der Neujahrsnacht (The strange company at New Year’s Eve) is rather typical for this remarkable and not well-known author who wrote in the traditions of Swift and Laurence Sterne and who had a tremendous influence on authors like Hoffmann, de Quincey (who wrote an essay about him) or Arno Schmidt and among the contemporary German authors I could mention Walter Kappacher and Ludwig Harig (who was by coincidence my teacher when I was a first grader) as examples of novelists that are writing in Jean Paul’s tradition.

The story from which I quoted is witty, well-written and despite the bleak quote very entertaining. And it is according to some SF experts most probably the first literary Dying Earth scenario ever published – and thus a kind of predecessor of a certain category of the Science Fiction genre.

Jean Paul lived most of his life in pre-Wagner Bayreuth, but he paid also longer visits to Weimar (Goethe and Schiller were rather distanced, partly because of literary reasons, partly because of the fact that Jean Paul, then a bachelor had several relationships with women which were considered a scandal; Wieland and Herder on the contrary liked him very much), and to Berlin – here he made friends with the Schlegel brothers, Schleiermacher, Fichte, and other important intellectuals.

Jean Paul is a great master of the German language; and he is also a master of the digression – his novels are usually very long because he is a true follower of Laurence Sterne here.

Who wants to discover this literary giant who was standing between Classicism and Romanticism can start with this rather short work that inspired also many famous illustrators (I have a beautiful edition with sketches by Alfred Kubin.). Unfortunately it seems that there is no collection of stories on the market that contains this story in English translation. Why, dear publishers?

A book I can heartily recommend for those with an interest in Jean Paul is Günter de Bruyn’s biography Das Leben des Jean Paul Friedrich Richter (The Life of Jean Paul Frederick Richter), a beautiful dedication by the novelist de Bruyn to his literary ancestor Jean Paul.  I fell a bit under the spell of Jean Paul after I had read this well-researched and brilliantly written book.

A translation of this book and a recent good edition of Jean Paul’s shorter works in English is missing – but who knows, maybe a publisher is already working on it. That would be a great pleasure!

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Jean Paul: Die wunderbare Gesellschaft in der Neujahrsnacht, dtv, München 1979, ill. by Alfred Kubin

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Günter de Bruyn: Das Leben des Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. 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.

Schilleriana or The Pleasures of a Literary Archive

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This blog post is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

Friedrich Schiller Week opens the German Literary Month this year officially and I am looking forward to reading what my blogger colleagues will post in this context. Lizzie, one of the co-hosts of German Literary Month has just published a very interesting introduction to Schiller’s life and works, obviously inspired by a recent visit in Weimar.

Weimar is definitely worth a visit and not only because of Schiller as you know. But there is a second place which can be similarly inspiring if you are interested in the work of this literary genius: Marbach am Neckar, his birthplace. It is not only the house in which he was born but of course also the Deutsches Literatur Archiv (German Literary Archive; address: Schillerhöhe 8-10) that preserves an incredible amount of manuscripts and belongings of German writers, and that showcases frequently extremely interesting exhibitions. The catalogues and other publications of the Archive are a treasure for those that are interested in German literature (and with a knowledge of German).

Great plans and projects: Schiller was usually thinking big. But the fact that he was not wealthy and his life a permanent struggle to secure an income and regular employment influenced his writing. For some time he took a break from drama writing in order to focus on the more lucrative publication of historical works. These tensions between his idealistic plans and his precarious existence as a writer who was not independent from market requirements were in 2005 the subject of an important exhibition at the Deutsches Literatur Archiv (DLA), and the beautiful catalogue is a treat for Schiller fans.

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Frank Druffner und Martin Schalhorn: Götterpläne & Mäusegeschäfte. Schiller 1759–1805, 2nd edition, Marbacher Katalog 58, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 2005

It was for sure a very tough experience for Johann Caspar Schiller, Friedrich’s father, when his son – then a regiment doctor – deserted from the army and fled Württemberg. Not only was Johann Caspar a loyal officer in the same army from which his son ran away, he was also for 21 years the responsible supervisor of the Duke’s garden at Schloss Solitude and therefore in a quite close working and personal relationship with the Duke and thus in a particularly delicate position. The letters written by the father to his famous son are interesting documents; while after young Schiller’s desertion shame and disappointment are the dominating feelings from Johann Caspar‘s side, he had later to acknowledge that his son achieved more than his father could hope for.

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Jean-Baptiste Joly: Johann Caspar Schiller auf der Solitude, Spuren 27, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 1994

Schiller’s older sister Christophine wrote memoirs of Schiller’s youth which are a valuable source for Schiller scholars. Although she was like most women of her time forced to lead a life according to social conventions that limited women mainly to homework, education of children and representative tasks, she had an artistic talent of her own, as her drawings and watercolors that are in the possession of the DLA show. The reproductions of her works are one of the highlights of a small catalogue dedicated to her.

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Edda Ziegler in cooperation with Michael Davidis: »Theuerste Schwester«. Christophine Reinwald, geb. Schiller, Marbacher Magazin 118, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 2007

The catalogue „Aus dem Leben eines Hofrats“ is the indispensable guide book if you visit the Schiller House in Marbach in which Friedrich Schiller was born.

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Michael Davidis and Sabine Fischer: Aus dem Hausrat eines Hofrats, Marbacher Magazin 77, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 1997

An original way to approach the person Schiller and his work is via some of his belongings which are now a part of the DLA collection: a hat, headband, three vests, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, seven shoe buckles, finger rings, hand warmers, toothpicks, dressing gown button and pocket, a walking stick and numerous curls attributed to him – all of these items have their own history, a history that says a lot about the person Schiller and about his work.

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Heike Gfrereis, with an essay by Wilhelm Genazino: Autopsie Schiller. Eine literarische Untersuchung, Marbacher Magazin 125/126, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 2009

While still in Württemberg, Schiller visited the poet, journalist and musician Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart in his prison at Hohenasperg in November 1781. Schubart was incarcerated for ten years without trial and verdict, the most famous victim of the „justice“ of Duke Carl Eugen. A slender booklet informs the reader about this fascinating episode in Schiller’s life that triggered his escape from the Duke’s service and that left literary traces especially in Schiller’s play „Kabale und Liebe“.

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Wolfgang Ranke: Schiller, Schubart und der Hohenasperg, Spuren 86, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 2009

From September 1793 to May 1794, Schiller could visit for the first time after his desertion his home region again. On May, 4, briefly before Schiller’s return to Jena, the then almost unknown publisher Johann Friedrich Cotta invites Schiller on a coach ride from Stuttgart to Untertürkheim and to the Kahlenstein hill near Cannstatt. During this day trip, the two men discussed Schiller’s plan for his new journal project „Die Horen“. It turned out that this ride was the beginning of a long friendship and a for both sides very fruitful author-publisher relationship. A small booklet documents this crucial moment in Schiller’s life.

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Martin Schalhorn: Ein Sonntagsausflug von Schiller und Cotta nach Untertürkheim am 4. Mai 1794, Spuren 69, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 2006

In May 1804, Schiller visited Berlin for about two weeks. This time is extremely well documented – whom he met, what theatre and opera performances he visited, where he had dinner and what was going on regarding his planned academic posting to Berlin. All this from Schiller’s own notebooks and other sources, but also a comparison of the intellectual climate of Berlin and Weimar and beautiful illustrations you can find in another nice exhibition catalogue.

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Michael Bienert: Schiller in Berlin oder Das rege Leben einer großen Stadt, 2nd edition, Marbacher Magazin 106, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 2005

Until the first half of the 19th century, monuments were only erected in honor of Kings or other aristocratic persons. The Schiller Monument in Stuttgart, created by Bertel Thorvaldsen and inaugurated in May 1839 was the first public monument in Germany in honor of a poet and had therefore a great impact for the democratization of Erinnerungskultur (memorial culture). A small booklet describes the public contemporary debate that preceded and followed the inauguration of the Schiller monument in Stuttgart.

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Michael Davidis: 150 Jahre Schiller-Denkmal in Stuttgart, Spuren 4, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach 1989

All publications are available directly from the DLA online shop or at the DLA premises in Marbach.

A lot of Schiller, I know. If you are now feeling inspired to write like him, buy yourself an antique standing secretary desk as was used by Schiller (and Goethe), and get in Marbach one of those neat nibs he used for writing (9 Euro; it comes with a small gift case and description).

But don’t forget the famous rotten apples for a really authentic Schiller feeling!

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. 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.