Thoughts on Prague - fleetingly captured during a lecture tour by the French poet. This came into my possession at an auction at the Dorotheum in Vienna. In only a few lines the sketch evokes the dark spell of Kafka's home city.
The widow of the writer insisted on giving me a unique dedicated copy of the book from her husband's library. It soon became clear to me what a rarity I held in my hands. The book was to be published in 1938 in Vienna, however with the advent of National Socialism the entire existing print-run was destroyed. The text was to meet the same fate in Paris, where, however, some copies could be rescued. This most unusual book may now be found in the collections of the Austrian National Library. I edited and republished it.
I once loved this poem. When the manuscript came up at auction, I asked my former employer, the German Literature Archive Marbach, for restraint. In this manner I became the proud owner of this piece of calligraphy, a neat copy of the poem written in the author’s own hand. The writer, whose ‘Great Tyrant’ was interpreted as an overt reference to Hitler, went into ‘inner emigration’. The poem is informed by mystic faith. The following line has stayed with me and as ‘celestial arithmetic‘ remains enduringly true: ‘… and the loss becomes a gain’.
It seems the poet produced several drafts of this poem. The version in my possession, purchased from the Viennese antiquarian booksellers Nebehay, contains minor textual variants when compared with its printed form. Aichinger made a dismissive hand gesture, when I once had the opportunity to ask her about the somewhat surprising content: "Oh, the poem ... Everyone has dreams after all." And yet the poem closes the 'Advice Unheeded' cycle, which begins with the poem 'Mountain Edge': 'For what would I do, / if the hunters were no more, my dreams ...'. Heinz Politzer subjected this poem to an exasperatingly intensive interpretation in the spirit of the New Criticism, and the poet in turn, probably smiling sardonically, contributed 'In one' as a literary gift to his Festschrift: 'And if I had no dreams, / I still would be no other, / I would be the same without dreams, / but who would call me home?'
During his summer sojourns in Vienna, the great psychoanalyst and founder of the Sigmund Freud Archives in the USA gave me plenty of opportunities for exchange on 'his' topic, which for a time became ours. Over the years, countless letters were exchanged between Vienna and New York about Freud and the beginnings of psychoanalysis. One day I will publish them.
An old pond
A frog leaps in
The sound of water
(Translated by Christian Wenzel)
Comme on voit sur la branche au mois de May la rose
En sa belle jeunesse, en sa premiere fleur
Rendre le ciel jaloux de sa vive couleur,
Quand l'Aube de ses pleurs au poinct du jour l'arrose :
La grace dans sa fueille, & l'amour se repose,
Embasmant les jardins et les arbres d'odeur :
Mais batue ou de pluye, ou d'excessive ardeur,
Languissante elle meurt fueille à fueille déclose :
Ainsi en ta premiere & jeune nouveuaté,
Quand la terre & le ciel honoroient ta beauté,
La Parque t'a tuée, & cendre tu reposes.
Pour obseques reçoy mes larmes & mes pleurs,
Ce vase plein de laict, e panier plein de fleurs,
Afin que vif, & mort, ton corps ne soit que roses.
Pierre de Ronsard
A woman's face, with Nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.
The pain of man must take the rap, the wound of man is nothing,
The torment of the sick it is, the healthy they feel nothing.
And were its passing not so short, the life that man from man inherits,
There'd be no other suffering, all else would come to nothing.
In life nature is uniform, in death it takes a thousand forms,
The world requests a goal from me, but after your last hour wants nothing.
And he who does not freely grasp the iron bond that binds him,
Secures himself an angry death and in its throat feels nothing.
This much is known by everyone, but each forgets it every day.
So in this sense let from my mouth be uttered further nothing!
Forget the world deceives you all, forget that wishes wishes make,
Let nothing from your love escape, from your notice let slip nothing!
Man hopes that time will give to him the thing it gave to no one else,
For each man seeks to be the sum, but, at base, is nothing.
August von Platen
(Translated by Ed Saunders)
Not meant for ears. . . : boom
that like a deeper ear
hears us, the seemingly hearing.
Reversal of spaces. Draft
of inner worlds outside. . .,
temple before her birth,
dissolution, sated with gods
hard to dissolve. . . : gong!
Sum of what's silent, to
itself only committed
buzzing return to itself
of that by itself struck silent,
duration squeezed out of motion,
star re-cast . . . : gong!
She whom one never forgets,
who gave birth to herself in loss,
celebration no longer grasped,
wine on invisible lips,
gale in the pillar that bears,
rambler's fall to the path
our treason, to all . . . : gong!
Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translated by Michael Hamburger)
above the grey-black wilderness.
tunes in to light's pitch: there are
still songs to be sung on the other side
(Translated by Michael Hamburger)
for Hans Werner Henze at the time of Ariosi
Nothing more will come.
Spring will no longer flourish.
Millennial calendars forecast it already.
But also summer and more, sweet words
such as 'summer-like' –
nothing more will come.
You mustn't cry,
says the music.
(Translated by Peter Filkins)
FROM TODAY, but forever more
I will know: The earth is truly warm—;
I will give the nettle back its sting
and the hedgehog its spines.
From today, everything will be my guardian
and the world a willow cradle,
in which a gust of wind rocks us together
and knots our breath.
(Translated by Ed Saunders)
Data will help us remember, but will it let us forget?...It will help parents make kids genetically perfect, but will it help us love them regardless?...It well help physicists find the “God particle” in a supercollider, but will it help us agree about God?...It will help cardiologists monitor pacemakers with WiFi connections, but will it keep hackers from hacking our hearts?...It will help soldiers kill enemies remotely with drones, but will it help us see war as more than a game?...It will help hackers leak evidence of government surveillance, but will we treat those hackers as heroes or thieves? It will help police triangulate the location of gunshots, but will it help us address the underlying causes of violence? It will help educators make excellent standardized tests, but will it help us embrace different standards of excellence?...It will help search engines know how often people search for “love”, but will it help people find it?...It will help pet owners clone their dogs and their cats, but will it help us love the clones as much as the cloned?...It will help us feel connected, but will it help us feel loved? It will help us uncovers the facts, but will it help us be wise? It will help us live forever, but will it help us see that life’s meaning stems from the fact that it ends? It will help us keep count of everything in our lives, but will it help us understand that not everything that counts in our lives can be counted? It will help us see the world as it is, but will it help us see the world as it could be?