Durs Grünbein

I'm back to thinking about Durs Grünbein again. I'll be attending a conference at Marbach in a couple of weeks' time, where I'll be speaking on Grünbein's "antique dispositions." Grünbein uses this phrase as the title of a book of essays, where it functions both as an allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet ('antic disposition') and a reference to Grünbein's own interests in classical antiquity. In the mid-1990s, motifs from classical antiquity appear repeatedly in his poems, alongside translations from Seneca and Aeschylus. What sources did he draw on? How...

Read more about Durs Grünbein


My course on German translation has led me into new territory: Entenhausen. German fans of Donald Duck, "Donaldisten," know that the first translator of the Disney comics into German was Erika Fuchs, whose invention of such expressive words as "seufz!" permanently changed the German language. How did people manage for so long without these "Erikative"? My favorite of all her work is her rendering of a passage from Coleridge. In a quiz show, Donald is asked to cite the last two lines of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Here is Coleridge's original: " 'Why lookst thou so...

Read more about Entenhausen

More on Walser in America

 A recent article in the FAZ captures the tenor of Martin Walser's visit to the US. 

In particular, it gives a thoughtful account of the second event I attended at Harvard, Walser's speech on "Rechtfertigung" (Justification) in the penthouse of the Kennedy School on November 9.

Martin Walser

Martin Walser is in Cambridge and Boston for several days. On Monday, he spoke at the Center for European Studies, pulling together some ideas from essays of his on the problem of criticism.

In the wake of the Walser-Bubis debate, he remains defensive on this topic. Of course, the art of the "Verriss" is more consciously cultivated in the German book-review scene. The audience at CES was largely German-speaking, and there were interested questions from the floor. Walser's responses were very guarded. 

I had spent the weekend reading his ...

Read more about Martin Walser

Pavel Schmidt Kafka Exhibition

Pavel Schmidt's exciting and innovative artistic response to the works of Kafka was celebrated at the opening ceremony to an exhibition in the Sert Gallery at the Carpenter Center, Harvard University, on Thursday September 19. In addition to brief talks by four Kafka specialists, the artist inducted the audience into his sense of the key workings of Kafka's texts. The exhibition is still up, and it's a must-see for anyone interested in Kafka and Kafka reception.

I'm attaching a couple of images to whet your appetite, but they look even better in the original.



Read more about Pavel Schmidt Kafka Exhibition

Sebald documentary

The documentary on Sebald that I mentioned in a previous entry, Grant Gee's "Patience," is discussed in a New York Times article on the New York Film festival. A reflection on Sebald's book Die Ringe des Saturn, the film is "both an essay in interpretation and an attempt to replicate the writer’s distinctive, elusive sensibility in a visual medium," the Times notes. It aims to be "tries to be both descriptive and immersive, explaining its subject even as it reproduces aspects of his style." I can't wait to see this film. For the complete NYT article, see...

Read more about Sebald documentary

Rilke conference

Who could have known that the Rilke conference would be so inspiring? The workshops, in which we dicussed individual poems and their contexts were splendid. The only problem was that there were always three workshops running parallel, so we had to make a choice. But once I was in the workshop I had selected, everything else paled in comparison with the intelligent and thoughtful discussion. I think we all learned a huge amount from these workshops. We also profited from the keynote speeches. My own favorite was Anthony Phelan's lecture on drafts of poems, a very sophisticated and subtle...

Read more about Rilke conference

Rilke exhibition

Helping select and arrange materials for the Rilke exhibit at Houghton Library (opening on Sept, 22) has been a real learning experience. One thing I'd been curious about was the typeface used in the first edition of Das Buch der Bilder. Rilke chose it himself and was very pleased with it. Then Hofmannsthal wrote to congratulate him on his poetic achievement, but added that he found the capital letters very irritating. Capital letters? What was strange about them in Das Buch der Bilder? Even more fascinating is what happened to the typeface in the second edition. For a...

Read more about Rilke exhibition