Saturday, January 11

germanic classics

The old German classic book for children, Struwwelpeter, is a collection of severe moral tales for kids. Little Jimmy Head-in-the-air, doesn't look where he's going, falls in a canal and drowns. Little Johnny Suck-a-thumb gets his thumb cut off. Message - when shit happens it's your own fault.

I live in a place not noted for centuries of intellectual writing. Sitting on a bench, waiting for the bus home from the town supermarket, I was reading Jonathan Franzen's new book. I was congratulating myself on my postmodern sensitivity - Franzen has just translated Karl Kraus's 20th century writing about Heinrich Heine's 19th century writing. The new book presents the German text on the left page, and the English on the right, but the footnotes take up most of both pages

I got on the bus and continued reading. Franzen views Kraus as a 1900s blogger, and re-casts his dichotomy - German austere functionality vs French/Italian aesthetics - as a contemporary rivalry: stodgy workmanlike PC vs glitzy cool Mac. Function vs Form. Two European cultures. And how clever of me to be reading about it!

As I got off the bus at the other end, I realised I had idiotically left my shopping on the bench in the town. I had been too engrossed in the book. So I crossed the road and caught a bus going back the other way. When I got there, my bags were just where I had left them. I'm lucky to live in a place that hasn't produced any Einsteins or Stuwwelpeters, but they don't nick your stuff.

1 comment:

  1. If you'd had your mobile phone in the bag, they might have nicked that!