sábado, 1 de septiembre de 2018

Heinrich Böll


Heinrich Böll

(1917-1985)

Nobel Prize for Literature 1972



Böll's first book was published in 1949 and his last one appeared after his death in 1985. He won the Prize of the Gruppe '47 (Group 47) in 1951, and was awarded the Büchner Prize - Germany's highest literary honor - in 1967. In his lifetime, he published eight novels, numerous short stories, brilliant satires, radio plays, and two theatrical plays.


Böll grew up Catholic in the town of Cologne. He began writing before the Second World War, in which he served as a private from the beginning to the end. Publishing at first in the short era of the "Trümmerliteratur" (the literature of the rubble) in the immediate post-war period, his subjects were both the war and the lives of people struggling after the war with its effects. Böll was at times controversial, the author of both bestselling works and a socially-engaged commentator on the state of the German people. 


Living mainly in Cologne, Böll and his family traveled widely for the times. They spent much time on Achill Island off the west coast of Ireland. His cottage there is now used as a guest house for international and Irish artists. He recorded some of his experiences in Ireland in his humorous book "Irisches Tagebuch" (Irish Journal). 
From the 1950s on, his essays and speeches appeared regularly and were also published as collections. Several documentaries were made of him, and he gave numerous interviews for radio and television, of which transcripts of many were also published. He was president of the then West German P.E.N. Center and subsequently president of the International P.E.N. organization. 

Before being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972 after the publication of his novel "Gruppenbild mit Dame" (Group Portrait with Lady), he had come under attack for his subtle essay that January questioning the journalist practices of the Springer Press in Germany. He was the main intellectual involved in the debates concerning terrorism and the state's battle against it. His voice was so established that by the late 1970s a poll found that 89% of those Germans questioned could identify him. 
Before his death, Böll's work had been translated already into more than 30 languages. He remains one of Germany's most widely known authors, with the publication of a 27 volume edition of his writings finished in 2010.

HEINRICH BOLL


Heinrich Böll

Life

Chronology

Böll was born on December 21st, 1917, in Cologne, Germany to a middle-class, Catholic family. His father was a carpenter specializing in benches and cabinets for churches, whose first wife had died. Böll's father had remarried.
Attending a Catholic high school (Gymnasium), Böll successfully resisted joining the Hitler Youth during the 1930s. He started and broke off an apprenticeship to learn the trade of bookseller, then matriculated into the University of Cologne. His first literary attempts date to 1936.
Drafted into compulsary work service and then the army (Wehrmacht), he served in France, Romania, Hungary and the Soviet Union, and was wounded four times before being captured by Americans in April 1945. He was in Prisoner of War camps until September. During his six years in uniform, he wrote letters almost daily to his wife and family, which were published after his death. His war injuries, which he attempted to prevent healing in order to stay longer as unfit, were a factor in his often poor health.
Böll attempted to live solely as a writer after the war, but was also supported by the income of his wife Annemarie, who worked for several years as a middle school teacher. Together with his wife, who had the primary involvement, the Bölls collaborated on numerous translations of Irish, English and American literature. 
Böll's first novel was "Der Zug war pünktlich" (The Train Was on Time), published in 1949. He won the Prize of the Gruppe '47 (Group 47) at Bad Durkheim in 1951. In the immediate post-war period, he adapted memories of the War and wrote of its effects on the lives of ordinary people in his works.
The novel "Billard um halbzehn" (Billiards at Half-past Nine) portrayed three generations of a family and showed the rise and continuity of the Nazi past in Germany.
His novel "Ansichten eines Clowns" (Opinions of a Clown) caused much debate for its depiction of the Catholic church in Germany. In 1976, Böll and his wife left the Catholic church in protest over church taxation.
http://www.dhm.de/lemo/objekte/pict/BiographieBoellHeinrich_photoBoellHeinrich/index.html
depicts Böll on the 2nd of December 1953 at a "Wednesday Discussion" of Cologne writers.

I. 1917-1936

1917 Heinrich Böll is born the sixth child of Viktor Böll, master carpenter and woodcarver, and his wife Maria, in Cologne on the 21st of December. Wartime conditions including hunger are at their worst.

1921 The family moves from the southern part of Cologne to the outlying district of Raderberg.

1924 Böll begins elementary school in Köln-Raderthal.

1928 Böll enters the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gymnasium, a well-regarded school in Cologne based on the classics.

1929  The Great Depression brings the collapse of a small bank for craftsmen in which Böll's father had invested.  The Bölls have to sell their house in Raderberg and move back to the south-city district Cologne.  In the subsequent years, the family knows visits to pawnbrokers, bailiffs knocking on the door, and the seizure of household goods as part of everyday life.

1933  After Hitler becomes Chancellor, the Nazis spread terror in Cologne.  The Böll family discusses political events frequently and openly. Böll participates in clandestine meetings of Catholic youth groups held in their apartment.

1936 Dated manuscripts in Böll's papers, including novel fragments, short stories, and poems - show that he starts writing at this time.

II. 1937-1945


1937 Böll finishes the Gymnasium and passes his Abitur examinations (school-leaving certificate). He begins an apprenticeship with the bookseller Math. Lemperz in Bonn, but leaves without finishing it.

Between 1939 and 1945 Böll is stationed:

- at a training camp in Osnabrück (August 39 - May 1940)

-in Poland (May and June 1940); in France (June - September 1940) 

- in Germany (September 1940 - May 1942)

- in France (May 1942 - October 1943)

- in Russia, the Crimea, Odessa (October 1943 - February 1944)

- at various places on German territory from March 1944 until April 1945, when he is taken prisoner. 

Böll temporarily deserts and goes into hiding with his wife in Much, not far from Cologne, but on the other side of the Rhine.  Fearing he could be executed as a deserter, he rejoins the army at the end of February 1945.

Almost every day, he writes a letter to his family and to his fiancée Annemarie Cech, whom he marries in 1942.  

During the war at least 20,000 people die in a total of 262 air-raids on Cologne.  Almost half of its nearly 70,000 pre-war buildings are between 60% to 100% destroyed.  Of its pre-war population of 770,000, only about 20,000 are still living in the city at the beginning of April 1945.  On the 8th of April 1945, Cologne is liberated by the American army.

1945 Böll is released from captivity as a POW in September. He joins his pregnant wife in Much. His son Christoph, who was born in July, dies in October due to the harsh conditions.

III. 1946-1953


1946 On returning to Cologne, the family moves into a half destroyed house in the Schiller Street, located in the Bayenthal section.  Böll enrolls again at the Cologne University in order to obtain a ration card. He works as an assistant in his father's carpentry workshop, which is run primarily by his brother Alois.  Böll's wife Annemarie works as a school-teacher at the secondary school in Severinswall and is able to provide for the family, soon to number five. In November, Böll begins to write regularly, working on the posthumously published novels "Kreuz ohne Liebe" (Cross without Love) and "Der Engel schwieg" (The Silent Angel), as well as numerous short stories, fragments, essays, and poems. Many of these works draw upon experiences of the Nazi period, the war, and the immediate post-war period.

1947 In March, Böll submits his first short stories to various magazines and newspapers.  On the 3rd of May, one of them entitled "Vor der Eskaladierwand" (Before the escalading wall) is published in an abridged form in the "Rheinischer Merkur" under the title "Aus der Vorzeit" (From prehistoric times). Böll's son Raimund is born.

1948 Böll's son René is born. Böll begins contact with the publisher Friedrich Middelhauve.

1949 Böll signs his first publishing contract and has his first large publication: "Der Zug war pünktlich" (The train was on time). The family faces financial straits, because royalties from his publications are insufficient.  Böll seeks a staff position in radio or publishing and often thinks of giving up writing.  

1950 His son Vincent is born.  Böll takes a temporary job with the city of Cologne during the census of 1950 and is employed from June 1950 to April 1951, counting buildings and apartments. Middelhauve publishes a volume of his short stories: "Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa..." (Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We...).

1951 Böll is invited for the first time to a meeting of Hans Werner Richter's "Group 47," held that year at Bad Dürkheim, where he is awarded their prize for the short satire "Die schwarzen Schafe" (Black Sheep). The novel "Wo warst Du, Adam?" (Adam, where art thou?) is published, the last of his works by Middelhauve.

1952 Böll leaves Middelhauve for the publishing house of Kiepenheuer & Witsch. Böll increasingly depicts social problems in the German Federal Republic.  He writes essays expressing his views that the moral expectations at the end of the war, which were hopefully to take hold in the new state, are increasingly being sacrificed to economic and political concerns.

IV. 1953-1959

1953 Böll's new publishing house Kiepenheuer & Witsch brings out the novel "Und sagte kein einziges Wort" (Acquainted with the night).  It is Böll's first financial and literary success. Böll becomes a member of the prestigious German Academy of Language and Literature (Mitglied der Deutschen Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung), which had been founded in 1949. 

1954 Böll publishes the novel "Haus ohne Hüter" (The unguarded house).  The Bölls move into a house of in Köln-Müngersdorf. They travel for the first time to Irland.

1955 Publication of "Das Brot der frühen Jahre" (The bread of our early years).

1955 Böll receives for the French language version of "Haus ohne Hüter" the Prize of French Publishers for the best foreign novel. Böll joins the PEN Club dof West Germany.

1956 Böll is one of 105 intellectuals and artists - including Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, Arthur Köstler, Jean Paul Sartre - to sign a protest against the actions of the Soviet Union in Hungary and the intervention of Great Britian and France in Egypt to open the Suez Canal.

1957 "Irisches Tagebuch" (Irish Journal) appears in book form, parts of it having been printed separately in newspapers beginning in 1954.

1958  Böll's name is first mentioned as a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Böll recieves several prizes. 

1959 Böll publishes the novel "Billard um halbzehn" (Billiards at half past nine), in which he depicts characters belonging to a family of architects named Fähmel, whose history is traced through three generations. Böll emphasizes that the present state of the Federal Republic is the continuation and outcome of the last fifty years of German history.  Symbolically, the ruthless and powerful "Büffel" (buffaloes) are contrasted with the gentle and passive "Lämmer" (lambs). Böll helps to establish the "Germania Judaica" (German Jewry) section of the Cologne City Library dedicated to the history of the Jews in Germany.

V. 1960-1969


Böll's concerns about the role of the Catholic Church in Germany grow in this decade and he criticizes its close links with the ruling CDU (Christian Democratic Union) political party, whose central figure is the German Chancellor - a former mayor of Cologne in the pre-Nazi period - Konrad Adenauer.

1960 Böll delivers a speech in Düsseldorf on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Victims of Nazi Persecution.  His father dies at the age of 90. Böll is a Coeditor of the magazine "Labyrinth", which has as its goal the formulation of a christian vision of society. 

1961 Böll's "Irishes Tagebuch" (Irish Journal) appears in paperback as the first volume of the new "dtv" Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag (German Paperback Publishing House). Böll is awarded a scholarship as "Ehrengast der Deutschen Akademie" (Honored Guest of the German Academy) to live with his family at the Villa Massimo in Rome. The start of the building of the Berlin Wall on August 13th begins a heated controversy over the role of writers as the "Gewissen der Nation" (the conscience of the nation). "Spiegel" publishes a long article in its issue of December 6th on Böll with him on the cover. Böll's play "Ein Schluck Erde" (A mouthful of earth) premieres in Düsseldorf to a largely negative response from critics.

1963 Böll's novel "Ansichten eines Clowns" (The Clown) is published.

1964 At the University of Frankfurt, Böll delivers several lectures on literature in which develops ideas on what he terms an "Ästhetik des Humanen" (Aesthetic of the Human).

1965 Böll decries the attacks against the poet and singer Wolf Biermann which had appeared in East German newspapers.

1966 Böll publishes "Ende einer Dienstfahrt" (The End of a Mission). At the dedication of a new theater in Wuppertal, Böll delivers a speech entitled "Die Freiheit der Kunst" (The Freedom of Art), discussing the relation between art and the state.

1967 Böll receives the highest literary award of the West German republic, the Georg Büchner Prize of the German Academy for Language and Literature (Georg-Büchner-Preis der Deutschen Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung). The collection "Aufsätze, Kritiken, Reden" (Essays, Reviews, Speeches) is published. Böll is seriously ill, diagnosed with hepatitis and diabetes.

1968  In May, Böll addresses some 70,000 demonstrators in Bonn; they have gar-thered to oppose the passing of the "Notstandsgesetze" (Emergency Laws).  At the invitation of the Czech Authors' Association, Böll visits Czechoslovakia in August and witnesses the invasion of the country to end to the 'Prague Spring'. He publishes an account of these events appears in "Spiegel". The Bölls purchase a farmhouse in Langenbroich in the Eifel.

1969  At the founding meeting of "Verband Deutscher Schriftsteller" (The Association of German Writers) held in Cologne, Böll delivers a speech on "Das Ende der Bescheidenheit" (The end of modesty). The Bölls move into an apartment in the Hülchrather Street.

 VI. 1970-1976


1970  Böll speaks at the founding meeting of the German Writers' Association in Stuttgart on the "Einigkeit der Einzelgänger" (Unity of the loners). Böll is elected President of the PEN Club of the Federal Republic of Germany for the period 1970-1972.

1971 Publication of "Gruppenbild mit Dame" (Group Portrait with Lady). At the 38th meeting of the International PEN Club in Dublin, Böll is elected to be the next President.

1972  On January 10th, 1972, the 'Spiegel' publishes an article by Böll with a title he had not approved: "Will Ulrike Gnade oder freites Geleit? (Does Ulrike Meinhof want mercy or a safe conduct?)  He vehemently attacks the way in which the newspaper "Bild" had reported a bank robbery that took place at Kaiserslautern on December 23rd, 1971. "Bild" blamed the crime on the Baader-Meinhof Group with the headline "Baader-Meinhof mordet weiter" (Baader-Meinhof gang goes on murdering), when in the text the police are quoted as having no evidence as to whom was responsible. This article unleashes a harsh campaign in right-wing publications against Böll lasting for months. At the beginning of June, while in various police raids leading terrorists are arrested, the police also search Böll's country house in Langenbroich. Böll learns in October that he will receve the Nobel Prize for Literature. Böll is active in a Social Democratic Voters' initiative and supports Brandt's election campaign. In December, Böll is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

1973 Böll publishes of a collection of essays entitled "Neue politische und literarische Schriften" (New political and literary writings).

1974 "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, oder Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann" (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum or: How violence can arise and where it can lead) appears.

1975 Böll publishes "Berichte zur Gesinnungslage der Nation" (Reports on the state of mind of the nation), a satire on the German security services. An interview entitled "Drei Tage im März" (Three Days in March), conducted by Christian Linder, appears. "Ansichten eines Clowns" (The Clown) is made into a film by Vojtech Jasny, in which Helmut Griem strars.  "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum) is adapted by Volker Schlöndorff and Margarette von Trotta, with Angela Winkler in the title role. Böll is invloved in writing and approving dialogue.

1976  Böll does little literary work, concentrating on journalistic activity.  With Günter Grass and Carola Stern, he publishes the magazine "L'76," in which the authors seek to present their conception of a democratic and libertarian form of socialism. In January, Heinrich Böll and his wife formally leave the Catholic Church.


VII. 1977-1985

1977  Publication of a collection of essays entitled "Einmischung erwünscht. Schriften und Reden zur Zeit" ('A Plea for Meddling. Writings and talks on contemporary issues'. In May, the film adaptation of "Gruppenbils mit Dame" (Group Portrait with Lady) is released. Romy Schneider stars in the role of Leni Gruyten, but the adaptation by Aleksandar Petrović is generally reviewed very negatively. On the 5th of September, the President of the "Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände" (Federal Association of Employers' Associations) and the "Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie" (Federal Association of German Industry) Hanns-Martin Schleyer is kidnapped. His driver and three bodyguards are murdered. At the request of the government of Baden-Württemberg, Heinrich Albertz, Heinrich Böll, Helmut Gollwitzer and Kurt Scharf issue an appeal to the kidnappers, circulated by the press agencies on the 11th of September. On September 13th, a meeting takes place between the leader of the SPD, Willy Brandt, and Heinrich Böll, which is meant to be a demonstration of Brandt's solidarity with Böll. On the 27th of September 1977, the apartment of Böll's son René is searched.  A few days later, the former residence of the Bölls, from which they moved in 1969, is also searched. On the 16th of December, the city council of Cologne gives a reception to celebrate Böll's sixtieth birthday.

1978 For the film "Deutschland im Herbst" (Germany in Autumn), Böll writes a scene called "Die verschobene Antigone" (The Delayed Antigone). Directed by Volker Schlöndorff, it satirizes the behavior of the media.

1979  The novel "Fürsorgliche Belagerung" (The Safety Net) is published. At the opening of the Cologne Central Library on the 21st of September, Böll presents the City with his archive as a permanent loan. The publishing house Lamuv - managed by René Böll - brings out "Du fährst zu oft nach Heidelberg und andere Erählungen" (Too Many Trips to Heidelberg and Other Stories). Böll declines to receive the order of the Federal Republic of Germany from President Scheel. During a December trip to Ecuador, Böll sufferes a vascular condition in the right leg necessitating an operation in that country.

1980 Upon delayed return to Germany, Böll undergoes a further operation.  Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt visits him afterward in the hospital.

1981 Böll publishes by Lamuv his only lengthy autobiographical work: "Was soll aus dem Jungen bloß werden? Oder: Irgendwas mit Büchern" (What's to Become of the Boy? Or: Something to do with Books) On the 10th of October, Böll addresses the first great peace demonstration in Bonn, at which about 300,000 people take part.

1982 "Vermintes Gelände - essayistische Reden und Schriften 1977-1981" (Minefield - essays and speeches 1977-1981) is published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch.  Lamuv brings out the hitherto unpublished early post-war story "Das Vermächtnis" (A Soldier's Legacy). The Bölls leave Hülchrather Street and move to Merten. Böll's son Raimund dies.

1983  Lamuv brings out a volume of hitherto unpublished short stories written between 1946 and 1951 under the title "Die Verwundung" (The Wound). In poor health, Böll takes part in the blockade of an American barracks as a protest of the stationing of Pershing rockets.

1984 A collection of speeches and essays from 1981-1983 entitled "Ein- und Zusprüche" (Protest and Encouragement) is published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch.  Böll publishes by Lamuv a book about the language of Helmut Kohl government's official spokesman Peter Boenisch, entitled "Bild, Bonn, Boenisch". Cologne purchases Böll's literary estate.

1985  In early July, Böll enters the hospital for an operation.  On the 15 of July, he is discharged in preparation for a further operation.  On the morning of the 16th of July, however, he dies peacefully in his house in Langenbroich, with his wife at his side.  On the 19th of July, he is buried in the cemetary in Bornheim-Merten. Colleagues such as Günter Grass and politicians, including the President of the Federal Republic, Richard von Weizsäcker, attend the funeral. The novel "Frauen vor Flusslandschaft" (Women in a River Landscape) appears posthumously. On the 27th of September, the City of Cologne organizes a ceremony to honor Heinrich Böll, at which the square in front of the Museum Ludwig near the Cathedral is named after him.

HEINRICH BÖLL




Where Language is Home: 
A Conversation on Heinrich Böll 
at Goethe Institut New York

The author Heinrich Böll is among the contemporary literary greats of Germany, whose work earned him accolades throughout his career both at home and abroad- including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. The Brooklyn publisher Melville House has reintroduced Böll to his American audience with its release of eight new English translations in the series "The Essential Heinrich Böll" over the past year.

The series and the life of the author behind it formed the subject of "An Evening on The Essential Heinrich Böll," a panel discussion with artist René Böll, Wall Street Journal critic Sam Sacks, and German-Irish author Hugo Hamilton at Goethe-Institut New York on January 16. The discussion began with a personal narrative by René Böll, who described his father's relationship to Ireland with a slide presentation of family photos from their time on Achill Island, off the western coast ofIreland, in the 1950s. Though Heinrich Böll was deeply attached to his home city of Cologne, Ireland was "always on his mind," a place that served as an "escape" from the war-torn city.

He presented images of Böll family life in a cottage with no electricity or running water, where the children were home-schooled by their mother and lived in relative anonymity- and isolation- while their father wrote and their mother translated English books into German. As a hand-written list of points appeared on the screen, René Böll paused and expounded on a few anecdotes: the title read "irische Themen," and, as he explained, these were the recollections and remarks that would form Böll's Irish Journal, a book documenting his travels throughIreland in the 1950s.

This view of Heinrich Böll illuminated his relationship with a country that afforded him the space to work in ways a destroyed Cologne could not. It also highlighted the importance of Böll's observations ofGermany from this distance, in a place that was largely "still asleep" to the war and the Holocaust, as Hugo Hamilton, author of "The Speckled People," described the remoteness of Irish society in the 1950s.

öll grappled with the consciousness of a postwarGermany in his writing, meditating on themes that directly confronted the physical and psychological destruction in the aftermath of the Second World War. Sacks noted in the "stylistic ingenuity and brilliance" of works such as "Billiards at Half-Nine" and "The Clown," a deep concern for humanity and a "constant search to regain innocence" of Böll'sTrümmerliteratur, or "literature of the rubble," as German post-war literature is often characterized.

Himself a witness to combat as a private wounded four times throughout WWII, Böll engaged Germany's traumatic and immediate past and attempted to muster a language that could take on a period that seemed to defy description or reflection. His linguistic and stylistic efforts were Böll's tool to produce a literature free of a "German language corrupted by Nazi propaganda," said Sacks. Böll was influenced by writing outside of the German writing tradition, added Hamilton, as he developed a language that would "reshape of the moral consciousness of Germany."

Though he may have found temporary refuge in the quiet of an Irish island, "the German language was his home," said René Böll. Remaining true to his art with an acute social awareness of his time, Böll's legacy extends far beyond his literary stance into a compelling figure for present-day, English-language readers alike.




SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

(1949) Der Zug war pünktlich (The Train Was on Time)
(1950) Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa…
(1951) Die schwarzen Schafe (Black Sheep)
(1951) Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit (Christmas Not Just Once a Year)
(1951) Wo warst du, Adam? (And where were you, Adam?)
(1952) Die Waage der Baleks (The Balek Scales)
(1953) Und sagte kein einziges Wort (And Never Said a Word)
(1954) Haus ohne Hüter (House without Guardians ; Tomorrow and Yesterday)
(1955) Das Brot der frühen Jahre (The Bread of Those Early Years)
(1957) Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Journal)
(1957) Die Spurlosen (Missing Persons)
(1958) Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen (Murke's Collected Silences, 1963)
(1959) Billard um halb zehn (Billiards at Half-past Nine)
(1962) Ein Schluck Erde
(1963) Ansichten eines Clowns (The Clown)
(1963) Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral (Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity)
(1964) Entfernung von der Truppe (Absent Without Leave)
(1966) Ende einer Dienstfahrt (End of a Mission)
(1971) Gruppenbild mit Dame (Group Portrait with Lady)
(1974) Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum)
(1979) Du fährst zu oft nach Heidelberg und andere Erzählungen (You Go to Heidelberg Too Often) - short stories
(1979) Fürsorgliche Belagerung (The Safety Net)
(1981) Was soll aus dem Jungen bloß werden? Oder: Irgendwas mit Büchern (What's to Become of the Boy?) - autobiography of Böll's school years 1933–1937
(1982) Vermintes Gelände
(1982, written 1948) Das Vermächtnis (A Soldier's Legacy)
(1983) Die Verwundung und andere frühe Erzählungen (The Casualty) - unpublished stories from 1947–1952

POSTHUMOUS

(1985) Frauen vor Flusslandschaft (Women in a River Landscape)
(1986) The Stories of Heinrich Böll - U.S. release
(1992, written 1949/50) Der Engel schwieg (The Silent Angel)
(1995) Der blasse Hund - unpublished stories from 1937 & 1946–1952
(2002, written 1946–1947) Kreuz ohne Liebe
(2004, written 1938) Am Rande der Kirche
(2011) The Collected Stories - reissues of translations, U.S. release




miércoles, 29 de agosto de 2018

Anna Swir



DRAGON

DE OTROS MUNDOS


Anna Swir
Anna Świrszczyńska 
1909–1984

Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) was born in Warsaw, Poland, to an artistic though impoverished family. She worked from an early age, supporting herself while she attended university to study medieval Polish literature. In the 1930s she worked for a teachers’ association, served as an editor, and began publishing poetry. Swir joined the Resistance during World War II and worked as a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising; at one point she came within an hour of being executed before she was spared. In addition to poetry, Swir wrote plays and stories for children and directed a children’s theater. She lived in Krakow from 1945 until her death from cancer in 1984. 


Her poems have been collected in English translation in Building the Barricade (1974), Happy as a Dog’s Tail (1985), fat like the sun (1986), and Talking to My Body (1996), translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan.


Swir’s poems about war and death use direct, simple language. In Building the Barricade she includes a section called “Poems about My Father and My Mother,” which affectionately describes scenes of her parents. Swir also wrote candidly and passionately about the female body; in his introduction to Talking to My Body, Milosz identified her central theme as “Flesh. Flesh in love and ecstasy, in pain, in terror, flesh afraid of loneliness, giving birth, resting, feeling the flow of time or reducing time to one instant.” Eva Hoffman, reviewing Happy as a Dog’s Tail for the New York Times, commented on Swir’s adept depictions of erotic love: “The quick, decisive strokes in which she registers moments of meeting, coupling or parting are almost abstract in their lack of surface detail, but they give us glimpses of a turbulent, even ferocious internal life.”


Swir’s awards include the Krzyz Kawalerski Oderu Odrodzenia Polski (1957), Krzyz Oficersk Orderu Odrodzenia Polski (1975), Nagroda miasta Krakowa (1976), and Medal Komisji Edukacji Narodowej.





Happy as a Dog’s Tail – Anna Swir

March 14, 2014

Anna Swir (1909-1984) is a Polish poet sadly little known in America, despite the efforts of her great admirer and associate, the Nobel-winning Czesław Miłosz, on her behalf. This out-of-print selection of her love poems was translated by Miłosz with the help of Leonard Nathan and published the year after her death. They teamed up again for an expanded collection called Talking to My Body (1996). The latter is somewhat easier to find and contains much of the same material, so unless you find Happy as a Dog’s Tail in a used bookshop, like I did, you’d probably be better off choosing that one.
Happy as a Dog’s Tail is relentlessly monochromatic in selection. In the first half of her career, Swir did a series of war poems based on her experience in the Warsaw resistance and as a military nurse. Later in life she turned her attention solely to love poems – though they could more accurately be called hate poems – and those are what Miłosz and Nathan chose for the exclusive subject of this collection. At first glance it looks like a mistake but rereading reveals a method to the myopia.
Swir in translation is forthright and easy to handle but hardly “confessional.” She is invested in a woman’s point of view but her voice is full of irony and detachment. Comparisons could be drawn between her work and Anne Sexton’s in Love Poems and Transformations – both women speak in a tone arch, energetic, mocking and cold. Unlike Sexton, Swir keeps this coldness pressed sharply close to the point at all times. And though their stylistic approaches are very different, there is also an unexpected similarity between Swir’s poetry and Djuna Barnes’ novel Nightwood.
Make no mistake: despite the title, Happy as a Dog’s Tail is a frightening and astonishing book. Swir’s vision is dark, frigid and ascetic. To flip through the pages of this slim volume is to grow apprehensive, recognising the nihilistic cliff her poems teeter upon. They’re the easiest things in the world to read, but much harder to absorb. One of the shortest of them all is ‘I Cannot.’

I envy you. Every moment
You can leave me.



I cannot

leave myself.


Her obsession is with alienation. Flesh and spirit are in an unrequested marriage, forcibly bound even as the body degrades (nowhere better summed up than in the poem ‘Large Intestine’). The struggle for spiritual supremacy is painted through the abandonment of lovers and the stern, bitter triumph of isolation. It is her especial focus in the middle portion of the book, taken up with the three ‘Love’ cycles (Felicia’s, Antonia’s and Stephanie’s). These women depart relationships to achieve liberation and each cycle concludes with them living alone, their pain unshared; they choose to return to a virginal solitude that for all of its sorrow and loneliness is theirs alone. Longing / … / fashions the soul / as work / fashions the belly. God is not an image in Swir’s work, and yet her poems carry the weight of Monasticism, of isolating and offering oneself up to the scourge, to be cauterised and purified.
There is a sacrificial ecstasy manifesting itself in the lines of many poems: ‘I Starve My Belly for a Sublime Purpose,’ ‘Fireproof Smile,’ ‘Song of Plenitude,’ ‘Intensity of Atmosphere’ – too many to quote from. Happy as a Dog’s Tail takes a Medievalist quandary and writes it into the secular, sexually liberated landscape of the modern world. In ‘Iron Currycomb’ she writes:
Oh, I toil hard,
with an iron currycomb
I scrub my body to the bone,
the bone to the marrow.

I want to be cleaner than the bone.

I want to be clean

as nothingness.


Physicality and eroticism are ever-present in this book. Swir does not shy from the topic but she often treats it as more trouble than it’s worth. Sexual acts are maligned, dark things; primal practicalities; sardonically accepted gifts; a beautiful song of the night / a song of combat. In older times, the goddess of fertility was often also the goddess of war and Swir unabashedly revels in these mythical traits of womanhood. She gives no sympathy to men, only a terse and mocking laughter. Stephanie claims I walk obediently / in the dog collar of your adoration only a few poems away from breaking things off with her lover. True tenderness is saved only for old women, as in the poems ‘The Same Inside’ and ‘The Greatest Love.’
Swir’s poems are ferocious and uncompromising; her vision potently, almost murderously, feminine. She more than repays a weekend spent pouring over her writings. But her obscurity in this country is terrible, so American feminism didn’t do her much good. Rather, lovers of poetry both male and female should seek her out as too unique to be missed. See if you can find this or Talking to My Body and help propel Anna Swir to the resuscitation she deserves.




Building the Barricade and Other Poems 

– Anna Swir

January 30, 2015


Anna Swir (1909-1984) was a Polish poet whose verse, arid and ominous yet full of life, is too little known today. Thankfully, in 2011 Calypso Editions made a selection of her war poems available in a new translation by Piotr Florczyk with a foreward by Jericho Brown. This decision can only be applauded (though I still hope to see the Complete Poems one day).
Swir worked as a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and her first-hand experience led to the sequence of poems Building the Barricade, first published in Poland in 1974. While her later love poems are psychological labyrinths with a strongly feminist outlook, Building the Barricade recounts incidents, reviving the small and forgotten characters of war: civilians, volunteers, looters, infants, nurses; all the people that history remembers on the sidelines even while being in the middle of it all. The sole poem to make mention of the higher military is not actually about them at all but the girls who deliver their orders:
‘Said the Major’
“This order must be delivered within an hour,”
said the Major.
“That’s not possible, it’s an inferno out there,”
said the second lieutenant.

Five messenger girls went out,

one made it.


The order was delivered within an hour.
The poems are arranged as an evolving narrative; this if anything heightens the intensity of Building the Barricade – from the immediacy of ‘Beauty Dies’ and ‘Conversation Through a Door’ it leads us to the uprising’s end and then come Madrigals, ‘Waiting Thirty Years’ and ‘Poetry Reading’ as the war becomes internalized and life somehow continues. More than that, when you read the Madrigals (That first night of love…” the first after the War?) they perfectly match the tone of her love poems (collected in Happy as a Dog’s Tail and Talking to My Body). Piotr Florczyk preserves the voice from the earlier Czesław Miłosz/Leonard Nathan translations, which is the highest praise I can give any translator.

It was only a moment of life,
though it wanted to be a conclusion.

By dying

it wanted to understand the mystery of the world.


That night of love

had ambitions.


Above all else, Building the Barricade is a survivor’s narrative, exhausting and stark. The more I read it, the more it drained me. The titular poem shows Swir surviving as others die at random, a motley assortment, smuggler girl, dressmaker, tram driver / all of us cowards. The chaos and unpredictability of the uprising is a common theme. ‘He Got Lucky’ refers to a professor who escaped with only a beating while ‘The Child Lives One More Hour’ deals with infant starvation with brutal calmness. Looters perish by the very chaos that enables them to steal and museums burn.
What a sin to spy
on naked flames,

what a sin to eavesdrop

on breathing fire. 

I flee this speech
which sounded
on earth before the speech of man.


‘Talking with Corpses’ eventually finds her apologizing for being alive but the dead have no envy of the living and forgive her: Life / after all was so dangerous back then. I would not hesitate to call this necessary poetry. Truthful, vivid memories of the rubble of World War Two.
PSEUDO INTELLETUAL REVIEWS


Anna Swir


Review of Anna Swir’s Talking to My Body
By J. Hope Stein



To that which is most important

Were I able to shut
My eyes, ears, legs, hands
And walk into myself
For a thousand years,
Perhaps I would reach
—I do not know its name—
what matters most.

“Poetry creates around a man a delicate, tender miniworld” Anna Swir declared,  “to protect him from the dreadfulness of the maxiworld.” Talking to My Body, the collected works Polish feminist Anna Swir, takes us on a journey of “that which is most important.” What can we learn from the world contained within Swir’s miniatures?  How do Swir’s poems which were written from the 1930’s – 1970’s inform and refresh our modern 21st century approach to mind, body and spirit?

In the first section of Talking to My Body titled “Poems About My Father and My Mother” Swir creates  “mini worlds” that give tender glimpses of her nuclear family (the speaker and her parents). The collection begins with a speaker who defines herself as part of a threesome. She evokes the preciousness of this magic threesome effectively in “Three pieces of Candy” “We taste.  Three paradises melt /in our mouths.” And in and the final line of  “Christmas Eve,”   “ How good it is we’re here, / we three.”  And shows us the touching vulnerability of a child talking about her parents in  “My Father’s Workshop,”   “I would wake up at night/ afraid they both would die, / I listened to their breathing…”  In “An Artist Moves,” the speaker describes her relationship with her parents with a sibling-like quality of joy and mischief. There is a sense of “the us” (nuclear family) against “the maxiworld” in the circumstances of life.  Swir creates a world in which these 3 characters are working together as a single organism to survive and makes us see family in a way that seems fresh to modern eyes.

An Artist Moves

At dawn
We leave on tiptoe

Father carries the easel
And three paintings, mother
A chest and the eiderdown
Inherited from grandmother, I myself
A pot and a teakettle.

We load it all on a car, quickly,
So the janitor does not see.
My father is pulling the cart, quickly,
So the janitor does not see.
My father
Is pulling the cart, quickly,
My mother pushes at the rear quickly,
I push also, quickly, quickly, quickly,
So that the janitor does not see. 

We owe
A half-year’s rent. 

As the collection progresses, there is still a magic threesome, but now it is the speaker who becomes the mother, her husband and their child.   “In Felicia’s Love – Three Bodies” the final image has the effect of echoing the earlier familial images and communicating this special tenderness is passed down to the next generation.  “And the three bodies pool their warmth/ At night, when a pregnant woman/ lies by her man.”   Swir’s vision of the nuclear family is strikingly different than what we see in modern culture where we are surrounded by images of the failure of family.  In present culture we are encouraged to look beyond family, beyond what we have, and we ask ourselves if we are happy. Yet, while the soul of Swir’s family may feel ideal to us,  it also feels like the most natural thing in the world.  We rediscover something about what family means the way we do when we watch a nature documentary and see animals acting instinctively. Milosz calls Swir’s poems “anti –psychological.”  The lack of psychology and plainness of the language helps us see family in its natural form. Between political family values and teen angst the soul of the 21st century family can often get lost.  We are surrounded by art and media that aim to expose the imperfections of family.  Family is often portrayed with sarcasm as something you need to escape from, something that inspires therapy. Swir’s poems remind us that family survives as the sum of the parts.  What’s interesting about this section in Talking to My Body in relation to the rest of the collection is the speaker’s strong sense of self.  There is never any doubt that the speaker isn’t exactly where she belongs.  Yes there is poverty, hardship and extreme vulnerability, but the speaker’s identity is unshaken.

In the next section of  “Talking to My Body” there is a shift in tone and the speakers of the poems seem very disconnected and alone in the world. Swir uses the technique of writing about flesh and body parts in a plain unsentimental way.   It’s as though the speakers in her poems are aliens trying to make sense of body and soul.  In “Myself and My Person”  Swir writes, “There are moments/when I feel more clearly than ever that I am in the company/of my own person”  Then she asks “what would happen” if she physically turned left but her “own person walked to the right.” In Czeslaw Milosz’s introduction he says ”The language of theology lost its hold over the minds of even the most fervent believers.  The language of philosophy is hardly possible.  The language of science is in it’s optimistic nineteenth century variety has suffered a loss of self-assurance.  In this situation a poet trying to come to terms with experience has had to discover his or her own improvised means.”  We find ourselves in a similar time of rugged individualism.  There is this sense that everyone is walking down the street listening to the sound of a different drum -  literally on their Ipods.  In Swir’s case it’s almost as if she has created the most simple unit of religion where she has made her body the temple or church by which she seeks and prays in search of self.  In her often painful search for self, there are moments of ecstasy in which the mind body and soul align in just the right way.  (These days we have a drug called “ecstasy” that will do that for us.)  In “A Woman Talks to Her Thigh” she describes a profound soulful state which she reaches through physical intercourse– “The souls of my lovers/open to me in the moment of love/…I read as does an angel/thoughts in their skulls/…I enter their souls,/I wander/ …I come to myself slowly.”   She concludes – “the most exquisite refinement”  of her soul cannot do for her what the good looks of her thigh can.

In “What is a Pineal Gland” the speaker describes her lover sleeping and the physical work going on inside his body, his lungs and digestion.  And asks “do you belong to me?/I myself do not belong to you.” She then describes her own body processes, lungs and digestion and with an outer body perspective writes, “homeless, I tremble looking at our two bodies.”   She further dissociates between the self and the body in “Large Intestine.” “Here is my naked body. /Apparently you like it, /I have no reason to./Who bound us, me and my body?….Where am I, I, I myself?”  She wonders where her real self is— if it’s in her belly, her intestines, her toe, and concludes “apparently in the brain.” The repeated use of “apparently” is darkly comedic and resigned. She continues, “Take my brain out of my skull.  I have the right/to see myself.” And at the end of “Large Intestine” she is further resigned and defeated by the eventual decay of the body. “slowly annihilated because of the body/I will become kidney failure/or gangrene of the large intestine. /And expire with shame.”   Between soul and flesh, the mind struggles to find the self in Swir’s poems. Swir is flesh-obsessed, as we are. While our culture replaces flesh with silicon, freezes flesh with injections of Botox, worships giant billboards of flesh that looks like it will never die, Swir is obsessed with the body decaying.   In “You Sleep” –  the speaker is so debilitated by this struggle she cannot answer a simple question from her lover - if she is happy –because she is flooded with images, fear of death and the end of the body and earthly relationships.  The question “are you happy”  is something we as 21st century Americans feel entitled to ask ourselves everyday.  And depending on the answer we will abandon jobs, parents, friends, marriages, kids to strive towards a more perfect happiness.


Towards the end of Talking to My Body we see another slight shift in tone. The poems in which Swir talks to her body become more resolved and even ecstatic at times.

Thank you My Fate

I made love with my dear
As if I made love dying
As if I made love praying,
Tears pour
Over my arms and his arms.
I don’t know whether this is joy or grief,
I don’t understand what I feel, I’m crying,
I’m crying, it’s humility
As if I were dead,
Gratitude, I thank you, my fate,
I am unworthy, how beautiful, my life.

In “Thank you My Fate,” the speaker embraces her fate as she understands it and is in a unique state of euphoria which her body and soul worked in unison to reach.

Similarly in “The Iron Hedgehog,” Swir restores a sense of inner world and although vulnerable,  the speaker is connected to something  in her poems about family.  She returns to her ‘miniworld” against the “maxiworld”.

The Iron Hedgehog

A happy woman,
I am as an embryo in the mother’s womb,
I sleep hidden in you.

Don’t give birth to me yet,
I want to be in you always….
…The world is freezing, I am afraid…
Do not ever give birth to me
I want to sleep in you

Swir’s  detached, matter-of-fact way of talking about the flesh and organs, strips out the sexiness and deflates our modern notions of body.  It removes us from a perpetual  state of denial and “by expressing reality, attempts to master and overcome it.” Swir’s quiet style has a similar effect in her war poems which are discussed in the afterward of Talking to My Body.  In “Manhunt,”  in very simple strokes, she conveys every citizens’ vulnerability under the Gestapo—
 “…the man who stepped up to the door holding a sleepy child on his shoulder did not know that the house was surrounded.”  In “Ghetto:  Two Living Children” she writes of a shooting of 2 children in the ghetto “ hidden behind a street corner, wrapped in mist, a German soldier at a machine gun…” Again, the power in Swir’s poems comes from her plain approach on matters unspeakable, like decay of flesh and war.  Swir said “Let our words be as necessary and useful as once were words of magic.  This is an unachievable idea.”  Yet Swir herself is able to achieve a certain magic by connecting us to our deepest unarticulated fears about “that which is most important” and concluding in  “I Talk to My Body” “splendid possibilities/are open to us.”





BIBLIOGRAPHY

POETRY COLLECTIONS

Wiersze i proza (Poems and Prose) (1936)
Liryki zebrane (Collected Poems) (1958)
Czarne słowa (Black Words) (1967)
Wiatr (Wind) (1970)
Jestem baba (I am a Woman) (1972)
Poezje wybrane (Selected Poems) (1973)
Budowałam barykadę (Building the Barricade) (1974)
Szczęśliwa jak psi ogon (Happy as a Dog's Tail) (1978)
Cierpienie i radość (Suffering and Joy) (1985)

COLLECTIONS IN ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS

Thirty-four Poems on the Warsaw Uprising (1977), New York. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.
Building the Barricade (1979), Kraków. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.
Happy as a Dog's Tail (1985), San Diego. Transl.: Czesław Miłosz & Leonard Nathan.
Fat Like the Sun (1986), London. Transl.: M. Marshment, G. Baran.
Talking to My Body (Copper Canyon Press, 1996) Transl.: Czesław Miłosz & Leonard Nathan.
Building the Barricade and Other Poems of Anna Swir Tr. by Piotr Florczyk (Calypso Editions, 2011).