"Lost in Deutschland" vorher

Dieses Blog begann auf Deutsch - im Archiv befinden sich eine ganze Reihe von Texten über das Engländersein in Deutschland - von 2008 bis 2011 sortiert. 2008-2009 wurden zudem Video-Berichterstattungen auf Deutsch zum Thema hier veröffentlicht.

Monday, 10 December 2012

December taster extract: Herman Melville in Germany

In 1849, Herman Melville - not yet of Moby Dick fame and having some difficulty finding publishers for his work - headed to London to try his luck there. While in London, he decided to take a cruise down the Rhine, which was all the rage in the 1830s, 40s and 50s. Other writers of the day who took to the waters of Germany's western river were William Makepeace Thackeray, Thomas Hood, George Eliot, and Elisabeth Gaskell.

Melville kept a journal both of his transatlantic and his Rhenish voyage, published on the centenary of his travels in 1949 (Journey of Visit to London and the Continent). Here, we join him in Cologne having "unknowable German currency" conned out of him and enjoying the works of some Dutch masters.

Sunday, 9th December, 1849
Sallied out before breakfast and found my way to the famous cathedral, where the everlasting “crane” stands on the Tower. While inside was accosted by a polite worthy who was very civil pointing out the “curios”. He proved a “valet de place.” He tormented me home to the Hotel & got a franc out of me. Upon going to the Steamer Office I learned that no boat would leave that morning. So I had to spend the day in Cologne. But it was not altogether unpleasant for me to do. In this antiquated gable-ended old town – full of Middle Age, Charlemagne associations – where Ruebens was born & Mary De Medici died – there is much to interest a pondering man like me. But now to tell how at last I found that I had not put up at the “Hôtel de Cologne,” but at the “Hôtel du Rhine” – where my bill for a bed, a tea & a breakfast amounted to some $2, in their unknowable German currency. Having learnt about the Steamer, I went to the veritable Hôtel de Cologne (on the river) & there engaged the services of a valet de place to show me the sights of the town for 2 francs. We went to the Cathedral, during service – saw the tomb of the Three Kings of Cologne – their skulls. The choir of the church is splendid. The structure itself is one of the most singular in the world. One transept is nearly complete – in new stone, and strangely contrasts with the ruinous condition of the vast unfinished tower on one side. From the Cathedral we went to the Jesuits’ Church, where service was being performed. Thence to the Museum & saw some odd old paintings; & one splendid one (a sinking ship, with the Captain at the mast-head – defying his foe) by Scheffer (?). Thence to St. Peter’s Church & saw the celebrated Descent from the Cross by Ruebens. Paid 2 francs to see the original picture turned round by the Sacristan. Thence home. Went into a book store & purchased some books (Views & Panoramas of the Rhine) & then to the Hotel. At one o’clock dinner was served (Table d’hôte), a regular German dinner & a good one, “I tell you”. Innumerable courses - & an apple pudding was served between the courses of meat & poultry. I drank some yellow Rhenish wine which was capital, looking out on the storied Rhine as I dined. After dinner sallied out & roamed about the town – going into churches, buying cigar of pretty cigar girls, & stopping people in the street to light my cigar. I drank in the very vital spirit & soul of old Charlemagne, as I turned the quaint old corners of this quaint old town. Crossed the bridge of boats, & visited the fortifications on the thither side. At dusk stopped at a beer shop - & took a glass of black ale in a comical flagon of glass. Then home. And here I am writing up my journal for the last two days. At nine o’ clock (3 hours from now) I start for Coblenz – 60 miles from hence. I feel homesick to be sure – being all alone with not a soul to talk to – but then the Rhine is before me, & I must on. The sky is overcast, but it harmonizes with the spirit of the place.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

November taster extract: George Eliot in Germany

From now through until the publication of my anthology Germany: Beyond the Enchanted Forest in April, I'll be offering historical diary entries from writers featured in it, on or near the same date as they wrote their journal. This should have gone out on 12th November, since it was written 158 years ago on that day by George Eliot.

Widely considered one of the best writers in the English language, Eliot was a Germanophile and translated several literary and philosophical works out of German (her first published work was a translation of D. F. Strauss' Das Leben Jesu). In 1854-1855, she took an eight month sojourn to Germany, staying mainly at Weimar and Berlin. On the former, she published an essay, Three Months in Weimar, in which she gives a run-down of the prominent people who had marked the place over the last hundred years; in the latter, she began translating Spinoza's Ethics - the first to render it into English.

In this letter, we hear Eliot's view on Lessing, a very philosophical playwright from the German Enlightenment, which takes her into a wider dicussion of German society and the way in which it seems to function without the need the political freedom the British already considered essential to modern soceity.

George Eliot to Charles Bray, Berlin, 12th November, 1854

Dear Friend,
Last night we went to see “Nathan der Weise.” You know, or perhaps you do not know that this play is a sort of dramatic apologue the moral of which is religious tolerance. It thrilled me to think that Lessing dared nearly a hundred years ago to write the grand sentiments and profound thoughts which this play contains for the people’s theatre which he dreamed of, but which Germany has never had. In England the words which call down applause here would make the pit rise in horror.

It is amusing to see how very comfortable the Germans are without many of the things England considers the safeguards of society. The Germans eat their Bratwurst and Küchen form house to house in gladness of hear though they have no Episcopal establishment and though the have some things which are though very noxious with us. I think them immensely inferior to us in creative intellect and in the possession of the means of life, but they know better how to use the means they have for the end of enjoyment. One sees everywhere in Germany what is the rarest of all things in England – thorough bien-être, freedom from gnawing cares and ambitions, contentment in inexpensive pleasures with no suspicion that happiness is a vice which we must not only not indulge in ourselves but as far as possible restrain others from giving way to. There are disadvantages, of course. They don’t improve their locks and carriages as we do, and they consider a room furnished when it has a looking glass and an escritoire in it. They put their knives in their mouths, write un-sit-out-able comedies and unreadable books; but they are decidedly happy animals and in spite of Pascal, that is perhaps better than being extremely clever ones – miserable and knowing their misery.

Berlin is a cold place, but the cold is dry and bracing. This morning the roofs are covered with snow, and soon I suppose we shall have the first stratum of snow in the streets which will lie all winter. We work hard in the mornings till our heads are hot, then walk out, dine at three and, if we don’t go out, read diligently aloud in the evenings. I think it is impossible for two human beings to be more happy in each other. All I am anxious about is the certainty of work by which I may get money – and that just now does not present itself.

Best love to all. Forgive all my omissions and commissions and believe ever

Your sincere and affectionate
Marian Evans

Friday, 2 November 2012

Book news and a taster extract

You may take the lack of posts on this blog in recent months as a sign that my writing energies were engaged elsewhere: in the production of my anthology of writing about Germany. The result of these efforts is that the book is now listed on Amazon and, as I'm sure you're aware, that means that it is pre-orderable (yes, that was the sound of cartoon-style Euro-signs kerchinging in my eyes).

It also means that I can fulfil my long-held promise to offer you, my loyal Lost in Deutschland readers online, a few more foretastes of the writing I've included in what is now finally, definitely, and unalterably called Germany: Beyond the Enchanted Forest: A Literary Anthology.

I'm going to start off with Ingrid Anders, a plucky young American "novelist, poet, travelwriter, lyricist" as she describes herself, who went back to her mother's German roots by spending a college year abroad in Berlin and reworked her experiences in a pretty clever little semi-autobiographic novel called Earth to Kat Vespucci, published in 2009.

I say "semi-autobiographical", because it would be easy to equate Anders one-to-one with her alter-ego Vespucci. Yet the gentle irony Anders the author enjoys at the expense of Vespucci the narrator is proof that we have a skilled writer on our hands who uses and structures her material carefully. Nevertheless, as so often with this kind of work, the best scenes feel like they came straight out of real life and got little more than a dab-handed comic-book-style layover before going to print and making us laugh.

Like this one, for example, about the lack of barriers and consequent ease of fare-dodging on German public transport, that great mystery to all of us English-speakers from places where it feels like the idea of civic duty broke down some time ago. In this deeply whimsical extract, we see Vespucci finally getting to the bottom of the whole thing and answering those quesitons we've all asked ourselves again and again: no, not all Germans do pay their fare; yes, most Germans do; so it really is that easy to dodge a fare; yes, the cogs of German bureaucracy - and of some bureacrats - do turn astonishingly slowly.

Something tells me these passengers on the Berlin U-Bahn didn't buy a ticket either...

I have another good laugh the next morning when I check the mail. There is a letter for Carmelita Rodriguez from the Berlin Transportation Authority. It looks official and urgent, so I decide to open it. It is a forty euro fine for Schwarzfahren issued a week ago. That’s weird. I bring the bill inside and call the number on the back.
A scratchy, female voice answers, “Berlinerverkehrsgesllschaft, Guten Morgen, Frau Tintenpinkler hier.”
“Guten Morgen,” I reply, “I’m calling about a fine that was issued to Carmelita Rodriguez.”
“What was the fine for?”
There is a silence on the other end of the line. I can feel a steely, bureaucratic stare of hatred forming on the face of Frau Tintenpinkler.
“I suppose you’re calling to say that you’re sorry and you’ll never do it again.”
“No, actually.”
“Well, I didn’t expect you to be sorry, but at least you’re honest.”
“Actually, it wasn’t me.”
“Here we go. Schwarzfahrer are never who they say they are. Let me guess, it was your sister, or your friend, or maybe it was your roomate.”
“It was my roommate.”
“Of course it was.”
“Let me explain. The fine was issued to Carmelita Rodriguez, who is, or was, my roommate. But she doesn’t live here anymore.”
“Yes, she does.”
“What do you mean, yes, she does?”
“I mean, yes, she does.”
“With all due respect, Frau Tintenpinkler, Carmelita lives in San Diego.”
“Carmelita Rodriguez lives at 1 Coppistrasse, 7th Floor, Apartment B, Berlin, Germany 10365.”
“There is a mistake. She left as soon as she got here and we haven’t seen her since. That’s why it’s impossible that she could have been caught last week for Schwarzfahren.”
“It is documented here in the Official Berlin Resident Directory that Carmelita Rodriguez lives at 1 Coppistrasse, 7th Floor, Apartment B, Berlin, Germany 10365.”
“That explains it, Frau Tintenpinkler. She left without telling anyone, so the Official Berlin Resident Directory doesn’t reflect that change.”
Frau Tintenpinkler inhales sharply. There is silence for a moment and then an explosion.
“Frau Rodriguez, I beg your pardon!”
“It’s Frau Vespucci.”
“How dare you challenge the accuracy of the Official Berlin Resident Directory? Are you prepared to offer proof to support your accusation?”
“What do you mean proof?”
“I mean some kind of documentation?”
“What kind of documentation?”
“All Berlin residents must register with the Official Berlin Resident Office when moving in our out of a residence. It is clearly stated here that Frau Rodriguez moved into 1 Coppistrasse, 7th Floor, Apartment B, Berlin, Germany 10365 on the first of the month. There is no documentation stating a change of address since that date. Therefore, she still lives there.”
“But Carmelita never officially moved out. She just left.”
“Excuse me?”
“She just left. Without registering.”
“Left without registering?”
“No, it’s true. All her stuff is still in her room, but she’s back in San Diego.”
“Frau Rodriguez!”
“It’s Frau Vespucci.”
“Are you trying to make a fool out of me?”
“No, Frau Tintenpinkler, I’m trying to tell you the truth.”
“Why is it that Scwarzfahrer always become so honest directly after they’ve been caught?”
“I’m trying to tell you that if you want Carmelita to pay the fine, it’s best you contact her at her new address in San Diego.”
“Thank you, Frau Rodriguez-“
“It’s Frau Vespucci.”
“-for telling me how to do my job. I’m sure you have many years of experience working at the Berlinerverkehrsgesellschaft. With all due respect to you and your expertise, I’m going to follow the official procedure that has worked most effectively for us over the past forty years, which states that in order to make a Schwarzfahrer  pay his or her fine, you contact him or her at his or her current address, which is to say, the one at which he or she currently lives. In the case of Carmelita Rodriguez, that address is 1 Coppistrasse, 7th Floor, Apartment B, Berlin, Germany 10365. It says it right here. Unlike you, I have documentation to prove it.”
“As you wish, Frau Tintenpinkler, but I assure you, she doesn’t live here.”
“I assure you, Frau Rodriguez-“
“It’s Frau Vespucci.”
“-she does.”
“Fritz,” I ask, puzzled, when I get off the phone with Frau Tintenpinkler at the Berlinerverkehrsgesellschaft. “Did you see this letter that arrived for Carmelita?”’
“It’s a fine for Schwarzfahren.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot.”
“You know about it?”
“But Carmelita wasn’t even in Berlin when the fine was issued.”
“Of course not. Carmelita lives in San Diego.”
“Right. So how could she have gotten a fine for Schwarzfahren?”
“Maybe someone else got caught and gave her name to the Berlinerverkehrsgesellschaft instead of their own?”
“Who would do such a thing?”
“Someone who didn’t want to pay the fine, I guess.”
“But who?”
“Well… me, most likely.”

Friday, 27 July 2012

Beyond the Forests

After months of word lists, spider diagrams, association games and all sorts of other nonsense during my odd moments to spare, I have agreed with my publisher on a title for our collection of English-language writing about Germany. The book to look out for in early 2013 will be called Germany: Beyond the Forests - A travellers' anthology.

Excitingly, we also know roughly what the cover will look like. We settled on Neuschwannstein because it represents so much both about how foreigners see Germany and how Germany sees itself: at first glance, it's a typical piece of medieval gothic, a place of knights and legends, part of the mythical Germanic past that has been at times both attractive and repulsive, both to English speakers and to Germans themselves. A closer look reveals, however, that the whole thing is a gigantic fake built by a madman, harking back to a bygone era that never existed in that form.

That, I can say at this stage, is already the core of the anthology: by looking at a wide range of views of Germany over a five-hundred-year period, my book will show just how some of the classic ideas about Germany came about, catching myths in the moment of their creation.

There will be more news on the authors included, and the exact date of publication, soon. Also, in the coming weeks, I'll be giving you faithful Lost in Deutschland fans a few more tasters from some of the writers who will be featured.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Book update & new video series

For those of you anxiously waiting for details about the new book, "Germany: A Travellers' Anthology"*, I have some good and some bad news.

Bad news first: it's taking a little longer than expected and won't be available until early 2013.

Good news: one of the reasons it's taking so long is my being very busy making, amongst other things, this series of videos for ARTE, a Franco-German TV channel. Here, I take a humourous look at the parephernalia of being British in the form of ten typical objects, from tea-cosies to plug sockets. Enjoy!

*By the way, "Germany: A Travellers' Anthology" is a working title - i.e. I can't think of anything better. A pint is available for an idea that leads to something less... clinical, for want of a better word...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Germany: A Travellers' Anthology

To all those of you who were enjoying the extracts I'd found about Germany, I do apologise for the fact that I haven't posted any since the autumn.

There is, however, a reason for this that will be of interest to the aforementioned avid readers of literature in English about Germany: and that reason is that I am now producing a book of these extracts.

Slated for late 2012-early 2013, the book will contain some 80-90 extracts by various writers and literary persons, some more well known than others, from over five centuries: starting with an extract from the 1590s and going all the way through to 2011, I'll be presenting to you a selection of texts that show just how much the perception of Germany has changed in the English-speaking world - and just how much has stayed the same.

I'll be publishing with the good folks at Signal Books and as soon as I have exact information (lists of extracts, number of pages, the price...), you'll be the first to know.