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“You’re a Bugger, Noel!” An email letter to a melancholic friend.

You’re a bugger; after your comment on Saturday morning about feeling your age and its effects on your physique and your psyche, I’ve started to worry I was missing something or at worst, ignoring something about my health and I’m a good ten plus years older than you.

Re the physical, effects, that’s bloody obvious and something I accept, then put to the back of my mind and/or ignore. It’s just happening and you can’t change it, just accept and manage. The purely physical, gradual processes can be managed and I can live with the stiff knees, sore ribs and joints first thing or late on. Paracetamol is a great alternative therapy. Exercise is necessary and both alleviates and at the same time, increases the sources of strain. 

Psyche is a totally other sphere. I know there is so much I’ve missed through time and focus on other things and I equally know that there’s a lot more I want to learn/know( these aren’t necessarily the same things). Hence the mad rush to read, google, see or hear as much as I can BUT I don’t think I’ve put an age limit on the agenda! I don’t; or didn’t, really think of this in terms of there only being left x amount of years or even days. Maybe I’m too blasé but I didn’t worry too much apart from a selective, mental list of ways I wouldn’t like to die, and by that, I mean the way I’d leave Mary, Lil, Tom plus friends and family behind. The actual process may be different depending on how much I knew about it or felt it. 

I’ll stick in a comment I made about a month back, re Faust:- “ The first lines of Faust’s part are so Sebald: “How much can you ever learn yet still not be satisfied?”  On first reading, Goethe focused Faust’s downfall on a want for wealth as reward for his great knowledge, whereas Sebald wants mental satisfaction of knowing who you are in terms of human and national history ( if I’ve read him right?)  Suppression of memory denies self-knowledge. I don’t therefore conclude that Faust is shallow in wanting tangible wealth but that tangible wealth he craves represents all the wants of humanity outwith mental peace of mind: self-value rather than a judgment on tangible outward signs of wealth. ( Almost a parody of the Christian idea of, “ outward signs of inward grace,” in reference to the Sacraments! I don’t know enough of Goethe to posit that as a valid source but I want to work on it. “

I’ve been lucky, I’ve seen a lot, enjoyed a lot, loved a lot, laughed a lot and I hope there’s some more to come. Regrets, yes, there are some but I take that as life’s gamble. Compared to the lives of my remembered ancestors, I have been fortunate; no poverty, no massive illnesses, unemployment, wars, incarceration, torture and humiliation, etc. There have been blips and crap moments but overall, so far, nothing compared to those of  my parents and grandparents and their respective families and friends. 

Anyway, returning to my original comment, you’re a bugger who has started me thinking and that’s dangerous. I don’t have high religious hopes or even beliefs. Teaching RE for 20 years and the contradictories within beliefs vis-a-vis practice plus the hypocrisies that were manifested/are still manifested, dulls that strand. I’m minded to that chunk of Macbeth when he says, 

“ Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” 

It’s pretty bleak and it’s about the mortality of Time, our limited Time, but I don’t feel that bleakness. We live, we do what we do, hopefully to the best of our abilities then…… it’s over and two generations down the line, so what? If we leave a decent inheritance, not necessarily financial, for our children and possibly grandchildren, then fine. The political and environmental heritage is something we also leave behind and that’s an  equally important legacy. Memory of me, as I said, will go after two generations and then myths set in to me, the reality is that History is a construction by succeeding generations.  Mind you, Mary has decried my interpretation and brought the focus of this speech back to Lady Macbeth’s condition. Personally, I still think it’s apt in my interpretation.

This is not meant to be a depressant, rather I feel positive about life and I hadn’t really couched it in terms of having reached 70 hence there is x time left when x=current age – life expectancy for someone with my history, genetic DNA., habits etc. Even the death of my mate Iain in November didn’t really bring me to worrying as it was just part of life. Like me, he’d lived, loved, enjoyed, had his own positive as well as negative experiences but he’d enjoyed it through to 74 then over and out. I’ve much older friends who’ve gone through so much and more but at 80 and even 85, still roll on enjoying what they’ve got over what’s gone. Yep, there are moments when they feel sadness at loss of partners or children but, they’re still here and that’s what matters. Some are religious, some agnostic and some more akin to Humanist, but they’re not merely peddling a belief system as a panacea; it’s their meaning for their life. Me, I belong to the Terry Wogan school of Philosophy:- I don’t believe in Heaven but when I die and I arrive there; if there is one, then you do know how  I love a surprise party! 

I don’t want to die, just yet!  I don’t want to die in some hospital ward or care home. I don’t want to die in x, y or z painful or miserable process.  Essentially, if I had a choice, I’d die of my own time and pace. I’d know it and face it! Ideally, I’d be cycling in the countryside, pull off into a bit if woodland and, smiling, keel over. Don’t worry, I’ve not got an urgent urge to do it. (There are a few other positive scenarios involving the Lake District or Kent Coastline.) As Tom says, if it really should be bad, then it’s the one-way ticket to Zurich! Probably I’d have to pay my own fare. 

Now all this crap above comes from your Melancholia about ageing. Knocked years off me writing this, it did. At least Palace made up for England’s no show in the second half. Enjoy your day. 
Originally written 3rd March 2019

HEIMAT

26TH DEZEMBER 2018! What a fabulous read ( and fabulously easy really ) in the format of a comic picture book! Rather Sebaldian in many ways as Krug examines her own feelings of identityas a member of the family Krug and as a German living in a post war world of negation and national forgetfulness.

I found the format easy to follow; Krug works as a Professor in Illustration in NYC, and the use of personal photographs, photographs and cards from “flea markets” plus archival photographs interspersing her search narrative , made for fairly easy reading. The only hiatuses were for the occasional writing up German words and their English meanings. Max Sebald would approve the methodology but maybe a lot fewer picture insertions and a lot more textual depth would have been seen.  Krug questions the memories of her mother, aunts and cousins spread  over several generations. She investigates her deceased grandfather and his siblings and herself as she wants to know why she feels an inner guilt for German-ness which she can’t easily define nor can she find any real sense of Heimat in her homeland. Rather as Sebald left Germany as a post graduate, Krug had done the same but then, not as any token gesture, she had met and married a New Yorker of Jewish heritage. Then the finding of answers to her internal questions becomes paramount as she tries to find answers which will be for her child. 

The finding in her search for her is whether German guilt be carried forward to a 41-year-old relative living in Brooklyn today is I think reconciled in her discovery of a sense of Heimat in the Germany of the early 21stcentury; something which she had not thought possible in the first years of her travels to Liverpool then New Jersey. There is also the naïve/stupid association in her early travels that all Germans = Nazis! Strangely, I thin this attitude persists today as is seen in the tabloid headlines whenever England play Germany in football, evinced in the crass allusions by people who I believed fairly educated and aware when making comments in German Class or just that whole ‘reference-set’ of the Far-Right UK in racist language, attire or cross reference especially in terms or anti-Semitism. 

In her Guardian interview, Krug states, “In hindsight, …. the family history she embarked on was the kind of project she wished she had done when she was much younger: ‘ What I found problematic about the way in which we were taught at school about the Holocaust and the war was that it conveyed a very generalising sense of guilt. You learned about the facts, but you weren’t encouraged to research what happened in your own city, or your own family.

If that had happened, we would have learned to deal with this guilt in a much more constructive way. You would have been able to say: ‘I am doing something positive now, I am contributing to retelling the story in a new way.’ The sense of paralysis would not have been so strong. ‘ ”

There is no resolution for her or her father in the relationship with her aunt Annemarie, Franz Karl’s older sister who still grieves for the alter Franz Karl, killed in the war. Krug and her aunt have a rapprochement but it stops at their level, the father cannot forgive his sister.

I’m passing this book on to Tom and buying it for several friends. It is definitely one of my ‘discovered’books of this year. There’s a written, longer version of my initial responses in my Reading Log §6 27/12/2018


An alternative view for the AfD in Germany

I totally acknowledge that I have lifted this from Deutsche Welle. This is far more in your face than BBC presentations on the right wing in Britain.

Fake Coca-Cola and McDonald’s advertisements criticizing the far-right Alternative for Germany

Fake Coca-Cola and McDonald’s advertisements criticizing the far-right Alternative for Germany are springing up around the country. The punchline? It has forced a number of well-known brands to take political stands.

For a better time: Say NO to AfD!

At first glance the posters for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Nutella and Früh Kölsch beer look like ordinary advertisements. But the accompanying slogans aim not to whet consumer appetites but to turn people off the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Most of the posters feature puns that aren’t easily translatable. But a hoax ad for breakfast spread Nutella that appeared earlier this week in downtown Berlin read “Better brown on your bread than brown in your head” — brown being the color associated with fascism and National Socialism.

To drive home the point, at the bottom of the poster are the words “Against racism, intolerance and the far-right hate-mongering of the AfD!

This was the advert we saw in Aachen. Too late in the evening, to get a photograph.

An Internet group called the Stay Behind Foundation said that activists associated with their network had been responsible for the hoax Nutella ad. The group’s website also offers a downloadable fake AfD poster, made to look like an ad for detergent, on which the right-wing populist party is renamed the “Alternative to Democracy.””100 percent old-school natural,” the poster proclaims. “Purity guaranteed since 1933,” referring to the year the Nazis came to power.

The organization takes its name from the term for partisans in war who stay behind the front line of an invading enemy and attack the occupiers from the rear. And the hoax poster campaign has succeeded not only in eliciting chuckles at the AfD’s expense but in forcing the companies whose corporate identity has been “brand-jacked” to stake out a position toward the far-right populists.

Not everything goes better with Coke

The first hoax ad was a fake Christmas billboard in Berlin for Coca-Cola featuring the familiar figure of Santa Claus holding bottles of soda with words “For a peaceful season, say no to the AfD.” An Internet group called Modus claimed responsibility. The prank was part of #AfDentskalender, a collection of 24 anti-AfD initiatives the group has planned in December.Coke was quick to point out that the company had not put up the ad, but the company’s spokesman also tweeted, “Not every fake is necessarily wrong.” Fast-food giant McDonald’s also expressed support for a fake ad’s anti-racist message while criticizing the “poor imitation” of its corporate identity.

The populists were not amused and sought to counter with a fake Pepsi billboard and the message, “say yes to the AFD,” earning the party a prompt cease-and-desist order from the soft-drink manufacturer. And that wasn’t the last of the populists’ missteps. AfD members called for a boycott of Coke and began searching for alternatives. Member of parliament Malte Kaufmann posted a photo of himself drinking German beverage Fritz Cola, reaping scorn as users pointed out that the brand is known for its explicit left-wing politics.

Ultra-right-wing AfD regional leader Björn Höcke posted a picture of himself enjoying a Vita Cola with the caption “There’s always an alternative” — only for the company to object to being politically instrumentalized and to proclaim its support for openness and tolerance.

That led 24-year-old radio host and comedian Sophie Passmann to comment: “2018 will go down as the year when cola companies took a clearer stand against Nazis than the interior minister.”

Many of the hoaxes and responses associated with the campaign have gone viral on social media. But when asked for his take on the Yuletide brand-jacking spree, 77-year-old AfD chairman Alexander Gauland’s mood turned Grinch-like. “What am I supposed to think of this?” Gauland told DW. “It’s silly. And wrong. We’re not in favor of fake news. I can’t judge whether the companies concerned have done enough to prevent this. But of course, we think it’s silly.”At least the party won’t have to worry about a further blunder with alternative soft drinks.

“On general principle, I don’t drink Coca-Cola, said Gauland. “No matter whether ads are directed against us or not.” 

What is the use of all this knowledge?

As Adam and Eve would want to know, what is the use of all knowledge? Maybe that is too trite but that is also the search that Faust wants resolution to. Goethe relates Faust’s issue to tangible wealth. Faust has all the knowledge which he believes available, but what has he not got, it’s wealth.  

At 06.30, I got stuck into Faust and the first rant he has at the start of the play, is the idea that knowledge of everything doesn’t make someone satisfied! Goethe‘s Faust relates it subsequently to physical wealth, hence his subsequent downfall. 

I bought the text of Faust in May 2015; as a play edited and adapted for the Citizens’ Theatre in Glasgow, , but only now I’ve managed to start it. Initially, it was an impulse buy after reading references to Goethe and Schiller, in Claudio Magris’ Danube; then again in Sebald, who I blame for most of my reading diversions. 

The first lines of Faust’s part are so Sebald: how much can you ever learn yet still not be satisfied? On first reading, Goethe focus’s Faust’s downfall on a want for wealth as reward for his great knowledge, whereas Sebald wants mental satisfaction of knowing who you are in terms of human and national history ( if I’ve read him right?)  Suppression of memory denies self knowledge. I don’t therefore conclude that Faust is shallow in wanting tangible wealth but that the tangible wealth he craves represents all the wants of humanity outwith mental peace of mind: a self valuation,  a judgment based on tangible outward signs of wealth. This is almost a parody of the Christian idea of, “ outward signs of inward grace,” in reference to the Sacraments! I don’t know enough of Goethe to posit that as a valid source but I want to work on it. Faust bemoans his study of Theology in this initial lament. Is there to be redress as the play concludes?

Whether it is the character of Faust or of Sebald’s Jacquest Austerlitz, satisfaction is sought. Faust may get his physical satisfaction but does Austerlitz get peace of mind?


Sebald

A good friend, Nollaig Kirby introduced me to W G Sebald  a very long time ago; he gave me to read, On the Natural History of Destruction. A stunning if scary story of the allied bombing of Germany from the ground level. Probably all I had read up to then had been the Allied view from “on top’ where the cause was just and Germany was defeated. Truth is, the destruction of Germany was also the destruction of humankind without concern for the consequences. History is written large by the victors; the events hurting the people on the ground evaporate  just as the people’s bodies evaporated in the apocalyptic furnaces generated by fire bombing. No matter what, the consequences are measured good vs bad as opposed to the reality of the trauma on the ground.

Sebald was essentially  concerned with the German ‘loss of memory.’ A loss of memory which is a general glide into a negation of anything having happened in the 1933-45 period rather than a deliberate attempt to deny things  which had happened. It was the sliding into a neglected backwater where no one ventured or revisited. It was easier to draw this blank over what had happened than accept that families; parents, grandparents, siblings had accepted or had  benefitted from National Socialism. In the mid 1970s I had met and taught a group of very literate German students. The main body were teachers from Bavaria and under 30. One of the group, however was a man in his 60s who had been a  Naval Architect responsible for the development of the Submarine pens in Brest, France. The use of slave labour was never acknowledge, the living and working conditions and ensuing  deaths were never acknowledged and that was not at my questioning, but the questions and demands from the new generation of Germans,  who are ashamed of their  National History and denial of responsibility. 

A year later, I was in Austria and with a close friend and her parents; the father was very clear of his views:- Hitler and the Anschluss were the best things to happen  to Austria. The country was rescued from the aftermath of the loss of Empire post 1918 and the economic decline . He was a medical doctor; well -to-do and totally fluent in English! No chance of mis-interpretation then!! He had been a doctor in the German Army during the period 1938-45 and had never seen, heard of  or experienced anything of the abuses revealed post war! His attitude to the Jewish Question was really that it was a ‘problem’ that needed solution… At that point or very close to it, I left the table. My shins were bruised from the kicks  from my friend which I had received to stop me responding. Memory, it was submerged deliberately and his wife and daughters had never questioned or even been aware of this strand of history. Forty years later, I still hold both memories vividly to mind. 

In Sebald, this escape into a construct which denies wat happened is the the modus operandi used. Memories are masked by a cloud of self-denial. It’s obviously easier to forget than confront! 

Max Sebald

This is the Wikipedia entry for Max Sebald aka W G Sebald

Winfried Georg Sebald (18 May 1944 – 14 December 2001), known as W. G. Sebald or Max Sebald, was a German writer and academic. At the time of his death at the age of 57, he was being cited by many literary critics as one of the greatest living authors[citation needed] and had been tipped as a possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.[1] In a 2007 interview, Horace Engdahl, former secretary of the Swedish Academy, mentioned Sebald, Ryszard Kapuściński and Jacques Derrida as three recently deceased writers who would have been worthy laureates.[2]

Life

Sebald was born in WertachBavaria and was one of three children of Rosa and Georg Sebald. From 1948 to 1963, he lived in Sonthofen.[3] His father joined the Reichswehr in 1929 and remained in the Wehrmacht under the Nazis. His father remained a detached figure, a prisoner of war until 1947; a grandfather was the most important male presence in his early years. Sebald was shown images of the Holocaust while at school in Oberstdorf and recalled that no one knew how to explain what they had just seen. The Holocaust and post-war Germany loom large in his work.

Sebald studied German and English literature first at the University of Freiburg and then at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, where he received a degree in 1965.[4] He was a Lector at the University of Manchester from 1966 to 1969. He returned to St. Gallen in Switzerland for a year hoping to work as a teacher but could not settle. Sebald married his Austrian-born wife, Ute, in 1967. In 1970 he became a lecturer at the University of East Anglia (UEA). There, he completed his PhD in 1973 with a dissertation entitled “The Revival of Myth: A Study of Alfred Döblin’s Novels”.[5][6] Sebald acquired habilitation from the University of Hamburg in 1986.[7] In 1987, he was appointed to a chair of European literature at UEA. In 1989 he became the founding director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. He lived at Wymondham and Poringland while at UEA.

Sebald died while driving near Norwich in December 2001. The coroner’s report, released some six months later, stated that Sebald had suffered an aneurysm and had died of this condition before his car swerved across the road and collided with an oncoming lorry.[8] He was driving with his daughter Anna, who survived the crash.[9] He is buried in St. Andrew’s churchyard in Framingham Earl, close to where he lived.

In 2011, Grant Gee made the documentary Patience (After Sebald) about the author’s trek through the East Anglian landscape.[10]

Work[

Sebald’s works are largely concerned with the themes of memory and loss of memory (both personal and collective) and decay (of civilizations, traditions or physical objects). They are, in particular, attempts to reconcile himself with, and deal in literary terms with, the trauma of the Second World War and its effect on the German people. In On the Natural History of Destruction(1999), he wrote a major essay on the wartime bombing of German cities and the absence in German writing of any real response. His concern with the Holocaust is expressed in several books delicately tracing his own biographical connections with Jews.[citation needed]

His distinctive and innovative novels were written in an intentionally somewhat old-fashioned and elaborate German (one passage in Austerlitz famously contains a sentence that is 9 pages long), but are well known in English translations (principally by Anthea Bell and Michael Hulse) which Sebald supervised closely. They include VertigoThe EmigrantsThe Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz. They are notable for their curious and wide-ranging mixture of fact (or apparent fact), recollection and fiction, often punctuated by indistinct black-and-white photographs set in evocative counterpoint to the narrative rather than illustrating it directly. His novels are presented as observations and recollections made while travelling around Europe. They also have a dry and mischievous sense of humour.[citation needed]

Sebald was also the author of three books of poetry: For Years Now with Tess Jaray (2001), After Nature (1988), and Unrecounted (2004).

Works[

  • 1988 After Nature. London: Hamish Hamilton. (Nach der Natur. Ein Elementargedicht) English ed. 2002
  • 1990 Vertigo. London: Harvill. (Schwindel. Gefühle) English ed. 1999
  • 1992 The Emigrants. London: Harvill. (Die Ausgewanderten. Vier lange Erzählungen) English ed. 1996
  • 1995 The Rings of Saturn. London: Harvill. (Die Ringe des Saturn. Eine englische Wallfahrt) English ed. 1998
  • 1998 A Place in the Country. (Logis in einem Landhaus.) English ed. 2013
  • 1999 On the Natural History of Destruction. London: Hamish Hamilton. (Luftkrieg und Literatur: Mit einem Essay zu Alfred Andersch) English ed. 2003
  • 2001 Austerlitz. London: Hamish Hamilton. (Austerlitz)
  • 2001 For Years Now. London: Short Books.
  • 2003 Unrecounted London: Hamish Hamilton. (Unerzählt, 33 Texte) English ed. 2004
  • 2003 Campo Santo London: Hamish Hamilton. (Campo Santo, Prosa, Essays) English ed. 2005
  • 2008 Across the Land and the Water: Selected Poems, 1964–2001. (Über das Land und das Wasser. Ausgewählte Gedichte 1964–2001.) English ed. 2012

Influences[

The works of Jorge Luis Borges, especially “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius“, were a major influence on Sebald. (Tlön and Uqbar appear in The Rings of Saturn.)[11]Sebald himself credited the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard as a major influence on his work,[12] and paid homage within his work to Kafka[13] and Nabokov (the figure of Nabokov appears in every one of the four sections of The Emigrants).[14]

Time stood still then returned to a semblance of normality.

Almost 12 months since I added anything to this site and a lot has happened in these days. Time however stood still in that I never found time to put word on screen nor did   I count the cost that being so lazy would mean.

In 2018, I managed to celebrate a whole range of ‘anniversaries.’ There is no list of priorities or of ‘valuation’ of these events in their listing:-

1948-2018 June 3rd: 70th birthday

1978-2018 September: I started to live and work in London

1998-2018 December: 20 years since ‘ungraciously’ encouraged to leave St Thomas More

1993-2018 May 31: 25 Years married

All in all a great catalogue of events only topped by watching my first Crystal Palace match, at Selhurst Park, with Malcolm Hopper. 7th October 1978:- Palace 3-0 Brighton. Malcolm’s brother was there, in disguise, as he lived in Brighton and was a fan.