We’re heading back to the 18th century this week to take a look at a poet who paved the way for the likes of Goethe and Schiller. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock spent his childhood in Friedeburg with his sixteen(!) siblings. His parents were pietists (Pietism was a reform movement in the protestant Church) and religion proved an important influence for the young Klopstock. He went on to study theology in Jena and Leipzig, before becoming a private tutor. During this time, he continuously wrote poetry and his work ultimately caught the attention of Friedrich V of Denmark, who invited Klopstock to Copenhagen in 1750 and provided the poet with financial support. Four years later, Klopstock married Margareta Moller. This marriage proved short lived when Margareta died in 1758 and Klopstock struggled to recover from this loss, writing many elegiac poems in this period. He ultimately married again, but only after more than thirty years had passed: in 1791, he married Johanna Elisabeth Dimpfel. Klopstock died in 1803, aged 78. By this time, he was a well-known and well-respected figure in the German literary scene, and his funeral was appropriately large.
Unter Mördern und Irren is the fourth of seven stories in Bachmann’s first collection of short narratives Das dreißigste Jahr. In it, we are presented with a damning portrayal of Bachmann’s native post-Second World War Austria. The myth of the country’s “new beginning” after the war is revealed to be just that: a myth with no basis in reality. Before I ruin the story for you, you should go read it for yourself: you can find an English translation of the narrative here (unz.org).
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This week’s author was one of the most important German-language writers of the 20th century. She became a household name after she featured on the cover of the German magazine Der Spiegel in 1954. During her lifetime, she won countless awards for her work, including the Deutscher Kritikerpreis, the Büchner Prize and the Bremen Literary Prize. She wrote short stories, novels, poems, essays, radio plays and libretti. And she still found time to voice her opposition to nuclear armament and the Vietnam War. Still not worked out who it is? Why, it’s Ingeborg Bachmann of course.
While you wait for the next article proper, here’s a lovely animation of Kafka’s Ein Landarzt.
That’s a pretty provocative title if ever there was one. Jean Paul knows it too. He opens the narrative by asking to be excused for his audacity. There’s actually no need for the Christian reader to be outraged: Jean Paul is about to argue for Christianity and in a depiction so deliciously full of powerful imagery that you’ll hardly be able to contain yourself. Seriously, it’s a beautiful piece of writing. Anyway, you can find the English text here (Project Gutenberg) and the German original over here (Zeno.org). It’s only short. Get reading.
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As far as we can tell, there’s neither reason nor rhyme in our decision to follow Kafka with the 19th century author Jean Paul. We’re still going to do it though. Before we even begin the article proper, let’s get the most important fact out of the way: Jean Paul was the first person to coin the term ‘Doppelgänger’. Incredible.
English text at writersmug.com
Original German text at wikisource.org
Josefine, die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse was written by Franz Kafka in 1924, shortly before his death. Atypically for Kafka’s work, the narrative is written not from the perspective of the disorientated individual. Instead, the individual – Josefine – is the object of a narrative, written by an anonymous member of the society. The narrator sets out to describe Josefine and her performances, but his account quickly becomes a damning critique of the singer. By the time the narrator has finished, the very thing he had intended to describe has disappeared. In this article, I will explore this tension between the individual and the society and its relationship to Josefine’s art.