08 October 2011

Welcome to Goethe's Gonna Getya

          As some of you may have arrived here on Henry Holland's recommendation, I feel at the least obliged to pay him a modicum of respect by introducing myself - and to elucidate how reading my online journal may enlighten and entertain you, the reader. Having struggled all day with this blogging technology, but now, at last, on the verge of communicated speech, I feel a little like Goethe's Faust, waking in a picture book alpine meadow at the start of Faust II, able to deeply forget the psycho terror involved in getting his end away with young Greta in Faust I -  and able to throw himself robustly down new paths of life. Writing to liberate, both the reader and the writer.
          Yet my online journal - as the title suggests - is subject specific; hear here not only an acquaintance's undigested emotionality; read and hear here translations of modern classic & contemporary German poetry; hear the most hair raising stories here, on the politics of this land, Germany, and of this city, Hamburg - and of the chat & the crack between politics, writers & the theatre people. Hear, hear!
        Though hearing Goethe's name in the title & first paragraph will have been enough to have shorn me of a good deal of my audience; in a country where the chasm between high culture and all that other stuff is far greater than back on The Island, most will choose never to cross that chasm, and will rubbish any tidings they hear from the land on the other side of it. Add to that the fact that, after 10 years hearing here, I haven't been able to find a single left-wing leaning German who will admit to liking Goethe, then, well, there was to be no turning back with my choice of title. Goethe's gonna getya - a journal about the power of art to entrance and change you, even amid the most grotty of quotidian cicumstances.
        Naturally, my journal will also be about the subject's inverse - about the many people in Germany who Goethe won't get - who Goethe's works won't help - who wouldn't give a flying fuck for the stuff - and also about those who don't or won't get Goethe. Among the first group I would number many of Germany's prisoners - some of whom I'll be blogging about in the next few days.
            Which only leaves me to give you a welcoming taste of Goethe's Faust in English, in Henry Holland's translation, which he kindly allowed me to use today. Here we find Faust strolling and pontificating about rebirth at Easter, a text that Thalia Theatre's current production of Faust I & II plays up for the rich kitsch possibilities it invites. (The original German text starts "Vom Eise befreit.")

 In there heaven, truly

So turn away now from these heights
to look instead back to the town.
Out of the gate – like a dark, gaping mouth –
is issuing forth a colourful crowd.
Everybody wants to soak up the sun,
and sing the rebirth of The Son,
as they themselves are resurrected:
out of lowly, uncouth houses,
out of the guilds and the bondage of trade,
out of the pressure of gables and slates,
out of streets full of folk packed tight,
out of the churches’ venerable night:
every single one of them is brought into the light.
Look, just look, how speedily the masses
scatter themselves over gardens and fields,
 how the river in its breadth and length,
moves a few jolly boats on the water’s top
til laden right to sinking point
the final barge at last departs.
Even the paths of the far off hills
are flashing to us in their vivid clothes.
I hear the milling throng already,
here are the people in their heaven, truly,
proclaiming, satisfied, large and tiny:
here I am human and here I may be.