Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Currently listening to...

Various Dwight Yoakam tracks. A word to movie fans ("cinemati"?): every movie I've seen with Yoakam in it is very good (e.g., _Slingblade_ and _Red Rock West_), and Yoakam performed very well too. "He's -- got -- his -- littl'ways!"

Currently eating...

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups WHITE CHOCOLATE style.[1] I am not amused. Why should I be? I've never liked white chocolate. It's an unappetizing paradox (unlike Mexican fried ice cream, which is a delicious paradox). White chocolate is everything you try to forget chocolate is -- lots of sugar, lots of fat, lots of comforting calories -- and yet nothing of what chocolate really is -- a coco-based treat. White chocolate is for me like protein-free beef. White chocolate is the psychopathic albino Jesuit assassin of the candy world. White chocolate is the thick, shifty-eyed kid your parents wish you wouldn't invite over for the weekend. And now, that creamy, insouciant mass of sweetness, white chocolate, is spooning with the peanut buttery filling of arguable the greatest candy on earth. I’ll call these PB cups “whiteys.” And I’ll call them scandalous. Kill whiteys.

[1] One of our teammates had a visitor from the States recently and he hooked us up here with PB cups. For some strange reason, he avoided the classic flavor of semi-divine revelation, opting instead for the whiteys and the new “inside out” flavor. The inny-outies are much closer to the Platonic perfection of the original PB cups, but only because the filling seems to be Nutella, Europe’s Hercules in the Chocolate Olympus.

Currently thinking...

Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
Where confusion reigns, wisdom shall usurp.
Where pain moans, joy shall burst into chorus.
Where longing creeps, peace shall strut.
Where the cross stands, the empty tomb awaits.
(c/o E. Fakespeare)

Currently reading...

_Der Tulpenmann: Erzählungen_ by Marie Louise Kaschnitz (Reclam Verfassung)

A sample (ein Auschnitt):

»Der Circus, von dem ich Ihnen erzählen will, Herrn Luigis Circus, war ein trauriger, ein Wrack von einem Circus, so könnte man sagen, ein Ding, das sich noch eine Weile über Wasser hält, aber was hilft das, es geht schließlich doch unter, es ist zum Untergehen bestimmt.«

And now, my translation (und jetzt, meine Übersetzung):

"The circus I want to tell you about, Mr. Luigi's circus, was a sad wreck of a circus. You might even say it was a thing holding itself over water for a time -- but for what good? Ultimately it sinks down. It is destined for sinking."

Two comments from me, FCA's resident wannabe German scholar. First, this is wonderful German prose. Notice how my translation is four sentences, while Kaschnitz's is only one. One long, rich, intricate, symphonic, disorienting, precise – and thus quintessentially German – sentence! Wie erhaben! (How sublime!) Granted, I've read only two of Kaschnitz's stories so far, but that first sentence had me in the throes of Teutophilia and hasn't let me go. Her work, so far, reminds me of Roald Dahl's: surreal yet gritty, enchanting yet menacing, profound yet unassuming, fluid yet crisp. I love German and Kaschnitz makes that easy to say.

Second, Willkommen in die herrliche Welt der Reclam Bücher (welcome to the glorious world of Reclam Books)! Reclam books are a fundamental part of German literary culture. The Reclam Verlag (publishing house) was founded in 1828 and their little books have become the bread and butter of any moderately advanced German student's life. Reclams – little, yellow, different[2] – are economical, almost uniformly printed reprints of hundreds and thousands of German classics as well as translations of numerous non-German works. Reclam also offers anthologies of critical literary essays (of other Reclam works, of course), sociology, philosophy, etc.

Reclams are great for students because you get the same great words for half the price, and ideal for traveling bookworms (ahem!), since you can pack dozens of classics in a quarter the space. For example, before me sit the following little volumes, all which fit easily in my hand:

+ Martin Luther, _Schriften: "An den christlichen Adel der deutscher Nation (To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation)"[3], "Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (On the Freedom of a Christian)", und "Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen (Letter on Interpretation)"[4]

+ Friedrich Nietzsche[5], _Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben (On the Utility and Disadvantage of History for Life)_

+ Joseph Roth, _Die Büste des Kaisers: Kleine Prosa (The Emperor's Bust: Small Prose Works)_

+ Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm, _Ausgewähtle Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Selected Children’s and Household Fairy Tales)_

+ Johann Wolfgang Goethe, _Novelle (Novella)_ und _Das Märchen (The Fairy Tale)_

+ Franz Kafka, _Erzählungen_

I wish USAmerican and English literature had a similar series. Sure, I think Penguin (ah, Penguin) runs a series of affordable reprints, but there is simply no press to match Reclam in terms of quality, range and affordability (not to mention sheer intellectual coolness).

A final word: IF ANY OF YOU READERS ARE IN NEED OF GERMAN TRANSLATION SERVICES, I'M YOUR MAN. As you might be able to tell, I love reading and writing German, and translating keeps me sharp. Now it's off to grad school to get my Spanish back in working shape. Achtung! Aviso! Erfolg! Éxito!

Na, auf Wiederschreiben!

[2] The majority of the Reclams are yellow, but bilingual volumes are orange.

[3] Wherein Luther excoriated the Anabaptists and lent considerable support to the military suppression of them.

[4] Wherein Luther defended his infamous insertion of "alone" ("allein") in his translation of the Bible due to his all-consuming vision of salvation by "sola fide."

[5] Note the spelling. For most English speakers, Nietzsche is to German what "nucular" is to, well, English. But remember, his name is most accurately (yawn, I know) pronounced "Neecha". Simple, see? It's hardly nucular science.

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