Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.
In 1756 a 13 year old boy, Friedrich u left Germany through Rotterdam in the Netherlands, along with his parents and boat full of others from Germany headed for America, probably with the passage paid for by George II of England His parents died on the voyage while he lived on to have over 2000 descendents, including myself. I do not know how he lived or supported himself. I assume he was taken in by others in the boat and was at best made an adopted son of a farm family or at worse was treated as little more than an indentured servant. I wondered what he thought when he first saw America. I do not know where the ship landed but I know he lived in south Georgia. I wondered what he thought when he realized most people did not speak German. Could he read or write? What was his first reaction when he saw Indians? Who taught him to hunt? What was his reaction to the American revolution? Did he come to own slaves as he grew into a prosperous farmer? Did he come to think of himself as an American? Did he develop friendly relationships with the English speaking people who were in the vast majority or did he keep to fellow Germans? In the subsequent ten generations, there are many English and Scottish names in my family tree. The regulations of transport required that if one's family died after mid trip then their survivors owed the passage money. It may have been that their passage was free, paid for by the English government. I know he probably suffered terrible hardship and loneliness and that his descendents fought in the American revolution, the Civil War , WWI and WWII, against Germany. My last name can be traced back over 2000 years to an area of Germany beyond Roman conquest.
This year I will read for German Literature Month, in translations, 19th century short stories by Paul Heyse, E. T. Hoffman and Heinrich Zschokke. I will also read the stories by German authors in Best European Fiction 2012 and 2013. I will read my first W. G. Sebald novel, Austerlitz and if I have time some short stories by Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse.
Paul Heyse (1830 to 1914-Berlin, Germany) won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1910. He wrote novels, plays, poetry and 177 short stories. His father was a well known professor of philology and his mother's family were wealthy patrons of the arts. Heyse was as a writer under the patronage of German royalty. My quick scan of his works in translation makes me think he is little read outside of serious students of older German literature. Based on "The Fury" (translator unknown") this is a shame.
"The Fury" is set in Italy, in Naples. Italy was seen in German, English and Irish literature of the period as an exotic "tropical" locale where the people were somehow more "hot blooded" than those at home. "The Fury" is a very romantic story. The story is set among simple fishing people along the coast. Heyse does a wonderful job in the opening paragraph when he describes how a whole village of people, including the very old, work together when a loaded fishing boat comes to shore. We learn about the German perception of the role of the church in their lives, a cultural historian would probably have a field day with the attitudes in this story.
The central male character, Antonio, as he approaches shore, sees a very pretty young woman coming toward the landing. He is at once struck by her and feels he is in love with her. (I thought back to movie, The Godfather II on Sicily where Michael is "thunderstruck" by a woman he sees and at once begins to court her for marriage, knowing nothing about her.) He begins to converse with the woman and he basically suggests marriage on first conversation. She tells him she will never marry anyone because of the lifetime of abuse her parent's marriage produced for her mother. Her thoughts of marriage all relate to men beating women. There is a close tie in of love and violence in this story. I do not want to tell to much of the very interesting plot but the woman ends up giving the man a savage bite and from this she at once professes great love for him and a wish to marry him.
The two people in the story know nothing of each other's character or attitudes. Love is seen as a pure unreasoned notion equated with violence. The underlying idea seems to be that if a man or woman does not have the power to move you to violence, then you do not really love them.
I would happily read more of Heyse's short stories if I could find them in translation (and for free) online.
I hope a lot of my readers will consider participating in German Literature Month. If you go to the webpages of the hosts you will find lots of reading suggestions. I look forward to reading the posts this event will generate and I am sure I will learn a lot from them
The Reading Life