Waking up in two places

IN THE SPIRIT of my dual-minded approach to things lately — my “Guten morgen” and “mornin’ mate” greeting each day — I must post two things today, one from Germany and one from New Zealand.

First, a prologue, a personal story from here at home. I awoke this morning to my 10-year-old daughter reading aloud from Robert and Philip Spence’s 1941 parody hit Struwwelhitler, A Nazi Storybook by Doktor Schrecklichkeit (modeled after Heinrich Hoffmann’s 1845 collection of children’s verses, Struwwelpeter). Here’s the first verse, in German and English:


Es macht mich traurig, euch zu sagen,
was sich mit Gretchen zugetragen.
Der Freunde zweie rief man her,
Daß Freundschaften ende nimmermehr.
Doch auf dem Tische nebenbei,
Stand ein Kanönchen voll mit Blei,
Und sie versprach den Freunden klug,
Als Spielzeug sei es ihr genug,
Mehr wollt’ sie nicht, doch plötzlich schrie sie:
“Erleben sollt ihr was wie nie,
Ich schiesse jetzt, mir ist ‘ne Last
Der Frieden in der Nachbarschaft!”

It almost makes me cry to tell
What Gretchen (foolish girl) befell.
Her two boy friends had been to call
And lasting friendship vowed by all.
Now on the table close at hand
A little cannon chanced to stand.
And she had promised both the boys
She was contented with her toys,
And would not touch it. “Now” she cries,
“I’ll give them both a great surprise
And shoot at someone: waste of labour!
To keep a gun and love your neighbour!”

Which is pretty damn cool because, first, she gets it (both Struwwelhitler and Struwwelpeter), and also because she’s got an uncanny feel for rhythm in language.

AND SPEAKING OF LANGUAGE, let’s move on to Marcus Speh, a German whose English prose blows me away. I had the pleasure of reading Marcus’s latest story this morning, which made me laugh, and laugh again, and then some more. I should have expected that when Marcus does SEX, he does it right.

AND NOW, BACK IN NEW ZEALAND, let’s meet Sally Houtman, who is interviewed by Meg Pokrass at Fictionaut. If you don’t already know Sally’s writing (I first met her at Flash Frontier), watch for her. She’s coming your way…

SO GOOD MORNING Germany, and good morning New Zealand.  Good to know you both.

(And if you want to know more about writers in both places, try on the Aotearoa Affair for size. There’s no sex there yet, but it’s only a matter of time.)

Vielen Dank!      Thanks, mate!

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5 Responses to Waking up in two places

  1. Marcus Speh says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve considered writing blog posts both in German and in English…but I never dared to do it. Now that I see how YOU’ve done it, it doesn’t look so bad. “Struwwelpeter” of course has to be salvaged from the deep, dark bottom of the German soul…it’s telling that this was part of the official teaching canon…poor sods. It’s good not to deny your daughter access to all parts of German history. I can see people who live in Germany shy away from that task. Throw in some Goethe or Tucholsky for good measure, will you? — And thanks ever so much for the plug! I love riffing on the mighty gods. May turn this into a longer piece, too.

    • Never shy away from the hard bits. In history lessons or in writing. Wow, I sound so zen-like this morning.

      Goethe coming up… I’ve got a good story to tell. Will post it this month! Thanks for visiting, m.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mich, what you name “dual-minded” seems to me to be a liminal frame of mind…That is, you do not wish to habitate within only NZ or only Germany but rather to dwell in the space between. In such a space, you experience a state of being that contains greater meaning, greater beauty, and greater growth than one side of the duality can muster. At least, I have found this to be true of the liminal in my own life. El.

    • So true. I love the notion of the “between” It’s where I find the best inspiration. Like the space between two people: it’s real, even if you can’t touch it. And it’s what matters most. I wrote a story once called “Between” that you might like: http://52250flash.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/between-by-michelle-elvy/

      On a more specific basis, my dual-mindedness has to do with the fact that I’m involved in several NZ-based projects this year and one in particular that brings together NZ and German writers, which is really fun for me and very much like linking my present to my past. And in this case, you are right too: the link matters as much as everything else.

      You always were a perceptive one, E.

  3. susan tepper says:

    Pure Speh: Smart, funny, irreverant writing that boggles the mind.

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