KrautBlog

Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sevenstar Contest Cup 2016



Photobook by Ulrich Flemming et al.
Two exciting days on board the Amica Agrippina in Medemblik, Holland

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Word of the Month: Der Hassprediger

Word of the Month: Index

Hass is the German word for hatred, and a Prediger is a preacher (derived from the verb predigen-to preach). Taken together, the two compounds refer to someone who, in his function as preacher, calls for hatred and violence. Hasspredigerin is the female form.

The term goes back to the end of the 19th century. But the Duden, the official German spelling guide, lists it in 2006 for the first time. This reflects an increased use in the early 2000s in connection with the activities of certain radical imams who used their pulpit to sow hatred against Western liberal societies and to call for a Holy War to overthrow them. [Source: Wikipedia article "Hassprediger"]

Since then, the term has assumed a wider meaning. It is now being used to characterize anyone who, in some public function, attempts to instill in an audience hatred of some group on the outside, be it for ethnic, political, or religious reasons, even instigate violence against members of that group. For example, the leaders of some xenophobic movements on the far right in Germany have been called Hassprediger (like other nouns ending in –er, the plural is the same as the singular). The term also comes to my mind when I listen to Donald Trump's tirades against Muslims and Mexicans.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Euro 2016

Euro 2016 has started, with 24 national teams competing for the cup. For the intial group phase, these teams have been placed into 6 groups, where each team plays 3 matches, one against each of the other members of its group. The first- and second-placed teams in each groups and the 4 best third-placed teams overall will advance to the round of 16. Here are the groups:
Group A
France
Switzerland
Romania
Albania
Group B
England
Russia
Slovakia
Wales
Group C
Germany
Poland
Ukraine
N. Ireland

Euro2016 fever in Cologne, courtesy of kidbrother

Group D
Spain
Croatia
Czech Republic
Turkey
Group E
Belgium
Italy
Sweden
Ireland
Group F
Portugal
Austria
Hungary
Iceland

The mood in Germany is guardedly optimistic. Since they won the World Cup two years ago, the Germans have hardly ever played at the level they had shown during that cup. But then again, that just fits the pattern: They typically enter a tournament with a mixed record and then improve as they advance through the rounds.

The great strength of the Mannschaft is that it works as a team, a collective in which every player can, in principle, be replaced without an apparent drop in performance of the team as a whole. At the opposite end are sides whose performance depends on and is geared to a single dominant player. Such teams can be beaten if the dominant player can be neutralized—the Germans demonstrated this during the 2014 World Cup when they beat Portugal (with Ronaldo) in the group round and Argentina (with Messi) in the final. More about this in my first comment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Word of the Month: Der Persilschein

Word of the Month: Index

Persil was the first commercially available "self-activated" laundry detergent (i.e. a cleaner containing both soap and bleach). It was introduced in Germany in 1907 and has remained popular to the present day. The name derives from two of its original ingredients, sodium perborate and silicate. [Source] The text of the vintage poster on the left means in English "For the love of laundry".

A Schein, in this context, is a certificate, and a Persilschein is a document confirming that somebody is "clean" in the sense that there is nothing in the person's past to disqualify him or her from pursuing a career or occupying a position of influence in a certain field. The term is often used ironically, even sarcastically, when there are indications that the certificate has been obtained by means that are not entirely above-board.



There is a reason for this connotation. People who remember the fifties in Germany or know her post-war history still associate the term with the denazification program, efforts initiated by the occupying powers to rid the German bureaucracy and professions of former Nazis and war criminals. A Persilschein obtained under the program was a document confirming that one had never committed a war crime, was not a member of the Nazi party or, at worst, a fellow-traveller. The program was plagued from the start by (i) inconsistencies in its administration across the occupation zones and (ii) a lack of enthusiasm for it on the part of the Germans. As a result, quite a few people got their Persilschein undeservedly.

As to Persil, the detergent, it's now sold in many countries, including the US, in spite of the fact that the name is not always easy to pronounce for non-German speakers. In addition, persil means "parsley" in French!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke: Das Karussell (The Carousel)


Rilke's "Carousel" (1906) is one of the most charming poems in the German language. It tries to capture, through its rhythm and imagery, the fleeting sense impressions a spinning merry-go-round produces—it has become a classic of impressionist poetry. I was reminded of it when I visited yesterday the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol, which motivated me to try my hand at a line-by-line translation:

The Carousel—Original and Translation

This is not an exact literal translation. Rilke uses iambic pentameters consistently to render the movement of the carousel. Note especially how it picks up speed in the last stanza, and how the impressions get more blurry—this is masterfully done. Since inflected endings are rarer in English than they are in German, English words tend to be shorter than the corresponding German ones so that a literal translation often produces several stressed syllables in a row; that is, Rilke's iambic line gets lost. But I consider it important that English readers get a sense of the poem's rhythm and therefore added a little padding to recreate it (although I had to be content sometimes with fewer than five feet—adding more padding would have created distortions of its own by making the text wordier than the original).

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Word of the Month: Der Gernegroß

Word of the Month: Index

Gern(e) is an adverb that has no exact equivalent in English. It can sometimes mean "gladly" or "readily", as in Ich helf dir gerne – "I'll gladly help you". At other times, it may have to be replaced by a form of to like followed by an infinitive, as in Ich trinke gerne Bier – "I like to drink beer". Note that this is very different from "I gladly drink beer" (when no wine is available)! Groß is an adjective meaning both "big" and "great". For example, "my big brother" becomes mein großer Bruder in German and "Frederick the Great" Friedrich der Große.

Combining the two words, we get a noun (!) indicating a person who has ambitions that his capabilities don't live up to, or a person who sees herself in a better light than others do. A "show-off" or "braggart" comes close, but these terms refer more to the way a person behaves, while being a Gernegroß is, first of all, a state of mind.

Monday, December 14, 2015

W. G. Sebald in Memoriam

Sebald Rings of Saturn
W. G. Sebald (May 18, 1944 - Dec. 14, 2001) is my favorite German writer of his (and my) generation. He died on this day 14 years ago in a car accident.

I consider Sebald a soul mate (I hope this doesn't sound too presumptuous). We are both expatriates (I do not use the word "immigrants" because it implies a degree of identification with the country I live in that I do not feel), and neither of us can shake a horrified awareness of the atrocities committed by Germans of our parents' generation during the Nazi period. I do not say "memory" because we were too young to have experienced any of this first-hand, but these events become memories for Sebald's protagonists in search of their past and, through them, for the narrator to whom they tell their stories. Through him, a barely disguised Sebald himself, they become like memories also for us, the readers.

It is not surprising that Sebald's temperament appears to be overshadowed by what reviewers have called a deep-seated "melancholy". But it is also important to note that this melancholy can give way to fits of outrage or be lightened, at other times, by a sly sense of humor. What comes across, in the end, is a profound unease about the world he knows, which resounds powerfully with me and has made reading him one of my addictions.

Addendum (12/18/15). Our affinities extend to reactions to specific authors or artists. Nabokov seems to have had a specific appeal for Sebald—the writer appears, in person, in several of his stories—and Nabokov is also one of my favorite authors. Furthermore, Sebald appears to be as impressed by the painter Mathias Grünewald as I am. This elusive painter is the subject of one of the three poems in Nach der Natur (After Nature), and one of the protagonists in Die Ausgewanderten (The Emigrants) visits Colmar in France specifically to see Grünewald's masterpiece, the Isenheim Altar. I have been to Colmar for the same purpose, and standing in front of the crucifixion at the center of the altar, I experienced something that I can only describe as an existential shock—it had never happened before and has never happened again when I came across a piece of art.

Carol Jacobs on W. G. Sebald