Langston Hughes

Born 1th of February 1902 in Joplin, Missoury; Died 22th of Mai 1967 in New York

Just like Nella Larsen Hughes belongs to the group “Harlem Renaissance”, as well as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker and others. He lifelong wrote poems. In Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, he met Arthur Koestler and was deeply impressioned.

Here one of his poems:

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world

and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln      went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy      bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I’ve known rivers:Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


Tezer Özlü


(Leyla Erbil ve Tezer Özlü)

Born 1943 in Kütahya, she was married three times, meant a restless life, traveled much, was hospitalized for some years, had one daughter, died in Zürich (like Joyce) of breast cancer…. In the age of ten she came to İstanbul where she attended St.George’s Austrian High School (Avusturya Kız Lisesi), but soon after she left the country for Europe, where she hitchhiked and came around. In Paris she met her first husband, I think in İstanbul her second, in Berlin her third, Swiss artist Hans Peter Marti. Besides writing herself she translated for example Kafka or Pavese into Turkish.

I am just reading her book “Yaşamın ucuna Yolculuk” (“Auf den Spuren eines Selbstmords”), slowly slowly, just one page a day. She wrote it in German and got  a book-price in Marburg for it. She translated it herself into Turkish. Travelling from Berlin to Prag, Triest, Torino and finally S. Stefano Balbo (where we can localize Cesare Pavese), she reflects her life and her feelings while being on the traces of her heroes Kafka, Italo Svevo and Pavese.

Tezer Özlü counts for sure together f.e with Leyla Erbil (she was befriended with her), Aysel Özakin, Tomris Uyar et Nazlı Eray, to the important Turkish female writers.


And earlier I wrote (just found it as a harddisc-archeologue):


When we saw that wild arum today I remembered our lecture-group. Why? We talked about the Turkish writer Tezer Özlü, which was translating too, mainly the works of Italo Svevo, Cesare Pavese and Franz Kafka. Italo Svevo is an artist name, he was born in Trieste, then Austrian Empire, in 1861, the year, Italy was born as an united nation as Aaron Ettore Schmitz (Now: wild arums German Name is Aaron’s rod). Italo’s parents were German Jews, that’s why he went to school in Würzburg and talked fluent German (Italo Svevo means “Italian Swabian). He was personally tutored by James Joyce in Trieste, and without Joyce and later Özlü Svevo’s books would be widely unknown.
Tezer once traveled within two weeks from Berlin via Prague, Vienna, Zagreb, Trieste, Torino (the capital of later Italian king Vittorio Emmanuele) to Santo Stefano Belbo – where Cesare Pavese was born. During this voyage she hardly found any sleep. In fact that pilgrimage-like journey touched the birthplaces of her heroes: Prague = Kafka, Trieste = Italo Svevo, Santo Stefano Belbo (in between of Torino and Genova) = Cesare Pavese. She wrote about all this – in German. Wouldn’t she have translated her own book into Turkish it would be lost.

Herman Melville

A writer for all ages! How I enjoyed “Billy Budd” or “Benito Cereno” as a boy (without even noticing who wrote it), how I studied “Moby Dick” as a grown-up and how highly I estimate “Bartleby” now!
Melville is a perfect writer in a way, writing about his own experiences, writing about philosophical matters, writing poems too, but having a life going straight from very well situated to “comme ci-comme-ça” to rather poor, living first in New York, then in Albany and finally in a village, having a great success first and being nearly forgotten later on. Is it this the development he describes in “Moby Dick”? For sure that novel couldn’t exist without his experiences as a sailor. But the novel is clearly a novel of obsession until the final end, in same time esoterics find much hidden significances in it. Indisputable is Melvilles deep knowledge of the Bible, as well the old as the new testament, as he was from a profoundly Calvinistic family and veiled much “secrets” in his major work. Nice that he puts a white wale and not a saint in the center! And for sure he’s questioning all these “wisdoms”: just read “Bartleby”. “I would prefer not to”, does Bartleby, a small employee utter one day, turning his dull office-life upside down, in a way taking the world off its hinges and proving that one sentence can be a revolution. Gilles Deleuze wrote a long essay only about those words (published by the unforgotten Merve-Verlag Berlin). In fact in every of his books Melville ends in philosophic matters, even “Typee” who made him notorious as “the man living among the cannibals” shows some very thoughtful passages.
On the occasion of his only trip to England he traveled by coach from London to Bristol and fell in love with a woman sitting opposite him. Or was it in a train? Melville, writing in the middle of the 19th century, was very fond of railways as he had the dream of many US-citizens of the endless prairies on the other side of the Appalachians, and backed all plans to construct railways there. He used the newly established trains in England too and wrote about them…
Many questions on him remain. Why did his friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne end so abruptly? Was he religious or emancipating himself from beliefs? Why has the work of such a successful writer nearly been forgotten? And what does the Moby-Dick-hype in our times mean?

Robert Seethaler

Lasst uns über “Der Trafikant” von Robert Seethaler sprechen, soweit das einzige mir bekannte Buch von ihm…

Das Buch ist meiner Ansicht nach leicht zu lesen, der Stil ist einfach, alles wird – kontinuierlich – aus der Sicht des jugendlichen Franz geschildert. Diesen verschlȁgt es im Jahre 1937 – der Anschluss an Hitlers Deutsches Reich steht bevor – vom Salzkammergut nach Wien, wo er eine Lehre beim Trafikanten Otto Trsnjek beginnt und spȁter den Trafik auch selbst übernimmt.
Es ist ein kurzes Buch, etwa verglichen mit Musils Mann ohne Eigenschaften, so dass die (durchaus vorhandene) Entwicklung des Buben etwas schnell und ruckhaft vonstatten geht. Die anderen Figuren bleiben wohl mehr oder weniger wichtige Statisten?
Der Plot spielt in der Spannung (die Franz spürt) zwischen dem alten Sigmund Freud – ein Kunde des Trafik, der um die Ecke wohnt – und dem Mȁdchen Anezka. Beide haben ihren – sehr verschiedenen – Anteil an Franz’ Einweihung in die Geheimnisse der Liebe.
Aber all das zu der Zeit? Das kann nicht gutgehn, denkt man. Eine indirekte Schilderung der schleichenden Entwicklung zum Nazismus hin.

Die Mutter (Postkarten, Bezugspunkt Salzkammergut)
Die Zigarren
Der Bahnhof mit den abfahrenden KZ-Hȁftlingen
Die Traumzettel!
Der Fleischer (reichlich klischeehaft)
Der Postler

Hanif Kureishi

Finally we saw the movie “My beautiful Laundrette” by Stephen Frears and with a scenario by Hanif Kureishi, even if it was decennies after it’s making. At once I remembered his novels, remembered London suburbia, remembered Salman Rushdie and David Bowie too.

Kureishi’s life mirrors the social downfall of a rich family from Madras/India to the segregation into India and Pakistan – where the family moved to – to the suburb of Bromley/ South London into a rather poor and antisocial surrounding – though Kureishi himself (* 1954) managed to rise again to a successful writer, professor and Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

“My [paternal] grandfather, an army doctor, was a colonel in the Indian army. Big family. Servants. Tennis court. Cricket. Everything.”

How he describes Pakistani life in England is touching – though Kureishi’s family often deplored being pictured to neatly in his – semi-autobiographic – writings.

Kureishi started to write scenarios and playwrights, but soon novels followed. His book “The Buddha of Suburbia” gives a true image of London suburban life and lifestyle, of riots and racial segregation, but I remember wonderful tellings about a pair of shoe too…

Sasha Marianna Salzmann

“Ausser Sich” von Sasha Marianna Salzmann.

Ali und Anton werden in eine jüdisch-russische Familie hineingeboren. Wir erfahren deren Geschichte bis hin zu den Urgrosseltern. Aber eines Tages verschwindet Anton. Nur eine Postkarte aus İstanbul ohne Worte kommt von ihm nach Berlin. Ali macht sich auf, den Bruder zu finden…

Frau Salzmann ist ja eher ne Theaterfrau, hat aber ihren ersten Roman gleich auf der Shortlist wiedergefunden. Das Buch ist sehr bildhaft. Ich wette, es wird bald verfilmt. Wie hat es Euch gefallen? War es leicht oder schwer zu lesen? Wer spricht? Ist es gleichmȁssig durchstrukturiert? Gefiel es Euch? Und was immer Ihr sonst dazu sagen möchtet…