Breaking the silence.

I only slightly remember the face of the man I met once in Jerusalem, where we both stood alone on a balcony, smoking to much and talking much lesser. But I still remember his hands tender and pale, can still see his eyes with the longest eyelashes I ever saw, and I hear him saying: Argentina and than a long time of silence followed and I did not ask any questions and he did not ask me anything, and even the night in Jerusalem went silent, not even the big cypress under the balcony whispered in the wind. And it was in this long-lasting moment of silence, when I heard the name Juan Gelman for the very first time. Esto sucede. La luna y ellucero de aquí no son palabras, son la luna y ellucero de aquí.La sangre piensa, la luna calla. Es todo, said the voice into my ear. But by then I did not know that Juan Gelman, who was born in 1930 as the third child into a jewish- Ukrainian family, who recently emigrated to Argentina. I did not know, that he Juan Gelman wrote poetry not from an aesthetic point of view, but connected it inseparable with political engagement.I learned that in his country, Argentina, he became an object of hate from  all possible political sites. The anti- communists as well as the left-wings did not have an ear for the speech of the non-hatred, but the long Argentinean silence began when the junta came to power and a nearly 30 year lasting time of exile began for the poet, who gave a generation a voice and remained in all his places of exile- Rome, Paris and Mexico City a tarty critic of the political sphere, a clear- sighted journalist and essayist. But even in exile he could not escape the hate of the junta who established immorality as a form of culture and newly invented the word disappear for torture and death. Briefly after Gelman left Argentina, his son Marcelo was arrested and in the torture camp “ Automotores Orlotti“ killed by the henchman’s of the military dictatorship. Marcelo’s wife tried to escape to Uruguay but „disappeared“ there, after her child was born.In his programmatic poem „Ars poetica“, Gelman describes how writing, became the way to endure the pain. And it  was Juan Gelman, who does not only lived in exile, but left his language Spanish behind him, to write in ladino, the language of the Sephardic Jews haunted by the Spanish Reconquista. Poetry in opposite to Mallarmés dictum that poems are made of words not ideas, meant for Gelman to take the world at their word and to break this long-lasting Argentine silence.  Poetry as Gelman said, meant for him to call everything into question and became for him the obsessive search for the truth. Therefore Gelman devised many identities of a poets identity, to be able to change his angle of view again and again, by viewing the world through the eyes of the Uruguayan Jóse Galvan, the Japanese Yamanokuchi Anda, the US-American Sidney West and the Argentinean Julio Greco. Every evening, let Gelman, say José Galvan, he counted his poets and added himself. So poetry became a way to reassure the own identity, in face of the disappearance of so many, too many women, children and men in the Argentinean years of silence. On January 14, Juan Gelman died in Mexico-City.

But in the night on the balcony, which I only slightly remember, I did not know any of these things, I just listened and then suddenly the men fade away, without a further word. But sometimes I can recall his voice and me listening to his words:“ Esto sucede. La luna y ellucero de aquí no son palabras, son la luna y ellucero de aquí.La sangre piensa, la luna calla. Es todo“, quoting Juan Gelman from his poem Tepoztlán.

Here,Juan Gelman reads Arte Poetica ( Spanish ). Dark Times filled with Lights contains a collection of Juan Gelmans poetry translated into English.


In Ireland grey has many colours. I never knew that grey may have so many colours at all.  The sky is smoke grey ash grey mouse greylead grey stone grey in the land. In Ireland I hear the sea everywhere. The sea mumbles and rumbles and sometimes whispers but I don’t understand enough Irish to understand what the seas means or if the sea just remains grey, the color of silence .I live in a small town and every night I am going to the harbor. I count the ships. The big ones and the small ones. Sometimes the ships are too far away, they are white maybe or blue, but all I can see is grey. You said to me, dolphins swim in the sea, but you don’t speak to me anymore and I can’t see any dolphins, because they are smoke grey, ash grey, lead grey stone grey in the land. At home I look out of the window, I can see a lighthouse, the light is red and green, the seagulls have yellow peckers and grey feathers, they dive after every silver spoon that falls from the window when instantly portly marmalades are being made in kitchens flown through in fine weather by farmers‘ wives with hay in their pants steam in their bums on turnip fields at noon. But the turnips are grey, coming from a soil that is grey too, the walls in my house they are not grey, but sometimes between day and night, they shimmer grey, like very old silverware, long forgotten and already forgotten in the drawers and the cat which lives next door is grey as a cat can be.

Sarah Kirsch

Breath Pause

The sky is smoke grey ash grey mouse grey
lead grey stone grey in the land
of sudden showers of continuous thunder
the bloated meadows the gardens
rotting and dogs during the night
have grown fins they dive
after every silver spoon that
falls from the window when instantly
portly marmalades are being made
in kitchens flown through in fine weather
by farmers‘ wives with hay in their pants
steam in their bums on turnip fields at noon.

translated by Peter Lach-Newinsky

Not in theory, but in a nutshell.

In the evening of the long summer holidays, my grandmother read to me, sitting next to my bed in a very old armchair. „Far out in the ocean“, she began, „where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep“ and I placed my head against her knees, and soon fell to sleep, dreaming of a golden glittering sea and the little mermaid who left the ocean to search for a prince who in the end would forget her and would sail away on a boat with a princess in  his arms.

But the sea, we see here has nothing to do with the sea from the daily reading hour, and the books with all its mysterious figures, the sea we see here, is an endless body of water and in its midst we see a man ( Robert Redford ) alone on his boat. For the duration of the film he will remain the only person in sight. He finds himself on the Indian Ocean between Indonesia and Madagascar and we hear the sea, a clear, very crystal sound and see how water is floating into his boat. A container punches a hole in the hull. The onboard electrical system does not work anymore. We see the shoes, swimming on the water, maybe made in the low-wage country Cambodia where the price per pair is 0,0001 Cent lower than in the high- wage country Bangladesh, and are reminded of a world  far, far away from the sea, where women are shot down for demanding a wage at all for their work, but the sea takes the shoes too, before it takes the boat and the man. But before the sea does what the sea does, we see a man at work, repairing the leaked boat side, pump emptying the boat, trying to fix the electronic system. For a moment it seems as the sea could again become a story, beginning, with „Far out in the ocean“, was a boat named Virginia Jean. But this is not a story at all, its the sea we see and a man alone in the sea, lost in the sea, even while surviving a tropical storm in broken boat and entering a life raft. We see the man, who has no name, letting his boat go. We don’t see a man arguing neither with any god nor screaming at the sea. We see him reading maps where again we see the ocean, and reading in Celestial Navigation. He, the man does not see us, the audience. He sees the sea, as we do, too. He does not tell us anything. The man does not comfort us, he does not help us, he is alone with the sea, as we are with him till ‚All is lost‘.

At the end of my grandmother’s reading, the prince would marry another woman, not the mermaid. She like the man we see, remains silent before joining the daughters of the sea. The man we see has no history, his story remains the sea.

All Is Lost

J. C. Chandor, USA, 2013

1714, Revisited.


It is what it is, this year will have a clear focus on the First World War. We will again be reminded that Rainer Maria Rilke chose War for Love in August 1914, that Franz Marc who dreamed so intensely of blue horses running up the sky died in Braquis, close, too close to the hell of Verdun, and we will again see the Wilhelmine Germany listening to pompous Wagner and not dreaming of anything at all anymore beside of the war, the war and again the war. The women in Berlin and London both got their hair-dressed up in a way that their fore-heads seemed to be very low because the men who stopped dreaming so fast, were assured by the mode that women were inferior to them, but they have been  proved wrong in so many aspects, that not even in Paris things went better.

But 300 years before in the year 1714 the War of the Spanish Succession finally came to an end. After nearly thirteen years of intense fighting Europe was not only very tired of the devastating consequences, the war have had and where many searched their luck, but much more found their death, but the European political landscape has been changed dramatically. The origin of the conflict is complicated but this is not new in history at all. And it was not new at all in Spain, that Charles the II would remain childless. And Spain even if the Siglo d’Oro was already gone, remained a powerful factor in the hegemonic structures of Europe. And both the Austrian Emperor and Louis XIV claimed the Spanish throne for themselves. The death of Charles II in 1700 showed that the conflict lines were much broader and had wider dimensions as dynastic ones. The Sea Powers got engaged as well as a lot of many small German states. Brandenburg-Prussia and Hanover took sides for Leopold, whereas Bavaria, Maximilian II. who was also vicegerent of the Netherlands stood with France. This was the beginning of a war, which may be justifiably called a „World War.“ Beside the continental powers, the Netherlands, England as well as France acted as colonial powers. England and the Netherlands claimed to support Spain, to prohibit a supremacy of France. In the beginnings the fightings concentrated on the regions of upper Italy and Southern Germany. And it is John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough who offers an example for international warfare with his victory at Höchstädt in 1704. Different focal points occurred in overall Europe. Fightings took place in Spain, the Southern Netherlands where Prince Eugene of Savoy was able to nearly beat the French several times but he never was able to beat them finally. But the winter of 1709 and the financial disasters which are omnipresent in any war did their very best to sped up the process for a peace treaty. France and England enabled a separate peace treaty and in Utrecht in January 1712 and in July 1713 peace treaties between France and Spain and their particular enemies were signed. Austria got the so called „Austrian Netherlands“, the dukedom Milan, the kingdom of Naples and Sardinia. Savoy achieved Sicily but it is the British Empire, which really wins this war, not only because it receives the island Menorca, stayed in the occupied Gibraltar and receives Newfoundland from France as well as the Hudson Bay and takes over trade advantages in the colonies from Spain. But it is the British Empire which establishes itself as a dominant power within Europe. And for the first time the dukedom of sand and potatoes, Brandenburg-Prussia appears still far away from the covered table but is coming closer and comes with appetite.

From 1714 on, things went better, in 1715 finally and for the relief of all  Louis XIV passed away. Pope Clement XI in Rome tried to restrict the very worldly interests and searched for god, he was a man science and not in favor at all of the persecution of heretics. He was not in favor of Jansenism but no one in France really cared, which  maybe was not good for the pope, but for the times, much better. Paris was busy of finding out who this young man Voltaire might be, who wrote these bold satirical poems . He was in any someone who always chose irony instead of war and liked love a lot. Alain- René Lesage created with his Gil Blas a novel where the situation of France plays in Spain and it might be flimsy literature but it would have never been passing any military censorship. Of course 1714 remained the year of a great economic depression and it was Bernard Mandeville who with his deridingly Fable of the Bees a book which any politic should get at his inauguration ceremony. Sarajevo was turkish in these days, which caused Europe no problems at all but consumer goods who made the women more beautiful and the men smoking better cigarettes arrived faster and in better quality. The operas are great fun. The castles look much more colorful. China came into mind, India was a possibility not fully elaborated but all the same it came. The women had no foreheads which seemed low at all, but this is of course nothing new to you. The women  always knew and the men hopefully in 2014 know better.

The Library of Liberty offers a great start with Voltaire’s work. Rilke does much good with his The Book of Hours but let go his summer of 1914, better spent an afternoon with Bernard de Mandeville and Gil Blas. ( if you don’t only want to read good books, but do things better, please buy at your local and trusted bookstore.)

The soundtrack of the year should include Arcangelo Corelli who died in 1713.

1714 in many ways, is year that should be well remembered.