Monday, February 20, 2012


It's carnival time in Germany, with its parades and absurdity. There are costumes and floats, beer and huge paper maché heads. I imagine carnival is nice in Rio, but in Germany it is cold, damp and plain weird. It invariably drizzles, or just rains. Today is the height of it, Rosenmontag, but it continues tomorrow with Fat Tuesday. My boss takes three days off, and he’s not alone. The train station this morning was empty.

The holiday this year coincides with my reading of The Tin Drum. Like carnival, The Tin Drum in shocking in places with its dwarves, eels, onions & potatoes, horseheads as fishing tools, incest and invading armies, and also outrageous, and very engaging. Along with the story, I like the particularly German things that come up, like school-going "cornucopias" (Schultüten), which I wouldn't have understood if I hadn't had children here, and the famous fizz powder sweet, a stand-in for sexual climax in the book.

Anyone who knows anything about The Tin Drum knows it is about the rise of the Nazis, and the post-war years in Germany. The protagonist is a supposedly insane dwarf, who decided at three to stop growing and remain a child, and there of course are all the Germans who had no responsibility for anything in their society.

This is the year I penciled in to read more German/ic and Germany-related literature, and this seems a good start. Here's part of the first chapter, the creation scene, which leads us right into the distorted grotesque: My grandmother had on not just one skirt, but four, one over the other. It should not be supposed that she wore one skirt and three petticoats; no, she wore four skirts; one supported the next, and she wore the lot of them in accordance with a definite system, that is, the order of the skirts was changed from day to day. The one that was on top yesterday was today in second place; the second became the third. The one that was third yesterday was text o her skin today. The one that was closest to her yesterday clearly disclosed its pattern today, or rather its lack of pattern: all my grandmother Anna Bronski's skirts favored the same potato color. It must have been becoming to her.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Ah, I shall take this as a reminder to grow up, even as I stay young at heart. Great heads.

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