Sunday, November 29, 2009

Adventures in German

Without quite realizing it was happening, I seem to have acquired a preoccupation with the German language, German (and Austrian) literature, and German culture. This isn't something I quite expected to happen, but it's certainly interesting. I'm about a third German heritage-wise, but in my childhood of going through various periods of being obsessed with various cultures, it was the other two-thirds I was obsessed with (Irish and Swedish).

I'm learning the language, first of all. That was a mild accident. I couldn't get into French 201, so I picked another language. I happened to be dating a boy who spoke German, so I'd heard him speak it enough to know I'd find it an interesting language, and was predisposed to learn it anyway (remember when I discovered the word "fremdsprachenfeinheitseifersucht"?), so that was the language I picked.

And then in my comparative literature class, three of the plays we've read (or are reading) were originally written in German (by Bertolt Brecht, Peter Handke, and Max Frisch). So we've talked a lot about 20th century German and Austrian theatre, Brecht's tradition of epic theatre, and so on. I really liked Peter Handke's play-that-isn't-a-play, Offending the Audience (or better translated Public Insult, I'm told); I liked the rhythm of it. I neither really liked nor disliked the Brecht (The Good Person of Sichuan), but found it interesting. I read some essays of his on theatre, also. And the Max Frisch play, Biography: A Game, I haven't finished yet. I need to have it read by tomorrow, though. The little bit I've read is looking pretty fascinating; I think I'm going to enjoy reading it.

And now reading The Children's Book (I finally finished it last night! Will talk about it very soon), German fairytales and puppet theatre come into play. There are so many fascinating things explored in that book, and this is definitely one of the things that most stands out to me. Some of the characters visit turn-of-the-century Munich (M√ľnchen, if you like), which is a pretty interesting episode in the book.

Seeing Lebensraum (six times, all told) and working on it was another encounter with German history.

I don't know that I have any particular conclusions about this turn in my studies, but it's definitely adding a certain flavour to everything, to my reading and thinking. I feel a realm of study open up which I hadn't quite touched before, and it feels a bit like beginning on the path into the maze. I find it so fascinating how one's reading flows in patterns like this. One thing leads to another and you realize you're suddenly an expert (not that I am) on a particular topic or kind of literature.

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