Monday, 23 October 2017

A VICTIM OF HIS TIME? #SCHUSCHNIGG LETTERS CONT.

The Gestapo kept Kurt Schuschnigg in solitary confinement except for weekly visits by his wife, Vera. He worried about his son, Kurt Jr., who was not allowed to attend school in Vienna and had to be put into a boarding school in Munich.

Vera to Hermann Wopfner, 26 Jänner 1941
We have now removed the boy from classes, and he studies privately with the director of his boarding school. It is an expensive proposition, but it had to be done. He couldn’t cope with a number of subjects and was at risk of failing in the fall. Under the present arrangement, he has to try harder and learns a great deal more. We hope he will pass. This business of his schooling is really a cross to bear!

Vera to Hermann Wopfner, 28 Feb 1941
You are asking about Kurt Jr. That is a difficult chapter. He could be an excellent student if he wanted to. He isn’t stupid after all, but unfortunately he does not want to study! He is terribly absentminded and playful and has no idea of the seriousness of life. Things are improved now because he is taught together with only one other pupil, so that he can be put under greater pressure. Poor Kurt [Sr.] is very concerned about him. I would like to get the boy into a military academy. Seven new schools have been established on the initiative of the army, and he urgently needs discipline. But it is questionable whether I will succeed. I always come up against difficulties, but in my opinion it would be the best solution for him.  

Kurt Schuschnigg to his brother Artur, 7 Mai 1941

Many thanks for taking my Kurt [Jr.] to the opera! Please keep an eye on him if you can and it’s not too much bother. I would like him to develop some interests, and not just in airplanes and tanks! I’m sometimes concerned about the boy. Of course things aren’t entirely his fault. In the final analysis he is a victim of the times. Vera troubles herself a great deal about him, but she can’t work miracles. He is basically a good soul, but easy-going and immature. I am very attached to him! Well, you know yourself how much wife and children mean to a man!  
(My trans. from Sofort Vernichten, ed. A. Binder and H. Schuschnigg)

Monday, 16 October 2017

#AMREADING THE LETTERS OF VERA AND KURT #SCHUSCHNIGG.

After Kurt Schuschnigg resigned as chancellor of Austria, he was arrested on 12 March 1938 and kept in solitary confinement at Gestapo headquarters.  He married his fiancée, Vera Countess Czernin, by proxy in June 1938. She took over the care of his son Kurt Junior. The 12-year old boy was forced to leave school and lived with his former nanny. Vera arranged for private tutoring at her own cost. In 1939 she secured for Kurt a place in a boarding school in Munich.

Vera to Hermann Wopfner, 9 Dec 1938 
[I am supporting the boy out of my own funds.] So far it worked out reasonably well because it was an interim solution with relatively cheap assistant teachers. Now however the question of the boy’s education has been settled with the authorities, which was not easy, as you can imagine, since I had to find people who suited both me and them (and since I can’t send him to school here)…We need two teachers, which is rather expensive, even if I economize in every possible way. It can hardly be done under 200 Marks per month. Kurt and I would be immensely grateful if you could contribute something to this amount – something small, whatever you think fit. Any amount will help us.

Vera to Hermann Wopfner, 8 November 1939
I have decided to send Kurtl to a school in Munich. I have achieved that much last week…he attends the gymnasium in Schwabing in the morning and afterwards goes to the Salesianum, a boarding school. For the time being he will be there only during the day because a room is available only as of 15 November…The boy is quite happy, and this solution provided great relief to me. It was quite impossible to arrange anything here [in Vienna]. I did not even get an answer to my petition.

Vera to Hermann Wopfner, 18 April 1940
Today he is still a child. All I want is that he will recognize later on that I never even for a second distinguished [between him and my own children]. I am just as strict with my own when they do anything stupid. In my opinion one can’t be strict enough nowadays. I have certainly been brought up in an old-fashioned way, but I know that’s not the worst education. Without moral and spiritual principles I would never have been able to win through this time of great sorrow, this ordeal, and remain unshattered. And I want to arm all my children against sorrow – happy times are easy to weather!

(Translated from Sofort vernichten. Die vertraulichen Briefe Kurt und Vera von Schuschniggs, 1938-1945, ed. Dieter A. Binder and Heinrich Schuschnigg)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

# AMREADING HARUKI MURAKAMI, WIND/PINBALL

Two short novels Murakami wrote them in the 70s. His mode of operation: When I got home late from work, I sat at my kitchen table and wrote. The desire to write felt like something that had come fluttering down from the sky, and I had caught it cleanly in my hands…It was like a revelation. Or maybe “epiphany” is a better word.
The result was a kind of diary/philosophy of life.

BEING COOL.There was a time when everyone wanted to be cool. I decided to express only half of what I was really feeling. For the next several years this was how I behaved. At which point I discovered that I had turned into a person incapable of expressing more than half of what he felt.

UNHAPPINESS.  It appeared as though time had stopped, as if all of a sudden its flow had been severed. He had no idea why things had changed. Nor did he know how to search for the severed end…He was s powerless and lonely as a winter fly stripped of its wings, or a river confronting the sea. An ill wind had arisen somewhere, and it was blowing the warm, familiar air that had embraced him to the other side of the planet.

THE CITY. I sniffed rain. A few autumn birds cut across the sky. The drone of the I was everywhere, a mix of countless sounds: subway trains, sizzling hamburgers, cars on elevated highways, automatic door opening and closing.


PINBALL MACHINE – THE MASTER.  He would insert one of the coins to start the machine, snap the plunger a few times, and then shoot a ball out onto the playfield in a bored sort of way. With that single ball he checked the magnets on all the bumpers, tested all the lanes, and knocked down the targets one by one. The drop target, the kick-out hole, the rotating target. Next, he set off all the bonus lights and then wrapped up the job by dispatching the ball into the exit drain with a look of complete disinterest. All in less time than it takes to smoke half a cigarette.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

#UNIMPORTANT THINGS THAT HAPPENED 23/9/2017.

Happened to me, that is:

  • A traffic jam on Gardiner Expressway. Pixellated sign says: All lanes closed. For about ten minutes we just sit there, then inexplicably – no, miraculously-- the traffic loosens up and the flow returns to normal. No explanation.  
  • Baby Elias baulks at drinking from a bottle. He prefers the breast. He cries a great deal, but in the end decides to make peace with me and smiles (without however giving in on the bottle issue). Very few people can combine forgiveness with principles! I see a great future for this kid.
  • A fox crosses in front of my car on Lakeshore Boulevard. He isn’t in a great hurry and stops at the curb to watch my car speeding up again. Maybe he was suicidal. Maybe he just got a kick out of challenging cars. Maybe he was a she. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

#AMREADING Richard FLANAGAN’S THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH

This is the story of Dorrigo Evans, a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp working on the Thai-Burma railway. A story of love and death, good and evil, the novel moves back and forth between 1943 and contemporary Australia.

A village overrun by the French: The attack had transformed the Australian defenders into things not human, drying dark-red meat and fly-blown viscera, streaked, smashed bone and the faces clenched back on exposed teeth. When they came upon the broken houses, the dead donkeys and goats, the corpses of their comrades, they smoked to keep the dead out of their nostrils, they joked to keep the dead from preying on their minds.


Fifty years later, Dorrigo is famous and tired of fame. He sensed the coming of a new neater world, a tamer world, a world of boundaries and surveillance, where everything was known and nothing needed to be experienced. He understood his public self – the side they put on coins and stamps – would meld well with the coming age, and that the other side, his private self, would become increasingly incomprehensible and distasteful, this side others would conspire to hide.