Saturday, September 2, 2017

Writer's Diary

Augustin Hirschvogel
Bacchante and Satyr struggling
British Museum

Heinrich Aldegrever
Woman abducted by Satyr on horseback, with man lamenting
British Museum

"In two hours, one page, sluggishly, without concentration.  Every word temporary, approximate formulations.  I read in Bachmann:  'I heard that in the world there is more time than understanding, but that we are given eyes to see' – and I am discouraged."

Anonymous German printmaker
Venus at her toilet assisted by small Satyr
ca. 1520-50
British Museum

Willem Basse
ca. 1628-48
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"I left Robert-Koch-Platz on the bus.  At the Academy of Arts an event was just ending.  I saw people come out and go to their cars again with an almost maliciously joyful feeling of not belonging.  Suddenly some acquaintances came slowly down the sidewalk.   Reflexively I turned away in order not to be recognized.  A Japanese proverb says: 'A man toward whom you harbor feelings of hostility is like a sack of stones on your back.'  How many stones . . . ?"

Cornelis Bloemaert after Adriaen van de Venne
Brawl between Beggars
ca. 1635
British Museum

Melchior Cafà
Standing nude figure of St John the Baptist
before 1667
British Museum

"Since my childhood I have not looked as calmly and as closely at how an apple sits on the branch, nor observed the deep September sky as intensively as I have this year.  Why is it that here I have the feeling of "being alive" far more strongly than I do in the shallow bustle of  Berlin?  And why have I poked my nose into the shallow hubbub for so long?  Lost so much time by doing it?  That would probably be a reason for mourning, more than anything else, and for regret as well.  But my store of mourning and regret seems to be used up for the time being; there actually is something like an economy of the soul, which, when overburdened, will one day say, actually unexpectedly, "Enough."

Guglielmo Cortese
Study of Soldier, half-length
before 1679
British Museum

Gilles Demarteau after Carle Van Loo
The Satyr Marsyas
color intaglio (Salon of 1767)
British Museum

"He has already put the plums that lay in sugar overnight on the stove, where they now have to "dehydrate" for two hours over a low flame.  We eat black "goat bread," as it is called here because it is so cheap that the farmers feed it to their cattle.  I take my pills: a Digitoxin, half an Obsidan.  (All that serves to firm up the memory of these days that are slipping away, which are my lifetime: I will not have another.)  Lard that we rendered ourselves.  Dishwashing after breakfast, even the jars for the plum jam."  

Peter Flötner
Two Satyrs carrying baskets
hand-colored woodcut, with letterpress (Nuremberg)
British Museum

Jean-Baptiste Greuze
before 1755
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"Surprising even to me, during the evening conversation among the four of us, I said that I actually did not believe that I could still call myself a Marxist.  Not that I would not continue to consider Marxist economic thought – above all with respect to its criticism of capitalism  to be correct and important.  But that thought represents only a small segment of human life – just like politics, which has held us in its clutches for far too long.  And, perhaps the most important thing: I doubt that the role the economy plays in the motivation of human deeds and misdeeds is as determining as Marx claims.  They, the Marxists, concern themselves very little with human nature, which – even that has developed historically – works against them with enormous irrationalities that transcend their own economic interest."

Study of four figures
after 1642
Cooper Hewitt,Smithsonian Design Museum

Claude Mellan
Dancing Faun (Uffizi statue)
before 1668
drawing (print study)
British Museum

"On the street I always look into the faces, unconsciously searching for one that I can feel my way into.  In recent days I have had the feeling that they are becoming more and more foreign to me, especially the young people who are groomed in punk style or in the fifties look, about whom we probably no longer know anything." 

Palma il Giovane
God the Father with two Angels
ca. 1580-1620
drawing (Venice)
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

attributed to Jusepe de Ribera
Satyr tied to tree and whipped by Cupid
before 1652
British Museum

"The pavement artist has finished his picture, crouches next to it with his cap turned upward next to him.  I have to go over, throw something into it.  Gerd already knows that, no longer tries to stop me.  The young man does not look up.  Only when I then walk a few steps to the foot of the picture, compare it to the original (van Dyck: "The Family"), and look at it more closely, does he lift his head slightly and smile a little bit.  I should not, I think to myself, have given him the money until after I had looked at the picture, his work.  I should have had more respect for his dignity, his pride."  

– quoted passages from One Day A Year, 1960-2000 by Christa Wolf, translated from German by Lowell A. Bangerter (Europa Editions, 2003)