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Slovenian Joys III: Slovenian Oddities

I'll get to the charming hilltop villages and dramatic mountain skylines later.  Perhaps.  For now, I'd like to concentrate on some of Slovenia's oddities. 

1.   The Remains of St. Deodatus 

The main cathedral in Ljubljana is called the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation.  If you want to see p050_remains_of_st_deodatusretty pictures of it, go here.  It's a nice Baroque church with a pretty imposing altar by the Venetian sculptor Francesco Robba and an unusual pink-orange exterior.  But what interested me was the open glass casket at left, which stands at the left of the main altar, under a portrait of Our Lady of Good Counsel.  Inside this casket are the remains of St. Deodatus.  The pamphlet available at the church information stand informs us that his remains were brought to Ljubljana in the early 18th century by a Franciscan monk, and installed in this case in 1882. 

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Max Goldt & Germany's "New Right"

No, they don't have anything to do with each other, as far as I am aware (unless I'm missing coded messages).  And they have nothing to do with Slovenia, but I'll be getting back to that subject soon, I promise.

Now to Max Goldt.  First, thanks so much for the quick and thorough response to my question about Max Goldt.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  German Joys readers are the smartest, best-looking web surfers in the world.  Looks like the essay doesn't appear in the book of his that I have now, but I can imagine worse things than buying another book by Max Goldt.  I wonder, I really do, whether there would be a market for a translation of his odd meanderings into English...  Here's a recent creation from Katz und Goldt(German) the touching story of a fat young man who enjoys displaying his family jewels in front of zoo animals, and has the total support of his family, even his superconservative grandmother.

And now for something completely different.  For some unknown reason, on what appears to be an architect's unfinished promotional website, there is a reprint of an essay on German politics from 1996.  It appears here under the heading "Germany's New Right."  Although the formatting is confusing, this seems to be an essay written for Foreign Affairs by Jacob Heilbrunn of the New Republic.  Heilbrunn is Deeply Concerned.  Near the beginning, he intones "A profound move to the right has been taking place among Germany's best-known novelists, such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Martin Walser." [I wouldn't have described Enzensberger as a novelist].  Heilbrunn continues:

Underlying new right positions is a deep hatred of the westernization of Germany under the influence of the United States over the last five decades. The advent of an American-style multicultural society is perceived to pose a great threat to Germanness. Hatred of the United States is what binds the right nationalists and defectors from the left who make up the movement. But above all, whether the topic is World War II or current immigration, the new right seeks to rehabilitate German nationalism by seizing on communist and leftist excesses to elide Germany's own misdeeds.

The piece continues in this vein, discussing Rainer Zitelmann, Frank Schirrmacher, Junge Freiheit, and various other figures of greater or lesser legitimacy.  Read it if you'd like to get a snapshot of how Germany was perceived in the mid-1990s.  For purposes of context, let me point out that The New Republic, whose website you can visit here, is a centrist-liberal American journal of political opinion which distinguishes itself by its strong support for Israel.  Notice how diplomatically I put that.


Max Goldt Quote Help

I am sure that the elite audience this website attracts is familiar with Max Goldt, the German author whose meandering essays grace the pages of Titanic, and whose poignant texts form the basis of the Katz und Goldt comics. 

I was at a reading by Herr Goldt recently, and he mentioned the Cocteau Twins, a Scottish band from the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Here is an Amazon.de review of a Cocteau Twins Album which quotes this Max Goldt piece:

Eigentlich bin ich über Max Goldt zu den Cocteau Twins gekommen. Er deklamierte in einer seiner Kolumnen sinngemäß, daß der einzige Zweck einer Platte von den Cocteau Twins sei, die "unbedingte Erzeugung von Pracht und Eleganz".

I am working on an article for the Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung about the Rezeptionsgeschichte of the Cocteau Twins in German-speaking countries, and I would like to read the Max Goldt piece.  Unfortunately, I don't know what its title is, or where it was originally published.  I have the Max Goldt collection Für Nächte am offenen Fenster, but I can't figure out whether the Cocteau Twins essay can be found within its pages.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Slovenian Joys II: Governing Casually

It's a balmy weekday afternoon. I'm sitting at the Tea House, an outdoor cafe in the Old Town of Ljubljana, a crescent-shaped warren of narrow cobblestone streets and baroque facades which rises from the east bank of the Ljubljanica river. The customers sit outside on a long wooden pallet, watching the people pass by as their tea brews in squat little jugs. We see a portly, white-haired man a short ways down the street, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, and carrying a shopping bag. My friend Samo notes casually "Oh look, that's the Slovenian Minister for Local Affairs." Just before we spotted the shopping minister, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek -- the world's most famous Slovenian -- had walked by. About a half-hour later, a prominent woman journalist, and then a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official, dressed casually but wearing stylish wraparound sunglasses.

It's no surprise that these folks all walked by the same cafe -- the Old Town is the place to go in Ljubljana, and the city is pretty small. What struck me was that these people were all wandering around the city on a weekday afternoon, at around 3:30, and that not one of them was wearing a suit. The casual observer might conclude that government officials run out of things to do at around 2, so they knocked off work and did a little shopping. Then, at 3, the journalists have finished their accounts of the day's meagre events and follow suit.

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Slovenian Joys I: Where it is and How it Came to Be

You may not know much about Slovenia, but Slovenia knows a lot about you. Not in a threatening, surveillance way, but in a curious, observing sense. The Slovenians, admitted to the EU in 2004, are very much attuned to developments in Europe and the United States. The bookstores are packed with books in all European languages, and boast a much wider and more interesting selection of books in English than I've seen in any German bookstore. Slovenia's "leading intellectual," Slavoj Zizek, is better-known than many of his European counterparts, owing to his ability to write sleek, playful English prose.

The imbalance between what I knew about Slovenia and what Slovenians knew about my country was embarassingly large, and I'm wagering the same might be true of some Joysters. So here are the basic facts. Slovenia's population is just under 2 million, and it sits near the Adriatic coast between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. Its capital is Ljulbljana, which has about 230,000 residents. Slovenians speak their own language, Slovenian, which is written in the Roman, not Cyrillic, alphabet. Slovenians are ethnic Slavs, but the majority are Roman Catholic. Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004, after only thirteen years of independent statehood.

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Fear and Loathing and Pizza and Mayonnaise

I'm not the first to report that for Americans and Brits, European intellectuals take some getting used to.  Many of them seem to take themselves awfully bloody seriously.  Many Western Europeans, for example, believe the odd notion that a person cannot be simultaneously witty and profound. Because a lot of people have internalized this odd idea, plenty of Europeans who wish to be considered profound completely lose their sense of humor, if they ever had one.  This particular thought-virus seems to have buried most deeply into German society.  Have you ever heard Juergen Habermas, for all his achievements, tell a really funny joke?

Of course, many French intellectuals would have to be exempted, including, perhaps Jean-Claude Kauffmann.  Mr. Kaufmann recently wrote a book about, as he calls it, "an instrument to perform an existential rupture."  What is this instrument?  You're probably thinking something like an intercontinental ballistic missile, or a powerful dose of LSD, or a 20-day fast.  But you're wrong; it is, in fact...a cookbook. 

Kauffmann's characterization of the cookbook as an instrument for existential rupture is just one of the many deliciously dry witticisms he fires off in his recent book-length anaysis of France's changing eating habits.  He finds them in sore need of repair: Half of the French watch TV while eating; dinner-table conversation is a thing of the past, and more and more families are resorting to McDonald's).  For more, just click here: The French table: Theater of the absurd?


Introducing Slovenian Joys

Yes, this blog was once German Joys, and will once again revert to being German Joys.  But for the next week or so is Slovenian Week here at German Joys, with a festive blog banner to boot.  I will be posting a few reminiscences from my recent trip to Slovenia, an intriguing little country I just spend almost two weeks in. 

The banner is a picture I took of the charming hilltop town of Stanjel, with its distinctive suppository-shaped oval bell-tower.  I suppose now is the time to inform all readers of languages that use diacritical marks that my American laptop doesn't "do" diacritical marks, so I cannot put the two little horns on the "S" in Stanjel, nor will I be able to put the horns, slash-marks, or cross-hatchings on other letters.  I hope you'll bear with me.

In any event, the next week will take you all on a journey of discovery to the fabled land of Slovenia, which is not to be confused with Slovakia, one of the two countries that the former Czechoslovakia broke up into.  We'll meet Slovenian poets, artists, philosophers, and government employees.  We'll eat Slovenian prosciutto, drink Slovenian wine, fondle Slovenian women (err, maybe not), go deep under the earth into some of Slovenia's fabled caves, and high into the Julian Alps, the part of the Alps that Slovenia calls its own.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you don't, I suppose you really don't have much choice, because this is my blog, and I can do whatever the hell I please with it!

So fasten your seat belts, check your insurance, pour yourself a stiff drink, and join me on a journey to the Green Piece of Europe (tm)!


America: Not like it is in the movies, even for movie stars

I don't know who told Franka Potente to go to Hollywood, but whoever it was was no friend of Franka Potente.  Potente, for the uninformed, is a German film star who is best-known as the eponymous Lola in the 1998 movie Run Lola Run (as its English title reads).  She delivered a lively and touching performance in RLR, which I found to be a pleasantly philosophical action movie but not much more. 

I'd characterize Potente as moderately attractive in an earthily German, not-conventionally-beautiful way.  Strong cheekbones, slightly shiny skin, an interesting, characterful nose.  No idea how her English is, or how her acting skills would be in English.  But apparently someone -- perhaps she herself -- thought she was Hollywood material, so off she went. 

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Fred Irwin, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany,

for the love of God, go back and take many more German lessons.  I'm just watching Fred on the Berliner Phoenix Runde, which is staging an interesting debate among representatives from Russia, Turkey, France, and the United States.  All of them are delivering their views of the recent German elections in flawless German -- especially Prof. Alfred Grosser, a French political scientist.

But not Fred Irwin, the American.  He's speaking slowly, hesitantly, in simple sentences, with an incredibly strong American accent.  Not even an English-speakers' accent, an American accent.  Further, he begins almost all of his  contributions with "Well": which, you might have noted, is an English word. 

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What are "European Readers" Like?

I have been doing a little bit of research into the market for translations from German into English.  (I translate legal documents, but I wouldn't mind diversifying into somewhat more...juicy areas).  I came upon this interesting web article,   Don't Write Down to European Audiences!

The author is an American, Nancy Arrowsmith, who lives in Germany and, in this article, advises English-language writers who might want to obtain work writing for European audiences.  The article contains any number of interesting observations on the difference between American and European readers' markets; I've picked two here as an introduction: 

  • The general reading level is higher in Europe than in North America. A European John or Jane Doe will generally read at a higher level (Flesh-Kincaid readability scale) than an American John Doe. North American audiences are often either extremely erudite (A level) or semi-illiterate (sub C level). The well- educated middle class (B level) seems to be shrinking. In Europe, it is alive and well, and reads books. European academics tend to read special-interest literature, and the semi-illiterate usually limit their reading to the boulevard presses. This leaves us with a large, fairly well-read class that regularly consumes books and periodicals and wants other people to consider them well-educated (a high prestige factor).
  • There is less internal media censorship in Europe than in North America. Because of this, texts are often more outspoken or radical, with more explicit language and sexual allusions. Counterculture is an important part of cultural life, and is not "pushed over the edge" into pornography or sedition, but incorporated into mainstream or borderline publications. Criticisms of the powers that be are more marked in European publications, and there is less fear of being sued for libel. As a result, reporting is often more personal.

Later, she notes: "Interviews with great thinkers or innovators are valued by most European readers, who are interested in personal views on world affairs and are firm believers in established culture."