An Early Bernhard Poem, Englished

Building on Cold Foggy Night

One section of an online English translation of a sixteen-page poem privately published in 1962 by Thomas Bernhard (spacing in original):

In rags goes man, in stinking scraps of cloth.
The meat grinder wind says—I'm not dumb!
Siccing my trouser legs and the dog,
it comes inside my head and cuts me down.

I have this whore tap on my conscience,
this bundle biting into my hunched back.
These shoes, this frayed coat, are making me sick.
My soupspoon sticks through the pocket of my pants.

There in the courtyard, there stand the Pharisees,
Nothing but creature from the belt on down!
The club swingers, squealers, gunmen, spies
in the greasy boot-black of the prefecture.

The state's almighty, while you're bitter and weak.
Power and the uniform are one in the same.
You keep your mouth shut, your head in check,
you walk through the wood no one cuts for us.

What such a truncheon on the head ruins
I know already, it breaks my eardrums.
I'm outfitted by the most sub-moron
and driven mad with sweat, ransacked, and shorn.

These pants rub me raw and the backsides paint
The heads of misery on the thick wall.
Some get to drink and some have to pay.
And the thing that you are drips in your hand.

A Private Collection of Funky, Outsider-ish Art

Ten Commandments

  My friends George and Fran live in a Houston apartment crammed with artifacts from around the world; paintings and sculptures by young, up-and-coming artists from Texas and south of the border; and a few pieces by more established figures. Their taste is bold and eclectic, and the collection never dull.

They kindly let me take photos of many of the pieces, which I have now assembled into a photo gallery for your viewing pleasure here. Enjoy!

P.S. Unfortunately, I don't have the full title/artist details for all of the artists here — sometimes the titles are an approximation. The best way to get to know the collection is to have George and Fran shepherd you around after several post-dinner cocktails. So book your flights to Houston soon! If you're really interested in one piece or another, let me know, and I'll see what I can find out.

Duesseldorf – Barren, Monotonous, Unromantic “Capital of the Inconsiderable Duchy of Berg”

Translation of motto: Our Doener tastes super with sauce tip-top!

For my birthday, friends presented me with 111 Duesseldorfer Orte, die Man Gesehen Haben Muss ('111 Places in Duesseldorf that Must be Seen'), by Peter Eickhoff. The book introduces the reader to peculiar and out-of-the-way crevices of Duesseldorf that you'll never come across in tourist guides: the Stolperstein (g) for the 27-year-old piano Wunderkind murdered by the Nazis for criticizing Hitler, the location of former pitched street battles between Communists and right-wing militias, the "Hunger tower," the Moroccan quarter, the city's only 24-hour Döner place (pictured), art galleries both literally and figuratively underground, the city's strangest and tiniest bars, eeriest parks (Der Lantz'sche, of course), oldest crucifixes, ugliest public square, and liveliest immigrant neighborhoods. Of course, you can always quibble with Eickhoff's selections — how could he include the glisteningly lame "Excellent Business Center" GAP 15 office tower (g), yet leave out the Reichsgasse (g)?

But most of his selections are spot-on and, of course, arguing with the author's choices is half the pleasure of reading a book like this. Eickhoff's commentaries show a firm grasp of local history leavened with a pleasantly ironic wit.

I also learned something new from this gem of a book. in the mid-19th century, Duesseldorf was host to the "Duesseldorf school" of painters, a Romantic/Nazarene tendency who were considered quite avant-garde for their time. Their reputation was such, according to Eickhoff, that the "the first private gallery opened in New York, in 1849, called itself, self-confidently and with an eye toward boosting sales, 'The Dusseldorf Gallery.'" (40). And sure enough, Google Books reveals a "Descriptive Catalogue of the Paintings Now on Exhibition at the Institute of Art, Duesseldorf Gallery" from 1861, featuring dozens of works by artists associated with the Duesseldorf School. The catalog also contains this description of their home city:

It is somewhat strange that Duesseldorf, the capital of the inconsiderable duchy of Berg, in the Rhenish provinces of Prussia— a town of little note, dignified by no historical associations, situated on the monotonous flats of the Rhine, far below the region of its grandeur and enchantment, with nothing to boast in the way of palaces, churches, theatres, or ruins—the great staple of continental cities —should, nevertheless, be the seat of a school of painting, perhaps the most conspicuous on the Continent, and which has aided in giving stability and strength to the most important movements in the history of modern art…. [The Duesseldorf School] seems to have found some congenial influences which are hidden from common observation, and make up for the apparent deficiencies of the place. Perhaps the artists who have congregated in so unromantic a locality have been urged to greater efforts after ideal beauty, by the very presence of the natural barrenness which surrounds them.

Well, it may not have enough gigantic cathedrals for those preening East Coast Bildungsbuerger, but I don't recall Newark ever bringing forth a school of art…