Sunday, 21 August 2016

Bavarian Authors And Surprise Discoveries

I try not to buy paper books anymore. Too heavy, too inconvenient, too demanding of shelf space. Considering my relapse rate, I'm just glad I'm not a crack addict. This week I picked up this little gem from the gift shop at Nymphenburg Palace (Munich):

It’s an anthology featuring 19th and 20t century Bavarian Women Writers. I’m not quite sure which component of this book I love more – the short stories/extracts or the condensed biographies of the authors that accompany them. I’d never even heard of most of these writers who, evidently, formed a pivotal part of the cultural and literary landscape of their time, and often at great personal cost.

One of the most disturbing biographical snippets I’ve come across so far (and I’m only on page 71) is from the life of actress and best-selling author Wilhelmine von Hillern, born in 1836.

Aged just 17, Wilhelmine, neĆ© Birch, becomes involved with theatre critic Hermann von Hillern. Shortly after discovering that their dalliance has not remained without consequences, the couple marries. However, this isn an era when any perceived infringements of society's strict moral code could lead to irreparable repercussions, and Wilhelmine’s mother fears that the swiftly drawn veil of holy matrimony won't suffice to safeguard her family's reputation. Not only does she impel the family to keep the birth of the child a secret, she also forbids her daughter to breastfeed her son, while squirting laxatives down his hungry little throat. Her plan is to pass off the emaciated child as a pre-term baby conceived in wedlock a few months down the line, but it all ends in terrible tragedy. 

Wilhelmine's intense feelings of guilt over the death of her infant son permeate deep into her body of work, and there is no doubt that the need to process this harrowing experience is part of what makes her one of the most compelling writers of her generation.

Change of topic. Kind of. A few days ago, I was bemoaning the fact that I’d let my study of French go to pot this summer. On second thought, however, I’m very much enjoying this current burst of exploration of the culture I was born into. And where better to engage with it than in situ, immersed as I am in the rural Bavarian summer with its long muggy days, surprise thunderstorms and the constant howl of combine harvesters droning on in the background? 

I’ll get back to my daily French practice soon enough. Sometimes I need to remind myself that it's perfectly OK to suspend one set of language activities for a while to make room for another. As long as the pursuit yields new insights and personal satisfaction, why go and ruin it for myself with a guilty conscience?


  1. No paper books/relapse rate: same here.

    1. It's a curse... but I can't be lugging around 40 boxes of books again in my next house move, I just cannot let that happen!

  2. I moved to my Dad's house three months ago and I couldn't bring all of my books with me. It was hard to get rid of books but it had to be done. Now I buy almost everything on Kindle. It's just not the same though. I did save a small collection of local authors.

    I'm enjoying this new blog of yours. Time to go to work!

    1. Hi Sue! Great to see you on here :) I'm also a Kindle girl, the integrated/downloadable dictionaries are just so handy for people like us reading in various languages. No more underlining and looking it up later (which never happens anyway). I still keep and buy a few paper books, but I've whittled down the numbers significantly. I'm just not sure what to do with all of my textbooks... they were so expensive...

      How's your German going?

    2. Hi Simone! When I was moving there were books that I told myself that I would never get rid of. And I did exactly that. I just couldn't keep everything. Textbooks are a real problem. The joke here in the US is that you can't sell your textbooks back to the university because the course is using a new edition-they changed one word in the preface! A lot of my books were in the basement-I didn't even remember how many I had until I had to pack them up. Some were thrown out because of the mold smell.

      Yeah Kindle is great. I use the app on my iPad. I'm trying to never buy another paper cookbook. There are so many with my mom's and now mine. The front porch is full of them. And, in general, Kindle books are cheaper. I just bought a sewing book for $9.99. The paper version is twice that and I would have to pay shipping.

      I'm still trying to keep up with German by reading Der Spiegel and various newspapers. I haven't made a recipe from Chefkoch in a long time. I did come across that recipe you posted for cheesecake a while back so I'll have to make the trip to Whole Paycheck for some Quark. I haven't been on Duolingo in a few months. I just don't like the atmosphere anymore. And I got sick of the same sentences over and over.

      I'm glad to see you've landed on your feet. :)

    3. Whole Foods has quark? That is delightful news :)

      If you are reading the Spiegel, you must be doing very well indeed. I sometimes take a Spiegel article to my German book club (in Spain) and people do struggle a bit.

      I'm toying with the idea of doing Italian on Duolingo. I don't actually want to learn Italian as such, but it would be nice to get a better idea of the basics so I can understand my fb news feed - I seem to have a lot of Italian(s) on there all of a sudden.

      Re. Kindle books being cheaper - true in some cases, but I find that German books, in particular, are dead expensive .