Monday, January 9, 2012

Kurt Tucholsky (January 9, 1890)

Kurt Tucholsky was a journalist and fiction writer in the exciting atmosphere of Berlin in the pre-Nazi era, when a kind of Jewish intellectualism and freedom seemed too good to be true -- and was. He wrote all kinds of stuff under various pen names (even Kaspar Hauser), and led a mixed-up and difficult life. He's remembered vividly and loved by current Berliners, even very young ones.

On a visit to Berlin a few years ago, we saw a street named after him, and we ate at Cafe Tucholsky, where the walls are covered with photos and memorabilia from his life there. As far as I can tell, he has little traction with Americans of any age.

Some of his works have been translated recently, and he's getting some attention from English speakers. Here's a quote from an anti-war poem in an article titled "I wish I had met Kurt Tucholsky"
"Lord God! If you’re really up there as we’ve been taught
Come down from Heaven or send your son.
Tear off the banners, the helmets and the medals
And tell the nations of the earth how we’ve suffered,
How we were wiped out by hunger, lice, shrapnel, and lies.
In your name, the preachers have led us to our graves.
Come down now and explain why they lied.
Those of us who have knees are kneeling before you. Listen to us.
Drive us back under the ground, but first give us an answer."

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