It hardly matters where one lives as long as every once in a while one can hear and speak one’s mother tongue. Thus it is with great interest that I went to a reading of a Swiss Poet at the Toronto Goethe Institute. Local director Dr. Arpad Soelter and the Swiss Consul General, Mr. Jean-Claude Hagmann, introduced multi award winning literary great Klaus Merz.
The writer had been in Chicago to read from his newest works. A brilliant idea was to have a translator follow each poem or comment the author made in English. It also has to be said that the translations sometimes were so good that they were more sophisticated than the original, which does not surprise. It would prove quite difficult indeed to turn a Swiss sentence with typically Swiss sentiments, even Swiss phrasing, into an equivalent in English. Judith Orban did a fabulous job in this capacity, as a translator and orator. Her delivery was very animated and pleasant.
Klaus Merz, a former teacher read from several of his books, which were also for sale after the reading. I took home Loewen, Loewen, Venizianische Spiegelungen. Interestingly enough this book was originally not to be, as Klaus Merz related. He was simply taking a Venetian vacation and felt that everything that could be said about that place had been more than adequately covered by other minds. Lucky for us he remembered that the same could be said about love and life and anything having to do with it, which made him change his mind about not writing anything on Venice. His keen observations, sometimes poetry, sometimes prose, are little vignettes affording us a look at what he saw, and ordinary people and events take on a different and special importance. We can imagine what went through the author’s mind by the way he describes his observations and find that we are familiar with these sentiments. For instance: A singer does not just sing in the staircase of a house coloratura, instead the singer puts coloratura down (like a carpet) in the staircase and it reaches all the way to the edge of the water.
"Die Engel von San Stae
The angels of San Stae
How descriptive! There is almost an intensity of Japanese haiku, few words, big concept.
He speaks of people crossing canal bridges with the same importance as the religious procession. He notices the little things. His vignettes are like Chinese ink drawings, done with simple strokes to tell the big picture. Laotse would have been pleased.
The intimate reading was well received by those that came
and went home a little richer inside, having connected with the old world in
a memorable way.
Nothing makes more sense in celebrating a heritage than letting the senses experience first hand what is special about a place close to our hearts, and at the same time promote the skills and services that bring about such experiences.
Tasting, touching, feeling, seeing, hearing, and all the while learning makes also good business sense, or so Consul Dr. Karl Schmidt and the administration of the Delta Chelsea Inn felt. Thus they concocted a sort of networking event that explored various aspects of Austrian expertise where people could for a fee taste Austrian wine and champagne, sample Austrian food, listen to Austrian music, learn about Austrian art and bid on selected items for the benefit of Austria’s most important charity, SOS Kinderdorf.
Austrians and well as Germans hardly ever pass up an event that has cultural overtones and therefore it was no surprise that the event was quickly sold out and people had to be turned away. Those there rubbed shoulders with the diplomats of many countries and important business people and had another opportunity to make new acquaintances or hobnob with familiar friends and business partners.
I met up with Sabine Schrot, the casting agent of "Rosenstrasse", Margarethe von Trotta’s fabulous film, which we extensively reported on last year. It is running again in May in Toronto as part of the Jewish Film Festival, which, by the way, has great movies, a couple of which are Swiss made!
I particularly enjoyed Odon Wagner’s lecture on the art and history of Schloss Belvedere. The lucky gentleman won the special prize that evening: A trip to Vienna with hotel accommodation. Other prizes were a weekend in a Delta Chelsea Inn, or the results from the silent auction for the benefit of SOS Kinderdorf.
I bid heavily in a fabulous pottery vase from Gmundener Keramik, still having the sound of Via Salzburg’s chamber music in my ears. Mozart’s music, any music, is always the best way to forget about a stressful day. People were happily milling about for a long while, tasting the delicious pastries with great coffee with "Schlag" and chocolate shavings…hmmmnnnnn, goulash soup and other delicacies, before they called it a night.
This was a great idea, worth repeating and emulating.
Photo Exhibit Explains Life in Berlin
Germany and Canada have connected a long time ago. I am not even thinking about the first settlers hundreds of years ago; I am more thinking in the way of culture in my own lifetime. Growing up in Germany after the war I had no idea that ice hockey was Canada’s national sport! And when I came to live here in 1968 I thought that Canada had gotten hockey from us…. How arrogant was that? (I had to do away with a few misconceptions like that.)
Photo exhibits have always been a way to share experiences. The old adage that a picture tells a thousand words is so true. Walking through the Queen’s Quay Gallery at Harbour Front will give you a great example on how true it really is. Here we have the largest photo exhibit to date coming from Germany to Canada. The show depicts life during the period of the wall, not the wall itself, but what life was like during those many decades of cold war. While "Good Bye Lenin" is running in a Toronto movie house, recreating a pre-wall-fall East Germany for a dying mother, here we see the perceptions of a half a dozen photographers and their impressions of Berlin, a city cut off from the crossroads of the world. That does hit home, does go under the skin, even though we might not agree with some of the explanations of the artists. They too explain something of those times and ideologies of that clean yet neglected place. The words that come to mind are "aufgeraeumt" - put into order, "leer"- empty, not just because of the apparent lack of people, but because there were all those other invisible walls, rules, regulations, codes of behaviour.
Ambassador Christian Pauls explained his viewpoint in an address to the
visitors on opening night. He was very subjectively proud about his hometown
and grateful to be able to share this important part of history with the
world as he thanked the many individuals who had made this exhibit possible.
It does explain a few things otherwise harder to express in words. Any form
of aesthetics has that ability, and photography does it more graphically
than any other art form.
Back to Antiquity
There has hardly been a girl that I have known, who did not wonder what it would have been like to be Cleopatra or another one of those fabled Egyptian queens. I for my part never miss an opportunity to check out old mummies and their paraphernalia, some of which is extremely interesting. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto has just now the most fabulous Egyptian exhibit on loan from England. In the midst of renovations and extensions the centre and core of the museum is still dominated by the most humongous totem poles I have ever seen. Not far from them starts the exhibit of eternal kings. Go check it out for yourself. You will not be sorry. How I felt about the exhibit, and how I "connected" read my poem "Behind". It was an enriching experience.
Until next time
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