Thursday, April 20, 2006

"The New Melusine" by Johann Goethe

What to do with a wife who is nearly perfect but has the bad habit of occasionally becoming as small as an elf? In this self-contained fairy tale from the unfairy tale Wilhelm Meister's Travels, the narrator discovers that good things sometimes have hidden liabilities. Probably not surprised, are you? Translated from the German by Gertude C. Schwebell. Read by Jonathan Strong. Time 31:12.

Novelist, dramatist, poet, politician, painter, philosopher, scientist... the list goes on and on for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German polymath and iconoclast who lived from 1749 to 1832. Just as varied were the movements Goethe was associated with: the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Sturm und Drang, and Empfindsamkeit (Sensibility). His thoughts and his works would go on to influence all the European arts for over a century, and may still be influencing us today. Even Darwin owed him a debt! Imagine all that, cribbed from just the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry. We are simply exhausted thinking about everything else we don't have time or space to include here...

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Three-Minute Novel" by Heinrich Mann

Well, three minutes to read on the page, perhaps, but three times that to read aloud. Here we have a complete bildungsroman in just a few pages, with the requisite gambling and fatal romance. Translated by Victor Lange. Read by Jonathan Strong. Time 9:46.

Overshadowed by his much more famous brother Thomas, Heinrich Mann nevertheless had a substantial literary career of his own. Like his younger brother, he ended up in Los Angeles because of the Nazis and continued to write novels which dealt with German society and class differences there. His dates are 1871 to 1950. We wish we could think of something more exciting to say about him here, but we can't. Maybe there was a reason he was the less successful brother.