Friday, February 06, 2015



e-mail me to get this posting
which I had to take down.
michael r.

Monday, January 05, 2015


i added two comments to the two pieces:

1}The generalizations fly too furious for someone to whom the ABC OF READING once presented an ideal challenge. "Make it new" was in opposition to a state of affairs: the oppressive conventionality of the 19th century. Was it also intended as a state of permanent revolution? Perhaps so since conventionality is one of the major lodestones of the lethargy of history, e.g the basic forever naturalism of the American mind. Perhaps you need to live in Seattle for 20 years after 25 years in NY City to realize that modernism, except of course technologically, never penetrated the heartland or even its peripheries. Malevitch's newness yet incorporated the iconography of Russian religious art on what he imagined was a more substantial and more universal level. The recourse to the past, say to Greek drama, must be regained anew each generation, and in a new way. E.g. vide what a Shakespearean talent like Peter Handke does with it in creating experiences that alter an audiences state of mind. This is all for the few and there are too few of the few.

Pound's cleansing operation was scarcely unique if we take 1910 as the decisive line of division; his was the American voice within the chorus. What was produced in all the arts about that time and subsequently is absolutely extraordinary compared to the previous century and would have been far more splendid without the major 19th century hangover of imperialist competition, World War I. From which the world continues to suffer.


""Allow me to comment, too, on whether innovation is still feasible: There is no end of it going on, need for it seems to exert pressure, quite aside that to differentiate. As once Handke translator turned specialist on detecting that THE REPETITION made me into A GOD OF SLOWNESS and following up his innovations once he was a mature writer there came these discoveries, e.g.: ABSENCE I experienced as a film! Hadn't anticipated that at all! The same filmic quality characterizes CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS. ONE DARK NIGHT features getting the reader entangled in the protagonist's dream syntax! I have had other whelming UNIQUE EXPERIENCES with MY YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S BAY & the title text of A SLOW HOMECOMING, parts of the forthcoming MORAVIAN NIGHTS. 
Ditto for his plays. Handke conducts his innovations, that comprise so much (including the nouveau roman) within the arena of classical prose – Flaubert, Goethe, Stifter. Others have razzmatazz. Proof in the pudding is, say, reading experiencing the “Berg & Tahl Fahrt” (A Drive across Hill & Dale) at the end of CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS, a greater ending than that of ULYSSES for this probably forever Joycean. And Handke is scarcely the only Austrian; other languages, Serbian, show an astonishing propulsion toward innovation – speaking “histo-mat” I would say because of a deep need to make prose able to exert, to penetrate the onslaught of whelming visual information; and on that deep syntactic level; not that reviewers editors have assigned have noticed. What Handke – and many others - have made prose capable of obviates the kind of dissatisfaction that some feel with the novelistic enterprise."

Thursday, October 16, 2014






As compared to Summer‭ ‬1960‭

(‬see the Alaska,‭ ‬the final chapter of my‭ ‬SCREEN MEMORIES which SOLSIICE has accepted‭)  ‬CHRISTMAS‭ ‬1949‭ ‬is the one time that I do recall flying in a DC-3‭
converted into a military transport with facing seating along the aisle of its fuselage.‭ “‬Air bridge‭” ‬time or shortly afterward,‭ ‬I am a U.S.‭ ‬Military Dependent courtesy of my mother marrying a U.S.‭ ‬officer,‭ ‬a Captain Richard Weber,‭ ‬OSS/CIC


Meanwhile‭ (‬that is now,‭ ‬in Fall‭ ‬2014‭) ‬I have figured out why I can't remember the second time I flew in a DC-3,‭ in the Summer of 1960, ‬that is on my way from Fairbanks,‭ ‬Alaska to the Galena fighter interceptor base
to fight a nearby forest fire:‭ ‬after landing in Galena around midnight I did not sleep for another‭ ‬24‭ ‬hours.‭ ‬By the time I finally fall asleep on comfortable Alaskan moss‭ (‬that will be my bed for the next six weeks‭) ‬I will have been awake for at least thirty six hours,‭ ‬probably closer to forty-eight.‭ ‬If you don't sleep your brain will not inscribe recollections.‭ ‬We started to fight fire around midnight,‭ ‬but I have no memory of it,‭ ‬either,‭ ‬of how we fire fighters got from Galena airfield to the fire line‭ ‬-‭ ‬by truck‭ (?)‬,‭ ‬did we walk those several miles‭ (?)‬,‭ ‬not by helicopter‭ ‬-‭ ‬I have the most vivid of recollections of my first helicopter ride‭ (‬in a little three man Bell‭) ‬the‭  ‬next morning,‭  ‬all I recall is the inception of the recollection of firefighting with a P-38‭ ‬screaming overhead‭‭_‬Lightningp-38.jpg
‭ I took it on good faith that it was a P-38,‭ ‬how was I to tell what kind of plane it was in the midnight dusk of the night of the midnight sun that tossed fire retardant on me and my adjacent fire fighter,‭ ‬someone I quicky christened‭ “‬the Florids shrimp‭” ‬-‭ ‬a diminutive kid from Florida with a shrimp's visage who had never before handled an axe‭! ‬Much less anthing as odd as a Pulaski double-bit!

-‭ ‬I had no experience of overhead fighter planes since May‭ ‬1945‭ ‬when fighter interceptors flew low over the‭ ‬Heerstrasse outside Bremen,‭ ‬strafing‭!‬,‭ ‬the kind of memory that will instill a fright for life‭! ‬If you don't sleep, the dream work is in no position to lay down memory traces‭!
That very eventful Christmas‭ ‬1949-1950‭ (‬first films‭ ‬-‭ ‬THE NIGHT AT THE OPERA,‭ ‬THE RED SHOES,‭ ‬THE THIRD MAN,‭ ‬THE ROAD TO MOROCCO‭ ‬-‭ ‬first romantic kiss, with the daughter of
Albrecht Tietze who was the physician who together with his assistant Dr. Charlotte Pommer had saved my father’s life after the Gestapo had delivered him to the Berlin Police Hospital after he had tried to commit suicide so as not to divulge the names of fellow conspirator so that they could have him in presentable shape for Freisler’s People’s Court‭) ‬includes my first contact with what falls into a category that then‭ ‬13‭ ‬year old me,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬already appreciated keenly:‭ ‬Menschlichkeit/‭ ‬Unmenschlichkeit.‭  
Both parents had been in the resistance to Hitler and had survived their respective Gestapo prisons‭
during the siege of Berlin‭ ‬but I appreciated especially‭ ‬-‭ ‬since the day,‭ ‬in‭ ‬1947,‭ ‬that I read of my beloved grandfather Werner von Alvensleben
having been tortured in Buchenwald‭ ‬-‭ ‬that event:‭ ‬I flinched,‭ ‬an event that was decisive in making me want to flee what I regarded by then as‭ “‬the land of murderers‭” (I shudder every time I bethink the fact that for a time I was within one degree of separation from Hitler, whom Opa made fun of at lunch instead of poisoning - my grandmother at least had the instinct to say that “She did not wish to have that gentleman for lunch again!” - what a way to put it!). Not that far from our house outside Bremen there had been a small camp, in the‭ ‬Teufels Moor‭ – ‬the Devil's Moor‭ – ‬and as children we were too spooked to ice skate near its edge‭‬.‭ ‬That account of my grandfather's torture,‭ ‬published in a broadsheet,‭ ‬was written by a woman Buchenwald survivor,‭ ‬Opa's torture was mentioned incidentally,‭ ‬which lent the account greater credibility and made it that much more shocking for being incidental.‭ ‬-‭  ‬He was said not to have been the same person afterward.‭ ‬All that the family ever told me about that was that Opa refused to take his shirt off in front of his wife and daughters.‭ ‬The message of hidden,‭ ‬humiliating scars was clear enough.‭ ‬Why I appreciated what torture meant at that time is a question that still puzzles me,‭ ‬but only slightly,‭ ‬in that I allow that for all the answers that I do have there yet exists the possibility that I may still be missing something‭ ‬-‭ ‬a statement in which you may detect the epistomelogically no longer over-confident analysand‭! – ‬I imagine empathy suffices,‭ ‬if torture is performed on the most significant figure in your young life.‭ (‬See‭ ‬Screen Memory 1‭ & ‬commmentary which seeks to account why I fastened so immediately onto a figure I had scarcely seen by age four,‭ ‬and would not again for another five‭)
At times I felt that it was psychological torture to have been a prisoner of my governess Ms.‭ ‬No from age nine months to about age seven.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬I think extreme empathy with physical pain suffices.‭ ‬Show me a scar of yours and I will flinch.‭ ‬The other day I came across the photo of a bone-saw that was used in‭ ‬19th century amputations‭ ‬-‭ ‬I nearly convulsed in pain‭! ‬I had an eardrum pierced at age seven without anesthetic,‭ ‬so I have a distinct measure of extreme,‭ ‬if brief,‭ ‬pain.‭ ‬Nothing upsets me as much as accounts of torture‭! ‬A‭  ‬firing squad‭! ‬No big deal‭! ‬A hanging‭? ‬A brief empathetic flinch of the muscles in my neck.‭ ‬Ditto for the‭ ‬Fallbeil‭! ‬For that kind of beheading.‭ ‬But torture‭? ‬I couldn't even have Bush tortured‭! ‬Not even to get the smirk off his mug‭! ‬Cheney I might give serious consideration to.‭ ‬But I know even there I would desist if it came right down to it,‭ ‬though I'd enjoy to see that dreadful person sweat a bit:‭ ‬it's not that I am entirely free of sadism‭!
It is said that empathy depends on a parallel,‭ ‬on mirroring neurons;‭ ‬so be it,‭ ‬the speed with which signals travel in nerves to the brain and back.‭

That Christmas 1949-50 I was visiting my mother and her second husband who I think by then had been promoted to Captain of the CIC.‭ ‬I had first met then Lieutenant Richard‭ (‬Dick‭) ‬Weber in May‭ ‬1945‭ ‬when he drove up to our house in the rural outskirts of Bremen in a captured German Fiat in‭ ‬Wehrmacht camouflage to inform the inhabitants that his Colonel Fink‭ – ‬the contingen was not just C.I.C.‭ b‬ut also O.S.S.‭ ‬which meant that they spoke German‭ ‬-‭ ‬had requisitioned my father's‭ ‬Maybach‭ (‬which Cadillac of German cars,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬belonged to the company,‭ ‬Unilever,‭ ‬that owned the firm,‭ ‬Nordsee Deutsche Hochsee Fischerei,‭ ‬that my father managed‭)‬.‭ ‬Dick was so charmed by this bevy of ladies having tea on the terrace that sunny May or early June day in‭ ‬1945‭ ‬that he stayed all afternoon.‭ ‬We boys,‭ ‬who had been‭ ‬herumlungern‭ (lounging around) ‬his vehicle were pissed that he had no candy for us‭! ‬-‭ ‬I actually tossed a tennis ball at the silly Fiat's rear end‭ – ‬one of our few precious tennis balls that we boys used for a game called‭ ‬koepfen,‭ ‬i.e.‭ ‬you tossed the ball into the air and then‭ ‬headed‭ ‬it,‭ ‬or tried to head it between designated goal posts ten feet apart and ten feet away from each other that your opponent guarded as though he were a soccer goalie‭!) ‬-‭ ‬Within weeks of its appearance in our lives the U.S.‭ ‬Army‭ ‬had created a cargo cult in the occupied zone,‭ ‬Bremen became a U.S.‭ ‬enclave,‭ ‬Bremerhaven its port,‭ ‬and by Fall of that year I was well on my way to a rapid political education and becoming an American‭.
Toward the very end of the war, suddenly one fine morning, I saw a company or what was left of a company or maybe batallion of German soldiers that had marched all the way from the failed defense of the bridge in Arnheim encamped in the fir woods all the way down the slopes all around our pond who were to be employed in a last ditch defense of Bremen. Cousin Nona, eldest daughter of Heinie von Lehndorf,

LEHNDORF.jpgthe executed courier for the opposition and actual landowner where the Wolfslair had been built, and I, were shlepping buckets of water from the well because there was no electrcity to run the pump to the outlets by the lawns while “incoming”, which I of course did not know by that wonderful diminuting disendangering moniker, was hurtling through the air from the North West on that idyllic end of April day as we heard splashing and realized that the soldiers were tossing their rifles, machine guns and Panzerfaeste (literally “tank fists” ), pamzer-faust.jpg
into the pond - their officers still in finely piped dress uniforms, having tea on the terrace, did nothing to intercede. Yet if these soldiers had provided me and my cousin Detlev von Arnim, fleet as a greyound and tough as the most elastic of Krupp steel, “tank fists” or rifles to become werevolves for us as we, from the embankment in our oak maquis, espied our first Americans, driving in jeeps and personnel carriers, windshields down machine guns mounted on the hoods, on the sunken Napoleonic Armu Leuchtenburger Chausee I expect that the little nationalists that we were then would not have hesitated. But in nearly no time I took Joe Louis's side in our school boys declension of the superiority of national sporting ability.‭ ‬My cousins took Schmeling's.‭ ‬The Brits we all agreed had the best soccer teams‭! ‬Whence all this amazing authority for hotly argued issues is all I can say‭! ‬None of us,‭ ‬but‭  ‬Dedo,‭ ‬not yet teenagers had seen a single real soccer match or had even seen the or a film of a boxing event. It appeared we lived in world of certified myths, and of apparently essential male certainty.

I have no idea whether my mother was tortured or mistreated when the Gestapo,‭ ‬the Secret Police, entrapped and then arrested her towards the end of the war‭  ‬and she never discussed her imprisonment,‭ ‬nor that she appears to have been connected in some fashion to the resistance group‭ ‬Rote Kapelle.‭ ‬And by the time I had the opportunity to research these events she herself had died, prematurely.‭‭_(‬espionage‭)

However, during that adventurous time she befriended a certain Rainer Hildenbrandt‭ ‬‭
who had survived a Nazi concentration camp and who became hugely upset when the Soviets and the new East German SED government started to use the same camps,‭ ‬several,‭ ‬four to be precise,‭ ‬which my‭  ‬mother's father had survived,‭ ‬which motivated Rainer to start his famous Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit‭  

I don't have a photo that I can find of Hildebrandt the way he looked as still the‭  ‬young man that he was in‭ ‬1950,‭ ‬but I came to think of him as resembling the Paul Henreid of‭ ‬Casablanca,‭ ‬the young idealistic Czech freedom fighter.

Rainer being infused with the same kind of idealism that Heinreid portraits in the film‭ ‬merges the two faces in my recollection,‭ ‬whom I last saw in the early‭ ‬80s in New York,‭ ‬and I at least see it in his face even in old age:

My mother and her new husband had a place in Charlottendorf,‭ ‬in the American of the four sectors into which winners had divided the city, in the Westend,‭ ‬the above ground S-Bahn stop is still‭ ‬Krumme Lanke‭ ‬(twisted or crooked) small lake.‭ ‬It was a pleasant area for rambles in the Grunewald.‭ ‬The apartment was in what in the U.K.‭ ‬is called a‭ “‬semi-detached house‭”‬,‭ ‬something that is not at all detached but constitutes one half of a building that is separate from the other half,‭ the outsides in Germany were invariably yellow stucco, ‬and can have four separate apartments and two separate gardens.‭ ‬My mother and Dick‭ – ‬Fir Place had been sold the previous year‭ & ‬it was the first Christmas elsewhere since‭ ‬1943,‭ ‬but the apartment had some of my mother's favorite furniture.: ‬a blonde tea table pops into the fore of the memory bank‭! (‬It derived from the well lighted veranda section at Fir Place where my mother liked to have tea with her women friends‭)‬.‭ ‬Dick is sitting there and my mother and her friend Rainer arrives,‭ at once ‬I realize that Rainer is in love with my mother,‭ ‬just from the way he calls her‭ “‬Lexi.‭” ‬I am told‭  ‬nothing about how they know each other except for the briefest of reference to the war years.‭ ‬I imagine Dick was well informed about Rainer's war activities and his then endeavors.‭
I got along awfully well with Dick,‭ ‬who was more of a much older brother than a father surrogate.‭ ‬My actual father may have been courageous in the resistance,‭ ‬as a father he was in every respect a Priam.‭ ‬He chased and denigrated me as of my earliest years,‭ ‬my only moment of expressed pride in him came when I asked him,‭ ‬he and my mother had returned to Bremen in Fall‭ ‬1945,‭ ‬when he said yes to my‭ ‬question whether he had been in a Gestapo prison, I was looking up at him as he started to ascend the long staircase at Fir Place. By age‭ ‬9‭ ‬it had become a mark of honor to have been in that kind of prison.‭ ‬I had undergone an extremely rapid political education since the end of the war that spring.
Dick let me steal his jeep,‭ ‬and then I allowed him to catch me,‭ ‬he allowed me to think I could leap out of the jeep as we traveled along the shoulder of the Autobahn at a moderate rate,‭ ‬and if‭ ‬-‭ ‬this was my conjecture – ‬I started to pump my legs as though running I could segue from riding in a car to running,‭ ‬say,‭ ‬at anywhere from‭ ‬25‭ ‬to‭ ‬40‭  ‬miles an hour‭ – ‬instead of tumbling head over heels into the embankment!‭ I had had a taste of the apparently “real coffeee (echter Kaffee) that elicited near orgasmic expressions among the women when it became available and I knew or learned quickly while observing the drinking habits of the OSS contingent that a cup of coffee was the potion of choice in sobering you up when you got drunk. Thus I claimed to be able to down a shot of whiskey to no ill effect - Dick said go ahead not realizing my ulterior motive, which succeeded by playing drunk to obtain the forbidden cup of “real coffee.” Playful times.

By Christmas 1949  I was in my‭ ‬2nd year at boarding school in Ploen,‭ ‬I had been,‭ ‬from‭ ‬1945-until‭ ‬1948,‭ ‬the pet of the Bremen OSS,‭ ‬and as someone who has just turned‭ ‬13,‭ ‬I was well on the way to Americanizing myself, as you might be too if your family has been subjected to such infamy and pain,
although my crew-cut was more of a Hindenburg variety than the real American deal, and my friends, laughing, called kidded me‭ “‬Ami‭” ‬for my attempt to get the hated German out of my system.‭ ‬There was not just the fear of and disgust with being German,‭ ‬but the attraction that everything American exerted.
First of all,‭ ‬by Fall‭ ‬1945‭ ‬I really appreciated them as liberators,‭ ‬the influence that my governess exerted on me waned to practically nil,‭ ‬an occasional foray to check on cousin Nona and me who were fascinated by each other's genitalia is really all I can recall.‭ ‬The OSS‭ ‬/CIC contingent were fun,‭ ‬they played with us boys,‭ they “horsed around,” as it is put in American, ‬we lacked men in our lives,‭ ‬Colonel Fink was an impressive colonel,‭ ‬a Mohwinkel I realized later had modeled himself on Clark Gable.‭ ‬In Fall 1945,‭ ‬with the return of the parents and the grandfather (already in early Summer),‭ ‬Fir Place was designated‭ “‬Off Limits‭” ‬with signs to that effect posted all around‭ – ‬except to the‭  ‬partying contingent.‭ ‬Nona and I observed them from our outpost at the top of the long staircase.‭ ‬Once everyone had gone to bed we treated ourselves to the left overs,‭ ‬the sweet‭ ‬Bols liquors‭! ‬However,‭ ‬inhaling a first cigarette from a long butt made for a frightening experience that made you run and run to get your breath back‭! ‬Americans had a hugely impressive surfeit of material goods,‭ ‬they smashed their trucks on our slippery roads against the huge old trees,‭ ‬and then eventually hauled the wrecks away‭! ‬I guess we could have inferred as much from the endless armadas that had bombed us for years on end.‭ ‬The magazines had ads with airflow cars and girls with airflow bodies,‭ ‬and if you went to the Post Exchanges,‭ ‬as I did occasionally in Bremen and that Christmas in Berlinm, these girls materialized in their tight sweaters pretty legs and rouged and lipsticked faces‭ – ‬signifiers which signified if all you had seen were the utterly chaste braided blonde North German girls that age that they were “available” if only you could get your masturbating hands on them.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬chiefly it was two items on the American menu that sealed the deal:‭ ‬American Forces Radio Bremen and its jazz and blue program which as of Spring‭ ‬1945‭ ‬sunk the deepest roots for the kind of American I have become‭ as ‬a few years back I realize to my surprise that I really was an American upon hearing Sam Cooke‭ sing ‬Aint that Good News,‭ ‬it might as easily have been Otis Redding singing‭ ‬By the Dock of the Bay,‭  or Mississip John Hurt Loving Spoonful Hurt, ‬or Charlie Parker or Horace Silver,‭ ‬or Coltrane or Miles Davis.‭ ‬It would have to be that the Warrant Officer who ran AFNB was the only one who couldn't handle roughhousing with us boys and hit out violently when we pinned him,‭ ‬once and then of course never again.‭ What of course you don’t realize as a kid and probably could not imagine if your had been told, was that these American men were permanent children themselves and only got along with children in the many countries that the U.S. Army would be stationed in during your life time. If we received a glimmer of the U.S. Army’s Catch 22 dimension I suppose the only retrospective hint would be materialistic wastefulness.
The second major attractiong that sealed the deal was The Declaration of Independence...
Just what the doctored ordered for an abandoned child who had then been kept prisoner during the Third Reich with his very own prison-keep, Ms. No. The mention of “unalienable Rights” led to no querying of these two loaded words - alien, inalienable and rights and whence they might derive, but to a deep sense of satisfaction! That was the country meant for me! Moreover it had American Indians!
During tea it becomes evident that Dick and Rainer get along,
Dick must have been primed to expect Rainer to approach him for assistance for his KAMPFGRUPPE and it is offered.
If you now take another look @

but also here
and at the link for
it becomes clear that the KAMPFGRUPPE, financed by the OSS which was turning into the CIA, quickly turned into an organization that committed sabotage and other acts of violence and that Rainer within a few years withdrew from an organization over which he quickly lost control.
You might call this the first, the initial curdling of the spirit of human rights that had flowed out of the opposition to the Hitler regime and the opposition to Franco during the Spanish civil war.
This entirely accidental witness to what turned out to be the funding of a group whose purpose became perverted, this potentially highly vocal human rights hyena was of course kept exquisitely informed of what transpired!
Actually, I am scratching me head until I have blood under my fingernail to discover the next time “human rights”, either in an immediate or general sense became important to me.
First thing that occurrs is a physical fight I lost at Ploen with the son of a German general by the name of Hering, or something very close to it. I lost it because I practically had a heart attack I was so violently upset at this classmate defense of the Hitler regime. My good buddies, and that was the one time in my life I really had a bunch of good buddies, were surpised at my collapse. Thus I became afraid of the violence in me!
Nothing regarding human rights comes to mind during my two disastrously disappointing years in Sour Orange except for the decrepit house in our backwoods in a junkyard all its own with an interracial couple living in it - my first glimpse of what would become knowledge of a deeper darkness in the United States.
There was my letting myself be cast as Lucifer in the Junior high play Danny Dither and thinking it was no skin of my nose being stuffed into a brown SS uniform - after all, I was violently anti-Nazi & ipso facto a “good German”, which proves to me that not only did I at least used to have the making of a “human rights” hyena but also of what is currently called a “gut Mensch” (Handke calls them “sinless postmoderns”). Fortunately Lucifer was a speaking part and kid in town congratulated me, they thought I’d been really good, but they had had a hard time understanding me. It was time to do something about my accent.
The one actual unequivocal Nazi I encountered during my nearly ten years in the Third Reich was the SS teacher who in either first or second grade at the Schoenebeck Volkschule who gave either sleepy or preternaturally contrarian me a violent slap in the face for greeting the Fuehrer’s photo with the wrong arm at the day’s opening in school, at Pledge of Allegiance time.
How to deal with the fact that both parens had brothers in the SS and that one of their marriage photos had both these men in uniform on either side of them? Well, make sure you have a good cover if you endanger yourself in that manner.
The Danny Dither event I felt, in retrospect, had great comic possibilities, but I don’t avail myself of them in the Sour Orange chapter of SCREEN MEMORIES.
Things become dicier once I enter Sour Orange Antacid,  
Oakwood Friends School outside Poughkeepsie, in 1952. Not only did quite a few kids there derive from parents who were the vitims of McCarthyism, my first experience of American hysteria, and Peter Seeger showed up to sing for us when he and his Weavers were suffering too, but in 1954 we witnessed the Army-McCarthy on our school T.V. set, schoolmate Hoffman the photographer happened to have been in Guatemala as a sixteen year old and brought back photos and tales that induced the first doubts in the altogether goodness of ye olde Uncle Sam! I was voted in the Yearbook, of which I was the photo editor, as the most predisopoed to be critical and at the drop of a hat, thus I am not too surprised at myself, as aren’t some surviving classmates, that I then took to critical theory as a duck to acid!
Haverford was marked by the inchoate angers that led to the 60s explosion and manifested itself there, e.g., in the “Destruction of Lower Marion” at the end of Freshmen year.
During my junior year abroad, intellectually, two of the at most half dozen important encounters were with the work of Brecht and Georgy Lukasc during my semester in Berlin. I resisted the offer to be debriefed once a month in exchange for $ 100 of what I happened to see during my nightly visits to the theater and opera in East Berlin. $ 100 was DM 400 at that time, and DM 400 translated in East Mark 1600, and I bought my 50 volume set I think it was of the collected works of Marx & Engels for I think East Mark 100. This was my second Berlin Marx, the first had been Groucho & Fils in The Night at the Opera. East Berlin might be interesting culturally, but its FDJ seemed reminiscent of the HDJ. If the CIA man at the family friend U.S. Consul’s office had offered me, say, $ 1000 or $ 500, I have considered a number of times whether I might have allowed myself to be debriefed, it would have obviated the need for my scholarship and summer jobs. But whatever I might happen to overhear certainly was not worth that kind of money. Chiefly, what with my mother’s life as a counter spy for an example, I was afraid of becoming entangled. To be “in the resistance” was one thing, to become an agent in an obscure conflict was quite another.
It was not really until the Vietnam war that I became any kind of “humanity hyena,” and during that time (much as I would have liked to have been in the Sierra Maestra during the Cuban Revolution, and sabotage the Bay of Pigs that I had seen coming while I was in Alaska!),  and Vietnam’s aftermath that whatever action I took was in the form of writing and publishing. Most proudly, really, of Wilfred Burchett’s Mostquitos & Elephants. Now there was someone as a model, an original human righs hyena from “down under” during the Spanish Civil war who had turned communist but who’d been in the tunnels with the Vietcong. And with a sturdy Bulgarian peasant wife no less.
One of my most interesting nights transpired in the mid-60s in Munich while I was doing research on the German resistance at the Institute fuer Zeitgeschichte and I saw the announcement for a rally of the neo-Nazi NPD in Hitler’s old Buergerbraeu cellar and I went and I saw all those old brutal thicknecked now aging warriors but wasn’t seized with horror into my marrow bones until I heard their reaction to a former SS-General praising Moishe Dayan - yet t’was shortly after the 67 Israeli Egyptian war - “look what Moishe learned from us.” The basso profundo bearish grunting laughter was not just bone chilling, not that I have ever sensed that that my bones ever chilled and that such a proverbial saying can even materialize, but provided a sense of the existence of infinite knowing sadism that persisted deep the heart of the world, and that would forever prove Kafka right.
If it were not for being a Handke specialist and having become interested in how the disintegration of Yugoslavia played out in Handke’s personal and literary history I would not have given thought to what I have written here so far, nor become so profoundly disenchanted with the propagandization, instrumentalization and perversion of human rights as I am now, and as I will now detail with the “Handke affair” as an example.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Dear Jonathan Galassi,

I wanted to let you know that I have decided not to sue FSG for the many thousands I was never paid on the altogether 50 titles that FSG has in print through my services; at any rate, not at this time, and not from Seattle.

The 1966 contract called for participation on my part once a book had sold in excess of 5,000 copies of 1 %, and in the event of paperback and book club sales of 2 %. Missing, as I discovered only recently, is an accounting for the second five titles on the first 10 book Hesse contract {1}, as well accounting for Nossack's THE IMPOSSIBLE PROOF, which went into a second priting, as did Christa Wolf's THINKING ABOUT CHRISTA T., which has had paperback sales, as well as, of course, Nelly Sachs O THE CHIMNEY'S which sold in excess of 7,500 copies and had book club sales, and you recently licensed another selection to Green Integer, as has FSG issued licenses in the past; nor on Handke's RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE & OTHER PLAYS, all of which plays I translated and which title, but for THEY ARE DING OUT, had been in the works since 1970 although it was not published until the mid-70s and consists entirely of my translations; nor of any of the Peter Handke titles, even though many of them were sold to paperback in many editions.

Things went well initially, as of 1966. Two of the first three authors were Nobel Prize winners. Nelly Sachs {2}, whose OH THE CHIMNEYS selection of poetry and one play and introduction by Hans Magnus Enzensberger I put together translating 65 poems myself; and a ten book contract for Hermann Hesse where three of the translations (done for the deceased editor Roger Klein at Harper & Row) were ready to be published: Ursule Molinaro's of NARCISS & GOLDMUND, and mine of PETER CAMENZIND & BENEATH THE WHEEL. These first ten titles were sold to Bantam Books for handsome advances, NARCISS for $ 500,000. CAMENZIND and BENEATH THE WHEEL for 250,000. however, as it turned out, I received accounting and the agreed royalties only on the first five of the first ten book contract. Also there was the success of Handke's KASPAR AND OTHER PLAYS, on which I continue to receive accounting. The Hesse royalties, on all but NARCISS, have inexplicably been halved as I discovered on enlarging the microscopic print of the Macmillan/ Holzbrink statements! However, back then, during the days of early success, I recall buying a Napoleon style raincoat (during pret a porter forays for the wife!) and giving it to Handke in 1971 when he was in need and turned out to be not just an early conqueror, and how we (his wife Libgart and buddy Kolleritch of SHORT LETTER, LONG FAREWELL fame, and I) were amused how well the coat suited him as he struck the emblematic pose.

Shortly before leaving Farrar, Straus in 1969 [prevailed upon by suitor Siegfried Unseld to represent Suhrkamp through the literary agency Lantz & Donadio] Roger Straus and I negotiated a second 10 book contract with Suhrkamp. {see 1} The selection was mine, especially keen I was on the Hesse letters many of which advised those who approached him to find someone but not him as a leader preferably to become inner-directed (a selection which FSG eventually published under the aegis of friend and Hesse expert Ted Ziolkovsky). Since I knew of F.S.G.'s reluctance to commit large amounts to advances I managed to get both parties to come together at the sum of $ 5,000 per title; that is, a total of $ 50,000 – that was at a time when I imagine Bantam would have offered ten times the amount; and this was the one time I had lunch at the Four Seasons with Roger and the Suhrkamp New York agent, whom I had no idea I might replace on her resigning the account (and I might have asked why!), was the Berliner Joan Daves, whom I much liked also for her 30s stylishness, and whose husband Ashton I would later use as translator for Adorno as editor at Continuum Books.
However, I failed to attend to the tip however chintzy that Roger Straus left, this detail being an allusion to your comments on Roger Straus in your review of Boris Kachka's recent biography of Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Leaving FSG in 1969 with so many titles I had been instrumental in acquiring still to be published meant leaving as it were mid-pipeline and one question that was never addressed was the accounting for authors whom I secured for the firm and where the firm then published numerous books of theirs in times future, Peter Handke being especially productive and remunerative.

The time at FSG – I showed up just one day a week usually for Tuesday's editorial meetings – was by no means unpleasant, but for one matter. Hal Vussel was my editor for the Nelly Sachs, Margaret Nicholson had other talents aside contracts, Henry Wohlforth seemed a kindly comptroller, the most attuned I was to Henry Robins who however departed for Simon & Schuster, Bob Giroux of course seemed like the most formidable of bankers, the only matter that I gradually allowed myself to realize was that Michael DeCapua had been assigned or assigned himself to supervise me and shoot down some of my projects (who didn't know German, as a matter of fact I don't think any of the then editors had a second language!), including, after I left, my ADORNO READER, for which Susan Sontag had promised to write the introduction, and which I had spent a year devising – obviously an ADORNO READER at that time, published in the early 70s, would have had a major impact and made a difference in the level of critical discourse. Imagine that, a twerp (not to use my customary appellation {3}, like DeCapua, who also sought to abort my Handke, sabotaging Adorno! I of course might have asked Roger how this came about that this creature was sicked on to me, or why he was so keen to do in someone like me. Looking back, I was even slower and less able to defend myself than I am now.

Within the year of representing Suhrkamp, that is in 1970, I had a call from Roger saying I ought not to double-dip the second Hesse contract (which actually had not been signed and was not running over Lantz-Donadio though the anticipation was that it would) and, after consulting with Candida Donadio (who concurred with Straus who represented this as an ethical matter!!!), I agreed – although even then it occurred to me that there was really no earthly reason why the same source of income, Hesse – at Lantz-Donadio the agency and I split the then 10% agent's income – could not help defray my livelihood at different places of work at different times.
Near simultaneously Straus suggested why not take a snap shot of the books on which you are then {that is, in 1970) receiving royalties, and since there was no particular reason to say no, but a possible upside, we signed a list of that kind to that effect, a piece of paper which (for all I now know since the firm refuses to reply to my queries) I believe was a trick, although I never conceived that someone who was making millions from books I had brought him would screw me; not that subsequent experiences did not teach me that that was precisely the point of how you became and stayed rich, i.e. a wishful delusion of mine since in fact I had had two warning signs that all might not be well on that score.
For about the time that I started to work at F.S.G. - Roger cherry picked me in 1966 when I had stopped by F.S.& G. in my capacity as Suhrkamp scout
I was introduced (I think it was via Bryn Mawr classmate friend Paula Diamond) to Cecil Hemley who had sold the NOONDAY BOOKS paperback line to Roger. Cecil mentioned that he had been screwed by Roger on the deal. I might have inquired further, but I did not. Cecil died shortly thereafter and his son Robin, born in 1958, who never really knew his dad, has no knowledge of family lore in what respect Roger had been remiss in the Noonday contract. The other warning I had had was when Roger, out of the nowhere, said to me, referring to the Nelly Sachs volume OH THE CHIMNEYS, that I had spent a year putting together: “We don't pay royalties on poetry translations.” This of course was entirely against our contract, but I think I was just too stunned to immediately object, and quit, or go to court. Another crudity along the same line was Roger's saying “Now let's hustle her ass” - poor Nelly if she had ever heard her heart's blood referred to in that fashion!

I myself left the Lantz-Donadi agency and the Suhrkamp representation in 1971 {6} because Dr. Unseld, the head of Suhrkamp, had made himself unrepresentable by seeking to breach the agreed upon terms for mass paperback splits between Suhrkamp and Farrar, Straus of the first Hesse contract {Hesse seems to elicit greed and not much else, starting with his heirs!); and that breach was the main reason the 2nd Hesse contract had not been finalized, and so I did not get to dip a single time on that; and the contract then ran I believe over my successor, the now deceased Kurt Bernheim, a matter easily ascertained by contacting the person who handles rights at Suhrkamp Verlag, Dr. Petra Hardt. Another reason I quit was that the representational work turned onerous and I earned $ 125 per week while generating at least an equal amount in overhead cost and ended up subsidizing my agency work – which turned what was meant a part time into a full time job - with my royalties!

When I started to call Roger Straus' attention to the fact that I never dipped once – first in the mid-eighties, then once more in the 90s - he refused to answer, as have you, his successor, or Holzbrinck, the new owner, to whom he sold F.S.G., it is said for 30 million dollars, and John Sargent the head of Macmillan U.S.A. who oversees the U.S part of the conglomerate.

If I were in New York I would bring suit myself; and have the hunch that a judge would be sympathetic to my case if I brought it per se. I mean I brought huge riches to that firm and lack the finances to repair my teeth! I would pillory that firm and the, in so many ways, admirable you, like me a translator and scholar and poet (and who appears able to do that and running a sizable firm simultaneously!), for failing to make good on my contract. However, even if I were in New York I would have to pay $ 10 K to bring suit in Federal Court, a sum I have not had in my account for more than ten years; thus, NY State court would be the way to go since the contract was drawn and executed there. It is too difficult and expensive at this remove, from Seattle. Even if I collected the maximum that might be owed during the past six seven years - the cut-off date for the statute of limitation - it would not amount to more than six or seven thousand dollars, scarcely sufficient to cover the cost of filing a federal lawsuit. There is of course the future income to consider!
Bringing suit in NY state court would not require the initial outlay Moreover, once I discovered the benefits of a modicum of legal training, I won two per se suits in Federal Court against an ex in Urizen Books {4}, and if I had collected these hundred of thousands I wouldn't bother with FSG, I mean I am when it comes to my self pathologically ungreedy as well as evidently negligent, only noticing about six months ago that I was being payed on only the first five titles of the initial 10 book Handke contract!, something that would have made a difference in my life in the 70s + 80s when these titles were published and earning the bulk of their income also upon being sold to Bantam books for mass paperback publication; yet they have remained in print all this time as have the ten titles from the second 10 book Hesse contract. - Roger saved himself at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars over the life-time of these contracts, but lacked the decency to make good once he sold the firm.

However, if you happen to know anyone who knows how to collect U.S. Federal judgments in Calabria, Palermo to be specific, I gladly share the proceeds 50/50!
As matter of fact, if a small legacy that I lived on as the most modest of writer-scholar mice, in addition to my royalties, had not disparu while I lived in Mexico from 1991 to 1994, I probably would not bother either! If I had had that income I might have gone to the planned Michoacan and if the Mexican amoeba had not finally done me in I would have lived amongst the tribe that worships the Monarch butterfly and not gone back to translating for a time (5) and not have the priceless experience, upon returning to the USSR, that produced the unplanned “WRITE SOME NUMB'S, BITCH!”
and been unlikely to have been in the position to create the Handke.scriptmania complex and its successor

So it turns out, if you want me to be productive don't shower me with wealth or even now, in advanced age, I might revert to the sometimes quite wonderful sybaritic ways of late 70 to mid -80s NY that I made myself escape since I seem to love to work.

Roger Straus it turns out was not just crude but subtly tricky; not just chintzy but a chiseler, and, knowing that a publishing house is the leakiest sieve, looked toward the future, counted future pennies while he kept dressing in 12 ply suits, drove his yellow convertible Mercedes and, if one is to believe what one reads in Kachka's book, was pasha of a sexual sewer on Union Square – more than I noticed at the time, though during the two times I traveled with Roger to the Frankfurt Bookfair I could not help but notice that he favored the hetero side of what's called “rough trade.” All this while apparently dancing on the precipice of bankruptcy!
That to some he was a great publisher was perhaps only possible in the NY of the time, but I don't want to repeat what I posted

yet it isn't really so surprising that the bulk of Anglo-American publishing is now owned by various continental conglomerates, what with the NY Times Henry Raymond always running to Roger as though he were the oracle of the book publishing world – how provincial can you get!

Thus I rue the day that I allowed myself to be cherry-picked by Roger, if I had managed to work up some enthusiasm for Viking Books' initial take-down of the Warren Report matters might have been different. {6}

Since Roger also smartly cherry-picked you over his own son, the question is whether you are not just a better publisher, as you and the firm strike me {but for the ctd. inability to publish Handke as he ought to be and as he is by his other major foreign publishers

but, I put it to you, also more honorable.

Sincerely yours,

    Michael Roloff
    4616 = 25th Ave NE # 357
    Seattle. WA 98105
  • 206-612-4576

here is a link to all the Hesse titles that Bantam Books put out.
All but STEPPENWOLF, GLASSBEAD GAME + DEMIAN derive via me from FSG.
Here the link to FSG/McMillan for Hesse.

2] NELLY SACHS. I happened to have the option on Nelly Sachs at the time that one fine morning in Fall 1966, on waking, the NY Times greeted me with the news of the award. I called Roger and promised to translate a half dozen poems for the next editorial meeting. Then I hired Michael Hamburger and Ruth and Mathew Mead to translate together with me. For me the translation of 65 of those poems was my mourning work and it wiped me out emotionally, which is why I did not participate in the 2nd volume that FSG published.

3] “Asslicking stiletto man.”

I am just completing something autobiographical that I call SCREEN MEMORIES. It ends in 1960. Much as I love learning and teaching California girls at Stanford I have dropped out of grad school, the prospect of being a life-long member of a German – or any - department had made me go dead. I went to Alaska and fought forest fires and worked as a geological surveyor for nine months. I am not going to Ibiza for the winter as do so many fire fighters; I am not tough enough for the McCabe & Mrs. Miller winter at Chena Ridge in Fairbanks; the girl I am seeing does not ask me to enjoy cabin fever with her, but is waiting for her main squeeze lumberjack to show back up; I am dwelling on how I will go on adventuring. The idea of driving nitro glycerin trucks in the Venezuelan oil fields signifies that I have seen too many films, I really don't like getting my head under water I conclude at the prospect of going conch diving in the South Seas, if I had known that my childhood negative role model had a big safari outfit in Mozambique
I can't imagine not spending some time with him, I was in good shape, a good enough woodsman, a good enough shot, but during one of these wild nights at Chena Ridge I am evidently reverying and have a “eureka” moment, and my friend Carlson, a big Swede from Minnesota, says, “You just reached a big decision.” Right: I recall Pound's ABC of Reading – that is “my way”! A magazine for starters! And looking back, I sometimes think that staying in Alaska and hooking up with an expatriate biologist at the university who went out each summer looking for the ur-beaver that he felt might have survived at one of the hot springs the last ice age I would have encountered far fewer carnivores than I did during my days in publishing in New York. I quite understand Bob Giroux's inability to write FSG's company history at the thought of Roger Straus.

5] TRANSLATING I mean there was nothing wrong with translating Adorno and Habermas, especially not with translating Josef Winkler, except that it took me away from the planned work of my own.

6] VIKING I who was just married in 1966 and looking for a somewhat steadier source of income than working as a translator and freelance reader with a book contract at Viking never conceived of asking as august a firm as F.S.G. for any kind of job. I also had a book contract with Viking, my editor was Alan Williams, I also was friendly with their editor in chief, Aaron
Asher, who took me to lunch, and found the material interesting for the book that I am completing only now {not the one contracted for), but I think was testing me when he mentioned that
Viking was about to publish a take-down of the Warren Report. I didn't bite. I was entirely indifferent, although if you had asked me whether I thought the take-down would be a commercial success I certainly would have assented, not that I could have imagined it becoming an industry, unless I considered the Lincoln assassination. Not that I thought Kennedy was a Lincoln of any kind. I remained indifferent because I figured that at least half a dozen culprits might have killed the dead man walking that was Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs, and then there were some enemies of course I didn't know about then.

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MICHAEL ROLOFF Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website