A toast to …

Nibelungenlied Manuscript C, Folio 1r, about 1220-1250. Owned by Landesbank Baden-Württemberg and Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Permanent loan to the Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe (Codex Donaueschingen 63).

Reflecting the increasingly Austria-centric concentration of this journal, I posted items this week about the late Professor Marjorie Perloff and the holiday offerings of radio klassik Stephansdom.

In addition, I raise my glass today to the Nibelungenlied; as part of my continuing education and immersion in all things German and Central European, I’m reading the Penguin Classics translation by A.T. Hatto, a rather interesting fellow himself. A page of the manuscript, from a 13th century codex, is above. I’m just past the midpoint now, as Kriemhild  stopped at Melk and then proceeded to Vienna for her marriage to Hungary’s King Etzel. As it happens my family and I were in both Melk and Vienna just a few months ago; no sign of Kriemhild, but that was some time ago.

Compared to the much older epics of the Mediterranean Sea — the Iliad and the Odyssey for starters — the Nibelungenlied is far sparer and relatively god- and goddess-free, with more of an emphasis on the internal lives of its characters; apart from Siegfried’s cloak of invisibility, there’s very little supernatural about it. I suppose you could say that, like the climate from which it emerged, it’s much colder than Homer’s poems, but I rather like that; although of course there’s considerably more Christian and chivalrous material, there’s also an awareness that paganism was still an element in social, cultural, and religious life (indeed, a Christian Kriemhild marries a pagan Etzel, a point made by the anonymous Nibelungenlied poet). In addition, both Brunhilde and Kriemhild possess much more agency and are far more energetic than Homer’s female characters — the Nibelungenlied is much sexier and erotic, for want of better words, than the earlier epics. Wagner’s Ring operas have a rather scant resemblance to this poem, relying more on the Volsung Saga, but the Nibelungenlied itself is still quite a wonderful read.

Reading the rest of it is how I’ll be spending much of this weekend.

Streaming Easter from the Stephansdom

Easter is the most important holiday of the Christian year, and those with a taste for Viennese culture may wish to take advantage of the program offerings from radio klassik Stephansdom this weekend, even if German is not their first language. The station will be presenting a variety of events, including a Pontifical Mass on Easter Sunday with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and a Vespers Service later that day, both live from the Stephansdom in Vienna, as well as a Good Friday service and other holiday related programming and music through the weekend. You can read about all of the special programming and stream everything through the web site here.

Radio klassik Stephansdom continues its fundraising drive; I encourage you to donate. I recorded a message of support that was broadcast on the Austrian station on March 11; you can listen to that message below.

Marjorie Perloff (1931-2024)

Marjorie Perloff. Photo by Alan Thomas (2016).

Marilyn and I will be raising our glasses tonight to the memory of critic, translator, and memoirist Marjorie Perloff, who cast off this mortal coil last Sunday at the age of 92.

Professor Perloff was a staunch champion of the American avant-garde, especially its poets (Frank O’Hara and Charles Bernstein) and its musicians and choreographers (John Cage and Merce Cunningham). But more recently she had turned her attention to the Vienna of her youth; her 2004 memoir The Vienna Paradox is a moving, beautifully written but typically intellectually uncompromising examination of her youth and early career as an emigre from Austria, and I’ve written about her 2016 Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire — a book that deeply affected me when I read it — here. In 2022 she published a fine translation of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Private Notebooks: 1914-1916 (noted here), and her introduction graces a new translation of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, published just last month and on my next-to-read list.

Clay Risen wrote the obituary for the New York Times, and an “In memoriam” written by Alan Thomas with the collaboration of Perloff’s family, the poet Charles Bernstein, and the University of Chicago Press appears here.

On the air in Vienna

A few weeks ago I encouraged donations to radio klassik Stephansdom, a cultural German-language radio station in Vienna which is in some financial distress. The station manager, Christoph Wellner, was kind enough to ask me to provide a short message in support of their campaign, and I did so without question — in English, however. It was broadcast this morning as part of their fundraising effort, and you can listen to it here; my little offering begins at about the 9:30 mark. (Click on the “Sendung nachhören” to start the program and hear my clarion cry to Vienna.) I’ve always wanted to be a classical music station program host, and given the few openings for such a position, this will be the closest I come, I suppose.

I’ll just take this opportunity to encourage you once again to support radio klassik Stephansdom, for all the reasons I mentioned in my statement. You can do so here. Tell ’em I sent you.