Monday, May 8, 2017

Kurt Tucholsky Today and Tomorrow

When I was a young girl, eleven, maybe, or twelve, I spent a lot of time in my father's library. My father was fairly progressive, especially for a middle-aged man who was working for the military. He had all kinds of books. And his policy was, when I wanted to read something, I should just take it, whatever it was. Even at age eleven.

So I was sitting on the carpet, between dark bookshelves al the way up to the ceiling, and reading. Some of these books were by Kurt Tucholsky including "Tiger, Panther & Co," a classic, named after his five pseudonyms. It has a tiger and a panther on its yellow-orange cover. Tucholsky was an author of the 1920s and 1930s, but somehow, I did not notice. Everything I read was fresh, and funny, and totally relatable. His witty bits about humans, how they behaved, how they tried. How a couple tells a joke. How the cheese got holes. And how you rely on a fellow human; You sit on him, then you can rely on the fact that he will not run away for the time being. "Some people also rely on the character."

Tucholsky was painting the big city world of Berlin in front of my very eyes (my father was from Berlin, but due to World War II, we had ended up in a small Bavarian village, and Berlin was divided anyway). The world of the fast-talking Wendriners and Lottchens, of equally fast traffic, theater, cabarets, flappers and artists, nightly drinks and daily fights. It would take me a couple of more years to find out that this world was gone for quite some decades by the time I read Tucholsky. So was he, he had killed himself in exile in 1935. For me, he was very much alive.

And so were his books. I‘m not the only one who still has the book with the tiger and the panther on the cover; I have met people in New York who remember how their parents read it, then had to hide it, and eventually brought it over to America in their suitcases. One of them was Harry Zohn, who had to flee Vienna, a Jew as well. He was the first one to translate Tucholsky into English.

At that time in Bavaria, I would not have imagined that I would be publishing Tucholsky in America, but here I am. This is our fourth book, the very translation of Harry Zohn, in a new edition. With a foreword by Ralph Blumenthal and an afterword by Steven Zohn, Harry Zohn's son. All new and shiny. Hide it from your children! They might get addicted!

So, there will be an introduction to the book, at the Leo Baeck Institute at 15 W 16th Street in New York, near Union Square. The date is May 22, the time is 6.30pm. Here is the link!

Eva C. Schweitzer

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