Saturday, 5 November 2011

After Munich 1

Café Puck, Türkenstrasse, Munich

I couldn't get Blogger to work from my iPhone in Munich so am catching up. I did make some notes though, which follow (inset passage), with some later additions before and after.


The journey is easy. We park the car at Stansted in mid afternoon, fly on time, get the S-bahn into Marienplatz, then the U-bahn to the university - The university itself is just round the corner so the whole area is full of students - and walk the ten minutes or so to the hotel. Wide streets, not too much traffic, easy ambience, but it being dark we don't see very much except lit shops and the sky above with its half-moon waxing.

Having checked in at Das Hotel in Türkenstrasse - a nicely old fashioned hotel in some respects, with dark folk-arty colours and post-Biedermeier furniture, while perfectly modern in other respects (wifi in rooms) - we drop in to the Cafe Puck next door (pictured above). It is essentially a student bar, with lovely friendly staff, that serves food till 11 pm. The café is a typical long deep space across a roofed courtyard, the feel bohemian, the menu quite cheap. I immediately fall in love with it. We have a Spanish omelette, Bavarian style, because we are not particularly hungry. The food is good, but it was good everywhere in Munich and certainly a great deal better than the sandwich easyJet had offered as tea.

The next day, after breakfast, we went for a walk around the block before being met by my host Helge N, now professor at the LMU, and he took us through various parts of the building including the great classical atrium where Sophie and Hans Scholl of the White Rose movement publicly distributed leaflets against the Nazis for which they were beheaded.

Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst of The White Rose group.

(Munich was Bolshevik before it was Nazi, but more of that later.)

This is what I wrote but couldn't post:

Hotel room. Night after a very long day. Talk at noon was a quarter of an hour short of two hours to a packed lecture hall of well over a hundred students plus some staff with the Romanian translator and psycho-linguistics scholar Aprilia Zank in the audience, I read some poems and talked without notes about the idea of truth as we might meet it in poems, about the strangeness, provisionality and compulsiveness of language, about translation and recognition of form, and a little about form itself. I know the territory: it is mostly a matter of clarity and pitch. I think it went very well.

I had first met Helge at the Walberberg Conference that I attended in 2004 and which opened the way to Germany. I think I was invited to Berlin first but it was Helge who arranged my first German tour, starting in Dusseldorf and Munster, moving on to Regensburg. (I lose track now - a few readings in Berlin over the years, but then also Freiburg and Bonn and Cologne and Bremen and Frankfurt, all in four or five visits.) It is very good to see Helge again. He has published a history of English literature since then that is now used in universities, what is more he wrote it in English.

He had to teach after 2pm so his colleague Daniela J takes C and I, and Aprilia to the poetry library, the wonderful Lyrik Kabinett, which has not only a marvellous collection of poetry but of photographs and art works too. Here we are shown gems of the artists' books collection and sit and talk for an hour.

Afterwards we meet Helge at a nearby pastry shop and he walks us into the city centre, visiting two churches along the way. We go to Marienplatz and sit in the Glockenspiel Cafe, wait for the glockenspiel of the rathaus to work, but nothing moves. All the time we are talking - about poetry, about film, about children, about the universities, about history and politics - and end up in a very crowded, very Bavarian restaurant where our elderly waitress spills some food and brings enormous glasses of weissbier, which has all the lightness of champagne combined with all the menace of beer.

I am very tired now. More detail tomorrow.

I was indeed very tired and didn't sleep well. Nor the next night.

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