Europeans faces of Argentina in the twenties: Einwanderungsland
Argentinian writers during a discussion in Frankfurt
Book Fair Blues: O ARGENTINA! (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
Our brain is like a labyrinth with all those fissures and lobes, and memory was a big theme at the 62nd Book Fair in Frankfurt-upon-the-Main 2010. The memories of the writers and poets who haven’t forgotten the terrible upheavals in Argentina. The writers and the people who suffered under the repression, censorship and eventual escape from a country ruled by a brutal regime from 1976 to 1983 culminating in the debacle and trauma of the Falkland War in 1982 in which the underpaid Gurkhas of Nepal were also engaged in combat in Port Stanley, as regular soldiers of the British Army. The Brits have been unkind and unfair to the Gurkhas since Queen Victoria’s times.
Many of the 65 Argentinian writers who flew to Frankfurt during the Book Fair were themselves victims of the regime. Juan Gelman, the poet who spent years looking for his granddaughter. Felix Bruzzone and Laura Alcoba still miss their parents for they have disappeared. Repression is an eternal them for writers in their novels especially in the works of Martin Kohan, Guillermo Saccomano and Pablo de Santis.
Most Argentinian writers have written about the tension in the field of literature and politics, violence, savagery and so-called civilisation , as seen in the literature of the 19th century and even today. The Argentinian writers tell us their stories of the wounds that they are still licking and which time hasn’t been able to heal. Chronic wounds in the souls of the people of Argentina, a nation of off-beat writers, who prefer to produce profound literature and not kitsch.
Argentina, where Europeans migrated to en masse and where the indigenous people’s rights were brutally trampled and where these hapless people were criminally assimilated, a fact which still delivers social and political issues. A land that lived on cattle rearing and wool export and became dependent on foreign capital of the world market, where social and political reforms were interrupted by military dictators. What remained was modernisation that has failed. It resulted in a big chasm between the haves-and-have-nots, like in many societies throughout the world, and led to social imbalance and a late consolidation of the national state in the 19th century brought instability and new reforms that were enforced aggressively.
Argentina is a country that has brought literati like Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar. Sousa, Che Guevara, Eva Peron and Madonna. A land which was one of the richest western states at the beginning of the 20th century. Only 100 years later followed the corralito, whereby bank accounts of the citizens were closed and the state went bankrupt. In recent years we’ve seen the cases of Iceland and Greece. Argentina is also a land where 30,000 people were arrested, tortured and murdered during the military dictatorship, and a hundred thousand people sought shelter and asylum as refugees in neighbouring countries.
In Spain the book consumption is ten books per person per annum. In Argentina, which is the second largest Spanish language market, it is three books per person per year. In 2009 Argentina published 20,300 new titles and reached a total of 75 million copies sold. Argentina has an Act to promote books and reading, a law that provides subsidies to promote publishing and reading. Books are exempted from taxes, the shipping rates are reduced and there’s a network of 600 booksellers that help to support the market.
Are Argentinian writer and poets pretentious? Yes indeed, this is due to writers like Borges, Bioy, Silvina Ocampo who write not to make a living but as artists who write literature of longstanding value, and not commercial writing in the Spanish-speaking world.
However, it must be mentioned that Guillermo Martinez (and not Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar or even Juan Jose Saer) has sold more books in foreign countries. His novel ‘The Oxford Murders’ (Crimenes de Oxford) is written in an Agatha Christie manner, a whodunit which was long on the bestseller list.
In the past three decades Buenos Aires has been the venue of the largest Book Fair in South America with an average of a million visitors each year. According to Fuentes, there’s nothing more Argentine in Borges than his necessity to fill the ‘blank book’ of both his country and the Latin American literature, which makes him one of the founders of the new prose in the region. At the sight of a herd of horses in Puente Alsina at dawn, Borges is said to have cried out: ‘Hot damn! That’s homeland.’ A passionate man and a lover of night.
Author Cornelia Funke launched the Book Fair and said: ‘After my last novel ‘Ink Death,’ I was longing to write in a more lean and modern way’. Now she has written ‘Reckless’ in tandem with the film producer Lionel Wigram, who’s known for his movie versions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories. Indian writer Mita Kapur presented her book ‘The F-Word’ which I haven’t read as yet. The Indian sweet meat at the discussion was delicious. I just couldn’t resist them and Mita looked rather tired of the fuss at the fair.
Mita Kapur with her book: The F-Word
Poet from Catmandu with photo-poetry
This year’s Book Fair cast a spotlight on storytelling in multifarious ways: in video games, on film and in digital and print books for, as we know, the contents of stories know no borders. What Gutenberg started as a printing revolution 500 years ago has gone digital and 3-D (starting with ‘Avatar’) today, which in itself is a revolution. In Germany most reading is still done from printed books. The e-books represent only 1 %. Kindle and Oyo haven’t caught on as yet. In China and USA e-books are growing exponentially. This goes to show that digital is no longer the scary space it was many years back. To understand media you have to understand how it works. In the media cosmos the computers play the role of the sun, and digital has come to stay and is growing all the time.
Do European authors have the same publishing rights? Far from it. In UK the duration of a contract can vary from 70 years after the death of the author. In Spain it’s 15 years. Economic rights and moral rights are separate in France. And in Germany? The rights are indivisible. In UK the book market was deregulated in 1995. The UK royalties for authors are greater but the market is tougher and books are discounted. If you want to n read it in French on: www.Leitmotif.fr.
(Three young Cosplay ladies at the Fair. It reminded me of Carnival in Venice)
What do smart and savvy young people want from media? The Millinium Generation can surf on YouTube, download two-minute shots they prefer which is actually a short-attention-span entertainment, the ones we upload on FB. If the hook in the story you’re telling doesn’t work, the young people zap to another story. This is an age where parents are regarded as peers, who really don’t show the kids how to navigate the world. Do the young people understand the world? No, they don’t. They’re even scared of the world. The last time I went to the Fair there were a lot of schoolkids in Manga look, with coloured hair and fantasy costumes and this time it was CosPlay (‘cos’ is costume and ‘play’ is acting or Schauspielern) and the younger generation of Germans were a part of the book scene as they strutted about in their gaudy costumes from another epoche and world and having a good time posing for the paparazzi.
(Siddhartha M. of Mandala Books and Yours Truly)
The Frankfurter Buchmesse, like all fairs, can be a tiring experience and so I took time out and went to Beata, a Polish blonde who gave me a great massage (see pic). She and other physiotherapists were promoting an Austrian wellness shop. I even chanced to meet a publisher from Catmandu: Siddhartha Maharajan of Mandala Book Point) and a Nepali poet who was selling black and white photos & poems. I always make it a point to speak in as many languages as I can at the book-fair, and I must say it was as always a great experience chatting with so many interesting people from all over the world. Jonathan Franzen, Artur Becker and Günter Grass were together at the 3Sat stand in Hall 4.1 Q561. It was a case of: Glasses (Frenzen) meet Vodka (Becker) and Pipe (Grass).
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(Two of the seven Triberger waterfalls gushing and roaring down over the green, mossy boulders)
Triberg and Schönwald (Satis Shroff)
Triberg, with its hamlets Nussbach and Grammelsbach, is a lovely spa-town and has the highest waterfalls in Germany, surrounded by wild and untamed nature.
The town of Triberg is associated with four other townships: Schonach, Schönwald, Furtwangen and St. Georgen, and this area in the Southern Black Forest has a healthy invigorating climate, unspoiled nature and was also the place where Ernest Hemingway did a bit of angling. Schonach also was a spa and is known for its wellness facilities, and lovers of winter sports will like it here. Schönwald, which means ‘beautiful forest,’ is located on a sunny, high-altitude plateau and has beautiful picture-book Black Forest landscape with languidly grazing brown cows, lush green meadows, alpine character with dark pine trees, which is the trademark of the Schwarzwald.
As you drive along the picturesque Schwarzwald strasse towards Triberg, you go past Furtwangen with its villages Linach, Rohnbach and Schönenbach and the health resort Neukirch, a small bustling town in the headwater region of the blue Danube River, which is surrounded by a natural landscape of breathtaking beauty. Another town is St. Georgen where you can witness tradition and progress existing side by side.
There’s an old German saying: ‘Brigach and Breg get Danube on its way.’ The main headwater rivers of the River Danube, the Brigach (St.Georgen) and the Breg (Furtwangen) have their source in Ferienland alias Holiday Land. From the source of the Breg in the Martin’s Chapel region, near Furtwangen, the blue Danube flows exactly 2,888 km to the mouth of the Danube in the Black Sea.
As you drive along you’re greeted by the roaring and thundering Gutach River 163 metres down the mountain. The seven waterfalls of Triberg can be reached on foot, and you can walk along the paths. Squirrels come by and birds fly from the branches and aren’t afraid of humans. You discern the spider webs between the vegetation, an ancient ritual place and a field of boulders with moss clinging to them. The waterfalls are floodlit at dusk giving the landscape a romantic touch.
The highest point in Ferienland is the Rohrhardsberg-Brend area. From here you can peer to Feldberg, the highest mountain of the Black Forest (1,493 metres), and even see the Swiss Alps. The Rohrhardsberg is a 1,300 hectare nature protection area for flora and fauna, and a well-known hiking and skiing region. The official spa-towns of Triberg and Schönwald offer in-patient and out-patient treatment and rehabilitation for chronic disorders of the respiratory system, cardiovascular disorders, metabolic and oncological diseases.
In Triberg there’s a Black Forest Museum dating back to 1873 and shows the cultural and economic life of the Black Forest people in the past and present. On exhibit are: historical collections, local costumes, wood carvings, straw plaitings, the history of the Black Forest railway and one of Europe’s biggest collection of barrel organs. On Carnival Thursday, Triberg is possessed by devils and demons that move through the brightly lit streets of the town in an eerie torch-light procession which begins at 7pm.
(The cuckoo clocks galore of the Black Forest Mountains)
The craft of clock- and watch-making is one of the mainstays of the Black Forest industries. All you have to do is simply follow the sound of the music instruments or the call of the cuckoo clock. The world’s largest cuckoo clock is located in Schonach and is 3,60m in width, 3,10m high and 1m in depth. The house itself is the clock in the landscape with pine trees in the background.
From Triberg you can drive to Villingen-Schwenningen, an ancient town founded by the Dukes of Zäringen, which is only 20 km away. Strasbourg (France) and the Alsace region are 90km and the old university town of Freiburg is 60km to the south. Freiburg has 850 years of history and a youthful charm. Titisee, one of the most beautiful glacial lakes of the Schwarzwald, is only 60km away.
About the Author:
Satish Shroff versteht sich als ein Vermittler zwischen westliche und östliche Kulturen und sieht da seine Zukunft als Dozent, Dichter und Schriftsteller. Er ist auch ein aktives Mitglied in der Vorstand von der Männergesangsverein (MGV) Kappel.
Er hat sechs Bücher geschrieben: Im Schatten des Himalaya (Gedichte und Prosa), Through Nepalese Eyes (Reisebericht), Katmandu, Katmandu (Gedichte und Prosa mit Nepali autoren) Glacial Whispers (Gedichtesammlung zwischen 1997-2010). Er hat zwei Sprachführer im Auftrag von Horlemannverlag und Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst (DSE) für Auslandsmitarbeiter der GTZ, sowie Goethe Institut, DAAD, Carl Duisburg Gesellschaft etc. geschrieben. Satish Shroff hat mehrere Artikel in seiner ehemaligen Zeitung „The Rising Nepal“ über verschiedene Aspekte von Leben und Entwicklungen in Deutschland und Europa veröffentlicht. Er schreibt regelmäßig in The American Chronicle (www.americanchronicle.com/authors/view/1207 und www.blogs.boloji.com/satisshroff und viele andere Zeitschriften. Außerdem drei Artikeln über die Gurkhas, Achtausender und Nepals Symbolen für Nelles Verlags ‚Nepal’ und über Hinduismus in „Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India). Sein Gedicht „Mental Molotovs“ wurde im epd-Entwicklungsdienst (Frankfurt) veröffentlicht. Seine Lyrik sind in Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry publiziert worden. Er ist ein Mitglied von Writers of Peace, poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) usw. Bei Google und Yahoo kann man ihm auch finden unter: satis shroff.