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NationScenes of isolated survival amid bewildering change appear throughout Angina Days, an excellent comprehensive bilingual selection of Eich's poems edited and translated by Michael Hofmann.
— John Palattella
This is the most comprehensive English translation of the work of Günter Eich, one of the greatest postwar German poets. The author of the POW poem "Inventory," among one of the most famous lyrics in the German language, Eich was rivaled only by Paul Celan as the leading poet in the generation after Gottfried Benn and Bertolt Brecht. Expertly translated and introduced by Michael Hofmann, this collection gathers eighty poems, many drawn from Eich's later work and most of them translated here for the first time. ...
This is the most comprehensive English translation of the work of Günter Eich, one of the greatest postwar German poets. The author of the POW poem "Inventory," among one of the most famous lyrics in the German language, Eich was rivaled only by Paul Celan as the leading poet in the generation after Gottfried Benn and Bertolt Brecht. Expertly translated and introduced by Michael Hofmann, this collection gathers eighty poems, many drawn from Eich's later work and most of them translated here for the first time. The volume also includes the original German texts on facing pages.
As an early member of "Gruppe 47" (from which Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll later shot to prominence), Eich (1907-72) was at the vanguard of an effort to restore German as a language for poetry after the vitriol, propaganda, and lies of the Third Reich. Short and clear, these are timeless poems in which the ominousness of fairy tales meets the delicacy and suggestiveness of Far Eastern poetry. In his late poems, he writes frequently, movingly, and often wryly of infirmity and illness. "To my mind," Hofmann writes, "there's something in Eich of Paul Klee's pictures: both are homemade, modest in scale, immediately delightful, inventive, cogent."
Unjustly neglected in English, Eich finds his ideal translator here.
Excerpted from ANGINA DAYS by Günter Eich Copyright © 2010 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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from Abgelegene Gehöfte / Remote Smallholdings (1948)
Abgelegene Gehofte / Remote Smallholdings, 2
Pfannkuchenrezept / Recipe for Pancakes, 4
Camp 16 / Camp 16, 6
Inventur / Inventory, 8
Erster Januar / First of January, 12
from Botschaft en des Regens / Messages from the Rain (1955)
Ende eines Sommers / End of Summer, 16
Gegenwart / Th e Present, 18
D-Zug Munchen-Frankfurt / Munich-Frankfurt Express, 22
Kleine Reparatur / Minor Repair, 24
Weg zum Bahnhof / Way to the Station, 26
Lemberg / Lvov, 28
Andenken / Memorial, 30
Wo ich wohne / Where I Live, 32
Reise / Journey, 34
Mittags um zwei / Two in the Aft ernoon, 36
Betrachtet die Fingerspitzen / Examine Your Fingertips, 38
Briefstelle / From a Letter, 40
Einsicht / Understanding, 42
Ende August / End of August, 44
from Zu den Akten / Ad Acta (1964)
Alte Postkarten / Old Postcards, 48
Neue Postkarten / New Postcards, 52
Bericht aus einem Kurort / Report from a Spa, 56
Nachhut / Rearguard, 58
Rest / Remnant, 60
Alte Hollander / Old Dutch Masters, 62
Bruder Grimm / Brothers Grimm, 64
Zu spat fur Bescheidenheit / Too Late for Modesty, 66
Bestellung / Order, 68
Tragtasche / Holdall, 70
Ohne Unterschrift / Unsigned, 72
Jaques Devant, fur Viele / Jaques Devant, for the Many, 74
Aufgelassenes Zollamt / Old Customshouse, 76
Aussicht vom Spezial-Keller / Perspective from the Spezial-Keller, 78
Zunahme / Increase, 80
Auskunft e aus dem Nachlass / Tips from the Posthumous Papers, 82
Ungultige Landkarte / Fraudulent Map, 84
Topographie einer schoneren Welt / Topography of a Better World, 86
Fussnote zu Rom / Roman Footnote, 88
from Anlässe und Steingärten / Occasions and Rock Gardens (1966)
Timetable / Timetable, 92
Berlin 1918 / Berlin, 1918, 94
Kinder-und Hausmarchen / Fairy Tales, 96
Rauchbier / Rauchbier, 98
Alte Postkarten / Old Postcards, 100
Neue Postkarten / New Postcards, 106
Weitgereist / Traveling Far, 110
Fortschritt / Progress, 112
Halb / Half, 114
Satzzeichen / Punctuation Marks, 116
Zwei / Two, 118
Bett huten / Confi ned to Bed, 120
Schluss eines Kriminalromans / Th e End of the Th riller, 122
Armer Sonntag / Poor Sunday, 124
Verspatung / Delayed, 126
Lange Gedichte / Long Poems, 128
Nach Seumes Papieren / From Seume's Papers (1972)
Nordlicher Seufzer / Northern Sigh, 134
Stadtrand / Edge of Town, 136
Philologisch / Philological, 138
Nach dem Ende der Biographie / Aft er Setting Down the Biography, 140
Optik / Optics, 142
Namen / Names, 144
Steuererklarung / Tax Declaration, 146
Augsburg / Augsburg, 148
Nach Seumes Papieren / From Seume's Papers, 150
Spater / Later, 152
from Uncollected Poems and Poems from Radio Plays
Der Regen in Eltville / The Rain in Eltville, 156
Plane / Plans, 158
Vorwinter / Early Winter, 160
Alter Dezember / Old December, 162
Nomaden / Nomads, 164
Freund und Horazleser / Friend and Reader of Horace, 166
aus: Träume / from: Dreams, 168
Handel / Handel, 180
Napoleon denkt an Josephine / Napoleon Remembers Josephine, 182
Lange Gedichte / Long Poems, 184
Die vorige Woche / Last Week, 186
Und / And, 188
Landgasthof / Rustic Hotel, 190
Klinikfarben / Hospital Colors, 192
Vom Gluck / Of Happiness, 194
Posted June 30, 2010
Gunter Eich was a German poet who lived 1907-1972 and who was known for the simplicity of his poems. Translator Michael Hofmann presents a unique picture of Eich in his introduction to Angina Days (a title in reference to his health in later years). In some cases, an introduction reveals too much and tries to interpret too much. Hofmann's biography of Eich resists that and instead focuses on Eich's personal life and allows the reader to contemplate and define the poetry on their own. He calls Eich's poems "humble and lived-in and somehow practical" and this collection reflects that. While the poetry is not oversimplified, each reader can likely feel as if they can successfully understand the emotions portrayed.
Hofmann also says that in translating the works, ranging over Eich's lifetime, he discovered in them "for me the source of the quiet and immense and eerie power of each: words are like stray, chance, isolated survivals after some catastrophe, of unpredictable utility and beauty." As a side note, Eich's poetry is compared to the art of Paul Klee.
Within the poetry itself, broken into sections of Eich's life, there is an array of symbolism with a focus on plants, food, landscape, and travel. Some are romantic, as in Munich-Frankfurt Express where he describes a train trip to see his beloved and "my desire to grow old in the vicinity of your voice." He can also reflect on WWII with grief in Memorial:
The moors we wanted to hike have been drained.
Their turf has warmed our evenings.
The wind is full of black dust.
It scours the names off the gravestones
and etches this day
In Dreams he combines the symbolism of travel on the earth with travel in the heart:
There are road signs,
and easily discernible river course,
lookout points in elevated positions,
maps where the lakes are in blue and the forests in green-
It's easy to find one's way around in the world.
But you, companion at my side, how hidden from me
is the landscape of your heart!
Feeling my way in the fog, I am often overcome with fear
of the thickets and the hidden precipice.
I know you don't like your thoughts to be traced,
the echo of your words is intended to mislead-
Roads going nowhere,
pathless terrain, lapsed signage.
This collection is comprehensive and reveals how Eich's outlook changes from youth through illness as he ages, since the poems are spread across 1948-1972. I found this a great exploration of German poetry.