Lit, Politics, Widows

Spending time in the mountains beyond net-reach, so have to wait til I get back to town to read, check what’s going on, post, etc. Hope to put up some photos from the Pyrenean countryside soon. Meanwhile, below, a few noticings.

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German writer Günter Grass has come out & said in an interview with the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that in the late months of WWII he served as an enthusiastic member of one of the Waffen SS units. It didn’t last long, didn’t do much if anything, and if he fesses up today one wonders if it has really to do with a case of bad conscience as he claims, or if it isn’t more of a p.r. bit for his soon to be published autobiography — in which sais incident is detailed at greater length. Read more reactions on this here in the excellent signandsight gathering. Here are some bits from Grass confession:

Said Grass: “It had to come out, finally. The thing went as follows: I had volunteered, not for the Waffen-SS but for the submarines, which was just as crazy of me. But they were not taking anyone any more. Whereas the Waffen-SS took whatever they could get in the last months of the war, 1944/45. That went for conscripts but also for older men, who often came from the Air Force – they were called ‘Hermann Göring donations.’ The fewer intact airfields there were, the more ground personnel were stuck in army units or in units of the Waffen-SS. It was the same with the navy. And for me, I am sure I am remembering correctly, the Waffen-SS was at first not something scary, but rather an elite unit that was always sent to trouble spots, and which, according to rumour, had the most casualties.”

He said he volunteered mainly to “get away. From constrictions, from the family. I wanted to put an end to all that, and so I volunteered. And that’s also something odd: I enlisted at the age of 15, and promptly forgot the details of the process. And it was the same for many of my birth year: We were in the work service and suddenly, a year later, the conscription order lay on the table. And that must be when I first realized: it is the Waffen-SS.” Asked whether he had feelings of guilt, Grass answered: “At the time? No. Later on, this guilt feeling burdened me as a disgrace.” It wasn’t until he heard the testimony of Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach in the Nuremberg trials that he “believed that the crimes had actually taken place.”

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In Le Nouvel Observateur an informative piece on why the excellent 2-volume complete and annotated edition of Jorge Luis Borges’s works published in the prestiguous Pléiade edition in France is and will remain unavailable: Maria Kodama, the widow, has opposed it & is suing the excellent editor (& Borgès confidant) Jean-Pierre Bernès. A classical piece of misplaced widowy jealousy which can only be prejudicial to Borges’s work. It reminds me of another famous Latin American writer’s widow — Cesar Vallejo’s — whose greed, incompetence and censoriousness in relation to her husband’s work was notorious. And thinking back on an earlier post on Nietzsche and the misuse of his work and person by his mother and sister, I begin to think that there should be a way in which the works of dead writers (men & women, for I am sure that widowers are no better) should be held in some public domain format where it cannot be censored and suppressed by incompetent family members.

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Since eight this morning there is supposedly a cease-fire in Lebanon. I’ll believe it tomorrow or the day after. Meanwhile check out this video document from YouTube.

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