Sunday, January 19, 2014

Berlin! Berlin!

This translation by Cindy Opitz appears in the English language Tucholsky reader "Berlin! Berlin!: Dispatches from the Weimar Republic". It is posted by kind permission of Dr. Eva C. Schweizer of Berlinica Publishing LCC

Berlin! Berlin!
Kurt Tucholsky alias Ignaz Wrobel, Berliner Tageblatt, July 21, 1919

Quanquam ridentem dicere verum
Quid vetat?

There's no sky above this city. Whether the sun shines at all is questionable; it seems like you only ever see the sun when you're crossing the main boulevard and it's shining right in your eyes. People complain about the weather, but there really isn't any weather in Berlin.

A Berliner doesn't have time. A Berliner is usually from Posen or Breslau, and he doesn't have time. He always has plans, and he makes phone calls and appointments, and he rushes to his appointments—usually running late—and he has such an awful lot to do.

People don't work in this city—they slave away. (Even entertainment is work here; they spit in their hands at the start and expect to get something in return.) A Berliner isn't really diligent, just constantly agitated. He has completely forgotten, unfortunately, why we're here on this earth. Even in heaven—assuming a Berliner could make it to heaven—he would "have things to do" at four.

Sometimes you see Berlin women sitting on the balconies that are stuck to the stone boxes they call their homes. The Berlin women sit there, taking breaks. They might be between two phone conversations, or waiting for appointments, or they may have arrived early—which rarely happens—so they sit there and wait. Then suddenly they spring, like arrows launched from bowstrings, to the telephone or to their next appointments.

This city is forever hauling its cart around the same track, brow furrowed—sit venia verbo ! It doesn't notice it's going in circles and getting nowhere.

A Berliner can't have a normal conversation. Sometimes you see two people talking, but they're not having a conversation, they're just reciting their own monologues to each other. Berliners can't listen either. They just wait anxiously until the other person stops talking and then jump right in. That's how Berliners converse.

A Berlin woman is practical and clear. Even in love. She doesn't have any secrets. She's a good, sweet girl, a type much celebrated by gallant town poets.

A Berliner doesn't get much out of life unless he's earning money. He doesn't cultivate social skills, because he can't be bothered; he gets together with friends, gossips a little, and gets sleepy at ten o'clock.

A Berliner is a slave to the machine—passenger, theatergoer, restaurant patron, and employee. Not quite human. The machine picks and pulls at his nerve endings, and a Berliner submits without reservation. He does everything the city requires—except maybe live.
A Berliner plows through each day, and when it's done, it was all labor and sorrow, nothing more. A Berliner can live in this city for seventy years without the slightest benefit to his immortal soul.

Berlin was once a well-functioning machine. A finely crafted doll that could move its arms and legs when someone stuck a dime in it. Today, the doll barely moves; no matter how many dimes people throw in, the machine has rusted and grown sluggish.

Because there really are a lot of strikes in Berlin. Why? No one really knows. Some people are against it, and some people are for it. Why? No one really knows.

Berliners treat each other like hostile strangers. If they haven't been introduced somewhere, they snarl at each other in the streets and on the trolleys, because they don't have much in common. They don't want to know anything about anyone else, and they live entirely for themselves.

Berlin combines the disadvantages of an American metropolis with those of small-town Germany. Its advantages are listed in Baedeker's guidebooks.

During summer vacation each year, a Berliner sees that people actually live in the real world. He tries it for four weeks—unsuccessfully, because he hasn't learned how to live and doesn't truly know what it means—and when he arrives back at the Anhalter train station, he winks at the trolley line and is glad to be back in Berlin. Life is forgotten again.

The days rattle by, and the daily grind winds on; if we toil like this for a hundred years, we in Berlin, what then for us? Will we have accomplished anything? Achieved anything? Something for our lives, for our real-life actual, inner lives? Will we have grown, opened ourselves up, blossomed? Will we have lived?

Berlin! Berlin!

When the editor had read up to this point, he wrinkled his brow, smiled a friendly smile, and said benevolently to the young man standing before him, "Well, now, it's really not as bad as all that! You're forgetting that Berlin also has its merits and accomplishments! Take it easy, young man! You're still young!"

And because the young man was a rather polite young man, generally loved and respected for his modest behavior, possessing somewhat peculiar dance-class manners, which he passed off as etiquette among close friends, he took off his hat (which he'd kept on in the room), gazed, deeply moved, at the ceiling, and cried with pious conviction, "God bless this city!"

Monday, September 14, 2009

Family (Die Familie)

By Kurt Tucholsky

On the Sixth Day of Creation as God saw what He had done, it was indeed good, but this was because the family had not yet arrived. The early optimism avenged itself and humanity's yearning for paradise may be seen primarily as the burning desire to once, just once, be permitted to live one's life in peace without family. What is family?

The family (familia domestica communis, the common house family) is found in Central Europe in its primitive form, in which condition it usually persists. It consists of a congregation of many persons of different genders who see their main task as sticking their nose into your affairs. When the number of family members exceeds a certain magnitude they are referred to as "relations." The family generally appears balled up in horrible clusters and during times of rebellion would run serious danger of being gunned down, because they always stick together. The family as a rule is a powerful force of revulsion. The family relation is a breeding ground for a disease that is extremely widespread: all members of the guild are constantly taking umbrage at something. That aunt that sat on the famous sofa is a fiction because first of all, an aunt never sits alone, and secondly, she takes umbrage at anything - not only on the sofa: but sitting, standing, lying down and on the subway.

The family knows everything about each other: when little Karl had the measles, how Inge is satisfied with her dressmaker, when Erna will marry the electro technician, and that Jenny, after the final confrontation with her husband, has decided at last to stay married to him. News of this kind propagates from midmorning between eleven and one via the defenseless telephone. The family knows everything, and disapproves of it on principle. Other tribes, of wild Indians, live either on the warpath or smoking the pipe of peace: the family does both at the same time.

The family is extremely exclusive. It knows what the youngest nephew does in his spare time, but if that young man should suddenly have the idea to marry a stranger, watch out! Twenty Lorgnons descend on the poor victim, forty eyes dissect her, twenty noses sniff distrustingly: "Who is that? Is she worthy of this high honor?" The other family does the same. In these cases both parties are usually infused with the idea that they have sunk deeply below their station.

If, however, the family has accepted the stranger into its midst, it then lays the large hand of the clan on his or her shoulder. The new member must now commit sacrifices on the altar of family; no holiday, that does not belong to the family! Everyone curses this, no one actually enjoys doing it - but may God have mercy on the one who refuses! With a deep sigh, they all bend under their bitter yoke. . .

Nevertheless this "sociable get-together" of the family invariably leads to a fight. In the usual manner of interaction one finds those sweet-sour tones best compared to a summer night's mood shortly after a thunderstorm. Which in no way, however, impairs the feeling of coziness. The blessed Herrnfelds had a scene in one of their plays in which a family split terribly into factions staged a wedding party, and after they had all smashed each other's heads in, a prominent member of the family rose and stated in the sweetest tone of voice the world had ever known: "Let's sing a song!" They always sing a song.

One reads in the grand sociology of Georg Simmel that no one can cause as much pain as close members of the caste, because they all know exactly the victim's most sensitive areas. They know each other too well to share a love from the bottom of their hearts, and not well enough to feel affinity.

There is a certain intimacy. A stranger would never dare to press as close into your personal space as your sister-in-law's cousin, by mere virtue of kinship. Were not the relatives of the ancient Greeks their "most dearest"? The youth of today's world use a different name. And suffer under the family. And found one of their own later, then carry on just the same.

No member of a family ever takes another family member seriously. If Goethe had had an old aunt, she would surely have travelled to Weimar to see what the boy was up to, taken a lozenge from her pompadour, and departed thoroughly insulted. Goethe, however, did not have such aunts, but peace and quiet - and that is how "Faust" came into existence. That aunt would have considered it over-the-top.

It is advisable to give the family something on birthdays. There's no great sense to it, by the way; they all trade it in for something else.

There is no possibility whatsoever of escaping the family. My old friend Theobald Tiger may have sung:

Don't get involved with family -
It won't work,
It won't work!

But these verses sprang into being out of a stupendous ignorance of life. One never involves oneself with family - the family does that on its own.

And when the world finally perishes, one may rightly fear to be met in the Great Beyond by a Holy Angel, silently waving a palm leaf, speaking the words : "Tell me - aren't we related - ?" Hurriedly, appalled and broken to the core of the heart, you rush away. To hell.

But that doesn't help you at all. Because that's where the others are, all the others.

Peter Panter
Die Weltbühne, 12.01.1923, Nr. 2, p. 53
The German original may be read here.

Note: This translation is a joint effort. It is the result of a request by S.K. who who planned to use the German text at a birthday party, presenting an English translation for the non-German speakers. I thought it would be a fun text to translate and was right. She sent me her own first draft in English. I did my own draft before looking at what she sent, then drew on her choice of words in the many passages where my translation seemed weak and hers seemed great. It was great teamwork. P.S. S.K. and I are not related.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Embryo Speaks (Die Leibesfrucht spricht)

By Kurt Tucholsky

They all take care of me: Church, State, Doctors and Judges.

I should grow and thrive; I should slumber nine months long; I should not worry about a thing – they all wish me well. They protect me. They watch over me. God have mercy if my parents do something to me; then they will all be there. Whoever touches me will be punished; my mother lands in prison, my father right behind; the doctor who did it must cease to be a doctor, the midwife who helped is locked up - I'm a precious item.

They all take care of me: Church, State, Doctors and Judges.

Nine months long.

But when the nine months are over, I have to see for myself what becomes of me. Tuberculosis? No doctor will help me. Nothing to eat? No Milk? – no State will help me. Torment and misery? The Church will comfort me, but that doesn't fill my stomach. And if I have no bread to break or to bite and I steal: the Judge is right there to lock me up.

Fifty years of my life no one will care about me, no one. I have to help myself. Nine months long they kill themselves, if someone wants to kill me. You tell me: isn't that a strange way to look out for the welfare of another?


Alice has reposted this translation along with some commentary putting the text in a modern perspective. There's also an interesting discussion about it going on at Wonderlandornot.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Was waere, wenn...

Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935), the German satirist, publicist, and prescient critic of National Socialism was quoted in "The Case for Impeachment", a recent article in Harper's: "A country is not only what it does - it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates." Now is the time to read Tucholsky in American, because not only was he uncannily accurate in predicting Germany's future, many of his works produce eerie undertones when held against the backdrop of contemporary America. For example, "What If..."

What if... (1927)
By Kurt Tucholsky

Tabloid headline: Beating Amendment on the Way? - We've received information that the Federal Ministry of Justice has at this moment completed a draft of legislation dealing with the introduction of the Beating Amendment.

All morning papers: The bulletin propagated by one of our mid-day newspapers about the introduction of the Beating Amendment is false. The Federal Ministry of Justice has indeed weighed tentative considerations regarding certain disciplinary actions of a physical nature, limited, of course, and intended only for a narrow set of repeat offenses. But that these considerations have hardened in a draft of legislation, as the daily in question claimed, is not the case.

14 Day Pause

The night editions: The Beating Amendment is Here! -- The Slapping Minister! -- Do You Hit Your Children, Herr Minister? -- Powerful Measures at Last! -- A Good One Upside the Head! -- Awful! -- Government by Rod and Switch! -- Return to Law and Order!

Social Democratic lead article ...turned out to be true. We find no parliamentary expression to give words to our flaming indignation at this new reactionary outrage. Not enough that this ministry overburdens the people with taxes - no, as was typical under the regime of the Czar, the German worker should now be punished with the cane. The parliamentary faction has already made clear that the sharpest protest against this new plan...

Catholic lead story: ...Ecclesiasticus 12:18. These previously quoted Bible verses do however appear favorable towards the idea, and so it will not be entirely possible to withhold Christian sentiment from the plans of the Ministry ... especially since the measure is not completely contrary in all its aspects to the interests of the Church.

"Bismarck Review" ...nevertheless not forget that in rural areas, the good old Prussian way of dealing with disobedience and open resistance, the switch, has for ages done its share of good. We are unable to understand why this, of all punishments, should be considered so humiliating. It goes without saying that its application must remain limited to such circles as are, so to speak, used to it. For a purification of our politically charged atmosphere...

"Munich Newest News" ...we must say: the first reasonable idea to come out of Berlin.

5 Month Pause

Town meeting: "A scandal and a disgrace! I could not blame any of the beating victims if they would afterwards go to their tormentors and punch them in the face..." (Enormous turbulence in the meeting hall. People stand up, shout, throw their hats in the air and wave their handkerchiefs. Thirty-four wallets are stolen. The speaker stands in a pool of sweat).

Democratic lead story: ...of course absolute opponents of the Beating Amendment and will remain so. However, under the current constellation it is to be considered whether this relatively unimportant issue could be an occasion for the German Democratic Party to withhold the unconditional support it has promised the current ruling coalition - especially when one considers that with the assurance of non-punishment for the wearing of republican symbols a powerful advancement of republican thought has prevailed. On the other hand...

Protest assembly of the Communists. (Banned).

Conference of the National Association of Middle Teaching Officials for the Upper Idling Course of Higher Schools: "...Ου παιδεύετει. Gentlemen, even the ancient Grecians..." [Note: ou paideuetei - Old-Greek, reference to spare the rod and spoil the child]

Telephone booth in Parliament: "...Hellooo! Hello, Saarbrücken? Allô, allô - Je cause, mais oui, mademoiselle - yes, please! Ne coupez-pas! Yes, English! Is that you? OK... debate on Mrs. Gertrud Bäumer's motion for a supplementary clause - did you get that? - which states the rear ends of those who are beaten must first receive a protective leather covering - - hello! Saarbrücken...!"

Telegrams to the President: ...flaming protest! Northwest German Committee of Upper Middle School Teachers.......we beg you, in the twelfth hour. Federal Union of Free-Thinking Salad Eaters.......perception of Germany in the world. Union of Left-Leaning Fairly Decisive Republicans.......but not to forget the interests of the German economy! Association of Rod and Switch Manufacturers.

Headline of a Democratic lead article: "Yes and No -!"

Parliamentary report: Yesterday, under breathless tension, the tribunal debated the first reading of the "Amendment for the Introduction of Mandatory Disciplinary Measures of a Physical Nature," as its official title runs. The house was well-filled during the preceding debate of the Lock Fee Reform Bill for the district of Havelland-East because this issue is seen as pivotal towards the growing tension within the current coalition; its acceptance was greeted from the right with applause, from the left with hisses. During the reading of the Beating Amendment the house emptied slowly but visibly. The first to speak was the senior of German criminalistic, Professor Dr. D. Dr. Dr. honorable Kahl. He explained that the introduction of the Beating Amendment filled him with deep concern, but that he, on the other hand, could not suppress a certain satisfaction. As his old colleague Kramer said to him way back in 1684...

The social democratic delegate Breitscheid announced, following a detailed honoring of the delegate Kahl in an extraordinarily eloquent and ironic speech, the clear no of his party. (See however below under "Latest News"). To the applause of the left, the delegate Breitscheid proved...

Speaking next, for the Democrats, after corresponding remarks by the communist Rothahn, was the delegate Fischbeck. His party, so he said, stands positively disposed to the new law. Even as children we all had to bend over at least once. (Stormy, several minute long amusement).

Advertisement: ...refrain from further applications, as the planned quota of positions for disciplinary officers is over-subscribed by ninety-eight. I.A. Heindl, Upper Governmental Council.

Social Democratic party correspondence: ...water on the mill of the communists. The class-conscious worker is disciplined enough to know when he must bring sacrifices. This is such an opportunity! With heavy heart the party leadership has bowed to the call of the hour. It is easier to issue well-meaning suggestions while sitting at one's desk than to take responsibility oneself in the tough realpolitical struggle...

Interview with the Chancellor: ... ceremoniously assured the representative of "Le Monde" that the regulations for implementation would of course do full justice to humanity. We will, as can surely be confirmed from the governmental side, see to it that...

8 Month Pause

Minor news: Yesterday in Parliament the Amendment for Disciplinary Measures of a Physical Nature was accepted with votes of the three right wing parties over the votes of the Communists. Social Democrats and Democrats abstained.

Democratic News Service: ...expectations attached to the regulations for implementation, sadly, not fulfilled. It is to be hoped that the individual States will use their power towards humanitarian improvements ... unbending demand for the position of Federal Disciplinary Commissioner to at least appoint a Democrat.

News Wire: Yesterday in Celle the first punishment under the Beating Amendment was carried out. The recipient was a worker Ernst A., punished for attempted cruelty towards young ladybugs. Thirty-five lashes were imparted upon the sentenced. The disciplinary personnel functioned without a glitch; Senior President Noske personally attended the procedure. A. is a member of the Communist party.

Press conference: ...number of blows was originally set at 80. The sentenced received instead, due to an amnesty on the occasion of the President's 90th birthday, two less. Following implementation the sentenced was moved to tears.

Letter from a woman in Pomerania: ...can't imagine how we laughed! It was too charming! The weather was lovely and we drove four hours by car to Messenthien, where we all had a hearty lunch. Otto was there, too - he's a senior disciplinary officer and looks wonderful in his new uniform. I'm so proud of him, and the work does him such good. We just had to take a picture of him, which I'm enclosing for you..."

"Physician's Report": ...rather conspicuous increase of mainly political delicts falling under the Beating Amendment, as Sinzheimer reports, has found an unusual explanation. A portion of those sentenced began, upon reception of their beatings, to roll about ecstatically on the floor, yelling "Again! More! Another!" and only with considerable difficulty could they be prevented from embracing switch, whip and disciplinary personnel. We are dealing with notorious masochists who have, in this manner, cheaply indulged their libidos, and who will now be brought to trial for the illegal acquisition of advantages.

March 8, 1956. "...look back over a productive 25 years. If the Federal Bureau of Disciplinary Measures has, to date, known only success, it is due primarily to its loyal corps of hard-hitting officers, the unanimous support of all federal agencies, as well as the Federal Association of Federal Disciplinary Officers. The tried and tested amendment has become indispensable today. It is a political reality; its introduction rested on the free will of the entire German people, whose arm we are. That which is given, gentlemen, is always reasonable, and it is easier to tear down than it is to build. In hoc signo vinces! [In this sign you shall conquer] So that today we may proudly announce:

The German people and their Beating Amendment - they are indivisible and not to be thought of, one without the other!

So help me God!"


The original text may be read at the Tucholsky Weblog. My translation is based on a later version of the text which Tucholsky reworked himself. The newer version is more streamlined and has the "Yes and No" passage. I may post some of the missing passages later.

Notes about this translation:

Names of Newspapers: A few times I selected a newspaper name that I thought would say more to the English speaking reader. E.g. "Bismarck Review" instead of The Cross (newspaper), a Prussian newspaper of the time. Bismarck was co-founder of the Prussian Cross (Kreuz) newspaper, and his name is probably better associated with Prussia than Cross would be.

The political parties: There are several references to the political parties of the Weimar Republic. These have not been translated to equivalent parties on the American political scene - they just happen to have similar names. The German Democrats were more a party of the middle, and the Social Democrats where somewhere between the Democrats and the Communists. The "republican thought" referred to is actually the philosophy of the German Democrats, and not the conservatives.

Politicians: The politicians (Rudolf) Breitscheid and (Wilhelm) Kahl were two actual personalities in German politics. Breitscheid was a prominent Social Democrat. He emigrated to France in 1933 but was arrested in 1941 and sent to Buchenwald, where he died (1944). Wilhem Kahl was indeed a professor of criminalistic, and a strong proponent of the death penalty. According to the German Wikipedia Otto Fischbeck was a liberal politician active until 1925, so it is unclear whether Tucholsky meant this particular Fischbeck. The name Rothahn for a Communist politician sounds fanciful. It means "red rooster" in German, and to me suggests the image of a rooster squawking around a farmyard, making a lot of inneffectual noise.

March 8, 1956: In the speech at the end a particular passage proved difficult to translate in a way that would preserve all its nuances. It's the passage in German "im Dienst erhauten Beamten." This is probably a play on words of the phrase "im Dienst ergrauten" meaning "grown gray (old) in service." The word "erhauten" doesn't really exist in German, but the syllable "hau" is the root for the verb hauen (to hit). The prefix "er-" usually suggests a process in which something is acquired. According to an online 19th German dictionary the verb "erhauen" could mean to beat someone or to carve out of stone. But this is not in use in modern German. So I'm not certain exactly what the verb "erhauten" might mean in this context.

In my own writing I've often taken cliches and reworded them slightly to make them say something new. In these instances I wanted to add power to the statement by the allusion to the known phrase, but I did not intend the meaning of the source cliche to dominate. Unfortunately I could not think of any phrases like "growing old in service" that might be doctored with aggressive connotations - words like "breaking-in" or "two-fisted" came to mind originally. "Grown bloody in service" might do it, but it doesn't seem aggressive enough. The term must be aggressive, as it underlines the final point. My decision to translate the passage as "hard-hitting officers" seemed to me the best solution, though it abandons the allusion of the German original. In an English language speech about employees, the words "loyal and hard working" usually go hand in hand. Also, the term "hard-hitting" is itself a play on words, as it is primarily used in a metaphorical sense, and not literally. I don't think anyone can do better with this passage, and still have it read well.

Translation note to "Beating Amendment": The German text used the term "Prügelstrafe", literally "beating punishment." That just did not flow, and I could find no other synonyms or expressions that had the coined quality of the original, while hanging on to the literal expression. The more judicial term "Beating Amendment" (an amendment to the current laws) drifts slightly form the original, but I think it works most of the time, though maybe not as well in the final reference.


Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Friedhelm Greis of the German language Tucholsky Weblog for his invaluable advice and feedback in translating this text, pointing out nuances I'd missed and supplying background information. Also thanks to Mrs. Weirsdo and all my other friends who took time to check the draft for readability. That was a great a help to me!


This post has been submitted to the Carnival of German-American Relations at The carnival summary may be read at American Future and at the Atlantic Review. A German carnival summary is located at

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kurt Tucholsky in Harper's Magazine

A recent editorial "The Case for Impeachment" in Harper's Magazine, written by Lewis H. Lapham quotes in the beginning Kurt Tucholsky:

A country is not only what it does - it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates.

I've located the original of this:
Aber ein Land ist nicht nur das, was es tut – es ist auch das, was es verträgt, was es duldet.

The passage originates from a letter by Kurt Tucholsky to the German-Jewish author Arnold Zweig. I don't think the translation can be improved upon.

For those who can read German, the entire letter is posted at the Sudelblog.

I apoligize for the long silence here. I've been busy with a longer translation, which will soon be ready to post.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dieses Bild

This Picture

viewed in the year 1982 will be a strange sight to see. It depicts a fashion queen - a creature that most of us don't consider especially beautiful or pretty . . . it's an advertising thing of the fashion houses . . . so far, so good.

But the way we today view with a kind of angered sentiment faded photos from the years 1911 and 1913, the small time before the great war - : that is how our grandchildren will one day see this picture here and say, after they've calmed themselves over the "impossible fashions":
"Yes, that was before the gas wars . . . Look at those empty faces that knew nothing . . . Had you no other worries? . . . Couldn't you have maybe prevented our poisoning? . . . Had you no idea of the horrible danger hanging over Europe? . . . Was there something better to do than run together and take care that the gas grenades were not assembled? That the state insanity did not reach high waves, that it was made clear to the thugs of all nations that there were other powers present, stronger than they and the profit-hungry large-scale industrialists, who, in their houses full of fine culture, collected van Goghs? Didn't you know all that - ? Did you do nothing for us, nothing - ? Didn't you see it?"

Of course we saw it. We also worked against the gas, in our own way. But that can't be photographed. And don't forget, man from 1982: the world is not a purposeful organism, and not subject to reason. The world wants to play. Always the fate of the fashion queen is closer to it than the fate of the next generation that had to see by itself what became of it - and then did just the same. Do you think those fine gentlemen in dinner jackets knew of their true destiny? They are completely trapped in their every day lives, and even more so in the Sundays - they knew nothing. And the ones that know are gray and indistinct and not quite presentable for a photograph. Never forget, descendant, even during the French revolution the women fought over milk, and what to wear, and over their lovers - never does a single idea rule the entire world.

Be thankful to those who did look out for you. It wasn't many. You look out for yourselves. We had so much to do: we had to live.


"Dieses Bild" by Kurt Tucholsky, from "Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles" (1929)

The original may be read at the German language Tucholsky Weblog run by Friedhelm Greis:

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Zehn Gebote fuer den Geschaeftsmann, der einen Kuenstler engagiert

Ten Commandments for the Businessman Who Hires an Artist (1928)
By Kurt Tucholsky


Leave him alone.


Consider first whether the man is right for your company; you can best do this by looking at his works and asking for each one: Can I use that? If you cannot use the majority, don't hire the man. Because:


If an artist is reputable and worth anything, he'll not change himself for your sake, just because you made a contract with him - but if he does change, you only paid for a name, in other words: overpaid the man.


Leave him alone.


Plan carefully, so that your man does not have to rush - art needs time, just like a clean balance. One can, if one is unlucky, shake fleas out of one's sleeve; but not works of art.


Thou shallt honor thy people's Sabbath: you are mistaken if you believe it is a pleasure for strangers to spend their Sundays with your family. By no means is it that.


While the artist you hired is working, hold the works of others under his nose and call upon him, with words of recognition for the other, to do one of these once. That is especially encouraging.


In discussions with your artist, don't consider that you, too, are actually an artist: you were on the verge of studying, but your father put you in his grain business . . . Granted. But don't bring your misplaced ambition with you to the office: the artist does not intrude in your books either - o limit thyself the graceful call of May of your dried-up views of art, to this rose of Jericho!


Listen to the voice of the public, but don't overestimate - in you alone the compass needle must show direction. Twenty letters from the public is nowhere near a popular vote - don't forget that, and don't let the people's stupidity damage your artist.


Leave him alone.


The text in German is online at the German language Tucholsky Weblog this address.