Friday, May 01, 2009

Fräulein Else

It's May Day, and the weather couldn't be more miserable. At least it's not raining ... tomorrow, Darren and I plan to take another bike tour with Igor, Darren's former coworker at Analog. The weather for tomorrow forecasts morning showers and a mostly cloudy afternoon. I'll take clouds over rain anyday. That's what we have now, but I think it's supposed to rain later.

The metaphorical light that does shine through, however, is the fact that it's Friday. The weekend (albeit one in which the weather predicts no sun will appear) lies just within reach, and at the office it's a pretty quiet, slow day.

Some of my coworkers have gone to the American Association of Museums conference in Philadelphia, a trade expo where we've rented out a booth to showcase our company's talents and capabilities for museum curators and other special-venue representatives seeking to update or add new exhibitry, designs, shows, or signage to their spaces. We've created this pretty cool interactive postcard-creating program to give potential clients a taste of what we do and how we do it. I really hope we come away from the conference with a lot of new leads and a lot of new potential clients for some great work in the future. Of course, the economy has deflated potential clients' ability to secure grants to fund our work, and many can't find it in their budget to afford work like ours, but there is good work out there -- we just have to find it and snap it right up. When all's said and done, four of us are down in Philly for the weekend, working hard to snap that very work up.

I've been rereading "Fräulein Else," a novella by Viennese writer and playwright Arthur Schnitzler published in 1924. I took a German class at Syracuse on Schnitzler and fin du siècle Vienna and its impact on Austrian (and German) literature. This novella was one of the many Schnitzler works we tackled in the class, and it was probably my favorite German work I read in my entire four years in the SU German program. It concerns a 19-year-old young woman named Else. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, the reader gets a firsthand glimpse into Else's innermost thoughts, wishes, hopes, dreams and sometimes delusions. She's a very dynamic and interesting character, especially when considering the time the novella was written. Freud's theories on psychology had a huge effect on the literature of the time, and Schnitzler's writing is no exception. "Fräulein Else" is riddled with scenes and thoughts that allude to Freud and his version of the psychology of women's minds and thoughts. In my mind, it's like a "Catcher in the Rye" with a female protagonist.

Our heroine meets a tragic end, but does she really? Because of the stream-of-consciousness voice of the entire text, it's difficult to tell exactly what happens. Nevertheless, I just reread this one passage of Else's oftentimes self-contradicting thoughts, and saw some truth in it. Schnitzler really is a brilliant writer. I highly recommend this novella, as well as his plays, "Anatol," "Liebelei" and "Reigen," all of which we also read in the Schnitzler class. If you're at all familiar or interested in Austrian turn-of-the-century history and literature, or just want an interesting read, even if just for entertainment and not academic purposes, check into the English versions of these texts. Of course, I've only read the German versions, so I can't attest to the quality of the English translations. If you need one, let me know -- haha. If you know German and want to tackle the original text, most of the full texts (now considered in the public domain) can be found on the Web. If you need translation of a passage or two -- seriously -- let me know.

Anyway, this quote from "Fräulein Else" really caught my eye. My translation follows the original German.
"Überhaupt ein anderes Leben anfangen. Das müssen wir alle. So darf es nicht weitergehen." - "Fräulein Else" by Arthur Schnitzler. Paul Zsolnay Verlag: Berlin-Wien-Leipzig, 1924. S. 37

Translation: "Even start a new life. We all have to. Otherwise, life won't go on."


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