25 July 2016

Architectural Highlights in and around... (Sighetu Marmației - 1980 km)

(Sighetu Marmației, 24.07.2016 - 25.07.2016) Eastwards en route to Sighetu Marmației in the Maramureș region, you will have drive through Certeze. Please drive carefully and avoid any rear-end collision with the vehicle in front when its driver is standing on the brakes spotting an unexpected architectural monstrosity.




Many foreign or domestic visitors stop, take photos, more than a few leave shaking the head in disbelief. But, de gustibus non est disputandum, and apparently Dan Vasile, the owner of "Certeze Versailles" made his fortune with nothing but wire?! Nearly all buildings in Certeze are characterized by the same gigantomania and mixture of "styles" - of course smaller-scale. Where is the source for this enigmatic prosperity? Andra Letiția Jacob Larionescu is offering the following striking explanation: "It is the case of Certeze (a village in Oas County) and its environs, where a great majority of the peasant population migrated on the periphery of Paris, being involved with street newspapers. The housing situation of these migrants, in the host country – France -, differs greatly from that of the native village: to accumulate the money so necessary to build a house in the country of origin, the villagers live in abandoned houses, on the outskirts of Paris. With such sacrifices, they succeeded to regularly send money to their families left behind in Romania, resources that were invested in housing."


In Sighetu Marmaţiei the Elie Wiesel Memorial House in honour of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Price Laureate Elie Wiesel opened in 2002 in his birthplace.


The small bridge over the Tisza is for all Maramureș and Bukovina visitors a beneficial "architectural highlight": The Sighetu Marmației-Solotvyno border crossing joins northwest Romania at the town of Sighetu Marmației with southwest Ukraine at the town of Solotvyno.  The Romanian side is located in the Maramureș region and the Ukrainian side in that country's Zakarpatska oblast. A hidden, but nevertheless time-saving alternative pathway to Bukovina too!

24 July 2016

Viennese Architectural Influences in... (Miskolc - 1633 km)

(Miskolc, 23.07.2016 - 24.07.2016) Intermezzo in Miskolc, the fourth largest city in Hungary. It's Sabbath, time to have an outside view of the Kazinczy Street Synagogue which is the only surviving synagogue in the city of Miskolc. More than 450 km away from Vienna, the Viennese architectural influences persist.

From the plate at the entrance of the synagogue we learn as follows: "The Synagogue was buit between 1856 and 1863 according to the plans of Ludwig Förster, in Neo-Romanesque Moresque style. It is similar to the synagogue of Leopoldstadt in Vienna, which was also designed by Förster. Förster introduced more innovations in his design, he had an organ built in the synagogue, and had the torah reading table placed in front of the Ark of the Convenant, instead of the middle of the building. This evoked protest in believers, whose majority belonged to the Orthodox wing, and as in the year following the year of the synagogue's inauguration, the Rabbi Assembly in Sátoraljaújhely excommunicated the Rabbi of Miskolc, they deckded to restructure the synagogue according to the traditions. As a result of the conflict, the Sephardic community separated from Miskolc Jews and rented (or built) their own meeting-house in Kölcsey street, which has not been preseved. In the autumn of 2013 the Synagogue was temporarily closed due to its degraded state and the accident risk (the fundament, the roofing and the roof supporting pillars weakened). The facades on Kazinczy road and the yard are decorated with an Arabesque rose window and narrow arched windows, the main facade that faces the yard, is decorated with the double stone tables of Moses. The interior of the three nave building with a false basilican structure includes slender iron pillars with Gothic and Byzantine ornament elements, which were made in the Fazola school of Hamor. The sophisticated wall paintings, which evoke eastern motivs, were made by M. Horowitz.

23 July 2016

The capital of the United States of Europe will be... (Vienna, 1065 km)

(Vienna, 19/20.07.2016 - 23.07.2016) In her article on Czernowitz, Amy-Diana Colin writes: "It is emblematic of Bukovina that this region produced one of the forefathers of the European Union. In 1920, Josef Drach, a wealthy Jewish businessman and art dealer from Czernowitz, developed detailed plans for establishing a European Union with Vienna as its capital. Drach raised funds for a European Peace Bank whose goal was to introduce a single currency in Europe: the European Peace Dollar. One side of the coin displayed the image of Bertha von Suttner, the Austrian writer who won the Nobel peace prize in 1905, the other side the slogan: 'Nieder mit den Waffen!' (Down with the Weapons!). It is also emblematic of this region’s history that a visionary mind such as Drach was murdered in Auschwitz." (cited after: Czernowitz / Cernăuţi / Chernovtsy / Chernivtsi / Czerniowce: A Testing Ground for Pluralism, by Amy Colin, with Peter Rychlo on post-1940 Czernowitz. published in: History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe. Junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries. Volume II. Edited by Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer. © 2006. John Benjamins Publishing Company.) Born in Czernowitz in the year 1883, he came towards the end of World War I to Vienna and established a prosperous art and antiques trade on Dr.-Karl-Lueger Place No. 5. The populist and anti-Semite Karl Lueger would turn over in his own grave!


Deeply impressed by the humanitarian, social and economical disaster caused by World War I, Josef Drach became a militant pacifist, an enthusiastic advocate for the idea of unified Europe with a single European currency. For a certain period of time Josef Drach and his pan-European idea hit the newspapers headlines.


Austria Today, 2/1989: "In 1922 Josef Drach personally ordered a design for "European Peace Dollar" banknotes from the artist Alfred Offner [Czernowitz [1879 - 1937] , and even had printing plates prepared. The 2 EFD banknote shows a portrait of the Austrian Nobel Peace Prize winner Bertha von Suttner. She also featured on the Austrian 1,000-shilling banknote 60 years later. [...]


At the beginning of the 1920s, the Viennese art dealer Josef Drach regarded the financial sector as the key to the formation of a 'United States of Europe'. A 'European Peace Bank', to be founded in Vienna on the basis of a legal agreement with the League of Nations, and with a ground capital of 80 million US dollars, was to issue a 'European Peace Dollar' as a means of international payment and European currency. In 1925, the internationally respected stock exchange periodical 'Wiener Börsenkurier' commented optimistically on the plan - if with hindsight rather naïvely: 'Titling it as peace money makes future wars impossible, because it loses any value in a state of war. And without money there can be no war.' Josef Drach threw his full energy and resources into the task of propagating his European idea. Numerous prominent individuals signed his petition, proclaiming their readiness to buy shares in the 'European Peace Bank' - among them the young Dr. Adolf Schärf who became President of the Republic of Austria after the Second World War. Drach's utopia soon ran into the quicksands of the world economic crisis. He was personally satirized as 'Drache' (dragon), while his 'peace dollar' became known as the 'Viennese drachma' (an allusion to the Greek currency). During the crisis of 1930, the subject of a currency union among some of the European states was raised again in Paris, but came nowhere near realization. After the Nazi occupation of Austria in 1938, Drach's attempt to emigrate to the United States failed because of the bureaucratic attitude of the US Consulate in Vienna. He gave all the papers on his European project to his friend, the art dealer Ferdinand Spany, before he was forcibly 'resettled' in Eastern Europe. In 1918, Drach had originally fled before the advancing Russian armies from Bukovina, the most easterly crown land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After 1940 there was no road back to Vienna again."

Despite Brexit and temporarily rising European unification skepticism, the historic development proved Josef Drach perfectly right. Consequently from the facade of the Vienna Museum of Natural History, Europa is looking friendly across the street, at the Vienna Museum of Art History, where Josef Drach's designs and printing plates are stored by the Coin Collection as evidence for the validity of his visionary European concept.

06 July 2016

Miss Nightingale in Paris

Meine Wertung

Es war das übliche fade Zeug im Disney-Stil... 

...heißt es gegen Ende dieses Buches über einen Zeichentrickfilm, den sich eine der Romanfiguren im Kino ansieht. Das Problem ist nur, dass diese Beschreibung leider auch auf diesen Roman zutrifft. Der Plot, lt. Verlag "eine Variation von Henry James' berühmtem Roman Die Gesandten", ist nicht uninteressant. Wenn es aber stimmt, dass dieser Roman das Lebensthema der Autorin beleuchten soll, "die ewige Gegenüberstellung Amerika versus Europa", dann ist dieser Versuch gründlich misslungen, denn Story und Protagonisten bleiben flach, so flach wie die Comicfiguren in einem beliebigen Disney-Streifen. Wer Cynthia Ozick und die literarische, ja fast mystische Kraft ihrer Werke kennt, wird enttäuscht über den Verlust an Tiefgang sein, der diesen Roman auszeichnet, zudem verstärkt durch eine unsensible und oberflächliche Übersetzung.

03 July 2016

Vierzig Jahre nach dem Abitur • 1976 • Forty Years after Graduation

Abitur 1976 Gymnasium Duisburg-Neudorf: (v.l.n.r.) Wilfried Fox, Edgar Hauster, Lothar Bihler, Peter Roth, Hanspeter Sturm, Bernd Ehrhardt, Uwe Busch, Werner Marnette, Ralf Peters, Rainer Sieberichs, Hartmut Kürmann, Andreas Schmidt, Wolfgang Bruckmann, Michael Scheitzbach, Arno Dirks, Detlef Wiederhöft, Monika Hubers, Dieter Gründer, Günter Ersoy

14 June 2016

Das wahre Leben des Sebastian Knight

Meine Wertung

„Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand,…

…wer ist die Schönste im ganzen Land?“, heißt es bei den Gebrüdern Grimm und da ist die Wahl zwischen der bösen Königin und Schneewittchen noch einfach. Nicht so bei Nabokov, „Das wahre Leben des Sebastian Knight“ ist ja auch kein Kindermärchen. Wer schafft es, dem eigenwilligen Schriftsteller Sebastian Knight, der "am einunddreißigsten Dezember 1899 in der ehemaligen Hauptstadt" Russlands geboren wurde und Mitte Januar 1936 stirbt, eine Seele einzuhauchen? Ist es sein Halbbruder, der Erzähler, das Alter Ego für Nabokov, sind es vielleicht Sebastians Weggefährten, etwa seine Schweizer Gouvernante, seine Studienkollegen in Cambridge, sein Manager und Biograf oder sind es am Schluss doch Sebastians Liebesaffären, die ihn lebendig werden lassen? Sind es überhaupt Menschen oder sind es Sebastians halbes Dutzend Bücher, die zuverlässig Auskunft über ihn geben? Viele Fragen, die sich zwischen dem Ende des Zarenreiches, der Russischen Revolution und dem spürbaren Aufkommen des Nationalsozialismus stellen. Wem in literarischen Spiegelkabinetten à la Nabokov schwindlig wird, kann sich um die Antworten drücken und es bei der Lektüre dieser Rezension belassen. Wer aber neugierig geworden ist, der kann versuchen, „Das wahre Leben des Sebastian Knight“ zu entdecken; mit großem Lesegenuss, aber ohne Garantie!