Posts Tagged ‘romania’


十二月 30, 2017


Martin Winter
is not Jewish
and his children
are not fully grown
he is arguably
the greatest poet
he can remember,
in 1966
in China
but he was born in Vienna
and had a much more comfortable childhood
than his parents,
then went to Taiwan
did mischief in Shanghai,
met wife,
taught refugees,
met wife again in Xi’an and Wuhan,
went to Romania,
met Chinese friends there,
married wife,
they went to Chongqing,
then stayed in Beijing till 2008.
Two children born there.
Translated propaganda,
wrote, translated
more and more
among other stuff
until now
in Vienna,
in a few days.

MW December 2017

P.S. Translations used by NY Times, NY Review of Books, South China Morning Post, Australia Vagabond Press, Taipei Times, Epiphany, Vermont Studio Center, Tucson poetry laureate Rebecca Seiferle. Translations into German appeared in Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and many papers and magazines. Organized events with Chinese poets in Austria, together with Esther Dischereit, Agnes Schick, and others. Recipient of Li Bai prize for poetry translation. Published books in China and Austria, contributed poems, other texts and translations to books and magazines in German, English and Chinese in many places. Will give details if needed. Cheers again, may the force be with the resistance. Yes, seriously. Thank you!


六月 25, 2016
Photo by David Howard

Photo by David Howard


in 1996
austria voted to join the eu
i was either in china
or in romania
or in between
there was war
in yugoslavia
most of 1994
i taught german
to bosnian refugees
the eu did nothing
to stop the war
they said the economy
would be much better
one common currency
each person benefits
I didn’t believe them
but smallmindedness
there was a hope against smallmindedness
two thirds voted for the eu
yesterday i read in a paper
a chinese paper printed in europe
in bosnia they still hope to join
we know the eu is not perfect
but for bosnia there’s no other way
they say
what did austria do
close the balkan route
keep refugees out
some people say
austria encouraged them
to split up yugoslavia
in 1990
anyway is there another way
against orban
in every country or worse
is this a poem
or just thinking out loud
i don’t know
what will change
the eu is still rich
on the whole
it was a project
to help poorer countries
i don’t know if that’s true
fuck the tories
fuck thatcher
let it all unravel
i don’t know
i guess no-one knows
somehow europe
should stand together
somehow we say we
hope for each other
everyone scraping
hope 4 our children

MW June 2016



it‘s a small mind after all

it’s a small mind after all


MW June 2016



十二月 17, 2015


the sun needs a little time
I have always loved you
I shouted and cursed
fog and frost
everything hidden in fog in the morning
kids are in school
my bicycle’s gone
my mother’s bicycle, blue, rather old
my father’s bike disappeared also
when I was small you brought me on your bike
I haven’t written much about you
my father my mother
I am a writer
I wrote many poems
most of the time
we could not stand each other
I and my father most of the time
I rode a bicycle
austria taiwan china the cities
sometimes the mountains
along the danube when I was small
with my father
it was very good
in romania I drove a car
it was a vw looked rather broken
like an old bicycle ran rather well
the sun needs a while
I should be translating
should be writing letters
call one or two people
take care go on working
chongqing has fog every day
no-one rides a bicycle
there are lots of stairs
nowadays there are highways
nato bombed serbia
it was on tv
the land and the roofs
I come from austria
I loved yugoslavia as a small child
I watched and I cried
then I rode my bicycle
up and down chongqing
nato bombed the chinese embassy
no-one knew why
you can try to explain
maybe if they had bombed them in bosnia
the yugoslav army not the chinese
no srebrenica no war in kosovo
I only knew this is where I come from
and now there is war
you can try to explain
come you masters of war
I hope I can write a little more
the sun needs a while

MW December 2015



die sonne braucht ein bisschen zeit
ich hab dich immer geliebt
ich hab dich beschimpft und angeschrien
raureif und nebel
in der früh liegt alles im nebel
die kinder sind in der schule
mein fahrrad ist weg
das blaue fahrrad von meiner mutter
auch das fahrrad von meinem vater
auf dem blauen fahrrad bin ich als kind
warum hab ich nicht von euch geschrieben
von meinem vater von meiner mutter
ich kann doch schreiben
ich hab so viele gedichte geschrieben
ich hab mich nicht vertragen
mit meinem vater
fast immer haben wir uns nicht vertragen
ich bin viel rad gefahren
in österreich in taiwan in china
in rumänien mit einem wagen
der wagen sah aus wie ein altes fahrrad
es war ein vw sie ist gut gefahren
autos sind weiblich in vielen sprachen
die sonne braucht ein bisschen zeit
ich sollt übersetzen
sollt korrespondieren
sollt leute anrufen
sollt mich kümmern
in chongqing ist immer viel nebel
fast niemand hat in chongqing ein fahrrad
es gibt viele stufen
jetzt gibt es auch viele stadtautobahnen
die nato hat serbien bombardiert
ich hab es im fernsehen gesehen
das land und die dächer
ich komme aus österreich
und war als kind in jugoslawien
ich hab geweint
dann bin ich mit dem fahrrad
in den straßen gefahren
hinauf und hinunter
die nato hat die chinesische botschaft
niemand wusste warum
ausländer waren auf einmal verdächtig
man kann versuchen den krieg zu erklären
vielleicht hätten bomben zur rechten zeit
srebrenica verhindert
und damit auch den kosovokrieg
man kann versuchen den krieg zu erklären
es gibt viele erklärungen über die jahre
ich wusste nur ich komm von dort
dort ist jetzt krieg
come you masters of war
ich hoffe ich kann noch etwas schreiben
die sonne braucht ein bisschen zeit

MW Dezember 2015








Two books in German

四月 25, 2012

Two books in German

Simon Urban’s Plan D appeared in August 2011, Bei Ling’s Ausgewiesen has come out in March 2012. Both are tied to my experiences in Taiwan, in different ways. Simon Urban is a young German author. He is not from the East, the former GDR, and there seems to be nothing in his biography to make him destined for writing a novel on history. And yet he belongs to a continuing thread of history in German literature, told in various forms, often through family stories. Female authors tell family stories, and there are many immigrants writing in German. Their writings are often set in the regions where they come from, and many tell histories of families. History is a topic that just doesn’t seem to go away in Germany and Austria. Nobel prize laureates Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller both write about painful topics from the recent histories of their countries. Herta Müller is from Romania. She is a Romanian author writing in German, mostly about Romanian contemporary history. And she’s living in Germany, for historical reasons. Elfriede Jelinek writes on Austria’s contemporary history, through her plays and novels. She writes in a very special language, a language that unmasks the thoughtless style of the media and contemporary discourse throughout Austrian society. One of her plays is called Winterreise, evoking Schubert, in her own special way. Another play relives a murderous party in the small town of Rechnitz in 1944.

Simon Urban’s novel is a thriller. It is the story of an East German police officer who has to find the murderer of a mysterious man, hanged near the Berlin Wall. The wall still exists, the GDR still exists, in 2011. Agents and counter-agents, state security and the Energy Ministry. Don’t trust anyone. Including your colleagues from the West. It’s a thick book, bursting with very evocative descriptions of situations in Berlin inside a frustrated policeman’s mind. Often funny, as well as haunting.

Simon Urban attended a creative writing academy in Leipzig. One of his teachers was the Austrian Writer Josef Haslinger, who also became famous through writing a thriller. It’s about a terrorist coup at the Opera Ball, related to Austrian contemporary history, of course. But Mr. Haslinger was not supportive of Mr. Urban’s project. “The GDR is deader than dead”, he used to say. Mr. Urban has proven him wrong. Plan D will come out in English in early 2013.

Bei Ling’s memoir begins in 2009, the year he got famous in Germany. He was invited as an exiled Chinese writer to speak at a panel at the China-focus Frankfurt book fair, then asked not to attend, along with Dai Qing, a veteran female writer and environment activist in Beijing. Both of them gate-crashed Frankfurt, with German media support. The book then jumps back to 1979 and the Beijing Democracy Wall. Activism and literature are inseparable for Bei Ling. He gives a very personal account of the 1980’s underground poetry scene, and goes on through his years in the US and his friendship with Susan Sontag, who helps him out when he is imprisoned for printing an illegal literature journal in Beijing.

Suhrkamp deserves credit for recognizing some of Bei Ling’s potential. They certainly helped to make him known in Germany. The translation of “Ausgewiesen” is good. Most of the book reads very similar to Bei Ling’s essays in the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and in Der Spiegel. The empathy, the little details, the very personal atmosphere. Bei Ling can make you feel as if you were there with him in Beijing in the early 1980s. Maybe you know some of the names, like all the famous Misty Poets. But nobody has  told it in such an intimate way, not even Bei Dao, in his fascinating recollections. When “Ausgewiesen” came out in March, the FAZ carried the first review. It was dominated by the complaint that Bei Ling didn’t include much, much more about all these fascinating topics. That’s the fault of his editors at Suhrkamp, of course. The original manuscript was easily twice as long. I’ve seen it. And like other publishers, they don’t have an editor who reads Chinese. Maybe you know Jung Chang, who wrote Wild Swans. I am pretty sure Bei Ling mentions her, but in the German text she becomes a man called Zhang Rong. Hu Ping, editor of Beijing Spring and one of the oldest Chinese exiles in New York, becomes Hu Pingzheng.

Plan D is a rather thick book. Well edited, nothing important peeled away. Simon Urban is a maniac for detailed descriptions, and you always feel these locations in action. Urban succeeds in creating a Berlin that can feel at least as real as the one you know. It is all there, this is how it could have turned out. How it is, behind the surface, at many places.

So how are these books related to Taiwan? Simon Urban was at the 2012 Taipei book fair. His book was very well received, and many people asked questions. They have a real life Communist country to deal with, which is related to them in various ways. Bei Ling runs a small press in Taiwan called Tendency, which grew out of the literature journal with the same name. They print works by Havel and Celan, among others. Taiwan is a place that accommodates many different ventures and makes many things possible. A long tradition of immigration, everything thrown together. They had a one-party dictatorship themselves, and an economic miracle too. But since 1987 they have an ongoing process of democratization, including recognition of their own history, their various ethnicities and so on. It makes one think of recent history and present times in parts of Europe and elsewhere. These are the connections, between the late Vaclav Havel and a fictional Undead GDR, between Paul Celan, exile and reckoning with the past, between poetry and stories of spies.

Addendum: Exiled Chinese writers, like Ma Jian and Bei Ling, have protested against official China monopolizing the China focus at the London book fair this spring. Click here for press coverage in Dutch, English and German.

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