The 20th of March 2020 was the 250th birthday of Friedrich Hölderlin.
From Zarko´s and my book Repetitions:
Tübingen: We decide to spend the afternoon in the garden of the Evangelisches Stift. Near the Seminary an enamel sign on a strong metal fence orders “Do not lean bicycles against the fence!” Bicycles lean against the sign and along the fence. Across the street is a storefront office whose windows are plastered with calls to political action. Over the door a sign announces the Tübingen office of the anti-authoritarian Green Party — “Die Grünen.” That explains the bicycle.
We walk down into the outer courtyard of the Stift. I glance into the courtyard of the house where Hegel, Schelling, and Hölderlin lived and studied. Religious education for future pastors. But these “pastors” preached the Weltgeist, art, nature, and Greece.
Climbing down stairs we enter a civilized paradise. Along the Neckar River stretches a well-tended strip of grass, dotted with shade trees and lined with beds of flowers. Fully dressed people sit on white lawnchairs at small tables, reading or writing. Others, less fully dressed, lie in the sun and sleep or read. Two children push one another along a flagstone path in a little car.
On the side of the garden opposite the river rises the Stift, six stories high. Behind it rise the walls and tile roofs of bourgeois Fachwerk houses. One house has had its roof stripped off, exposing the old beams. New beams shine with the bright yellow among the grey timbers.
I sit under a tree, reading, writing, enjoying the quiet knocking of wood against wood from punts poled past by students. A slight splash of water. Zarko stretches out in the sun, shirt and shoes off, dozing, reading, looking around. The grey of his Levis intersects the white flesh of feet and upper body.
I finish Repetition. Filip returns home to his village from the Karst where he has found a kind of ephemeral utopia. Full of stillness and newly-won knowledge and love, he is met by fellow citizens who, in the not distant past, had “tortured and murdered,” happy even now only if they have put someone in prison. The shock of return into that environment can be overcome, argues the calm narrator, through narration that provides a counter force to the prison house of language/culture/society.
In the beauty of the garden I experience the stillness and fullness I have come to Tübingen to find. This moment should last forever. Church bells ring three times. Three p.m. Behind me a rather unimaginative bird cheeps harshly, unvaryingly, endlessly: ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch. . . . From a house where tiles are being hung on a steep roof there comes a sudden sustained screeching. A warning shout, a curse, and a crash as the bundle of tiles shatters against pavement. The siren of an emergency vehicle wails from the Nekar bridge.
The children with the car begin to fight. The bigger child, a boy, drives away from his screaming sister. “I’ve got to go to work,” he yells back. “I’ve got to take the car to work. You stay home. You don’t need to work.”
A long boat slides past. A young woman in the boat looks up at me. A small grey cat slips furtively across the grass. From its mouth dangles a large bird, one wing hanging crooked from the body.
From Paul Celan´s Meridian:
TÜBINGEN, JÄNNER 1961
Zur Blindheit über-
Ihre – “ein
Rätsel ist Rein-
entsprungenes“ –, ihre
schwimmende Hölderlintürme, möven-
Besuche ertrunkener Schreiner bei
käme ein Mensch,
käme ein Mensch zur Welt, heute, mit
dem Lichtbart der
Patriarchen: er dürfte,
spräch er von dieser
nur lallen und lallen,
TÜBINGEN, JANUARY 1961
vinced to blindness.
Their – “a
riddle is pure-
origin” –, their
floating Hölderlin towers, swarmed
Visits by drowned cabinetmakers while
If a person were,
were to come,
if a person were to come to the world,
today, with the lightbeard of
the patriarchs: he could,
if he spoke of this
only babble and babble,