Alex Caldiero on Fame, Anonymity, Oblivion

poem_BOB & ME @ CBGB

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Memento mori


Last week I got a reminder from my dermatologist that I was overdue for an examination. Because of sun damage over the years to the skin on my face and arms, these are important visits, saving me more times than I can count from the ravages of basal-cell carcinomas.

The form of the card had an especially forceful message for me because it looked exactly like a German death notice.


Any chance this was done on purpose? I’ll ask Dr. Eyre and he’ll feign surprise. But you can be sure I called an appointment today.

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[The title of this blog, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, is Michael Roloff’s translation of the title of Peter Handke’s novel Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter. Our correspondence over two decades consisted in large part of responses to Peter’s work, some of which I translated as well.]


Publisher and translator Michael Roloff sent an email with the message quoted in the title of this post to 118 friends and acquaintances on Monday, April 29 of this year. As usual, his email ended with a list of his various online sites. The home page of the first one includes a biography that begins

BORN: December 19, 1937, Berlin, Germany/ Emigrated to the U.S. in 1950; U.S. Citizen since 1952 / Father: Wilhelm T. Roloff (1900); Mother: Alexandra von Alvensleben (1910)

and continues with his education in the United States and his subsequent work with various German-speaking authors, American publishing houses, theaters, and so on. Each link takes a reader to a substantial corpus of writing, much of it highlighted in Michael’s typical manner.

*Member SPIS a.d

“Degustibus disputandum est” {Theodor Wiesenthal Adorno}

. . . Michael’s emails from another of his accounts quoted Joyce rather than Adorno:

“May the foggy dew bediamondize your hoosprings + the fireplug of filiality reinsure your bunghole! {James  Joyce}


A photo Michael often used with his websites

In the days before his death, Michael sent me several emails to make sure his manuscripts and accounts would be preserved.


A.J., Abdullah Jafar,  my Malay friend who used to work at Fedex, will send you my backpack, most important for two pieces, the successful formalist piece PALOMBE BLEU [ even Peter liked it] my one truly successful screenplay, GRADUATION BOOGIE. Spent a year on both working as meticulously as I was then able to. 

 . . . the doctors at the hospital wanted to explore why I was coughing so strongly and other breathing problems while I had pneumonia in my lower right lung lobe and decided to do a C.A.T. scan, which revealed a lump, which required a P.E.T. scan which revealed the great likelihood of cancer which, moreover, had spread – I am waiting for the result of the biopsy to ascertain what possibly curable cancer it might be – too old for chemo especially with the C.O.P.D. Results will give me some idea time  left and what might still get done. Meanwhile I am back at the Park Ridge Skilled Nursing Home in the room of my 2012 hip fracture and its inedible food after great food at the hospital while my appetite returned as the pneumonia waned.

best,  Michael

. . . here a photo of Michael and A.J. when they met to make sure the backpack would come to me:


The pack arrived, sent by A.J. from the FedEx office where it had been stored.  I emailed Michael that it had arrived, stuffed with various manuscripts. 


once you have the time taka peek @ PALOMB & GRADUATION BOOGIE.  The computer too, with instructions as to what is on it, as well in the cloud, i expect will reach you within the year. Great friend Keke came to give me my mail & great researcher that he is also knows one hell of a lot about cancer, and was far less pessimistic than I am. Keke is proof of the ctd. existence of human goodness. a deeply religious believer, some of these believers turn miraculously good, and this pantheist tries to make sure never to injure their faith if i can help it.


proudest of puttting together the nelly sachs volume O THE CHIMNEYS and my 65 translations there and of Handke WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES which Handke felt was the best translation he had ever seen then and introducing  german writers here, nosack, enzensbrger, kroetz, innerhofer, etc  worst decision not to go to a lawyer at once when i realized  partner schulz was using urizen books to wash mob money xxx  michael r.

Then came the ultimate email:

7:21 AM


Responses followed quickly:

I know you want to bid us farewell with a kind of gallantry, but all we’re left with is sadness.
George Malko

Dearest Mike,

Sending you so much love and my immense admiration and gratitude.  I know my father will be waiting for you on the other side.

You are a brilliant, gutsy, irreverent, fascinating man and I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you over these past few years.

with blessings and love,

Priscilla Gilman

wish there were an after life and your father could go on talking. meanwhile why don’t you great reviewer do Handke’s THHE GREAT FALL.  XXX MICHAEL

Just before noon on May 2, Michael’s friend and long-time benefactor, botanist and author Linda Chalker-Scott, sent the following messages to Michael’s email list:

I am saddened to report that Michael passed away a few minutes ago. I will keep this thread updated as I learn more.

Linda Chalker-Scott

Replies to Linda’s announcement:

Thank you Linda, for the news. A brilliant man with whom I often argued and whom I will now mourn.



Sad to hear it! Michael was one of the very first people to recognize my art I am attaching the cover I made for Michael Brodsky’s first published novel Detour also a discovery of Roloff’s. When he was editor of Urizen Books in 1977. Rest In Peace!

Michael Hafftka


Oh alas!  I got a personal email from him on Monday- I wrote him as soon as he sent the email that he was dying, and he said he wished there was an afterlife so he could meet my father in it for spirited conversation.  He became friendly with my father, the late Richard Gilman, many years ago via their shared love of Handke, and I connected with him a few years ago when I began working on a book about my father.  Though we never met, we emailed often, and I so enjoyed his wit, passion, irreverence, and dedication to literature.  Also, he had a sweet soul.  He wrote me the loveliest letter in response to my first book, which I sent him after realizing he would like to read about my family.  Please keep me posted.

condolences to all,

Priscilla Gillman


We met over 60 years ago, at Haverford, and stayed in touch over the years, sometimes close, sometimes closer. In all of his passions, he was unique, and loyal, but also only his own way. George Malko


Thank you, Michael. You will remind in our memory!

Vicente Huici Urmeneta PhD, Former Professor of Sociology


I had many arguments with MR …some went on for a long time but ..he called me McGoo… but but he published at Urizen books that are forever in my mind and I often take them down to read… I found the great interview he did with Uwe Johnson … of course Handke Handke … his translations added to my world… he even knew of my involvement with Bulgaria and send me wonderful reports he had of his contacts back then… he was of the old radical left that understood the centrality of reading and while you might strongly disagree it was fundamentally wrong to try to stop another from speaking… argument is essential for any sort of going on… I think he knew that the silent or the silenced are finally… finally I guess I think he was a little dumb not to take the Pascalian wager… but that is something… I guess I can look forward to that place: hey MR, I was right and he would ask, are you sure?

Thomas McGonigle


Author of several books about Peter Handke, Lothar Struck, wrote an extended piece on his blog:


Sad indeed.  I probably don’t know any of you, but I guess this is a sort of cyber memorial service — so my remembrance:

Michael and I were odd couple roommates in a loft on West Broadway in the early 1980s.  I was a middle American kid just starting law school in the big city and found Michael’s posting of the room taped to a Citibank ATM.   Michael was “old” – probably early 40 – and seemed the most exotic person I had ever met.  We shared a massive two story loft with storage racks holding 10,000 books (not exaggerating); the kitchen was built on four shipping pallets in the middle of one room and was made of plywood.  The bathroom was . . .  well hardly a bathroom . . . a tin shower box that just poured water on the floor to run down an existing drain.  We also had the whole rooftop – an amazing place with cheap lawn chairs and a giant papier-mache spider sculpture gifted him by one of his many arty friends.  We were literally in the shadow of the World Trade Center and would sit up passing the warm nights in the light of the twin towers – Michael smoking of course.

People could not believe I lived there.  But Michael and I became fast friends.  At least several night per week we would go prowling TriBeCa and SoHo, stopping at a string of haunts from Le Zinc and the Odeon to La Gamelle and  Raoul’s where the walls were adorned with nude black and white photos of one of his past girlfriend named Charna.  There was always something a bit wistful to him when we made that stop.

More times than not I was amaze at how random girls we would meet would be fascinated by him – they loved his steel blue eyes, white hair and German intellectual demeanor.   He would talk about being a writer and publisher and they ate it up.  I wished I had such female-attracting superpowers, but mostly I sat there an awkward, unsophisticated wingman.  Sometimes I felt like Holden Caulfield had accidently been trapped in a Fellini movie.  But we had a great time and I learned much of the world and life from Michael those nights.

We surely had our disagreements (mostly about the state of and finances for the loft), but we spent hundreds, probably thousands of hours in wide ranging intellectual conversation over the 4 years we lived together.   When I decided to move into a more healthy actual apartment with my then girlfriend (now wife) – mostly because she refused to use the bathroom in the loft which understandably limited her visits – Michael and I parted much as we had met, casually as if it was just another day.  Michael did, however, give me a leather fedora that he said Sam Sheppard had left in the loft.  I thought it was so cool.

After he moved west we mostly lost touch but now and then would email and I would get his bizarrely highlighted rants.

My last interaction with Michael was about a year ago, when I send him and picture of rubble where our loft once stood at 65 West Broadway.  Gone to make room for a high rise luxury condo.  I guess I should have seen it as a sign.

Goodbye Michael.

James T. Sandnes


Thank you very much for this, James. I remember that loft well, and the roof gatherings.
George Malko


Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times

Thanks for letting us know

RIP Mike


For ten — or has it been fifteen — years I have had an almost daily email conversation with Michael, stimulated in the beginning by our interest in the work of Peter Handke. Michael was the gifted early translator of Peter’s plays and poetry and the novel The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and I have translated some of his later work. Although Michael and Peter had an acrimonious falling out over money and over a woman, Michael worshiped the work itself. He and I read and commented on the novel The Great Fall soon after it was published in German and over the course of several weeks posted our thoughts here:

We tried this kind of conversation again while reading Peter’s The Moravian Night, although the exercise turned sour when Michael insisted on reading the novel from a psychoanalytic and personal perspective and I kept insisting that we ought to read the book as a work of literature and not as a window into Peter’s soul. Michael helped me with a few details as I translated Peter’s To Duration and I helped him with his translation of The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez.

Michael had a wealth of experience and wrote about it incessantly, unfortunately without much of an audience. I became, for him, a reader who would respond to his brilliant, if sometimes uneven, work.

When Elaine Kaufmann died and her New York bar and restaurant closed, Michael wrote extensively about his memories of the place and its people.

When there were wildfires, he wrote about his stint as a firefighter in Alaska (including a spicy encounter with Kim Novak in Fairbanks).

His adventures with European authors, coupled with the productive publishing venture with Urizen Books, appeared in multiple versions.

He returned often to his early years in America as a high-school student and Haverford student.

He revisited his early days in northern Germany, a childhood with prominent parents and grandparents in the midst of a devastating war.

Sometimes his mind turned to his Baja adventures and he wrote passionately about that place and the people he knew there.

He wrote about married life in New Mexico mountains.

There was a voyage by ship to and from India.

California memories.

Dozens of explicit erotic encounters found their way from his computer to mine.

I’ll miss that cantankerous man and will, at some point write about him and perhaps find a place for some of his work.


Michael had a host of connections through email, but several friends in Seattle ought to singled out here.

Linda Chalker-Scott, a fine scholar and writer about gardening, came to Michael’s rescue several times when his laptop was stolen and was deeply important for his well being.

Abdullah Jaafar, whom Michael knew through a FedEx office where Michael worked daily because of the free WiFi, kindly sent me, last week, a backpack Michael had stored there with some notebooks and six or eight manuscripts Michael wanted preserved.

Kayode K. Ojo, a scientist at the University of Washington, was a generous friend who is sending me Michael’s laptop and who was often with Michael during his last days.

A Seattle artist, John Patterson, drew Michael at a Tully’s coffee shop in Seattle.


Scott Abbott


Thank you so much for this beautiful and eloquent remembrance.  I don’t know if you saw my note, but my father was Richard Gilman, and I know he would be very pleased to hear of fellow Handke lovers carrying on the good work in support of that brilliant writer.


Priscilla Gilman


Thank you very much for this, Scott.

George Malko


Thank you letting me know of Michael’s passing.  I had no

idea he was that far gone with copd.  My last contact with

Michael was just a week or more ago when I sent him an email

saying I was rereading Gert Jonke’s ‘Geometric Regional

novel’ and (typical of our friendship)  saying I thought it

was as impressive as any fictions of Handke.  I’m certainly

saddened and only wish I would have known of the severity

of his sickness.  We first met when Michael (Urizen Books)

committed to publish my brother, Robert Kalich’s novel, ‘The

Handicapper.  For business reasons we left Urizen for Crown.

But… and it’s a Big But… we remained friends and had a

multitude of literary, worldly, and far more “personal” con-

versations over the many,many years. It always Amazed  Michael that

a middle-class Jewish New Yorker such as myself (and my brother)

could have such a pure and committed relationship

to literature as we did.  And he never failed to remind me

that I was one of the great and most pleasant surprises of

his life.  To that end, in that context, I will say:  despite

profound disapointments in publishing and his Writing life,

as well as living virtually hand to mouth, Michael lived a

very rich life.  He loved literature, books, beauty of prose,

and especially Peter Handke’s prose.  He also never stopped

writing or thinking and his life was full.

As I said, I’m saddened and will profoundly miss him.

Richard Kalich


I agree with your thought that he lived a rich life, despite the setbacks you mention. He mentioned you often as a friend and as a fine writer. On his suggestion I bought and read and thoroughly enjoyed your Penthouse F.



Scott Abbott:

My eyes are tearing as I read and reread your email.  As I said,

I wish I  would have known Michael was that sick; I certainly

would have made more effort to be in contact with him and

much KINDER to his requests to read his literary efforts.  I

agree with Michael Brodsky;  Michael was wholly dedicated to

literature and all that is good about the literary culture.  I’ve

written a new novel, an autobiographical fiction whose main’

character, “Kalich,” embodies just those torments, struggles

and qualities.  This book, too, prior to its publication I would

have sent to Michael to read…if I had known.

With empathy to a kindred soul, yourself,

Dick Kalich


Michael had struggled, as I think you know, with copd for some time. Just
two weeks ago he saw a doctor for some unusual flareup and after some
imaging was told he had two “avid” masses in his lungs. Michael wrote that he would now end his life. Less than a week later he was dead. I’m guessing he didn’t have to take any action.

A report from a kind-hearted African friend (Michael said he would never
question the man’s Christian faith, given his kindness) said Michael had
contracted pneumonia. Other than the arrangements he
made to have his backpack and computer shipped to me (with detailed
instructions I hope will be adequate) and a message to his niece in
England, he had only time for the adieu message he sent to us all.
As for being kinder, for reading Michael’s torrent of writing, I’m guessing
you had experiences like my own. He would send a draft, often highlighted
in yellow, of whatever he was working on. If I had time, I would write a
sentence or two in response. Another draft of the same thing would soon
arrive and then another. Then something else. Always something else. Always
brilliant. Always chaotic. Always needy. You responded at times to his
writing, a fact I’m aware of because when you did he forwarded your emails
to me, proud and thankful.
Michael’s last translation was of Peter Handke’s The Beautiful Days of
Aranjuez, for which he tried to get me to be his co-translator. The
translation was full of errors, sloppy, and shot through with Michael’s own
fanciful and arrogant additions to the play. I twice edited the entire
translation for him, suggestions he often ignored. Although I refused to be
listed as a co-translator — unwilling to be a go-between between him and
Peter (what a complicated and finally brutal split that was between the
two) — he insisted on sending the final work out under both our names,
only removing my name after several strong emails telling him not to do
that under any circumstance. A Serbian/American director of a theater in
Chicago, Zeljko Djukic, TUTA Theatre, paid Michael $500 for the rights to
put on the play and did a very interesting production, which pleased
Michael to no end.
Like you, I’ll miss that complicated, troubling, and wonderful man.



Thank you for this last letter.  The letter makes (coherent)

sense to me and reaffirms what I already know of Michael;

his writing; and now, thanks to you, his fatal illness.  You

say Michael was ‘complicated’ and of course that was true.

But I’d rather use the words tormented and conflicted; I

might be projecting because those words depict my own

inner workings; but of one word there’s no doubt.  Michael

was “Wonderful”.  A true heir to the best of European Culture

and in many ways smart or sharp and wise like an American.

I learned a lot from him;  Met Max Frisch thanks to him.  Read

all of Frisch and many others  because of him.  And only because

I’m so damn neurotic; busy busy; and JUDGEMENTAL… I didn’t

make as much time as I might have for his unstoppable writing.

Thanks again and greatly  for these emails and for being who

you are.  I understand and appreciate.  And certainly if the

need or occasion arises…keep in touch.  My new novel for

which I have a contract with Dalkey Archive might not make

publication because of publishing difficulties.  If not Dalkey,

Green Integer, despite being quasi inactive, (retired) will

be my second choice.

Last thought at this time about Michael.  My Life (as many others)

will be significantly less without his chronic barrage of emails.

I still wish I had known of his health situation…

All Good things for you,


Dick Kalich


Excruciatingly painful to hear about Michael’s death. Thank you for letting me know. 

I will miss him tremendously. He was a unique human being, totally–totally–dedicated to literature and everything else that really matters in this wretched world.

And a vital force for good.

He changed my life, and a very big part of me goes with him. 

Thank you again.

Michael Brodsky


A friend of decades, since Stanford. I saw him last in Seattle a few years ago. I don’t think I believed his last message. May he Rest In Peace and May we remember the good times.


Sandra Levinson

Center for Cuban Studies

Cuban Art Space 



another photo Michael often included with his work

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Film of Our Lecture on the Meanings of Barbed Wire

The UVU Library has just posted this film of the lecture Lyn and I gave earlier in the month. First half about Native Americans and barbed wire, the second half about advertising barbed wire at the end of the 19th century as protection against savage Indians and recently freed slaves.


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Germans on Harleys


Scott Carrier’s ecstatic piece on Germans in the landscape of southern Utah is now up on the Goethe Institute’s site (#11). Beautiful, idyllic, isn’t it, Scott says, channeling Alex Caldiero. The Germans he interviews keep saying it is the “wideness” of the scene that impresses them, everything is so wide.  The motorcycles they ride give them access and freedom and openness they wouldn’t have in a car. I talk with Scott about Kant’s theory of the sublime and Schelling’s “Nature is visible Spirit/Mind and Spirit/Mind is invisible Nature” and Goethe’s nature poetry. Scott recites Goethe’s “Wie herrlich leuchtet mir die Natur” like a nature loving German.

We also talked about the first Harley dealership in German that opened the year after the film Easy Rider came out, about the German Harley radio ad that claims riding a Harley is better than sex. Unfortunately, the Goethe Institute editor cut those last thoughts, as well as the music with which Scott ended: Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”

Still, it’s a good podcast. Take a listen.

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Rick Gate: Anthology

This morning, I drove to Spring City with artists Alex Caldiero and Tom Schulte. We met Rick Gate at Das Cafe, where, joined by Otto Mileti, former owner of the Zephyr Club in SLC, we ate Bratwurst, mashed potatoes with dill and mustard gravy, sauerkraut, and potato salad and shared stories about icy roads, the House Un-American Activities Committee, Wynton Marsalis, and artists of various stripes including Big Daddy Roth, creator of Rat Fink and finally a resident of San Pete County Utah . Then we drove to Ephraim, where Rick has a show up at the Granary, a beautiful old building saved from destruction by my friend, the artist Kathy Peterson, and some of her friends.

The building is a perfect space for Rick’s beautiful art, work spanning decades now, a show called “Anthology.” Well-endowed Kokopellis hang opposite a series of portraits, geometrical wonders alongside fish-eye compilations, collages below double canvases. Much of the work is on birch panels, wood that has its own life under and around and through the bright yellows and reds and greens and blues.

For much of the year Rick runs river rapids and hosts fishing guests at his family’s Lake of the Woods lodge in Ontario, Canada. His photos of the waters and skies he inhabits inspire me on Facebook. And today I find myself in the thoughtful company of a trio of artists who exchange ideas about media and form and process while surrounded by a body of Rick’s work.

A couple of days ago Rick hosted Leah Ollman, an art critic for the LA Times and also a writer for Art in America. She had written positive reviews for Rick’s LA shows in the past and will now write an essay for a catalog the Granary is producing.She noted, while in town, that Spring City has more galleries than service stations.

Here a few photos of the work (and of Tom, Rick, and Alex talking art):





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Goethe, Diderot, and the Lost Manuscript of Rameau’s Nephew

Reading Andrew Curran’s Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely, I came across an interesting connection to something I wrote for a book my friend Zarko Radakovic and I have just finished.

Curran points out that after spending time in prison for a couple of publications (including The Indiscreet Jewels — the jewels being talking vaginas controlled by a magic ring), Diderot published only what appeared in his Encyclopedie. He kept the manuscripts of everything else he wrote over the course of his life close at hand. One of these unpublished manuscripts was the novel Rameau’s Nephew.

That title caught my eye. Schiller’s last letter to Goethe before his death was a response to Goethe’s translation of a manuscript of the novel. The translation was published a few months later.


This translation was the very first publication of Diderot’s Le Neveu de Rameau. The first publication in French was a translation of Goethe’s translation! The French manuscript used for the subsequent French edition was discovered later.

Here my translations from Schiller’s and Goethe’s last letters, part of Zarko’s and my book “We: A Friendship”:

. . . Schiller to Goethe: 27 March 1805

Tell me how you have been recently. I have finally begun to work again in all seriousness and plan not to be easily distracted. After such a long hiatus and several unfortunate incidents, it has been difficult to get back to work and I have had to force myself. Now, however, I am underway.

The cold north-east wind will slow your recovery, as it does mine, but this time I feel worse than usual at this state of the barometer.

Would you send me the French Rameau for Göschen? . . .

Good luck to you, I would love a line from you.

. . . Goethe to Schiller: 25 April 1805

Here finally the rest of the manuscript. Would you take a look at it and then send it on to Leipzig? . . .

I have begun to dictate the Theory of Colors. . . .

Otherwise I am doing well, as long as I ride daily. When I don’t, however, there is a price to pay. I hope to see you soon.

Schiller’s final letter, a long one dated 25 April 1805, included copious thoughts about Goethe’s notes that accompanied his translation of Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew.

Meine Gedanken sind meine Dirnen, Goethe’s translation of the early line reads. Leonard Tancock’s translation for Penguin Classics is My thoughts are my wenches. Supposing truth to be a woman, Nietzsche wrote. The New Yorker cartoon on my wall says: Everything about her spelled trouble. Unfortunately, it was night and I thought it spelled truffles.



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Reviews of our book: The Perfect Fence


Two recent takes on our attempts to untangle the meanings of barbed wire:

nebraska 1

nebraska 2

southwest 1

southwest 2

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The Real Poem, by Alex Caldiero

I read this little gem late this afternoon, sun low on the horizon, clouds sifting snowflakes through the light.


I’ve never touched the hair of one either, Alex, but, supposing poems to be women (as Nietzsche posited about truth), you are Don Juan incarnate.

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Further Intimations of Mortality

IMG_4284IMG_2968 2IMG_4114

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