THE PARENT FILES: Rendesvous With Goethe


Within this blog I’ve often mentioned the single most important, pivotal event of my life – i.e., the seven months I spent wandering through Europe and the Middle East when I was 18.

For reasons I cannot fathom, German came easily to me and, as a result, I spent significant time in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  I still dream in German every now and then. For those who think German is an ugly, guttural language, you have never read or heard German poetry.  It is a musical, incredibly expressive language. I defy you to find the poetic equivalent for angst or zeitgeist in any language. You won’t.  The list of German words that cannot easily be defined in any other language is endless.

My wife and I just talked with our son via Skype videoconference.  He is jet lagged, hungry, and about to go out to try to find food in a small German town where he will spend the next two weeks attending German language classes by day and practicing what he has learned at night.

Or at least that is the plan.  I really don’t know how much German he will be able to pick up in this short time. I know he isn’t me. I know he doesn’t have the same gift for learning new languages that I had at his age.  But I am still hoping that this is the start of a chain of events that will act as a foundation, and an incentive, for more intensive study later.  I want, if possible, for him to experience the pleasure and insight the exposure to German provided me.

And if not, at least I can say to myself that I did my best to make it so.


15 Responses to “THE PARENT FILES: Rendesvous With Goethe”

  1. Ah, the stuff of dreams. Traveling is a true blessing. (I loved Germany too)


  2. paulboylan Says:

    Yes, but as my wife just reminded me, it is my dream, and I have more or less imposed it upon my son.


  3. German is great. I learned it at school but have unfortunately forgotten a lot of it now. I can still read it with the appropriate accent but cannot tell you what I’ve just read (a dangerous thing in any poetry reading competition I think you’ll agree. I might think I’m reading Goethe and I’m actually reciting “The Good Ship Venus”).

    I hope your son has a wonderful time there – also hope he catches the travel bug because I think it is really the best thing a young person can do.


  4. The only German I’ve learned is “Mein gott, this bratwurst is wunderbar!!” from a sneaky little “German Sausage Hutt” – capitalized and quoted as this is the name AND a very accurate descriptive of the purpose of this establishment – down the arse end of a little obscure lane in the middle of the Brisbane CBD.


  5. paulboylan Says:

    The actual phrase is “Mein Gott, dieser bratwurst sind wunderbar, besonders wenn gegessen mit bier!” and is quite well-known in literary circles as the title of a Heinrich Heine poem, so you are more accomplished teutonically than you at first suspected.


  6. “…so you are more accomplished teutonically than you at first suspected.”

    WIN. Moving plates makes eating with chop sticks a challenge though.


  7. Sounds really nice spoken by a female. Russian too.

    I found Goethe sorta dull. Brecht was the scheiss though. I love Die Unwurdige Greisen. I think that was the title. Laying around here somewhere. Grandma gets her game on.


  8. wildwesty Says:

    and you didn’t give him MY address? ok, you don’t have it.. lol I live in a lovely medival German town near Frankfurt and I’m even a tour guide there. And I think I recently posted some nice pics of Germany here at my WordPress account (I don’t post here much anymore).

    My German teacher in college (San Diego) also taught us that Germany was gutteral… it’s NOT! Only in certain dialects it is, but generally it’s smooth as English.

    Darn, there’s no way to send private messages here or I’d send you my email.


  9. paulboylan Says:

    I have some surprising talents, Westy. Forgive me, but I found your email address, and will send you mine. Nothing would delight me more than for my son to meet you, if, of course, that is possible.

    Wouldn’t that be an amazing consequence of the journalspace diaspora?


  10. Pretentious Jackassess. Neither of you would know Die Leiden des jungen Werthers if he walked up up and bit you in your ass.


  11. paulboylan Says:

    Puma – I couldn’t get into it, started it but never finished, maybe because it is supposed to be autobiographical. And I’ve never been keen on the Sturm und Drang stuff.


  12. German poetry, hey? Sorry, can’t help you there. Except for that rather smutty limerick that starts with “There once was a man from Berlin”, but there’s very little culture involved in that one.


  13. I want, if possible, for him to experience the pleasure and insight the exposure to German provided me…as my wife just reminded me, it is my dream, and I have more or less imposed it upon my son.

    Wise woman. You provided him a wonderful opportunity, that is enough.

    Saw this photo and thought you might appreciate it:

    Thanks for the laugh, Moko very phonically punny


  14. paulboylan Says:

    Yes, Janelle, it is enough. And better. He is in Munich tonight and for the next few days. He has decided, on his own, without any prompting from me, to take a bus tomorrow to Dachau.

    He now knows enough German to know what “arbeit macht frei” means when he sees it written in iron at the gate. It will change him irrevocably. It changed me when I was his age, in the same place. I couldn’t be sadder, happier, more proud or more relieved.

    The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. I am not quite done rocking his.


  15. paulboylan Says:

    I am doing the very best I can with what little I have and am hoping for the best.


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