Bukowski in Germany (1) (1 Viewer)


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Hi, my name is Johannes, I am from Austria and a long time fan of smog.net and the general work of MJP, the mighty.

He mentioned it in the "favorite book of poetry"-thread, we had some sort of contact regarding Carl Weissner as translator and Bukowski in Germany. Don't know if this is really interesting for you, but here's my (of course limited) knowledge about it. And please excuse possible errors, it's not my first language.

Weissner went to San Francisco in `68 to study the english language. He got in contact with the Beats and the so called "Underground" and, after returning to Germany, started to translate Burroughs, Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa and, of course, Bukowski, whom he'd met at his place at DeLongpre. (He wrote about that meeting in the foreword of the german version of: Poems Written Before Jumping Out Of An 8 Story Window)

The first pieces printed of Bukowski were poems in Anthologies called "Fuck You" and "ACID" around `69 or so. I don't remember exactly, but I think "Fuck You" was started by Weissner and "ACID" by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, a then famous "pop-author" in germany. In 1970 "Aufzeichnungen eines Außenseiters", the german version of "Notes ..." gained some attention from the literary-critics, who thought to smell an incredible political input, but the the real breakthrough were "Der Mann mit der Ledertasche" (Post Office) and "Gedichte die einer schrieb bevor er im 8 Stockwerk aus dem Fenster sprang" ( Poems Written ...) in 1974.

Weissners Foreword of "Poems ..." did much to touch the masses and establish the so called "Bukowski-Myth" in Germany. It's called: The dirty old man of Los Angeles. The book is lying next to me. I won't (and can't) translate it word to word, but the story is: Weissner at the Los Angeles Airport in 1968, ready to meet the man. But nobody's there. Weissner get's nervous, because the man is "an alcoholic", "known for driving his car like hell", "tried sucide twice", and "wasn't the youngest anymore." He takes the bus to DeLongpre. Down the Wilshire Boulevard Weissner is asking himself, if he's still in the same town. DeLongpre is a slum, the smog is flimmering, the asphalt is cooking ... a cracked up Plymouth is rotting in front of a garbage-can full of beercans. Weissner realises, he has arrived. A sign on the front door: "Carl, don't knock, I'm probably drunk. Just smash the door, it's smashed already. Welcome in the United States, Buk." Weissner tries, the door is unlocked. Weissner is murmuring to himself: If somebody leaves his door unlocked in Los Angeles, he's gotta be crazy or "even drunk very quick".

Inside: Dark and dusty, cigarettes on the carpet, stinking socks in the corner, beer bottles everywhere. Car tires in the corner, too, photos of "sexual murders" and "reports of robberys and shootings" on the walls, mysterious-looking diagrams and formulas for "all the horse-races of Santa Ana, Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood Park of the last 3 years". In front of the window an old Remington.

Than, a snarling voice behind him: "Amigo, you must be deaf or something" - There he is: Bukowski, passing Carl Weissner a beer and saying: "If I hadn't known, it would be you, I would have something else in my hand now. Sorry that I wasn't at the airport. Got smashed last night. Was in the studio of KPFK, they put a microphone in front of my face and I talked 'till I fell from the stool. They fed me reds'n'alcohol, a terrible mixture. Never try it! Just woke up and puked under the bed. Yech! Forget it ..."

Weissner sumarizes: "That's him, Charles Bukowski, son of german-polish parentage, born 1920 in Andernach at the Rhein, went to America at the age of 2, grew up in the slums of the Eastcoast, first jailed as juvenile-gang-member in Philadelphia, studied Journalism without finishing, refused to go into 2nd world war, was sent to nuthouses instead, later an neverending list of jobs: (... here's the ultimate end of my vocabulary, sorry, I'm trying to describe)

Bukowski worked as

- the guy who's washing the dead bodies at a funeral before they get buried (?!),

- the guy who fills cars with gas at a gas station (?!)

- Advertisment-texter for a "noble-whorehouse" in New Orleans

- the guy who carries furniture up and down the stairs when someone is moving

- Nightporter

- in a slaughterhouse

- sportsreporter

- Garbageman (?)

- pimp

- on a port/haven (?)

- pear-picker (?)

- railroad-worker

- and, of course, as postal clerk.

Bukowski's talking about his life: the alcohol, the brawlings, the stomach ulcer of `55, his women, "the fucked up face, the fucked up life." How he has started at 35 with poems and the littles (Webbs "Outsider" gets mentioned), that he's no "goddamned lyrical entertainer" ... that Webb had money-problems last year and he (Bukowski) talked Henry Miller (!) into giving Webb some manuscripts which helped "the old Webb" out ... that this image of a "slum-god" and "Humphrey Bogart of the gutters of Los Angeles" is pissing him of ... that all he wants is his horse running properly, some bars "giving him credit", and "a big whore who won't talk to much" but gets him some proper steaks on the table ... etc.

Weissner closes with OPEN CITY and his columns, saying they are, as his poems, "autobiographical stories of a man who knows, that he's living on the edge, every sentence could be his last, but the tone keeps cool, relaxed, concentrated ...

But, nonetheless, everytime Weissner is crossing Andernach, he's thinking, that Bukowski catched it better with Los Angeles.

... to be continued
welcome, Johannes, and thanks for sharing this.

don't worry about English, though. it looks like non-English speakers are becoming majority in this forum :D

as to translating, as I said earlier, I'm used to things getting lost somewhere along the way. anyway, literal translations are a pain in the ass, they don't sound natural. but "liberal" translations (Buk a pimp?) fall into the same category, IMHO.
Johannes, good to see you.

A lot of invented stuff in there for sure. Who knows though, maybe Bukowski told him some of those things when they first met, never suspecting that he was talking to his future translator. Though he was usually pretty consistent with his stories, real or imagined, and I never heard him lay claim to most of those jobs on that list. So it is probably the work of Weissner's hand.

Interesting though, it sounds a lot like the liner notes for the Terror Street CD that were posted here in the last day or two.

I appreciate your input.

As far as people from all over the world being here, that's the beauty of this bastard internet.
B did say yes to a few inventions, as far as I can recall. He knew about the infamous fake blurb by Miller that Weissner wrote for the German release of Notes...
Taken from Living on Luck, p. 93.

Seamus Cooney comment:
The fake Henry Miller blurb invented by Weissner for the German edition of Notes... and that B finds "quite accurate".
You can read part of the blurb on the same page.

B. says:
I'm not too happy with the fake H. M. quote, and I would not tell Martin about it or he'd flip -maybe. But if you think it will make a difference in selling 2,000 or 5,000, go ahead. It's best that we survive. By the way, I like the blurb itself. Quite accurate.
So much for Bukowski the 97%-of-my-writings-and-life-are-true!

Sounes adds:
Weissner and B decided to invent a review quote by Henry Miller in a desperate attempt to boost sales
[from Locked, 109]

Then we have the really infamous fake blurb by Genet and Sartre... but that's another story.
Bukowski in Germany (2)

For every Bukowski-knower this is one hell of an interesting site, mjp. I read and see the strangest, most fascinating things here. I?m glad that I can add my knowings of the german scene.

Cirerita, I wonder and wonder about the stuff you?ve got insights and copies. Writing a diss about Bukowski is one thing still hardly possible here in Austria, I guess, even when you?re studying Anglistik or such.

Concerning the "pimp", I always guessed that Weissner made that up from poems like "Fire Station" and the whole "Jane-thing" in general. I have no proofs of that, it?s just a feeling. And it catches attention for sure, when you read that list of jobs.

Interesting is that this biography was kept and used in some form or another in almost every book of Bukowski you get here.

But anything I can say of Weissner is of course just my humble point of view. Others may think of him as a translating virtuoso and for sure he had a feeling - as said; without him nobody would know Bukowski in Germany and in the german-speaking-market.

Sticking with the german version of "Poems Written ..." I have to add that it?s kind of special, not only because it was the breakthrough, but because it differs from every other german-translated book in various points.

It contains Weissners foreword, than, out of one "Notes" - column the quote: "Great Poets Die in Steaming Pots of Shit - Charles Bukowski" and 36 poems. As listed at the last pages, that?s a selection from the original "Poems Written ..." (Litmus, Berkeley 1967), "The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses ..." (Black Sparrow Press, L.A. 1969) and "At Terror Street And Agony Way" (B.S., L.A. 1968). Some of the poems were published in in "Wormwood Review", "Klacto/23" (never heard of. Mjp?), "Iconolatre", "Sixpack" and "Nola Express".

But the most interesting section is the enclosed: It?s called "Letters, Photographs, Documents" and it holds

- some rare pics of Bukowski I?ve never seen anywhere else (there are no credits, maybe Weissner took them? - One is showing a Bukowski so fucked up he looks like rotting already)

- 2 letter-manuscripts from Bukowski to Weissner, photographed in original and translated in german

- 1 photographed original "Notes" - column (It?s "Beer, Poets, Talk")

- a printed original-typed-manuscript (New Mexico)

- another poem-manuscript called "The beautiful Lady"

- an Essex-House-advertisment of "Notes ..."

- the german translation of "Party in Pasadena" with the last paragraph missing (Weissner cutted it out, like other things, stating he did that in cooperation with the author)

- and, at least, another poem-manuscript called "A Rolling Poem"

I?m thinking about how I could let you have a look ... I could type the letter manuscripts up in word and post parts of it as attachement. Maybe you know them already. And I could take pictures of the pictures (he he) with my cell-phone-cam ... the quality would be fucked but I think you could see what I mean. But on the other hand that?s probably verrry, verrrrrrrrrry illegal and I don?t want to cause any troubles here. Hm.

As long as I?m thinking about that here?s another bit of information for you. There?s a german Bukowski-society at www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de ... they meet regularly in Andernach and did some essays on

Bukowski and the film

Bukowski and classical music

Bukowski and his german readers ...

Unfortunately that?s all in german, exept one essay called "Bukowski - Home Territory" from Benjamin Lauterbach at www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de/21-homebuk.htm
Johannes said:
Some of the poems were published in in "Wormwood Review", "Klacto/23" (never heard of. Mjp?), "Iconolatre", "Sixpack" and "Nola Express".
Never heard of Sixpack, but Klacto 23 and Iconolatre no. 18/19 are in the database...

As long as I?m thinking about that here?s another bit of information for you. There?s a german Bukowski-society at www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de ... they meet regularly in Andernach...
I saw a picture on a German (I think) site of a bronze (?) Bukowski bust and plaque on an outdoor wall, and I'm assuming this is in Andernach. I've never read anything about such a monument anywhere though. Maybe someone will show up here who knows where it is and can give us a picture.

Eventually the German Bukowski society will find us here!
it's not normal to write a diss on B here in Spain. In fact, most professors over here don't know who this Bukowski guy is!!!! So they consider me some sort of freak or something. They'd rather have me writing a nice diss on W.C.Williams or good ol' Pound, etc, not on this drunkard who doesn't know how to write!

there were copies of those magazines at the UCSB. I just checked my database :D and found this regarding SixPack:
Jovis, Pierre, ed., SixPack. Lame Duck Press: London, n° 2, August 1972.

I don't know if they are the same, but I'd think so.
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cirerita said:
as to translating, as I said earlier, I'm used to things getting lost somewhere along the way. anyway, literal translations are a pain in the ass, they don't sound natural. but "liberal" translations (Buk a pimp?) fall into the same category, IMHO.

As to translating: Pulp & Hot Water Music have recently been translated into norwegian, they're due out in feb. The translator is a former member of a well known 1980s punk band (norwegian) - has previously translated The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, and the publisher was a member of a lesser known band. Buk's main norwegian publisher thnks that most fans will read Buk in english, and therefore let an underground publisher have the rights. Can you believe it? I'm sure the translator doesn't think Buks english is that transparent. I've written the preface to Pulp and helped a bit in the translating too. Thing is Buk uses a lot of slang words and phrases in a masterful way. Getting slang phrases across the language border isn't as easy as you might think. In many ways they're almost as tough as translating metaphors (pardon the jargon).

Example: Buk uses, and makes allusions to, the phrase "Nail her ass" again and again. Part of the fun is in seeng this phrase pop up everywhere. Originally the translator just used different phrases each time, and lost this effect, but then ended up trimming the text so that in norwegian a similar phrase is used and punned many times. Still, there aint no phrase can match the graphic beauty of assnailing... ;)

I hear this phrase all the time now, in films & tv. Never noticed it that much before... Guess it's pretty common over there, eh? Anybody know it's origin?

Another example, from Hot Water Music: how do you translate "Strokes to nowhere"? Seems easy, think again...

Another example: "Tell that to the marines". Try looking this phrase up on the net - it goes back 100s of years in history! (Though Buk's version probably comes from WWII.)

Sure wish this site was up and running when we were working on the text. There definitely is some impressive Netsynergy going on here mjp... congrats!:D

PS: can try uploading a pic of the norwegian Pulp cover if anyone is interested...
as B used to say, simple things tend to be more profound than apparent profound things. the same applies to translation: if it looks easy, hold on tight! you'll sweat over those seemiling easy sentences trying to convey the right turns and make it sound natural at the same time!
B is hard to translate if you want him to sound as a true, local Bukowski.

there are zillions of examples: "and I pumped and I humped", "Man the Humping Guns", "Ham on Rye", etc. even a simple title as "The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills", doesn't translate well. It's hard to make it poetic AND simple.

also, don't forget B used some sort of old-fashioned slang, words the younger generations didn't use anymore, like "moxie", etc. there's another word he used quite a lot intead of "dick", something like "turkeyneck"????
Do you have a list of the poems that appeared in there?

nope, I only listed unpublished and uncollected poems (though some of them have been recently published). that was an almost neverending task, I didn't have time to list published ones as well, meaning the poems originally published in Sixpack were printed again by BSP, but I can't tell you which ones.

I kept track of the littles where he appeared, though. If the poems were re-printed by BSP, I didn't add them to my database. If the poems remained uncollected (as of 2001), I did add them to my database AND I copied them.

same applies for unpublished stuff. I kept track of everything, but I didn't copy everything, it was just way too much. I came back to Spain with over 5,000 copies!!! If I had copied everything unpublished (including letters, short stories, etc) I would have needed a special Bukowski Plane for me!

the only thing I kind of regret is that I didn't copy unpublished short-stories or novels. My diss is on poetry and only poetry, so I focused on that. But I copied A LOT of uncollected poems originally published in the LA Free Press -1972 to 1976- and, usually, there was a really short-story and 2-3 poems. I just copied the poems and I should have copied both the stories and the poems... too bad, really!

mind you, at the UCSB you were allowed a maximum of 100 copies! how I came back with over 5,000 copies remains a mystery to me! I think it had to with the female condition of most workers there! and a good male friend I made there as well! The head of the Department never knew a thing...
I could never imagine living in another country and reading a translated version of Ham On Rye or Post Office. It just seems like it wouldnt ever live up to the English version. This also makes me think of how thankful I am that Buk's parents moved him to L.A. at the age of three. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it would be to translate a whole novel, let alone a few poems. My hat goes off to all the translators of the world...
This is an interesting thread.
Heh, good point. Germany had a spot of trouble there in the late 1930's, early 1940's, didn't they.

Okay, here's one letter from B. to Carl Weissner from the enclosed section of the german version of "Poems Written ..."

I hope you don't know this one already.

The most interesting thing to me is that there?s an unpublished story mentioned, which B. obviously sent to PLAYBOY, called "The night nobody believed I was Allen Ginsberg". Has anyone ever heard of this? Cirerita?

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Los Angeles, Calif.
May 27, 1969

Hello Carl:

good you liked the dirty stories – they were easy to write – mostly after the races, tired, hitting on can after can of beer and smoking cheap cigars, sitting here under this lamp – there was this sense of ACTION – I knew that whatever I wrote it would be on the streets in a couple of days – no waste, no time-lag – hit the bull's eye, BANG!, and on to the next. Once a week, week after week ... it was a good piece of ass thing. Now compare it – I have written two long stories, one – THE LIFE, BIRTH AND DEATH OF AN UNDERGROUND NEWSPAPER – sent it to EVERGREEN -- it has been two months – no answer. Another story, THE NIGHT NOBODY BELIEVED I WAS ALLEN GINSBERG, has been resting with PLAYBOY for 6 weeks. There's just no movement. Even if the stories go, it is not the same fast-paced type of vibration. Yes, OPEN CITY folded, and there was a lot of shit involved for it all, and I wrote it in the EVERGREEN submission. Bryan phoned the other night, high, from Frisco, saying he want to start another newspaper, this time sex, no politics, and so I might be back on the weekly column kick if he wasn't dreaming high. So, we´ll see.

But, actually, the fact you want to translate the stories into the German is a high honor to me, no shit, it gives me the creeping chills to think of crawling back to the Fatherland like that – my own tongue, cut out – but you´ve got a good tongue, Carl, you speak for me, and gracious thanks for the miracle. The ESSEX HOUSE boys say, however you want to work it, Buk. So all's all right, only should it come off, they want a contract to sign, whatever it says. So I don't think that's too much bother.

Yes, i finally got the promised 100,- from the Norse, Michelens, Thomas, Bukowski, so forth reading. I´m not saying I earned the 100,-, it was too easy – they only wanted an hour's worth of tape, so I read 3 or 4 stories from NOTES. With APPLE I really worked out – 12 large reels of poetry. They say APPLE's dead but the Beatles deny it and APPLE denies it but everybody tells me APPLE's dead, but that bitch who sat on my lap frum ze Apple, one didn't look ready for the grave at all.

Another wench over the other night – I told her I couldn't be involved. That's old age, Carl, besides, it's true, wenches are always finally misery. Which reminds me of Berge. The grapevine is that you shacked with her; well, that's all right – maybe she was good on the springs. I thint it was four poems she sent, not six, and they were bad, very slick and dry and limp and zero, said NOTHING – it was like milk spilled across a dirty kitchen floor. I wrote her back saying we couldn't use the poems and she came back with a bunch of shit. Your name got in there along with a lot of other names. I have never met the woman but I´ll be she's definitely a mental case which she tries to work off on the crowd as Artistic flair. Bullshit. I´ve met too many of these. Anyhow, at the time, I hadn't heard from you, you were traveling, poor bastard, with the word “BUKOWSKI” tatooted on your belly, and so I layed a little into you too. The same day we got the stuff back from the printer, here came you letters (or mine, or ours.) I tried to correct the error by inking in the last line – as you´ll see. Hope it doesn't miff you. Doubt it will. We wouldn't have run her fucking letter – I returned it to her with my answer on the bottom and it was mailed back, supposedly unopened in another envelope. We had no choice but to run it. Witch-hunt, but there are too many of these and if somebody doesn't threw a rock now and then they will eat us up.

As to the mag itself, I chose the contents but turned it over to Neeli whose mother typed it up – with error in my poem – but I didn't like my poems anyhow – Neeli insisted I rap out a couple – no excuse, I just wasn't ready. Anyhow, when the pages came back Neeli had worked in his whole family with the artwork and all the poems were signed with these phoney signatures and had all thes phoney cute lines and titles – but it was too late – I said let it go. So I think there are some good poems but there is all this distracting henshit laying about them.

Just heard from Martin on the phone – Blazac got 3 grand for his mag from the Coordinating Council of Little Mags .... about ten of them got grants. He says. Says Martin. How much did you get, Carl? Martin says none of the good mags got anything. Which means you got nothing. What is it, Carl? Just one big ass-suck. All this poet-in-residence. All these grants. I suppose if I get one, though, I´d say it was all right. Then There`s Levertev who gets a yearly grant from the National Foundation of the Arts, has used up a years's grant, demands her next year's grant in advance. It wouldn't be so sickening, but these people just aren't that good, Carl. I mean with the word, putting it down, and maybe in a lot of other ways. Me, the're still trying to fire me from the postoffice, trying to knock me all the way down to skidrow. I may just quit.

Anyway, the German translation thing is a big buildup – a man likes to have a little hope; I don't ask too much, just a little hope. To keep me dancing in the meat grinder.

Hello to your doll. Oh, by the way, I´m not going to ask you for anymore letters back – you came through once ant that's enough – so you can throw these away or paste them up in the crapper.

Keep hold and damn the motherhopping crowd,

And here are links to some pics from the 4th Bukowski-Symposium in Andernach 2002.

They invited Gerald Locklin (with his daughter) and Jules Smith, author of "Art, Survival And So Forth. The Poetry Of Charles Bukowski"

--> www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de/symposium2002/21060203.jpg

Locklin reading

--> www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de/symposium2002/22060201.jpg

Bukowskis Cousin Heinrich Fett (the left one)

--> www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de/symposium2002/22060222.jpg

Bukowskis birth-house with Sign

--> www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de/symposium2002/23060204.jpg

--> www.bukowski-gesellschaft.de/symposium2002/23060206.jpg
I can't recall that title. But remember B used to change titles A LOT, so it might have been published with a different title.
mjp said:
I saw a picture on a German (I think) site of a bronze (?) Bukowski bust and plaque on an outdoor wall, and I'm assuming this is in Andernach.
Yeah, this is the picture I saw. Good to know it's the house where he was born.

@ cirerita: oh, I didn?t know that. That?s a possibility, for sure. Hm. Would be interesting.

@ mjp: Wasn?t sure, if you meant that. I think to remember that this story Buk had from somewhere, that the house he was born in became a brothel later, is wrong. It never was a brothel, nor is today. Though it would be funny.
@HenryChinaski: Sorry, never been there and I find no close-ups online. But I found that the Bukowski-society is working on getting the Aktienstra?e, in which the house is located, named after Bukowski. So, maybe there gonna be a Charles-Bukowski-Stra?e in Andernach am Rhein some day.

And, I read, they have an own Bukowski-section in the library of Andernach with rare photos, letters to his uncle and a painting. Hm. I should really get there, it?s not that far.

a bit off-topic: I found the Sixpack stuff. It wasn't in my database because it has no poems, it's a review of Mockingbird...
I like the pics in Shakespeare Never Did This.
the one with Buk standing in front of the house with his uncle I believe.

"...the house where you were born
I have to make a quick edit on this one:

--> some rare pics of Bukowski I've never seen anywhere else (there are no credits, maybe Weissner took them? - One is showing a Bukowski so fucked up he looks like rotting already)

There are credits: The photos are from Jon and Gypsy Lou Webb. I'll type the other letter to Carl Weissner up in the next days.
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I have to make a quick edit on this one:

--> some rare pics of Bukowski I've never seen anywhere else (there are no credits, maybe Weissner took them? - One is showing a Bukowski so fucked up he looks like rotting already)

There are credits: The photos are from Jon and Gypsy Lou Webb. I'll type the other letter to Carl Weissner up in the next days.

Hi Johannes,

Great job, wonderful stories and letter. But....do you come up with the second letter?
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