Rest In Peace - Carl Weissner 1940-2012

A punch in the gut. Carl--whom Roni kindly recently put me in touch with-- just emailed me a few weeks ago and said we could "lift a few (as Hank used to say)" when we meet. I lift one to you now, Carl...Ponder, how did you get the news?
Carl weissner did some of the best translations ive ever seen...he was especially good at translating things you couldnt translate directly, lets say because a particular habit or expression didnt exist in German.
He always found the best coresponding translation, he always saved the "FEELING", the things between the lines, the soul.

Without him, Hank would have never hit so hard on germany first and then maybe the rest of the world.

I hope he does well, whereever he is now, he was much more than a simple translator to hank..
I don't really know much about him, but I like the fact that he wrote a book called "Manhattan Muffdiver". I was looking him up and came across this blog post which was a nice read, but also includes a german interview with Weissner.

What is the story behind Buk's funeral? My German ability starts and ends at auf wiedersen
The cirle of known friends of BUK is getting smaller every time.
Michael Montfort, Carl Weissner who wille be next ?

There will be an ceremony on 10 th February

Der Beat-Übersetzer
Carl Weissner is an important writer & translator of BUK and Beat in general.
In 2009 there where readings by him in Germany, see youtube

On this video an retrospective

And here an German radbroadcast

Jesusfuckenchrist. Hoffnungslos
Another article in German!85081

At last an in memorium from an friend Jan Herman
Sad to hear this. CW did a huge amount for Buk and for the Beats (esp. Burroughs). The world needs more people like CW not fewer...


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Oh, no. This has hit me hard:

I didn't know that Weissner died in 2012. I had been trying to get in touch with him for years. As some of you now know, I interviewed him extensively back in 1987-88 about his work with and on Bukowski, as well as lots of other topics. Now I'll definitely have to get that unabridged interview out. It's massive.

This is very sad for me. Sorry if it's old news to some of you.

Carl was an amazing man. I visited him while he still lived in Mannheim, Germany, about which Bukowski spoke so glowingly in Shakespeare Never Did This. Karl's working studio was something to behold. It was high up in a tall building overlooking a busy street in Mannheim. An apartment. The place was, as I recall, largely empty except for his desk, in the middle of the living room, on which sat an old manual typewriter! There were books lining the shelves all around the place. He would sit there at that desk and translate, endlessly, mostly American "beat" authors, and of course Bukowski. He gave me so many copies of his translations. I still have some of them here, although I'm sad to say that some of the books he gave me were included in the "book purge" I did a few years ago to rid myself of the too many volumes I had around here.

Weissner, like myself at the time, was very nearsighted (I've since been lasiked). He wore thick glasses, chainsmoked filterless cigarettes, and was so gracious in letting me interview him endlessly that it's hard to describe. What a time that was. I will add more later, with pictures that I'll have to scan.

He did great work, accomplished great things and helped to spread Buk's work far and wide--so cheers to a life well lived.
Bukowski was much better known in Germany, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe, than he was in the United States. Carl was no doubt a big part of that. But there must have also been something about the sensibility of Bukowski that meshed well with the Germans or the Europeans. In 1987, I received a research grant through the Fulbright Commission to study and document Bukowski's reception in (then) West Germany, and interviewing Weissner was one of the first things I did toward the project. In Germany at that time, Bukowski's books were, quite literally, available in most train stations, book kiosks, and bookstores, and of course the translations were Carl's. Flash back to the U.S. at that time, and Bukowski was practically unknown outside of the small press arena; in academia, he was barely a blip on the literary radar screen.

How did Carl die?
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And in the end...
Bukowski was much better known in Germany, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe, than he was in the United States. Carl was no doubt a big part of that. But there must have also been something about the sensibility of Bukowski that meshed well with the Germans or the Europeans.
I really enjoyed reading your essay (link below; previously posted on the forum) on the possible reasons for his earlier success in Europe.

[Indeed, Bukowski's European success, which his American critics conveniently ignore and his fans gloat knowingly over, is a phenomenon yet to be systematically explained. Gerald Locklin has suggested that Bukowski's "flouting of the conventions and proprieties of a "bourgeois' literature" repels readers in America....]

[..." Bukowski himself in a letter to the author explains his European success this way: "I believe that the (European) public is more open to gamble and new ways of presentation. Here in the U.S. a more staid and safe literature seems preferred. Here people don't want to be shaken or awakened. They prefer to sleep through their lives. To them, what is safe and old seems good."]


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I've located some of the files that I believe I created as a result of those original interviews with Weissner. I'll have to go back to the tapes themselves to make sure I have everything. I remember that I sent Carl the typescript of the entire interview, and he cut it down greatly. I don't remember his reasons.

Here's a snippet from what I have. I found this interesting:

Bukowski himself, in more than one poem, suggests that his success overseas must be due in great part to his translators. He says jokingly at one point that he must owe them the hair on his balls if not the balls themselves (laughter). Do you think there's anything to this—is he better in German than in English?

As a translator, you have to think of ways to get things across which are current in German. Some of the situations that Bukowski has his characters in are not too current--the way people act and talk. His latest books are not too difficult to translate, but stuff like the early poems that he wrote for the underground press and Notes of a Dirty Old Man were terribly difficult because it's all first draft: it doesn't help that he just ripped it out of the typewriter. There were never any revisions, and it was printed like that in English by Ferlinghetti. There are breaks in syntax, and also he just phrases things in a hurry because, you know, he's got to make the night-shift at the Post Office in half an hour; he's got to finish this fucking piece and get in the car and drive by the newspaper office in Melrose Avenue and shove it through under the door (laughter). And it's amazing what he did under those conditions. Plus drunk all the time. He really just let rip, and I guess that's what this guy Hull in England who's writing a dissertation on him likes so much. This process that Hank used to write actually misled a couple of Italian critics to present Notes of a Dirty Old Man and the early stories, like in Erections, Ejaculations, as a prime example of high-falootin' experimental "literature," just because he had some of the dialogue all in upper-case letters and the rest of the stuff in lower-case letters. And that made it experimental writing of the highest level to some of these people.


And in the end...
Here's a snippet from what I have. I found this interesting:
Have tried to be very polite and not ask this, but I can't resist; you've had all these papers/files/tapes for so long, what on earth are you waiting for?
It must be like not so much a tease, but an actual torment, to some CB fans, that you are sitting on this. (Not literally, of course).
PS what if you died tomorrow or the house flooded, endless scenarios too horrible to contemplate. Don't you think you should make a start? :)
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This is a very good question, and I take no offense at it at all. It is a very good question because it allows me to bring up the topic of exactly what makes this business of studying writers and literature and the chronicles that are left behind so fascinating: the artifacts that remain are often in the hands of people with lives that are in progress and therefore filled with the stuff that perhaps crowds out what is of enduring interest. You know how it is.

Nevertheless, this uncorking of my papers has made it to the top of my to-do list, right after the completion of this very fine bottle of Trimbach Gewürztraminer that I am savoring in Carl Weissner's (and Buk's) honor.

I promise that, fate willing, I will spit out every shred of what I have regarding Buk and Weissner. And then, fate willing, I will head back to Germany, which is where I really want to be, and resume a life that was worth living.

Now, forgive me if I listen to a song that was popular in 1987, when I last saw Carl. It is not Sibelius. But it is about memory, which is the inspiration for our best art. Bukowski understood this.

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You people are relentless, as the tarantula. :wb:

And is Bukowski's reading public today different than it was in the beginning?

Well today it's a little more complicated. He's just available in any train station, you know, you find his books everywhere. And of course Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag and Fischer, his two pocket-book publishers, are all over the place, in department stores and so forth. And none of his books has ever gone out of print in the last fifteen to twenty years, so there's a continuity there. Anybody who looks under "B" will find Bukowski. And he's been written up enough by magazines like Stern, which reaches 60 million people, so that it could be anybody who reads him. He's just a household name. Even people who haven't read him are able to join in a conversation about him because he's just been written about so often. And he's been taught here and there in the universities. I just recently got a letter from somebody who was doing a Bukowski workshop in the Abendakademie in Mannheim.

"He's just a household name." That's the key. You still can't say that about Buk in the United States.
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It's a bit more difficult to become a household name in a country four times the size of Germany that also has a - how shall I put this delicately - less homogeneous population.

I think the thing to look at is the difference between pre-Internet and post-Internet interest in Bukowski. It is significant and striking, and his popularity among younger people is increasing rapidly.

This forum has been up for almost eight years now, and though there may be only 4,500 members, there have been 250,000 non-member visitors this year, and that number increases steadily every year. When the forum started it was slow going, and a lot of people pointed and laughed and said we'd never have a thousand users. I may have been one the first to say that. Only without the pointing and laughing. But a user base of 4,500 for a forum devoted to an author who doesn't write books about teenage vampires or cars that try to kill you is just this side of amazing. To me.

The main site over at is even busier, currently getting more than 1.25 million page views a year, with 75% of that traffic being first time visitors. The vast majority of that traffic is from English speaking countries, with Germany in a distant 6th place, behind Brazil. Which may not be surprising, considering all of this is in English. Like Bukowski's actual writing.

So the kids are finding Bukowski. I only fear that most of them are finding the John Martin translation of Bukowski, which, perhaps unlike Weissner's work, pales in comparison to the real thing.
==>How did Carl die?
his death was surprising for all, he wasn't sick, working till his last day, he simply was found dead in his appartment, the best way do die, anyway

right: in the 80's, Buk's was ubiquitous in Germany: his books everywhere, small white affordable poetry editions, all translated by Carl

Buk revered Carl for that, and probably even more for never cheating him about royalties :)

I discovered Buk as a teen in the late 70's in a university library, and was stunned and he never left my life since then,

the german translations are still translations, Carl couldn't and didn't improve the original stuff, but it sure hit a nerve

==> the kids are finding Bukowski.
the same with me

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
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But a user base of 4,500 for a forum devoted to an author who doesn't write books about teenage vampires or cars that try to kill you is just this side of amazing. To me.
it says as much about the quality of the forum/site you've built (and the mods maintain) as it does about the subject itself. to me.
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Officials say drugs may have played a part
Bukowski was much better known in Germany, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe, than he was in the United States.
Sorry to be the alcoholic, depressed, pervert in the crowd, but I've hung out with enough Germans to know we both like booze and sex. Plus, for the most part, a lot of us are depressed and don't have a lot of respect for "normal" society. To top it off, we have some guilt, even though it's not our guilt to carry -- it came before us. If you ask me, that sums it up.
Buk had been very big in Germany in the late 70s-80s. But the boom's long gone. Publishers don't sell him by the x-thousands anymore.

He's still discovered by some kids due to his anti-mainstream and anti-bourgeois-attitude. But it's not like it used to be, when his books were omnipresent (in every train-station bookshop, as had been mentioned here).

In the 70s in Germany, it was a sort of a political statement to read Bukowski. He was read by the post-68-generation and much of it was about his views of society. In the 80s, the Buk-readership became more superficial at large: their main concern then seemed to be Sex & Booze, which still makes most of his image here.

While in the US Buk had a long history of writing and publishing poems, before he started with prose at a large scale, in Germany he was and is barely recognized as a poet. In Germany his main success came from the short-stories and novels like 'Post Office' and 'Factotum'.
I am very late to the news. I just found out now on Sept 28, 2013. It's very odd but I just sent a question to roni a few days ago asking him if Carl was still alive and then in no time I find this post. roni did reply to my question by saying, "not quite." So now I know about Carl and the news is sad, indeed.

At least he died safely and comfortably in his apartment probably doing what he enjoyed the most. This cat sitting on all of this Bukowski treasure has got to get on the ball.


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I'm now slowly working through the entire interview I did with Weissner. There are so many ways that I can enhance it, with hyperlinks to references that he makes, for example. What I'm noticing, in particular, is how Weissner smoothed out some of the rough edges of what he said for the much truncated publication in Gargoyle. Here's a snippet that I'm quite sure didn't appear in the Gargoyle version of this interview:

Whom else do you find difficult to translate?

Hemingway is incredibly difficult to translate. There is no German translation that I’ve seen that really makes it.

Why is that?

I can’t explain it. Perhaps it’s the endless sentences with “and, and, and,” which are easier to swallow in English. Also in Bukowski’s poems, I leave out a lot of the “and’s,” because it would look inept in German, I’m afraid, and I don’t want to risk that. It would look studied or contrived, much more so than it does in English, and that’s the problem with Hemingway, too. Even in English, a lot of Hemingway has that contrived simplicity which, at times, you feel is almost inane. It would be very easy to translate Bukowski in that verbatim way, and it has been done in a couple of his stories from Tales of Ordinary Madness. I mean, it sold 70,000 copies regardless, but that translation really sticks out as terribly lousy. The translator was unable to handle Bukowski. It was just bad German. As soon as Hank started to get his syntax a bit mixed up, the translator just imitated it, regardless of how it sounded. The American reader wouldn’t have stumbled over these jumbles of syntax because they’re still acceptable; it’s nothing extraordinary. But they are immediately noticed as fucked up if they’re imitated in German.


And in the end...
["Ernest Fontana has aptly noted that "because of his acne (Bukowski) will never be able to look at his society from the point of view of an insider. His acne is not only the literal source of his alienation...]

This is wandering off topic again,but taking that quote out of your essay, I wonder what you feel about the damaging effect it had on him as a teenager and young man in relation to girls, this has puzzled me a lot, because I remember very well at school a boy in the year above us who was similarly afflicted with very bad acne, the boys all used to be so cruel to him, he either got Pizza face or moon face hurled at him - and these were supposed to be his friends.

Despite this, he was a tall well built boy and quite a lot of the girls fancied him, one friend in particular, but like Bukowski, he was painfully shy and would never approach any girl ( Anne finally asked him out).

My point is girls/women are much more forgiving about physical imperfections in general and I bet he would have had more success if he had stuck his neck out. It was quite frustrating reading Ham on Rye at times, especially about the prom thing.


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Here's a photo that we took of Carl Weissner during the interview I conducted in 1987-88. I'm no longer sure whether the boy in the picture is Carl's son, whom Bukowski refers to as Mikey in Shakespeare Never Did This. It could be the son of the professor who loaned me this apartment in Mannheim to conduct the interview. Her son was about 16 at the time, also around, and I remember we went out with him one evening, without Carl, and he was full of mixed emotions about his mother being a lesbian. I wish my memory were better about all of this. It was such a touching time. A lot of it is coming back, though, as I comb through the papers I have here. Bukowski was well aware that I was conducting this interview with Weissner, as I have letters from him commenting on the results, his relationship with Carl, and other things about which I was corresponding with him. I was also talking to Bukowski about writing a biography of his life. What a pity that my life took such a different turn and I gave up on the idea. He was more than willing, though, as his letters reveal, although he had been mightily discouraged by the efforts of some less serious "biographers" in his recent past.


Another photo of Carl Weissner during the interview, taken by Anke Wienand.

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Carl Weissner was important to Bukowski and important to Bukowski's German readers, but as a native reader of the language the work was written in, Weissner's work doesn't really mean anything to me. It couldn't mean anything creatively to Bukowski either, since he didn't speak or read German. He trusted Weissner, but he had no way of knowing whether Weissner was any good at what he did.

It's a fundamental issue with any translations of fiction or poetry; that they are filtered through the lens of the translator. Since every translator could produce a different result and so much poetry is open to interpretation, how can a translation ever truly succeed? How can it ever capture the precise (or imprecise) intention of the original work? I don't think that we can ever really experience writing in a language that's non-native to us in the same way that native readers do. So if the experience is different, are we even experiencing the same thing?

It's just a question about translations that's always bugged me.


"The law is wrong; I am right"
Good point, mjp! I've seen some horrible translations into Danish of Bukowski's poems that changed the meaning of certain stanzas. One stanza that comes to mind was from the poem, "Something For The Touts...", in which Bukowski writes about the bosses, "yellow men with bad breath". That part was translated literally as if the bosses had yellow skin! :aerb: