Friday, July 2, 2010

Turning the Page

Calendars play a big role in our family; we give them at Christmas, but—it's their nature—these objects make themselves felt the year around. One of ours this year gives special pleasure. Over the last several decades wall calendars have emerged as a new genre in publishing so that, these days, they have themes and even titles. This one’s called The Paths; the publisher is Avalanche. “Finding Your Way on Life’s Journey.” Photographs of many paths, roads, bridges, and ways illustrate the calendar. Each month has its quote. The one for July is by Jean Paul Richter:

What has puzzled us before seems less mysterious, and the crooked paths look straighter as we approach the end.
Jean Paul Richter? Turns out that Richter (1763-1825) was a German school teacher and popular author. The quote above suggests that he was on the pious side, but the contrary turns out to be true—and the quote, therefore, grows in value. No. Richter was a humorist; his writing verged on the grotesque. Johann Gottfried Herder, the philosopher, liked Richter’s productions a lot, but both Goethe and Schiller thought that Richter lacked literary style. The flavor of the man’s writing is perhaps better reflected in this quote from one of his novels (Siebenkäs):

Einen solchen Fürstenbund zweier seltsamen Seelen gab es nicht oft ... dieselbe Lachlust in der schönen Irrenanstalt der Erde.

Such a princely bonding of two odd souls wasn’t often seen…this frenzy of laughter in the beautiful insane asylum of the earth.

1 comment:

  1. J.P. Richter most likely made the first statement, quoted above, when he was himself much closer to the end of his journey. It resonates with me more than the second quote. Although the "beautiful insane asylum" seems to find an echo within me too.