April 1969, Cologne, Germany
What are those books on your shelves? I ask, pointing at a rainbow-colored row of paperbacks.
It’s a series published by Suhrkamp: Brecht, Marcuse, Benjamin, Adorno, Bloch. Do you know them?
Before the week is out I am carrying a slim purple edition of Bertolt Brecht’s Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, bending over the dialect-strewn text on the streetcar, reading my way into a radical new world, savoring the vinegary words on my tongue: “Eia popeia / Was raschelt im Stroh? / Nachbars Bälg greinen / Und meine sind froh.”
|Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Verlag -- my shelf 40 years later|
May 1969, Cologne
My missionary companion agrees to spend the morning in the Wallraf Richartz Museum. It will be my first art museum, just as the Cologne performances of Aida and Lohengrin have been my first operas.
In the entrance, an oversized, bulbous, winged and brightly colored woman balances on one leg. She makes me smile. Niki de Saint Phalle is the artist.
We look around. The sheer number of works begins to overwhelm me. How does one experience all this?
A flash of blue and yellow draws me across the room. The bright blue is from sky and water, the light yellow from grasses and reflections on the river or canal. A delicate drawbridge spans the water, its counterweights reaching back like wings. A woman carrying an umbrella crosses the bridge.
I stand in front of the painting, struggle with unexpected emotions.
The paint has been daubed onto the canvas in yellow slashes to form the grass and the reflections on the water. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never seen this way. I feel like Moses standing before the burning bush.