By Regina Peters
If my grasp on the finer details of my mother-tongue weren’t so rusty, I would be writing this in German. It’s an unfortunate side effect of living 20 years in Canada, four of them at an Anglophone university, and an addiction to North American geekdom. However, just because I can’t write essays in German does not mean that I don’t still understand it, or that I have lost the ability to be moved and inspired by my native culture. Here are a few artists whom I admire very much, and whom I believe would be a valuable contribution to today’s US-dominated global village. There is more to Germany than World War II, the Berlin Wall, and Angela Merkel’s hairstyle.
1. Michael Ende
A few of you may have heard of three rather embarrassing children’s movies from the 1980s called The Neverending Story. He wrote the book. I can assure you, those movies are anything but faithful, except maybe for the first one, which still leaves out the heart and soul of the story. It’s about an eleven-year-old boy named Bastian, who is basically us – all the awkward, lonely people who have ever clung to fiction as an escape from an uncongenial world. In his case, literally, as he’s transported into the dying world of Fantastica and given the task of using his imagination to bring it back to life. A dream come true, right? Yes – but also a nightmare, because when an unhappy eleven-year-old has the power to do anything and be anyone he wants, there is no knowing what the consequences might be, for him and for both worlds.
This story is the backbone of my existence as a writer. My mother read it to me when I was six, and since then, I have never cracked it open without some new and wonderful discovery. It’s like a Dali painting: dreamlike, eerie, bursting with the unexpected, and yet with its own internal logic. And it’s not the only book he wrote, either: there are Momo, The Night of Wishes, and Jim Knopf, all of which are just as magical, and which should have fanfiction pages filled to bursting, if not for the fact that no other writer can do Mr. Ende justice.
Remember Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, Petrarch’s Laura collection, and countless other works of love poetry by a white male for centuries? The ones that claim to immortalize their beloved without ever mentioning what she (or he) is like? Well, not this one. This man writes songs about women that are actually about them. Whether they are real or not, you can see and hear them perfectly in the music: the cold-hearted woman holding on to a dying relationship for vanity’s sake (“Airplanes In My Head”); the exasperating Stepford wife with a need for constant harmony (“Love Like Glue”); the golden-haired poet struggling against terminal illness (“The Way”).
Unlike some men, Mr. Goenemeyer is not afraid of being vulnerable. I’ve seen him in concert, singing his heart out until I thought the microphone would explode. I was so happy when he brought out his English-language album, I Walk, and I wish for as many people as possible to hear it.
Her real last name is Holfelder, but the reference to the sword-wielding Biblical assassin is well-chosen. This Judith’s weapons of choice are her songwriting mind, her mouth, a microphone, and the instruments of her three fellow members of the band Wir sind Helden (We Are Heroes). Her targets are consumer culture (“Die Reklamation”/”Return Counter”), the objectification of women in the media (“Zieh’ dir was an”/”Put On Some Clothes”), even the music industry itself (“Zuhälter”/”Pimps”). (I wish I could show those, but the video in the link is the only one I found with any decent English subtitles.) She has spoken out against tabloid magazines, especially a famous one called BILD, which she sees as a political tool with an insidious effect on its readers. She is a practicing Buddhist and has released a single in Japanese. And she does all this with a lively sense of humor, a rapid-fire Berlin accent, and a lovely, quirky style that’s all her own.
What I admire most of all, though, is the band’s ability to quit while they’re ahead. In 2012, they went on an indefinite hiatus in order to focus on their families. Whenever I read about the latest celebrity divorce or drug scandal in the newspaper, I’m amazed at how the basic instincts of caring for yourself and your loved ones seem to die out as soon as you become famous. Who knows? If more actors, singers and athletes took a break every few years, we might end up with a much higher quality of entertainment.
I realize that there are groups much more under-represented than one wealthy, mostly white country in Europe. But when I saw The Monuments Men last week, with all its dead Nazi horses being kicked for the hundredth time, I just had to write something. I understand that the atrocities of World War II should never be forgotten, but no one reduces the USA to a nuclear bomb or Canada to residential schools. There is so much more to my country, to every country, than the worst of it.
Anyone who’s reading this, please consider reading Goethe, watching The Lives of Others or Mostly Martha, or following one of my links.
This post was originally published on http://eatdrinkreadlisten.blogspot.ca/
Regina Peters was born in Rostock, Germany. Her family immigrated to Montreal when she was three years old. She studied Creative Writing at Concordia University. She may or may not be part Vulcan.