October 4, 2009

TREASURES FROM THE TRUNK: UNDINE

Since I am German (with dashes of Russian and a lot of British mixed in), every now and then I do write in German. It's an interesting language, German is. Complex, sometimes clunky and much more definitive in its dealings with reality than the English language. English is a language I love, German is a language I respect (but have no deeper feelings for). The following little treasure started as a play on words, and anybody who knows a little bit about fairy tales might already know who Undine is. What I remember about writing is a long talk I once had with my grand uncle, who was a drunk, and most of the times a mean one at that, owning a small farm that my family and I spent the summers at when I was a little one. Since I lost both of my grandfathers a long time before I was born (world wars will do that to you), my grand uncle was the closest thing to a gramps I had. His farm was gorgeous and old, with a fruit garden that – if it wasn't Eden itself – was the closest thing to heaven when you were seven or eight years old. Cherries. Peaches. Plums. Summers that were well-spent (a child's summer should consist of sitting in a cherry tree, with mush in your mouth and juice running down your chin).

But what I remember most about my grand uncle was the way he talked. It was a wide river of words that streamed out of his mouth, punctuated by cigar smoke, with a voice that was deep and comforting. When he told you a story, you listened, and it wasn't as much as he told you the story, in fact, there were moments when I thought he wasn't even aware that he had an audience, it was a stream of consciousness that forced its way from the past, past the barriers of the present and washed over you, whether you wanted it or not.

When I wrote Undine, I consciously employed such a stream of consciousness, an old man's voice lost in memories that washed over him, that made him drown in his own memories, and some were good, and some were bad, and some were... magnificiently strange.