Thursday, June 28, 2007

I've been thinking about Heinrich Heine...(1797-1856)

This is a time when I wish I read German, because I find myself wanting to read Heine in the language of his writings. But nevertheless he's a fascinating personage. Teeming with layers of contradiction throughout his life, a German Jew who converts to Christianity with the expectation of expanded career opportunities which don't appear; a friend of Marx, a rather unromantic figure, despite Heine's classification as a romantic poet; a poet who is considered to be cinematic in his use of imagery--prior to the advent of cinema and conventions of cinematic storytelling. A political exile as of 1831 whose works were banned in his own country, he continued to write of Germany although he lived the rest of his life in Paris. Heine was something of a political radical, which was explicit in his essays, who showed prescience in his anticipation of the political turmoil his homeland would experience in the century after his death. His most famous quote is:

Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen. This apparently translates as: "Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too." (at right, Heinrich Heine Fountain in NYC)

This quote now appears in the Bebelplatz (formerly Opernplatz), a public square in Berlin where in 1933 Nazi groups burned some 20,000 books, including works by Heine and Marx. Interestingly, Heine's quote refers to the attempts to purge Iberia from any Muslim influence and history, through the burning of the Quran during the Spanish Inquisition.
(pictured left, Heine's tomb in France)


At 8:01 PM, Blogger John K said...

Audiologo, did you ever read the German scholar Hans Mayer's fascinating take on Heine, in his collection Outsiders: A Study in Life and Letters (MIT Press, 1982)? He explores many of the contradictions of Heine's life, relating his acts of self-transformation and transmutation to similar responses by notable women and gay men throughout history.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger brinker said...

hello! My name is Meredith, and I am a research assistant for Professor Judith Glatzer Wechsler of Tufts University. Currently, Professor Wechsler is working on a documentary film about her father, Nahum N Glatzer. She is hopeful that she could use the image above as part of her documentary. The film is not commercial, but rather a personal project (and labor of love!) Please email me at

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