Category Archives: ramblings

The other woman

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At 60 I fell in love with another woman. She was not even forty when I met her.

I told my wife.  She was broad minded as she usually is and didn’t raise objections to my new relation. On the contrary, she was happy for my renewed passion.  So we decided to pay a visit to  Brigitte’s  home in Neubrandenburg, Germany,  together.

Brigitte Reimann was a famous author in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik.  Almost forgotten though towards the end of the century.

After the “West had won the cold war” and  the Berlin wall had come tumbling down, the achievements of artists who had their career behind the Iron Curtain and had not been oppositional,  generally were in low esteem. And actually Brigitte Reimann had been one of  those novelists who had had high hopes and socialist ideals in her country.

Now of course Babes, my wife, had few reasons to be jealous. After all this particular DDR writer had died at the start of the seventies.  And my sudden infatuation was a direct result of the hype the unexpected publication of her diaries caused in literary Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

Her life – on a modest scale- was heroic.  In spite of her obvious literary success, tragic also. Because of her genuine ideals fading bye and bye, her sloppy love life  and her anxieties while loosing her battle against breast cancer. Yet she didn’t give in, kept on writing and publishing and always stood out as an intelligent, independent woman.

Perhaps – though her “Ankunft im Alltag” is social realism at it’s best -  she is not the most prominent female author of novels the DDR has produced. But her diaries definitely belong to the top. I even think they are the best since ’45. I’m taking all continents in consideration.

I bought part 1,  “Ich bedaure nichts” ( I regret nothing),  and got carried way.  Next I bought part 2,  “Alles Schmeckt nach Abscheid” ( The taste of goodbye is everywhere), and got moved to tears. Then I bought all of her oeuvre I could buy which was a lot actually.  After the commercial success of her diaries publishers were eager to publish whatever they could in connection with this lady.  And I still wasn’t satisfied.  Hence the visit to Neubrandenburg.

Well, that’s what happens when a man falls head over heels in love with a woman, okay?

This was a voice from the past. A lucid and independent voice, an upright voice also. One that told what made young German idealists in the Eastern part of the country  tick immediately after WWII and two decades on.  Not blinded by ideology but driven by cool idealism, subtle but clear language, touching sentiments but without sentimentality,  realistic but in no way playing victim.

She took me along to make me understand what it meant to be hot-blooded in DDR’s prudish society, to be literary talented but stay in line with officialdom, to dedicate time to manual labour for idealistic reasons in stead of writing and ultimately be a dead woman walking after cancer had been diagnosed without complaining.

She died at the age of 39.  An aborted talent.  An unfinished life. But still the author of two of my most favourite books ever.

Save Our Souls

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It occurs twice, three times a year. You can count on it. You can count on them.

My wife is shrewd. She pretends not to see them, or not hear them or to be too busy when the problem occurs. So it’s always me who has to answer the door.

It had been some time since their last visit, but yes I knew they would return. They always return. Relentlessly.  So there they were again last Thursday.

No, it’s not that bad.  It’s just a major nuisance.

People standing on your doorstep, ringing the bell and asking if you’re interested to have your soul saved from eternal doom. And actually.. I’m not.

They usually are persistent. It’s hard to get rid of them.

They always come in pairs.  American evangelicals sometimes,  but most of the time Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Usually a middle aged lady and a middle aged male.

Sometimes two middle aged women. That’s worse, because it’s tough to be sufficiently rude to ladies. A method which I reluctantly resort to. Every now and then.

But worst of all are the villains who come with a small child in tow. You have to be polite and even charming, because of that little boy or girl. Especially if it’s a girl. That condition immediately reminds of the female British novelist who, as a young girl, experienced herself the embarrassments of being in tow of fanatically proselyting Pentecostal parents  – and heartbreakingly wrote about it *.

Yet, in the light of recent events the relatively innocent encroachments upon the ‘my home is my castle’ privilege, were mere blessings in disguise. Pretty peaceful basic trainings for what will follow. What the future has in store for us.  That future where words, even abusive words, arguments, angry facial expressions and threatening body language words won’t do any more to get rid of the unwelcome missionaries.

Today I visualize a future in which bearded, funnily dressed, heavily armed young men call upon me and offer me a choice to convert on the spot, pay up considerable amounts of money or being staged for a summary execution. No words or body language will chase them away.

So let it be known to those who are on a mission from God, I will prepare.

There will be a quote by John Cale on my door **.  And I will have my Kalashnikov ready.

 

*  Jeanette Winterson; Oranges are not the only fruit.

> John Cale,  quote from Hanky Panky Nohow,  Album `Paris 1919′:

“Nothing frightens me more
Than religion at my door”

Wednesday, the 9th of July 2014

All of the Van den Brink family hopes to cheer and celebrate victories tomorrow. An essential one in Jakarta* and and the most important side matter in Sao Paulo. That is Jokowi’s win over Prabowo in Indonesia and the Dutch football squad’s win over Argentina in Brazil.

Last Saturday night my daughter in law Feby, my granddaughter Devica Esha and son Gunnar rehearsed for the events dressed in genuine Dutch colours already. Actually a pretty picture and a successful try out in my opinion:

Trio voor Oranje 5 juli 14.

To make the wished for outcome come true, voters in Indonesia and the referee in Sao Paulo have to make the right decisions. I trust our massive mental family support will help them doing just that ;-).

In the meantime I anxiously keep my fingers crossed.

* The advantage of this presidential campaign is that this time it’s a clear choice between the past and the future. One between a man who belongs to the Suharto era and is member of the old system and the old guys’ network on the one hand and the future, the new man on the block with good record, clean sheets and coming in from the outside, on the other. The problem is that bad boys ( be it Wilders, Bush or Prabowo) tend to have ( ample means, on the surface simple underbelly solutions and) a dark appeal to many voters. Therefore I sincerely hope – and trust – the people will make the most sensible choice for good governance and democracy, Jokowi (Though alas, Kalla, the man who in “The Act of Killing” is being exposed as supporter of a fascist youth organization, will be part of the package).

Well, till now, ever since Reformasi most of the time the Indonesian people made sensible political choices. So why not this time.

Keeping up appearances.

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Seemingly Indonesian authorities are in the process of cleaning up public areas. A laudable case, isn’t it?

Surabayahas started the adventurous project process of closing down “Dolly”, one of the oldest and most renowned red light districts in South-East Asia. In other parts of the archipelago brothels disappear also. And Jakarta is getting rid of street vendors in top-end parts of the capital. Monas Park has been cleared already.

I wonder if those who are responsible really think they in this way offer a solution to the less well off. I can’t but thinking these are typical cases of sweeping dirt under the carpet.  Actually Mrs Bucket ( “Bouquet”), the leading character in “Keeping up appearances“, keeps popping up in my mind every time I read another one of these items on efforts to embellish urban imagos.

Moral choices

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This week we saw the film “The wind rises” by Hayao Miyazaki.

It’s a beautiful film. A treat to the eye. An animated story of ambition and love. Set in the Interbellum and the World War, a time of natural disasters, epidemic tuberculosis, economic depression and political warmongering in Japan.

It’s about a very talented and creative Japanese engineer. That man,Jiro Horikoshi, stayed all his life dedicated to his dream of creating elegant and effective aircraft. Even though the socio-political reality forced him to make military machines in stead of contributing to civil aviation. His main accomplishment was the notorious and extremely successful Japanese WWII fighter plane Zero.

That of course implied an existential choice. Either he could accept the opportunity Mitsubishi offered him to work for the military or he could relinquish his dreams and ambitions altogether. He choose to go along with the army and navy. Rather design elegant instruments for horror, destruction and killing than quit. An utter moral decision. And not just petty morality.

Hayao Miyazaki’s message is apologetic. His motto is “The wind is rising we must try to live” (adaptation of the French poet Paul Valery’s line “Le vent se léve. Il faut tenter de vivre”). A way of saying that it’s all right for great minds and talents to accommodate if that helps to meet their challenge in life. So you should be forgiven for cooperating even with evil forces if that is necessary to bring about great accomplishments. An opinion which is being substantiated by the example that the world is better off with the Pyramids today, whatever the suffering and the cost of human lives may have been at the time.

Of course in reality this kind of accommodation happens all the time on a smaller scale. Also when much lesser geniuses are involved. Actually I’m not sure at all I didn’t get trapped myself once or twice in my life.

But the crucial question is, is that right? Is that morally right?

The answer I think is NO!