Saturday, January 7, 2017

Persian Parrots or, a change of bookshelves ...

People's bookshelves are strange and storytelling things. They say you can read a person's character from his library. Or lack of it. But I think anyone looking at mine would be a little confused.  Certainly there are all my large stock of reference works, rendered these days rather useless by the Internet, my Dictionaries (favourite: French/Hungarian), a lot of Victorian plays, French (mostly) and English, a few favourite fiction works, from Vidal's Duluth to Catch me a Peacock and A Bullet in the Ballet, and, most often opened, a whole cabinet of books by family. Starting with more than a dozen each by brother John and myself.

 But why do I have so much Australiana on the bottom shelves? And, for goodness sake, some very odd books in German! Well, the Australian books were collected by my dear, late (Australian) partner. The German ones have descended to me from my father and my Austrian grandmother. Many of them are mountaineering books, but there are two 'strangers': a book of poems by 'Klabund' (Phaidon, 1924), which are said to be translated from the Chinese, and a book of Persian fables, published by Wolf of Vienna, in 1922. Prettily printed and illustrated, but strange things to be featured in a trunk of brought-from-Europe possessions.

I hadn't heard of Klabund. But I've looked him up and he was a well-known young chap. 1890-1928. A tubercular poet of extreme tendencies, who wrote about Rasputin, Lucrezia Borgia and Mohammed, and who died young. I don't think I'll be brushing up my German to read him. But I'm a bit miffed that my Chinesiche Gedichte aren't listed amongst his worklist on Wikipedia. He sounds like the sort of bloke academics would adore researching. But why my nana?

The other is a charmingly illustrated book of tales which seems to be a 1920s mini-equivalent of those wonderful French fairytale books of the previous century. Countess d'Aulnoy and so forth. This one would be worth a bit of German study, I feel.

And it's so beautifully printed and published. Das Papageienbuch. By Ernst Roenau ...

Penny drops. 'Roenau' wasn't a real Roenau, he was a Rosenbaum. Dr Ernst Rosenbaum. One of the bothers of famous the printing firm of Brüder Rosenbaum. He was my great-grandmother, Julie's, brother, and Pepi Gansl's uncle. And the book was printed by the Gesellschaft für graphische Industrie, founded and run by the Rosenbaum family. Oh, nana, why didn't you tell us ... all these years, it just sat there and your two writer grandsons never knew ...

Well, there's only one thing to do. Das Papageienbuch has to come off the bottom back shelf and be promoted to the 'Family' cabinet!

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