for her companion Ernst Jandl, who died in 200, Friederike Mayrocker spoke into the microphone in her own melodic style. Composer Lesch Schmidt has woven this passionate but unsentimental hymn to a great love with music for piano, violin, double bass, tuba, flute, saxophone, percussion and the voice of Dagmar Manzel into a lament of enchanting intensity.
Suhrkamp Verlag, speak low, cover text, 2016
Friederike Mayrocker and Ernst Jandl were united by half a century of shared life, which of course also meant shared literary work. Immediately after the death of her companion in the early summer of the year 2000, Friederike Mayrocker tried to cope with the pain of loss in a silent and at the same time passionate lamentation of death, which becomes a song of enchanting intensity. Friederike Mayrocker has read this text for Lesch Schmidt. The composer has added a musical and theatrical layer of his own to the poet’s recital. With set pieces from jazz rock to new music, he sets surprising counterpoints to the poet’s touching recital and thus creates a playful, light, completely unsentimental musical expansion of the requiem. An unconventional offering for a small musical cast and a singing/speaking voice.
Suhrkamp publishing house, announcement
Friederike Mayrocker Requiem for Ernst Jandl
Requiem, lat. Liturgy: the requiem, especially on the day of the funeral, as the core of the exsequies, named after the beginning of their introit ‘Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine’ (‘Lord, give them eternal rest’).
Friederike Mayrocker and Ernst Jandl were and still are connected by half a century of shared life, which of course also meant shared literary work. Immediately after the death of her companion in the early summer of the year 2000, Friederike Mayrocker tried to cope with the pain of loss in a silent and at the same time passionate lamentation of death, which becomes a song of rapturous intensity. In this document of bravest tenderness, she calls up memories of experiences of the years they shared, makes herself suddenly aware of what remained open, reads Jandl’s texts anew. Frightened by a sudden and existential emptiness, she asks for possibilities and ways of continuing to live and work, and does not stop speaking to a counterpart. "The loss of a person so close to us, of a HAND- and HEART-BEHOLDED person, is something quite shattering, but perhaps it is so that one can continue to talk to this HEART- and LOVE-BEHOLDED person, that is to say, one can continue to have conversations and presumably expect answers. Of a once so stormy aura, not true. Now stammered, and worldwide."
Suhrkamp Verlag, blurb, 2001
(to the book edition)
chirping of worldly fullness
– Friedericke Mayrocker’s texts are themselves already music. –
There has always been a peculiar relationship between poetry and music. Text and sound like to combine; poems turn into songs or songs. This was the case with Schubert’s settings of Goethe’s and Wilhelm Muller’s songs, and Bob Dylan’s lyric poetry has the same Nobel Prize for Literature which would probably not have happened without his musical interpretation.
The Austrian Friederike Mayrocker is one of the most important poets of our time, and in her case the closeness to sound is particularly striking. Her work, which is a kind of prose poetry, creates a peculiar sound intoxication: it evokes in the listener’s ear a kind of endless, associative color magic (and it would now be worth a separate consideration why this magician Mayrocker is able to make the reading of her texts automatically a matter of the ears – when reading, one hears the language as it were). That Mayrocker is also a phenomenal interpreter of her work does not really need to be said anymore.
To this inward musicality Mayrocker has now added extra tones. Your Requiem for Ernst Jandl, a great poetry of remembrance of the "HAND- und HERZGEFaHRTEN", "HEART- und LIEBESGEFaHRTEN" (Mayrocker), published in 2001, has now been set to music by the composer Lesch Schmidt. The recording has just been selected by the jury of the hr2-Audiobook Best List for Audiobook of the year 2017 chosen. It seems peculiar at first when Mayrocker’s voice, which speaks the text of her work in her distinctive, echoing manner, is underlaid with a rather wild sound mixture of piano, violin, tuba, double bass, flute, saxophone and drums. And the music is powerful, by no means mere background music. But the longer one listens, the more one is convinced: Mayrocker and her words, after all a great work of mourning, seem transcendentally suspended in a kind of eternal cosmos of loose, modern spherical sounds, the "chirping of worldly fullness", whose emotional mixture ranges from serious to cheerful. Indeed, Mayrocker’s text is also full of musical topoi: Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Miles Davis, Bach.
Impressive as always is the voice of Dagmar Manzel, who sings and speaks many passages, in a fascinating variation on Kurt Weill and Alban Berg, sometimes just lonely quiet and foreboding – cut into each other and one after the other to Mayrocker’s memories and perceptions. Here one can listen to the "murmur of silence" as well as to the noise of sensations. Shortly before Christmas, Friederike Mayrocker turned 93 years young – we congratulate her by listening to her.
Alexander Camman, Die Zeit, 27.12.2017
It’s cold in the kitchen
In contrast, Jandl’s personal last message comes across very discreetly, as a "dedication poem" addressed to the companion of his life and writing. In simple lines he records that he has written of the death of his father and the death of his mother, and concludes – to complete the triad: "you / write then / that I / am dead".
Friederike Mayroecker’s Requiem is the fulfillment of this wish or order. The first of these six texts was written a few weeks after Jandl’s death, in July 2000. It is a testimony of grief and shock, and touches the reader through its tender empiricism. The author fixes the image of the poet on sickbed, counting the planes appearing in the skylight window, and shows him on his deathbed, "1 little tooth, bitten into his upper lip".
But the reader should also remember the living Jandl, and so we read a scene from the winter of 88, from the unheatable north kitchen of Jandl’s apartment. While looking for manuscripts, the friend and colleague pulls out this quatrain:
It is cold in the kitchen
it’s severe winter now
mutterchen does not stand at the hearth
and i shiver like a horse
In June 2000, three days before Jandl’s death, Mayrocker writes this counterfactual to it:
in the kitchen we both stand
stirring in the empty pot
looking out of the window both
have 1 poem in mind
This one poem, and the lifelong search for it, is not the only thing that connected Ernst Jandl and Friederike Mayrocker. That still connects them.
Harald Hartung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 9.6.2001
(to the book edition)
Edgy, loving retrospect
Friederike Mayrocker (born 1924) lived with Ernst Jandl for over fifty years. His death in 2000 led, about a year later, to the Requiem led. Six texts of varying length "trickle as black tears" into fifty pages of angular prose with their own idiosyncratic diction, lyrically condensed and associatively reflecting on life. These are scenes of an almost marriage: Friederike Mayrocker immerses herself up to her upper arms in ink-images that have come to life. The booklet can certainly be seen as a precursor to the 2005 publication And I shook a darling to be seen.
Andreas Gryphius, amazon.de, 29.10.2007
(to the book edition)
Friederike Mayrocker published about a year after Ernst Jandl’s death, the volume with the title Requiem for Ernst Jandl, to which she prefaces two poems, one by her and one by him, which gives the work a very personal touch. It is difficult to put a work of Mayrocker into words; it captivates by its variety of forms and methods, which question themselves again and again; forms which distrust themselves, but precisely from this always gain new poetic energies. Mayrocker’s prose dispenses with narrative as a parenthesis, d.h. it can not really be given a statement of contents. At Requiem for Ernst Jandl Mayrocker shows herself of almost stupendous clarity; and she characterizes the peculiarity of writing: writing as a work of solitude from which there is no escape. As a summary, one could state that death does not make one speechless, but, on the contrary, makes one powerful of language.
Jane, amazon.de, 11.6.2006
(to the book edition)
Friederike Mayrocker: Requiem for Ernst Jandl
She was companion, muse, interlocutor, ever-present addressee, critic, wife, lover and ally through all the years. Friederike Mayrocker, now alone, writes once again about Ernst Jandl, now "stammered, cimmed, and worldwide". A dialogue, as it connected the two writers over half a century of common life, a secretive conversation, a meaningful reason, which founded everything and was expressed in tender correspondences and (almost) discreet dedications. Now, then, the continuation of the conversation with the HAND- and HEART-DRIVED; hope, appeal, and a new reality searching for ways to continue living and writing.
In the parlando so masterfully mastered by Mayrocker, we are swept away into a whisper of love, a lament, and a call that, for all its bleakness, seems at once intimate and precious because of its dark, shining beauty. The traces of memories so artfully laid throughout his life, which are superimposed like palimpsests and encircle a life, now show themselves to be complete; however: by no means over yet. It will be immortal, this novel, this lament for the dead.
What such fascinating poetry speaks and conceals, where it provides insight into secret labyrinths and illuminates shadowed pasts into moments of happiness, that is so close and at the same time artfully distanced in this requiem, so painfully beautiful, so eloquent and concealed, that only HE may have given to say what one suffers.
And because it is such perfect language-art that saves from silencing and makes the pain bearable, it is once again forbidden to interrupt and split up this dedicatory poem in order to exhume biographical chunks from it. If Mayrocker’s lament itself lays down corresponding traces, then only by showing how one’s own has become something else. Biography takes place, if at all, quasi as an appendix in the smaller, older texts added to it. For example in Mayrocker’s reading of Ernst Jandl’s "in der kuche ist es kalt" or the famous "ottos mops". But – here, too, we hear above all this musical sostenuto, melancholy, triste, perfect in form, everlasting.
Friedricke Mayrocker’s Requiem for Ernst Jandl is funeral eulogy and funeral music, epitaph and eulogy at the same time. And so this desperate and sovereign reaction to the passing of the companion of her life and writing (No, "I don’t want to graze anymore" – this time "he has gone too far") is also a great homage to poetry, the greater hope. For him, Ernst Jandl, for you, Friederike Mayrocker and for both together.
Iris Denneler, literaturhaus.at, 30.5.2001
(to the book edition)
Further contributions to this book:
It is not possible without the other
– Friederike Mayrocker and Ernst Jandl. –
There’s no room for him. Not in this place, her apartment. There are notes everywhere, even stuck to the walls, thousands of thoughts scribbled on paper. You can hardly see it anymore, the piano, nor the dresser, chairs and desk. Everything seems to sink under the flood of paper. Only the typewriter, a little Hermes baby, is not yet covered. The apartment is, as inhabitant Friederike Mayrocker says, "my sweat lodge, my fool’s box". Ernst Jandl, the writer, the lover, the soul mate, will not be able to live here. An attempt at the end of 1956 fails. "You have to be separated, half an hour on foot, or five minutes by cab," writes Ernst Jandl. Being alone is the absolute prerequisite for creative work.
"I believe that the first demand of an artist must be the completely independent form of life," says Friederike Mayrocker. She decides against a family, against children. "Women artists need complete isolation without having to be there for anyone."The vacation days that Jandl and Mayrocker have spent together since they met in 1954 are the few days in which Mayrocker does not put any lines on paper.
Writing beyond the norm connects from the start. The couple does not want to continue with what has gone before, wants to cross borders in prose and poetry, dare to experiment. Many texts defy classification into genre categories. Like Mayrocker’s Nada. Nothing – a play and yet not suitable for the stage. Jandl’s spoken word poems – "schtzngrmm" – trigger a literary scandal in 1957. Both are boycotted, not printed in Austria. Their literary work lies almost completely fallow during this time; they go to schools, teach German and English.
"The unloved profession is a betrayal of my talent," writes Friederike Mayrocker in despair. Only ten years later do the two writers gain a literary foothold in Germany. It does not work without the other. The other, that is the mirror. Jandl and Mayrocker exchange their texts with each other. They discuss for hours. Is this word correct? Joins that rhythm? Jandl is very direct with his criticism. Mayrocker, however, must proceed cautiously, otherwise risking his irascibility or plunging him into deep depression. The fear of not getting anything down on paper torments Jandl anyway. While she writes from four in the morning until noon every day, he often suffers from writer’s block: "Sometimes I throw the fountain pen at the gawking white, so that there is at least a spot there."
She encourages him, never pushes herself forward, says: "I have always felt with my partners that I want to be in the background, I like to do it." Without envy, Jandl acknowledges: "Friederike writes greater literature." In his 1980 play Out of the Strange it says about "a colleague of the same age, his friend of many years", that she had "gone far beyond him as an artist".
Hand and heart companion
And yet it is his texts, humorous, easily accessible, that go down better with the general public. In the 1980s, when they read together in France and Italy, they realize that their works, initially very similar, have diverged and appeal to different audiences. From then on, Mayrocker refuses to perform with Jandl, tormented by the constant fear of not being understood by the listener. Despite all fear, or precisely because of it – the refuge, the writing, remains. Because: "Without this ability to write, we would have gone mad long ago."
Your love? Unimaginable without literature. Still beyond death. When Ernst Jandl dies in June 2000, Mayrocker does not stop speaking to him, dedicates her thoughts to him in the book Requiem for Ernst Jandl:
The loss of someone so close, of a hand and heart companion, is something quite shattering, but perhaps it is so that one may continue to talk to this heart and love companion and presumably expect answers.
Sylvie-Sophie Schindler, The Munich Mercury, 27.9.2005
Contributions to a theater performance
by Friederike Mayrocker: Requiem for Ernst Jandl
The drug poetry – hell, cave or heaven
– She is celebrated as a magician of the word or a bird of paradise of the avant-garde: Viennese poet Friederike Mayrocker. The first interview with Buchner Prize winner. –
Hilke Prillmann: Ms. Mayrocker, how did you feel when you learned that you had been awarded the Buchner Prize get?
Friederike MayrockerI cried. For hours I cried. It was joy, but also terrible sadness, because the people I loved so much could no longer live to see it – Ernst Jandl and my mother.
Prillmann: "Magician of the word", "alchemist of language", also "bird of paradise of the avant-garde" you have been called. Can you simply be called the greatest living poet in the German language??
MayrockerAs a humble person I cannot answer to that.
Prillmann: They are, according to Ernst Jandl (1984) and H.C. Artmann (1997) the third Buchner Prize winner from the Viennese group of poets who caused a sensation with experimental poetry. What was so avant-garde about your word art?
MayrockerWe no longer trusted the traditional language and, after the war, we tried to do something new. We have assembled texts from books, newspapers and magazines Language collages as language alienation.
Prillmann: Georg Buchner was with his Hessian Messenger and also with Danton’s Death a strongly politically-historically committed author. To what extent do you feel connected to him?
Mayrocker: Especially his Lenz inspires me, his psychogram about the poet Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz. He was a friend of Goethe, who then rejected him, however, because Lenz’s consciousness, the mentally ill, was repugnant to him. In my acceptance speech to the Buchner Prize I will put "Lenz" in the center of attention.
Prillmann: In your poem "An eine Mohnblume" (To a Poppy) you say: "from my head sprouts the fireworks of tears", and you speak of the "wheel of fire in my chest". Your element is the word fire. Is a poet like you a female Prometheus?
Mayrocker: : Possibly, but I would never say it of myself.
Prillmann: Whoever reads you thinks of Ernst Jandl, your "hand, heart and love companion"; and whoever reads Jandl thinks of you. To their relationship we owe the most touching love poems of our time, for example Ernst Jandl’s:
i lie with you, your poor
hold me, your arms
hold more than I am.
your arms hold what I am
when I lie with you and
hold your poor me.
And with you it says in the Requiem for Ernst Jandl as a paraphrase of his winter poem ("in der kuche ist es kalt…"):
in the kitchen we both stand
stirring in the empty pot
look out of the window both
have 1 poem in mind
The poems are, as it were, your common children?
MayrockerNo, quite out of the question. We worked in completely different ways from the very beginning. But we were each other’s first and best critics. We have both cultivated the absurd and the word joke. Unlike Ernst Jandl, I have written a great deal of prose. I could compare my prose with the work of a stonemason, the poems on the other hand are, as it were, my watercolors.
Prillmann: In your novel brutt or the sighing gardens of the, In 1998, you wrote: "I have done everything wrong, I have lost everything, I have missed everything, I have taken the wrong direction, perhaps linguistic aesthetics, which has been my concern since the beginning, has been the wrong objective in these times shaken by monstrosities." A rejection of the linguistic experimental in your work?
MayrockerNo, it’s just a game with possibilities. For me, my way was the only possible way.
Prillmann: Ernst Jandl and you, both initially foreign language teachers, were together for almost half a century, but they had separate apartments, half an hour’s walk apart. Was such a distance necessary for life and work??
MayrockerErnst Jandl was able to work very inspired in my presence. I, on the other hand, could only write when I was alone. For everyday life we were both incapable. He had a domestic help. For dinner we went to the inn, unfortunately I can not cook.
Prillmann: Where did you prefer to vacation?
Mayrocker: In Austria. In Styria, in Rohrmoos. We rented a house there for a few summers, in the middle of a wild, overgrown garden, a kind of idyll. The house was quite old, but you didn’t have to be careful about breaking anything. Everything was already broken. And it was really to our taste.
Prillmann: Your apartment in the Zentagasse in Vienna’s 5. district is already legendary. There are famous photos of your "slum" stuffed with books and notes. Hell, cave or heaven for you?
MayrockerIn the meantime it is only half a cave, because I have rented the apartment above me for life. Ernst Jandl lived there in the last year of his life, because he could no longer climb the stairs in his old apartment, and there is an elevator in my house. My two apartments are hell and heaven at the same time. hell, because in my disorder, which in the meantime has grown like ivy even into the upstairs apartment, I soon find nothing more. A kind of heaven, when I work and texts succeed.
Prillmann: In the meantime you write with a PC?
MayrockerI have never tried to write on the computer, nor do I want to. I have a very intimate relationship with my typewriter. However, it is now the fourth or fifth Hermes Baby. I bought the last one about four years ago and hope it will last just until I die.
Prillmann: But when you get to "150"?
Mayrocker: I said that when Ernst Jandl was still alive. Now I don’t really want to become 150 anymore.
Prillmann: Because perhaps you could think of nothing more?
MayrockerIt is the fear that one might no longer succeed in writing. I have material in boxes and baskets. Even when I’m out and about in the city, I have my notepad with me and write down whatever comes to mind. Drugs for writing, alcohol for instance, I never needed. I drink a lot of mineral water when I write. Writing itself is a drug for me, an addiction.
Prillmann: They mostly wear black. Your favorite color?
MayrockerIn winter black, in summer also white. It is uncomplicated.
Prillmann: Your favorite flower?
MayrockerFragrant white lilies.
Prillmann: Ernst Jandl died last year. Seven years ago your mother died. You write: "death is the most terrible thing that can happen to us". Is your writing a protest against death and at the same time, as Rilke saw it, "a kind of act of love"??
Mayrocker: The Requiem for Ernst Jandl I wrote out of despair. And then I wrote poems to him, almost every day a poem. I also feel guilty about my mother. I had visited her every day; but her weakness and frailty I understand much better at the age I am today. And then I think: You only really become a human being when you are very old? In a conversation, Elias Canetti confessed to me that he, too, was afraid of death, and I thought: "My God, even the great Canetti can’t do anything with death, hates it."
Prillmann: What was the happiest time in your life?
Mayrocker: Maybe my childhood summers in Deinzendorf, in the Weinviertel, near the border to the Czech Republic. My father, a school principal, was a very cheerful person. My mother was more inclined to melancholy, but through her I have my great love of nature. My great-grandfather was a forester. Very happy were the two-month vacations with Ernst Jandl. But the happiest moments are actually those when you have finished a work. It can also be just a poem. You read it again and again and think: Did I really do that??
Prillmann: Writing poetry is an intellectual, but also a psycho-physical peak performance. What is your daily rhythm?
MayrockerI used to take notes in bed at five in the morning, get up, sit down at the machine and work until eleven or twelve o’clock. Then I went to my mother’s for dinner. She died in the year of my 70. And then a lot has changed. Today I work more in the afternoon, one or two hours at the machine. Around half past ten I go to sleep. I have great fluctuations in blood pressure and my eyes are getting worse and worse. But reading is very important for me: Holderlin, Celan, Jean Paul and of course Goethe, his poems. Among the contemporary authors I like to read Botho Straub or Durs Grunbein very much.
Prillmann: And newspapers? Ibsen was inspired by small newspaper notes to write great dramas. Rather make of great dramas a little note, a poem?
Mayrocker: Newspapers played a role for me when I was writing collages, taking out a line and playfully mishearing or misreading it to trigger a chain of associations. And then came dream words, something wonderful. In dreams I hear or read words, almost like on a monitor.
Prillmann: After the war you were first a teacher. They had fun with it?
MayrockerAt first, in 1946, the children were really nice. We sat there in coats, we were all cold and hungry. But with the growing prosperity it became more and more difficult, although I taught in a poor working-class district. The children were spoiled and quick-tempered. After 23 years, in 1969, I quit my job as a teacher. That was like a present for me. I felt liberated and wonderful: I started a second life that consisted only of poetry, of writing.
Prillmann: "Bury them all, I live," it says in your poem "An Equal". What wish do you still have?
Mayrocker: To write! One could describe the writing as euphoria of the writer. You have to be in a state of emergency to be able to write. Otherwise it would seem like blasphemy to me. I believe in a Holy Spirit, in a spirit that is above me and guides me to a certain extent, gives me whispers. It does not all come from me. It comes through me.
Friederike Mayrocker: "It’s one big chaos"
– The Austrian writer Friederike Mayrocker, 76, about her award with the Georg Buchner Prize, your life with Ernst Jandl and the grief over his death. –
Volker Hage: Ms. Mayrocker, on Saturday of this week, you are to receive what is probably the most important German literary award, the Georg Buchner Prize, accept. Rejoice?
Friederike MayrockerWhen I received the call asking me if I would accept the prize, I was very happy. But then I ran around the apartment and cried: So, now the Buchner Prize there, and Ernst Jandl is no longer there! I was deadly unhappy. I didn’t think it would hit me like this again one year after his death. But then I immediately started to work on my speech. That helped me.
Hage: Your life partner Ernst Jandl, whom you met in 1954, was better known as a writer than you, with some of his poems downright popular. Were there tensions?
Mayrocker: I was completely envious. I was happy about his successes. And he was enthusiastic, if something went well with me once.
Hage: Does that mean you always lived in pure harmony?
MayrockerIn the first time we loved each other so much that we argued all the time. Always about ridiculous things, never about literature. Later it was really pure harmony, especially in the very last time.
Hage: You both had to wait a while before you found a publisher – at the same time in 1956: Your texts were considered experimental and extremely unsellable.
MayrockerDuring this phase we had to encourage each other.
Hage: You have written in your Requiem for Ernst Jandl, a small volume of prose full of memories, reports that after his death you had to slowly learn to read again at all.
Mayrocker: I was so desperate at first that I was always running around and crying. I could not sit still. This is how the book came about. If I couldn’t read, at least I wanted to write. Thus arose the Requiem and many poems about Ernst Jandl that have not yet been published.
Hage: Can you imagine, about Requiem beyond telling the story of your communion with Jandl, quite conventionally and in detail?
Mayrocker: I have already thought about it. But I need time. I can imagine that. What, by the way, has often been misunderstood: With a few exceptions, there was never any literary collaboration between the two of us.
Hage: Is it true that Jandl was hardly interested in writing in the last years of his life??
Mayrocker: Yes, he had lost interest. I kept telling him: Why don’t you put the new things in a folder?! He has jotted down something here and there, often just a few lines. But then to put that aside and to hold together, he could not do that anymore. "Literature is over," he said.
Hage: Do you keep your texts in order?
Mayrocker: No, it is one big mess. Nobody can enter my apartment anymore except me, everywhere papers, drafts, books, newspapers. That has now spread like ivy into the apartment above, where Ernst Jandl lived at the end. There is practically no more room to sit.
Hage: How come that?
Mayrocker: Wherever I stand and walk, I make notes on slips of paper, which I then put down somewhere…
Hage: .. and which you then find again later?
MayrockerI have baskets of material. But if something lies too long, the ignition power is lost. Besides, I often can no longer read my own writing.
Hage: You write poetry and prose. Or is that not so separable for you at all?
Mayrocker: That is a big difference! I feel it almost physically. It feels different, I sit differently. For me, writing poetry has something to do with watercolor drawing, while prose is more sculpture.
Hage: The five volumes Collected prose, with which you the Suhrkamp publishing house now honored, together comprise around 2500 pages. Will something similar follow for your poetry?
Mayrocker: That would be nice. But that would be much more extensive.
Hage: In your prose, you take convoluted paths. In one of your books, the first-person narrator says that she immediately stops when something like a "narrative attitude" sets in. Why?
Mayrocker: With me it is always the case at the beginning that I want to enter a beautiful narrative path, but soon I sabotage it, quite deliberately. I sabotage the straight path, turn off and only then feel completely in my domain. Otherwise I would quickly lose the desire to write.
Hage: A peculiarity of yours used to be the spelling "sz" for "b" – almost a kind of trademark. You have given up that?
MayrockerThe letter was missing on my machine. That was the whole reason. But I still write "sz", the publisher makes it "b".
Hage: Is the time of experimentation over for you?
Mayrocker: Pure experiment I did only at the beginning, in 1971 I stopped. It was too stupid for me. One day they got fed up. I can’t understand at all how someone can stay with it. It’s fun, but at some point you have to leave it behind you.
The Mirror, 26.10.2001
Poetry against loneliness:
Ernst Jandl and Friederike Mayrocker
– Friederike Mayrocker and Ernst Jandl were among the symbiotic artist couples of German literature. They both insisted on separate apartments. Part 2 of our series "Artist pairing. –
It takes just under half an hour to walk from Wohllebgasse in Vienna’s fourth district to Zentagasse in the fifth. That was the distance that Ernst Jandl and Friederike Mayrocker, one of the most interesting writer couples of recent German literature, put between themselves in order to bring closeness and seclusion in the necessary balance. For 46 years, until Jandl’s death in 2000, they lived in a symbiotic relationship, but they only lived together for a short time. They quickly realized that this was not possible at all.
Ernst Jandl (1925-2000) and Friederike Mayrocker (*1924) met in 1954 at the Youth Culture Weeks in Innsbruck; both were teachers in Vienna at the time. She, the seven months older, was just in her thirtieth year. They wanted to live for writing alone; teaching was just a bread and butter job. They both interrupted it again and again with temporary leaves of absence, which in Austria are called "Karenzierung" ("maternity leave"), and let themselves go at the age of 53 or. 54 years early retirement. In Bruno Kreisky’s welfare state, such a thing was still possible.
They cultivated very different kinds of literature and were also perceived differently: Jandl, the experimenter schooled in concrete poetry, combined formalism and anarchy. With the spectacular readings of his sound poems he also reached a broad young audience. Around 1970, a poem of his hung on the refrigerator in every student flat-share.
Friederike Mayrocker, on the other hand, who cultivated an associative style both in the free forms of her poetry and in her proliferating prose works, remained the author of a small, sworn readership. About the fact that both created poetry of high rank, there was already soon no more doubt. For decades, literary prizes fell on her like steady, life-giving rain from the land. Jandl received the highest award in the German-speaking world, the Buchner Prize, but already in 1984, they only in 2001.
As different as their works are, they correspond with each other in many ways: in Jandl’s oppressive spoken word opera, "The Loneliness Out of the Strange (1980), which is entirely in indirect speech, one can even recognize a self-portrait of the couple. There are also several weighty collaborative works, most notably the four radio plays Five Man People, The Giant, splits and common childhood (1967- 1969).
Especially the last of these works for radio is a work of astonishing lightness over dark ground. Sometimes the boundaries become blurred: already with the second poem in Jandl’s early cycle "serienfuss" (1957) it is not certain who wrote it.
In conversations, both expressed how important the other was for their own writing. Jandl stated that he owed his style essentially to Friederike Mayrocker, Gertrude Stein and his own restlessness. They were always each other’s first readers, but with one important difference: she showed him her texts only when they were ready from her point of view, he already submitted drafts and intermediate stages to her.
Friederike Mayrocker and Ernst Jandl sometimes appeared together, but they usually published with different publishing houses. With him it was and remained from 1968 Luchterhand, after his groundbreaking volume of poetry Loud and Luise 1966 still at Walter had appeared in Olten, it stopped after intermediate stations at Rowohlt and Luchterhand from 1975 Suhrkamp the faithful.
People who see each other almost every day and talk on the phone in between hardly ever write to each other. So far, no correspondence between Jandl and Mayrocker has reached the public; moreover, the two were not one of those couples who constantly denounce each other. In Jandls stanzas (1992) there is a beautiful explanation for this, which also reveals what he called Friederike Mayrocker:
yo i was already the fritzi
vadinat aaa a poem
But you don’t have to yell at me
soxia often gnua into the xicht
The intense relationship could not prevent Jandl’s world from becoming increasingly dark in his late years. Already From the Strange was a testimony to loneliness and depression; in the poetry volume the yellow dog and in the idylls it became even darker around him. A brightening came in the 1980s with the collaboration with the Vienna Art Orchestra of the Swiss Mathias Ruegg.
The general theme of Jandl’s work from the mid-1970s onward remained the exploration of the frail self. For it he chose a speech-breaking language of debris. He described this as a means of art that reflected the flawed nature of human life. In his early seventies, Jandl was a celebrated but frail man, suffering from respiratory problems and confined to a wheelchair.
On 9. June 2000 he died of heart failure, three days before Friederike Mayrocker wrote the following paraphrase on one of his poems, committed to a touching aesthetic of barrenness:
In the kitchen we both stand
stirring in the empty pot
looking out of the window both
have 1 poem in mind
She has since gone her way alone. In 2001 she published Requiem for Ernst Jandl, twenty further books followed. magic leaves one could call them all after the cycle, whose so far last volume appeared in 2006. The wish Jandl expressed in the poem "couple, over 50" was not fulfilled:
that only one of the two
another phase of life will have
and she still had a long way to go
and be short
But Friederike Mayrocker’s late work, unlike that of Ilse Aichinger, who outlived her companion Gunter Eich by a fabulous 44 years, shows no morose traces either. As a figure, with her hair dyed black, she has something of a sphinx, but her writing is not rigid, but rather incessantly pushes forth its blooms of anguish.
Manfred Pabst, Neue Zurcher Zeitung, 23.5.2020
How it moves me.
That she wants to handle gently. With the one year.
That she does not get. Not as an advance payment and
aaaaa not. In retrospect.
Because it is no longer in the camp. In the time camp available.
Because now he already. Some months. Soon a year. Dead is.
No longer there.
Maybe already none. Shirts more in
aaaaa closet. Hangs.
Because everything. Took out. And distributed to
aaaaa naked. Or the Red Cross. Like her the smell. From
aaaaa his last days yet. In the room hangs.
And when the sea of paper. Sails in every
Finds her only more. Reasons even days
aaaaa later. To cry.
He wouldn’t like that. Seen.
Or would he have liked that. The crying for him.
After all he was only a man. She cries to him
aaaaa words afterwards.
Who even made me cry. Make.
After all he was a great. For the little poem.
aaaaa With wit.
That’s what hurts the most. That no longer speak
aaaaa and can laugh. Together. After all there was
aaaaa good times too.
In which the love. Really looked like love.
Like: today you don’t have to get up. I go early
aaaaa to the dog.
Like: Today you look really good.
Like: I love you. You smell good. Cooks well. Love
aaaaa me well.
With you it’s like after years. Still good.
aaaaa familiarity is good.
Why do you stay with me.
Am yet the pug man. You the dark night moth.
There are no more of your kind. Loving is like in the
aaaaa closet hold the other. Until the ransom under
aaaaa being pushed through the door.
I want to be gentle with my. Not year bypass.
Writes them like an oath.
Now the kitchen stays cold more often. He never believed it.
aaaaa But women would never so regular. Only for himself
aaaaa cook. They are enough for themselves.
Sometimes she gnaws on a crust of bread. To their fingers.
aaaaa And from those the tips off.
I can see her. As if to her kitchen window
aaaaa would stare.
From the outhouse.
I see them writing on flooding. Desks.
Where no one knows anymore. Where his begins. Of your
The papers have covered everything. Covered. Every
aaaaa Wound drained.
How often he yelled at her.
Because of her hair. of your verses. Of her stupidity.
aaaaa ugliness. Just like that.
And it never closed the door not. In front of him.
aaaaa Not behind him.
When he came out of his apartment. Came to her. Of her
aaaaa went. In his hole.
She always told herself. That he loves her. And yes
aaaaa actually can’t help it. There is this old
aaaaa photo. Of him as a child. To his mother and his
aaaaa child teddy. All kneeling in his bedroom and
aaaaa pray to Jesus. His mother always told him.
aaaaa That this is important. In life. Later for death.
Now she sits there. Creeps into the intermediate lines
aaaaa of his poems.
Which he wrote. When he from her apartment
aaaaa went home.
There in the familiarity of his language. Is it warm and
And not so damn monosyllabic. She knows how much.
aaaaa Lyrical I he is. And how much you addressed her
aaaaa is. And how much irony is serious and memory. She knows
aaaaa so much.
And he sometimes called her stupid. She says out of helplessness.
Sometimes men are quite poor. With her
aaaaa language. Their genitals.
That they must push in women. To feel.
aaaaa That they were still there. And can move something.
aaaaa They also push their words. Actually only in. The
aaaaa head must work then. To move.
The memory is still fresh. In the bath.
Where he squeezed all the tubes in the middle of her belly.
aaaaa And all still half full. He’s still in there. Says
That’s why they lie around a while longer.
Everybody asks for him.
Sometimes even letters come. To him. With her on.
Why don’t you write. Jandl.
Is not good for you. Would you be interested in
aaaaa Symposion for. Language experiments.
Then she thinks again. She dreams. From him. Listen.
aaaaa Recognize him. Gasping up the stairs at the step.
aaaaa Already possible. So devout as a child.
She writes her name. With lipstick.
Which she never hung up. On the bathroom mirror.
aaaaa And on the in the hall. So that they. When she sees the vegetable-
aaaaa dealer meets. Can say. That they would have the M and without
aaaaa partner is. And actually like a dog. The still years
aaaaa later on the stair climbing of the others. In the house
If he does make a little noise behind her. Let would have.
The silence pisses them off.
To whom she is really at the mercy.
Naked and without makeup.
Like her to him. Was always dearest.
Hans Ulrich Obrist talks about the exhibition he curated of Friederike Mayrocker Guardian Spirits Of the 5.9.2020-10.10.2020 in the gallery next St. Stephan
Translating Friederike Mayrocker – a polyphonic homage with Donna Stonecipher (English), Jean-Rene Lassalle (French), Julia Kaminskaja (Russian) and Tanja PetriC, (Slovenian) as well as with translators:inside from the international JUNIVERS collective: Ali Abdollahi (Persian), Ton Naaijkens (Dutch), Douglas Pompeu (Brazilian Portuguese), Abdulkadir Musa (Kurdish) and Valentina di Rosa (Italian) and Bernard Banoun – in conversation with Marcel Beyer on 6.11.2021 in House of literature Halle.
Celebration with companions in honor of Friederike Mayrocker in mid-June 2018 in Vienna
June 1997 in the Literature Workshop Berlin two of the most important authors of contemporary German-language poetry: Friederike Mayrocker and Elke Erb.
Minutes of an audience. Otto Brusatti meets Mayrocker: A continent called F. M.