Poeta Schizophrenia: Ernst Herbeck

February 12, 2007 at 8:31 am | Posted in Austria, Literature, Posts in German | 15 Comments
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NavratilA private literature evening drew my attention to the poetry of Ernst Herbeck, an Austrian (1920-1991) who suffered from schizophrenia and was being cared for four 40 years in Gugging, a mental institution in lower Austria. The psychiatrist Leo Navratil, in order to establish a connection to the very withdrawn Herbeck, began to set him creative tasks, and it was the area of poetry in which he excelled, although he never read any poetry himself after he had left school at 15. Here is an interview with Navratil (1921-2006) (yes, it’s English) which was also the source for the image on the right. Shocking: There is no Wikipedia entry on Herbeck, neither in German or English!

I’d like to post two poems here which I’ve posted before at the Cerebral Jetsam blog. They are taken from the last collection of Herbeck’s work, published in 1994 and edited and prefaced by Navratil, Im Herbst da reiht der Feenwind. Gesammelte Texte, published by Residenzverlag, Salzburg. Get it while it’s still available – none of Herbeck’s book was an overwhelming sales success, but sooner or later, they were all sold out.

(scroll down for a translation)

Die Männer.

Die Männer haben ein starkes Herz.
Sie fahren in der Gesellschaft.
Sie führen sich selbst. Die Männer verlieben sich schwerst. Sie weisen das Leben ab. Sie haben auch einen starken Bart. Die Männer sind müde. Sie rasieren sich lieber mit einem Philishave 3m. Die Männer haben keinen Feind.

Die Frauen.

Die Frauen, die sind hübsch. Die Frauen haben gute Ohren, und sehen sehr gut. Die Frauen sind nicht so dumm. Die Frauen ärgern sich. Die Frauen freuen sich über eine jede Kleinigkeit. Sie haben mehr Charme. Und sie giften sich auch mehr als die Männer.
Die Frauen überstürzen sich nicht, sie arbeiten.

I’ve tried a completely unauthoritative translation (I am no translator, and certainly not of poetry), if you have any suggestions, please let me know (in particular for “sich ärgern” und “sich über jede Kleinigkeit freuen”):

The men.

The men have a strong heart.
They ride in society.
They are guiding themselves. They fall in love the most deeply. They repel life. They have a strong beard, too. The men are tired. They prefer to shave with a Philishave 3m. The men have no enemy.

The women.

The women, they are pretty. The women have good ears, and a 20/20 vision. The women aren’t that stupid. The women get themselves worked up. The women delight in any little thing. They are more charming. And they rile themselves more than men.
The women don’t rush things, they work.

To me, the writing of Herbeck’s is strikingly (sometimes painfully) lucid. I think I need to get the memoirs of Daniel Paul Schreber too, as recommended by Jetsam.

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