Friday, November 6, 2015

Katharina Mommsen at 90

Katharina Mommsen at home (photo: Norbert von der Groeben)
Gads, I should have posted about the above two months ago, when I first came across it at The Book Haven: Cynthia Haven's Blog for the Written Word. Cynthia is in the very enviable position of living and working at Stanford University, and her postings on visiting and local writers reduce me to envy. Her post today concerned the death at the age of 91 of René Girard, a faculty member at Stanford since 1981.

In the Goethe Society of North America we  have our own eminence. Back on September 19 Professor Mommsen, who lives in Palo Alto, enjoyed "an intimate birthday celebration at her home" with a circle of friends and students, according to The Book Haven. (The photo above, from The Book Haven site, was taken on that occasion.) The highlight of the day was a visit to Palo Alto by the German consul in San  Francisco and the bestowal of "Germany's highest honor for a lifetime of cultural service." (Does anyone know what this is called?) The Book Haven's report quotes Gerald Gillespie, emeritus professor of German and Comparative Lit at Stanford, on Katharina: “She is still plugging away fourteen hour days on the ‘monster’ international project of dozens of volume on the genesis of the works of Goethe.”

In elaborating on Professor Mommsen's career, The Book Haven explains the "monster project": Die Entstehung von Goethes Werken in Dokumenten, which according to de Gruyter's website now consists of eight volumes, the last being "Hackert -- Indische Dichtungen." Ten to go. May she live to be at least 100. And of course we owe to her early and continuing publications on Goethe and Islam.

Some years back I reviewed Katharina Mommsen's Goethe's Art of Living for the Goethe Yearbook. I began my review as follows: "There are a number of scholars for whom not only Goethe's works but also his person are something like second nature. Katharina Mommsen is one of these, and it is always of interest to fledgling scholars like myself to contemplate their enthusiasm and erudition."

1 comment:

Sven Wifstrand said...

That highest honor, could it be the "Verdienstorden"? http://www.bundespraesident.de/DE/Amt-und-Aufgaben/Orden-und-Ehrungen/Verdienstorden/verdienstorden-node.html