Sunday, February 5, 2017

Goethe Girl in Aruba

Street art by Fio Silva in San Nicholas, Aruba
This is my third February visit to what is called "one happy island." I rented a cottage at the northern part of the island and hope to spend a productive month, while also indulging in my favorite sports of swimming and paddle boarding. My friend Judy is joining me from Arizona for five days, and later Barbara will fly down from New York for a week.

The work I plan to do here concerns an essay on Fritz Strich and world literature. My fun reading is Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, which I have not read since graduate school. Mann has some good observations about the effects of stepping out of one's daily routine and entering a new environment. Although I don't expect that my days here will be "swollen with silent, private experiences" (John E. Wood's translation), I find it true that "there is something odd about settling in somewhere new -- about the laborious process of getting used to new surroundings and fitting in, a task we undertake almost for its own sake and with the definite intention of abandoning the place again as soon as it is accomplished or shortly thereafter, and returning to our previous state."

Mann ascribes the desire for such "a refreshing, revitalizing exercise of the organism" to "our very sense of time itself -- which, if it flows with uninterrupted regularity, threatens to elude us and which is so closely related to and bound up with our sense of life." (By the way, Denis Scheck conducts a lovely interview with John Woods on a recent Druckfrisch program, in which Woods discusses his translation of Arno Schmidt's Zettels Traum.)

Yesterday Judy and I ventured down to the southern tip of Aruba and visited the small town of San Nicholas, where the Aruba Art Fair, held last year, featured the work of "street artists" from all over the world. Pictured above is Goethe Girl before the work of one such artist, Fio Silva, from Argentina.

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