Welcome to Villa Emilia (My Woodland Garden), a photography blog with a slant towards gardening and nature. An amateur gardener and photographer, I hope to share beautiful moments with you through pictures. Let me know if you like them!

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06/01/2015

Just once a year?

Happy Epiphany!



Temperature: -21°C.




On January 6 (Epiphany, Three Kings' Day) or in some families on January 13 (St. Knut's Day), the Christmas celebrations in Finland come to an end and the Christmas ornaments are put away. In some Finnish Christmas songs, this is seen as a sad thing ("päättyi joulu vaikkei kenkään sois", "oi jospa ihmisellä ois joulu ainainen"), and when I was a child, I used to think so as well, but later I of course understood that without the ordinary days, there wouldn't be any special days either.

I hope that some of the magic of the Christmas season stays in our hearts throughout the year... and kindness and dreams and twinkling lights also in the adults' eyes!




The title of this post refers to a satire by Heinrich Böll, "Christmas Not Just Once a Year" (1951), the story of Aunt Milla, who desires to celebrate Christmas Eve every evening, and how her family, desperately hoping to prevent her emotional outbreaks, tries to cope with the situation. The object of Böll's satire is partly the commercialization of Christmas and other social realities in (and outside) Germany, but especially the national (and again universal) will to avoid coming to terms with the past and learning from it.

I love both Christmas and Germany, and find the description of the Christmas celebrations of the Lenz family admirable, in very Germanic fashion:

"The main attractions on my Aunt Milla's Christmas tree were glass dwarfs holding a cork hammer in their uplifted arms with a bell-shaped anvil at their feet. Under the dwarfs' feet, candles were affixed, and upon a certain temperature being reached, a hidden mechanism was set in motion, a hectic agitation was communicated to the dwarfs' arms, with their cork hammers they flailed away like crazy at the bell-shaped anvils, thus, since they were about a dozen in number, producing a concerted elfin tinkling..."


Evening after evening, however, the beautiful decorations, the delicious treats and beloved songs become more and more tiring, a process described by Böll in his detached, very enjoyable style. I find the following sentence rather amusing:

"Auch diese Generation, die dort heranwächst, taugt nichts, und wenn je eine Generation etwas getaugt hat - ich zweifle daran -, so komme ich doch zu der Überzeugung, daß es die Generation unserer Väter war." 
Heinrich Böll, "Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit", 1951.

I find excellent Kristiina Kivivuori's translation ("Ois joulu ainainen", 1962) into Finnish:

"Tämäkään varttuva sukupolvi ei kelpaa mihinkään, ja jos yleensä jokin sukupolvi on joskus johonkin kelvannut - mitä kyllä epäilen -, niin päädyn sittenkin uskomaan, että se oli meidän isiemme sukupolvi."

The above sentence has been translated into English in the following way:

"So this generation too, now growing up, is good for nothing; and if ever a generation has been good for something - which I doubt - I have come to the conclusion that it was the generation of our fathers."


Heinrich Böll, 1917-85

Böll has been one of my favourite writers for as long as I can remember. And since I'm a fangirl, and we don't do "calm", here's some more Böll stuff, directly from my school notebooks. Now you can try the Translate button that I have recently added, and if the text doesn't look good, it may be my fault, or the fault of Google Translate, or both... :)


Biliardo alle nove e mezzo

Se dovessi scegliere “il mio scrittore preferito”, sarebbe molto probabilmente Heinrich Böll (1917–85, Premio Nobel nel 1972), uno dei massimi autori del Novecento tedesco.  Ha trattato temi importantissimi nei suoi libri che sono di solito ambientati nella Germania del dopoguerra e non gli è mai mancato il coraggio di criticare il conformismo, l’abuso di potere e la violenza.  I suoi personaggi, spesso emarginati e rinunciatari, cercano di riannodare i fili delle loro esistenze in una società che vuole negare il passato: la guerra e il nazismo, la responsabilità individuale e collettiva.  

Dei suoi romanzi e racconti mi piacciono già i titoli, per esempio Il treno era in orario, E non disse nemmeno una parola e L’angelo tacque, che in tedesco suonano ancora più belli.  I racconti Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen und andere Satiren (La raccolta dei silenzi del dott. Murke…) in italiano sono stati pubblicati semplicemente con il nome Racconti umoristici e satirici.

Biliardo alle nove e mezzo (1962) non è tra le sue opere più conosciute, ma a me piace da sempre per lo stile semplice e i personaggi affascinanti.  I Fähmel, tre generazioni di architetti, si uniscono per il compleanno del nonno e, tra i ricordi e gli avvenimenti di quel giorno, devono ancora una volta confrontarsi con il passato della famiglia e della nazione, schierandosi contro il totalitarismo, la 
violenza e l’ipocrisia sociale. Amo i protagonisti di Böll perché credono fortemente ai propri ideali – rettitudine e integrità morale, gentilezza e sensibilità – e sono poco inclini al compromesso.

Nel romanzo, il narratore e il punto di vista cambiano da un capitolo all’altro e anche dentro i capitoli: i personaggi sono approfonditi e ottengono un loro spessore. La città di Colonia, specialmente com’era prima della guerra, è descritta in modo intrigante. - Il “biliardo” del titolo si riferisce al gioco solitario, uno dei rituali quotidiani di Robert Fähmel, un uomo di convinzioni democratiche e pacifiste. Dopo gli orrori della guerra ha costruito il suo sistema di abitudini, un po’ rigide e “geometriche”, per sopravvivere tra le rovine personali e quelle, materiali e spirituali, del proprio paese.


~~~


An excellent analysis of Böll's works is Robert C. Conard: Understanding Heinrich Böll. University of South Carolina Press. Columbia, SC. 1992.


~~~



This wonderful sculpture was on display in Berlin for the FIFA World Cup in 2006. For more information, see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walk_of_Ideas!


4 comments:

  1. You've put the Epiphany into a good perspective Sara. I usually wait until today to take down the Christmas decor but did it yesterday since I'm busy today with appointments and such.
    I'm not sure I agree with the statement that the generation of our fathers was the best, I'll have to think on this some...

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Judith!
      We have put away the Christmas ornaments today. I felt a little bit sad for the tree: it was a handsome living organism before we cut it...
      For quite a while already, I had wanted to write a post about Böll. 21 December would have been his "birthday", but the days before Christmas were so busy. In July it will be 30 years from his death.

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  2. Niin totta tuo tarina! Juuri meidän kuopukselle (5v) seloiitin että olisi ihan tylsää, jos joulu olisi kokoajan, kun hän suri joulun loppumista... - hän tarjosi ratkaisuksi sitä että jokainen kuukausi olisi vain päivän mittainen, niin joulu tulisi nopeammin takaisin...
    Ei silti, joulu/juhlahetkiä tarvitaan ympäri vuoden, mutta niin että arkea on välissä sopivasti, jolloin juhla tuntuu juhlalta. Mites se menikään..." juhannus on vain kerran vuodessa, mutta joulu on sentään joka vuosi!"

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    Replies
    1. On ihanaa nähdä, miten joulu on lapsille taianomaista ja tärkeää aikaa. Toivottavasti jotain siitä säilyy aikuisiällekin! Haikealta tuntui kerätä joulukuusenkoristeet laatikkoon ja kantaa vihreä, kaunis kuusi ulos, mutta eihän joulukuusi olisi niin ihana, jos se olisi talossa viikkokausia...

      Luova ratkaisu tuo lyhyet kuukaudet! :)

      Nyt tässä onkin arkea edessä pitkän aikaa, mutta kun ollaan kevättä kohti menossa, tuntuu olevan paljon mielenkiintoista tekemistä! Varsinkin meille puutarhaihmisille!

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