Amazon.bezos has something new for us –Kindle the eBook! KINDLE? Is that a good word to use with books?

[NOTE TO MY BLOG READERS:
Tuesday 07.45 am 11.20.07.
I am having a problem with Posting. I wrote this piece that you see below (hopefully you see it. When I went to posting it, it disappeared; didn’t show up in the normal fashion. That really upset me, you can imagine.
Many hours later, about 1.00 am , I did the piece again, with the same content so far as I could remember it. And some new thoughts coming in. I previewed it and I posted it. Again, it disappeared. (I will spare you my comments.)

In digging around, guess what –I find the piece I wrote first…here it is. I have no idea how this will work out.
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I’ve been seeing Jeff Bezos all over the place today, talking about the launch of his new book device called….KINDLE….a sort of iPod for books.
KINDLE! There’s something about that name that…disturbs me. What could it be?
(Pause for reflection….)

Ah. I think I’ve got it. “Kindle: to start a fire….” It brings to mind another image: “Books as kindling”, as in…”Book-Burning”.

For Amazon and Mr. Bezos, it’s an unfortunate association, undeserved no doubt. But –there it is. There must have been other words for the new book “device” that would have suggested “create enthusiasm” without the negative book-burning Nazi+ allusion. (I mean, apart from STEAL or DEFACE or BAN or CENSOR or ILL-LIT –or IGNORE COMPLETELY– almost anything would have done.

It may be timely to remind ourselves –hell, its always timely– of the details of another Big Launch in recent history. Operation Kindle, 1933. Because of the book I am researching right now, “The Story of Hermann Gebler” I have been trying to get a more connected sense of the Nazis effects on art and The Arts.

Here is a paragraph from William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”:
“THE NAZIFICATION OF CULTURE
On the evening of May 10th, 1933, some four and a half months after Hitler became Chancellor, there occurred in Berlin a scene which had not been witnessed in the Western world since the late Middle Ages. At about midnight a torchlight parade of thousands of students ended at a square on Unter den Linden opposite the University of Berlin. Torches were put to a huge pile of books that had been gathered there, and as the flames enveloped them more books were thrown on the fire until some twenty thousand had been consumed. Similar scenes took place in several other cities. The book burning had begun.
Many of the books tossed into the flames in Berlin that night by the joyous students under the approving eye of Dr. Goebbels had been written by authors of world reputation.”
And Shirer includes Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Erich Maria Remarque and Albert Einstein in a longer list of German writers.

Stefan Zweig, another writer on the list, is an author I have been reading recently –as has our little group at Bruno’s. His “The World of Yesterday” gives a finely drawn view of how things evolved in Germany under the Nazis, and it has been very important to me in my research of the world of Hermann Gebler, an accomplished musician at the Frankfurt Konservatorium who performed with the young Paul Hindemith in 1915 and who went on to work under some of the greatest conductors in pre-WWII Germany, specifically Richard Strauss and Furtwaengler, both of whom had complex relationships with the Nazis, and about which there still seems to be considerable disagreement.
Richard Strauss, as well as being a famous conductor, was also probably Germany’s most famous composer since Wagner, and just as provocative and controversial. As it happens, Stefan Zweig, who was Jewish, (as was Hoffmanstahl, his predecessor), worked as librettist for Richard Strauss. Their main collaboration (I regret I don’t have the name) was premiered in 1933.

I hadn’t until now known that Goebbels had pointedly included Zweig’s books in the 1933 book-burning. I did know that Zweig’s Jewishness really upset the Nazis, and in fact they had insisted that his name be withdrawn from “the credits” for the new opera.
But Strauss refused to give in to them, and the opera opened with Zweig’s name prominently displayed on the poster. Hitler, it is recorded, boycotted the performance.
[NOTE: In my second piece I raised some questions about Hitler. He had described himself as a lifelong fan of Strauss, and recounted how as an almost penniless young man he had saved his groschen to make the train trip from Vienna to Graz to see the 1905 premiere of “Salome”, probably Strauss’s most famous, and infamous, work –for all its musical atonality
and dissonance, and extremely risque (Oscar Wildean) text. This would put Hitler’s age at 16 –does that make the story unlikely? Possibly. It does occur to me that, if true, it shows that the young Hitler in 1905 seems able to accept atonality and dissonance, and risque texts, but had reversed himself 28 years later, in 1933. It made me contemplate the possibility that if Hitler the fan was being hypocritical in 1933, that that might help explain why the Nazis lacked the “inner-authority” to overcome Strauss objections about creditting Zweig, and force him to remove his name.
[This last paragraph is a rough reconstruction of my earlier piece.]

I have a dear friend who is a great music lover –and also a fine and dedicated musician– and who is very knowledgable about the work of Strauss. He grew up in Nazi Germany; his family fled in 1938 (he is Jewish). Much as he admires Strauss the composer, he has a strongly negative opinion of Strauss the human being.(In this he mirrors Toscanini’s famous comment: “To Strauss the composer I take off my hat; to Strauss the man I put if back on again”.)
He and I have had a number of discussions about Strauss, some of them mildly contentious –I think it is fair to characterize them. I have been trying read everything, weigh the evidence, and come to my own conclusion on the matter. In one of our more recent discussions, my friend used the fairly extreme characterization of “slimeball” to describe Strauss. He is not a man given to such epithets, and indeed he did call me later to admit as much (as in “maybe I went a little too far…”)

There is no doubt that in his dealings with the Nazis, Strauss did not acquit himself as the hero we would have wished to see, and the record is unclear, vague and fuzzy –where there is a record. There is a wellknown instance of a letter (from RS to SZ) in which Strauss expressed negative sentiments about the Nazis. The letter was intercepted by the Nazis, with negative consequences for everyone concerned. Because there are relatively fewer Strauss letters around that clearly give his views, I have wondered if the Nazi interception might not have led to more circumspection on Strauss’s part.
In any event, I will be sure to ask my friend if he knew of the burning of Zweig’s books in that May 10th 1933 pyre, which to my mind, on its own, makes Strauss’s refusal to desert his friend when the Nazis were insisting that he do so, an act of considerable courage.

[Further Note to my blog readers: There are signs that I may be able to Post the first piece I wrote. Compared to the second piece, it is incomplete, but I will take what I get. Here’s hoping you will get to see the Posting.]


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