Dec 26, 2015

Feed the hungry Facebook beast

Christmas dinner. Left to right: Bill, Leo, Jenni, Stefan, Stefan's girl friend, Michael, Uwe's girl friend, Uwe (Chang is taking the picture)

And your habitual "fragment," Michael, how about a "fragment" ? Right, Michael is working on a new, longer version of the Rilke-ghost story. Michael and Chang have met the ghost already in Duino---apparently provoking his appearance by means of a Google translation of one of his poems---and now they are summering in Bürchen, and Rilke is buried nearby. Fragment:

Years later. We’re now summering in Bürchen, Valais, Switzerland, in the chalet of a friend, our own house is rented to holiday makers, as usual. Bürchen is great, 1,600 meters up on the Alp, and so much cooler than the muggy summer-Riviera. There is only one minor problem: Rainer Maria is buried nearby, yes, Rilke, in Raron, a small, historical town right beneath Bürchen down in the valley, barely three klicks as the crow flies. We’ve avoided Raron so far, but Chang is playing the social networks and has to feed the hungry Facebook beast. His Korean followers can’t get enough pictures of snow-topped mountains and timber-studded Swiss chalets, and the 24 hour news-cycle dictates daily posting. We’ve ravaged the entire countryside already---natives of many cultures believe that you steal their picture when you take their photo---along those lines we’ve grabbed photons until nothing seems to be left of the Valais save Raron. 

“Do you believe in ghosts?” Chang asks. Of course we don’t. And it’s a sunny, wonderful day, and Rilke is interred in a vault on the southern side of the Burgkirche, which itself is built on a rock hundred meters above the floor of the valley. The views would be fantastic, and a light breeze would play with the pages of the tourist guide that tells about the local Rilke-wine and the XII-century town hall next to the church. A Rilke Pfad leads up there. Half-way there’s a bench. “Remember the bench?” Michael asks. We sit down. And now Michael has a really bad idea. He googles for “Rilke translations,” and the first entry connects to a learned, well-written article by a certain Majorie Perloff

“Wer, wenn ich schriee, hört mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen”…wasn’t that the first line? “Here,” I say to Chang, “there you have it, various ways to do this, ‘Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic orders,’ or ‘Who, if I cried out, would heed me amid the host of Angels’...”. Chang, predictably, is not really interested, but you see it coming. “Oohh,” the wailing begins, “ohhoohoo.” Talking about hubris.

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