Mesocosm

"Segne den Becher, welcher überfließen will, daß das Wasser golden aus ihm fließe und überallhin den Abglanz deiner Wonne trage!" – Nietzsche

Georg Heym’s “The Thief”

with one comment

Jacob Wrestles with the Angel, Rembrandt, 1659-60

Not long after arriving in Berlin for the first time in 2011, I ran into the haunting poem “Ophelia” by the Expressionist poet Georg Heym (1887-1912), which captivated me with the dark power of its imagery.

Intrigued, I soon discovered his overwhelming short story “The Thief,” which is, I think, not well known to English-speaking audiences. This short excerpt from early in the story gives a sense of its feverish, vivid imagery:

And now he lived in a large guesthouse, buried in his small attic room, alone, known by no one, one of the many solitaries of this great city. 

He spent the evenings in the depths of his armchair, tracking the dwindling light and the cloud ships that sailed with their red keels on their voyage to new, mysterious lands. Or in late summer when the days of the north winds began with large, strange shapes in the heavens, he watched huge whales, giant camels, and the fleet of innumerable small fish that vanished over the ocean of the sky into the endless blue. 

He kept a record for himself of all the strange apparitions. Once he saw the devil before a wine-red ground above a pile of worshipful black bodies. Another time he saw a monstrous bat with outstretched wings that appeared to be struck to the heavens like farmers nail them to barn doors. Or a gigantic barque, or trees on mountains, or powerful lions, monstrous serpents laid on the shoulders of the sky, or a giant monk dragging his cassock, or men with strange, long profiles. One time he saw a fiery angel that rose with a great blaze above the steps of the aether. 

At times, everything was filled with a strange, nearly inaudible music, like the roar of the ocean in the darkness of endless grottos and subterranean cathedrals. 

I am pleased to share with you my full translation – you can read it in its entirety here: The Thief, by Georg Heym.

Translation © Barnaby Thieme, 2019. All rights reserved.

Written by Mesocosm

November 9, 2019 at 6:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. beautiful excerpt – will definitely read the entire story. Haunting. Thanks for sharing –

    love

    Dad

    Richard Thieme

    November 9, 2019 at 8:34 am


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