Celebration and Sadness in Vienna


I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…

And if Christmas day would have been Dec. 28, Vienna, the visitors and the children could have listened to “sleigh bells in the snow…” But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Story continues below.

New Pummerin’s arrival in 1952.

And they did ride: there was snow also on Dec 31st – and the Pummerin (boomer), the famous bell of the Cathedral of St. Stephen, rang at 5pm for service and review of the year’s events…and then at midnight to welcome the year 2015.

This bell was a gift of the province of Upper Austria in 1952. Weighing 44,380 lb – the clapper in addition about 16,100 lb – it’s the largest bell in Austria.

She – the Pummerin is a female bell – has been consecrated to St. Mary, Patron of Austria, and was cast mainly from the Old Pummerin metal. The Old Pummerin was originally cast in 1705 from the metal of 208 cannon captured from the invaders during the Second Turkish Siege of Vienna in 1683. At the end of World War 2, when the cathedral caught fire, the bell fell down to earth and burst.

The Doyenne’s 90th

On Dec 20th Friederike Mayröcker celebrated her 90th birthday! The doyenne of German-speaking literature living at Vienna in the Zentagasse (lane remembering Zenta, where Prinz Eugen defeated a Turkish army in 1689) – she calls her flat the Zettelreich (the notes kingdom) – is still working and writing as if she were twenty…nearly 80 books and more than 30 radio plays have been published since she started to publish in 1956. Tremendous!

Friederike Mayröcker

In her book cahier, published last autumn, you may read her belief: “Not only the writing, no, also the living must be poetic.” “I live I write.” The next book is already work in progress…

Standing ovations for the doyenne! The entire audience in the Akademie Theater, the smaller stage of the huge Burgtheater stood up to honor Friederike Mayröcker. The critics in German-speaking newspapers bow to the ‘fairy of poetry’ and certify that many of her thoughts and her language do not seem to be of our world – a new experimental writing, even in her last book ‘cahier’.

Born in Vienna she grew up gently looked after by her parents: “Mother’s old age picture pursues me day and night like a honored shadow.” She studied English and worked as a teacher in Vienna until 1969; she started writing with 15 years – seven years later, for the first time, she published her work in a magazine.

She has been allied with her “heart-companion” and “shrift-father” Ernst Jandl since 1954: they shared life, writing, philosophy of life until his death in June 2000. She continues the dialogue with him – like Eurydice and Orpheus with changed parts…

The Viennese Teardrop

Luise Rainer

“The Viennese Teardrop” Luise Rainer, double Oscar-winner, died with 104 years in London. Born in Düsseldorf, Germany, she started her career as an actress first at the theatre in Düsseldorf. The famous Max Reinhardt, founder of the Salzburg Festival in 1920, engaged her at the Theater in der Josefstadt, Vienna. Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM (look at my December column) discovered her in 1935 and she followed to Hollywood.

The publicity machine declared Luise Rainer to be Austrian! better than a girl from Nazi Germany. She won two Oscars: 1936 with The Great Ziegfeld and 1937 with The Good Earth. She retired from the movie business after a dispute with MGM in 1943 and moved to Switzerland. She was first married to the playwright Clifford Odets (Golden Boy; Awake and Sing); after divorce in 1940 she married the editor Robert Knittel. After his death she moved to London.

No-cell Espresso

If you want to enjoy your cup of coffee without cell-tinkle come and sit down at Café Sperl near the Naschmarkt: all guests do without cells…so I’ll wait with my kleiner Brauner – Espresso – and some pastry: come and join me!

Final Note

This is the day after the murderous attack on Charlie Hebdon at Paris.

“No man is an island entire of itself – every man is a piece of the continent…” John Donne.

The death of the editing staff concerns me. Yesterday in the evening I went to the French embassy at Schwarzenbergplatz: a lot of people had gathered to express mourning and sympathy with the victims.