Peter Panter‘s Pyrenees Book (Peter Panters Pyrenäenbuch)


There is a section of Romantic philology concerned with French, and those responsible for it are serious men whose main occupation is to prove how German their chosen subject actually is. There are German Baedeker Parisians who feel themselves to be cosmopolitan as they leave a salon de beauté, and regard their familiar wife at home as a freak of nature. And there are… But let’s leave it at that; describing how Germans react towards France quickly becomes a history of the German soul.

But Peter Panter, the most gentle panther who ever went among people, visited provincial France. Not a writer who poaches impressions, not a hunter after excitement at any price, who keeps on looking until at the end of the chapter the tone and the syntax tremble. As strange as it may seem: this book about a journey through the Basque country is about someone trying to learn.

The book has now been published, and the publisher, Schmiede, has presented it beautifully, although a little too heavy, too importantly, for my taste. It is a strange book, written very personally and idiosyncratically, in a way in which one no longer writes, in which the smallest herb expresses the collective soul. One observer used his eyes and ears here. One observer. One loves him not because he describes Andorra and Lourdes, trips in the mountains and bull-fights, cathedrals and Toulouse-Lautrec so incredibly powerfully, but because all that was what made a virtuoso of the short form reveal his entire personality for the first time. Because he had the courage to withdraw as the observer of the thousand little things, now, when the work is done, they withdraw in their turn, and the observer is left in the foreground, although he did not put himself there. The Pyrenees discovered Peter Panter, not vice versa.

Sometimes, the author’s close relatives get involved. A tiger growls in the jungle. Ignaz Wrobel suddenly hisses anti-militaristic invective from a temporarily uncontrolled corner, but Panter remains in charge, and he is able to quickly silence the hecklers.

These are the remarks of a critical friend, as a conscientious book reviewer, but one wish remains: I would really like to see all of you between the covers of one book, including Kaspar Hauser, the shy orphan who has become so rare, and KT, the legendary Wanderer of Rheinsberg.

That would be an entertaining symposium…

Published in:

OssietzkyReader Ossietzky Contemporary Reader

The book reviewed: TuchoPyrenees Tucholsky Pyrenees Book

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