This new and fully bilingual edition of the Poems of Mascha Kaléko, out in time for the 110th anniversary of her birth, is a good introduction in English to one of my favourite German poets, who deserves to be more widely known. Each chapter presents one stage of her life and publication – whether in Berlin where she grew up before Hitler came to power, or in exile in New York and Jerusalem. The editor and translator, Andreas Nolte, provides lots of useful background here. As he himself says, this new edition is also more visually appealing, with reprints of Kaléko’s covers and press cuttings.
Especially with the rhyme rendered in English, the poems sound startlingly, almost overly simple. I got to know and love many of them, like Alle sieben Jahre/Every seven years, in German, so reading them in English still feels odd. But there were several little gems here which were new to me, including many unpublished ones found in Kaléko’s apartment after her death. Here are just three. The first is a good indication of her absolute astuteness when it comes to observing relationships in all their stages:
The second might be sixty years old, but it’s perfect for the social media age:
And to round off, some self-reflection that resonates:
If you are new to Mascha Kaléko, this book is a good place to start. If you think you know her, there are some surprises for you in here too. If you are a huge fan like me, you can share it far and wide to introduce her to English-speaking readers. So get your copy now – with a discount if you buy it from the self-described post-capitalist publisher, Fomite Press. The above painting by German expressionist Gabriele Münter is on the cover.
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