Helmut Frielinghaus, who died on January 29, was for many years
Günter Grass’s editor.
His round back.
His stubbornness, that he kept to himself.
His freedom, asking only for a bit of space
that flourished beyond publishing houses.
The author’s editor has died.
Now the self-centered child pities himself,
as if his nursemaid has run away.
Who now will be first to sense,
and tactfully refrain from saying,
that something’s in the bush—unforeseen—
thrashing about with words?
Without his editor the author is orphaned,
worse, amputated, aching in all weathers
for what’s missing.
Who will inject him now with doubt,
talk him patiently out of doubt,
and trim with a sharpened pencil the branches
that serve no purpose?
Who will make notes in the margin,
which, more as queries than demands,
make the author see
that everything is still in flux
and only seems finished but is not!
Death has taken my editor from me,
my sedentary, friendly equal.
Sometimes we even talked about ourselves,
war children, beset by fears that never ended;
Braunschweig still in flames before him,
and I, still lost, without my marching orders.
So, over the years, we became a couple
that had fallen out of time:
no longer quite up-to-date,
always struggling to decide
between a comma and a semicolon,
which—so we thought—set the world in motion.
Such intimacy that required we use paper
to get it down book after book,
as if to prove that we two—
in spite of death—could not part.
April 5, 2012
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We’re So Exceptional
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