Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Friday, October 31, 2014

WANDERING WITH VOGELS



Before we move on from Thomas Bernhard, as if we ever truly can, here’s part of the wonderful, and I think you’d have to say (despite various denials) Beckettian, opening to his novella, or long short story or whatever it ought to be called, Walking (titled Gehen in German) and translated here by Kenneth Northcott: 



Whereas, before Karrer went mad, I used to go walking with Oehler only on Wednesdays, now I go walking--now that Karrer has gone mad--with Oehler on Monday as well. Because Karrer used to go walking with me on Monday, you go walking on Monday with me as well, now that Karrer no longer goes walking with me on Monday, says Oehler, after Karrer had gone mad and had immediately gone into Steinhof. And without hesitation I said to Oehler, good, let's go walking on Monday as well. Whereas on Wednesday we always walk in one direction (in the eastern one), on Mondays we go walking in the western direction, strikingly enough we walk far more quickly on Monday than on Wednesday, probably, I think, Oehler always walked more quickly with Karrer than he did with me, because on Wednesday he walks much more slowly and on Monday much more quickly. You see, says Oehler, it's a habit of mine to walk more quickly on Monday and more slowly on Wednesday because I always walked more quickly with Karrer (that is on Monday) than I did with you (on Wednesday). Because, after Karrer went mad, you now go walking with me not only on Wednesday but also on Monday, there is no need for me to alter my habit of going walking on Monday and on Wednesday, says Oehler, of course, because you go walking with me on Wednesday and Monday you have probably had to alter your habit and, actually, in what is probably for you an incredible fashion, says Oehler.
*


I did wonder if Bernhard had ever had anything to say about the Wandervogel.  They were an outdoorsy, back to nature, German youth movement, dating from the late 19th century, that certainly favored walking, and by various accounts were precursors of both hippies and the Hitler Youth.  Certainly they greeted each other by yelling “Heil” at each other, and sometimes they wore faux medieval costume while walking over the hills.  No good could come of this, obviously.


As far as I can discover, Bernhard never offered an opinion on the Wandervogel, though I think we can imagine what it might have been.   Since Bernhard was born in 1931 and the Wandervogel were officially dissolved in 1933, he obviously couldn’t have been a member, but in Gathering Evidence: A Memoir (which may or may not be strictly autobiographically accurate) the protagonist certainly joins the Hitler Youth and does pretty well, but as a sprinter rather than a walker.  But he does go for long walks in the countryside with his grandfather.



One of the things about the Wandervogel: as they wandered happily along the mountain track, knapsacks on their backs, they often liked to sing.  (The famous, and famously unbearable, song “The Happy Wanderer” seems to come from a later period, but obviously shares similar impulses).  And as you see, quite a lot of the pictures show the Wandervogel walking along with one or more the members playing guitars. 


Now, I like guitar playing and I like walking, but combining the two strikes me as tricky thing.  I mean you could do it, but surely not for very long.  It’s hard to imagine walking very far at all while shredding on your axe.  And it’s a damn awkward thing to carry if you’re just walking.  No doubt the Wandervogel were made of sterner stuff than I am.




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