LitBirthdays – July 27, 2010

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July 27

Elizabeth Hardwick (born July 27, 1916) – U.S. essayist, novelist, co-founder of the New York Review of Books Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature (1974) Elizabeth Hardwick

Read about Elizabeth Hardwick here

Read Lisa Levy’s homage to Elizabeth Hardwick

This was an oft-repeated epithet about her character: “She was so tough, everyone says in amazement as they look back over the decades of insanity and infidelity: tough and tough-minded.” It was true of her work as well. In the New York Review she had her best venue, delivering essays up to her own standard: “full of personality, eloquence and daring.” Her criticism often identified with mad or tortured women, what Didion identified as “women adrift”: Dorothy Wordsworth, Charlotte Brontë, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, Zelda Fitzgerald—rather than madmen and the women who loved them. Her decision to tackle Melville, the most important nineteenth-century writer of her time, was both brave and triumphant, and her later writings on Philip Roth, Richard Ford, and Joan Didion proved she was someone who was not always looking retrospectively for subjects. She also didn’t limit herself to the literary highbrow: Hardwick relished a juicy murder trial, writing about O.J. and the Menendez brothers.

Read the U.K. Guardian obituary for Elizabeth Hardwick

Read excerpts from Hardwick’s
Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature

(from the chapter “A Doll’s House”)

Ibsen has not made Nora a writer, but he has, if we look carefully, made her extremely intelligent. She is the most sympathetic of all his heroines. There is nothing bitter, ruthless, or self-destructive in her. She has the amiability and endurance that are the clues to moral courage. Nora is gracious and fair-minded. Even when she is leaving Helmer, she thanks him for being kind to her.

The habit is to play Nora too lightly in the beginning and too heavily in the end. The person who has been charming in Acts 1 and 2 puts on a dowdy traveling suit in Act 3 and is suddenly standing before you as a spinster governess. If the play is to make sense, the woman who has decided to leave her husband must be the very same woman we have known before. We may well predict that she will soon be laughing and chattering again and eating her macaroons in peace, telling her friends — she is going back to her hometown — what a stick Helmer turned out to be. Otherwise her freedom is worth nothing. Nora’s liberation is not a transformation, but an acknowledgment of error, of having married the wrong man. Her real problem is money — at the beginning and at the end. What will she live on? What kind of work will she do? Will she get her children back? Who will be her next husband? When the curtain goes down it is only the end of Volume One.

(pages 48-49 of Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature)

Read The Paris Review 1985 interview of Elizabeth Hardwick about her writings

“As I have grown older I see myself as fortunate in many ways. It is fortunate to have had all my life this passion for studying and enjoying literature and for trying to add a bit to it as interestingly as I can. This passion has given me much joy, it has given me friends who care for the same things, it has given me employment, escape from boredom, everything. The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”

Hilde Domin photo

Hilde Domin (born July 27, 1909) – German poet – “April” (English translation in Four German Poets: Gunter Eich, Hilde Domin, Erich Fried, Gunter Kunert)

Listen to a Deutsche Welle English language podcast
about Hilde Domin (Inspired Minds Episode #6)

Read the excellent English translations of Hilde Domin’s poems
by Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel

Written in the Rain

If we were bees
who can feel the sun
through the cloudy sky
who find their way
to the blossom
and never lose direction,
our fields would be forever
however short our life
we would seldom cry.

Visit the July 27, 2009 LitBirthdays for more about Hilde Domin


Die Welt riecht süss / The world smells sweetly
nach Gestern. / of yesterday,
Düfte sind dauerhaft. / Scents are lasting.

Du öffnest das Fenster. / You open the window.
Alle Frühlinge / All the springs
kommen herein mit diesem. / come in with this one.

Frühling der mehr ist / A spring that is more
als grüne Blätter. / than green leaves
Ein Kuss birgt alle Küsse. / A kiss that holds all kisses.

Immer dieser glänzend glatte /Always this glossy glazed
Himmel über der Stadt, / sky above the city,
in den die Strassen fliessen. / into which the streets flow.

Du weisst, der Winter / You know, winter
und der Schmerz / and pain
sind nichts, was umbringt. / will not kill you.

Die Luft riecht heute süss / The breeze smells sweet today
nach Gestern – / of yesterday —
das süss nach Heute roch. / that smelled sweetly of today.

Hilde Domin in Gesammelte Gedichte/S.Fischer/s.209

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