At 50, there isn’t enough time to do them sequentially

September 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Bettines letzte Liebschaften shows the now 50-ish Bettina von Arnim, made famous by her youthful correspondence with Goethe and now an established senior cultural figure herself, traveling several hundred miles through a snow-storm to meet her youthful poet-correspondent, in hope of consummating the heretofore merely epistolographical affair. Once tete-a-tete in his quarters, the poet begins to duck, evade and change the subject, and when he is finally openly pinned down and forced to declare himself, denies volubly that he finds her too old (not an ageist, he) but claims that his erstwhile passion died in response to reports of Bettina’s similar attempts made recently on two other youthful poets. She admits she has made such attempts, but claims now to live only for him – all to no avail.

Youthful poets are happy to “do a Bettina” – i.e. establish their fame by way of amorous correspondence with senior high profile poetesses – but their eagerness for literary achievement may not necessarily extend to acts of physical self-sacrifice. And fiftyish established poetesses (and poets) – when he wrote it, Dieter Kuehn – no, not the East German footballer who is the only German of that name with an English wikipedia entry – was fiftyish himself – become desperate enough to follow every lead, several at once. Time is running out, there isn’t enough of it left to do them sequentially.

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