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Georg Trakl

Posted 12-14-2010 at 03:40 AM by Steve Bucknell
Reading work by Georg Trakl, published in the Austrian literary magazine Der Brenner, Wittgenstein said: “I do not understand his poetry, but its tone delights me. It is the tone of a man of real genius.” Wittgenstein reached out indirectly to Trakl in the summer of 1914, making a donation of 100,000 crowns to needy Austrian artists and asked Ficker, the editor of Der Brenner, to oversee its distribution. Ficker requested that 20,000 of it be sent to Trakl. When Trakl went to withdraw the first instalment from an Innsbruck bank he ran away due to a panic attack, never receiving the money. Trakl was then caught up in the First World War.

Later, Trakl reached out to Wittgenstein from hospital where he had gone after a mental collapse caused by the stress of helping nurse badly wounded soldiers. At this time Trakl sent Wittgenstein a card asking to see him since being told by Ficker that he was nearby. When Wittgenstein eventually received Trakl's note, he went to the hospital, but found that Trakl had died from an overdose of cocaine three days before.

You would think that if anyone could have helped Georg Trakl it would have been Wittgenstein; it is sad that they never had that conversation.


To Karl Borromaus Heinrich

Over the white pond
The wild birds have travelled on.
In the evening an icy wind blows from our stars.

Over our graves
The broken brow of the night inclines.
Under oak leaves we sway in a silver boat.

Always the town’s white walls resound.
Under arches of thorns,
O my brother, blind minute-hands,
We climb towards midnight.

Georg Trakl 1887-1914.

Trans. Michael Hamburger.
German Poetry, 1910-1975: An anthology in German and English
, ed. M.Hamburger, Carcanet 1977.

(Karl Borromaus Heinrich was a friend of Trakl. Two poems are dedicated to him in which a “brother” is mentioned (Decline and Song of the Departed.). In 1926, Heinrich published his remembrances of Trakl in Der Brenner under the title “The Apparition of Georg Trakl.”)
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