Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Two People By Hank R. Schwab and Richard Dehmel Zwei Menschen

To Order Two People

Designed by award winning designer Tom Greensfelder, with cover art by artist Cynthia Archer, this breathtakingly beautiful book, is one of the most elegant presentations of Dehmel's work ever produced and richly underscores the daunting task that Chicagoan Hank Schwab undertook when translating Dehmel's novel in verse. (To learn more about Hank, his Memoirs  are also published in this handsome book)

Hank Schwab is a 94 year old Chicagoan who has lived through the major social revolution3s of the last century. From his first two decades in Germany which ended with his freedom from Buchenwald at the start of World War II, to his work on the south side of Chicago with artists, musicians and leaders in the civil rights movement, he maintained an indomitable sense of the joy inherent in life and art.

This work, Two People: A Novel in Romantic Verse by Richard Dehmel, has never before translated in whole from German to English. Hank knew this work as a student, and began work on it in his eighth decade, figuring he'd not finish it in his lifetime. He proved himself wrong. The novel in verse ranks as a major achievement in the high German literary tradition of Goethe's Faust. Schoenberg used a section of the poem with startlingly effectiveness in his Verlacht Nacht.

The work itself is an extraordinary manifesto on the transcendence of love and it's all consuming creative and destructive power. The vast landscapes and cataclysmic storms these two lovers encounter in their progressive obsession and isolation is in the grand romantic tradition that evokes the nineteenth century American landscapes or exploits of the Victorian era explorers.

  To Order Two People
Hank translated each of the 3 volumes of the work initially into verbatim English and then introduced the poetry matching Richard Dehmel's rhyming scheme of the original German and the telling leit-motif of each section's closing “Two lovers...." Having read both versions, I’m stunned by the power of the work, and the achievement that this translation manifests. Hank has given an additional life in a new language to a work that is timeless in its focus and now accessible to a generation removed in time and language, but dealing with the same core emotions.

Andrew J. Griffin M.D.
Chicago, October 9, 2007  

To Order Two People
(To learn more about Hank, his Memoirs  are also published in this handsome book)

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