Hilke Kurzke

Hilke Kurzke

Posted on 11/23/2009

Photo taken on November  5, 2009

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the genderless fishwife: one of my illustrations for "the awful german language" by mark twain

I printed a special edition of 12 hand printed numbered and signed copies. See more images and the prints here.

The text is by Mark Twain who spent time in Heidelberg, learning German. He had fallen in love with Heidelberg, gushing over its splendor in "A Tramp Abroad". Apparently he had something like a love-hate for the language which is brilliantly and pointedly written up in this essay of his with the title "The Awful German Language" , an appendix to A Tramp Abroad. It's an amusing read for everyone who knows enough of the two languages to compare them.

In this edition I added my own lino cuts to illustrate the story. It's 10 cuts, one of them in three colors. In this special edition the text is inkjet printed with the cuts printed by hand on the pages. It is of course hand bound - the binding style is called reversed bookcloth binding, and makes the book open with ease and without stress on the materials - which gives it a long live.

This is the first paragraph of the text - just to give you an impression:

"I went often to look at the collection of curiosities in Heidelberg Castle, and one day I surprised the keeper of it with my German. I spoke entirely in that language. He was greatly interested; and after I had talked a while he said my German was very rare, possibly a "unique"; and wanted to add it to his museum.

If he had known what it had cost me to acquire my art, he would also have known that it would break any collector to buy it. Harris and I had been hard at work on our German during several weeks at that time, and although we had made good progress, it had been accomplished under great difficulty and annoyance, for three of our teachers had died in the mean time. A person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is."