We began our Tucholsky journey some time ago. Perhaps even over a decade ago when our friend Karin gave Stephen a wonderful audio book of Schloss Gripsholm. To our shame, although both of us knew of Tucholsky's political satire, neither of us had read his fiction. On a subsequent visit to Berlin we travelled to Rheinsberg - delightful, well worth a visit and of course with a strong Voltaire connection too, I think we had coffee in the café Voltaire. We also visited the Tucholsky museum which is moving but also amusing. He knew how to make people laugh. Rheinsberg is the name and setting for another and much earlier love story by Tucholsky.
Last night in Berlin we sat and ate in Tucholsky's the Kneipe at the end of the Tucholsky strasse. we sat outside and I looked down the street to the now gleaming dome of the Synagogue in Oranienburgerstrasse. According to the papers I've seen at the Jewish cemetry in Weissensee this is the place where at least one set of my great grandparents celebrated their wedding, despite already being fairly secular Jews.
Kurt Tucholsky was born in the same year as my grandfather, 1890. Four days before Christmas in 1935 he took his life. Three years younger than I am now, he had achieved a great deal, yet he was facing middle age, finitude and also the terrible scourge of national socialism in his home country. He also suffered from chronic and desperately painful sinus problems. I can understand the desperation. In Berlin I picked up the writings on childhood of another brilliant Jewish author of the same generation, Walter Benjamin, who in 1940 also took his own life rather than fall into the hands of the German authorities. These fragments didn't even come to light until they were unearthed in the French national library in 1981 ... If I have the husband I have it is in some way thanks to Walter Benjamin, so this too seems like the right thing to be reading on our 20th Wedding anniversary journey.
Perhaps it seems a little strange to be going to Mariefred to visit Tucholsky's grave but I suppsoe what we are doing is viisting the place of the story and giving gentle thanks for all the joy and pleasure it has given to us over the years. Even tonight we read bits out to one another over supper - just a few lines about Copenhagen and they made us smile. It is beautifully paced and observed.
We only decided a few weeks ago that this was what we were going to do for this anniversary journey. I could sense we were heading rather helplessly to a proposal neither of us wanted but neither of us could say no to either, then one evening Stephen said but what if we took the train to Gripsholm ... and everything fell into place and into smiles.
Quite funny really, Tucholsky's novella is certainly not bourgeois, yet it will help us over the bourgeois hurdle of "what to do for our 20th".
So here we are simply enjoying the journey those two in the book made and adding on some bits of our own as well. It's been a really fun thing to do. The trains, the ferry, the light in the wide open northern landscapes and the beauty tonight of Copenhagen. Wonderful.