Hans Keller the storyteller

Portrait of Hans Keller by Milein Cosman, found in a notebook from the early 1950s. © Cambridge University Library. Published with the kind permission of the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust.

Portrait of Hans Keller by Milein Cosman, found in a notebook from the early 1950s. © Cambridge University Library. Published with the kind permission of the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust.

Tucked away in the Hans Keller Archive here at the University Library is a cache of material from the early years of Keller’s career, much of which has, so far, not yet seen the light of day: his literary writings and aphorisms. There are about 30 short stories – many of them less than 500 words – in English and German, some of which were entries for competitions run by journals aimed at the emerging writer.

One such example is The Writer, published by Hutchinson during the 1940s and 50s. It contains all sorts of good advice for the budding author, little pieces on aspects of grammar and literary devices, studies of well-known authors’ approaches to their craft, a problem page, a market supplement for journals seeking contributions, and a regular competition. We thought we might take the opportunity to share with you one of Keller’s competition entries, written for a January competition in The Writer [undated, but from the 1940’s]: The Patient Patient. Immediately we see in the title Keller’s fascination with language – something which occupied him all his life and is demonstrated in all his writing.

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Writer 1946 001The Patient Patient

“Try to relax,” said the psychotherapist.
“I can’t, ” said the editor.
“Why not?”
“I’m suffocating myself.”
“How do you do that?”
“I’m sending myself manuscripts, and then I reject them. Lately I’ve sent me so many that I can’t find the time to read them all. They’re burying me. I can hardly breathe. I have to return some without reading them.”
“Are you doing all this in order to prove to your contributors that you’re just? That you treat yourself in the same way you treat them?”
“Heavens, you’re reading me. Don’t read me. It isn’t worth while.”
“How do you know? Do your contributors always know whether it’s worth reading them?”
“Sometimes you’re nice. I’m feeling so guilty. But at times it seems you’ll forgive me. I want to show you, to show them, that I’m honest. I’m honest, aren’t I?”
“You are.”
“Oh, I regret, I regret!”
“What?”
“That I don’t understand.”
“Don’t understand what?”
“That I regret.”
“Regret what?”
“Regret regretting that I cannot make use of my manuscripts. Some of them aren’t so bad. Why won’t I accept any? How I hate myself!”
“Why?”
“Because they don’t love me. Because you don’t love me. But you’re right, all of you, in not loving me. I have to be off now. I have to post my daily ration of manuscripts. Oh yes, I’m patient. I’ll keep it up. One day, maybe, I’ll have something accepted. If not, there’s still suicide.”

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An extraordinary little piece, which perhaps is a reflection on Keller’s own experiences in submitting material only to have it sent back.

A typical Keller aphorism on a most unusual piece of writing material. © Cambridge University Library

A typical Keller aphorism on a most unusual piece of writing material.
© Cambridge University Library

And as a coda, here are three musical aphorisms to conjure with:

“So often the platform turns playing into placarding”

“In Beethoven and Brahms a performer can show his competence, in Bach and Mozart his incompetence.”

“Ultimately, every important instrumentalist comes to realize that the instrument is of no ultimate importance.”

For a complete list of Keller’s unpublished article see: Unpublished articles Jun 2016.

SW

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One Response to Hans Keller the storyteller

  1. CHRISTOPHER WINTLE says:

    Very amusing, and no, I hadn’t read this before (aphorisms apart, which I have in fact published)! Keep up the excellent work!

    Christopher

    Like

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