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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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    Long ears, big heart

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    A holiday without reading wouldn’t be one. But which titles are included – and why? In our summer series, new travel acquaintances are made. Sometimes there are good friends among them.

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    Hiking with a donkey would be nice. If anything can calm an inwardly fidgety person, it’s big gray beasts. Unfortunately, our attempt in Brandenburg failed. We made a small deposit for a donkey ride and then never got a reply. The donkey farm has stopped working, so it looks like. I hope nothing happened to the animals.

    Of course, one prepares for such an excursion. Andy Merrifield, born 1960, a British Marxist and urbanist, has written a wonderful book about escaping the big city and academia. “The wisdom of donkeys. Finding peace in a chaotic world”. The guide subtitle makes you suspicious, but don’t let that put you off. Not even from Merrifield’s educational baggage, which he gradually throws off on the long journey through the Auvergne with the donkey Gribouille.

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    He immediately wants to reconcile Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 20, which is running around in his head, with the donkey’s cry. And he likes it too – who doesn’t? – Robert Bresson’s heartbreaking film “For Example Balthasar”, the classic of the donkey friends, and also Dostoyevsky’s deadly melancholic Prince Myshkin. But soon he “can’t stop thinking about donkeys, the way they look, the feeling they convey.” It is, to put it briefly, a happy and long journey. And if it’s therapy, it’s also an adventure, a hike with consequences that is not only through friendly nature, and in the evening stop at French country inns.

    A donkey named Platero

    “In Gribouille’s presence,” he writes at the end, which resembles a new beginning, “my life unfolded like a film in front of my inner eye. With him I had a chance, maybe my lucky second chance, to relive the past, analyze it, shed old baggage, bury the dead and get on with my life.” Elsewhere.

    This isn’t going to be a donkey anthology. But the greatest declaration of love ever made to this often misunderstood and mistreated animal cannot be denied. Who is already familiar with Juan Ramón Jimenéz? He was born in Moguer/Huelva in 1881 and died in Puerto Rico in 1958. In 1956 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his poetry.

    His most famous book is entitled “Platero and I”. Platero, that’s the name of the donkey. With him the poet travels through Andalusia, with these two one gets to know the country and its people; Bullfighting, Harvest, Pilgrimage, Rivers and Gardens, Seasons. 138 sketches, passages, little chapters: one does not read it in one go, joins it at any point, accompanies poets and four-legged friends for a while and puts it aside again, the silent book. On holiday in southern Spain I enjoyed a few pages in the evening and again the next morning. In between, one hopes for a good night’s sleep with the air conditioning, which didn’t exist in Jimenez’s day.

    The book was first published in 1914, but in an edition that was shortened by more than half. “Platero” had tremendous success – as a children’s book. The shy author had a reputation as a cute donkey for a long time. He felt betrayed by the publishing world.

    A full edition came out in 1917 and had a hard time being perceived for what Platero y yo is: inner monologue, autobiographical experiment of a poet riding into the dawn of modernity. A lone keen observer: “Platero, perhaps she has gone away – where? – in that black, sunlit train that fled north on the high railway embankment above, sharply outlined against the white storm clouds?”

    Source: Tagesspiegel

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