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Resisting a culture ‘in-between’, or: what did Erich Fried learn from Dylan Thomas?

Berendse, Gerrit-Jan 2014. Resisting a culture ‘in-between’, or: what did Erich Fried learn from Dylan Thomas? German Life and Letters 67 (1) , pp. 71-86. 10.1111/glal.12032

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The relationship between the Austrian exile Erich Fried and his Welsh fellow-poet Dylan Thomas is highlighted by Fried's translation into German of Under Milk Wood in 1954. This constitutes a significant link between two poets who otherwise had very little in common and who differed greatly in personality, writing style and political orientation. Each, however, occupied a different but unique position in the history of European poetry, related to the language in which they chose to write. The translation unlocked a multi-faceted process of learning. This involved, however, what Fried perceived to be a negative feature of Thomas's writing and one which Fried wanted to avoid when, in his voluntary London exile after the Second World War, he searched for a new voice. He found in Dylan Thomas a contrasting aesthetic that fuelled his own tenacity; a tenacity which sprang from his fanatical desire to protect his Austrian and German cultural heritage. He sought to defend the use of his mother tongue against ‘alien’ discourses, not only against the English language but also against many historical and political discourses. This outlook contrasts with Thomas's playfulness and his receptive approach towards the prevailing culture in Wales which sometimes resulted in a ‘Wenglish linguistic’ register. Fried's choosing to translate Thomas's radio play already indicates the opposing ‘neighbourhood status’ of both European poets. Despite the fact that Fried distanced himself in a radical way and opted for different poetic avenues, both meet on a cultural level which Homi K. Bhabha termed the ‘Third Place’.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
P Language and Literature > PD Germanic languages
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0016-8777
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2019 14:17

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