Audio Book Gift Tip – Audio Play: “Do you like Emily Dickinson?”


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Tue 20.12.2022 | 17:45 | The day

Audiobook gift tip
Radio play: “Do you like Emily Dickinson?”

The Berlin radio play director and author Kai Grehn has set new standards with his adaptations of great novels and literature. In 2019 he was awarded the New York Radio Prize for his radio play “Mu! oder People must be punished”.. Now, together with the American duo CocoRosie, he has produced a sound collage of letters and poems by the American poet Emily Dickinson. Tomas Fitzel recommends the audio book as a Christmas present.

“The small heart cannot break, happiness its punishment consoles the great, coming out of the abyss and re-entering it… that’s life, isn’t it?” (Birgit Minichmayr in the radio play “Do you like Emily Dickinson?”)

After just a few moments you are hopelessly lost. One almost wants to fall into this incomparable language. It’s that mixture of world-weariness, natural piety, hymn and prayer. Kai Grehn underscores the strictly puritanical piety of Emily Dickinson’s surroundings with organ music. He offers a whole orchestra of natural sounds: rain is pounding, birds are chirping, the nightingale is singing, the storm is howling and the ice is cracking.

“It’s cold tonight, but the thought of you is so warm that I sit in front of it like in front of the fireplace and can never freeze again. If there were an answer to prayer, you would be here tonight.”

(Birgit Minichmayr in the radio play “Do you like Emily Dickinson?”)

Fascinatingly read – hit music

In addition to the clever composition of the text, Birgit Minichmayr contributes to the attraction of this audio book. And second, the music of CocoRosie, who set some poems to music and made them almost hit-worthy.

I probably won’t go out the door anymore.

Letters as a connection with the world

Kai Grehn mixes Emily Dickinson’s poems and letters without sticking to the chronology, nor does it reveal who she is addressing these letters to. But that’s not important. For whom did she love, to whom was her longing directed? One does not know. How little is known at all about her unspectacular life. Born 1830, died 1886. At her grave, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, one of her longtime letter recipients, recited the verse of Emily Brontë: “No coward’s heart is mine.”

She has lived almost her entire life in one place, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

After the age of 30 she hardly left the house. Her letters were her connection to the world.

Fresh and contemporary retranslation

What is surprising about Emily Dickinson is her unusual language images. Kai Grehn translated the selected poems himself. He is much more direct in the original text, which often makes them appear much fresher and more up-to-date than with Gunhild Kübler, who translated all of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

Why is one at the mercy of their texts so defenseless? Because they always address you directly in the letter. And these letters are at the same time the place of her poems, only there they are preserved. While American literature is experiencing its first productive heyday, it remains aloof from the public eye. Of her almost 1800 poems, only ten were published during her lifetime and without her doing.

As much as the poems and letters seek to explore one’s self, it is a self that transcends the personal self of Emily Dickinson.

“I’m nobody! Who are you? Are – nobody – you too? Then there are two of us! Don’t say anything! You know – otherwise there would be shouting!”

(Birgit Minichmayr in the radio play “Do you like Emily Dickinson?”)

Hope is the feather thing – that sits in the soul – sings songs without words – and never dies away – never

Texts that are catapulted into the present

Emily Dickinson absorbs the mental turmoil in American society: It is the time of great carnage, the American Civil War, in which automatic weapons are used for the first time in history, with devastating numbers of victims in a short time. This catapults their texts directly into our present.

“The soul has moments of bondage – When it freezes in fear – Feels the horror approaching shudders Stops and looks at it -“

(Birgit Minichmayr in the radio play “Do you like Emily Dickinson?”)

Lines that touch

“Do you like Emily Dickinson?” is in the best sense a songbook. One must be heartless if these lines do not touch one.

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