It was a year ago today that I began posting tributes to Carl Weissner (1940-2012), whose unexpected death last January came as a shock. My own words went up with a photo and funeral announcement by the filmmaker Signe Mähler, another of his friends. The poet and performance artist William Cody Maher, the journalist and author Matthias Penzel, the author and literary accomplice Jürgen Ploog, all sent tributes of sorrow and praise.That only scratched the surface of an outpouring in newspapers, magazines, and blogs, largely in Germany, where Carl lived and worked as the peerless translator of more than 100 books — mostly the writings of American vanguardists from William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski to Nelson Algren, from Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg to Ken Kesey, from Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan to Harold Norse … the list goes on and on … from the British authors J.G. Ballard and Denton Welsh to the Canadian jack-of-all-trades Leonard Cohen … I’ll stop there. Carl was also a “little magazine” editor, a radio playwright, and a literary agent who spread the work of dissident writers even further. Not least by any measure, he was the brilliant, bilingual author of four killer works of fiction, The Braille Film and Death in Paris (both written in English) and Manhattan Muffdiver and Die Abenteuer von Trashman (both written in German).
Now, on the anniversary of his death, Carl’s friends and colleagues have been remembering him again with as much gusto and warmth as ever. Last night (Thursday, Jan. 24) in Heidelberg, Signe and Cody showed the first 20 or so minutes of a film documentary they’re making about Carl.
“great, and moving, too, to see Carl up there on screen. telling tales,” Walter Hartmann messaged in an email. Walter, who was another of Carl’s cherished colleagues, writes:
Besides Walter, who recently translated Death in Paris into German for the Vienna publisher Milena Verlag, others at the Heidelberg gathering included Benno Käsmayr, the founder of Maro Verlag, which published Carl’s early translations of Bukowski back in the ’60s, and Matthias, who is editing Milena Verlag’s forthcoming volume of writings, Eine Andere Lega, which will be anchored by Walter’s DiP translation and is scheduled to appear in March.
Signe/Cody collected quite a few of his oral recollections re this n that over café tables or @ their home. […]
ever hear Carl relate the story how he, age 6, went on a ride w/his grandfolks over into the french sector … gramps at the wheel … they’re going to relatives who have a vineyard, war is over and gramps wants to stock up on good ole white wine, right? trouble is, you’re not allowed to import wine from the french into the american sector. now on their way back, gramps don’t give a hoot, you see … he hit the accelerator, it’s a good ole DKW? going 80 kmh max, and they CRASH right thru that checkpoint … french guards shooting their MPs, bullets hit the car but hurt no one … li’l Carl is safe in back behind the wine case load … […]
… plus (in the film) he talks abt how in his own write he plans to include N.Lunch characters (such as Hassan O’Leary) & let them DIE since he can’t see why they shd be allowed to LIVE ––
The night before (Wednesday, Jan. 23) in St. Gallen, Switzerland, Anna Böger & Florian Vetsch toasted Carl and remembered him in a reading-cum-performance, “Revisited,” at the Palace / Blumenbergplatz. Anna is a noted German actress who often performed in readings with Carl. Florian, who worked with Carl on three anthologies and appeared with him in readings in Switzerland, is editing a special memorial issue of the Zurich magazine Rote Fabrik Zeitung (RFZ: “Red Factory Magazine”) dedicated to Carl. It, too, will be published in March.Let’s wrap up this blogpost with words from the maestro himself, shall we? Here are a few from Death in Paris, detailing a brief moment in the life of its protagonist, a book-writing serial killer described as a “virus in shoes,” who is known alternately as Gerald Lake, G, G23, and Alain Laurin:
Laurin is standing at the window on the left looking across the grey sunbleached corrugated tin roofs, the noise of the streets only a distant murmur, and there is the dull feeling that maybe he is running dry. He has been wandering around all day, oblivious to his surroundings, bumping into people and getting shoved aside by delivery men, and nothing has come to him.
He might as well light a candle at the feet of the Black Madonna in St. Sulpice and complain to her, in a pissed and grating tone of voice, “Where’s my raison d’être, goddammit?”
Carl, god bless him, never needed one of those.
Postscript: Feb. 8 — Signe and Cody’s magnificent elegy!