Every Curve of Flesh

Gabriele Annan

  • Diary of an Erotic Life by Frank Wedekind
    Blackwell, 183 pp, £25.00, October 1990, ISBN 0 631 16607 6

‘It’s ages since I got over being a sexual psychopath,’ Wedekind wrote, ‘and yet, I shall never forget it: those were happy days.’ His Diary of an Erotic Life is a record of those happy days between 1887, when he was 23, and 1894. A few pages of short entries cover the period 1908 to 1918. That was the year he died, after several botched operations on his appendix. The last entry is a poem to his wife Tilly. She was a beautiful actress much younger than he was, and they had two little girls. In the poem, Wedekind sets her free. The marriage was going badly – she had tried to commit suicide a few months before. He speaks of his dreary illness: perhaps he foresaw his death. The poem is an affectionate, fatalistic farewell ballad – the ballad form used ironically, as Heine used it. Wedekind admired and regularly parodied Heine. In order to get a rhyme the translator has decided to call Tilly ‘dear lass’. Wedekind just calls her Tilly. The invocation has to be repeated three times because it occurs in the refrain, and that is a pity. The translation of the prose, on the other hand, gets Wedekind’s throw-away, disillusioned tone rather well.

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