What does Hawthorne say about human nature

Sophia Hawthorne / Nathaniel Hawthorne: The paradise of the little things. A common diary (HR 2 culture)

HR 2 Culture • Sun, June 11th, 2017 • 2:05 pm to 3:30 pm

Country lust

17.07.2017 •

Globally speaking, fewer and fewer people live in rural areas. Meanwhile, the part of the world population that lives in cities is growing. And this trend continues. At least in the industrialized nations, rural life, which is often idealized here, is still very attractive, especially in contrast to the hectic everyday life of the cities. This is currently heralded by successful circulation of magazines such as “Landlust” in Germany.

As early as the middle of the 19th century, Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne succumbed to the enticing charm of life in a sparsely populated province. The newly married couple chose to live in an old rectory and orchard in the small town of Concord, Massachusetts. The American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was born in Salem (also Massachusetts) in 1804, and his wife Sophia, who was also born in Salem in 1809, kept a diary together about the beginning of their apparently happy marriage, which was far removed from civilization. This very personal document was published in German in 2014 under the title “The Paradise of Little Things” in the publishing house Jung und Jung (Salzburg / Vienna), in the translation from American English by Alexander Pechmann. In June, a radio play based on this text was broadcast on HR 2 Kultur.

The 85-minute piece, staged by Ulrich Lampen, begins with an entry from August 1842 and ends with an entry from November 1843. A good year is included in its sequence and since the entries consist to a large extent of detailed nature observations, you can yourself as a listener, visualize the flowing change of the different seasons very nicely. You can listen to the pumpkins grow in the Hawthornes' garden, so to speak.

In addition to concentrating on the surrounding nature, there are occasional short excursions about human existence. Nathaniel Hawthorne's remark, for example, is wonderfully humanistic, even if life as a tramp is a bit badly romanticized: “I have a penchant for vagabonds of all kinds and, as far as I can remember, have never refused my pennies to a wandering beggar when I himself had some in his pocket. There is so much want and misery in the world that we can safely believe any mortal when he says he needs our help, and even if we are betrayed, the good we do to ourselves is by acting kindly, worth more than the little thing with which we pay for it. I consider it desirable that such people should be allowed to wander through our rich land to sow the seeds of good-naturedness and kindness - just as migratory birds carry the seeds of valuable plants from one land to another without dreaming of it, what service they render us. "

The two Hawthornes' enthusiasm for the other spouse also takes up a lot of space. Here a discrepancy between the perception of the other becomes clear. While Sophia adores her husband and speaks of him almost reverently, Nathaniel uses an often teasing language, which in comparison seems quite disrespectful. But that means that “Paradise of Little Things” is probably a contemporary document of gender relations during the upheaval towards the industrial age. Otherwise everything is romanticized very sensitively by both of them, which is ‘not with three in the trees’, whether it is so-called weeds or the nearby river. Sometimes it looks really cute and sometimes a bit wacky. The American national poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau appear as marginal figures - both were temporarily residents of Concord. This is where Thoreau's book “Walden or Life in the Woods”, published in 1854, was created, which Gisa Funck called a “dropout book” in 2015 in the “FAZ”.

This atmospherically calm piece is very well worth listening to, not least because of the devoted speaking performances by Sandra Hüller and Jörg Pohl, who put an extra dose of soul into their voices. A complementary, independent level is formed by (natural) noises and the radio play music that you always hear between the diary entries. Everything together makes this production a great thing.

07/17/2017 - Rafik Will / MK