Copy Typed Letter Stella Musulin to Edward Mendelson 1985-12-15

AuthorMusulin, Stella
  • Mayer, Sandra
  • Frühwirth, Timo
  • Grigoriou, Dimitra
PublisherAustrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Vienna 2021
Source Information
  • State Collections of Lower Austria
  • Stella Musulin (Depot)
  • St. Pölten
  • 1985-12-15
  • Fridau
  • TEI Logo
  • RDF metadata
IIIF Endpoint(s)
Cite this Source (MLA 9th Edition)Andorfer Peter, Elsner Daniel, Frühwirth Timo, Grigoriou Dimitra, Mayer Sandra, Mendelson Edward and Neundlinger Helmut. Auden Musulin Papers: A Digital Edition of W. H. Auden's Letters to Stella Musulin. Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2022, .
                                    A-3200 Obergrafendorf
                                          bei St.Pölten, Austria.
                                              15 December 1985.

Dear Ed,

    The time has come to send out a signal to you from this
ancient, scandal-ridden, provincial dump.  Peter Müller has
not been sleeping over his plan to edit a book on Auden´s
time here, he has been writing books himself in addition to
his full time profession.  Now - you may know this - it is
definite and the book is to come out in February 1987 in
time for A´s 80th.

    So he got me back to my desk, to, in his words, combine
my English and German texts, and bring the whole thing up to
date.  "Write as fully as you can, double the length."  I
protested that a) I don´t wish to chatter more feebly than I
have already, b) I am ancient and frail, also lazy, c) the
first MSS only approximate to each other while containing mkuch
the same material;  their tone differs.  But above all they
have, whether bad or indifferent, a certain shape or form and
you cannot just stuff more material into it which refers to
things which happened subsequently.  So we agreed that we would
leave the texts to stand and that I would say, roughly, okay,
that was how it looked then;  what has happened since, what
is there still be said by us, who knew Auden in Kirchstetten
in view of the fact that Carpenter did no research on this
locations?  For a long time the idea was only to write a
German text, I mean that the book would be solely German
language production, and this I thought until quite recently.
Suddenly, Peter bounced me with the comment that he would
"like an English version as well."  I had thought my two texts
were only to be combined and the sequel written in German.
This presents technical problems.  For example, and now my
questions to you begin:

    We ihave here a copy of Auden´s declaration to the tax
authorities.  (I have been determined all along that this
document should be published AND RIGHT HERE.  Apart from making
Them look stupid, it must be unique in literary history that a
great poet should explain to the tax authorities how poetry
comes to be written.)  Do you have the English original, or where
is it; did it ever exist or was the German drafted by Auden
and put together by, say, his lawyer?  Or could this have been
done by whoever it was who wrote the prose version of the
Weinheber poem?  I have that text which A. gave me, but there
is no record of who wrote it.  In my first draft of the talk
given at the PEN Club in London in 1976 I wrote: "I have the
statement in German translation, so that what I am reading is
my own re-translation back into English and not the original.

    I should be very grateful if you could help me over the
address which Auden held at Neulengbach.  I have the original
English text which to my horror Auden asked me to translate:
although capable of creative writing in German, to deal with
this tough text was too much and it was corrected by my husband.
Müller possesses the German text taken from a tape.  Now this
English text is so familiarrto me that it deafens me to all
or any sources.  A digest of it is in the PEN text but I wonder

                            - 2 -

                            - 2 -

to what extent Auden´s speech contains hitherto unknown material,
if any.  I said airily that he had probably said it all before,
in Secondary Worlds and so on, but this is not true.  After a
preamble the speech begins:
    Between the ages of six and twelve, I spent a great many of
    my waking hours in the fabrication of a private secondary
s   sacred world, the basic elements of which were a) a limestone
landscape mainly derived from the Pennine Moors in the North of
    England and b) an industry - lead-mining.
    It is no doubt psychologically significant that my sacred
    world was autistic - that is to say I had no wish to share
    it with others ...   and so on.
He goes on to define the Primary and Secondary Worlds;  his
private world, the restrictions on the freedom of the artist;
water-turbines, his Platonic idea of a concentrating mill and
of his moral duty to sacrifice his aesthetic preference
to reality or truth.

    If you like I can have the whole thing photo-copied and
send it along, but you see what it´s about.  I cannot believe
that Wystan chose Neulengbach to make a one-time-only
statement of this length and weight, the idea is absurd and
the point of my quotation in my talk in 1976 was to show Auden
in one aspect of his contact with the Austrians, not without
a touch of hilarity.  But this is not in Secondary Worlds,
I have leafed through your Early Auden page by page and finkd
no reference, nor can I find it anywhere else.  Can you

    My worm´s eye view of the arrangements for the funeral
goes iknto my new piece, and incidentally the contributions
will be looked over by a lawyer.

    Are you about to come out with a Middle Auden or whatever?
If so it would be nice to know about it so I can refer to it.

    The chaplain sto the British Embassy in Vienna gave me the
name and address of the clergyman who took the service with the
RC pasrish priest and I wrote to him to find out´whether he
can remember the form of service etc.
but no answer so far.
This would be of interest here because though common practice
in England such an ecumenical service was a novelty here and
caused much comment.

    How are you and what are you doing apart from teaching?
I had a lot of illness, hospitals etc. but am now stabilised
and am living now wholly in the country but am well looked
after and see plenty of people.  It´s Parkinson´s disease
which can be kept pretty well under control these days.  My
relations organised a splendid surprise party for my 70th
birthday which went on all day, at breakfast I didn´t yet
know what lay ahead.  My son plotted this and steered it from
New York but was there on the day.  He built up the Austrian
bank Creditanstalt-Bankverein in NY, and if ever you need to
send me bulky papers or whatever - not that you will - contact
him at 212-702-9101.  His name is Marko.

              Good health and success in 1986,

this ancient, scandal-ridden, provincial dump

Stella Musulin possibly refers to the 1985 Austrian arms-export scandal that became known as "Noricum scandal". A few years earlier, a political scandal related to the construction of the Vienna Allgemeines Krankenhaus (Vienna General Hospital, University Hospital Vienna) was highly publicized.

  • event:
  • Noricum scandal
  • event:
  • 1980-1981 Vienna General Hospital building scandal

External Evidence: ph_029

my English and German texts | MSS | my two texts

Stella Musulin's estate contains several versions, at different stages of development and in different languages, of different memoirs of W. H. Auden's life and work in Austria. The earliest extant typescript, titled "Auden in Kirchstetten", is a written version of Musulin's talk given at English PEN in London in June 1976. This version was subsequently expanded into a German text of the same title (1976), followed by the even more extensive 44-page memoir "The Years in Austria" (1976-1980). Another memoir was composed by Musulin in the 1980s (1985-1990), in both English ("In Retrospect") and German ("Zehn Jahre später: was war inzwischen?"), revisiting Auden's Austrian period, once more, after a longer period of time. Another set of typescripts, named again "Auden in Kirchstetten", blends together text parts from both "The Years in Austria" and "In Retrospect"; this condensed version was published, in 1995, in W. H. Auden: 'In Solitude, for Company': W. H. Auden After 1940, edited by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins. In 1977, a short German-language essay ("Die zwei Welten des W. H. Auden: Auf den Spuren des englischen Poeten in Kirchstetten") was published in the Austrian magazine morgen.

External Evidence: ph_030

Do you have the English original, or where is it; did it ever exist or was the German drafted by Auden and put together by, say, his lawyer?

The Hilde Spiel papers at the Austrian National Library include a letter sent by W. H. Auden, dated 19 July 1972, in which he asks her to translate a "personal statement of my point of view" in the context of the poet's appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court in Austria. This appeal came after a decision of the Austrian tax authorities regarding Auden's taxation. Auden sent Spiel the English original of his statement on 26 July. Spiel must have sent the final version of her translation of Auden's statement between 23 August and 18 September 1972. A copy of this document forms part of the Auden Musulin Papers. For a detailed account of Auden's legal efforts to reduce his liability for taxation in Austria, see Frühwirth and Mayer, "The Auden Musulin Papers: Persona, Life Writing, and the Digital" (148-151), in Caring for Cultural Studies, edited by Ganser et al., V&R unipress 2022.

    • The Auden Musulin Papers: Persona, Life Writing, and the Digital
    • Caring for Cultural Studies
    • Ganser Alexandra
    • Lechner Elisabeth
    • Maly-Bowie Barbara
    • Schörgenhuber Eva Maria
    • V&R unipress
    • Göttingen
    • 2022
    • 978-3-7370-1494-6
    • 141-159
    • 148-151
      • Austria
      • Vienna
      • Literary Archive, Austrian National Library
      • Estate Hilde Spiel
      • ÖLA 15/91

External Evidence: ph_031

You're an angel

According to her memoir "The Years in Austria" (26), Stella Musulin translated W. H. Auden's speech "Freedom and Necessity in the Arts". This translated speech he delivered at Lyrik 70 and was published, without a title or indication of the translator, in the first issue of the literary journal Podium.

External Evidence: ph_025