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Sunday, 10 March 2013

Ghost Wood


Gespensterwald bei Nienhagen (Ghost Wood near Nienhagen): photo by Lebrac, 27 June 2007

As far back as I can remember, I seem to have been born for horror and fear.  Before the American bombers came, someone carried me into the house; firewood was scattered all over the yard in the quiet sunlight.  Drops of blood glistened on the side steps where hares were butchered on weekends.  In a dusk more terrifying than black night, I stumbled, my arms swinging ridiculously, along the edge of the woods sunk in darkness; only the lichen on the outermost tree trunks still shimmered faintly; from time to time I stopped still and cried out in a voice made pathetically feeble by shame; then, when I was too horror-stricken to feel ashamed, I bellowed into the woods from the bottom of my soul, bellowed for someone who had gone into the woods that morning and hadn't come out; and again the fluffy feathers of fleeing chickens lay scattered all over the yard and the house walls in the sunlight.

Peter Handke: from Short Letter, Long Farewell (Der Kurze Brief Zum Langen Abschied), 1972, translated by Ralph Manheim

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Gespensterwald bei Nienhagen (Ghost Wood near Nienhagen [Rostock district, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany]): photo by Ch. Pagenkopf, 6 March 2007

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Steilküste am Gespensterwald bei Nienhagen (Steep Cliffs with the Ghost Wood Beyond, near Nienhagen): photo by Ch. Pagenkopf, 3 June 2007


Anonymous said...

a wonderful feelings among those trees...


Thanks for this remembrance of things past, brings to mind

"Whose woods these are I think I know. . ."

"I stood still and was a tree amid the wood,
Knowing the truth of things unseen before. . ."


light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, song sparrow calling in field
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

closed, is possible only if
matter less than that

equation, form of the field,
matter to be composed

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
cloudless blue sky above green of ridge

TC said...

This is a passage from the opening paragraph of Handke's fourth (and, I think, best) novel. The protagonist, an Austrian visiting America, is trying to get over a bad marriage. However, upon getting to the US, he discovers that his ex-wife is pursuing him. The pair make their way across America in an uneasy passage that ends up with a visit to the movie director John Ford, who offers mysterious ruminations on the cultural landscape.

Handke was born in a small town in Austria. At the age of two he was taken by his mother, a Carinthian Slovene, to live in Berlin. This was the period (1944-45) of American daylight bombing raids.

The site pictured -- the Gespensterwald, or Ghost Wood -- is located on the Baltic. It is a spooky-looking place. Who can know what has happened or might or will happen in the ominous darkness under those ghost trees?

Wooden Boy said...

Drops of blood glistened on the side steps where hares were butchered on weekends.

The question of whose blood this is glistening - hare or human - trembles.

Those trees are bloody terrifying.

Nora said...

The pictures remind me of Henry Treece:
The wood is full of shining eyes,
The wood is full of creeping feet,
The wood is full of tiny cries:
You must not go to the wood at night!

I wonder if all children are "born for horror and fear." Even my entirely benign childhood was filled with terrors -- I was convinced the old priest at our church was a vampire, that burglars stalked our house every night, and that angels would kidnap me in my sleep (that song from Hansel and Gretel about angels keeping watch was not as comforting as my mother hoped).

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Who indeed? Just the thought is enough to send shivers through your trunk—not to mention your head, neck and limbs.

TC said...

Yes, what is unsaid about those drops of blood, glistening and thus evidently fresh, says more than perhaps could be said.

(The image put me in mind of a chilling scene from the Michael Haneke film Caché.)

Whistling in the dark, a frightened child's magical defense in the terrifying universal Gothic forest.