CO2 Footprint of Books

In view of the worldwide size of book publishing we should also keep an eye on the CO2 footprint of book publishing. The Italian association of publishers gave a brief overview of the likely CO2 footprint the printing of a book causes. Their best guess is at ½ a kilo of CO2 on average. For simplicity of calculation and assuming that an editors’ association is unlikely to overstate the amount, let us assume it is 1 Kg CO2 per book. The most CO2 is consumed not in the book production but in the transport of the items, machinery and personnel involved in producing, editing, selling etc. Of course, paper is recycled to a large amount. Certified sustainability of paper from trees has become a standard in most countries.
Nice twist to the issue: your own library at home has become a CO2 storage, if you keep them or lend them or pass them on to others. Reading can be a little bit addictive and buying books as well. Reading online or electronic books reduces your CO2 footprint. The best way to imagine the reduction of your CO2 footprint, however, is to buy or to borrow a book on travelling which replaces the actual journal by reading on the couch. Yes, being a couch potato is good for the planet, and if you want to buy a book, walk to the book shop or the library if possible. If you enjoyed flying previously shift over to buying books on planes, airports, clouds in images or stories that involve extensive travelling instead for the sake of your own CO2 footprint and future generations.
Even a book will need somehow wood as input, many alternative ways of leisure time or professional activities are worse in terms of CO2 footprint. Any e-book, e-journal or e-newspaper is even better for the planet, especially if we think of the millions of paper copies across the world that are printed but never sold. Knowing your market is crucial to reduce misallocation of ressources. E-books are so much easier to store as well using regenerative energy for the content servers around the world.


Some writers accomplish the formidable task to draft a text that encompasses more than one language. Samuel Beckett surely is one of them. Arnaud Beaujeu (2011) exposes the meta-language that Beckett creates through his reductionism and minimalist style. It is first a deconstruction of language or languages expressed in French and/or English at times. There is an underlying discourse dealing with the link and sometimes opposition, but always a relationship between at least these 2 languages. Beaujeu reveals 2 other languages: « the trivial and the spiritual ». The reductionism of Beckett leads to a conscious expression of the obvious, the trivial in conversations. This, however, he turns in the theatre piece “cette fois” (original “That Time”) into a ritual, spiritual version of 3 persons A, B, C in a prayer like liturgy. In taking out the sentence structure and obligations of grammar more generally the text becomes a rhythmic reading of words. Today we might say a Rap-version of a text.
The meta-language is the spiritual experience and another kind of access and questioning of memory, eventually even reconstructing a collective memory. Maybe the meta-language is the attempt to collectivise and internalize the dialogue that has turned into a trilogue.
It is out of the memory of persons or historical evolutions that Beckett builds his meta-language. Adorno (1974) put this in a relationship to Shakespeare’s dramatic work and the experience of the horrors of Nazi-Germany.  Sarcastically put, the question to Adorno was not ” to be or not to be”, but “to die or to die”. Beckett travelled in Germany extensively in the year 1936 and faught in the 2nd World War with the French resistance.
„Paroles, musique, mémoire“ (Beaujeu, 2011) span a triangle which allows for a profound, albeit mostly empty space. Beckett offers a safety net to bridge the gap by way of reconstructing a language reduced to basics as well as meditative silence. The script lies in the meta-language and poetry is the more common access to this meta or essential level of our existence. Listening to the meta-language is like listening to polyphonic music. Some find it very disruptive, others a spiritual experience. Meta-language is all around us, like it or not. (Image: Französische Friedrichstadtkirche Berlin, Exhibition Princesses, 2023)

Ukraine Art

The touring exhibition of art works from Ukraine 1900-1930s is on show in Brussels at the Royal Museums of fine art Brussels in November December 2023. Before Ukraine became swallowed up in the Sowjetunion there was a very active independent artist world that had close links to all capitals in Western Europe. All art disciplines were covered. The paintings of Vadym Meller from 1919 (Aquarell on carton) show designs for a dance performance to the music of Chopin. The modern designs and vivid colors reflect the conscious reference to art movements across Europe. The inspiration from dance to painting is a recurrent theme in impressionistic paintings, abstract paintings and into our own time period. Ukrainian art from early on in the 20th century had a broad scope beyond the narrow focus on art controlled by the soviets. Well worth enlarging our vision to take into account these creative masterpieces from Eastern Europe as independent voices.

Vadym Meller 1919 (Aquarell on carton), Brussels MRBAB 2023-11

Book traders

Some book traders have a mission. They assemble little corners on their book shelves or in tiny cupboards reserved for their passion or mission. In some book shops you’ll find a corner devoted to a specific language or translations, in some a world region is represented as a specific predilection. The choises are as numerous as there are books. Of course, from an economic point of view national and international bestsellers will be shown in the most prominent places. Second come books for children, cooking, life and travel guides. All those are the cash cows for book shops and traders.
But beyond those, it is always worth the effort to search for those little carefully curated corners in a good bookstore that derive from the vision or mission of the book trader, employed or owning the shop. In some areas this contributes even to a small community building. Readings of authors add to the function of book sellers to build a relationship to their non-random book buyers. I keep going back to my favourite book stores and libraries with those curated corners for decades and across countries to find inspiration and updating of special topics.
There is a danger that we are going to lose all this professional work of thousands of well-trained book traders that guide readers in addition to publishing houses, literary critics, numerous awards and huge marketing campaigns of derived products (as with Harry Potter). Living up to your mission while running a book store must be a great experience. If is really increases the buyers and readership for the topic, would be a great result. However, I suppose many bookshops manage to keep their little curated areas despite economic pressure to go with the mainstream marketing campaigns and top selling books and gadgets.
With the decline in the number of smaller book shops (in Germany from ca 5000 to 3000 in about 20 years) we see a parallel increase in number of franchises of the big book sellers ( 500 stores in D). Big chain increase seems to cause fewer professionally trained book traders (-10% in D) within a country. For younger generations TikTok (BookTok) has taken over large parts of the “book counselling” of book traders previously. This was a big event at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2023 as well.
Time to rush to your local bookstore and book trader before it is taken over by a big chain or simply disappearing silently. We are likely to lose many of those book traders with a mission to make this world a better, more beautiful, more tasty, enjoyable or inclusive place.

Flotow Darmstadt

Warum wählt ein weitgereister Komponist Darmstadt als seine finale Station im Lebensverlauf? Familiäre und persönliche Angelegenheiten haben sicherlich viel dazu beigetragen vgl. Biografie. Kreativität in fortgeschrittenen Lebensphasen hat viel mit professioneller Routine zu tun, aber eben auch mit harter Arbeit, wenn die Ansprüche an die eigene Kreativität und Arbeit den groben Linien des eigenen Werdegangs gerecht werden sollen. Annehmlichkeiten des Lebens, wie Parks und einfache Erreichbarkeit von kulturellen Events, waren im aufstrebenden Darmstadt vorhanden. Die Nähe zu Frankfurt (Buchmesse für Libretti), Wiesbaden und Mainz sind weitere Pluspunkte. Ruhe zum Arbeiten gleichfalls.
Die Stadt Darmstadt hat es dem Komponisten seine Wahlheimat langfristig gedankt. Auf dem Alten Friedhof in Darmstadt befindet sich die eindrucksvolle Gedenkstätte für Flotow, ihm zu Ehren gewidmet von seiner Gattin Rosa und seiner Schwester Bernardine sowie den beiden Kindern.
Für seine beachtliche Zahl an Followern, beispielsweise 60.000+ auf der Plattform Spotify, wird es besonders freuen, dass sein größter Hit „die letzte Rose“ bildlich bei der Grabpflege eine anmutende Rolle spielt.

Biermann poetic

Wolf Biermann is probably most known and still controversial in Germany. His outspokenness in the GDR already caused a lot of trouble leading to his forced expatriation, but a warm welcome in the FRG. Most people from the baby boom generations know some of his songs prominent in the peace movements of the 1970s. Much less know is his relentless fascination with poetry. The Staatsbibliothek Berlin devoted 2 readings to his translations of poetry of Shakespeare and his French preferred poets and song writers. The expert reading and intonation of the French originals and Biermann’s translations was presented with enthusiasm as part of “the poetic coffee break” in the modern Stabi West. Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel presented in a lively fashion some of the work of Biermann and his remarks on the idiosyncratic style of Wolf Biermann were very much to the point. The translations form a unique style of translations, where it is possible to identify Biermann as translator. Here we enter into the theory of translation, where we tend to view the personality of the translator secondary to the first author of a poem. In Biermann’s case he seems to deviate consciously from this path. Doing translations becomes a kind of exercise to work and improve your own poetic skills. Exercise in metrics, lyrics and melody appear like a meditation on classical texts. In the translations from French, more than the ones from English, there is at occasions an additional critical or “Verfremdungseffekt” present, which enhances the translations with respect to the original. What are those translations? Perhaps more intended as “Pastiche” as the translators version of “rendre hommage” to his idols. In any case a memorable series of events in the Stabi. The small exposition of mainly books is another highlight, which facilitates the glancing through and reading of more of the writings of Wolf Biermann. The DHM has additional material on life and career of Biermann in a current exhibition. The strength of cultural institutes is the cooperation on specific projects. All in all, this is a great and rewarding effort honoring a troubadour between and beyond frontiers just like Bob Dylan, the other now acclaimed hero of the peace movement.

Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel in Stabi 2023-9-12
Lese Lounge Wolf Biermann 2023-9

Flotow Aus

Irgendwann, so denkt man, sollte der Ruf einiger Komponierenden enden oder zumindest verblassen. Überraschend war das Auffinden auf der Musikplattform Spotify einer populären Sammlung von Liedern bei denen die letzte Rose von von Flotow zu hören ist. Ein Bayer oder Österreicher hätte vielleicht gerufen: Ja AUS is! Nix AUS ist es. Ein australisches Orchester (aus Adelaide) und Greta Bradman haben in 2018 auf der anderen Seite der Erdkugel, Flotow mit seiner „irischen“ Arie ins Programm genommen neben anderen Ohrwürmern. Die Romantik lebt. Einige Melodien finden weiterhin ihr Publikum. Erstaunlich, nach 150+ Jahren und 6000km Entfernung. Flotows Opernarien aus Stradella begeistern auch hin und wieder die Fangemeinden der Startenöre.

Shake Hands

Shaking Hands, like rubbing noses or kissing cheeks are social practices you will have to master depending on which society you live in. After the Covid-19 crisis we have become more careful to shake hands or exchanges of touching another person. The handshake has another medical function as well. If we are approaching eachother to shake hands, we prepare our handgrip mentally and physically.
It is exactly the strength of the handgrip, which serves as measure of another person’s health. Believe it or not, your handgrip is telling a lot about your general muscle strength. Of course, it is possible to conceal the true strength, but most people seem to have an intuitive handgrip with less mentally controlled strength of application. Medical studies mostly confirm the correlation of handgrip strength and frailty in older persons, predominantly for women. The conclusions of these studies lead us to a preventive approach of exercising your hand grip strength and other muscles in order to reduce frailty and to increase even life expectancy. After Covid-19 we should return to shaking hands more forcefully than ever before. Exercising by shaking hands with yourself or shaking your foot with your hand as alternative are fun exercises. The scientifically confounding effect of laughing while exercising might additionally cheer you up. Balance and joy are additional features of a healthy longevity. (Image: Extrait from Degas, copyright BnF, 2023)
Source: Santos S and Paúl C. Handgrip Strength and the Perceived Risk of Institutionalization, Hospitalization and Death. Journal of Fam Med. 2022; 9(4): 1302.


„Zugunsten des Krieges kann man sagen: er macht den Sieger dumm, den Besiegten boshaft. Zugunsten des Krieges: er barbarisiert in beiden ebenfenannten Wirkungen und macht dadurch natürlicher; er ist für die Kultur Schlaf- oder Winterszeit, der Mensch kommt kräftiger zum Guten und Bösen aus ihm heraus.“ (Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches Nr. 444 S. 668).
Wir werden der Ukraine ermöglichen, ihre Kultur zu erhalten und gestärkt durch den Krieg zu bringen. Das können wir ermöglichen und gleichzeitig der von Putins Russland eingeleiteten Barbarisierung seiner eigenen Bevölkerung entgegen wirken. Nietzsche hatte das recht klar durchdacht und die Gefahren des Krieges kühl berechnet. In seinen aphoristischen Betrachtungen (u.a. Menschliches, Allzumenschliches) nachzulesen, lohnt immer mal wieder. Es schärft den Blick für zu schnell Vergessenes.
Die Einen dumm, die anderen boshaft gemacht. Es lässt sich damit nichts zugute des Krieges sagen, außer es werden Tendenzen, negative wie positive, verstärkt. Der Prozess der Zivilisation (Norbert Elias) wird auf barbarische Zeiten zurückgeworfen. Nur mit Erhalt und Förderung der Kultur kann dem begegnet werden. Die Ukraine ist auf einem vielschichtigem, demokratischem und kulturellem Weg in die Zukunft. 

Musée quai Branly

Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac” receives relatively few visitors compared to the much more popular art museums in Paris. The proximity to the Eiffel tower, however, allows easy access within walking reach from the most visited tourist attractions in Paris. A cheeky impression of the design of the building and surrounding gardens of the Museum resemble to me a shadow of the Eiffel tower in the afternoon sun in Paris. Some might even say with a westerly wind the tower would fall exactly on the museum. No, of course the tower is not tumbling. In the shadow of the tower there is superb place to meditate in the gardens or enjoy the many exhibitions of cultures from across the world. In remembrance of former President Jacques Chirac, Asian cultures have had a strong impact on the collections and the organisation of the garden. Very different from the French park “à la Le Notre” at Versailles or Fontainebleau, the garden of the museum du quai Branly follows a completely different design focusing on bio-diversity. The architect “Jean Nouvel”, is quoted having said, that the garden is not a complement to the museum, but the garden is the museum. Hence, it is possible to have very unexpected views not only from the museum buildings, but also of the Eiffel tower nearby. It is possible to view the Eiffel tower through different continental perspectives on it. To the extent that you might not even recognize the massive tower in the neighbourhood being immersed into wild life. Then try one of the special expositions or the permanent exhibition, if visiting for the 1st time. We travelled continents without devastating CO2 effects. Additionally, Paris is easy to reach by train. You may complement the intercontinental experience by visiting the headquarters of UNESCO, at least the book shop, in Paris also nearby.