Georges Hartman

Brotherhood - Mind Travel (Haiku and Japan Travel)

Year of publication: 2022

Georges Hartmann lives and writes in the Westerwald.


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Georges Hartmann undertook two trips to Japan with the Frankfurter Haiku-Kreis and entrusted the impressions he gained to a travel diary. Each chapter is accompanied by a haiku.


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Review Brigitte ten Brink

Japan - the land of the rising sun - was the destination of two trips to Japan that Georges Hartmann undertook together with members of the Frankfurt Haiku Circle. Accordingly, the rising sun also adorns the atmospheric cover of this book. It contains seven stories and ten haiku, which were created under the impression of the events and experiences of these trips: Haiku lovers and connoisseurs from Germany meet haiku lovers and connoisseurs in the country of origin of the haiku. Members of two very different cultures in direct contact with each other can sometimes lead to irritation on both sides, the stuff these stories are made of. With his incomparable (self)irony and yet very loving and with great empathy for the behavior of everyone involved and well aware of the expectations of the hosts and the social customs of the host country, Georges Hartmann describes situations that sometimes border on the absurd and predestined for kicking are in a blunder.
In doing so, he develops a verbal violence that leaves the reader breathless, and he feels that he is absolutely not up to a direct verbal confrontation in his self-perception.

How often must the moon
still rise on the Ishi Yama
until I think of something?

The book begins with this haiku, and the first story, "Quartz-precise Perfection," picks up on this deep sigh:

"Who will help me this morning to cope with the strange, formulate the appropriate sentences for the hosts (Watanabe family) on my behalf, so that I only nod in agreement but don't have to say anything more myself?" (p. 5) Unspeakable his relief when he realizes that he is not alone in facing the expected challenges and that he does not have to face his "shyness that is emerging" and the feared "monosyllabic" (p.5).

It's the first morning abroad, shortly before the start of the tightly scheduled and sometimes quite exhausting program of visits. Even if the Germans are considered orderly and punctual, in Japan the rules are much stricter: "The Japanese seem to adhere to even the most strenuous schedule with crystal-precise perfection under all circumstances." (p. 7) and during breakfast "... two taxi drivers get together noticeable, who – at the expense of the landlord – are supposed to bring us and our luggage to the next meeting point. That is exactly the point in time already described, when the fun stops for the Japanese and he submits to the dictates of the given deadlines in favor of meticulous processing.” (p. 9/10)

The great strength of each of the stories from this travel diary is Georges Hartmann's ability both to put his emotions into words and to express his great empathy for the feelings and customs of the hosts, for example when he is amazed to find that in the hustle and bustle of the There is an interruption before leaving for the next appointment “…because the Japanese bring about a remarkable standstill in time at the point where an action that is considered to be completed and the next event occur. The consciously staged vacuum is solely dedicated to the forthcoming bows, mutual reassurances of reunion, repeated bows, i.e. a last exchange of kindnesses..." (p. 10/11)

Georges Hartmann wouldn't be Georges Hartmann if he didn't consistently portray the events from his very personal perspective with all the uncertainties and imponderables that new and unusual situations bring with them and if he didn't shy away from showing himself to be the unlucky fellow of the day outen: "At the metro entrance, my ticket then logically gets hooked, which triggers a blocking device and two padded barriers slam in front of my knees, which forces Mieko to do a first job, in which she tries to convince a servile spirit at the counter that I am not a notorious fare dodger but rather an unlucky raven.” (p. 42)

When reading his descriptions, images, even films, form in the mind, which sometimes lend something slapstick-like to what is happening when Western understanding meets Eastern customs. And yet all the protagonists, both Japanese and German, are treated with great respect: "Right after dessert, the impending farewell is already lurking, because the Japanese don't show any mercy when the time they have planned is up, which the inexperienced like." expulsion occurs, but in reality it is to be understood as a gesture of courtesy not to overtax the guests.” (p. 67)

And again and again doubts about one's own ability to do justice to the haiku and its literary claim, which is also noticeable in the refusal to write it: "While brushing my teeth, the devastating realization that Erika was asked to produce a daily haiku, which I so far I have all remained guilty ..." (p. 37) And in the story "The dear Lord is laughing at me" (p. 47), Georges Hartmann laconically states in front of an imminent Kukai: "The production of timelessly valid literature would be like this an idea, but it sounds so megalomaniac that I'm now slightly resigned to leaving the path of thought I've taken and sitting down in the place assigned to me." (p. 49)

His haiku, the one at the beginning of the book and those that are placed between two stories and at the end of the book, are an essential part of the text. They summarize the stories in an inimitable way, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes humorous.

My heart beats faster.
In every wrinkle of the monk
puts a message
(P. 20)

The rice floats skilfully
on the chopsticks to the mouth.
Now it's stuck to the shirt
(P. 26)

Georges Hartmann ends his work, how could it be otherwise with him, with a rather self-critical haiku.

God frowns.
Nose full
he is now reading his book

However, it is advisable not to let this haiku discourage you from reading Georges Hartmann's book "Verbrüderung".


Rüdiger Jung writes:

Georges Hartmann "took two trips to Japan with the Frankfurter Haiku-Kreis and entrusted the impressions he gained to a travel diary" (p. 2). Georges Hartmann is an excellent chronicler. He brings important qualities with him: curiosity and the gift of amazement. He is able to pass on both in such a way that others are infected. Because he is a tireless observer, he is a good observer. He doesn't look so much for the place where everyone can hear him, but rather for the place where he can hear everything. Sympathy is important - for a travel guide, no less for the chronicler of a journey. One of Georges Hartmann's indisputable gifts is a sense of humour, which, if necessary, capricious, does not stop at extreme self-mockery. He certifies himself as "monosyllabic" (p. 5) and appreciates any help with communication. He owes the requested haiku (p. 18, p. 32), which rather ennobles him as an author than calls it into question. He wears the “silver lemon for oblivious behavior” (p. 40) with dignity – no doubt, he awarded it to himself.

He is a hero. One is happy for him - because there is a wealth of new, amazing, surprising insights. And one suffers him if one bears in mind the hardships of the journey. "The Japanese seems to keep even the most grueling schedule under all circumstances with crystal-precise perfection." (p. 7). No doubt that for the German guests, no: the through ball is. Like the other guests, he has to "bait the tale of the insatiable German cravings" (p. 9). Then there are moments of tiredness and exhaustion - absolutely real, albeit with the most insane consequences: "The time change and two sleepless nights let my face shine in a delicate Japanese gray, to which the tiredness also turns my eyes into two long lines, which the bored-looking waitress behind the breakfast bar doesn't let anyone doubt my Japanese identity for a second” (p. 38). After all, encountering a foreign culture is as fascinating as it is challenging, which also means: simply exciting. "A quick glance at the place cards tells me that I'm going to sit with three Japanese, which immediately puts sweat in my armpits again" (p. 45). Who doubts the helpful power of humour: "On the right a Japanese, directly in front of me two more and above me the good Lord laughs like crazy." (p. 49). What distinguishes the self-critical observer is that he does not weigh the limited experiences of a limited time on the gold scales: "Is what we have experienced so far representative of Japan or is the truth to be found somewhere else entirely? In order to learn to understand people, a country and a culture, one certainly needs more than a mere flying visit” (p. 12).

If Georges holds a key for Japan in his hands, then it is his sympathy for the country, the culture and the people: "And anyone who has ever been rewarded with a farewell banner held up by a delegation of hotel staff can never do this to this skilfully friendly people anyway be angry.” (p.21). A tea that is described as taking some getting used to may not change that: "This frothy, spinach-green brew would have guaranteed to have far eclipsed the rather modest success of garlic as a repellent against the flying fangs from Transylvania." (p. 17 ). Where “for reasons of international understanding, Japanese beer is poured into German” (p. 57), nothing stands in the way of the eponymous “brotherhood”. At least in the opinion of the author, a through ball from the hosts remains without an adequate answer: "As a confirmation of German-Japanese relations, a women's choir intones the "Heideröslein", the "Loreley" and "O Tannenbaum", which unfortunately we have nothing to oppose." ( p. 22). The approach is deeply in the hands of humor. For example, when “a rather elderly male model” admits to being the author of the “women's haiku” that Erika had previously diagnosed with certainty (p. 52). Or the gifts from the guests provide amusement: "Now Martin hits another set ball and scores with real Easter eggs from free-ranging chickens, which he distributes to all the ladies, who accept them rather undecidedly but giggling loudly." ( p. 53).

Central problems - not only of Japanese society! – are not left out: "Mr. Araki complains (...) about the increasingly problematic issue of how to afford to grow old." (p. 31).

Georges Hartmann speaks of haiku as "an art (...) that I actually only pursue for fun and with dubious results" (p. 48). The modesty is real, but the findings must be contradicted. "However, the fact that the house dog barks more friendly than when we moved in gives me food for thought." (p. 10). Those sensitive enough to such perception are not surprised when they write haiku that really haunt the reader:

My heart beats faster.
In every wrinkle of the monk
puts a message (p. 20)

The monk bows his head.
What bad karma.
That takes time, little boy (p. 64)

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