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Autumn Thoughts Under Ruins and Snow: An Experiment in Ethnic Anthology. Two Centuries of German-Russian Poetry, Short Stories, and Essays

By Samuel D. Sinner

Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, ND, 2003, 328 pages, softcover.


The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to announce publication of this important anthology by Dr. Samuel D. Sinner.

This compelling anthology presents for the first time in English translation a wealth of captivating works by ethnic-German writers of Russia and the Soviet Union. Many of the authors whose dramatic works are found between these covers led creative literary lives and were harassed by Soviet authorities obsessed with cultural uniformity and thought control; some were executed, others vanished forever in the Gulag. The brilliant and alluring voices of these men and women authors have been silent for decades. Now they speak again, offering an illuminating glimpse into their provocative lives caught between two worlds.

The editor, Samuel Sinner, also presents his own striking literary compositions, in which he intensifies the traditional themes of the earlier translations, adding to them imaginative motifs from Jewish mysticism, Scandinavian mythology, fantasy and philology, and even quantum physics, in an overpowering attempt to understand and explain the haunting nature and mystery of a universe where individuals are capable of persecuting and liquidating their fellow human beings.

Supplementing the anthology are Sinner's forceful translations of verses by the two greatest lyrical poets of twentieth-century Russia, Anna Akhmatova and Stalin victim Osip Mandelstam, and the short story writer and Stalin victim Boris Pilnyak. Taking into account works which have influenced Russia's German-language authors, Sinner offers an evocative selection of German poetry by Georg Trakl, Rainer Maria Rilke, Nikolaus Lenau, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Eduard Möike, and Hermann Hesse, including the latter's three poems which Richard Strauss set to music in his "Vier letzte Lieder" ("Four Last Songs").

With marvelous skill, Sinner gathers the most widely disparate literary traditions and themes and sews them together, creating a uniquely eclectic and breathtaking unity, a vision at once epic, tragic, and magical. Including translations of Russian, German, and ethnic German-Russian works, this rich literary volume is a truly German-Russian anthology in the fullest sense.

"Samuel Sinner's latest work, subtitled An Experiment in Ethnic Anthology, is a work of striking and multifaceted originality. A mother lode of imagination, of language, of history, both personal and ethnic, this book intentionally blurs the distinctions between literary genres, and besides the author's own works, reveals to the American public for the first time a variety of powerful Germans from Russia artists and writers."

-- Ronald Vossler, award-winning author and documentary film-script writer

 

Reinhold Frank

"With this important new anthology, German-Russian writers long absent from the scene of world literature now take their rightful place at center stage. Firmly grounded in the history and steeped in the cultural traditions of the people whose ethnic identity he shares, Dr. Samuel Sinner as editor, author, and translator of "Autumn Thoughts" presents a skilled evocation of a lost world. His judicious selection of representative works by recognized authors among the Germans in Russia, a nation now in diaspora, is set against the backdrop of ancient Germanic and contemporary Russian works which offer the reader glimpses into the literary milieu and political context which inspired these creations. Thanks to Sinner's immense erudition and inerrant ear for language, voices once stilled by Stalin speak again. More than mere translations, the pieces in the collection read like English language reincarnations of the spirit of this vanished people. In his own original compositions included here, Sinner reveals mystical depths and a muscular writing style that prove him the apt inheritor of his relative and namesake, Johann Peter Sinner--that prescient poet who, while recalling a German-Russian golden age, perceived the sharp winter winds of persecution and exile about to descend on his people."

-- Dr. Nancy Bernhardt Holland, former executive director of the American
Historical Society of Germans from Russia

The anthology contains translations of poems and short stories by German-Russian authors from the Black Sea villages of Pordenau and Annette, from the Criema village Hohenberg, from Siberia, and from the Volga-German villages and cities of Saratov, Engels, Schilling, Neu-Schilling, Frank, Balzer, Kana, Katharinenstadt, etc. Among the uniquely talented authors represented in the volume are the following: Peter Sinner, Kamilla Sinner, David Kufeld, August von Neu, Franz Bach, Rudolph Dirk, Jacob Wagner, Julie Hanke, Emilie Löffler, Friedrich Reimer, Georg Dönhoff, Maria Görzen, Waldemar Weber, Reinhold Frank, Dominik Hollmann, Eduard Stössel, Herbert Henke, Viktor Schnittke, Nelly Wacker Robert Weber, and Reinhold Keil.

About the Author

A noted ethnic activist, author, and scholar, Samuel D. Sinner grew up in California's Mojave Desert where he enjoyed a closeness to nature reminiscent of that enjoyed by his Volga-German ancestors in the mountains and steppes of Russia. From his father's stories, as a child he became interested in German literature and history. He is an avid researcher of such widely diverse topics as Jewish mysticism, philosophy, theology, world folklore and mythology, ancient history and languages, classical literature, ancient Jewish and Christian apocryphal literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and quantum physics.

He began his higher education in Oklahoma, later gaining undergraduate degrees in California and Nebraska in Liberal Arts and in Modern Languages and Literatures. He earned his M.A. in 1998 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in Modern Languages and Literatures, with a History minor. His Ph.D. from UNL was also in Modern Languages and Literatures, with a minor and internship in Museum Studies. He has worked for several years as a librarian and archivist. At UNL, he studied German philology and linguistics under the internationally known German dialect expert Dr. Dieter Karch. In April 2002, Sinner completed his 614-page German-language dissertation, Johann Peter Sinner (Petr Ivanovich Zinner, 1879-1935) Russlanddeutscher Autor und Stalinopfer: Sein Werk und Schicksal [Johann Peter Sinner (Petr Ivanovich Zinner, 1879-1935) Russian-German Author and Stalin Victim: His Literary Works and Fate].

Sinner's published books include the groundbreaking The Open Wound: The Genocide of Ethnic-German Minorities in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1914-1945 and Beyond, and Letters from Hell: A Bibliography of Famine Letters published in Die Welt-Post, 1920-1925; 1930-1934. His research on the Jewish Holocaust has been published by Oxford University Press and will soon be published by Berghahn Books (Oxford and New York). His translations and essays on history and literature have been published in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Oxford), the Journal of Genocide Research (New York and United Kingdom), Nebraska History, Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, and Heritage Review. Forthcoming essays on German-Russian literature and the Holocaust will appear in Russia and Germany.

Sinner is presently working on a number of writing projects related to German-Russian history, literature, and folklore, including a second anthology of German-Russian literature and a bibliography on German-Russian women writers. He is also presently conducting archival research projects on Lord Byron, Shakespeare, and H. G. Wells.

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Review by Edna Boardman


Autumn Thoughts -- Under Ruins and Snow

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