Sunday, March 12, 2006

Adorno loved furry animals


We always knew it. In 1955, in correspondence with Bernhard Grzimek, director of the Frankfurt Zoo, he suggested the Zoo obtain a pair of wombats: "I have fond memories of these little round friendly animals...and would be delighted to see them again.... Then I would like to remind you of the babirusa pig, which was also one of my favourites in my childhood... And finally, what happened to the dwarf hippos they used to have in Berlin?" Stefan Müller-Doohm, who quotes this letter in his Adorno: A Biography, goes into more detail in his notes:
Zoos, no matter where, were one of Adorno's passions. Many of the animals he loved were associated with private fantasies. His mother, Maria, who had great talents as an actor, could do a convincing imitation of a mother chimpanzee de-lousing her offspring. In his personal bestiary, however, she was not a primate, but a female hippopotamus. Her son was known as Archibald, the Hippopotamus King, and called himself just Hippo (and sometimes just a great fool [großes Rindvieh, literally 'cattle' = 'a great ass']), one of the pachyderms which, according to Brehm's Life of the Animals, is a gregarious animal that spends much time dozing dreamily but is also immensely greedy, so that it can easily become a pest. Aunt Agathe was a tigress which, again according to Brehm, commonly attacked the largest animals but was also content with the smallest ones; it was bold and cheeky. Gretel [TWA's wife] was called a gazelle by her husband, an animal well known for its long legs, graceful head and large clear eyes.
Max Horkheimer was "Mammoth," & in 1941 Adorno composed "Rüsselmammuts Heimkehr," a joyful little "Singstimme und Pianoforte" song celebrating Horkheimer's imminent return:
Rüsselmammuts Heimkehr

Was fährt denn dort auf einem Wangen und streckt den langen Rüssel aus? (2X)
Es ist ein Mammut, es ist ein Mammut, es is ein Mammut und er fährt nach Haus.

2 comments:

Jessica Smith said...

i thnk this would make a good children's book
or perhaps a good "my first german" kind of bilingual children's book

Theodor's Day at the Zoo

there's your next book! i can offer my illustration services, but i think you'd be better off w/Anne Boyer.

i like that when he thinks of furry little animals he thinks of wombats. Not kittens, puppies, and other such vulnerable fluffballs, but wombats of all weird creatures.

Alex Davis said...

Adorno's interest in wombats recalls the obsession with these creatures displayed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti--as evinced in his wonderful "Ode to a Wombat":

O how the family affections combat
Within this heart, and each hour flings a bomb at
My burning soul! Neither from owl nor from bat
Can peace be gained until I clasp my wombat.