Dienstag, 20. Dezember 2011


In seinem Roman The Pioneers (dem ersten Lederstrumpf Roman), der im Jahre 1823 erschien, versetzt uns James Fenimoore Cooper drei Jahrzehnte in die 1790er Jahre zurück. Es ist die Weihnachtszeit, und es liegt sehr viel Schnee im Staat New York. Da oben im Norden, wo Templeton liegt, welches das Cooperstown seiner Jugend ist - dieser Roman hat immer wieder autobiographische Züge: As this work professes, in its title-page, to be a descriptive tale, they who will take the trouble to read it may be glad to know how much of its contents is literal fact, and how much is intended to represent a general picture. The author is very sensible that, had he confined himself to the latter, always the most effective, as it is the most valuable, mode of conveying knowledge of this nature, he would have made a far better book. But in commencing to describe scenes, and perhaps he may add characters, that were so familiar to his own youth, there was a constant temptation to delineate that which he had known, rather than that which he might have imagined. This rigid adhesion to truth, an indispensable requisite in history and travels, destroys the charm of fiction; for all that is necessary to be conveyed to the mind by the latter had better be done by delineations of principles, and of characters in their classes, than by a too fastidious attention to originals. Der Autor schwankt zwischen Autobiographie und Roman, aber sind nicht beinahe alle Romane außer den romances autobiographisch?

Cooper ist in dem Vorwort (zur zweiten Auflage), aus dem das Zitat oben stammt, sehr ehrlich gegenüber dem Leser. In order to prevent mistake, it may be well to say that the incidents of this tale are purely a fiction, schreibt er dort. Und er beklagt in einer Fußnote, dass die Natur, so wie er sie als Kind erlebte, längst verschwunden ist: Though forests still crown the mountains of Otsego, the bear, the wolf, and the panther are nearly strangers to them. Even the innocent deer is rarely seen bounding beneath their arches; for the rifle and the activity of the settlers have driven them to other haunts. To this change (which in some particulars is melancholy to one who knew the country in its infancy), it may be added that the Otsego is beginning to be a niggard of its treasures. Diese Klage über die Vernichtung von God's own paradise durch den Menschen finden wir in vielen seiner Romane, dies ist der erste Ökoroman der amerikanischen Literatur, lange vor Edward Abbey, dem Thoreau of the American West.

Wenn dieser Roman auch der erste Lederstrumpf-Roman ist, den Cooper schreibt - er hat so gar nichts von solch spannenden Romanen wie The Deerslayer, The Pathfinder oder The Last of the Mohicans an sich. In der chronologischen Entwicklung der Lederstrumpf-Romane ist es auch der vorletzte Roman, Natty Bumppo und Chingachgook sind hier schon im Rentenalter - und der letzte der Mohikaner stirbt auch noch in dem Roman. Dieser Roman, der - so der Untertitel (und Cooper im Vorwort) - ein descriptive tale ist, hat viel Zeit, um alles detailgetreu wie ein holländisches Genrebild zu beschreiben. Und damit komme ich mal eben auf meinen Satz Es ist die Weihnachtszeit, und es liegt sehr viel Schnee im Staat New York zurück. Es geht auf Weihnachten zu, und dieser Post soll doch auch etwas davon enthalten.

Gleich zu Beginn des Romans kommt es im Schnee beinahe zu einem schrecklichen Unfall:

Richard, by a sudden application of the whip, succeeded in forcing the leaders into the snow-bank that covered the quarry; but the instant that the impatient animals suffered by the crust, through which they broke at each step, they positively refused to move an inch farther in that direction. On the contrary, finding that the cries and blows of their driver were redoubled at this juncture, the leaders backed upon the pole-horses, who in their turn backed the sleigh. Only a single log lay above the pile which upheld the road on the side toward the valley, and this was now buried in the snow. The sleigh was easily forced across so slight an impediment, and before Richard became conscious of his danger one-half of the vehicle was projected over a precipice, which fell perpendicularly more than a hundred feet. The Frenchman, who by his position had a full view of their threatened flight, instinctively threw his body as far forward as possible, and cried
“Oh! mon cher Monsieur Deeck! mon Dieu! que faites vous!”
“Donner und blitzen, Richart!” exclaimed the veteran German, looking over the side of the sleigh with unusual emotion, “put you will preak ter sleigh and kilt ter horses!”
“Good Mr. Jones,” said the clergyman, “be prudent, good sir—be careful.”

Der Kutscher Richard Jones (der kein wirklicher Kutscher sondern der Cousin des Richters ist) bringt die Weihnachtsgäste von Richter Marmaduke Temple (ein kaum verhülltes Portrait von Coopers Vater) in Lebensgefahr. Die in dieser Situation sehr unterschiedlich reagieren. Auch sprachlich. Es ist interessant, wie Cooper den Figuren unterschiedliche sprachliche Ebenen zuordnet; der Franzose Monsieur Le Quoi, der deutsche Major Friedrich (Fritz) Hartmann und der anglikanische Reverend Grant sagen eigentlich alles das gleiche. Aber jeder redet so, wie er normalerweise reden würde. Lange bevor Mark Twain seinen Huck Finn seinen Helden so reden lässt wie ihm der Schnabel gewachsen ist. Heute hat das beinahe jeder Romanautor drauf, seine Romanfiguren über einen Ideolekt, einen Dialekt oder einen Soziolekt zu charakterisieren, aber ich glaube, Cooper ist der erste, der das überzeugend handhabt. Und so redet Fritz Hartmann wie Henry Kissinger und Judge Temples Haussklave Agamemnon wie Jim in Huckleberry Finn. Und Monsieur Le Quoi so, wie man sich die Franzosen vorstellt, es ist eine multi-kulti Gesellschaft an der frontier in diesem jungen Amerika.

“Thou jerk! thou recover thyself, Dickon!” he said; ‘but for that brave lad yonder, thou and thy horses, or rather mine, would have been dashed to pieces—but where is Monsieur Le Quoi?”
“Oh! mon cher Juge! mon ami!” cried a smothered voice,” praise be God, I live; vill you, Mister Agamemnon, be pleas come down ici, and help me on my leg?”
The divine and the negro seized the incarcerated Gaul by his legs and extricated him from a snow-bank of three feet in depth, whence his voice had sounded as from the tombs. The thoughts of Mr. Le Quoi, immediately on his liberation, were not extremely collected; and, when he reached the light, he threw his eyes upward, in order to examine the distance he had fallen. His good-humor returned, however, with a knowledge of his safety, though it was some little time before he clearly comprehended the case.
“What, monsieur,” said Richard, who was busily assisting the black in taking off the leaders; “are you there? I thought I saw you flying toward the top of the mountain just now.”
“Praise be God, I no fly down into the lake,” returned the Frenchman, with a visage that was divided between pain, occasioned by a few large scratches that he had received in forcing his head through the crust, and the look of complaisance that seemed natural to his pliable features.
“Ah! mon cher Mister Deeck, vat you do next? - dere be noting you no try.”
“The next thing, I trust, will be to learn to drive,” said the Judge, who bad busied himself in throwing the buck, together with several other articles of baggage, from his own sleigh into the snow; “here are seats for you all, gentlemen; the evening grows piercingly cold, and the hour approaches for the service of Mr. Grant; we will leave friend Jones to repair the damages, with the assistance of Agamemnon, and hasten to a warm fire. Here, Dickon, are a few articles of Bess’ trumpery, that you can throw into your sleigh when ready; and there is also a deer of my taking, that I will thank you to bring. Aggy! remember that there will be a visit from Santa Claus to-night.”

Aggy ist hier die Koseform für den schwarzen Agamemnon. Eine seltsame Marotte lässt im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert die Sklavenhalter in Amerika ihren Sklaven griechische und lateinische Namen geben - in Poes Erzählung The Gold-Bug heißt der Schwarze Jupiter. Für Monsieur Le Quoi ist er Mr Agamemnon, Judge Temple käme nie auf den Gedanken, seinen Sklaven Mister zu nennen. Was Aggy aber natürlich nicht vergessen wird, ist a visit from Santa Claus to-night. Und Cooper macht an dieser Stelle eine Fußnote: The periodical visits of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, as he is termed, were never forgotten among the inhabitants of New York, until the emigration from New England brought in the opinions and usages of the Puritans, like the “bon homme de Noel.” he arrives at each Christmas. Da ist er, der Santa Claus, hier taucht er zum ersten Mal im amerikanischen Roman auf. Im gleichen Jahr, in dem das anonyme Gedicht A Visit from St Nicholas. Jetzt werden wir ihn nicht mehr los.

Die Winterbilder sind von Louis Rémy Mignot, einem Maler, der zur Hudson River School gerechnet wird.

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