Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Visit To Joe Bandel
March 2012
    On a recent rip to the US for work I was able to add a few days holiday and travel from Milwaukee to the wilds of Minnesota to visit Joe.

    The name should ring a bell to Side Real lovers as he is he translator of Hanns Ewers' 'Alraune'. This is in addition to running his own publishing house 
Bandel Books  which publishes other texts by Ewers, Joes own writings and selections of artworks from the 19th century German art nouveau journals 'Simplicissimus' and 'Jugend'. He is a busy man.

    My journey began from the Milwaukee Art Gallery

which was currently showing selections from the Anthony Petullo collection of outsider art. This is a great collection and I had the pleasure of chatting to Mr.  Petullo who is a nice man and an authority on all things Scottie Wilson (1888 - 1972)

Scottie Wilson

     It seemed rude not to to take in a few bookshops en route, so first port of call was Madison - the state capitol.  It is a big student town and very laid back, with a number of bookshops all clustered around  State St.

    From there it was through Sauk City (Sauk town more like-its tiny) past the odd veterans memorial

to Au Claire and three good bookshops. One is part of an antique centre with a big taxidermy collection. 

    A few hours scarcely touches the vast piles of 'stuff' all heaped up. But I was a man with a mission and had to leave, though not  it must be said, without booty.

    Once one leaves Wisconsin and enters Minnesota things change- the landscape flattens with more forest and many small lakes the result of glaciation. Towns are small and odd ruins dot the landscape.

    The area mainly survives (barely) by tourism. There is poverty and homelessness which is partly ameliorated by the Churches. These are sadly pretty fundamentalist and there are plenty of 'Pro life' billboards ("Smile - your mother was pro-life") though to offset that, I did flash by one advertising a bar that said "Dancing. Booze. (Need we say more)".

    And thus to Joes. I am always wary when meeting someone in the flesh for the first time. E-mails are fine but when you are meeting (and staying) with them, will they be total fruitcakes?

    Thankfully, and unsuprisingly, this was not the case and in within ten minutes myself Joe, Annie (his wife) and their dog were all perfectly at home with each other. Talk quite rapidly turned to the spiritual; believers (Joe Annie), and non (myself). We also talked of the Masonic influences to be found within Ewers work, Joe having some 'inside knowledge' as it were of such things- an area I only know of through reading. This led us to the O.T.O. (both breeds), Crowley magick etc...Tea was drunk, Joe's large collection of Ewers perused (many German editions) and the hours seemed to dash by.

    Next day myself and Joe (who had kindly taken a day off work) and idled around the immediate environs with Lucy the dog. Joe was suitable amused that I thought it 'the countryside'. Our talk turned around the Ewers friends we knew and it was bought home to me how although the internet has enabled people to link up, personal meetings are infinitely better. Joe is not short of friends, but rural Minnesota means that finding 'like minds' locally can be very hard (impossible for Ewers). We both agreed that it is small circle we move in. We also spoke of Nietzsche and the 'will to power' and how Ewers work has plenty of it in a way which much fiction, particually in 'our field' doesn't- a very interesting thought. We then discussed how Nietczche's ideas began to fall out of favour after WW1 and of course how Hitler and the Nazis perverted his ideas further.

    We returned and watched 'Unnatural' (1952) directed by Arthur Maria Rabenalt and starring Hildegard Knef and Erich von Stroheim. 

DVD cover and poster

   It was the forth version of 'Alraune' for the big screen and I had not previously seen it. It is actually jolly good, cramming a lot of the book into its 92 minutes. It avoids the childhood section and concentrates on the latter part of the book. Apparently the Ewers estate has caused it to be withdrawn (though copies are still available) so if you want one, get one sharpish.

    Annie works in a used book store (nice!) and after she finished work we went to dinner, then returned to light the fire pit and drink hot chocolate in the open air; thoroughly satisfactory. It was only then that I realized I had taken no photos at all so I (poorly) remedied that.

Joe Bandel and I

    As Joe had to be up at 4.00am to go to work (and I was on holiday!) this was time to say our farewells.

    As you will have surmised, I had a great time with great people and we all agreed we should try and do it again somehow, somewhere.

    Next morning I began my journey south towards Baraboo and Dr. Evermores 'Forevertron'. That will be the subject of my next posting...