Episode 15 Hiberno Goethe: Dr Gisela Holfter 


This episode features Dr Gisela Holfter, Professor of German at the University of Limerick and joint director for the Centre for Irish-German Studies, who grew up in the Bergisches Land close to Cologne. 

Chatting with Ciarán about her time in Dublin, Belfast and later on in Limerick, the listeners are brought on a literary journey depicting brothers Grimm, Mann brothers, Küttner, Fürst Pückler-Muskau, Wilhelm von Humbold, and Johann Kaspar Zeuss to name a few. 

Gisela tells us about Ireland being a sanctuary for refugees with Eamon De Valera’s brainchild Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies allowing Irish universities to take in scholars from abroad and how the Hirsch Ribbon factory in Longford set up by Viennese Ernest Sonnenschein gave employment and training to local people. 

We hear about the Centre for Irish-German Studies which marks its 25th anniversary in 2022, the Dánnerstag project bringing together Irish and German poetry and Limericker Literaturgespräche. Gisela recites Die Stadt by Theodor Storm and a quote of the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who recently visited the Centre for Irish- German Studies together with Irish president Michael D Higgins. 

Gisela’s recommendations (at least a selection)

Irish-German literature:

Jo Sorochinsky, Dancing with my Father, Amsterdam Publishers 2021

Iris M. Taylor, Memoirs of a Reluctant German, Clifden: Little Gull 2020

John Hennig, Die bleibende Statt, Trier: WVT 2019 (chapters on Ireland translated in G. Holfter/H. Rasche (eds), John Hennig’s Exile in Ireland, Galway: Arlen 2004)

M. Affenzeller, G. Anderl (eds), Und ich reise noch immer – Die Geschichte des Hans Kohlseisen zwischen Gmünd, Stadlau und Irland. Wien: Mandelbaum 2015

Herbert Remmel, From Cologne to Ballinlough, Cork: Aubane Historical Society 2009

Leonie Swann, Glennkill, München: Goldmann 2005

Hans-Jörg Schertenleib, Das Regenorchester, Berlin: Aufbau, 2008

Christabel Bielenberg, The Road Ahead, London: Corgi 1993

Helen Lewis, A Time to Speak, Belfast: Blackstaff 1992

Reinhard Ulbrich, Irland, Leipzig: Brockhaus 1988

George Clare, Last Waltz in Vienna, London: Macmillan 1981

Richard Bermann, Irland, Berlin 1914 (translated in 2021 as Ireland [1913])

Fürst Pückler-Muskau, Briefe eines Verstorbenen 1830 (many editions and translated as Letters of a Dead Man)

Of course also books that have been mentioned previously such as Heinrich Böll’s Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Journal) and Hugo Hamilton, The Speckled People (and many of his other books).

For academic studies see the fourteen volumes of the Irish-German Studies series and many other interesting studies by colleagues. A good overview of almost fifty books can be gleaned via the “Annotated bibliography of recent publications in Irish-German Studies” – accessible on the Centre website (see Publications / Other Irish-German Publications) or here: https://issuu.com/centreforirish-germanstudies/docs/bibliography_ge6021_book_reviews

All videos of Dánnerstag Irish-German poetry project (for example Jan Wagner, Ilma Rakusa, Robert Schindel and Kerstin Hensel and much loved classics. Many contemporary and classic poems in German and Irish translation still to come every first and third Thursday of the month) and the Limericker Literaturgespräche can be accessed via the Centre for Irish-German Studies website: https://ulsites.ul.ie/irishgerman/

German literature

Gabrielle Alioth, Die Überlebenden, Basel: Lenos 2021

Anne Weber, Annette – Ein Heldinnenepos, Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2020 (will appear in translation in August 2022 as “Epic Annette: A Heroine’s Tale”)

Dmitrij Kapitelman, Das Lächeln meines unsichtbaren Vaters, München: Carl Hanser 2016

Maxim Leo, Haltet euer Herz bereit, München: Wilhelm Heyne 2009 (translated into English as „Red Love – The Story of an East German Family”, 2009)

Regine Scheer, Machandel, Knaus 2014

Saša Stanišić: Herkunft, München: Luchterhand 2019 (Where You Come From, 2021)

Sten Nadolny, Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit, München: Piper 1983 (translated as The Discovery of Slowness)

Also many, many other authors, just to mention at least a few: Annette Pehnt, Kathrin Schmidt, Judith Hermann, Daniel Kehlmann, Eugen Ruge, Bernhard Schlink, Günter de Bruyn- and not to forget Austrian and Swiss writers: Doron Rabinovici, Eva and Robert Menasse, Stefan Zweig, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch and of course 19th century writers such as Theodor Storm and Theodor Fontane. Rereading Lessing, Schiller and Goethe can also make you happy – and there are so many more who should be mentioned!

Irish literature

Again, too many to list here and not the main focus of this podcast but I can’t let the opportunity slip by to recommend especially Donal Ryan, from a low and quiet sea (2018), Claire Keegan, Walk the Blue Fields (with a story set in the Böll cottage on Achill Island), Joseph O’Connor, Star of the Sea (2002), Hubert Butler, The Children of Drancy (1988, with his story about “The Kagran Group”) and of course Colm Tóibín’s The Magician (2021) (readers might also enjoy Hans Pleschinski’s Königsallee)

This Podcast dives into the many colours of arts, language and life across cultures. St. Pauli fan and former Düsseldorfer Ciarán Murray and his guests explore the connecting moments of German and Irish life. What do musicians, dancers, artists, writers pick up from either culture? How are they inspired and enriched by the other? For all listeners who like to go and think beyond borders.