Mine-Haha: Or, on the Bodily Education of Young Girls (Modern Voices) Paperback – 26 Feb 2010
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'Mine-Haha is a fairy tale that morphs into something far more grotesque - a psycho-sexual Expressionist fable. It's so perversely erotic and freaky and anti-society, and that's probably why it's never been translated into English until now. This new version by Philip Ward is long overdue and very welcome.' --Marianne Faithfull
About the Author
Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (1864-1918) was a German author and dramatist; he is best known for his play 'Spring Awakening'.
Top customer reviews
Wedekind was a visionary whose visions were often as disturbing as they were powerful, and 'Mine-Haha' is no exception. The story is mainly set in a boarding school in which young girls are taught music and gymnastics but receive no intellectual or moral education, and follows the progress of one girl as she is slowly formed by an environment that is emancipatory in its focus on outdoor pursuits and physical self-expression but oppressive in the severity of its discipline. The exact purpose of this schooling is deliberately left vague, as is the destiny of the girls once they leave. Gradually but irresistibly, the reader is drawn into the strange, self-contained world of the school, and a compelling tension arises between the detached voice of the elderly female narrator recounting the experiences of her childhood and the implied voyeuristic male gaze that betrays itself in a fetishistic focus on the girls' bodies and movement.
The novella is followed by two short stories, 'The Burning of Egliswyl' and 'The Sacrificial Lamb', tales of antagonism between the sexes with an aphoristic compactness and power reminiscent of Heinrich von Kleist. As well as for his polished translation, Ward is to be congratulated for his introduction, which provides background information and unfurls the thematic richness of the texts that follow without dulling the reader's appetite with a surfeit of detail and analysis. Hesperus has served him and Wedekind well with a handsome paperback volume - paper, typeface and binding are all of a high quality.
While the book briefly brings to our attention the unusual circumstances the little girls are placed in, a larger proportion of the book seems to focus on the fairy tales that are being enacted on stage. Wedekind seems happy to make us assimilate the numerous names of the children, and writes in detail about the fairy tale dance, but leaves us hazy about the bulk of everyday life at the orphanage. The film (Innocence) provides a much better portrayal of the daily routines of life at the institution, and of the intimacy between the girls.
While there are many film adaptations that makes one admit the book is far better than the film, this is not one of those occasions.
This is a slight but rather difficult book, with no great character or plot development but lots of surreal events. The background theory is on teaching physical poise to generate self assurance but that idea is fairly well hidden away.
A difficult, different book- ideal if you enjoy a challenge.
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