Knulp = der Landstreicher = Me?

Maybe you've been following my blog these past few weeks, or even months. Maybe you randomly clicked the link on Facebook while you were stalking me. Either way, odds are you don't know what der Landstreicher means. According to my Langenscheidts Wörterbuch (wordsbook—>dictionary), ein Landstreicher is a tramp or a hobo. According to LEO, it can also mean vagabond, vagrant, yegg, landloper, or rolling stone. (And rolling stone comes with a female equivalent, die Landstreicherin...maybe I should go for that.)

First, I would like to point out that landloper is very old, and very Dutch. It doesn't even come up on Merriam-Webster.com unless you have a paid account. But I guess that's okay. It means literally land walker, or a wanderer, vagrant, or adventurer. More questionable is yegg. Like seriously, what? A yegg is a safe cracker or a robber. Have you ever heard or seen that word before?

I am certainly not a yegg. (Hahaha.) Or a vagabond, vagrant, or hobo. Nor a tramp, in any sense of the word. I do, however, walk on land—who would have thought—and hope to consider myself an adventurer soon. There are so many places I want to visit, and also many I'd like to try living in, so it seems like a fitting title. I originally learned it with only the definitions tramp and hobo. I was trying to read Knulp, by Hermann Hesse, and after getting sick of constantly stopping to look up words, I tried a few pages without a dictionary. Then I got frustrated with not understanding all the words and I gave up. But the word Landstreicher really bothered me, because I thought I should have known it, but I didn't.

The word I had been thinking of was Anstreicher, which means house painter. Or in the context of what we read for class, the person painting the world with propaganda, aka Hitler. But when I looked up Landstreicher and read tramp, hobo I laughed to myself, because hobo makes me think of bum (even though they're not the same thing) and I call myself a lazy bum all the time. Later, when I was trying to come up with a German title for this blog, I remembered Landstreicher and decided it was good, at least for the time being.

Later on, I looked into Knulp and the word more, and decided that if I was going to use it as my title, I needed to know what I was alluding to. Plus Knulp takes place in the Black Forest, which is where I was headed, so with four days left in Ann Arbor, I checked it out of the library and read it—in English, because the German version would have required making a request and four times as much time. Knulp a novella made up of three stories about Knulp, der Landstreicher, from different phases of his life. The translation I read used tramp every time. I know this is long, but this the word's first occurence in the book, in a passage explaining Knulp's carefree, restless existence.

"Keeping his roadbook in order was indeed one of Knulp’s hobbies. In its dazzling perfection, his roadbook was a delightful fiction, a poem. Each of the officially accredited entries bore witness to a glorious station in an honest, laborious life. The only seemingly discordant feature was his restlessness, attested by frequent changes of residence. The life certified by this official passport was a product of Knulp’s invention, and with infinite art he spun out the fragile thread of this pseudo-career. In reality, though he did little that was expressly prohibited, he carried on the illegal and disdainful existence of a tramp. Of course, he would hardly have been so unmolested in his lovely fiction if the police had not been well disposed toward him. They respected the cheerful, entertaining young fellow for his superior intelligence and occasional earnestness, and as far as possible left him alone. He had seldom been arrested and never convicted of theft or mendicancy, and he had highly respected friends everywhere. Consequently, he was indulged by the authorities very much as a nice-looking cat is indulged in a household, and left free to carry on an untroubled, elegant, splendidly aristocratic and idle existence." (p. 9)

I recommend it. And I also would like to enjoy the untroubled, idle existence of a nice-looking cat.

5 comments:

John said...

I want a nice-looking cat! Too bad they're streng verboten.

Emmo said...

I've got a great-looking cat.



Also grey-looking.

Marisa said...

I actually meant that I wanted to be the nice-looking cat. Just to be clear.

dandelionia said...

I understand THAT feeling.

Anonymous said...

It was really weird reading that passage in English. It was a lot different in German, maybe because I didn't understand it nearly as well..