GHDI logo

Article from Die Zeit about the Hamburg "Existenzialistenkellerchen" ["Existentialists' Cellar"] (1952)

page 2 of 2    print version    return to list previous document      next document

There definitely is dancing. “Just let them do their literary nonsense, it won’t bother us,” said another member of the board, “at any rate, on Sunday night the place is hopping. Then there is high-life here.” High-life with beer and Coca-Cola, nothing else is allowed to be served, and with three bands. For if the organization has only one famous poet to show for itself (his name is Hans Henny Jahn), it already has three bands: one plays Dixieland-style à la New Orleans, a second Bebop, and the third piano music à la George Shearing.

When the bands play, the club comes to life. Then the cement vibrates and passers-by stop outside on the street. The delicate girls are twirled through the air and everyone must make as much of a ruckus as possible. And when they catch their breath, it is unavoidable – because of the scarce seating – that a girl will take a break on the lap of her Dixie gentleman. But everything is proper, for German jazz has no eroticism. There is something abstract about the ecstasy it generates: it’s not vitality that’s in it, but hysteria. Still: those who have to log boring numbers into even duller books all day long seem to recuperate here.

Incidentally, no less than a Frenchman came as a prominent guest, Gilbert Domb from Paris, who himself founded an existentialist cellar in St. Germain des Près some time ago. “Naturellement,” he said, “with literature it’s the same as back home” (he does not speak or understand a single word of German), “but dancing, unfortunately dancing is not something the stiff Hamburgers can do at all. C’est la poisse [Too bad!]”.

Source: Wolfgang Menge, “Wenn der Club wach wird... ” [“When the Club Awakens... ”] Die Zeit, no. 49, December 4, 1952, p. 14.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

first page < previous   |   next > last page