“Katharina: Fortitude”

 I just finished reading this book. All along, I was wondering how the author, Margaret Skea, would have been able to find so much material during her limited time in Wittenberg. I asked myself repeatedly, “Is this fiction, based on truth? Is this a biography of Katharina von Bora?” Or is it “intelligent fiction?” When I read the author’s comments at the end of the book and learned that IT IS fiction, I couldn’t believe it. Written in the first person, it was so real, I was Katharina, or I was next to her, holding my breath, prayed with her, felt her despair… What an exceptional writer! If I had the time, I would want to read every one of Ms. Skea’s books. Notably, the prequel “Katharina: Deliverance,” telling of her childhood in a convent, her vows as a nun, her escape, her meeting with Dr. Martin Luther, the former monk.

Like ghosts, the people in the book are occupying my head every hour of the day. How did Ms. Skea, the English-Scottish writer, ever come up with the idea to write about this German woman, the nun who became Mrs. Martin Luther?  How did she get to ‘know’ her and the people around her so intimately?  Are there history museums in Wittenberge with lots of details about the 16th Century and Dr. Martin Luther, the reformer standing up to the mighty Catholic church and the Pope? Did she find a book that she translated? This idea ran through my head because it is absolutely incredible how anyone could write this story and transport the reader back into THAT time, feel close to the characters, the setting, the history…  I am in awe. King Henry was also starting his ‘reform’ in England because the Pope would not allow him to divorce his Catholic wife. My honest opinion? The beginning is a bit slow, some German words don’t make much sense, ‘Wirtschaft’ for one – that word has many meanings, but Weddings are not one of them.

When I questioned the author, here is what she writes:

“To give you a bit more background to the fact/fiction division – I didn’t want to write screeds at the end – it is fiction, but all the key events actually happened – I just had to flesh them out and try to bring them alive. 

We know Frau Jessner was fined for abusing the Luthers publicly, we know they had a pet dog named Tolpel, we know the land Katharina persuaded Martin to buy, we know a lot of the discussions that were had at Dr. Luther’s ‘Table Talk’ and some of Katharina’s contributions to them etc, etc.

We know a lot of what she did, but not why, nor do we have documented evidence of what she thought. I worked backwards, trying to imagine what sort of a character she must have been to do this or that. I loved the experience of trying to see it all through her eyes. Obviously, the interactions with her women friends were the most fictional bits – but again we know a lot about who was in the Lutherhaus and roughly when, and rough dates for miscarriages for her and for her friends and rough dates for the deaths of friends and of children. Ditto for family deaths, the visit of her brother Hans and so on. I did have a fairly tight framework to work to – which (mostly) helped! 

I guess you could say it is a complex blend of fact and fiction. Great news for me if, when reading, you  couldn’t see the seams between them!!”

No, I couldn’t see the seams between them. I didn’t know very much of Katharina,  Martin Luther’s wife. Just that she was a former nun and bore him seven children, of which four lived. Now, learning of her extra-ordinary life with this controversial man, I want to know more about him, the Reformer of the Catholic Religion, Dr. Martin Luther, one of the most important and unforgettable men in church history.

Do I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly, even if partially fiction, it provides an intimate look into the lives of women and the history of the early sixteenth century. Margaret Skea, the author, is known for ‘knowing her history’  – she has written several other historical novels.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VQK6XHZ?pf_rd_p=2d1ab404-3b11-4c97-b3db-48081e145e35&pf_rd_r=5QTATFCQ1KP6HSTN677F

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Goodbye 2017

It is the last day of the year 2017. I am thinking of the 365 days past. I am contemplating what the New Year may bring. I have no crystal ball. Nobody has an answer. If we are a few billion people with a brain on this planet, every single one has different hopes, wishes, and beliefs. I am trying to write a blog that means something, possibly something that touches a nerve in everyone. Everyone? Who am I kidding! I can but try. And try I will.

New Year’s Eve: We celebrate and make a lot of noise. We make New Year’s Resolutions, resolutions that will be broken within the next few weeks or even days because ‘life happens.’ Something always gets into our way to do what we set out to do, want to do or planned to do. We woke up with a thought to write a fantastic blog – someone asked to do something else, and everything changes. The mood, sometimes even the energy is gone. What we really wanted to say changed. The moment, that magic moment, when you felt just right to do this one thing, is gone.

Looking back on 2017, it was a troubled year. Worldwide, politically and for me, even personally. But what is my personal pain compared to the pain of thousands of people fleeing their homes with just the cloth on their back, children starving, soldiers raping helpless women, beheading or killing well-meaning men? The worst is that all of this is done in the name of religion. Did anybody choose to born a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew? Or belonging to any of the many other denominations? How many Gods are there? I always thought there was but ONE, and he is a loving God, not one who spews hate and fire at one particular group that tries to kill another group. Who’s side is HE one when soldiers in war pray for victory? I’m reminded of a little story:

A zebra goes to see God. He asks ‘Lord, am I white with black stripes or am I black with white stripes?’

God looks at the zebra and says: ‘That depends entirely on how you see yourself.’

I like to see it not just depending on color but ‘how we see ourselves.’ Has HE given humanity ‘free choice’? A choice to do what is right? HE doesn’t get involved in humanity’s foolishness. Someone on Facebook asked ‘How can God let this happen?’ and another answered that HE may have turned his back on us because we don’t allow HIS name in schools, and we try to banish him from our lives. It’s troublesome to think about all this. And, maybe it is better not even to write about it. I stepped into a wasp’s nest once when I wrote an article for a newspaper questioning different parts of the bible and mentioned Emmanuel Kant’s Philosophy. It was also a New Year’s write-up, and boy, did I touch many nerves! The Newspaper had a hay-day with all the pro- and contra letters for weeks!

What do I look back to, personally? Problems with my health, physical problems that affected me mentally. I got depressed but tried hard to pretend all was alright. I had a terrible time getting to work on my sequel to my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That.” In that book, I was honest and told how it was, and I couldn’t find a way to tell what happened to me and my life after those first thirty years. I thought of all the things I still had to do, wanted to do and never got around to do. I went through all my files, sorted, destroyed and found papers I didn’t want to go into the wastebasket after I’m gone. I found poems I had written over many years, mostly funny ones, many with double meanings, my goodness, actually a history of human life during the years starting around 1960! Reading these gave me hope and smiles back, and a will to do something with them. My little book “Ein Mensch von Gestern – Heute” was born. It’s in my first language, German, but there are still a lot of people who do speak it. The title means “A Human from Yesterday – Today.” The story of how we people from yesterday cope with life as it has changed since yesteryear. Hahaha, and now we are back to today, the last day of 2017.

Did I have moments when I thought of stopping the time from flying? Yes, there were some. But how do you stop time? With a stopwatch? Heh, buddy, it doesn’t work that way.  Every breath you take is part of a second that moves time forward. Did you ever read Goethe’s ‘Faust’? The first two lines inspired me this morning to write about it. Here is part of Dr. Faustus’ conversation with Mephisto about time:

“If to the moment, I shall ever say
‘Oh, linger on, thou art so fair!’
Then may you fetters on me lay.
Then I will perish, then and there!
Then may the death-bell toll recalling,
Then from your service you are free;
The clock may stop, the pointer falling,
And time itself be past for me!”

The answer of the devil, Mephisto, was a warning. Faustus should not be hasty with his wish, but if so, he wanted it in writing, signed with blood. Maybe here we find a base for what we often say nowadays: ‘Be careful what you wish for, you may get it!’

       Happy New Year to all of you! I love you, my readers! I love people!
A big hug for all!