June 10, 2005
A Significant Piece of the Puzzle is Missing
Is there a book in English containing tales about a personal heritage quest in a no longer existent Sudetenland? Recent events have indeed made that the case. If one still further realizes that most of these stories have already appeared in preliminary versions in the Sudetendeutsche Zeitung, one thing is clear: An author waits for his German language publisher…
“The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle” subtitled “A Memoir Uniquely Set in a Vanished Sudetenland” by Frank Koerner has been published by iUniverse in Lincoln, Nebraska (USA). It contains 22 chapters of text and essays, whose themes are centered on one issue; that being, a focus on a heritage quest, which appears on the surface like the book and film “Roots”, yet remains especially unique. All these tales have German translations, but, yet, still no German publisher.
These tales significantly illuminate a particular chapter of Sudeten German destinies. Oskar Oswald Körner and his wife Ottilie, the author’s parents, emigrated to the USA a few years after the Sudetenland portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had become Czechoslovakia. We do not know whether this was in any way connected with the new power structure. We can only speculate. After all, Oskar Körner had been a policeman in Moravian Schönberg. As a civil servant he was most certainly a victim of the “Czech-ification” of the country that the Czech administrative authorities had imposed on Sudeten Germans in such jobs, as well as on all other Sudeten German civil servants.
The Körners remained fondly attached to their homeland. Young Frank had many relatives and came in contact with customs, expressions and reminiscences to which he only later devoted any attention. In the first instance, he was a youth like any other, who was more interested in girls, football, or baseball rather than in what his parents knew to teach. In the final analysis and when he was old enough to understand, Sudetenland was a nebulous place, a nirvana, hidden behind an impenetrable wall called the “Iron Curtain’. The Sudetenland of Oskar and Ottilie Körner could just as well have existed on the planet Saturn or behind the spaceship “Enterprise”, a fictitious, mysterious land like Oz or the legendary Atlantis.
Oskar and Ottilie Körner no longer were alive when the Soviet Empire collapsed and the people danced upon the Wall in Berlin. For their son, Frank Koerner, (the family had Americanized the umlaut in its name), a visit to Sudetenland had suddenly fallen within the realm of possibility – even though he no longer had his parents of whom to ask questions. Together with his wife, similarly of German heritage (her family comes from Russia), they flew from their city of residence, San Diego, to Munich. From there in a rental car, they drove to a land whose language neither understood. They were surprised to find so many people who could still make themselves quite understandable in German.
The very personal heritage quest, that the American, Frank Koerner, conducted within the homeland of his parents is the theme of the tales. Each of the episodes sets forth a new aspect, a new surprising twist, an obtuse connection among long ago supplied information, that is, instantly, once again current.
Frank Koerner retraced the footsteps of his parents, Oskar and Ottilie Körner and consistently discovered new pieces of a puzzle, which when placed together formed his own life. Using the bridge afforded by the several publications in the Sudetendeutsche Zeitung, he even found relatives, of whose existence he had not previously known. It is quite clear that event alone is worth its own story. Suddenly, the apparently rootless American had found his way back not only to Germany, but to Moravia, as well.
Frank Koerner loves word plays, as witnessed in the title itself. One who knows his way around the English language can also substantiate that in the titles of the individual chapters. In the English book title, he plays with the words “Stück” (piece; the missing piece of the puzzle) and “Frieden” (peace). Via his trip to Sudetenland he discovered the missing piece of his own heritage – but the Sudeten Germans still have not found their own peace.
Certainly, those who want to purchase the book can do it in the “American way” namely from the publisher iUniverse, 2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincloln, NE 68512 or over the Internet www.iuniverse.com /bookstore (per credit card). The disadvantage is that it would be very expensive as the shipping cost per air mail would cost - almost half the price of the cloth bound edition. Currently, the more favorable way to order appears to be from the Internet bookseller Amazon.com. The bound edition from Amazon costs $20.66, the paperback version $12.86. Shipping costs per book are $4.49. The cost for an eBook is $6.00 and can be downloaded from the Internet.
Of course, best of all, would be if a German publishing house would exhibit interest in the book. Except for a few small instances of needed “verbal carpentry” the translated versions of the chapters already exist. As a result, each episode would be accessible to a greater audience, one that has not already had an opportunity to read them in the Sudetendeutsche Zeitung.
last modified Wednesday, August 24, 2005 1:45 PM