The plaque in the lake

It is a common perception among colleagues and friends that where his writing was concerned Max played his cards very close to his chest, revealing, if anything, very little, and, if ever, very often after the event. Even though we knew that Max would occasionally submit pieces for publication in German periodicals and literary magazines, successes such as the publication of Nach der Natur (After Nature) in 1988, as well as his being shortlisted for the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis in Klagenfurt, Austria, in 1990, were communicated to us casually in typical throwaway lines. A case in point is the story which he recounted on his return to UEA shortly after receiving the Johannes-Bobrowski-Medaille in Berlin in June 1994. At one of our regular convivial gatherings in the German Sector office, Max described how, early in the morning after the award ceremony in Berlin, he had made his way down to the shores of the Wannsee. He had with him what he dubbed the “indescribably hideous” plaque which he had received at the ceremony. Unable to contemplate ever being able to find houseroom for it, Max, an aesthete through and through, had hurled it into the water, where, he assured his incredulous colleagues and to his evident glee, it had sunk without a trace.

Gordon Turner 

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