ELit Europe after Corona: Keep growing by Christian Zillner

ELit Literaturhaus Europa invites European writers to take a chance to present their ideas about the future, while still under the impression of the crisis.
Amidst discussions about how to overcome the current crisis, the question slowly coming into view focuses on what Europe will look like after the Coronavirus epidemic. What will be the future for European integration, the idea of community based on solidarity and the vision of a common culture? 

Keep growing

by Christian Zillner

Grass is stuff for cattle, I prefer, if I had my own plot, the lawn. It doesn’t simply sprout up; I take it home from the DIY store and scatter or roll it out over my loamy soil. Then it turns green in the garden, so it holds out much hope for me. To keep it that way, I have to hand fertilizer and herbicide. Nothing else comes over my wall and fence where the white cedars attack anything that might creep in from outside. Of course, they also contaminate the soil in my garden, but that doesn’t bother me, I’m not among the small animals that labour on my land, and probably perish because of it. The lawn is a sign of my green thumb that I impose on those passing by my land, in among and through the cedars. You may find it monotonous, but anyone who wants multi-colours should move to the grass, where they keep things motley and go too far. The monotony lifts my spirits, this uniform, luscious colour, which tolerates no other colour besides, a green hue, so righteous and open and free that you simply have to roll in it, no more danger from insects or rodents, the others stay outside, here is my paradise, this enclosed yard. To preserve it, I must weed, so removing what doesn’t belong to the lawn, the foreign roots with their shoots, we don’t need them anyway, Ami – go home! I let grass grow at most over things that are in front of the walls, like dead animals or rubbish blown here, little Mugl peaks on which the grass covers all clutter. This is my glacis, my pre-slope, the turf kingdom only begins behind it, separated by walls, fence and cedar trees from the outside world. German ryegrass, red fescue, wood bluegrass, my lawn may look monotonous, but it’s no monoculture. The selection in the DIY store or garden centre is almost inexhaustible, turf not only allows for a single race, stop, that was the wrong word, we no longer talk about races, least of all in connection with my green plot, the mix is now called “varieties”. Of course, I had to decide, it should be monotype, that’s the advice I was given, and who am I not to keep to this. I want to be a proud lawn owner like everybody in my street, in the country and on the continent. A lawn society of green woodpeckers that rap on their own bush and peer mistrustfully over the fence. Out there, no, nothing good arrives from there, spores and seeds  settle in the turf kingdom, unnoticed for the time being, so developing their radical system underground, taking root, and so everything sprouts from here, which the pharma industry fights to protect us from, day by day, not realizing the billions of research funds, and the surplus also benefits those outside. The lawn stays pure, as long as the blessing of the pharmacologists hovers over us. People lament victims, the pharmaceutical industry cannot protect us from everything and it kills several small creatures, specifically animals, sure, but some, in other words we rich folk with lawns, complain about this – this reveals the moral greatness, that isn’t let go for us so simply as someplace else, in the dirty corners of residential neighbourhoods, which we wouldn’t even recognize as such, not to mention the lawn, nobody there has heard of this or rolled one out in front of his slum. Because there is no lawn there … I mean in these countries something is fundamentally wrong, grass grows everywhere there and people also smoke it. With disastrous consequences, you only mess about on grass, clouding your ability and you’ll never become the owner of a tranquil garden kingdom. Yet we stick to our green, the hope of a better life, which is already revealed to me, when I only look out of the window into the garden. I call that “enlightenment”, this gentle modesty at the end of an exciting life abroad now with one’s own land plot, which becomes a turf kingdom through the work of many hands, the hands of those who will never have a lawn domain themselves, but, hey, what can I do about it? At least they see it at our place, paradise is achievable, my father always spread ammonium nitrate (blue) fertilizer, although his lawn should actually turn green, but what do we know, the pharma industry is a magic world, and we have it. The magic of efficiency, or how else did we get to this? Poison? Leave Fritz Haber in peace, the man made eight billion people possible, the bit of collateral damage with Zyklon B, we don’t always have to point a finger at ourselves, the others stare grimly at us anyway through the gaps between the cedars. They crouch in their grass, chewing on it, letting it go in a circle, but the likes of us, we convalesced with the lawn, showing the whole world what a rake is, and how you plough with the goat. Well, sorry, that one slipped through, the one about ploughing and the goat, we’d better leave that to the others, we scarify or what’s the word?  Tolerance and versatility therefore define our culture. We use it with sound judgement, not like crazy Australian poets, Les Murray is the name, ploughed up his garden once a year with a tractor plough. I call that Rasenschande . But worried supporters of the Heilige Kümmernis  want to put us off the green (the phrase is make us ‘maggoty’), they declare the lawn a green desert, hell even, previously we said to those people, if you don’t like it on the lawn, you can cross over into the red kingdom, where you’ll yearn in vain for a little green. Making the lawn maggoty, what madness! Because maggots always appeared where everything is dead or about to perish, old, defenceless and sad. We don’t want to have any of it on our lawn, the future is green for us, we’ll happily leave the grey to others. We’ve rescued ourselves out of the tall grass, where we’ve cowered for centuries like highwaymen, waiting for the moment when we could rush at the throats of passers-by, we’ve held on on the grass. Nothing is superior anymore, no blade towers above the other, we’ve thoroughly learned the lesson of the old tyrant of Corinth. Everything above mediocrity, chat, left behind; now we’re on an equal footing with each other, equality rules on the lawn, the unequal have moved onto the raised beds. But we lawn children with automated mowers, we keep the weeds at bay, the fight against the spores and pollen from all over the world is an enormous effort, but we master it, we protect the lawn, the idea of a successful life. And we don’t want anything to do with the unfortunate, these unlucky ones who bring hazards into the garden kingdom. What would they have to give us except for fatal diseases, stupidity and Rasensprenger? They should stay where the pepper and the grass grow, for all I care they can smoke both until smoke fumes from their ears, but we’ll keep on growing like before, we’re the ones that the world got the hazardous waste from. I mean is that supposed to stay on our lawn? What did we learn to behave ourselves for and to separate the rubbish? Our green lawn keeps growing, our clippings arrive in the deserts of the world, and actually they should be grateful to us for that, at least a little fertilizer for their waste heaps and fallows.

1) Samen also has an alternative meaning here as in the ‘Sami people’ who are not Lapps.
2) According to Duden, ‘vertikulieren’ and ‘vertikutieren’ are two valid terms for ‘scarify’.
3) Rasen is lawn, whereas ‘Rassenschande’ is a term that was used by the Nazis.
4) A woman saint with a beard on the cross; ‘Kümmernis’ means grievance.
5) Rasensprenger means lawn sprinklers but in this context also terrorists.

by Christian Zillner

Translated by Suzanne Kirkbright

This blog was originally published on ELit Literature House Europe website on 18 June 2020.

Previous blogs in the series can also be found on the ELit website.

Photo of Christian Zillner by Irina Gavrich

Category: ELit Literature House Europe Observatory


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