Thursday, December 01, 2011

This is the end of childhood

I grew up during the decades of creative synergy between the Federal Republic of Germany and Czechoslovakia. Oh, did those Czechs make beautiful weapons TV programmes for children! Luzie, der Schrecken der Straße, Die Märchenbraut - and above all, Drei Nüsse für Aschenbrödel, which today enjoys a cult-following amongst nostalgic German thirty-somethings. This was a very happy time indeed.

For years all I wanted to do is learn Czech and say "ahoi" to my friends behind the iron curtain (Czechoslovakia never seemed very iron-curtainy to us because of those programmes - only like a mildly more grimy and old-fashioned Germany). Prague was like a far off wonderland where plasticine figures played pranks on neighbourhood bullies and Breughel paintings would come to life to jingling Mark Mothersbaugh-style soundtracks. People looked shoddy but were clearly happy - more open, witty and creative than us mollycoddled capitalists with our digital watches.

I shed secret tears when the beautiful Dana Vavrova died two years ago of cancer, an actress whose career began in the Czech fairy tale TV circuit and who later on became well-known in Germany.

And I was deeply saddened to read today about the death of Zdenek Miler, another marvellously creative Czech, and father of the little mole beloved by generations of German children.

I remember watching these films in 8-mil versions in school.

Rest in peace, Zdenek Miler - you made so many of us very, very happy!


mikeovswinton said...

Sorry I missed this when it appeared. Just out of interest, when I was a child the BBC used to show a programme called the Singing Ringing Tree, which is a childhood memory for many of my generation. It didn't come from Czechoslovakia, but from the DDR. Did they show that in the old FDR? I rather guess not........

Unknown said...

"Das singende, klingende Bäumchen"? I think that film was even based on a traditional fairy tale, but I don't remember ever seeing it on TV when I was little. We didn't get much old DEFA stuff during my childhood. Czechoslovakia was just about ok (in fact, mildly cool and more liberal than the GDR). But now you can get all of this on DVD.

Having said that, because we lived in the "Zonengrenzgebiet" we did receive East German TV, and I watched it a bit. I remember seeing the _Dick Turpin_ series on East German TV - of course that was right up their street.

Odd, what kind of stuff was available in the GDR. I bought a copy of Doctorow's _Ragtime_ and short stories by Joyce Carol Oates (in translation) in East Berlin during a school trip (desperately trying to spend the money they made you exchange - which literally was unspendable). And a German-Swedish phrasebook, which seemed oddly cynical to me in those days.

No, I did not buy the collected works of Marx and Engels, nor Rosa Luxemburg's correspondence. I guess I ought to have.

mikeovswinton said...

I've asked my sister for Singing Ringing as my Christmas present this year, and should thank you for reminding me about it, and drawing me into the slightly weird world of Singing Ringing Tree fandom on the web. Its one of those things where you think "Was it only me..." and then discover that a whole generation was freaked out by the same thing. Can't wait to watch it again. Currently working my way through a series about a Private Detective hired by a local radio station to work for its listeners ("Shoestring") from 1979. The sheer weirdness of TV at times leaves me speechless.