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Letters to the World “Series” by Jascha Kessler

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Letters to the Editor


New York

Dear Letters Editor:

Glossing Thomas Metzger’s argument that art matters far more than the evil that men do [Letters, 10 September], I well recall a veteran friend of mine who had been assigned with another non-com to drive their jeep days ahead of Patton’s advancing army in early 1945. He and another corporal, an Italian from Brooklyn, as he was a Jewish lad from the Bronx, barreled their way from town to town, seizing hoards of ham and whatnot else to provision hungry troops following up, on the way summarily dispatching fleeing SS.  They ended up occupying Hitler’s eyrie, Berchtesgarten, where Walter Gieseking happened to be holed up.  What pleasure they had commanding Gieseking to practice Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, morning upon morning, day after day.  Gieseking was one Nazi spared by their smoking machine guns.  Heaven in Hell’s HQ itself!

Similarly, Leonard Bernstein regaled me on the day after his return from Jerusalem and  then Berlln after the victory of the Six-Day War, and his ordering the ex-Nazi Elizabeth Schwarzkopf to perform properly in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—he flourished his middle finger from the stage when he described her scowling reaction.


Jascha Kessler


Emeritus Professor of Modern English & American Literature, UCLA

Santa Monica, CA


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Jascha Kessler
Born in New York City, Jascha Kessler (Ph.D., Litt.D.) has received varied research grants, prizes, and writing fellowships since 1952 when he won a Major Hopwood Award for Poetry (University of Michigan). They include the NEA Fellowship in Writing, two Senior Fulbright Awards to Italy and one to Czechoslovakia. Since 1961, he has been a Professor of English & Modern Literature at UCLA, also teaching poetry, fiction, and playwrighting. In 1979, Mr. Kessler was a Rockefeller Fellow and worked at the Bellagio Study Center, completing his translation (with Amin Banani) of the Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad: BRIDE OF ACACIAS: THE POETRY OF FORUGH FARROKHZAD (Caravan Books, Delmar, NY: 1983). He won a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction Writing for 1993-1994. He reviewed fiction and poetry weekly, theater and events on the air for KUSC-FM (Los Angeles) for 5 years in the 1980s; several dozen of his reviews, both broadcast and published in magazines and papers since the 1960s, have been anthologized in CONTEMPORARY LITERARY CRITICISM (Gale Research) over the decades. His literary essays have appeared widely. He also served as Arts Commissioner for the City of Santa Monica, California, from 1990-1996. In 2001, his translation of TRAVELING LIGHT from the Finnish won the Finnish Literary Translation Centre Award. Kessler has published several collections of fiction. AN EGYPTIAN BONDAGE, & Other Stories (Harper & Row, NY: 1967); DEATH COMES FOR THE BEHAVIORIST: 4 Long Stories (Lexis Press, San Francisco, CA: 1983); CLASSICAL ILLUSIONS: 28 Stories (McPherson & Co.: Kingston, NY, 1985); and TRANSMIGRATIONS: 18 Mythologems (Jazz Press: Capitola, CA: 1985). His latest collection, SIREN SONGS & CLASSICAL ILLUSIONS: 50 Stories", was published by McPherson & Co., in December of 1992. Also a novel, RAPID TRANSIT 1948: An Unsentimental Education (Xlibris 2000) and a second edition of AN EGYPTIAN BONDAGE (Xlibris 2000). He has also published three volumes of poetry: WHATEVER LOVE DECLARES (The Plantin Press: Los Angeles, CA: 1969; AFTER THE ARMIES HAVE PASSED (NYU Press: NY: 1970); and, IN MEMORY OF THE FUTURE (Kayak Press, Santa Cruz, CA: 1976). Also, revised as COLLECTED POEMS (Xlibris 2000). In 2013 his KING SOLOMON’S SEAL: 76 AND MORE FABLES, was published (xLibris.com, in hardback, paperback, ebook versions).

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