Dorothea Nürnberg

Maybe yesterday

Dorothea's Karmic Connect With India
Mehru Jaffer

Well-known photographer and poet, Dorothea Nuernberg, 44, has a dozen books to her credit. Yet, none of these accomplishments soothe the restless soul of this Viennese writer. Nuernberg, who had also written, 'Reflections, The Bollywood Connection', an anthology of stories inspired by the illusion and reality created by Indian cinema, feels spirituality is absolutely necessary for human beings to feel at home in the material world.

'The main theme of her recently released 'Gestern Vielleicht' ('Maybe Yesterday'), to be available in India early this year, remains the quest of the European soul on Indian soil for the meaning of life.'

The karmic quest
Mehru Jaffer
Navhind Times, Goa
WELL-KNOWN photographer and poet Dorothea Nuernberg, 44, has a dozen books to her credit. Yet, none of these accomplishments soothe the restless soul of this Viennese writer. "I still have to conquer my own nature. I want to awaken my sleeping spirit and stand face-to-face with my true consciousness," says Nuernberg, during a chat at an Italian caf`E9 in the heart of Vienna’s affluent 19th district.
Viennese photographer and poet Dorothea Nuernberg Photo Claudia Prieler/WFS
Nuernberg admits that she does not know too many people in Central Europe who are interested in this aspect of life and suspects that some see her as ‘somewhat’ esoteric. "Ever since the French Revolution, Europeans have been told that only the flesh matters because it is tangible. Reason and logic are encouraged but all other facets of life, like the intuitive and the spiritual, are negated. Europeans seem to be interested in human beings only as bio-chemical components, devoid of divinity," she sighs.
The intelligentsia, particularly university professors, infuriate her for being completely absorbed with the outer world. "After having organised the material world the next step for us in developed western societies is to embark on a journey within. Most of us are not interested in this. We still concentrate on having and not on being. We have to distract ourselves from consuming before questions such as ‘where have we come from?’ and ‘where are we going?’ even begin to cross our mind," says the author of Gestern Vielleicht (Maybe Yesterday) that was released in Vienna recently.
The English translation of the book is expected to hit bookstores in India as well. "The main theme in all my books is foreign culture, which I love to explore, as I travel extensively. I have visited India on several occasions and have been around Rajasthan, Varanasi, Bodh Gaya, Agra, Madurai and Kancheepuram. It has been a good experience. I find many more people to talk to in India about life," she confesses.
Maybe Yesterday revolves around the story of Julian Kaiser, a Viennese airline captain, and his ex-wife Tara, an indologist. The book transports its readers back and forth between Europe and different parts of India. It is about love in the time of globalisation and flirts with thoughts on the effect of new forms of dating introduced by modern technology like the Internet. The main theme, however, remains the quest of the European soul on Indian soil for the meaning of life. In 2007, Nuernberg published Reflections, The Bollywood Connection, an anthology of three stories inspired by an European’s perception of the illusion and reality created by Bollywood films. For Reflections..., she received a glowing review from well-known cinema journalist and curator of numerous international Bollywood festivals, Uma d’Cunha, who stated that "...Nuernberg loves Bollywood films for the spirituality they convey, their intrinsic sense of family values and bonding, (aspects that seem to be lost in the West), for their colour, vitality and openness to life."
Nuernberg regrets that in Austria people are less demonstrative of their feelings and she enjoys the sharing of laughter and tears as depicted in Indian cinema. Perhaps it is her attraction to Sri Aurobindo, an Indian spiritual leader who died in 1950, that makes her do this. She finds Aurobindo’s idea that human beings are in a state of transition and still evolving, extremely seductive. She has been enraptured for some time now with the thought that it is possible for human beings to evolve their present existence into a divine life.
Quoting Aurobindo, Nuernberg — who is fluent in five languages — says that the step from man to superman is not just natural but inevitable in the evolution of the earth. Her dream is to see all her experiences in both the scientific and spiritual realms unite and become part of a divine consciousness within a creative whole.
She is grateful that she was encouraged to explore spirituality early in life by her mother. "My mother was a chemist, my father a physicist and my husband is a medical doctor. My very practical mother often did not understand me but she always encouraged me to walk my way," says Nuernberg, who had received a German translation of the Bhagavadgita as a gift when she was 22. Soon after she chose to visit Bali to experience Hinduism, as practiced on the exotic Indonesian island. It was her mother who facilitated that trip. Her travels to North Africa subsequently made her fall in love with Islam and Sufism. In the rainforests of Brazil, she discovered Shamanism, but all the while she continued to read the Gita.
Gradually, she says, she was able to appreciate what Lord Krishna has said in the Gita, "Unintelligent men, who do not know me perfectly, think that I, the supreme personality of godhead, Krishna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their ignorance they do not know my higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme."
Aurobindo continues to guide Nuernberg. The aim is to arrive at a synthesis between the spirituality of the eastern and western worlds. "Spirituality exists here but few are interested in it. Christianity is as mystical and magical as Hinduism but Europeans think it is old fashioned to read the New Testament and to find out for themselves what the text says. Catholic dogma has turned people away from Christian mysticism."
According to Nuernberg, spirituality is absolutely necessary for human beings`A0to feel at home in a material world. "Both are two sides of the same coin. To separate the two is futile, even painful," says the writer, who continues to travel and to weave her colourful experiences into novels in order to acquire a soul which she hopes would be similar to that of Krishna. — WFS

Magic moment
Maybe Yesterday By Dorothea Nürnberg
,Promilla, Rs 650
Human relationships are often indefinable. But human society is not all that comfortable with relationships that do not conform to certain pre-formulated categories. Human society flatly rejects those relationships, which appear as potential threats to its age-old institutions. In the essay, “Instincts and Institutions”(Desert Islands and Other Texts), Gilles Deleuze writes: “In the end, the problem of instinct and institution will be grasped most acutely not in animal ‘societies’, but in relations of animal and humans, when the demands of men come to bear on the animal by integrating it into institutions (totemism and domestication), when the urgent needs of the animal encounter the human, either fleeing or attacking us, or patiently waiting for nourishment and protection.”
The Deleuzian animal is relentlessly ‘encountering’ the human in the institution of marriage, especially in the era of globalization, in which the spheres of knowledge and activity have widened for every individual. What we blandly term as personal maladjustments are actually questions of defining an individual selfhood on its own terms. In marriage, where love is totemized and/or domesticated, the impulses of “fleeing and attacking” the institution pre-empt the concern for “nourishment and protection” which it guarantees.
This is something which the protagonists of Dorothea Nürnberg’s novel, Maybe Yesterday (translated by Karin and Amrit Bhatia), discover in the form of a mid-life crisis. Married for a reasonable length of time, Julian Kaiser, a Viennese aircraft captain, and his wife, Tara, a dedicated Indologist, suddenly find their relationship falling apart. It is not as if they no longer love each other (though it seems so, for the moment), but they find that it is impossible to live together any more. They have managed, so far, to share the same room despite incompatibilities in their professions and temperament, but now, both seem to be tired of making compromises, and the relationship crumbles at the slightest provocation. This rupture changes both individuals in radical ways.
Julian has a brief romance with Laura, a Florentine pianist, but shortly thereafter, he has a strange vision of a deva while attending a meditation session in a Buddhist community in the Tyrolean Alps. It was Stefan, his friend, who first introduced him to this community, and it is Stefan again, who, having been told of the vision, takes him to Mokudo, the abbot of the monastery, who is supposed to explain the significance of this vision to Julian. Julian, from that point of time, is haunted by that image, and embarks on a mad hunt for it. His quest brings him to India, and, in his mind, the identity of the deva becomes increasingly confusing.
Tara, meanwhile, makes an arduous yet futile journey looking for her biological father — a Ladakhi tour guide . Her mother had told her about him when she was on her deathbed. Her attempts to contact Julian on his cellphone do not yield results. She becomes even more absorbed in her research, starts translating the Uddhava Gita, and engages in long e-mail conversations with one Prathab Singh in Delhi, who is interested in her field of study. She comes to Delhi to attend a conference. It is in Delhi that Tara has a chance meeting with Julian. While Julian discovers he has been looking for Tara for all these years, Tara notes with surprise how readily she accepts his embrace. For a moment though, Julian has to go back to the cockpit and Tara to her conference. Julian flies to Kuala Lumpur, and Tara, at the end of the conference, undertakes a fateful journey to Leh.
This is a saga of the triumph of the instinct of love over the institution of marriage. It is also a tale of the insurmountable loneliness of today’s global citizens. Shuttling between Europe and India, the narrative captures the transitions between illusion and reality, between the intangible and the palpable. The narrative is a trifle gloomy, but it does not fail in exuding a distinct charm."