The Schmooze

Whatever Happened to Jack Hamesh?

A new literary mystery has emerged with the publication by Suhrkamp Verlag in Germany of 11 love letters, dated 1946-47, by Jack Hamesh, a young Viennese Jewish émigré, to the noted Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann, who was then 18.

Hamesh, born c. 1920, had fled Vienna in 1938 on one of the Kindertransport to England, but returned briefly as a member of the postwar British army, interviewing local girls, including Ingeborg, about their involvement in the Bund Deutscher Mädel, or German Girls’ League. His discussion with Ingeborg soon turned to writers officially banned during the Nazi era, including those of Jewish origin such as Stefan Zweig, Arthur Schnitzler, and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Bachmann was by nature a philosemite (her moving correspondence with Paul Celan was published by Suhrkamp in 2008). Soon Hamesh was kissing her hand, and Bachmann was vowing never to wash that hand again.

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Whatever Happened to Jack Hamesh?

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