Phindie is mourning. The performing arts lost a vocal supporter and the world lost a vibrant presence last weekend. Editor-at-Large Henrik Eger died on Sunday, January 3, 2021, after being admitted to hospital for a heart condition several days earlier. He was 79.
Henrik was born in German-occupied Paris during World War II. His father, a journalist, served as a propaganda officer in occupied France before being sent to the Eastern Front, where he was killed. Henrik was raised by his widowed mother in Bavaria and then Wuppertal in West Germany. Encouraged by a British soldier, Henrik learned English and moved to England in the early 1960s.
Friends of Henrik in his later life would frequently hear stories detailing his early years. His father’s membership in the Nazi Party inspired a lifelong interest in Jewish literature and theater and a commitment to human rights, pacifism, and anti-fascist politics. His uncle helped him obtain his first job, as a book store apprentice, a position that solidified his love of writing and literature. His experience as a young homosexual in conservative postwar Germany was formative, as was a longtime relationship with an aristocratic English partner.
He spent much of his life in academia, earning bachelor degrees in England and Germany, three master’s degrees, and a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1991 for the thesisWriter Perception, Writer Projection: The Influence of Personality, Ideology, and Gender on Letters of Recommendation. He wrote numerous articles, chapters, and textbooks, and taught English, writing, and ESL in six countries—Germany, England, India, Sri Lanka, USA, and Iran—amassing several lifetimes’ worth of experiences and stories along the way.
Among these, he was proud to have worked as a German translator for Martin Luther King, Jr., in the mid-1960s, he corresponded with Noam Chomsky in the late 1970s as he edited a book of linguistic poetry dedicated to the famous professor, and he was teaching in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution.
He moved to the Philadelphia area in 1992 and worked until retirement as a professor of English and Communication at Delaware County Community College in Media. A lifelong lover of creative arts, he became an enthusiastic booster for local theater. He gave speeches and workshops at the Media Theatre and Hedgerow Theatre, served on the board of Theatre Ariel (Philadelphia’s Jewish theater company), was active for many years with the Alliance for Jewish Theatre, spent five years as a judge for the Barrymore Awards, and wrote reviews and features for such publications as the Armenian, Broad Street Review, Broadway Stars, Broadway World, Classical Voice, Dance Journal, DCMetroTheaterArts, The Forward, Jewish Voice, Jewish Post & Opinion, Philadelphia Gay News,New Jersey Stage, Talkin’ Broadway, and Windy City Times.
After retirement, he focused on his own creative writing, which he published along with academic and popular articles on his website Drama Around the Globe. His most successful play, Metronome Ticking, juxtaposed extracts from his father’s wartime diary and correspondence with contemporary remembrances by a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor. Premiered in 2006, it was performed in the United States and Germany, most recently in 2015.
Henrik lived in an elaborately and idiosyncratically furnished house in Upper Darby, where he was a frequent host to writers, actors, creatives, and a cast of international friends, and where he celebrated a joyful annual “Victorian Holiday” party. He will be warmly remembered for his sincerely welcoming greetings, his supportive and attentive generosity, his intelligence and insight, his unignorable cheerful presence, and his gentle, loving spirit. Over 400 people left testimonials to his life on his frequently updated Facebook page, including former students, members of the Philadelphia theater community, and people who had only casual encounters with the remarkable, singular gentleman.
Henrik began writing for Phindie in 2012 and contributed over 160 articles. His final piece was published the day he went to the hospital for emergency aortic dissection repair. He never recovered from the operation.
He was predeceased by his mother and younger sister, but is survived by a niece and cousins in Germany and by scores of admiring friends across the globe. His adored dog, Niko, has been rehoused with a loving family. Henrik will be much missed.
Christine Schmidt says:I feel very sad losing Henrik . He was a good and gentle friend and a valuable and respected associate on all my Human Rights Facebook pages and in my Facebook groups .His interesting comments and posts educated and informed over 60,000 friends on my pages from all over the world on 7 continents over a period of many years . He warned us so often of the immediate danger that Trump posed to our country and to our democracy . I feel happy that he lived to see trump defeated in the election .Only three days after he left us , we miss what would have been his insightful analysis of the recent “coup” on January 6 and the following daily events occurring now.A life well lived and generously shared with others .. Respect and Gratitude to our friend , Henrik Eger .
Noam Chomsky letting doves fly. Photo by Tracy Nearmy, AAPA collection of linguistic poems by students of linguistics in the M.A. Applied Linguistics program at Essex University with reactions by professors Noam Chomsky and Sam Spicer. Colchester, Essex, UK, 1977. 32 pages.
Please find enclosed twenty six poems for a little booklet which I’m editing as a sort of farewell present to our department (M.A. Applied Linguistics.) As you are the most admired, most feared (by some) and certainly the most talked about and most influential person in linguistics—please forgive all these dreadful superlatives—I thought to call the collection:
WHO IS AFRAID OF NOAM CHOMSKY?
It would be marvelous to have some comments of yours, which then could be integrated into the whole venture. Perhaps you would like to decorate the CHOMSKY OMELETTE, or explain the apparent sexism in some of your examples (most activities seem to be carried out by “John” or other males, as satirized in HEY CHOMSKY).
Maybe it’s naive, but someone who admires your integrity greatly, can’t really bridge the gap between your politically engaged works and the purely theoretical linguistic ones, hence the desperate attempt to get an answer in CHOMSKY IS DEAD, LONG LIVE ADORNO!
Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding; maybe the collection should be called WITH APOLOGIES TO NC (see: “An aspect”).
Soon we’ll go into our finals; should you find the time to write a few comments it could be like champagne . . .
Sincerely, Henrik Eger
LEFT: Title page of Who is Afraid of Noam Chomsky?: Poems by Students of Linguistics. COVER DESIGN adapted by John Ross from drawings by Véronique Filosov. CENTER: What Kind of Creatures Are We? RIGHT: Cover page of the book signed by Chomsky, MIT, to Steve, which I found in a bookstore in Ireland via the internet. I still have Chomsky’s original letter.
Letter from Noam Chomsky
20C-128, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
May 9, 1977
Dear Mr. Eger,
Thanks for sending me the poems, which I enjoyed. A suitable comment would have to be in verse— beyond my capacities.
Incidentally, more seriously, why do you assume that it is necessary to “bridge the gap” between politically engaged work and purely theoretical work—and why is it a question of “integrity”? I have often wondered why people feel that there must be a “unity” and have occasionally on the matter, e.g., in the memorial lectures that I gave at Cambridge for Russell some years ago.
Sincerely, Noam ChomskyProfessor Noam Chomsky in his office around 40 years ago, at the time we corresponded
Samuel Johnson, I Name No Names (adapted by Henrik Eger) . . . . . . . . 32Noam Chomsky in front of a blackboard. Photo by Rich Beauchesne, APNoam Chomsky signature
CHOMSKY IS DEAD, LONG LIVE ADORNO!*
The writing on linguistic walls, an undergraduated overstatement, or a desperate plea for more, much more engagement?
*CONFESSION, December 30, 2018: Dear Prof. Chomsky,
All I knew of you during those pre-internet days was your amazing work on linguistics, without knowing anything about your political and social engagement.
As a result, I felt a bit disappointed that the scientist whom I looked up to, and who, at the same time, scared me with his enormous knowledge, did not seem to engage with social issues.
That’s why I satirized you in one of my own poems—“Chomsky Is Dead, Long Live Adorno!”
How wrong I was. As it turned out, you already were one of the world’s most engaged scientists and a role model for millions.
Maybe I should write a new poem for you: “Adorno is dead. Long live Chomsky!” A BARD TRANSFORMATION, or: CHOMSKY OMELETTETG or not TG?—that is the question. Whether ‘tis bedded in the mind and offers Its trees and transformations in speech production, And so sets nodes against Skinnerian operants And by opposing ends them? Delete; embed; No rats; and by phrase structures so to end Responses and the thousand verbal chains That Skinner forged; ay, ‘tis a transformation Devoutly to be wished. Chomsky; and Katz; No rats; perchance an ‘eme’: ay, there’s the rub; For to that wealth of terms what ‘emes’ may come When we have ended all our Ph.D.s . . . (And driven countless chimps up Chomskyan trees!)
Ray BurridgeHEY CHOMSKY *Hey Chomsky, God Almighty of my grammar hell On earth
Why did You Make poor John kick bloody balls For good, for bad?
No doubt You know it hurts, and worse, It’s sexist!
Hey Chomsky, Lord of tree creation: why are Your aspects
Mainly male? (I would not beef if there were Fun or justice
But as it stands, or falls, This game of Yours is neither Either, is it?)
Hey Chomsky, Perfection which I’ll never grasp, Have mercy:
Don’t overestimate The competence of John the bugger; Let alone his performance!
Release him, if you can, From his task of hitting, endlessly, Equality.
AMEN. Or would You prefer: TGG RULES OK? Noam, think twice!
* Chomsky occasionally used examples like “John kissed Mary. Mary was kissed by John.” As a result, males tend to appear as active participants in life, while females tend to get portrayed as passive receivers, however unintentional—hence this satire.
THE LAMENT OF THE IMPOTENT LINGUIST OR: A NODE BY ANY OTHER NAME She told him his performance Left much to be desired Extremely short on competence Drab and uninspired
Flip-flop transformation Applying far too early Fuelled her frustration And left him feeling surly
“I’ve problems with my copula Embedding is no fun With clause-mates I’m unpopular My do-support’s undone
My whiz has been deleted It really is a bore I get all overheated and Then my affix hops no more
I know it is a frightful shame For things to end this way But in passion’s generation game Raising rules OK!”
The concept That the book That the linguist That the linguist That the linguist That the linguist Taught Tutored Trained Wrote Contained
A LACK OF LANGUAGE FACILITY
A lack of language facility can be easily misinterpreted in a second language creative writing class
an example of poetic ability.
TWICE MY EYES Twice my eyes behaved like broken opera-glasses: l o s e and ouT oF fOcUs o Twice I have felt fear, floating through my brain.
Now I’ve gained control again, I can see the singing, though with trembling caution only ————————————–
Be-hold the un-lived field a-round with sum-mer grass tall and wild! Is this the site am-bitious sol-diers (samurai) used to cher-ish emp-ty dreams?
The problem, you see, is not where the philosopher’s stone is to be found. Rather than scarcity, there’s a gluttony of stones around. But taste them, and you’ll agree, they’re better left on the ground.
Unless you can cook– now this transformational-generative rock needs salt and greens to make a delicious stock– I’m afraid the recipes not in the book, but throw out the stones before you drink the broth!
THE HAVE AND THE HAVE NOTS
Oh how nice it must be to have meaningful, intelligent things to say– and be able to say them eloquently.
Oh how truly sad it must be to have meaningful, intelligent things to say– and know you won’t be able to express them adequately.
But oh how equally sad it is, to have unintelligent, meaningless things to say– and still to insist on saying them.
Oh how painful it is to realize that membership in the first category is never to be yours — The urge to join the third becomes almost irresistible.
In the middle of the year long sea of indifference, a weekend island of creation:
Liberation of the sexes, creative singing.
What is left?
Typed pages? Out of tune strings? Flickering video-pictures? Drooping thoughts? Creative forgetfulness?
Could there be lying somewhere in the desert of my language seeds w a i t i n g to be watered?
John Newhouse A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A HALLIDAY
For hours on end last night I tried Linguistic clutter form to give. Try as I would, the intellectual sludge Nary an inch did move, methinks it had a grudge. I then to Katz and Fodor wrote for help From their semantic theory And Katz to Fodor turned and said: “Post-al your information to that loon. Let him, like us reach for the moon Amid the verbal maze.” Now if you really want him mad to see Tell him to read old man Chomsky, After he’s hopped from affix to NP And bashed his head against raised object/subject, Or on tree structures traced a node Only to find that it has changed abode, Is on Der-wing or gone on Halliday Due to T-rule permission, He will, no doubt, just as we did, Huddle-a-stone, tear out his hair And wish on him perdition.
SO YOU FELL FOR SOMEONE ELSEYour parents did the decent thing and shared your kit out. No waste there.But all the same I really was (for most of a week-end) cut upTo hear you’d got the chop. Off the very last overhang, too.You’ll not run down the screes again talking of real aleAnd the routes to do tomorrow, rain or fine.Your first lead last year with meYou climbed quite clean.But you never really took to my middle-aged viewThat a good dose of frightIs the best prophylactic,For the only lessonsThat teachAre the onesYou survive.Still, you did the best part of the climb.It’s so easy it’s boringFrom there to the top:From twenty-twoTo forty. Austin SandersDangerous climb. Photo by BigUpClimbing/instagramDEEP STRUCTURE
Walls break down, gently, softly, When you allow me to be myself And not a grammar, to fit your taste, whim, dream and desire, And when I allow me to be myself and you to be you. And so we meet half-way, at levels, pursuing recursive rules that with every transformation, we go further from what is structural to what is innate.
Ai Hua Tan
LEARNING HOW TO MEAN AND DO
Say what I mean? You mean do what I say. Or does “can mean” equals “can do” ? But how can I mean what I dare not do? I may offend what you do not mean.
It’s a puzzling world indeed, when what I do is not what you mean and what I mean is not what you do.
Ai Hua TanPablo Picasso, Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, 1932. Tate Gallery, London.SUBJUGATION
My forest bent, spent the breeze, last sighs in waves of wonder
before the crack of riding thunder is clasping all my trees, my earth
in its iron hard authority.
THE LAST WORD
Often times My mind Will think in rhymes Of many kinds. But now I’m Pressed so hard to find A final line
Fred L. Woodworth Dr. Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds (detail, 1756-57), National Portrait Gallery, London.
COMPETENCE AND PERFORMANCE
The centipede was happy quite until the frog, in fun, said “Pray, which leg goes after which?”
which worked his mind to such a pitch he lay distracted in the ditch considering how to run.
ANON. [YMOUS writer of the M.A. Applied Linguistics group]
GREETED OR DEFEATED ? (FIRST AND LAST WORDS OF Y, AN M.A. APPLIED LING. STUDENT)
How ? How do ? How do you ? How do you do ? How do you do it ?
sincerity may virtue the boy sincerity may elapse the boy sincerity may admire the boy
why can’t I be free like sincerity
Chris Bury With apologies to no, 1965: 152
In the Chinese town of Neo-TG By the Great Allomorph Lived a little Affix-Hopper By the name of Anacoluthon. Every day his permutations Reduced him to a finite state. So for fortune did he travel To the land of U C L A Where with the clause-mates ‘neath PS trees Gained the title “Whiz-deletion” Famous for his terminal node And external adequacy.
For he’s a jolly transformational And so say Katz-Postal Et al, et al, et al.
Pirots Karulize elatically
Geoff Chadwick (Apologies to Longfellow)LANGUAGE OF KNITTING PATTERNS
Although only the she spoke language ——— —- — — —– ——– of patterns, made knitting she — ——— —- ——– — for feelings warmth gentle such of and — ——– —— —— —- — — protection her friends that customer ———- — ——- —- ——– came for of gossip back more her —- — — —— —- —- — and whenever yarn, goose-pimpels — ——– —– ————- inhibited language from their skin using ——— ——– —- —– —- —– more forms communication conventional of —- —– ————- ———— —
Crowded in rooms above restaurants in private booths with side panels recording obscentities on worn out tapes not competent to perform.
Henrik Henriked Henrikuously.
John NewhouseWOCHENINSEL DER SCHÖPFUNG
Mitten im Jahresmeer der Gleichgültigkeit eine Wocheninsel der Schöpfung:
Liegen irgendwo noch in der Dürre meiner Sprache Samen, auf Bewässerung w a r t e n d ? John Newhouse
Essex, Essex: Essays, essays, Essays …
Nymphs and lilies Everywhere, but You get tired
Of the show: Order, discipline And knowledge
Are required: So, work hard, Work harder!
The course is Short, but long Your Essex – X.
SO YOU FELL . . . NOTES
The poem is in remembrance of D.L., a friend, who was killed in a climbing accident in August 1976. The fall in the title was fatal.Line one: There are many authenticated cases where on the day that a climber has fallen and killed himself, a succession of his friends have called upon the bereaved parents. In place of the expected condolences they have mentioned in pointed fashion that they take the same size in boots or other expensive and now presumably unwanted equipment. It does seem a pity to throw away good kit but nowadays the more enlightened parents have a share-out, thus avoiding both waste and disappointment.
Line two: the week-end was a climbing one when it rained continually and I received the news of the death. Had the weather been fine the impact would have been less, and shorter lived.
Line three: “to get the chop” is climbers’ idiom, meaning to fall off something and kill oneself. One could perhaps draw certain conclusions about fatalism and even indifference from the impersonal nature of the expression. The overhang which is referred to and reflected visually in the layout of the poem was that last of several that had to be climbed in doing the route on which the climber has his accident. It is ironic that he fell from the last overhang when he had already surmounted the major difficulties of the climb.
Line four: a totally atypical note of sentimental melancholy enters here and in the next line. This was probably the result of a slight biliousness resulting from the previous night’s overindulgence in ale rather than a deeply felt sense of loss.
Line six and seven: to “lead” a climb is to go up first, thus taking the risks since the second man up is protected by the rope. “Clean” here means without difficulty, with good style. The climber in question had been delighted when, with me, he led a climb graded “Very Severe” for the first time. This is something of a milestone in any climber’s career.
Line eight: the climber, who has killed in perhaps his third year of climbing, considered me to be overcautious and unfond of risks.
Lines eleven to fourteen: reflect my view, after twenty years climbing, that survival means more than machismo, to me anyway.
Lines fifteen to nineteen: compare the initial stages of the fatal climb to those of one’s early years.
DL died at 22.
Austin Sanders GAMES
I play Chess while you play Dominoes Yet in between, we forget what we play and with whom. And old rules become new rules, sub-rules and no rules And we are lost in the games people play at the Book-club, seminars, lectures, meetings, parties and in between. And then you ask me, what am I playing? And I turn around and say, “I believe I was playing Chess but now, I don’t know what I am playing”,
because of the games people play.
Ai Hua Tan
He is like a lion in a city suit, waiting in the jungle of emotions for the office-girl, hiding, hi ding, not knowing when and where to spring, being blinded by the neon lights of his cold passion.
Ai Hua Tan/Henrik Eger
A MOTHER’S PRAYER
Lord, in your infinity, Guard my daughter’s chastity. Please preserve her reputation From all acts of conjugation.
Do ensure she doesn’t yield In some dark semantic field.
Stay by her in weak moments Watching o’er her base components. Keep her grace, virginity, Save her from polysemy.
Do guard her distinctive features From all foreign language teachers.
Lord, I ask you, take good care Of my child’s contrastive pair. Keep her clean and pure in heart When the object-raising starts.
Save her from the dreadful fate That leads girls to a finite state.
Deliver her from all temptation. Keep her safe from transformation. Grant to her a strong aversion To the notion of inversion.
Lord, I’m set on her white wedding, So please ensure she’s self-embedding.
Guard her loop, prevent recursion, Keep her free from there-insertion. Do-suppo/rt her with your vision. Don’t teach her extraposition.
One more thing before I stop. PLEASE don’t let her affix hop!
NOWT To Ogden Nash
I’m no poet, And well I know it; Can’t think of Nowet To say.
And as for whoet I’ve just wroet– I’ll get Nowt foet S’not worth a groaet– You might as well throw it Away!
Fred L. Woodworth
I NAME NO NAMES*
Dedicated to the other half of the class—with love, everlasting, everlasting . . .
I have two cogent reasons for not printing any list of non-contributors*** —one, that I have lost all the names —the other, that I have spent all the time.****
Dr. Samuel Johnson May 1781
* Elizabeth Barrett Browning. ** Note by Dr. Samuel Johnson. In this context: “SIR” is a general form of address. *** originally: subscribers. **** originally: money.