Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Message to Outer Space

No one knows what shadowy memory haunts them to this day. In this connection one might also add that one of the Heeresgrupe E intelligence officers at that time was a young Viennese lawyer whose chief task was to draw up memoranda relating to the necessary resettlements, described as imperative for humanitarian reasons. For this commendable paperwork he was awarded by Croatian head of state Ante Pavelic the silver medal of the crown of King Zvonomir, with oak leaves. In the post-war years this officer, who at the very start of his career was so promising and so very competent in the technicalities of administration, occupied various high offices, among them that of Secretary General of the United Nations. And reportedly it was in this last capacity that he spoke onto tape, for the benefit of any extra-terrestrials that may happen to share our universe, words of greeting that are now, together with other memorabilia of mankind, approaching the outer limits of our solar system aboard the space probe Voyager II.
 These are the words of one of my great literary heroes, W. G. Sebald, in his magnificent book The Rings of Saturn. In the first sentence from that passage above, Sebald is referring to those who survived a brutal ethnic cleansing in Bosnia--the perpetrators being Croats aided by Germans and Austrians. Below is the melancholy Sebald. With much to be melancholic over.
Without naming him, of course, Sebald is referring in the magnificent passage, to former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. Here he is.
Now tell me. Which of those two men would you rather share a beer with? This question is strictly theoretical, or hypothetical, since neither still resides corporeally on this earth.
     It is true that Waldheim, along with Jimmy Carter, was asked to record messages that were then loaded on the space probe that, to this day, is still en route. I don't think anyone knows what their message were, but I have not looked into that question extensively. It is also true that if you look on the UN website, for the bios of the former secretaries-general, you will find that Waldheim's does not mention his years in the Balkans (nor any of the other dark corners of his resume), though it does mention that in 1968 he was elected President of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

2 comments:

Jim Poznak said...

So, Waldheim's resume was cleansed. No question, I'd much rather drink with Sebald.

Susan Messer said...

me too. thanks for saying so.