On the German Aphorism Convention

The Finns have their own Aphorism Association as well as a National Aphorism Day (May 23) and annual award for the country’s best aphorist, the Samuli Paronen Prize. The Russians have the Moscow Aphoristic Circle, an organization that meets every Thursday in Moscow’s Central House of Arts Workers, where it holds competitions for composing the best aphorisms on specific topics. The Serbs have the Belgrade Aphoristic Circle, a group of aphorists whose day jobs range from postman to orthodontist to winemaker to air force pilot. Boris Mitic, a Serbian documentary filmmaker, is making a movie about them. And now I’ve learned, thanks to the German translator who has been translating aphorisms for my encyclopedia, that yesterday the Germans launched their second German Aphorism Convention. (This is a link to a news item, in German, on the WDR website . Be sure to listen to the audio clip as well, which contains amusing attempts of men and women on the street to define an aphorism.) I used to doubt whether aphorisms were still a mainstream interest; but after hearing about all these remarkable organizations, I’m not so sure.

The German Aphorism Convention is being held in Hattingen, a town about an hour outside Düsseldorf. There German-speaking aphorists are meeting to discuss scintillating subjects such as “pun and revelation,” exchange new aphorisms and inaugurate something called the German Aphorism Archive. WDR’s website invites users to contribute their own aphorisms, one of which reads:

My conscience is clean—I never use it.

I am, naturally, fascinated by initiatives like this and urge anyone who knows of similar organizations or events anywhere else in the world to please, please drop me a line via the Contacts page or the Aphorism Alert form on my homepage. I will then endeavour to compile this information and add it to the links page as a resource for wandering aphorism aficionados who might want to hook up with their fellows on foreign shores. Meanwhile, to celebrate the second German Aphorism Convention, I offer below some of my favorite aphorisms from German aphorists

Marie von EbnerEschenbach (actually, an Austrian, but still German-speaking):

Think once before you give, twice before you accept, and a thousand times before you ask.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

You never go further than when you no longer know where you are going.

Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmerman:

Let the captious know that the best way to get rid of a quarrel is not always the quickest way of getting out of it.

Ludwig Börne:

History teaches us virtue, but nature never ceases to teach us vice.