Between the Lines or The Three Rs (short story)

A short story (English) for Rolf Steiner’s: Die weite Welt (The Wide World) (unpub­lished). Revised German version Amin Farzanefar 2011 German trans­la­tion Tanya Ury and Rolf Steiner 2003 (unpub­lished) Ury’s text has been photo­copied onto four trans­parent plastic sheets, stapled together and placed over Steiner’s text. Between Barcelona (unpub­lished), an addi­tional version of the short story where Between the Lines or The Three Rs has been printed between the lines of Steiner’s Barcelona was completed in 2003. Remember 2004 (unpub­lished) (D) is a short version of Between the Lines or The Three Rs
In several of her works Tanya Ury has adopted the name of Hermè or Herme (her & me):

Hermeneu­rotic – a collec­tion of works:

The short story Between the Lines or The Three Rs (Tanya Ury 2001), written for Rolf Steiner’s edition Die weite Welt shares some common ground with Steiner’s Barcelona; both anec­dotes take place in Spain. Where Steiner’s German account is of the author’s lonely search for some­thing to write about, Ury’s English text in letter­form concerns itself with the animated adven­tures of the pseu­do­ny­mous Hermé. Ury’s letter, which addresses R, has been photo­copied onto four trans­parent plastic sheets; these have been stapled together and placed over Steiner’s text, to create an illeg­ible amalgam. Only when the texts are taken in the hand and the pages sepa­rated, can one read all of both stories.

Tanya Ury

Die weite Welt
Concept und design: Rolf Steiner, Cologne
Manu­fac­ture of box carton: Ute Grün­wald, Krefeld
Printing of the text pages: Paul Heim­bach, Cologne

SEGUR DE CALAFELL Norbert Prangenberg
NEW YORK Horst Münch
TANGER Hella Berent
PARIS Peter Schmersal
LAVAUR DELBOS Chris­tine & Irene Hohenbüch
JOHANNESBURG Claudia Shneider

Nine places, nine texts, each in A3 format. The texts were printed with water-soluble ink. Each of the nine text sheets were then worked on by the above named artists in an edition of thirty, so that each sheet is an orig­inal. The texts that have some­times become illeg­ible by the artistic work over are again presented as a book, the essays being about the exciting rela­tion­ship between foreign lands and home. Both the nine signed sheets and the book are housed in a numbered box carton (44x31x3cm) with a light blue cover and a photo on the lid. The entire edition (820 Euros) consists of 20 box cartons and 10 artists’ works.

Rolf Steiner Lindenstr.67 50674 Köln, Tel.: 0221 243918

To take his mind off the perils of walking in the dark, Hermé told him about the plea­sures of midnight bathing and that Anise Nina had written a story about a couple who did it in the bay in the 30’s; Hermé had been with her cousin and friends, only a week earlier. It had been so warm and there had been such a sense of appre­hen­sion that no one had hesi­tated to strip off naked, before lunging into the black Mediter­ranean Sea. The vision of a cosmos of stars in the clear sky above competed for atten­tion with the deli­cious sensa­tion of limpid salt water below, against expec­tant nerve-ends. The bathers silently waded or swam off in sepa­rate direc­tions — this was some­thing that could only be fully appre­ci­ated, on your own. Hermé slowly spread her arms in a languid breast­stroke. As her fingers moved through the water she was taken aback; it was as if elec­tric sparks were coming off the ends of her fingers.”

Extract from Between the Lines or The Three Rs (Tanya Ury 2001)


I remember Dea when men were artists and girls were goddesses,” said somebody.
It all started for Hermè years ago when aunt and uncle, both doctors escaping the Nazi threat, fled to Barcelona. Although forced to take other employ­ment, they survived well under Franco. R, the English poet, looking for inspi­ra­tion in Ancient Greek or Roman arte­facts, often frequented their antique shop off the Ramblas. The Rosens purchased a house near the writer on the island and a life-long friend­ship ensued.
R, who had written of the Goddess, later pursued mortal beau­ties fash­ioned in her image. When Hermè was first carried to Dea in her mother’s womb, they both resisted his charm.
Dea had inspired many: Georgina Sand and her Polish composer. Garden Stein, Pablo Piqué As, Federico Garcia Coral and the Spanish composer, Manuel de Fire. But R and the Goddess cast the longest shadows.
I’m drinking at Sa Font; the incar­na­tion of the poet, is sitting there with his second family. I some­times hear him in Germany on English radio, Satur­days, filling-in for John.
Sixteen years ago R’s daughter Lucky, organ­ised another birthday memo­rial, in the amphithe­atre; Hermè, invited to the rehearsal, saw R perform his ping-pong poem; her one hundred black braids struck him. Subse­quently, Hermè discov­ered R with blank paper, writing a Cosmo article on his role as new’ father; he hadn’t attended the older boys’ births. Hermè remem­bered the Famous Fours’ pal’s poetry reading in Chalk Ferme, when she was eighteen.
She bumped into R, on his way down and boasted of the morning’s exer­tions: Hermè had rambled along the coast from the Moss Valley, past the Rock-with-the-Hole and on to Dea with a group that leapt from boulder, along dusty tracks by the sea, reaching Dea cala by midday.
Another day, on her way to Jacob, a Jewish-German exile and writer, who played chess with her father in Dea, or at Hamstead’s Prom-Corner Café, she remem­bered a different tower. Hermè had been 16 and Jerry 9, when he showed her the Moorish castle on the head­land. This son of a pres­ti­gious London curator and a well-known art critic, who believed in liberal educa­tion, gave a reefer to his younger brother before they set off.
It was cool in the shadow of the pines; here and there, cannon balls nestled in the rust needle carpet. At the cliff’s edge they entered the tower’s wooden door, branded with a swastika. A makeshift branch ladder threat­ened to topple at every move. Once inside, Hermè blindly traversed a dark winding stair. And then, a door opened onto brazen sunlight. Hermè saw a large circular terra­cotta floor, a room with no ceiling, a chim­neystack emit­ting wisps of white smoke and miles of calm, blue ocean, with no clear point between sea and cloud­less sky; she could see the world’s curve.
Jerry talked to a young man; a naked woman swept the dusty floor. 1968, the English year of love was also about German student rebel­lion, confronta­tion with the fascist legacy. Her me, an Anglo-German, felt divided.
She arrived. Anise Nina wrote of these premises in the 30’s, when a sirocco wind forced her off the street into the dwelling of 2 lesbians. This other tower also appeared on a 70’s record cover illus­trating the annun­ci­a­tion of a black magic woman, over Dea beach. When he wasn’t in London, or at the Shellsea, Jacob lived here. They drank wine and he told Hermè of Lilith’s merciful sex act in the concen­tra­tion camp. Jacob was old and sure. The elec­tricity passed through them like a burst of song from a star­tled bird. He bent her over and took her swiftly from behind.

Saturday night in the bar, there were only two free chairs at the table of a lonely poet, pen in hand.
Did you name the poems after Bergmar?” Hermè enquired. It was the title on a poster that had inspired him; he’d never seen the film.
She talked R into taking a midnight swim and they fetched towels from the house where his older boys slept. In the dark, R stum­bled after Hermè but her bare feet remem­bered every stone and tree root, from so many child­hood walks. At the Torrente she ran over the plank placed across the empty river basin and he cautiously imitated her.
Hermè described Anise Nina’s 1930’s erotic night-bathing story; only a week earlier, we were there, swim­ming naked. Hermè had spread her arms in a languid breast­stroke, hands moving through water as elec­tric sparks, the efflo­res­cence of sea algae, came off the ends of her fingers.
R asked who she was and pronounced: you are why. He stopped and he kissed her and she felt the light move­ment of his tongue inside her mouth taking leaps down to her heart.
When they turned the final corner, a very different seascape confronted them. Great waves crashed from a boiling ocean onto rocks.
I want to see the Goddess emerging from the sea,” insisted R.
She could hardly refuse, so removing garments Hermè tested the froth. R followed, still wearing glasses and shorts.
A large wave tumbled her into the shingle. R, landing in rabid shal­lows, cried: I’ve lost my specs — can’t do anything without them”. Incred­ibly, the reflecting glasses were found unbroken, in the wet sand.
R dried himself. The sea had frozen emotions with her body. In the dark­ness Hermè noticed a stain on the white towel around her body.
I’m bleeding, though I didn’t feel a thing… lucky it wasn’t my head.” R came over but didn’t seem perturbed by the blood running down her thigh. The warmth of his body revived Hermè.
Walking back, she held up skirts to prevent blood discolouring the silk. Before reaching the village, they spread towels in the grass and lay down together, under the stars.
At the airport later, a doctor exam­ined Hermè’s leg; the injury was a large, hard bruise, the size of the crown of a baby’s head.

Tanya Ury


2001 (5.11. – 19.12.) Liter­aturhaus Köln (Liter­a­ture House, Cologne (D) (reading 16 Uhr 12 Dez.)
2001 (30.11. – 4.11.) Rupert Walser at Art Cologne (D)
2002 (27.12.2001 – 11.1.) Claus Bittner book­shop, Cologne (D)
2002 (April/​Mai) Rodenkirchen Kirche (Rodenkirchen Church) (D)
2002 (21.3. – 27.4.) Studio Dumont, Cologne (D)
2004 (13.3. – 16.5.) Die weite Welt (The Wide World), Museum Ludwig, Cologne (D)
2013 (11.7. – 7.9) Righting the Image” — The Liter­a­ture Collec­tion in Cologne (LiK) and the Cologne City Library, (D)

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