Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

from T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land on Rap Genius


Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

Eliot suggests that modern people in 1922 (the living dead) don’t have a sense of life or identity, or at least a fragmented, conflicting one. This is keeping with the fragmentation and recombination which drives the tropes of identity throughout.

Eliot produced his own translation of this line:

I am not Russian at all; I come from Lithuania, I am a real German.

But this does not include the gaping ellipsis. The German ‘ich’, I, has not been included in this sentence, fortifying the sense of identitylessness. (As does the anonymity of this sentence: the person saying this is probably not Marie Larisch, as she was born in Augsburg, making her a “real German” in the most literal sense.)

More importantly, this line is a critique of the principles of the Germanic Unification Movement that eventually escalated into WWII. It is obviously satirical in achieving this effect. The idea is that of course the speaker is not a German, or any manner of Germanic/Teutonic ethnic group either.

Eliot met with Marie-Louise in 1911, so at the time in which this line was set Lithuania still belonged to the Russian Empire. It would not gain its independence until the end of WWI. (Lithuana demographics did have a minority of German Jews, though.)

Remember, this is the age when a runaway sort of nationalism began in continental Europe. It was time to pick a team and stay on it, so there were a number of people in bordering countries who would frequently change “nationalities” to either aid their positions or stave off potential violence.

Marie-Louise was involved in one of the tragic events that the Germanic Unification deemed a “necessary evil” to achieve national unity: the assassination of her her cousin, Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm II of Bavaria.

In terms of the vegetation myth/fertility symbolism, this line connects with the Biblical sowing of seeds (scattering of people from the homeland).

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