We are sad to note the death of Professor William Edgar Yates (1938-2021): Gar Yates to his many friends, colleagues and students. We send our condolences to them, and above all to his widow Barbara.
Elected a Fellow of the British Academy for his work on Austrian literary history, Gar was also a long-serving Trustee of the MHRA. He spent 35 years on the MHRA Committee, serving first as Germanic Editor of Modern Language Review from 1981 to 1988, and thereafter as an elected member who loyally supported a broad range of the Association's activities. He was greatly valued for his wise advice when difficult matters arose. Barbara Burns, our Hon. Chair and herself a Germanist, writes:
Gar was a wonderful human being as well as a distinguished scholar, and he will be greatly missed. I say this with deep personal feeling as Gar took a lively interest in my own research and was an inspirational encourager.
Gar was an advisor, often behind the scenes, to many research projects, books or articles, especially on Austrian theatre: he was an authority on Nestroy, Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal among much else. He enjoyed helping other scholars, whether with practicalities or a blue pencil, and liked, for example, the serious playfulness of translating titles of plays in footnotes. After some thought, Der holländische Bauer would become The Farming Dutchman. One of the pleasures of working with him, besides his nice sense of humour and excellent judgement, was the elegance and warm-heartedness of his email. If a manuscript needed serious work, he would say that it called for "detailed interpretative copy-editing".
Gar was a mainstay of MHRA's yearbook Austrian Studies, having been an advisory editor right from the first volume in 1990 (alongside one W. G. Sebald). Gar continued to write for us right through to volume 25, for which he wrote a substantial article and also a review. Judith Beniston and Robert Vilain, who were among his editors, recall:
Nothing he wrote needed more than the tiniest of tweaks, I never knew him even gently to strain a deadline, and he was always ready to leap in if another reviewer let us down. There was always a sigh of relief when Gar proposed an article — it would always be a bankable hit. He also refereed submissions for us, suggested books for review and wrote reviews almost every year.
As Judith noted in her anniversary preface to volume 25, Gar once remarked to her that "Austrian Studies isn’t a journal, it’s a way of life." A fuller tribute and obituary will appear in a future volume.