Text: Thirty-seven Ballads from the History of Progress / The Sinking of the Titanic, 33 songs / Short History of the Bourgeoisie / 44 years as historical investigator / Hans Magnus Enzensberger, born 1929 --

Text: Ballads from the History of Progress / Hans Magnus Enzensberger's "Mausoleum" of the last 300 years

Alexander Kluge: You have written a book that I find most surprising: "Mausoleum". In Mausoleum, the chapter titles refer to individual people, whose names you don´t reveal.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger: It's a twist, yes.

Kluge: But it is very easy to figure out, from the text itself, who they might be, and you have described a number of people: Gutenberg, Tycho Brahe, Leibniz, Spalanzani, Condorcet, Fourier, Haussmann, the Baron Haussmann, who tore down Paris and rebuilt it.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: Each of them is portrayed as a highly individualized character.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: They are all opposites and described differently. Some of them you obviously like a lot …

Enzensberger: Yes...

Kluge: … others you rank lower, like Wilhelm Reich. Wilhelm Reich does not come out looking good.

Enzensberger: Or Taylor...

Kluge: … does not come out looking good. But in any case it's a portrait series. Would you say that it is a series representing the typical bourgeois? The self-confidence that has been developing for 300 years.

Enzensberger: The progressives.

Kluge: The progressives.

Enzensberger: The pioneers, the European pioneers. They are all Europeans, after all, and they are all male. White males, as they say in America.

Kluge: And when you describe Leibniz. "Tabulation of Knowledge", you say. A man who is under surveillance by various secret services. What kind of profession does he have?

Enzensberger: He's got too many. You don't even know where to start, if you try to analyze it.

Kluge: A project manager?

Enzensberger: A project manager, but he is also characterized by a strange mix of theory and practice, because he was a great mathematician, after all, he had mastered an entire theoretical level.

Kluge: How is it possible that he invented calculating machines, 400 years before their actual time? Is he an alien, from out of space?

Enzensberger: Well, these characters are also remarkable because every one of them pays a high price for their inventions, discoveries, for the compulsive transformation of the world. It is also a story of alienation. Many of them have severe neuroses, severe defects, often even bodily symptoms and they are all close to …

Kluge: …madness!

Enzensberger: ... madness. And of course for … Leibniz for instance barely had a private life, or what you would call private life anyway. It's totally intransparent, he is absolutely unreachable emotionally, one has no idea what was going on in his head. In that sense, these defects are in a way the price for his incredible productive energy.

Kluge: His soul is basically standing next to him and is very intensely active. His stomach is completely neglected.

Enzensberger: …is neglected and he puts up with it ….

Kluge: … He is driven by his projects …

Enzensberger: He's got something of an automaton about him … They are all a bit creepy, too.

Kluge: The art of the winds. He dragged Dutch windmills up the Hartz mountains in Clausthal-Zellerfeld, which didn't work there, because the winds in the mountains are simply too hectic, it's not like sea wind. "Mine-pumps, and crossings. Moreover, he studied the enigma of phosphorus, oilseed cultivation, coinage reform; moreover he proposed astronomical observatories" – as you write here – "dye-factories; moreover, feeling no scruples, he planned the silver standard and the conquest of Egypt." All that in letters, in notes for the files …

Enzensberger: The material is always authentic, and I have chosen the form of the ballad, that means, the long-line, so a long, stressed line with many quotes …

Kluge: "Thirty-seven ballads from the history of progress".

Enzensberger: Yes, and the idea is that poetry cannot only depict emotions, the famous affects of poetry, but it can also narrate them. Poetry has a narrative potential that mostly got lost, but I don't see why it should be that way! You can tell entire stories, in the past poets did that, too, after all.

Kluge: Ovid.

Enzensberger: Yes, exactly. Of course.

Kluge: And now Leibniz. What do you think such a man is driven by?

Enzensberger: Well, of course he is not the only one, but there is this mysterious … How, why? That is a question people ask again and again, never coming up with a clear answer – why this little peninsula Europe …

Kluge: …the nose of a gigantic continent.

Enzensberger: …the nose of a gigantic continent. How is it possible that it rules the whole world? In an emphatic sense it has made history, all the way to ruling the world. How is that possible? There is this odd family of protagonists who, with incredible recklessness … this curiosity, this research … they are compulsive, they are compulsive perpetrators, they can't help it …

Kluge: They have to exploit themselves.

Enzensberger: They have to – I don't know why it happens exactly here. There are many theories.

Kluge: An independent, a self-acting treasure. It is a treasure that has piled up for the last four billion years of evolution, and suddenly they can fall back on happier times?

Enzensberger: And they are also exploiting this treasure …

Kluge: A lifetime is too short to do that completely, that's why the hurry.

Enzensberger: And apparently you can suffer great harm in the process. I mean, Stanley for instance: the great Africa explorer, and a pillar of Imperialism in Europe, of course, comes home and builds a garden, a miniature Africa in his garden shed. In his garden shed he plays like a child.

Kluge: Tell us what kind of man he is. He's sent by the "International Herald Tribune", a great newspaper, to find Livingstone who's gone missing in Africa. He travels on foot with a caravan across Africa …

Enzensberger: He has people carry him.

Kluge: … and finds Livingstone.

Enzensberger: … finds Livingstone, yes.

Kluge: But then he is also an instrument …

Enzensberger: Congo, the Congo issue is related to that …

Kluge: He brings cruelty to Africa.

Enzensberger: He brings cruelty, and a systematic cruelty at that. Surely the societies down there were not idyllic either, but the systematic exploitation is something that comes from outside. The system, all the ivory stuff, the forced labor … Leopold II. appropriated that. It was the only country that was private property, it wasn't a Belgian colony, after all …

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: No, but private property of the king …

Enzensberger: … private property of the king. Like a piece of real estate, his real estate, he could do with it what he wanted.

Text: H.M.S (1841-1904)

Text: […]False consciousness in a pith helmet/

Text: Heroism, hand painted/

Text: Jungles, deserts, prairies: nothing but backdrops/

Text: Every gesture posed,

Text: History, a pretext for scoops/

Text: […] Hack, idealist, mercenary,

Text: Expense-account spender, go-getter, agent/

Text: Tourist of blood-baths,

Text: blow-fly of genocide:

Text: Quelling the Kiowa, Comanche and Sioux (1867),

Text: Massacre at the Gold Coast (1873):

Text: Always there in his high-minded way/

Text: Henry Morgan Stanley

Text: Inventory of an Expedition:

Text: A leader, an adjutant,

Text: An assistant adjutant, a rifle bearer,

Text: An interpreter, a staff sergeant,

Text: Three sergeants, 23 guards, 157 porters,

Text: A cook, a tailor, a carpenter,

Text: Two horses, 27 donkeys, a dog, a few goats;

Text: 71 crates of ammunition, candles, soap, coffee, tea, sugar,

Kluge: Yes, or Cecil Rhodes in South Africa. It's a huge estate that later is going to be called Rhodesia.

Text: Flour, rice, sardines, pemmican,

Enzensberger: Yes, astonishing characters for sure.

Text: Dr Liebig's meat extrakt, pans, pots,

Enzensberger: And you are torn a little because on the one hand, many of these people are easily denounced …

Text: three tents, two folding boats, a bath tub /

Enzensberger: …but on the other hand, you have to admit: this energy is also kind of fascinating.

Kluge: Now that's an issue …

Enzensberger: It's also something that we are not quite free of in our actions either. This exploring …

Kluge: If we suppress it, it turns into an underground current and we do it accidentally.

Enzensberger: Yes, and science might be scary, but apparently there is also no way back. It's "cling together, swing together" with these people and that is why even our defects are sometimes similar to theirs.

Kluge: That, and not Philemon and Baucis, is the true human trait. You've described Spalanzani here.

Enzensberger: The biologist who was among the first to study the artificial reproduction of living beings, he experimented with in-vitro fertilization etc.

Text: L.S. (1729-1799)

Kluge: Grafting, snakes and toads. Usually the plants and animals die in the process, but sometimes something comes out of it.

Text: The abbé, high handed,

Enzensberger: Sometimes there's a result and then he is happy.

Text: small chin, piercing eyes, an electric temperament,

Kluge: "Small chin, piercing eyes, an electric temperament, but rather fat."

Text: but rather fat/

Kluge: That is a very concise description, and like a novel on one-and-a-half pages, so to speak.

Text: […] Reflecting on a class of questions not previously conceived,

Enzensberger: Yes, that's the idea.

Text: he found the answers by acting

Kluge: And the shortest form of the novel is the poem.

Text: systematically: Systematically, he wielded

Enzensberger: Yes, right. A poem is the economy of the subject.

Kluge: And unusually summable.

Text: the bone scissors, the scalpel, red-hot needles /

Enzensberger: Yes, in this case. Okay, there is a difference, of course. There is the regular volume of poetry, a common volume of poetry …

Text: Where does the bat fly when blinded?/

Enzensberger: … That develops basically automatically: a poem and then maybe at some point another poem etc.

Text: The brain of the slaughtered cow,

Enzensberger: … and when you have enough poems, you can turn it into a book …

Text: the muscles of the dead dog

Enzensberger: …but the [Mausoleum] is concerted, it's a project …

Text: and the lungs of the drowned woman

Enzensberger: … and that brings about other difficulties. It is a different approach and you cannot do it randomly.

Text: kept breathing under the bell-jar for hours/

Enzensberger: I had this idea, and I also had another larger project, which is called "The Sinking of the Titanic". That's another book that had to be planned as a whole.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger: "The Sinking of the Titanic. A comedy." Suhrkamp Taschenbuch

Kluge: "Sinking of the Titanic". Here your slightly prophetic gift shows again. Later it swept away the masses as a movie: 13 million French people, and 26 million were still waiting two weeks after the premiere.

Enzensberger: Yes, that is kind of amusing.

Kluge: But all the elements, even those that didn't make it into the movie …

Enzensberger: The movie is mentioned as well, by the way, even if it didn't exist yet.

Kluge: There is one who listens, he says "I". You don't make use of the "I" very often, it usually only exists in the fleeting form of someone floating away. But the one who is talking here: "This is I." And he hears a scratching noise, a seismograph.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: That registers the danger the second before it happens …

Enzensberger: He also hears the radio signals, he listens for what is happening.

Kluge: And you contrasted the disaster with observers from the past, in Provence, in the Netherlands, in Venice they paint in heavy anticipation. But not like Cassandra: they are not prophets.

Enzensberger: No.

Kluge: After he has finished the painting of the end of the world, he sits down with wife and children, friends and enemies for a meal of wine, fresh truffles and snipes, while outside the early autumn rain is swooshing. It's almost Chinese, the ending.

Enzensberger: But it is also the situation of the one who paints the sinking, but is in a safe and dry place himself, and that is often our own situation: we only need to turn on the TV at night, and then we sit very comfortably in our apartment and become spectators of disasters …

Kluge: But we don't foresee anything.

Enzensberger: … A Blumenberg motif, the shipwreck that is watched from the shore. You have stable ground under your feet, but you are witness to these horrible events. That is the artist, or the writer – in this case, the painter. That's why all these people are also in a certain state of ambiguity.

Kluge: The one who predicts and paints something in the 15th century that happens in 1912. That is an amazing talent of mankind, that they can do something like that. That in a way, catastrophes are already determined. There is something reassuring about it, because if that's the case, then a way out might already exist as well.

Enzensberger: Yes, of course. The strategy is not to simply tell such a story one-to-another, but to watch it evolve from the side, obliquely, from all possible perspectives. That's the trick, because it would have been boring to see it as a mere account, as a report, that's unnecessary.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: In contrast to 14th and 15th century painting, however, the perspectives rotate here: they are shifting while you tell the story.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: Then you describe an engineer who says: "Nothing can possibly happen."

Enzensberger: He says: "Why the Titanic of all ships, I mean ..."

Kluge: "I'm a passenger myself, I'm the constructor."

Enzensberger: "Yes, and thousands of other boats sink too, don't be like that, just because this one steamer is sinking."

Kluge: But we can learn from mistakes?

Enzensberger: We can learn. We just have to come up with something new. If you can't come up with anything, you are going to go under. That is the lesson …

Kluge: That is progress.

Enzensberger: Yes, that is progress again.

Kluge: The Chicago School. There is a very powerful metaphor that "Lord Ismay" - is that true? - "shipowner of S.S. Titanic, President, White Star Line [...], coward, eyes like glass marbles" - he is in the lifeboat?

Enzensberger: Yes, the slogan back then was: "We are prepared to go down like gentlemen", but not everyone stuck to it. The shipowner managed to get access to one of the few lifeboats and when it dawned – it happened at night, of course …

Kluge: And now the morning sun, it is a bright sunny day, April 15, 1912.

Enzensberger: Yes. Then it says here: "Only at dawn [...] a bundle of limp rags came to life under the feet of the thirty-five seafarers." – among them the shipowner – "Something began to move, something wrapped up in dirty canvas, dripping and tattered, awoke and began to speak. Five strangers came to light, five Chinese stowaways. To this very day nobody knows how they had come aboard the Titanic, nameless, penniless, without papers, not speaking a word of English, how and when they had settled down in the boat, and what has become of them."

Kluge: They were stowaways?

Enzensberger: Stowaways.

Kluge: Who don't even really exist, so to speak?

Enzensberger: Who cannot exist.

Kluge: But somehow they rescued themselves.

Enzensberger: Yes. And of course there is also a certain survivability that should not be underestimated. There is always – Nato nowadays tends to talk about collateral damage, but there is also something like a collateral benefit.

Kluge: And collateral luck.

Enzensberger: Collateral luck. Luck even when it seems impossible. There is always someone who makes it. That is a central theme. Apocalyptic fantasies are always total, like nuclear winter – remember, that was always an important theme, apocalypse is a constant fantasy of humankind.

Kluge: You think that is doctrinaire?

Enzensberger: Yes, I think totality is doctrinaire. Clearly there is this wish that when we sink, we want everyone else to go under as well.

Kluge: Is that invidious?

Enzensberger: Yes, it is invidious and wrong. Besides, it isn't true, because I believe that it is too big of a project. Even with all the atomic bombs in the world, something will always remain, life is strong, even if it is only five Chinese people who make it, even though no one knows how.

Kluge: Following a kind of quantum physics of luck?

Enzensberger: They make it.

Kluge: By the way, what keeps the poet – considering that the century is so inventive and moving so fast and keeps dressing the same thing in a different coat; considering that the Pentagon can variegate so quickly. What keeps us from responding with variations and metamorphoses? Let me give an example: If you imagine that there was an air bubble in the Titanic, 300 m³ wide, with some food in reach and a band that plays Wigglewagglewack and has a long repertoire and they keep playing till 5am and they reach the bottom of the ocean, the ship slides down a hill. What do you do in a situation like that? It's a very important, practical question. It would cause more despair if we stopped playing than if we keep playing, because we can't get out?

Enzensberger: Yes, that's why they played until the very end.

Kluge: Played until the very end. This is a very important version, it seems more touching to me now, in 1999. And 1984 I wouldn't have been able to think of it. I wouldn't have felt the need to tell this story.

Enzensberger: I had this project back then – I guess there is no reason not to tell you – I actually wanted to write a sequel, already back then, about the reappearance of the Titanic. I had the idea to continue it in the pattern of maybe "Inferno" and "Purgatorio".

Kluge: There is a chant in there where you say: it is all not true.

Enzensberger. Not true, nothing happened.

Kluge: Like in Rückert's Songs on the Death of Children, that's what it reminds me of: "They are not dead."

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: And thus, here: It cannot have happened. A very touching feeling. Because that's what you wish for.

Enzensberger: Of course you could also ask: how is this possible? Since, after all, as the engineer says with good reason, it is only one ship among thousands: why has it become such a popular myth? Why does it get more attention than other greater catastrophes? I think it has something to do with the historical moment. It was at the height of optimism 1912, before World War I, and people were convinced that it would be all uphill from now. And that's why it was such a shock in that moment. When a ship sinks nowadays – after all, the Estonia sank a few years ago – it does not have the same effect. It's unrepeatable, because we don't have this optimism.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: And this scratching noise is not going to be forgotten, but we can't feel it if we haven't read about it in verse.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: Because it is not everyone's cup of tea to imagine something so explicitly. It is like this: what the poet does here is a direct confrontation of absolute singularity and overall events that never become a totality. There are gaps.

Enzensberger: Yes, there are gaps, and that is the reason for the variety of forms. There is even a text in here that is written like a screenplay, where the camera tracking shot on the action is described.

Kluge: In 12th century Provence, there is a basic form of poetry. It is folkloric, it isn't written by professional poets but recited by professional singers.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: It is the "chant fiable"; there is always a story, not longer than one of your chants, then a song, then another story and so forth. And you can continue it next Sunday or the following night or during the next break.

Enzensberger: ...continue, yes …

Kluge: And that is basically an ideal that you strive for as well, when you look at the line of poetic ancestors. But we are also forced to, because we are not supposed to repeat ourselves, because since 1802 there is this doctrine that repetition is inappropriate.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: That Goethe's Faust II would be so boring; that he just keeps writing it although he'd never get around to this terrible Faust.

Enzensberger: It's a dilemma. It has to do with this idea of innovation and originality and you have to look at it very carefully. There is some truth to it. What is disgusting is the Routine, if you are too good at something, so to speak …

Kluge: You wouldn't do that, because you find it boring.

Enzensberger: I can churn out sonnets on command, sonnets about nature. But there is something obscene about it, that isn't the point.

Kluge: No, that's what a Hollywood company does: once they've done the "Titanic", all the other ships get covered.

Enzensberger: That's terrible.

Kluge: Yes.

Enzensberger: But what's wrong about it is the demand that you have to do something unprecedented with every word …

Kluge: …not be allowed to touch it up later …

Enzensberger: Yes, that totally leads down a one-way-street, because this forced innovation basically drives the idea of art into a wall. I'm not supposed to do this, not supposed to do that, those are all restrictions, I'm basically not supposed to do anything at all, I have to come up with something that no one … of course art is not at all able to deal with that.

Kluge: But all the institutions that don't have this ban on repetition: the Pentagon keeps doing the same thing, that's just an example …

Enzensberger: Of course. Of course there is also experience behind it, that's for sure. Why should we liquidize that?

Kluge: And if you have experienced one Black Friday on the stock market, it will definitely repeat itself and come in all kinds of variations.

Enzensberger: Of course.

Text: Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Kluge: To come back to "Mausoleum", you did write about Isambard Kingdom Brunel … could you describe him? With top-hat, tailcoat, standing in front of his ships.

Enzensberger: Fascinating character.

Kluge: A ship and bridge builder. A great man.

Enzensberger: A great man, who dug tunnels underneath the Thames in London, with repeated severe setbacks. That kind of thing was always very dangerous, because the technology wasn't foolproof, of course, he was always the first one to do something like that, he had to build the biggest ship in the world, steel and iron construction, it was the age of railway construction. And the boldness of this guy, also his recklessness … because if there is a water breakthrough in such a tunnel, then 30 workers will die, just like that. But unfortunately he cannot show consideration for that, because he has to continue his work, there is no other way. At the same time, of course, he's your typical English Gentleman. The recklessness and his social position are absolutely compatible.

Kluge: And he does not trade in slaves. Only 40 years earlier, people like him still sell slaves.

Enzensberger: No. In a certain way, he is certainly a man of enlightenment.

Kluge: Who doesn't welcome everyone into his club?

Enzensberger: No.

Text: Baron Haussmann

Kluge: Haussmann, Baron Haussmann under Napoleon III. Prefect of Paris, or what is his function?

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: He rules this city. He's an entrepreneur, a project manager.

Enzensberger: He is a bulldozer, he works his way through this old city, the wide boulevards. Behind political cover. People say that these boulevards were not just designed for reasons of property use or urbanistics, but also for strategical reasons, because you can pull up cannons here. No revolts anymore, now they can be blown away.

Kluge: The streets are too wide. Shooting aisles.

Enzensberger: Like the aisles in East Berlin, they had the same function, and there are many aspects to that, but it has also other interesting sides. Paris, as we know it today, is known for being a very beautiful city. The old beauty is destroyed, but a different kind of beauty is created, and Haussmann definitely accomplished things in the field of urbanistics: the entire aesthetic of Paris is due to this brilliant criminal!

Kluge: Bakunin. You like him.

Enzensberger: Well, Bakunin.

Kluge: "Come back, come back", you write.

Enzensberger: But also "Stay where you are." That is very ambiguous, because his project, his entire biography is described …

Text: Michail Bakunin

Enzensberger: …including Bakunin's wonderful dreams of the non-existence of sovereignty and then Bakunin's failure, again and again the failure. In the end the text says: I'm grateful that "never and nowhere, has there ever been, will there ever be, a Bakunin monument." That's what makes this guy so incredibly likable, even his helplessness is kind of amazing. He simply wasn't a power seeker. He abhorred power. That makes him very likeable. At the same time it says again and again: "Bakunin, come back", we need someone like you, and then, after he fails, it says: "And because you can't help us after all, Bakunin, stay where you are." This ambiguity cannot be resolved by the poem, you keep being torn from one side to the other.

Text: "The short summer of anarchy/ Life of the Catalan revolutionary Durruti"

Kluge: You also wrote: "The short summer of anarchy". That's a very affectionate description of Durruti. I'm not aware of another similar portrayal in literature.

Enzensberger: Yes, but it also has to do with the fact that it was a research project, since the history of the Anarchist movement has barely been written down – because they didn't produce files. Historians love files, archives, documents, and in that regard they depend on bureaucracy. But anarchists didn't have bureaucracy, they were an oral movement. It was all oral, there was no office. That's why there are barely any sources. And back then I decided … I had researched the Spanish Civil War and then I took notice of this character … And that was basically the last time when there were still living eye witnesses, a bit of oral history. I went there with my camera and interviewed people, these 80-year-old wonderful people, these impressive people …

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Enzensberger: … they don't make them like that anymore, they cannot exist anymore! The idea was to save the tradition, to a certain degree, in my way, and to use the camera as a sonde, as a research instrument. That turned into this book, in which I included printed documents and pamphlets, magazines etc. In Amsterdam there is an Archive for International Social History and they have a lot of material.

Kluge: But I have only ever heard critical comments from you, satirical or whatever, no constructive ones, about any kind of suggestion for political change, reforms or revolutions. Although you have obviously done more research than other poets, you have a deeply-rooted skepticism. But here, with the anarchists, your sympathy for them is enough for you to say: that may not work, one may not be able to build a society on this. But if they were allowed to make as many mistakes as Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Leibniz and Spalanzani together, then it might turn out in the end that men could actually establish a Republic of Labor together.

Enzensberger: I don't know. As a believing anarchist, of course I wouldn't be able to accomplish that either. But it is something alive, and even in its failure it is still something that deserves a lot of respect. At least these people tried something that …

Kluge: And at least their suspicion of power is similar to yours.

Enzensberger: That is always good, that is always useful.

Text: November 1940, Arrival of Molotov in Berlin

Kluge: Molotov, a totally different kind of guy, apparently you've met him?

Enzensberger: Yes, I got to see him in the 50s.

Kluge: As an old man, as a senior citizen.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: And the way you describe him, that he works with little notes, that's real?

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: A man who let history float away?

Enzensberger: The man who was forced to retire. At his time, people were not liquidated anymore, but they were sent to Mongolia – he got a power plant there.

Kluge: Did he have to manage it? He was simply the director?

Enzensberger: Yes, yes. But then there is of course also this strange thing where a terrorist politician somehow bares his tender soul, that is very interesting too. When he was young, he even had literary and musical ambitions. It seemed unlikely that they would ever get rid of him, he survived the entire Stalinist era. Revolution kept devouring its own children, but he was a big survivalist. He died in bed.


Kluge: A private spirit?

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: … then an office spirit for decades and in the end again a weakened private spirit.

Enzensberger: Disappearing in the fog. The person who … and no one took notice of him anymore, he was completely forgotten. No one cared about him. He also didn't leave any memoirs behind, I don't think.

Kluge: Because he kept everything secret. He was very bureaucratic in that regard.

Enzensberger: And that's why he was also reliable. But a monster, of course, a monster …

Maybe the soviet version, because there were aesthetes in the SS, too. And then there were the music lovers, friends of family music …

Kluge: You also portray Alan M. Turing here. Could you describe him?

Enzensberger: Alan Turing was also a person with severe psychological defects that were not all related to his homosexuality, but were more deeply-rooted, and he is certainly among the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th century. I mean, we live in the Golden Age of Mathematics, something most people haven't even realized yet, but it's a fact. Turing was one of the really great theoreticians, not only because of the significant consequences of his practical work – after all, he was very important for the decoding work in Blanche-Park during the war, this Enigma thing, where they deciphered the German codes.

Kluge: They had all the German codes, all the submarine codes etc. ...

Enzensberger: Yes, they cracked all of them. Turing was a key figure for all this. He is also a key figure for the development of computers. He contributed to the first ENIAC in Manchester, the construction of the machine, but much more essential are his earlier thoughts on basic questions of Mathematics. He continues the work of Kurt Gödel that revolves around the foundation of Mathematics, which means, the question of calculability: what can be calculated, and how, and those considerations lead to the famous "Turing machine", an abstract machine that cannot actually be built.

Kluge: A thought experiment.

Enzensberger: A thought machine. And the question of artificial intelligence, all that leads back to Turing.

Kluge: What does this machine do? This imaginary universal machine?

Text: […] In regard to the Turing machine, however

Enzensberger: This machine turns every question in a Yes/No-question.

Text: we propose an experiment/

Text: One of us, let us call him B

Enzensberger: It has only a few different states.

Text: takes up contact with it (by means of a data processing machine or a teletype)

Enzensberger: It is basically an abstract digital machine that makes Yes/No decisions.

Text: C, a censor, is to supervise the dialogue./

Kluge: Universally and always active?

Text: A simulates a human being, and so does B

Enzensberger: On an endless punch tape, back then it was still punch tape. Transistors didn't exist yet …

Text: and now C must decide

Enzensberger: It was presented as a punch tape machine …

Text: which of the two is the human being and which the machine/

Enzensberger: …that punctuates and can read, that means it can read a program and generate a program.

Text: Let us call this experiment

Text: a Turing game, after its inventor/

Text: […] Whenever the machine betrays itself

Enzensberger: Why can this machine not be built? It is impossible to write the code, it is only a theoretical machine.

Text: [either by making or, on the contrary, by not making a mistake],

Kluge: Theoretically it would be an alternate reality, the tool machine for a virtual alternate reality.

Text: it improves its program/

Text: It learns and learns/

Enzensberger: He can prove that such a machine is in principle able to solve every well-phrased problem.

Text: This raises the question as to how the match will end./

Enzensberger: But it has to be well-phrased.

Text: We do not answer this question

Text: but we do maintain

Kluge: And learns and learns and learns.

Text: that the game can last for a very long time

Enzensberger: It is able to learn, something that von Neumann has further developed, this thing with the learning machine …

Text: and that it has never been played/

Text: At any rate, there is no quelling the rumor

Enzensberger: But that is John von Neumann – taking it a step further, he's a fascinating character as well – who contributed to the development of the atomic bomb in Princeton.

Text: one can see him, or his simulacrum

Enzensberger: I wrote a poem about him as well, about John von Neumann.

Text: especially on damp October days

Kluge: Now it is like this: All these people and forms of intelligence, these fragmented characteristics ...

Text: in the environs of Cambridge, on mowed stubblefields

Kluge: … which are always beneficial in homeopathic dosage, always creative …

Text: unpredictably doubling back

Kluge: …but can seem fairly creepy, like bombs or monsters, so to speak …

Text: hiking the fog across country/

Kluge: … they are actually all bourgeois people. You wrote a poem: "Short history of the bourgeoisie". Could you talk about that?

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: Just like: short history of the KpdSU, that was the general expression among the Cadres.

Enzensberger: Well, the Bourgeoisie is probably the class that is determined to take its fate in its own hands, if you want to describe it that brutally, and that's why …

Kluge: The only case of self-confidence in the history of humankind …

Enzensberger: Related to the history of individualization, while for instance in a feudal society, trans-individual rules apply that you cannot escape – you have to behave a certain way even if it doesn't work anymore, the rules have to be observed.

Kluge: In a state-directed economy, in a mass society, in a chaotic society there are rules like that as well, they are just not as beautiful as in feudalism.

Enzensberger: Yes, yes.

Kluge: In between there is a short, unstable period of class rule …

Text: "Short history of the bourgeoisie" /

Text: That was the moment when

Enzensberger: … which promotes the projects that we still feed off of today.

Text: without noticing it

Kluge: Their era is over before you notice.

Enzensberger: I don't really know, that is a very interesting question: What happened to the bourgeoisie?

Text: for five minutes we were vastly rich,

Text: magnificent and electric,

Text: air-conditioned in July /

Text: […] Elegant we were,

Text: no one could bear us. /

Text: We threw solo concerts around, chips, orchids in cellophane /

Text: Clouds that said, I /

Text: Each one had his own misfortune

Text: under the seat, ready to grab at it.

Text: A waste, really. /

Text: It was so practical. /

Text: Water flowed out of the taps just like that. /

Text: Remember? Simply stunned

Text: by our tiny emotions,

Text: we ate little /

Text: If only we'd guessed,

Kluge: If you had to decide, what would you say: to which republic, which ancestors, contemporary or early societies, would you like to come home to?

Text: that all this would pass

Text: in five minutes,

Text: the roast beef Wellington would have tasted different,

Text: quite different.

Enzensberger: Well, earlier you asked what I think concerning where I belong sociologically, and if I took that question seriously I would have to say: I cannot stop being bourgeois. It might be hard to tell why that is, but after all, every political institution that proved to be kind of stable, has been founded during that era.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: Those of the French Revolution. At least they are the ones that … the industry?

Enzensberger: Or, if you want to talk about labor, the strange type of the so-called independent writer is also a product of the bourgeois era. In the past, they had to work at the Court, for the church or whatever. But this character only emerged during that time and I can't really let go of it and it makes me feel closer to them.

Kluge: People who are related to the poet professionally are lawyers, for instance, doctors, a physician is a poet of the body?

Enzensberger: Yes, some types of scientists.

Kluge: Scientists, detectives ...

Enzensberger: Of course that sounds strange today, if you … first of all, there is this nice expression "liberal professions". And when our parliament now passes laws to combat quasi-self-employment, then I have to say that this political system simply does not get it. Because that leads to us …

Kluge: It's this quasi-self-employment trap …

Enzensberger: I can imagine a poster for an election campaign: Don't be self-employed, vote for us! That's absurd.

Kluge: You are a rigorous man, even on your home turf, poetry. For instance, you published Schiller's work but left out very famous ballads. You were accused of ignoring Schiller's "Song of the Bell" …

Enzensberger: Come on, there are just texts that no one wants to hear anymore, they are embarrassing. Nothing against Schiller, he worked in his time, within his own horizon …

Kluge: He was very complex.

Enzensberger: … he did write brilliant stuff. But I don't think he was a great poet.

Kluge: He was a dramatist.

Enzensberger: He was a great playwright. A man who could make millions in Hollywood today. He had an unerring sense for material, for plot development, that's where his talents lay. He also was an important theoretician. But as a poet he wasn't always first quality.

Kluge: So you just left it out, "Song of the Bell"...

Enzensberger: That's how you have to deal with tradition. Tradition means you have to go through everything and figure out what you can use, and what you cannot use …

Text: Ballads from the history of progress / Hans Magnus Enzensberger's "Mausoleum" of the last 300 years

Text: On the occasion of the magazine "du", volume 699: Hans Magnus Enzensberger / In honor of his 70th birthday

Kluge: Throw it out.

Enzensberger: … what you have to leave out. There's no point. Why should I carry something around with me simply because there's a famous name on it. That is completely pointless and I think that the world is going to do the same thing with what we are doing here. The world does not put up with just anything.