Transcript

Text: Writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger is born 1929 / It is the year of Black Friday and like any year, it encompasses several billion eventful moments / How much weight do facts have? / What do people feel today when they think of this bygone year? - -

Text: H.M. Enzensberger

Text: Funeral procession for Gustav Stresemann

Text: Year 1929 / Hans Magnus Enzensberger: How do you talk about the past?

Hans Magnus Enzensberger: In 1929 the entire horizon of memory is basically hidden behind the world economic crisis …

Alexander Kluge: Black Friday

Enzensberger: ... that totally defines 1929. And you completely forget all the other things that happened. There were colonial wars, there were civil wars – interestingly enough in Afghanistan, in Palestine; there was the famine in Ukraine that Stalin caused, those are all big events. China, a huge country, in the process of dissolution, and a series of other important events that have basically disappeared behind the screen of the world economic crisis. And then there are of course the usual small ones, a lot of small events that are not without consequences. But one cannot understand this simultaneity in its totality. It is also impossible to even imagine all of that. And that is why simplification is inevitable.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: On the other hand, contemporaneity can actually be salvaged by human indifference. By that I mean, if you put important and unimportant facts next to each other, what you get is a kind of indifference. And the people back in 1929 don't actually experience a world economic crisis until October.

Enzensberger: No, of course not.

Kluge: Instead, they have a harsh winter, and a very hot summer like 1914. All kinds of things, and then comes the surprise.

Enzensberger: Yes. No one expected that. Not even the economists, the experts, especially in the USA: the Federal Reserve Bank, Treasury… All the protagonists got carried away in this wave of speculation, it was like a flood ...

Kluge: It is basically like the sinking of the titanic that you have written about before.

Enzensberger: Yes, of course.

Kluge: A luxury ship that encompasses an entire society.

Enzensberger: The biggest, the fastest, the most invincible etc.

Kluge: With saloons and all the lower levels …

Enzensberger: Yes. A strange situation and …

Kluge: The ship is an entire society that is already connected. That means, the German society, a European society, could not be uncoupled from the American in a crisis like that.

Enzensberger: Of course not. It was also about the consequences of Versailles, after all, for instance the Dawes plan, all the enormous reparations, there were constant negotiations, and in the end they were lowered because … The politicians understood at least that much: to take the internal contradictions in Germany to the extreme would have consequences for the rest of the world as well. There was already an interdependence.

Kluge: That would be ruining a customer with purchasing power.

Enzensberger: Yes, of course, it was smart to … But it was too late, it was too late.

Text: Paris, June 7: Signing of the Young plan

Kluge: On June 7 the Young plan is signed in Paris. Young is this big banker, a private citizen, a 1-dollar-man who makes peace for a dollar in Europe as consultant – a second Hülsen.

Text: Owen Young

Enzensberger: Yes. That is also very interesting from a different perspective, because America was an image, a cult, a mania even back then, in the late 20s. People danced American dances to American hits, American music, Jazz, Swing, all that already existed. And on stage, America was important as well, like in "Mahagonny"

Kluge: "Madame Butterfly", "Mahagonny", Jackie feels at home in space …

Enzensberger: America was a kind of utopia, a cultural utopia even before World War II.

Kluge: It's where the coats, where the textiles are pretty, that means, not just records and new music come from over there.

Enzensberger: Yes, the movies.

Kluge: There is an air of wealth about it. And it is kind of sensational how fast they rise. It has only been 150, 200 years, after all.

Enzensberger: Yes. And of course that is also a reason for the optimistic fundamental structure, which has its own risks, because it is very obvious that the crisis started in America, not in Europe.

Kluge: And at this point there are the struggles between the French, who keep Germany down by means of reparations, and the English who maintain an odd neutrality.

Enzensberger: Yes, of course they had to keep their empire in mind.

Kluge: But they are indifferent too, and indifference kills. Then the Americans come, as philanthropists, if you will, and to make sure that they do not create purchasing power and the entire money is wasted on French government spending, they arbitrate and achieve a situation in which the debts of the German Empire are actually numeralized for the first time after Versailles. Otherwise it would have been 2.5 billion Mark forever … and now the debts are limited.

Enzensberger: That is very smart. Every intelligent banker has to think like that, has to restructure debts if there is no money.

Kluge: So now debts are restructured and hedged at the same time, that is the first time.

Enzensberger: Yes, and the role of these private capitalists is remarkably big, compared to a chancellor of the exchequer or a minister of finance. That is unusual – today the central banks or monetary funds are usually assumed to be the ones that hold the reins. But back then it was actually individual people: Mellon, Young, all those people, who also played a crucial role in the crisis, of course.

Text: The residual debt of the empire is payed back by Juli 1988

Kluge: And they hedge the residual debt of the empire, which is still high enough, until 1988. And our hard-working financial officers (because there is a special department at the ministry of finance) have payed it back by 1988, shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, in accordance with the Young plan. The debt didn't expire in 1945.

Enzensberger: Very diligent accounting.

Kluge: Very diligent accounting and long-term causality. In 1988 they are still paying for 1918.

Enzensberger: Of course that is another question: for how long can events like this carry any weight – take 1929, for example. That means, there are ephemera too. But even a not-quite-so-important event like the concordat in Italy has long-term consequences up to this day, because until then the Vatican was not an independent country. It was already ruined by Napoleon.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: And was simply disappropriated, confiscated, just like that. Constant crisis 1871. And it is Mussolini who brings peace.

Enzensberger: Yes. And that is not a – it doesn't seem like a world-shaking event, but it has consequences up to this day, while other things, like a bank robbery, a spectacular bank robbery, everything that …

Kluge: ... but an interesting one.

Enzensberger: Yes, but the headline on the front page of a newspaper is later often without consequences, doesn't mean anything anymore, and there is already the next robbery. There are always bank robbers.

Kluge: But here two exceptionally skilled people from the Scheunenviertel in East Berlin have dug a tunnel, directly into the vault, and empty 137 safes, and one of them contains the score of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde", which is completely useless for the thieves. Because it is hard to sell. But it is very valuable, has eternal value.

Enzensberger: Yes. Of course you can also interpret a fait divers from the "miscellaneous" section, sometimes those are also indicators for something, that is absolutely possible. But I believe that you do have to keep the dimensions in mind, because otherwise you get a completely confusing mosaique of a year, for instance 1929.

Text: The "weight" of facts

Kluge: When we are judged on Judgment Day, when our guilt is balanced against our virtues, there are very different kinds of weighting and it is the same thing with events. What is a "less significant" fact and what is a "weighty" fact in 1929?

Enzensberger: I do believe that those civil wars in Asia that stayed in the background of our perception back then, any kind of colonial war – and I mean, it is strange that in a country like Afghanistan, the situation back then was not really …

Kluge: ... about to fall apart ...

Enzensberger: ... all that different from today. Or in Palestine: there were bloody massacres, there were actual wars between Palestinians and Jews, under the rule of the English who …

Kluge: ...like a referee …

Enzensberger: ... were referees and were fought by both sides. These issues have not disappeared, of course.

Kluge: These are causal chains that proceed separately and then come together to land a hit with combined strength. For instance the Temple Mount is governed according to British rule. That means, every repair is supervised by a Palestinian office. Here, the sovereignty of Israel suddenly stops for a moment, due to such an ancient reason. It is kind of incredible, if I try to put myself in the shoes of one of the British who basically manage Palestine like a Rugby game and want to introduce athletic norms.

Text: The British in Palestine

Enzensberger: Yes, although back then the English had still the self-confidence of a world power, of course, of an Empire, as well as the experiences, that means they did not have the rather helpless self-image they have today, they were great. Churchill, too – I mean, the thing with the gold standard, all that stuff that Churchill managed to push through back then.

Kluge: To be honest: they are incredibly loyal, that means: Dubai is theirs at the time, they own all the oil there, and they give it up – they are basically fiduciaries, sometimes unwillingly and sometimes willingly.

Enzensberger: Yes, I think it was the Second World War that broke the Empire's neck. Hitler achieved something that wasn't even his intention, because Hitler admired the English, he admired the Empire, so it wasn't his primary intention to liquidate the Empire, but those are the accidental side-effects of an aggression, of a political action.

Text: Political Geology / Maps of hidden dangers

Kluge: But political geology, the notion of studying and differentiating the different strands of causal chains, is very important. It is not a decision yet, but it is important to map them in the first place, like an unused mine field has to be mapped so that children don't play there, or new wars …

Enzensberger: Yes, the UXOs. There is an unexploded bomb crouching somewhere, from the past …

Kluge: The world is full of them. And 1929 is basically a hotbed of UXOs.

Text: Long-term echos –

Enzensberger: Yes, of course. And then there is also something like an echo, that means, one of the reasons why 1929 is interesting is that certain echos develop. I'm just reading a book by Galbraith about the 1929 crash and it is remarkable what kind of echo that causes. He talks about forms – also technical forms - of speculation …

Kluge: ... that is the great economist?

Enzensberger: Yes, there were already investment funds, pension funds; by investment funds we mean derivatives. He describes, for example, the development of derivatives, which plays a huge role in the financial world today, as abstractions, as holding companies that actually don't own anything. And that is interesting to everyone who reads the financial section of newspapers today, obviously. But the conclusions that you can draw from those parallels are not so obvious, because the instruments to deal with that kind of crisis have changed as well. Because of course back then the central banks in the world were not in touch all the time, even in the US.

Kluge: There is no Keynes who says that anti-cyclically, the state has to spend money … no, our Brüning tried to save money.

Enzensberger: Back then, there were 18 federal reserve banks in America, that means, the one in Washington wasn't the only one having a say … That caused coordination problems, they couldn't deal with them, because there was no monetary fund. All these institutions that were established for safety didn't exist yet.

Text: "One person's defeat is the other's chance--"

Enzensberger: You know, I believe that in a crisis that huge, it is not possible for there to be only losers. Instead there is also going to be consolidation, an increase in financial concentration.

Kluge: Like in evolution, when a species becomes extinct, there is free space that others will invade.

Enzensberger: Yes. And they spread out. It is interesting, too, if you look at the monopoly laws of the American government – they were actually very late. What we consider a monopoly today, a cartel office, only developed slowly as a reaction to consolidation, to the concentration of power, to monopolization. Even today there are politically not very influential institutions that try to control that.

Kluge: Then there is the example of the journal Die Weltbühne (The World Stage), for instance, which exposes – in investigative journalism style – that Lufthansa has two departments …

Text: "Betrayal of illegal national secrets"

Kluge: … they read the balance sheets and discover that there are two departments that don't have anything to do with airplanes and air travel. One is the naval institute Seevera, a naval experimental station …

Text: Carl von Ossietzky

Kluge: They build and test torpedoes, which they are forbidden to do after Versailles. And the department M also does something that doesn't have anything to do with airplanes, and they publish it. That is, so to speak ...

Enzensberger: Yes, yes … and of course they called it treason, because of all the agreements … there was always this cooperation with the Red Army …

Kluge: Carl von Ossietzky is arrested and killed because of a similar issue.

Enzensberger: Of course, the whole thing with the cooperation between Reichswehr and Red Army is a very long story.

Kluge: The toxic gas case happens around the same time. Dock workers die of toxic gas because a major amount of the toxic gas that was produced during World War I …

Enzensberger: ... was leaking …

Kluge: … yes, and while being transported it starts leaking. And the Red Army still buys it, they still believe in the First World War.

Enzensberger: Yes, they still believe in the superiority of German inventors. It is a German invention, after all, I mean Haber, Nobel Prize winner Fritz Haber …

Kluge: ...invented toxic gas.

Enzensberger: … a Jewish scientist who invented toxic gas, in industrial production.

Kluge: And there was an entire world of secret services. You have traced it in your book, from Leo Roth and Werner Scholem to the international department, the Communist party, am I telling that story correctly?

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Enzensberger: Yes, the Comintern and their German spin-off, sure. But I think it was a bigger dimension … I mean, there were all these institutions that have not become extinct, they still exist. But I think that subjectively speaking, it was … In the late 20s people were forced increasingly to lead something like a double life, and this double life goes beyond the system, because people had to … with the economical and political situation coming to a head, it became impossible to be one with yourself.

Kluge: And back then people went to the colonies or emigrated to the US, and now people go underground.

Enzensberger: Yes. Now people go underground. And that also shows in the nervousness, the biographies of these people – as if they had fallen into a centrifuge where they get tossed around, so to speak. It is hard to escape that ….

Kluge: And a love affair in the sphere of secret service is something else entirely than a love affair in the private and public sphere.

Enzensberger: Well, there are obviously strange mixtures, intransparent because in hindsight it is almost impossible to say what was manipulation, what was libidinous energy, what was want, what was coercion. It is really hard to decide. And I think these people … you can almost see that in the biographies …

Text: Secret Service, Love and Second Life - -

Enzensberger: They wrote diaries … about how they don't have a stable social identity anymore, but are torn apart. They want to escape their parents' milieu, for instance.

Kluge: Dr. Mabuse, who leads a double life on the big screen, is in everyone.

Enzensberger: That is a general character trait, but I am convinced that it comes to its extreme in historical situations like 1929. Someone in 1912, 1913, a middle-class family, the son becomes a doctor or a professor, a milieu that makes it possible to hold on to.

Kluge: Although Ernst Jünger goes to the Foreign Legion and then returns.

Enzensberger: ... returns. It is a youthful rebellion, but …

Kluge: As a front officer he is again torn away from his life for a moment. But as a person in an absolute crisis situation, there is now something in him that does not go away anymore.

Enzensberger: Yes, but I mean, you can find that kind of people among the writers too: all the expressionists and the ones who already had intuitions, premonitions in 1910, '12, '13, before the First World War, who were shaken, shaken out of their routine, absolutely scared, but I think that was a small minority. Most people were not concerned by that. It shows in their professional careers. I mean, you join a company, you spend your life at that company. But 1929, that was long over.

Kluge: But two machinations, industrialization and the industrialized war tear asunder human interiority. So the answer, which is now libidinous, is that it demands two lives, more than one life, and at the same time man is primed for it already: he's torn apart. Like Franz Biberkopf.

Enzensberger: Yes, but I do believe that there was also an incubation period, in the sense that the shock over the world war …

Kluge: ... is only triggered in 1928/'29.

Enzensberger: ... and only ten years later it becomes virulent and takes over … becomes a material force, so to speak.

Kluge: And takes over the masses. And while that helps us understand 1933, and also the Spanish Civil War, but also many other attempts at consolidation on a highly ideological level …

Enzensberger: ... where people latch onto something.

Kluge: ... and try to reestablish oneness, even though they are actually broken people.

Enzensberger: Yes. And the shipwrecked masses latch onto it, search for a plank that …

Kluge: ... an air bubble within the Titanic that, while she is sinking, still provides life. With provisions, people could have lived for another six month inside an air bubble.

Enzensberger: Yes, but it's not just that. There is a certain positive promise in the plank, the lifeboat that people climb into. It was always a promise. If it was the communists or the extreme right, they all made promises about how one can escape this mess, and that kind of sick, seemingly pathological enthusiasm needs an explanation.

Kluge: But that has something to do – as you said – with the plank, the board, the plank of Carneades. For the first time I have permission to push someone away: if the board, the plank can only hold one person, then it's going to be me, and the other one is going to be kicked off …

Enzensberger: ... and the other one has to leave. Then you'd have to … yes, yes.

Kluge: It gives birth to a new attitude towards life.

Enzensberger: Yes, of course. The militancy, the extremity …

Kluge: In love as well: "Why cry when you separate, if there is someone else waiting right around the corner?" That's a hit from 1929.

Text: The infamous man in NS cinema - -

Kluge: It is strange that the fragmentation stops basically with the Perfect-World-Theories of the Third Reich … it doesn't happen anymore, because that would be considered decadent. You can't sing "Handsome Gigolo" anymore either. Imagine: an SA-Officer as gigolo.

Enzensberger: Yes, that is true, although Goebbels always made sure that things were still possible in the sphere of entertainment … that things are tolerated, can survive, in order to keep the people … because they need games, too … after all, there is not just bread and weapons, there is games, too. And for example, there were strip shows in 1938, and there were color movies until the very end, and the genre of the "hold out movie" kept being supplemented by yet another movie like "Münchhausen", who somehow …

Kluge: ... who also has several lives. He undergoes transformations.

Enzensberger: Good. But all in all I have to say that I do not envy the people who were 20, 30 years old in 1929. It is a horrible time somehow and that gets kind of covered up by the myth about the culture of the Weimar Republic.

Kluge: Myth...

Enzensberger: … Because it is all nice and well, Bauhaus and Brecht and wonderful stuff, it was the Golden Age of culture … But, this Golden Age ...

Kluge: ... was only meant for a few.

Enzensberger: ... very few! And the others had to go and clock in. You also have to admit: the misery back then was hard – everyone has seen these pictures of random lower class apartments with children, Zille-style portrayals … Käthe Kollwitz etc. And this kind of misery, this kind of poverty – the face of poverty has changed a lot as well, at least in our countries. It is not the same poverty. And I believe that it would be a wrong echo to put them in comparison, in relation to each other. It is something completely different, because today people can be poor and feel excluded and still have a phone and maybe a plasma TV, this and that, the apartment is payed for by social welfare. That is a big difference from 1929.

Kluge: If you look back from today, from 2008, 2009. It is not an abyss that separates us from yesterday, but a different situation. If you look at it from this side: what is fundamentally different, what about it – when we talk about 1929 – is an antiquity that is not coming back, so to speak?

Enzensberger: Yes. It becomes strange, the closer you look, the stranger it looks back. You can watch nice old movies, you can indulge in a certain nostalgia …

Kluge: But Streseman's funeral … I know for certain that we would not have horses that are adorned in black and have tassels, and solemnly celebrate a death, like Franz-Josef's death, where an imperial death is celebrated. And this dynamic man, who even on his death bed, on the day of his death, bludgeons his party into voting for the social security laws, an energetic man, is suddenly gone.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Enzensberger: More than just stockholdings were buried in 1929. There is a lot of the old world that was still there, that was still there as an undercurrent. I mean, the whole mentality of the petty bourgeoisie with their tobacco shops and pigeon keeper stuff and so on. Their habitus, their body language … if you look at the pictures, the photos from back then, the portraits: you wonder whether people like that even still exist.

Text: The non-linear narrative.

Enzensberger: Yes, that also raises the question of presentability. And that probably means that other means are necessary too, other methods than linear history, linear narrative. You can find that in 1929 already: I mean Döblin, not to speak of the others, Joyce etc, all those …

Kluge: Dos Passos.

Enzensberger: …Dos Passos, all those writers. It is just strange that in times closer to ours these methods no longer flourish. But there is a downright Biedermeier-like realism again, where someone will write love stories, and in so doing pour out their subjective emotions in a novel. But you cannot really deal with things that way anymore. I cannot tell a story like Stauffenberg's without breaks, you have to tell it with all its displacements, with all the duplications …

Kluge: ... from the George circle up to the 20th of July, it's a long way, but close at the same time. But when I imagine that in Sweden, a delegate of July 20th negotiates with a British diplomat and says, we have to recreate Friedrich II, the Stauffer – because only the Stauffer can help against Hitler – then that is correct, from a German perspective.

Enzensberger: Yes, but the Englishman does not understand at all what he is talking about.

Kluge: ... he thinks we want to reintroduce the emperor.

Enzensberger: And that kind of fracture is particularly interesting – that is what should be privileged, instead of the continuum.

Kluge: Do you want to try and praise the linear narrative, for now? It is first of all an accomplishment.

Enzensberger: Yes of course.

Kluge: ... so that I can tell stories in a structured way.

Enzensberger: Sure. I believe there is something very important, which a lot of the avantgarde people have forgotten: the voice of the narrator. There is a seduction through history, through stories, and it has something to do with the tone of the voice.

Kluge: You can't just print that.

Enzensberger: You can't just print that, it has to reproduce in the ear of the reader or viewer, in a way …

Kluge: Because that is decisive for the bonds of trust, you know that much from childhood stories.

Enzensberger: Yes, yes. And I believe that this is the strength of the old realism, which can create this tone immediately and without problems, if the narrator is any good. I mean: what is Fontane? It is basically a tone of voice, something that settles in your ear, like an ear worm, you could say. And then … Döblin has it, Döblin has it, others have less of it. The constructivist people often remain cold: they don't reach the body temperature of their subjects.

Kluge: And then they are mentally repeated. Without a particular sensation, I cannot empathize.

Enzensberger: Yes. But that does not mean that I have to expatiate on that in the sense of a big epos à la Balzac, I don't have to … I can cut it short. With the technique of montage, I can be much more economical than that. We are becoming impatient, because we are not so patient anymore that we really want to read the 4th volume of the novel too.

Kluge: So that people don't tell everything step by step, like building brick houses, but they create a certain static that is felt and has a tone and in between they can imagine facts freely.

Enzensberger: And you can bring different levels of fiction and fact in contact with each other – of course, that is my personal preference.

Kluge: And not by mixing them, but by contrasting them.

Enzensberger: They have to stay distinguishable from each other. And that means techniques of reportage, documentation, but techniques of fiction have to be allowed as well … I mean, I don't want to focus on one single edition of files … no one wants to read that. Why not? Because the people remain out of reach, because they don't become understandable just through files alone.

Kluge: That would be bureaucratic, so to speak. And on the one hand, the imagination is capable of structuring masses of facts along a thread, but on the other hand it requires emotional convolutes as emotional nurture, so to speak.

Enzensberger: Yes. And for that, it also needs detail, mass, sensuality, all those moments … maybe even humor sometimes, that can't hurt. There are a thousand forms of humor, it doesn't have to be heavy-handed, it doesn't have to be for laughs, it can be subcutaneous humor … I find that very important for prose, for instance.

Text: Subcutaneous humor (subcutaneous = under the skin)

Kluge: If you write a story about an event in 1929, you would probably start like this: Rain fell on the asphalt in Berlin, or something. That's sensual, too.

Enzensberger: Yes, it can be, yes.

Kluge: That's allowed?

Enzensberger: Yes, that's allowed. But maybe I'd rather say that… The noise of the zeppelin disrupted the meetings, suddenly everyone is looking out of the window. I remember that as children, we often shouted: "Zeppelin, Zeppelin!". It was a call that spread through the town, and people went outside and looked up at the sky.

Kluge: It did look very impressive.

Enzensberger: Yes, it looked great.

Kluge: …this big, great cigar, majestic, really, like a cloud. Let's return to the fantasy of 1929. There is someone in Moscow for instance who wants to build "Cloud hangers". If you cannot imitate New York, where you build skyscrapers from the ground upwards, by means of Soviet Union and Constructivism, then you have to hang skyscrapers from the clouds, and that would be zeppelins, living and working zeppelins.

Text: "cloud hangers" = Flying cities

Enzensberger: There was a flying kind of surplus in this … early Stalinist era. But there was also still this surplus in the realm of art ...

Kluge: Nothing is impossible in this world.

Enzensberger: In art … but clouds in trousers, that is not a coincidence either.

Text: A cloud in trousers / Anthology by Mayakovsky

Enzensberger: And then the idea of flying was very important. The polar expeditions were celebrated, pioneers of all kind were sought after. And it is strange how this happens at the same time as the repression increases, maybe even as a form of compensation. Because this was something inspiring, after all. On the one hand, oppression, on the other, inspiration. It is a strange ambiguity that is probably more common in dictatorships.

Kluge: There was a picture, a propagandistic stamp, in which a man harvesting grain cuts off the stalks with a scythe, and they fly towards the sky where they turn into airplanes. That is this kind of self-confidence, this sentiment.

Enzensberger: Yes. And at the same time, millions of farmers in Ukraine surrender to starvation. I mean, those are very extreme contradictions within a dictatorship.

Text: Moscow September 24: Calendar reform in the Soviet Union / Elimination of Saturdays and Sunday.

Kluge: There was a calendar reform in the Soviet Union in 1929. There were supposed to be four weekdays, followed by a day off … there are six days off to every 24 weekdays, but Sunday and Saturday are abolished.

Enzensberger: Yes, they were trying to rationalize it.

Kluge: ... rationalize it.

Enzensberger: The French Revolution had already tried that once.

Kluge: ... tried, right?

Enzensberger: Yes, a new era.

Kluge: Why does something like that fail every time? That the 7-day-week, which is basically about the idea that God created the world, that it is so hard to change, that constructivism of time keeps being dropped so conservatively.

Enzensberger: Yes, but I almost would like to suggest that there are astronomical reasons, because the solar system does not follow the metric system ...

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: No, but it doesn't follow the weekly rhythm either …

Enzensberger: I couldn't say, the original meter … everything has to be based on it, because in the end, cosmos is stronger than any random ideology, it is going to win out in the end.

Kluge: That is certain.

Enzensberger: The year, the seasons can't be abolished: there is no point, even if I'd like to spread it out, so that the harvest is spread out evenly over the year … it's impossible. It's an act of nature.

Kluge: So you couldn't just recreate society as a greenhouse?

Enzensberger: No, I don't think so.

Kluge: So the seasons are innate, they are in our blood?

Enzensberger: Yes, of course, and they are much older, they are the experiences of ten thousands of years, since the beginning of humankind, since the agrarian revolution etc. Try talking people out of that!

Kluge: Is there an author who has written about this before? Because in orbit, in a space ship, there wouldn't be any seasons. And there are wars during which the seasons fade out.

Enzensberger: I don't know. Because during a campaign in Russia you do have to take winter into account. And if you don't, you'll lose the battle. So it just can't be avoided. The biological rhythm of humans, when they wake up … we have a biological clock, we depend on light etc, all that has been studied.

Text: Fragmentation / The art of omission

Enzensberger: And it cannot be driven out of us by any kind of politics. For instance, something that is a bit more closely connected to our professions is the accumulation of material, the materialized memory. If it is books or hard drives doesn't matter … that is kind of scary. It means that the ability to forget something is just as important as the ability to preserve.

Kluge: So now one would become an artistic destroyer, I can imagine that very well, that someone would happily undermine enormous masses of facts.

Enzensberger: ... undermine, or even get rid of them. And that even shows barbaric events like the fire in the library of Alexandria in a new light: that was a conscious, planned political action, a kind of book burning, but it also was a motif of relief for a society that wanted to start over.

Kluge: That still makes me sad.

Enzensberger: Yes, me too, me too. But on the other hand, there has to be recycling paper too, we can't … just like there is stuff in your own head that you …. forgetting has a biopositive function. If I couldn't forget anything, I would go crazy, that is obvious. But we have moved on from 1929 …

Kluge: But then again, not at all.

Enzensberger: … now that's almost philosophy of history.

Kluge: Yes, but you can only approach a year. It's something foreign that you have to respect and honor, and if you act as if you are on a first-name-basis with a year from the past …

Enzensberger: ... impossible.

Kluge: Even if it is your year of birth, it is impossible. You have to address your own year of birth formally.

Enzensberger: You have to basically honor it.

Kluge: To honor. And the literary form, what would you call that? Would you say that you'd write an ode about it, or write an epitaph, or build a mausoleum, or is the word chronicle more fitting? A novel, a map?

Enzensberger: Well, that raises the question of the genre. I mean, the ideal, which might not be reachable, but the ideal would be to come up with a form for every single project that is not necessarily already preset in the scheme of the genres.

Kluge: ... but is the cousin of a genre.

Enzensberger: And I find that kind of border crossing … I mean, I used to be very interested in the Polish writer Kapuściński …

Kluge: ... a world traveler ...

Enzensberger: …, who developed very strange, specific forms … technically he was a reporter, a journalist ….

Kluge: ... and went really everywhere.

Enzensberger: But then he went much further and formed an amalgam of fiction and non-fiction, reportage, novel, autobiography ….

Kluge: ... I was told, I saw it with my own eyes …

Enzensberger: Yes. Autobiography, he refers to Herodot … That is very interesting, too. For his works, he basically … you can see that in several of his books: he basically developed a specific form for every project. He didn't stick to a given form and … Genre theory is very old, Aristotle etc: you have to, either you write a drama or you write a report or you write … and I think, we need to get rid of that. And something like 1929 could …

Kluge: ... be captured mimetically.

Enzensberger: You couldn't deal with it by holding onto a fixed form, you have to come up with something else. That will be a hybrid, but why call it that? Because in comparison to the fixed forms they are hybrid forms … maybe also new possibilities of representation …

Text: Year 1929 / Hans Magnus Enzensberger: How do you talk about the past?

Kluge: Like evolution.

Enzensberger: Yes, a new species.