Singing in the background (“Hoist the Colours” by Hans Zimmer):
The king and his men,
Stole the Queen from her bed,
And bound her in her Bones,
The seas be ours,
And by the powers,
Where we will, we'll roam.
Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the Colours high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, born 1929, is a godsend / The writer provides literary commentary on the important events of our time on his life journey into the 21st century / He is also an entrepreneur and architect of new literary genres / Enzensberger's virtues are: laconism, context, surprise and openness - -
Text: Liberate the news from human indifference! /
Text: Conversation with the great storyteller Hans Magnus Enzensberger / “The voice in our head”
Kluge: We carry another person within us. Or you could say that as professional writers we have voices in our head. And they are telling us something, and it is the voice of a 6-year-old, a 16-year-old, a 22-year-old, an 80-year-old, a 70-year-old …
Enzensberger: Yes, they coexist in there.
Kluge: … they coexist and form a little orchestra. No single voice can be randomly isolated.
Enzensberger: Yes, that is true.
Kluge: … we are not completely free, the story tells itself, has its own mind.
Enzensberger: Yes, we definitely can say that about ourselves. But there are monomaniacs too, who only have one voice and …. after only three sentences, you can tell that it is … I mean, Kafka, very obvious ...
Kluge: …he is Kafka, no matter what he writes about.
Enzensberger: … and he could … for instance, Kafka was unable to write a simple postcard, like: The weather is nice, our room is where I put the little cross on the picture. For Kafka, that is impossible, instead a Kafka text unfolds even on a postcard ...
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Kluge: … a distinct style, flow …
Enzensberger: … a style, yes, something recognizable.
Kluge: Although you could say: In his head, something narrates in a highly specialized way …
Enzensberger: Yes, that is true, of course … I believe that this demon, this voice in your head, takes on different forms. There is a voice in your head … I mean, in Antiquity they called it daemon. And of course that means you cannot choose your daemon yourself, I think.
Kluge: And the text will jump the rails if you write against the daemon.
Enzensberger: That’s not something you should do.
Kluge: It will make the text collapse. But to come back to Kafka. A famous philologist told me that Kafka was really fond of journalistic writing, of tabloid journalism for that matter, the “Miscellaneous” page. And he thought that was what he was writing, what he kept producing.
Enzensberger: … self-delusion.
Kluge: Yes, there was some self-delusion involved.
Enzensberger: Yes, yes. But I also believe that he took in a lot more than what you can see in his creative output, because he absorbed all kinds of knowledge.
Kluge: … he goes to the movies in the afternoon.
Enzensberger: Sports clubs, Zionism, movies, sports …
Kluge: … America… as a theme.
Enzensberger: … America…
Kluge: And always the particular, unlikely event.
Enzensberger: Yes, but everything is filtered in a very unique way.
Kluge: Like a fortune-teller.
Enzensberger: … what is of use to me?
Kluge: And what are the latent dangers aside from the image I describe. The danger lurking behind the image. That is the one that is going to get us ten years from now.
Text: Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
Kluge: I always get the impression that this plays a role as well. As if he could anticipate the future.
Enzensberger: … anticipate it, not see it. Yes, his was a strange, and also very dangerous daemon, because it is not a lucky fate, quite the contrary. I mean, it is the strange case of someone who achieves everything but does not have a life.
Text: How can we tell a story at all?
Kluge: In your particular case: On the one hand, you often choose the form of the essay, which allows for an overview, for narrowing down the topic.
Enzensberger: Yes. One thing that I find interesting about the essay is that it allows me to integrate all kinds of genres.
Enzensberger: That means I can tell anecdotes, I can quote a poem …
Kluge: You can announce a hypothesis …
Enzensberger: … I can be a bit philosophical …
Kluge: You can set yourself apart from others.
Enzensberger: … set myself apart. And that means, it is an extremely flexible form. That is something you can already see in the work of Montaigne, the forefather of Essayism: from one page to the next, the atmosphere changes, the narrative atmosphere …
Text: Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Kluge: The subtext becomes increasingly dominant the more jumps I can make in the actual text.
Enzensberger: Yes. And something else that is great about the essay: if it is truly an essay in the strict sense of the word, the writer does not know in the beginning where he is going to end up.
Kluge: He takes a chance.
Enzensberger: He experiments, and the conclusion is not already determined from the beginning. Of course that is not allowed in an academic essay, that is impossible …
Kluge: … it is not allowed for Cicero: the orator knows his political intention, because he needs to build up his argument. But the essay is the opposite of a process where one starts to write only when their opinion is already fixed: the writer’s opinion forms as the essay is taking shape.
Enzensberger: Yes. And that is what allows for the changes in style, in approach, and the mix of … really, I can even integrate a dialogue, for instance, why not? There are essayist dialogues. And vice versa.
Kluge: It is an all-terrain method, or as you might say in the military: the patrol. Useless for big, organized artillery armies, because they need roads …
Enzensberger: Yes, the patrol does not know yet what they will encounter.
Kluge: Yes. Exploration. Although on the other hand, you also practice the opposite: the product of condensation, which people call poetry or poetic, the poem. The verse, with or without rhyme, a concentrated expression.
Enzensberger: That has the practical advantage that I don't need 500 pages to say something. What we call poetry is a highly economical form. It is basically literature for impatient people, and for people who want to relax while writing or reading. There is a kind of coziness to the modes of narration where the writer keeps expanding his narrative, goes into detail …
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Kluge: That is not possible in modern poetry.
Enzensberger: … not possible, right. But I mean, I often noticed that when … for example Balzac, this great narrator …
Text: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
Enzensberger: …he drags things out, suddenly there are descriptions that don't have anything to do with the plot, they simply continue, the wheel keeps spinning, things keep moving, and then I get impatient and skip two pages ahead to see what happens next. Because a good narrator makes me want to know what happens next.
Kluge: And a well-done piece of poetry is different that way: I can spend time with it. It is like a connection to a different reality …
Enzensberger: Well, you could say that. But I mean, it is not necessarily the best reading after a long week at work … When I go to the countryside, I bring a long novel in three volumes, and that feels kind of like a bed. The reader acts like he is in bed, and there is an enormous demand for that kind of literature. I mean, of course we also have to ask why the novel is still the dominant, and economically speaking the most successful literary genre. The theorists can say what they want about deconstruction and the death of the novel. They have been saying that for 50 years.
Kluge: … but it is not dead…
Enzensberger: … it is not dead at all.
Kluge: And if you eliminated it from literature, it would rise again somewhere else. It is already an established genre in cinema …
Text: Gone With the Wind
Text: A German book in Princeton
Kluge: The indigenous people who were persecuted by Pizarro used to design trails with a shelter every few kilometers along the way, so that a hurried messenger can rest, so that travel and movement across the realm are possible, because there are provisions, a pharmacy, a depot – that is really what poetry is about. Shelter, food for long journeys.
Enzensberger: Yes, and that doesn't just happen in empires. I was in Lapland once and maintaining these shelters is an old custom there as well, because it can be dangerous when the weather gets bad … you could starve to death. And if you cannot keep going because there is a rain storm, for instance, and the ground becomes muddy, then you are isolated etc. They have existed in that area for centuries, small sheds, and if you use something, for instance wood to warm yourself up, to make a fire, then you are obliged – and everyone follows that rule – to stock up on it for all the people that might stop there after you. It is great.
Kluge: Just like the shelters in Spitzbergen. And whenever someone survived, they'd leave something there so that the next one could survive as well. Just like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of bread crumbs – although those are eaten by birds.
Enzensberger: Yes, I think the relay structure also plays a significant role in poetry, because I am not someone who appreciates the idea of originality very much. I think in reality that works like a relay too.
Kluge: But why wouldn’t I wish I was as good as Ovid?
Enzensberger: Well, you can wish.
Text: Ossip Mandelstam (1891-1938)
Kluge: Or … Ossip Mandelstam would lead us back to Ovid. And from that perspective, he is someone we could actually measure ourselves against.
Text: Ovid (23 BC - 17 AD)
Enzensberger: I mean, the concept …. people were talking about the point of origin or something, the il faut être absolument moderne, all these unrealistic expectation that might be understandable from a historical point of view: people had enough of salon art and so forth with its gilt edge poetry, and it is understandable why people felt that all this had to go and that it was necessary to start over. But that is an illusion. You never start from the beginning, you can only continue to write a text.
Kluge: Which is also kind of nice, because there is something very confidence-inspiring about the idea of an entire army of dead poets that is immortalized in books.
Enzensberger: Yes, yes. And of course you choose your predecessors or role models from that group …
Kluge: … Compurgators? Ancestors … Namesakes ...
Enzensberger: Yes. You basically adopt your own grandfathers.
Kluge: If you look at the present: the 21st century contains an enormous mass of material, which I did not expect to become this problematic at the turn of the century. In 1989 I thought we would have to expect an Augustinian age with smaller defense budgets, and we would be reaping what we need for the rest of our lives. And in our country we continued down that path, so to speak, for better or worse. But around us …
Enzensberger: Yes, it was basically an Island of the Blessed, a little like …
Kluge: Temporarily, from exhaustion, or whatever. But in the rest of the world, new mine fields kept appearing. How can you talk about that without being obtrusive? Story-telling also means being polite. It means: I have to take into account what others actually want to know. The principle of dialogue.
Enzensberger: Yes, but it is also an important resolution that not all writers share, because there are also the writers who say: I don't want you to listen to me; I only want to shake up your viewing habits; I just want to annoy you, I do not want you to appreciate me.
Text: Beethoven, the Rude
Kluge: If Beethoven had lived twice as long, he would have managed to extend his symphony to six times its length, deaf as he was.
Enzensberger: Yes, the politeness … I mean, I keep thinking of Freud, who also provoked and shocked people, but in a way that was almost irresistibly polite. People say that the aunt was so mesmerized by his narrator voice – because his voice is also a narrator voice – that she accepted things she would have otherwise adamantly rejected. And that is very interesting. So I think there is nothing wrong with politeness.
Text: How to tell the news / Where is Bishkek?
Kluge: If I present someone with a far-away reality, that kind of news would be far too short to tell as a story.
Enzensberger: Bishkek. Where is Bishkek?
Kluge: In North Kyrgyzstan. And there is a big mountain range and then there is Osh.
Enzensberger: And then there is Osh, and Stalin comes along with his nationalist politics and his demarcations, which obviously … if you even want to think about it, you would have to say: these are all consequences of his politics, of course …
Kluge: Just like Africa …
Enzensberger: Just like Africa, the Berlin conference …
Kluge: On the map ...
Enzensberger: ...1884, with the line.
Kluge: … with the line.
Enzensberger: Yes. And the resulting conflicts could not have been predicted.
Kluge: Hitler still had the habit of drawing his maps in an aesthetic way, like an architect. Never mind that a hundred thousand soldiers died because he said: this front page is not aesthetically pleasing. You could draw maps like that …
Enzensberger: Yes. And there was the question of the size of the pen, the breadth of the stroke …
Kluge: … could become imprecise.
Enzensberger: Yes. There was a story about the Oder-Neiße Line, although I don’t know how apocryphal it is: A broad stroke that changed the world.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Kluge: And here in Kyrgyzstan, to stick with that for a moment: the Pamir adjoining on one side, that is – for me as a boy, as a child – that is Sven Hedin.
Enzensberger: At least, you do have an association. I mean, you are not completely in the dark like most people who are confronted with it. And in addition, this kind of news is like the ultimate dilution of the idea of world domination. Our media are interested in Kyrgyzstan, but Kyrgyzstan is not interested in Belgium at all. A very unequal relationship.
Kluge: It looks very small, by the way. If you look at the map from the perspective of Kyrgyzstan, Europe is very small, you cannot even see Luxemburg.
Enzensberger: That is true. But it is also … They cannot afford the luxury to be interested in Belgium, they have other problems and other priorities.
Kluge: Even though the Belgians are quarreling over language just as much as the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks.
Enzensberger: While we still have the latent notion – a result of our history, of world domination –, the notion that we are responsible for everything. Why are we in charge of everything, and why are we responsible for everything?
Text: The quarreling Belgians
Kluge: We aren’t. But it is interesting that this made you think of Belgium. Take the French who are put in motion by the Spanish, the Walloons against the Flemish who are defending themselves …
Text: Duke of Alba (1507-1582)
Kluge: And if you now picture the Duke of Alba decapitating Egmont, you have jumped right into fiction, into a narrative.
Enzensberger: Yes, back then all things were a bit Tadzhik.
Kluge: It is a certain type of opposition that appears now in Barbarian form, so to speak, because the country is released into independence which also leads to the closure of public schools, the industry is gone …
Enzensberger: Well, I mean it’s a legitimate question to ask whether Belgium actually exists. The whole thing is an artificial creation.
Kluge: An artificial creation. A complex, European artificial creation.
Enzensberger: But they also learned quite a few things. For instance: I still remember the stamps, which were always bilingual.
Kluge: And there was a queen who died in a car accident and was incredibly beautiful, and her name was written in two languages. This queen we could have loved. Beautiful woman, in a black frame, that was the stamp.
Enzensberger: Well, okay, I mean, it is obvious that the monarchy was very productive as a subject of narration. I mean, the stories about royalty … every little girl is a bit of a princess, in a way. Every 7-year-old is a princess. Up to the first Barbie doll … that has its mythological roots in fairy tales and so on. You can abolish monarchy, bit it will still survive as a model of narration.
Kluge: Gruesome fates, romantic fates …
Enzensberger: Yes. Shakespeare…
Kluge: … and hope. To stick with Belgium for a bit: A king, the only one everyone can agree on, becomes the private owner, the property owner of Congo.
Enzensberger: Of Congo, yes, a horrible story …
Kluge: And that's a horrible story.
Enzensberger: But it also has something to do with the artificiality of Belgium, I think, because an organically grown nation like the English … that never would have occurred to them. The English king … he never would have thought of declaring a country private property, would he? I can’t think of an example. Cecil Rhodes kind of did something similar with Rhodesia: Creating an empire simply by paying for it.
Kluge: You wrote a poem about him. A necessary poem. Because you have to be able to picture this man who expands his enormous estate, Rhodesia, towards the north, up to the border to Congo. There are mines.
Text: Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902)
Enzensberger: Yes. And the idea to name a country after a person … I mean, today it has a different name, but for a long time it was called Rhodesia. Imagine that! Sure, there is Leopoldville … I mean, the name does possess a kind of occupational power.
Kluge: And in the case of Kyrgyzstan, to come back to that part in the story, that goes back to Alexander the Great, in the deep valley where the rapid rivers from Pamir originate …
Enzensberger: There are constant unrests.
Kluge: Constant unrests.
Enzensberger: It is called Ferghana or something ...
Kluge: Ferghana Valley. And you can still see horses there, they are Greek horses, white and gorgeous. They are all that’s left of the foundations of the cities and the stables of Alexander the Great. That means, here in Kyrgyzstan, different historical eras converge, and Kyrgyzstan is also a neighbor of Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Tadzhikistan, China.
Enzensberger: China is not far either.
Kluge: But that’s where all the global hot spots are currently located.
Kluge: … makes for a good story.
Text: Ferghana Valley in Kyrgyzstan
Text: Alexander the Great
Text: Ascension of Alexander
Text: Alexander von Humboldt reached the Chinese border
Text: Stories about physicians
Kluge: These stories are basically illustrating the news. You can tell stories by going into the most miniscule detail.
Enzensberger: But the hypochondriac “The Imaginary Invalid” is a great character …
Kluge: Great story. What is it about? What kind of story is that?
Enzensberger: Wonderful. Molière.
Enzensberger: Molière, yes, he brought the hypochondriac and the doctor and the family together. And of course that’s very funny, but also tragicomic, a fundamentally tragicomic story. Well, and so on, the guru, the healer, the medicine man and all that. I mean, there is … The vestige of this theme is the TV medical drama that keeps creating new possibilities. For instance there is an American show called “House”. Dr. House is a … he invents himself as doctor and does everything differently than other doctors and that's how he wins … he can heal things that others can’t, but he is not a guru. He is a relatively rational physician and it is a very interesting new form of the convalescence/illness narrative. And it is much more influential than any documentary about health reform, any talk show …
Kluge: It is inevitable that man has hope. When his body fails him, hope will fail too, in the beginning. Now to turn things around, to provide comfort – that is a perpetual inspiration for storytelling.
Enzensberger: Yes, I don’t know if you feel the same way: Sometimes I envy doctors a little bit, even though they don't really have an enviable life …
Kluge: … because they have skills …
Enzensberger: ...and their indispensability is beyond doubt.
Kluge: In times of war, in times of adversity, they are even more important.
Enzensberger: Although of course a writer should not even start to think about the ultimate justification of his profession, because in comparison to a midwife they will always lose the game of justification, and that’s why you should leave it be.
Kluge: But the reason why hospital romances, stories about doctors, Kafka’s “The Country Doctor”, are so interesting is that they have a profession that is truly necessary.
Enzensberger: Yes, exactly.
Kluge: Like mechanics in a power plant.
Enzensberger: And who else can say that about themselves? Although a writer is still better off than, say, someone working in advertisement: you could just get rid of them, you could just get rid of the marketing people. Certain forms of real estate agents are expendable too, I can find something myself, I don't need them.
Kluge: The money maker, the banker, on the other hand, is only half expendable.
Enzensberger: They are only half expendable.
Kluge: Expendable perhaps in this specific form, but not in a general sense.
Enzensberger: No, that is true, because for the blood flow … the system is already in place and all attempts to replace it with state banks have failed.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Kluge: Storytelling faces a particular challenge here: the temporal aspect. Usually, in any other medium, the narration usually does not depend on … the timing is adjusted based on the interest of the audience or the context…perhaps on the influence of the broadcasts that come before and after; but not on the idea that you talk about a minute differently than about a century.
Text: The chronicle’s mode of narration
Enzensberger: There is the long-winded narrator, and the reductive narrator. Both … of course, one is more poignant and possibly somehow a little less comfortable, but both provide necessary temporal relations, I would say, just like there needs to be long-wave and short-wave.
Kluge: Short-term, long-term. If you take a decade, for instance. Decades are imprecise, they don't have an exact end ...
Enzensberger: No, it is just convention.
Kluge: They provide a conjunction.
Enzensberger: Everyone has a different image of the 1970s, but ultimately they are really a box that contains all kinds of things ...
Kluge: But with a gravitational center that is somehow distinctive and different from the 1960s. And then again in the 90s.
Enzensberger: Yes, yes. That is also a form of narration, to compartmentalize time … to put it in boxes. That way you actually get an idea of what labels such as the turn of the century, or fin de siècle, actually mean.
Kluge: And if we look more closely: So let’s say in the early 1990s you have Bin Laden who fights the Russians on behalf of the Americans. And by the end of the century Bin Laden has turned into a ticking time bomb. In the meantime he was nowhere to be seen. No announcement in the newspapers, even CIA reports don't mention him. That means, that is the before/after principle.
Text: 10-year-chronicle / An invisible reality - -
Kluge: That is basically the principle of the 10-year-chronicle. The invisible reality, the reality that develops in unexpected ways.
Enzensberger: Yes, and it happens suddenly.
Kluge: I want to give a specific example. Take, for instance: You are supposed to describe something that only lasts ten minutes and has happened this year. My wife would tell the story about how she broke her ankle. That is very brief, something she could tell within that window of time.
Kluge: Or I could also take a different example: The German Minister of Finance is laid up in intensive care in Brussels. Someone else, the Minister of Internal Affairs, is flown in by plane: it is 11:30pm, and everything has to be decided by 1am. That is the 750-billion-Euro package.
Enzensberger: Yes. And the pressure is enormous.
Kluge: And ten minutes to one, the Finnish Minister of Finance shows up and wants something important, he wants the bank levy to be included in the minutes … that's ten minutes.
Enzensberger: … ten minutes, yes.
Kluge: The kind of thing that a poet could also make up without having been there.
Enzensberger: Yes. I have to admit that lately I have developed a preference for a text form that has been discredited – the anecdote.
Text: The anecdote's mode of narration
Enzensberger: I find anecdotes very interesting, they also have a long history …
Text: Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811)
Enzensberger: Kleist for instance, yes, he is great. Or the French: they have great anecdotes, I mean Vauvenargues and all these people …
Kluge: … It is the worldly form of the poem. If the poem is the spiritual form, which somehow is always serious …
Enzensberger: Yes. The anecdote follows the same economy as the poem, because it has to be short, the anecdote can’t be long-winded, that’s impossible.
Text: Nicolas Chamfort
Enzensberger: Chamfort is my favorite, he is great. He wrote …. he wrote a kind of portrait of manners of the 18th century, the late 18th century in the form of anecdotes. And these anecdotes are very strange and shine a light on this particular society. He is also very cold-blooded in his narration, very constrained, everything has to be described in ten lines.
Kluge: … one-minute-stories. Each line is about a minute.
Enzensberger: I don’t know, I just told the editor of a magazine that he should replace their column with people who write anecdotes. He actually listened to my advice. I’ll wait and see what comes out of it. I’m not doing it myself, but …
Kluge: Today an anecdote about the great music critic Brembeck was printed in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: During the Neuenfels production in Bayreuth, a piece of the Parsifal stage design fell on the singer, on Elsa’s head. She fainted, and everyone thought that they would have to cancel everything. But she was restored to health, and tomorrow she's singing again.
Kluge: That is an anecdote. It is short, too.
Enzensberger: Yes. Strange that it has been forgotten.
Kluge: It is part of the tabloid concept to tell every story like a one-minute-story.
Text: The tabloid concept / One-minute-stories
Enzensberger: Yes, there is a French writer, before World War I, I believe, and into the 20s, his name is Fénéon, and he has stories … I published a volume of his work, there are 111 stories, each has five lines. He uses the genre of “miscellaneous”, so he is also newspaper-compatible. He published his work in newspapers, and all his stories are extremely abbreviated 5-minute-stories.
Kluge: … they are almost images?
Enzensberger: Yes. And many crimes, for instance, are reduced to five lines, and that’s why they are so concise.
Kluge: And they allow for constellations, that means, they also refer to neighboring stories.
Enzensberger: Yes, of course.
Kluge: Actually, they establish connections to everything around them, just like celestial bodies attract each other.
Enzensberger: Yes. And I believe there is … writing is like track and field: we have the 100-meter sprinter, there are the relay people who pass the baton from one to the next, then there is 400 meters, which is something completely different …
Kluge: 5,000 meters…
Enzensberger: … up to the marathon and … Personally, 400 meters is my limit. I’m not a long-distance runner, no one has to worry about me writing books with 1,000 pages.
Kluge: But if you look at your career as a writer, you could say that you have worked all your life on certain topics, certain twists, certain oppositions …
Enzensberger: That is true, you can’t escape it. That also has to do with historical baggage, we are marked, after all …
Kluge: I trust myself to point out anarchic stories in your work, I trust myself to trace the motif of the romantic woman …
Enzensberger: There are things that you cannot control, that can also be an advantage.
Kluge: You do the right thing unconsciously.
Enzensberger: Sometimes yes. There is a certain continuity that is out of my control. I mean, I have the reputation of being a windbag, who says this one day and that another, an intellectual swing-voter … that’s what they say about me, but that is only a half-truth, because in reality I have obsessions.
Text: Flying Robert
Escapism, you shout at me
What else, I reply,
in this weather! -;
open the umbrella
and rise into the skies /
from your perspective,
I grow smaller and smaller,
until I have disappeared /
I do not leave anything behind
but a legend,
that you, dogs in the manger,
annoy your children with
while the storm rages outside,
so that they don’t fly away /
Kluge: One source of education for me are the Berliner Abendblätter that Kleist founded late in his life. That’s a tabloid. He got the daily news, the crime stories, from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and combined them with his anecdotes and longer stories …
Enzensberger: Yes, and tabloids didn’t even exist back then. He is a pioneer in that regard, because there was nothing comparable in journalism. It also confused people, of course, and was not successful in the long run, and the public authorities were very suspicious.
Kluge: … they cut if off.
Enzensberger: … cut it off, yes. He was ahead of the times.
Kluge: … He was ahead of the times. But at least, it led to the creation of very characteristic stories, including the “Marquise of O.”, which was first published there; those are really violent, poignant stories. They could not be published in the BILD-Zeitung.
Enzensberger: No, not in that form, of course. But I think the most interesting thing about the BILD-Zeitung, literarily speaking, are the headlines.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Enzensberger: You don’t have to read the entire newspaper, it is enough to read at the street corner what they have come up with today, because of course there are formal limitations, the space is very limited, and there are bad and good ones, where out of nothing, someone creates …. I knew a journalist once who worked for all these newspapers, BILD, Superillu, he did not have any scruples. And there is a nice story that happened one day when he did not have a good headline. So he made up the headline: “Rosemary's final dance partner was Death.” That's not bad.
Kluge: That’s not bad.
Enzensberger: It is a totally trivial bit of miscellaneous ...
Kluge: A baroque painting.
Enzensberger: Yes, that was good.
Text: We are the pope
Enzensberger: And that is not even mentioning the famous headlines that have practically become proverbial by now. I mean: “We are the pope,” that’s an impressive thing to come up with. Reckless.
Text: Miscellaneous / faits divers
Enzensberger: In France there is a tradition of faits divers: there are writers, Léon Bloy has written about that for instance, Paulhan has even published a book, I think, called “Faits divers.” Miscellaneous. I believe a lot of writers use them, novelists as well, they … I think even Musil did it, he has all these murder stories …
Enzensberger: Yes, Moosbrugger. That's from the newspapers.
Kluge: Yes, and he begins with a weather report, this enormous book begins: “It was – “
Enzensberger: Yes, yes. Or Döblin. Right? Could not have been done without the newspapers. “Berlin Alexanderplatz.”
Kluge: But it is a great virtue to make use of what people tell each other at a bar. What people tell each other when they meet up, what they talk about at the hairdresser.
Enzensberger: Yes, it is strange. On the one hand, the clan of tabloid journalists is so despised…
Kluge: … for no good reason …
Enzensberger: … by writers, by the educated world – they are looked down upon, but at the same time they have a certain appeal. There is Döblin’s book “The Two Friends and the Poisoning,” for example. That is not any different, of course: he got that from the newspapers. Where else could he have gotten it from? At least, journalism has the ability of a tracking dog to get into delicate situations …
Kluge: … to attract interesting stories ...
Enzensberger: … that we did not know about yet … they go, observe, bring a photographer, then there's a picture. Weegee, the American crime journalist who took famous photos of crime scenes, became in turn an inspiration for movies.
Text: “Man Without Qualities” by Robert Musil: 1st chapter, 1st paragraph
“A barometric low hung over the Atlantic. It moved eastward toward a high-pressure area over Russia without as yet showing any inclination to bypass this high in a northerly direction. The isotherms and isotheres were functioning as they should. The air temperature was appropriate relative to the annual mean temperature and to the aperiodic monthly fluctuations of the temperature. The rising and setting of the sun, the moon, the phases of the moon, of Venus, of the rings of Saturn, and many other significant phenomena were all in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical yearbooks. The water vapor in the air was at its maximal state of tension, while the humidity was minimal. In a word that characterizes the facts fairly accurately, even if it is a bit old-fashioned: It was a fine day in August 1913.”
The last page /
faits divers /
“Mixed feelings” /
Photo story /
Text: “BILD-Zeitung”: Horror. Company taps into brain!
Enzensberger: People have come up with all kinds of stories about how manipulative BILD is, how powerful BILD is, etc, but I think it is not actually read that way … people don't accept it as the truth, as an authority, so to speak, they don’t say: It has to be true because I read it in BILD …
Kluge: … instead they engage with the texts: they are spaces, spaces of imagination.
Enzensberger: … and of course the entertainment factor is also … because 20th century high literature has mostly turned away from entertainment … you weren't supposed to … there was high and low, there was a separation of high and popular culture …
Kluge: … on every radio station.
Enzensberger: Yes. And that needs to be undermined, of course, because it is completely … they are not mutually exclusive, after all. I mean, I just read “Ulysses” again, Molly’s monologue, the last bit, a monologue by a woman, Bloom’s wife, what goes on in her head. She absorbs things that she hears, but she also processes them, everything is processed and still … When banality rises to greatness, it is wonderful what he did there … and that’s why, by the way …
Kluge: That means, with the fighting strength of a Homer, the knowledge of Dublin, this man writes in the 20th century about subjectivity and that's what it looks like.
Enzensberger: And strangely, if you really engage with it, it also develops a pull, so it’s also … there is an incredibly strange humor, it is also entertaining, it is not the droughty avantgarde. Just the opposite.
Kluge: Can we talk about the principles a little more? … When is something considered tabloid press, and what is the likelihood that people are talking about it? What comes to mind is that I would never just talk about the main fact. I would always aim for something right next to ... the anecdote would not be about Obama, but about his assistant, and the assistant has a girlfriend, and that makes for a different perspective. It wouldn't be quite so direct, not always where the most …
Enzensberger: Well, maybe it is a disadvantage of tabloid journalism that it is so dependent on so-called celebrities.
Kluge: Yes, and that it remains focused on the main facts.
Enzensberger: It is difficult to abandon that focus …
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Enzensberger: …it is difficult to employ a different perspective because everyone has heard these names so often on TV, over and over again … that is the downside of … on the one hand the sales have to be considered, these writers are not autonomous …
Kluge: No, and they don’t have the ambition to write literature. They don’t want to create a timeless work, yesterday's paper is easily forgotten.
Enzensberger: … forgotten, yes. And they have a different degree of artistic liberty. And of course, these people also have a really strange self-conception. I mean, just recently there was a rerun of an old series on TV: “Kir Royal.”
Kluge: Yes, Baby Schimmerlos…
Enzensberger: Yes. The story of a gossip writer, a gossip writer from Munich, and watching this from a distance of … I think 20 or 30 years, you get a surprisingly accurate picture of the era. And it is strange that popular culture, the less ambitious form of representation – you can see the same thing in TV shows like “Tatort” – that they provide an unintended historical ethnography.
Kluge: And they incorporate more details than one might have done if it was intentional.
Enzensberger: Yes. Behind the backs of …
Kluge: … almost documentary-style.
Enzensberger: Yes, behind the backs of directors and actors, something emerges that would be hard to find elsewhere, such as in an ambitious, let's say a political novel that focuses on ideological issues, the Cold War etc. But we also want to know what things were like back then; how did they dress, how did they talk, what kind of hairstyles did they have?
Kluge: What a strange mix of virtues it is, this entirely corrupt hunt for a scandal! And then there is the upright Schimmerlos who does not give in and refuses to be bought.
Enzensberger: Incidentally something emerges … well, of course, those screenwriters were … Patrick Süßkind was one of the writers and other people like him, they were all first-class writers, Dietl was another one.
Kluge: Yes, absolutely.
Enzensberger: … they were very, very good. But still, something crept into the script that they didn’t plan for, because they used exaggeration to get things across. It was ultimately a pretty dull period, the 1970s, the late 70s, a rather dull time, but some things that later became common knowledge were made visible by this series.
Kluge: And Prime Minister Strauß, at Bavaria’s feet, where an illusion is built from a piece of red carpet on a monument that is not even really a hotel or anything … and that is popular and high art at the same time.
Enzensberger: … and art, yes.
Kluge: … and documentation and information.
Enzensberger: Those are not mutually exclusive, after all.
Kluge: … something that would not be communicable via the news.
Enzensberger: Well, of course that also has to do with the question of genre … earlier we mentioned the genre of the anecdote, but there is also … genre can also become a prison. You should not hold too tightly onto a genre.
Kluge: But that is the principle of the thing, this break. There is always a point of transition, which could make or break the form, the rhetorical form. And that is where history comes back to life.
Enzensberger: Yes. There are a lot of writers who discover hybrid genres between autobiography, travel report, and political report, for instance. Bruce Chatwin was one of them, or Kapuściński, those writers …
Text: Ryszard Kapuściński (1932-2007)
Enzensberger: … who don't stick to given norms, I would say … you know, it is like a sewing pattern from Burda, where you …
Kluge: But it is interesting that you mention Kapuściński. Because you were really in the Caribbean, you were really … And I wish, for instance, that a writer could be there when a storm rises in the Gulf of Mexico and the ships have to return, the drilling rigs have to return and the rescue mission has to be aborted.
Enzensberger: Maybe there is someone, who knows. In America …
Kluge: No, no writer.
Enzensberger: …no one we know. But the Americans … it is also an asset of American literature, that there is always someone, there is always a witness …
Kluge: In Hemingway’s footsteps …
Enzensberger: Yes, they have a great tradition of writing reports. There is someone from the Rolling Stone there …
Text: Ash Cloud and Collateral Damage
Kluge: And then someone at the Pentagon wants to make nice with the Rolling Stone. And the volcano in Iceland causes a lot of far-reaching problems, it keeps the General and his entourage trapped in Paris.
Enzensberger: Yes, they can’t …
Text: General McChrystal, US Commander-in-chief in Afghanistan
Kluge: … they can’t leave. They tell each other stories, which get published, and then a general gets fired, just like what happened with McArthur. It is interesting that a volcano can have these kinds of consequences.
Kluge: That would be worth telling, so to speak, that is worth telling …
Enzensberger: Yes, true. There is always something to tell. You only have to … And I also think that the aspect of witnessing isn’t bad for the reporters either. I didn’t do a lot of great journalism, but what I did was very educational for me.
Kluge: What was the purpose of the “Kursbuch”, the concept behind it?
Enzensberger: Well, the “Kursbuch”…
Kluge: It is obvious to me that the “Kursbuch” is a fantasy novel.
Enzensberger: But also reporting, it was more like “Europe, Europe” or something like that. For instance, I cannot really say anything about Afghanistan, I’m holding back because I was never there. But I do want to get a feeling for it, and even if I had only been there twice for three weeks, I would have been less reluctant to talk about it … I can’t … all of Eastern Europe … all the communist states … I kept going there because I wanted to know how things worked, what was happening there. I have seen countries, where, when the light bulb went out, the only way to get a light bulb was through the central committee. That’s something you need to see for yourself, you cannot learn that from books. So the aspect of witnessing is still indispensable, I think. I mean, TV doesn’t help much: it is different than being there in person.
Kluge: Now, if you … one method is the “I have seen it,” as Goya would say: “Yo Lo Vi”. The other strategy is Karl May’s approach, who never actually went anywhere …
Enzensberger: … he made things up.
Kluge: … made things up. And empathized. But you are doing the same thing, you haven’t actually met Cicero, for instance, you never met Stanley.
Enzensberger: No. But we can go back to Kapuściński. Because there are entire books proving that he wasn’t even there on a particular day, that he didn’t even meet this particular person, etc, and that raises the issue of fiction in reportage, mostly in an accusing tone … but I mean, the quality of Kapuściński’s work is rooted in the fact that he ….
Kluge: … that he can connect the two.
Enzensberger: … that he takes the liberty to … he is a writer, after all, not a camera, he is someone who … and they all share this. I mean, Evelyn Ward, the crazy stories about Africa that he wrote back then, Evelyn Ward was a reporter too. And the question is, what is true, what can I rely on? And of course I don't count on him actually having been in Addis Ababa that day. Maybe he was there, maybe he wasn't.
Kluge: But he has a picture of Haile Selassi.
Enzensberger: Of course he was there, but maybe he wasn’t there that day. And maybe at the bar of the York Hotel there were others who told him something and he writes about it as if he had been there himself. Because I cannot be everywhere at once. That means, being a witness can never be comprehensive, because I cannot be in ten different places at the same time.
Text: Sacrifices to nature spirits / Do angels exist?
Enzensberger: There are many forms of sacrifices … In Norway for instance, people still believe in hulders and trolls. And I have seen myself, in the Alpes, that the hulder, a demonic nature spirit, can also be dangerous, and that’s why she receives a sacrifice, she always gets something … people pour a little milk, they also know where she likes to rest, and they make a sacrifice.
Kluge: You are relatively … you keep a low profile in regard to questions of faith. But the idea that there are spirits around us, and that there are messengers from somewhere – angels are messengers – do you think that is impossible? In a way it is also ideological to simply say that they don’t exist.
Enzensberger: Yes, so first of all the question is scientifically undecidable. And there are a lot of questions that simply cannot be answered.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Kluge: You are a writer, not a scientist, you have other responsibilities.
Enzensberger: Of course people call it superstition or something like that. But I don’t care what they call it. To me, it is an anthropological constant that we are built a certain way …
Kluge: … we create it …
Enzensberger: … the same way we know music, the way we know numbers, we also know djinns, the dybbuks, they have different names in different cultures, but no one really doubts their existence … for instance, children know exactly … there are no children who don’t think that there is a little hunchback living somewhere in the yard. The little hunchback …
Kluge: A scary poem …
Enzensberger: It’s great, isn’t it! And I mean, the whole thing with the angels, that is …. of course there are cultural differences: we have more angels, we have more angels here. Buddhists don't have angels, I think, they don’t need them. Because they fulfill certain needs. And a natural landscape like Norway is kind of dangerous, you have to be careful. There are … or think about how people in Iceland plan roads: roads are being redirected, highway have to take a detour because of the ghosts.
Text: Adolf Merckle (1934-2009)
Kluge: Just imagine a Swabian billionaire, who has built up a rather significant wealth and cannot forgive himself at Christmastime, because he has contracts with banks, with 56 banks, where he does not interact with the bosses but with subordinates who cannot risk anything, who watch each other … and he has had them sign contracts. He cannot forgive himself and puts his head on the railroad tracks, like Anna Karenina. Can you turn that into literature? No writer was there to witness it.
Enzensberger: Well, first of all the writer has to invent this person, he cannot simply copy him, it doesn’t work like that. But the details are useful, there are beautiful details. I know people from the town where he lived and you can ask them, they know odd things about his behavior, about his generosity and his avarice, for example. Everyone has … I think almost every person has traits of both extravagance and avarice that are very specific. You can’t just sum it up in one word and say: this person is avaricious, this person is wasteful. It is part of the Protean side of money that these things are changeable, they are not constant. Money is not just money, but there is this money and that money, and I spend one sort of money this way, the other sort of money I use in a different way. I would almost be willing to say that every person also has a frugal part, no one likes to be cheated out of money – that could also be a theme … I don’t shop at this store anymore because they tried to pull one on me. It doesn’t even matter if I actually need those 50 cents or not. And … I mean, that is kind of sad. I always find it sad that literature does not want to think about money, to put it like that. There are thousands of novels that don’t tell us anything about how the characters make a living. That is bad. That is very bad. And of course maybe that is also a defense mechanism against dirty money.
Kluge: But money does a lot more than that: it also fosters self-confidence. I can respect myself because others respect me because of my money.
Kluge: It is a standard.
Enzensberger: A possibility with its own deformation. There is no attitude towards money ... I’m making some big claims here … There is no attitude towards money that does not also come with a specific kind of deformation. Just like the Americans say: “There is no free lunch.” I always have to pay something, if money is my priority, I will pay for my wealth with some kind of currency.
Kluge: I am a marriage swindler, I pay with my charm.
Enzensberger: Yes, I have to … I’m the poor guy who has a meager 100 million, but my guests are multi-billionaires and in comparison I’m a poor devil.
Kluge: I am the prodigal son. I give money away easily. I’m superior to all others.
Enzensberger: …It is running through my fingers, but I don’t care.
Kluge: Yes, I am proud.
Enzensberger: The happy-go-lucky guy. Great, yes, that is rich.
Kluge: … I used to always be happy. I'm the heir who wasted his inheritance.
Enzensberger: And I think it is sad that … of course, there are many stories where that plays a role, I don’t want to deny that. But in general, the topic remains underexposed.
Text: What are the stories of a century?
Kluge: Earlier we talked about one-minute-stories, a genre that is not cultivated enough. Then we discussed stories about money. People know calendar stories, but not the stories of a century.
Enzensberger: Maybe because you can only identify them in hindsight.
Kluge: But the 20th century is behind us. And you have witnessed a big part of it.
Enzensberger: Yes, but there are already books that … there are already works where you could say that they represent at least part of this century.
Text: Robert Musil (1880-1924)
Enzensberger: For instance in Germany, I mean, I don’t know how you can read the Weimar Republic without “Berlin Alexanderplatz”. You can’t, it is crucial.
Text: Alfred Döblin (1878-1957)
Enzensberger: Or Roth’s work…
Text: M. Joseph Roth (1894-1939)
Enzensberger: … if you limit it to German authors. In other countries there are completely different epics.
Kluge: Let’s make a plan. Balzac had this idea that novels should comment on each other. You already have Döblin’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz” and if we could motivate someone to write about the Alexanderplatz during the time of the GDR, when it is a place in ruins …
Enzensberger: That would be fruitful.
Kluge: And then today, with all the new buildings …
Enzensberger: What was damaged and what was erased, what was excluded, what was built or rebuilt, according to plan. The plans for East Berlin are strange as well.
Kluge: You could develop a narrative structure that people keep working on; it doesn’t have to be one writer.
Enzensberger: Well, I have some reservations regarding collective works. I don’t know … there have always been these attempts to write collective novels, that already existed in Romanticism.
Kluge: But if we are talking about a draft, in one of your books or whatever you want to call it: the not-yet-written offers a critique of what’s been written. I always wanted to write a sequel to “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, so I’ll get to that now.
Enzensberger: This is what I would do … I think there should be something like a market of ideas, where you can offer ideas to others …
Kluge: …black markets … flea markets …
Enzensberger: … on offer: please help yourself. I can’t do it myself, or I don’t have the time, or I simply don’t feel like it anymore …
Kluge: And if you can’t think of anything: here is a plan, here is a draft … you can fill it in …
Enzensberger: …for free. Ideas don’t have a copyright.
Text: “I don’t trust autobiographies”
Enzensberger: You know, autobiographically, I’m a saboteur. I don’t like … I don’t trust … the autobiography is a genre that I deeply mistrust. I think what people tell us is never true. And in this case … usually I’m not so particular, I don’t have anything against fiction, but autofictions are different. If I come up with a story about the servants of Haile Selassi's court, that is not … it doesn’t have anything to do with … it is not Mr. Kapuściński …
Kluge: Or the imprisoned emperor, who is sitting in a dungeon, starving.
Enzensberger: Yes. The risk with the autobiography is that the author is bragging, or the opposite where I depict myself as the worst, that is just as much of a lie.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Kluge: The question of what the sky looked like, what kind of clouds there were: it is a very hot, a very bright spring, but you imagine it as kind of dark, somehow …
Enzensberger: Yes, I remember that we were outside a lot …
Kluge: … very blue sky, perfect for airplanes.
Enzensberger: Yes, airplanes. And there were these huge silver bomber swarms ...
Kluge: …. that leave long vapor trails.
Enzensberger: Yes. And then there were 80 airplanes flying over your head ... it looked great.
Text: The sunny spring of 1945
Kluge: … planes that didn’t have a set destination anymore as of April 30.
Enzensberger: It looked great. Of course there was something overwhelming about this armada.
Kluge: When they were flying really high, they weren’t going to drop bombs on us.
Enzensberger: No, they were going somewhere else.
Kluge: … yes, they had to drop in height a little.
Enzensberger: The small village was completely uninteresting, it wasn't worth it.
Text: The day Hitler died / How do you talk about April 30, 1945?
Kluge: But now imagine that you should describe the day Hitler died, as a poet. Where would you start?
Enzensberger: Well, subjectively speaking it was fantastic.
Kluge: Condensed time.
Enzensberger: Fantastic like, for instance … I remember when the “fat cats” fled. They fled on the country roads in their black Mercedes cars, the “gold pheasants” as people called them, the gauleiters. And even just this retreat was deeply satisfying, it was very very beautiful, to know that they suddenly didn't matter anymore. It was an extreme and sudden devaluation of authorities and of course that was a very pleasant sight. They were shitting their pants, these people, these pre-potent characters. Mr. President, Mr. Something, Mr. Gauleiter, all these people and their staff: boom, gone, they were all headed to their fortress in the Alps. I remember – it must have been in April, but I don’t know the exact date – when a train in a little train station was blown up accidentally and when you walked across the fields – everything exploded, apparently an ammunition carriage got hit and then everything – the train exploded. But there were also provisions on the train …
Kluge: It was ransacked.
Enzensberger: People found butter in the fields.
Kluge: Like the tank truck in Afghanistan, where all the residents went to get fuel even if it was dangerous …
Enzensberger: … even though it was dangerous. Or, for instance, there was … but that's already an anecdote ... there was a train … German publishing houses made a lot of money during the war, Reclam and Bertelsmann made a lot of money with army postal editions for the troops. Even 1944/45, those were still being printed and delivered to the troops, which didn't even – they were almost non-existent at that point, but the system kept working. And there was a car with editions of the classics for the soldiers.
Kluge: There was a lot of paper in the destroyed train.
Enzensberger: And they fell out … they were scattered across the fields in the explosion. And I remember: I found a few volumes, slightly damaged as a used book store would call it today, but they were perfectly readable. And I picked up the books. I don't know, Hauff and some other minor classics, because the great ones, Goethe and so on, we had at home.
Kluge: How come that they were still transporting things like that, considering the limited railroad capacities?
Enzensberger: Because of slow-moving institutions, and it meant that someone was still making money, and someone still had their job …
Kluge: … someone wanted to preserve something, to improve something.
Enzensberger: Yes. And before we destroy it ourselves, we’d rather drive it somewhere, that is absolutely possible. There are very different motivations involved. But mostly it is the inertia that causes plans to continue unfolding even if the original goal has disappeared.
Kluge: What Hegel calls singularity is now the particular: that something so absurd is still transported, just like after Stalingrad, when things were at their worst, and they still kept flying in condoms.
Enzensberger: Yes, something like that.
Kluge: So, it is already the particular.
Enzensberger: It’s similar, yes.
Kluge: … it says more about the administration than about the cause.
Enzensberger: Yes. It also tells us something about the system, that it has a kind of idling speed, it is like a tank that cannot brake instantly.
Kluge: … it keeps rolling for quite a while. An empire keeps moving for quite a while. And now let's talk about the general. You are a geographer, a political geographer and you are looking at Narvik, Hammerfest, Oslo, and then at Rhode, then La Rochelle, under German occupation …
Enzensberger: … scattered.
Kluge: … scattered, they had already been besieged once. Breslau is also still under German rule, and the Kurland army group wants to proclaim themselves militia, they want to be militia under Swedish rule. The whole situation is a special kind of anarchy.
Kluge: It has shrunk a lot, but it is still moving.
Enzensberger: Even as a child I was already a cartography geek, and therefore I always had precise knowledge of the … during World War II.
Kluge: ...the advances…
Enzensberger: Who was doing what and where …. what was the Africa Corps …
Kluge: … we move beyond the Caspian Sea …
Enzensberger: And then the French in North Africa. There was a free France, Casablanca … but also all the islands in the Pacific … as a cartography geek I knew where Guam was, Okinawa …
Kluge: How would you, as a cartography geek, understand this entanglement? You just mentioned the Alpine fortress, there are still movements. South Tyrol still welcomes troops pouring in from the South. There are provisions stocked for the plan to settle in caves there, so to speak.
Enzensberger: Yes, yes. But it is all a house of cards … the Alpine fortress never really existed.
Kluge: Never. But the idea ...
Enzensberger: But people believed that. The gauleiter thought that a redouit ...
Kluge: … Eisenhower also thought that was possible. And the idea – the tsarina died, Roosevelt is dead: now Russia and America are fighting, but back then there was still a truce within the borders of 1937. Danzig is ours. It is very strange how these things exist next to each other, because the sentiment from 1936 …
Enzensberger: A remainder …
Kluge: …was still on people’s mind.
Text: The battle of Borodino in Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace”
Kluge: For coming from a generation that didn’t experience Napoleon anymore, Tolstoy describes the battle of Borodino in a masterly fashion, by the way!
Enzensberger: Yes, it’s fantastic!
Kluge: He wasn’t there and he also doesn’t rely on reports, but he creates.
Enzensberger: It’s great. I don’t know how he did it, I don’t know.
Kluge: Because he captured the essence … Napoleon’s avarice, his extravagance …
Enzensberger: Yes, and he also was in Caucasus, he was an officer, so he had a kind of basic understanding already …
Kluge: Everything. But he put it together from components other than personal experience. And so maybe we could try again to tell a story like that. But what would we focus on? How do we manage to combine the singularity, the moment, and the general ...
Enzensberger: Yes, together.
Kluge: …what you could see on GPS, even though GPS did not exist yet. When, in a way, none of the people involved know what happened in the bunker on the 30th. But at the same time: everyone is looking for orientation.
Enzensberger: That’s good. That is a good experiment, I think. Let’s see what happens.
Kluge: For instance, we could free the legacy, Hitler’s political legacy of its phraseology by looking at the facts that he was dealing with … he goes over the past twelve years and says we should have teamed up with the Arabs earlier, we should have … and so, point by point, he lists one mistake he made after the next. And we really should have … this is basically a distortion of the actual history, because he did realize part of it.
Enzensberger: Yes, okay. But he also came to the conclusion that the Germans should all die.
Kluge: Yes, they are unworthy, they are unworthy of surviving.
Enzensberger: Yes, yes.
Text: Hitler as senior civil servant in Brunswick
Kluge: … unworthy of defending themselves, that is another thing. But it is horrible, really. I come from abroad, I’m a senior civil servant in Brunswick, painstakingly Germanized, and then I make such a statement. That is tough.
Enzensberger: Yes. Well, I don’t know …
Kluge: No charisma.
Enzensberger: Actually, I don’t really feel like …
Kluge: You would have to say: Really, if the Führer knew that!
Enzensberger: Yes. But I don’t really want to talk about Hitler anymore.
Kluge: No, me neither, me neither!
Enzensberger: Somehow, that topic has been exhausted … we know everything there is to know, and I think there are no secrets anymore. Of course a rest remains, a rest remains that cannot be completely explained. But there are a lot of things where you have to say … I mean, the entire genocide of the Jewish people is a rest where you have to say … there are all kinds of theories, functionalist theories and ideological theories, all kinds of theories … exploitation, a need for revenge …
Kluge: At the same time it is like a curse, like an obscure movement …
Enzensberger: Yes, I mean, of course it leads to … there is a limit ...
Kluge: … to what can be told …
Enzensberger: … a limitation of the species’ ability of self-understanding, could you say that?
Kluge: A limitation of empathy, you might say.
Kluge: Limitation of empathy.
Kluge: Where I get so outraged, so to speak, that I don’t even want to know. And that makes me even more angry because it’s impossible.
Kluge: And that is basically a modern form of tragedy: whatever I do is wrong. If you use that in a narrative, it is a challenge …
Enzensberger: … that you cannot win, yes.
Kluge: … where you have to search for the point that is so close to the line, to the border…
Enzensberger: Yes, as far as possible …
Kluge: As far away as possible, and from there it’s possible to tell stories again.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Enzensberger: I mean, take Kertész’ “Fateless”: he is walking the line where he doesn’t present himself as a victim, but he tries to understand what … why … what’s going on here?
Text: Imre Kertész, Nobel prize winner: “Fateless”
Enzensberger: The helplessness of this boy who still tries to understand somehow, which of course doesn't succeed in the long run etc. … It’s great. And it means that there are still literary possibilities, the boundaries …
Kluge: … to narrate from the periphery.
Enzensberger: … to move the boundaries by a couple of millimeters, the limits of ….
Kluge: But it is interesting that the material also contains a challenge, that nothing is time-specific, that the condensation of time … that doesn't happen very often in our realms.
Enzensberger: Well, yes. I mean, there is … That is a problem in high literature because if writers don’t manage to include a certain historical dimension – such as family history, there are many possibilities …. But if I only write about my girlfriend leaving me and my advertising agency going bankrupt due to an intrigue, that isn’t much. We might say, it is not his fault, he hasn’t yet experienced much …
Kluge: The material is not quite that touching …
Enzensberger: …not very touching …
Kluge: But you could see it as a challenge to tell that story, you could write about important things.
Enzensberger: But it is hard, it is hard. And there is the risk of boredom. The Tuscany Fraction – you can’t write a novel about something like that. It is … no novel at all would be better than that one.
Kluge: And on the other hand, the omissions: you could, by narrowing down the time to the minute, when pilot Hanna Reitsch decides if the plane crashes or not, and her hand was luckier than her head, she wanted … it was the wrong movement, she wanted to make one movement and didn’t succeed, and that’s why she didn’t crash. That would be one minute.
Enzensberger: Yes, that’s good. But it is … I know, you don’t like it if I mention your work but those one-minute things are something that you have a lot of experience with.
Kluge: Yes, because it is the basic form of film, so to speak. But the second point is: ten minutes and then days, the course of a day, that would be the counterpoint, the antithesis to a vita. That is the frog perspective, because we feel and think from within a vita. That’s something you could say, right?
Enzensberger: Yes, the vita is a keyword as well.
Kluge: But we don’t have a lot of that. They do write vitae. But if you look at it: it is a perspective from which you can tell a story. And now take several lives, like in the “Buddenbrooks” for instance, a line of generations. If you look at the Ruhr area, that would be the next higher step, that's five generations.
Enzensberger: Yes. There are writers who have tried that.
Kluge: The history of the telephone, the history of Anillin, the history of the steel industry …
Enzensberger: Yes. There was a writer during the Nazi era, not completely without talent, his name was Schenzinger, and he wrote a book about the history of the chemical industry in Germany, about IG Farben, so basically it was a book about IG Farben.
Kluge: … an interesting book.
Enzensberger: Yes. He also wrote one about mineral oil. I read those as a child, those things and I learned something, because they were full of … a man who knows what he is talking about, he didn’t just gloss things over … and it is strange that even under a dictatorship there is still a space where this kind of story can be told. Granted, with certain tendencies, but I wasn’t even interested in those. Not at all … the German claim to power, that wasn’t … No, it was just great to see what these people were doing, the Habers, the synthesis of fertilizer, and all those things.
Kluge: And that leads to … A story, an apparent side story, leads to the extraction of workers and their ruin by means of labor in the KZs.
Enzensberger: Yes, forced labor …
Kluge: But it is not only the chemical industry.
Enzensberger: No, not just the chemical industry. I just read an article someone had written about the history of Lufthansa. More exactly, what Lufthansa did during the war. And Lufthansa refuses to deal with the issue, because they were reestablished in 1953 and deny any connection with the old Lufthansa.
Kluge: … which even in April 1945 still keeps up regular service between Stuttgart and Madrid … And Léon Degrelle of the Walloons, to come back to Brussels, flies to Madrid to prepare for the Fourth Reich. And when the Americans demand his extradition, he is already in Morocco, in Casablanca.
Enzensberger: Yes, yes. And of course that was a flourishing business. Lufthansa was very successful back then, very ambitious, but of course they also accomplished a lot in regard to the infrastructure during the war. For instance … Lufthansa was ahead of everyone else when it came to repairing air force equipment, because they had the workshops, they had the hangars, the capacities for maintenance, and that is a chapter that no one wants to talk about. But it remains … they won’t be able to escape it, at some point even Lufthansa, like Flick and everyone else, will need to let someone look at their archives, a real historian who is going to show how deeply they were involved with the regime. There was no “clean” Lufthansa. I mean, it doesn’t end, there are still stories to tell.
Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
Enzensberger: And I think that would be a great story, that is a good story. Because that is one side of it, the criminal side, but there is also the pioneer side, Zeppelins, airships …
Kluge: The century of the engineers is similarly two-sided. Men can fly! In the past that only happened at the circus, and now it is real.
Enzensberger: Yes. And these are two sides of a coin. I mean, the JU 52 and all the things they did.
Kluge: Elly Beinhorn, who can do an emergency landing somewhere in the desert and fix the machine himself.
Enzensberger: Yes, all those stories. It is really a good story, the Lufthansa story, someone should …
Kluge: And that would be another genre that we talked about, aside from the one-minute-film, the film of the decade, the story of the century: telling the stories of the great eras of photography, steel, bridge construction, steamers, air traffic, while acknowledging the tension of the bad things the technologies were abused for …
Text: Max Eyth (1896-1906)
Enzensberger: Yes. Max Eyth, one of the earliest narrators of the history of technology, his name was Max Eyth, in the 19th century.
Text: “The Tunnel” by Bernhard Kellermann (1879-1951)
Enzensberger: Or Bernhard Kellermann’s “The Tunnel”…
Kluge: That is the origin of the genre. Max Eyth, e,y,th. Fascinating books.
Enzensberger: Yes, strange … it’s an early stage, but there were topics, there was material …
Kluge: Historians are actually really good narrators, Tacitus, Droysen ...
Enzensberger: If they can write.
Text: Historians as narrators /Tacitus, Montaigne, Droysen, Barceló, Jules Michelet and others
Kluge: Some of them are good writers. And in that sense, Montaigne is a historian and a writer at the same time. It’s basically … that's where the innovative potential of literature lies, I think.
Enzensberger: And that’s why I believe that writers have possibilities. Of course, that always goes both ways, because without the research of the experts, you only have a limited range of movement as a writer, so they are mutually dependent. I think, writers are also exploiters, that means they exploit the work of other people. If I write a history of the paint industry, for instance … I have to stick with the people who may have published very boring things about it, archival material, I don’t know ...
Kluge: But you can …
Enzensberger: Yes, you can do that.
Text: Liberate the news from human indifference! /
Kluge: That’s the challenge. Which employer does something other than exploit?
Text: Conversation with the great storyteller Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Enzensberger: Yes, sure. That also has to do with relativity and originality: they are relative ideas; doing it by myself, without the others, just doesn’t work.
Kluge: So basically I am more personal when I am objective. Could you say that?
Enzensberger: Beautiful, yes.