Text: …A character with the need to move in a stress-free way - - ?

Text: I AM THE SABOTEUR OF MY DEPRESSION / Hans Magnus Enzensberger about moles and storks in poetry

Enzensberger: The concept of originality is completely relative. I always write to continue something, I don't start at the very beginning every time. No one starts at the very beginning. And in that sense it is also … you have a collective on your back, and you even have a collective at your side. I often say that a writer is kind of like a "radiohead" which picks up all kinds of different voices, the voices of others. Language is not my private property. That is complete nonsense. And I mean … maybe one sentence … when I go get the newspaper in the morning, I have a wonderful newspaper carrier, whom I love to listen to, and she might have a sentence that I can steal from her. You understand?

Kluge: In that sense you are a transmitter, an amplifier?

Enzensberger: Yes, exactly. And of course, part of that is an economy that does not exist in everyday life. Everyday life is not economic, it is wasteful, a constant blahblah. This kind of work is very economic, because you can do a lot …. I think that is also a strength of this form. Poetry, what does that mean? A strength of this form is that there is no other way to say this much on half a page. It is economic. That’s what I like about this kind of work.

Text: Museum of modern POETRY

Kluge: But at the same time it’s a safety net, in a sense. 1960 you published something very interesting: The Museum of modern poetry.

Enzensberger: That was my receiver, I have a shortwave receiver, so to speak, and it was necessary because we had a complete blackout. Because of fascism, we had a complete blackout for about 15 years and didn’t know what was actually happening in the outside world. In that sense there was a wall for me: the whole Nazi issue was so uncomfortable, not least because you could not escape it. You could not escape, it was like being walled in by this stuff, and the only way out was to march into the Russian steppe. That was also a motivation for the soldiers: They got to go to Paris, they got to go somewhere else, they finally got out of this thing. I think that was partly what fueled this war.

Kluge: To lead a blitzkrieg.

Enzensberger: Yes, yes. But oh well, I couldn't get out, and it was the same thing in regard to culture, we were stuck in this thing and when it became possible again, it was very important to pursue reappropriating the world in poetry, too.

Kluge: So you built sort of a Noah's Ark for the time between 1910 and 1945, put everything you personally like on a boat, although you are pretty liberal in your tastes …

Enzensberger: Yes, it had to be gathered and put together from all the different languages.

Kluge: The original language is always on the opposite page.

Enzensberger: None of that was available in Germany back then. And at the same time, the purpose of the endeavor was also to acknowledge that the era of heroic modernity is already behind us – hence the museum. Because a museum is basically a retrospective. Back then there were already the first signs of the neo-avantgarde, and we had to deal with that, and I also wanted to say: "Hey gang, I don't find it very promising trying to do Dada again, or Surrealism either," because mere copying and repetition is not very productive. There was in fact a polemic element to it, somehow, 30 or 40 years before so-called postmodernism, the idea that we are not contemporaries to modernity anymore.

Kluge: You call it "bad avantgarde", improvising in no-man’s-land. It would be better to visit a museum again.

Enzensberger: Yes, I think so too. I mean, the personal agenda is very obvious: as a beginner you are looking for …

Kluge: Where are your compurgators?

Enzensberger: ...yes, where your allies are.

Kluge: The Iliad begins with the gathering of ships before Athens, and the passage consists of a list of ships.

Enzensberger: Yes, yes.

Kluge: And this is kind of similar, it contains your most beautiful and most favorite boats. There is a long chapter about the ocean. Why?

Enzensberger: I don't know, it is simply a primitive metaphor that is still very productive. People have always written poetry about the ocean. Personally, I don't even have that strong of a connection to the sea, I don't even know how that happens, but it comes from the material. I am even afraid of the water. Among other things, the sea is also an enemy, after all. Seamen also don't like going into the water.

Kluge: You have thought about it a lot.

Enzensberger: Yes, sure.

Text: What is your FAVORITE POEM in the Museum of modern poetry?

Kluge: The chapter with poems about the ocean seems to be one of the most beautiful of your collection, and in regard to sheer volume, it is the longest part.

Enzensberger: Okay. That's interesting.

Enzensberger: There is this Peruvian poet, who was not known in Germany back then and left an incredible impression on me. His name is César Vallejo, Peruvian, he played a role during the Spanish Civil War and then basically died of starvation in Paris. A very strange man, also half Native American. He writes a poem called "Height and Hair", which is an "Everybody's Poem". It is a poem that doesn't really talk about a specific person, but that everyone can identify with. The chorus is: "Aie! I who alone was solely born." It is a list of things, like: "Who doesn't own a blue suit?" That's how he keeps asking questions.

Text: CÉSAR VALLEJO – Height and Hair

Enzensberger: And everyone who reads it has to admit … Who does not eat breakfast …

Text: Who doesn't own a blue suit?

Enzensberger: … so basically everyone has to admit: "Me too!"

Text: Who doesn't eat lunch

Enzensberger: That's what it comes down to ...

Text: and board the streetcar.

Enzensberger: ...but it still ends in a lament …

Text: the eternal cigarette in the mouth

Enzensberger: … and it ends in the lament: „I who solely was born! Aie! I who alone was solely born!“.

Text: and his pocket-sized pain?

Text: I who was born so alone!

Text: I who was born so alone!

Text: Aie! I who alone was solely born! /

Text: Who doesn't write a letter?

Text: Who doesn't talk about something very important,

Text: dying from habit,

Text: and crying when faced with what one hears?

Text: I who solely was born!

Text: I who solely was born!/

Text: Who isn't called Carlos

Text: or any other thing ?

Text: Who to the kitty

Text: doesn't say kitty kitty?

Text: Aie! I who alone

Text: was solely born!

Text: Aie! I who alone

Text: was solely born!/

Kluge: Max Horkheimer once said: "I am me because I can ignore that I am me."

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: It is a strange form of interaction, basically ...

Enzensberger: Yes, it is great.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Kluge: … in which I am basically walled in by pure narcissism.

Enzensberger: Of course, that is a very dangerous occupational disease.

Kluge: The poet who does it powerfully, or the writer who does it egocentrically.

Enzensberger: It has to do with his productive activity, because he works in isolation. He sits around, at a table, and if he is acknowledged by the outside world, it is even going to encourage that, because for reasons that I don't understand, people like geniuses, true or fake. And that puts a certain pressure on this poor guy, and in the end he might even believe it himself, very dangerous. An antidote for this is what I call the "activity for the left hand". People have two hands, and the right hand is the writing hand, so to speak, but you can also do a lot of things with the left, and that's why I have this urge to get involved in other things. So you cooperate with others, maybe you found a magazine, or you become a publisher, a translator, you work with someone else. Because there are things that you cannot do alone. It is a kind of compensation, and maybe a certain protection against this occupational disease, I think. I like it, it offers relief, because otherwise it just keeps getting worse, the anti-social behavior that comes with the work. Because that is only half of it.

Kluge: So the stammering and speaking in tongues that is at the core of poetry, is only part of it?

Enzensberger: Yes, sure.

Kluge: You have to imagine a poetically inclined person like a circle of stars, not like a sun or a black hole that sucks everything in. Is that the right way to think about it?

Enzensberger: Yes, well, there's that, too. You know, when you talk about literature, you are permanently tempted to judge others by your own standards, and I do not want to play lawmaker for others.

Enzensberger: … they can do what they want, but everyone has to find their own way to practice this absurd profession. And I need the balance, other playgrounds, theater. I mean, I have never had much to do with film, but all those are products based on divided labor.

Text: THE FURY of disappearance

Kluge: There is this poem of yours, "The fury of disappearance", which is also the title of a volume of poetry.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: What is that, the fury of disappearance? It is a Hegelian concept. The only philosophical concept that I have known you to use.

Enzensberger: It is a rather pessimistic text.


Kluge. Very pessimistic also in regard to the "I".

Text: She watches

Text: it expand,

Enzensberger: It also contains a probably ancient, eternal theme of poetry.

Text: expand lavishly,

Text: everything, including us/

Enzensberger: … which people used to call transience, but that is more of a theological concept …

Text: [...] Watches surplus increase,

Enzensberger: … whereas the fury of disappearance is something different.

Text: and hunger;

Enzensberger: … it is not a Christian authority, but …

Text: simply watches,

Text: with a face,

Text: that doesn't see; expressing nothing

Kluge: An inert eternity, lying in waiting like a big cat?

Enzensberger: Yes.

Text: not a word;

Kluge: It is a very uncanny creature.

Enzensberger: An uncanny creature, of course, after all it has its origins in antiquity, not in theology.

Text: keeps her thoughts to herself;

Text: Hope, she thinks,

Enzensberger: … and there are also a few Kafka quotes hidden in this text.

Text: infinite hope,

Text: just not for you;

Text: she who doesn't listen to us

Text: owns everything; and she appears

Text: less than terrifying;

Text: she does not appear; expressionless;

Text: she has arrived; she has always been here;

Text: she thinks before us; stays;

Text: without extending a hand

Text: for one or another,

Text: that which falls, first UNNOTICEABLY,

Text: then fast, fast as lightning, falls to her;

Text: she remains alone, calm,

Text: the fury of disappearance /

Enzensberger: No, it is still from a time when everything was stuck. You know, from my perspective the 1970s were hard to bear. People always talked about the period of stagnation in the Soviet Union, but there was stagnation here, too.

Kluge: Time just flew by?

Enzensberger: There was a certain stagnation. There is not much to say about the 1970s, I think, it was a time of latency, a larval stage, and then the late 1980s. Suddenly everything starts moving again, new turbulences develop.

Kluge: Your daughter Theresia is born in December of the catastrophic year 1986.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: It is the year of the disaster of Chernobyl.

Enzensberger: Yes, that is correct.

Kluge: You are protecting her, basically.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Enzensberger: Despite this risk, it wasn't a bad time, because I think we didn't live in moments of stagnation. We live in a dangerous time, but everything is better than this sleepy regularity that is somehow completely hopeless, because everything just keeps going. I don't like that at all, and I think today we are better off, with all the risks that come with it.

Kluge: How far back can you trace the line of the Enzensbergers? How far back can you trace your ancestors?

Enzensberger: Oh, they are all peasants, it is not an old, bourgeois family. You can trace it back to the Thirty-Years War, and up to this day there are big farms in the alpine upland carrying this name.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Enzensberger: That's where the family name comes from, it comes from this plant, gentian. It is a blue flower, and the mountains used to be covered in blue.

Kluge: During the Peasants Wars, is that the crowd at the Lake of Constance?

Enzensberger: Yes, sure.

Kluge: Very victorious. They get duped by a contract.

Enzensberger: That is true, but still, revolts like this come rarely for free. One of the consequences was that large estate was never properly established in those parts of Germany. This was certainly partly due to the resistance of the farmers, so somehow the lordship must have been impressed, and it was difficult to change anything about the land tenure after all. Of course there was always a bishop, and a tithe and so on. There was usually a clerical authority, the diocese of Augsburg, the archbishopric whatsitsname, the Fuggers were there. It was a veritable "patchwork", this area. But okay, a typical story. Farmers, craftsmen, then people started going to university. A typical story of socialization.

Kluge: "The Flying Robert", a different poetic version that seems more secular …

Enzensberger: That's because it is a children's story. The flying Robert is this child from "Struwwelpeter", to whom one always said: "Stay home, the weather outside is bad and it's risky, you should stay where you are safe."

Text: Flying Robert /

Text: Escapism, you shout at me

Enzensberger: … but then Robert leaves the house anyway, and he carries an umbrella because it is raining, and then he takes off and flies away …

Text: reproachfully /

Enzensberger: ...and of course that is a wonderful …

Text: What else, I reply,

Enzensberger: Hoffmann, who wrote "Struwwelpeter" ... the texts are very ambiguous, they contain warnings, but also temptations …

Text: in this weather! -;

Text: open the umbrella

Enzensberger: … that means, the temptation is actually stronger than the warning …

Text: and rise into the skies /

Enzensberger: … that's why Robert flies. Children often believe that they can fly …

Text: from your perspective,

Text: I grow smaller and smaller,

Text: until I have disappeared /

Text: I do not leave anything behind

Text: but a legend,

Text: that you, dogs in the manger,

Text: while the storm rages outside,

Text: annoy your children with,

Text: so that they don't fly away /

Enzensberger: And it is really beautiful – a very strong theme. Not to let warnings scare you off. I think – I have my own personal distinction between two types of writers, maybe it's relevant. I differentiate between "moles" and "storks". The first type, Kafka for instance, who also wrote something about moles, there is a famous piece of his with the title "The giant mole". It is about a completely monomaniacal artist who sticks to one task and puts all his efforts into finishing an extremely elaborate lair, come what may.

Kluge: He expands … creates a network …

Enzensberger: Yes, that is his sole task. While a stork is a writer who looks for frogs, here and there. My temper is more that of a stork, maybe that's why there is a certain lack of concentration, when you try to find many playgrounds here and there. It is a little bit different, but the equivalent for children might be the flying Robert.

Text: Comrade BARTLEBY

Enzensberger: This is comrade Bartleby. Bartleby is a character in a Melville story. He is an old scribe who suddenly decides that he's had enough, and every time his boss tells him something, orders him to do something – he works as a scribe at an office – he simply says: "I'd rather not." And this "I would rather not" is invincible. It turns out that there is no way to get him to do what is considered his duty.

Enzensberger: [reads aloud]

»I would prefer not to.«

So it begins, unspectacularly,

one morning. It's only the

necktie, after all, that constricts,

the account statement, what's disturbing is

that the one animal,

which constantly washes

has to wash constantly;

it's the relentless stupidity, too,

out there,

the irrepressible din

that wears it down, the one animal

which lets itself be celebrated

not for having been born,

once a year, no, but

for rising day after day -

for what reason? - till pensioned.

It doesn't lie in late.

From the heavier blows to the neck

it recoils, mutinies

against hunger. Hunger

would prefer to, would. It

makes the bones light.

No, the illumination

comes after eating.

Fits of apathy

that recur at seventeen

like the flue, at thirty-seven,

at eighty, always anew:

»I would prefer not to. «

Too weary to lift

the knife.

A few days long

with the head to the wall

or three weeks, then

with knees that give way,

the first walk to the wash-basin

to the wardrobe, back

to the endless advertisement spots

for assault and murder."

Kluge: And this poem is your response, because it is simply a form track.

Enzensberger: Yes, yes. Also this one "Everyone has this necktie, everyone has this … "... that is also an "Everybody's poem." It happens to everyone sometimes, they just don't want to anymore. They would rather not.

Kluge: What is an "Everybody's poem"?

Enzensberger: It is an invitation for projection, that means it works like a trap. The reader walks into a trap that makes it impossible for him or her to read the poem as if it was about someone else. It refers to themselves.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Enzensberger: They can barely escape it, because they wash, too, they celebrate their birthday … they fit the profile.

Kluge: Everybody's poems. And the opposite pole would be an enigma, something foreign, so to speak?

Enzensberger: Yes, and there are also autobiographical texts, where someone basically talks about his own story and the other person says: "Okay, that is all well and good, but I cannot relate."

Kluge: There was the Stoa in Ancient Greece. The better parts of it can be found again in Montaigne, reflected back to us from a relay station. You were the one who published that big book.

Enzensberger: Yes, yes.

Kluge: How do these moral lessons, Ataraxia, unshakeable calm, patience, "I am wearing a breast-plate to fend off fate", how to they relate to you? Are you familiar with these things?

Enzensberger: Yes, and they are helpful. Maybe it is not something you develop. In that case, books are helpful. Often it is more something of a rediscovery, that means, the great thing is, partly you develop those methods yourself, spontaneously, naturally, if I may say so. For instance as a child … I remember the times when there wasn't any heating after the war, or during the war, we would sit in the cold, it was winter, and it was just cold. And as a child, the exercise was, and that was something we came up with ourselves, that you would touch the heater and feel the warmth. You can really make believe, and to the skin, harsh cold feels similar to heat. It is a strange thing. And I could convince myself, by means of a made-up autogenous training, that it wasn't all that cold after all. That is kind of similar to a stoic exercise, and if later in life, you encounter a tradition that is able to put it into words, it is great and encourages you to continue that kind of exercise. I am calling it exercise, because maybe it is not actually a world view, but rather an exercise. Virtue is an exercise.

Kluge: And collecting those kinds of exercises, that is something you find interesting?

Could you describe your relationship to Montaigne? He is someone who has helped put an end to civil wars, to religious wars. A highly civilized man.

Enzensberger: And he didn't buy into it. He didn't simply follow along, that is part of his practice, and that kind of thing is already latent in our tradition. Most people don't know much about it, we are somewhat privileged if we can confirm it. But the instincts themselves, the practices, keep developing on their own, I believe. A child develops odd strategies to deal with life, with challenges. It develops its own strategies, and later they are just articulated more clearly and made better understandable, and create connections between people, because it is not just my own personal weird trip anymore. As a child, you think: It's just me, the others won't understand. But the society that you become part of contains these moments, connected to each other, or at least traces of it. You find friends who can do the same things, and that is empowering, it is a means to survive. All these things are necessary, virtue is not so much a moral obligation, but also a survival technique.

Kluge: And that means, a commentary on practical ways of living. Information for emergencies, information for my daughter, for when I am not around anymore. You would say those are products worthy of a poet?

Enzensberger: Of course, absolutely. My new book has a somewhat paradoxical title. I have a new volume of poetry that is going to be published this summer, with the title: "Lighter than Air". Here we have the fantasy of flying again, but the subtitle reads "Moral poems". Some people will find that contradictory, just because they see in the word moral a kind of preaching, but I don't see it that way.

Kluge: No. That's the wrong kind.

Enzensberger: Yes, yes. I don't see it that way. It is also about ways of conduct, partly at least. It has nothing to do with preaching, it is not about me wanting to tell people what to do or not to do.

Text: Experience OF TIME

Kluge: If you had to decide what to you is a completely foreign time – what would you say?

Enzensberger: Well … if you mean historical time, that's difficult … you can slip into a past time like into a glove, and it all depends on knowledge, identification, all sorts of factors, on cultural factors. How deeply can you penetrate it? And I realized that I can really just go back till the 18th century, where I still have an idea of what it looks like from the inside. Other times, older times, those I can really just perceive from the outside. That's a big difference. There are people in the 18th century who are kind of like family, you know them, you can guess what they are driven by, their minds are not completely foreign, not exotic. You still feel at home, in a way. The further you go back, the more it becomes an observation from the outside. You can study the sources, you can look at the works, there is still something there, but you don't have a feeling for what it's like from the inside.

Kluge: You wonder a lot more?

Enzensberger: Yes, yes. But of course you also notice that the time you live in yourself, the civilization, is not the measure of all things. I see something in China and I am totally flabbergasted. And it is obvious that even people who spend their whole lives trying to understand, reach a limit at some point.

Kluge: And aside from the 18th century, what would be a time you feel close to?

Enzensberger: I don't know, that's enough. Until then there is a kind of continuum with some disruptions, of course. It is not like the past is glorified in any way, no. You even get an unpleasant feeling while wearing this glove, the stench, or the terrorist social conditions, the issue of birth, what people are born into and so on. It does not have anything to do with praising the good old times.

Kluge: If you take 1946 – I think you were in Nürnberg. It was a city in ruins back then.

Enzensberger: Yes, but that is a different kind of time, because it is lived time. It is not a recourse to something that others have experienced, but it is one’s own skin, and that is different from a glove.

Kluge: Have you been back to Nürnberg?

Enzensberger: Yes. I go there sometimes, even though I don't have relatives there anymore. But yes, that city is a strange place.

Kluge: Does it feel like fast-forward to you, if you imagine the ruins, the things that were rebuilt?

Enzensberger: Yes. It used to be a very glamorous city, then it degenerated. The industrialization made it proletarian, and exactly because of the preservation of its medieval face, it was very unsanitary, very dirty, very narrow. Big parts of the old town were like slums before their destruction, with narrow chicken ladders, slanting roofs, unsatisfactory sanitary conditions, and so on. So even back then, it wasn't that glamorous, it was basically a city already in decline, and very narrow, and maybe that was the reason for the political radicalization in the city. It was not a coincidence that Nürnberg was chosen to host the "Reichsparteitag", because it had a strong electorate and a long history. The people of Nürnberg already evicted the Jews even during the High Middle Ages, and they settled down in another city very close by, in Fürth. There, the conditions were better for them.

Kluge: Where Kissinger is from?

Enzensberger: Yes. Where Kissinger is from, and where they still have a mirror factory, because they were mirror-makers, it had to do with gold and silver, they were rich people, the Jews of Fürth.

Kluge: And this entire world is flattened by very excessive bombings. Apparently these old buildings burned down pretty fast.

Enzensberger: Yes. It was a veritable fire storm, and the old roof structures burned really well.

Kluge: And your skin, so to speak?

Enzensberger: The worst attack I didn't even witness myself, the family was evacuated in 1943, but the first attacks already made the skies turn red, and then the house across the street wasn't there anymore when we exited the basement. That was impressive. Although I have to say, I suspect that children experience that kind of thing differently than grown-ups, for various reasons. For once, a consequence of these catastrophic events is that the authorities are also shattered, the school, the authority of adults …

Kluge: But not that of protectors, the belief in guardian angels; the "layer of proximity" works as protection. No one believes that the bomb is going to hit them.

Enzensberger: No, no. First it is always the others. And the good thing about a burning house is that it is not your own house.

Kluge: That was exciting?

Enzensberger: For children the spectacle is extremely impressive and irresistible; but grown-ups are not immune to it either, as you can see by the spectators. Every catastrophy has its spectators

Text: THE INERTNESS of the automaton

Kluge: You once said about Turing's automaton, and the scientist's perfect machine, that they are inert. These machines have every possible ability built in, it is the universal automaton, globalized, automatized, a better reaction time than all the world stock exchanges together, so to speak. But you said it was inert.

Enzensberger: Well, the Turing machine is a machine that takes in endless data and processes it, and it is a little like Achilles and the turtle. That means no matter how fast the machine is, how fast the software is – since the data is potentially endless, of course it also takes forever to grind. It is like a very effective grinder, so to speak, which grinds everything into bits, into digital decisions. That's why there is a monstrous increase of speed in computers. Basically, a weather prognosis is slower than the weather. That means, I basically can only ever make a somewhat precise prognosis for the next day, perhaps, and the amount of data necessary to predict an entire month, is so big that it exceeds the capacities of even the fastest computer, there are too many variables.

Kluge: If you had to praise inertness, how would you go about it? For instance, I would be interested to hear how long it takes for this machine to become a weather machine, as you have called it, for this planet to gain the ability to grind sand in the shape of oceans so that it turns into beaches …

Enzensberger: Well, cosmic time is very strange anyway – it would not have much in common with our time.

Kluge: And it would be inert?

Enzensberger: For one thing, it is incredibly patient. Compared to our time line, cosmic processes have a patience that far exceeds our imagination. For example, if you look at the desert, the ornaments of the desert: extremely complex shapes are formed there, incredible geometry that is really superior to our ornaments, but the time frame within which this happens …

Kluge: … is very slow.

Enzensberger: Nature is a very slow artist with incredible patience. It doesn't even matter if it takes a hundred thousand years or a million years, with our short life span we are just ephemera compared to that. And that's why there is this acceleration, that's why we are in such a hurry, because our time is so limited, that's why everything is hectic.

Kluge: Hitler didn't think he would live to see 1943, that's why he had to attack in 1939. Napoleon did not have time, he had to conquer Russia, and from there, advance to India, he did not have enough time in his life for that.

Enzensberger: Of course there is also something insane about this speed.

Kluge: Yes.

Enzensberger: And with the acceleration, the risk increases as well.

Kluge: But personally, you need a certain acceleration, or the idea of speed as stimulant …

Enzensberger: Yes, I think, what's nice about this one, as long as you can control it … sometimes the subconscious plays a role as well, but to the extent that you can control it … I love the variety.

Text: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer

Enzensberger: I love the time of possibly increased production, or productivity; but then I also like to dawdle. The workaholic needs to practice dawdling, or he will go insane. He has to force himself to lean back, to let his arms hang and to dawdle, to waste time. Which is actually very nice. And I don't have anything against a little depression, because it can be very useful. During a depression, you let your arms sink, and that is good because it helps you to regenerate.

Kluge: But with the sense that there is a current …

Enzensberger: Yes, of course. Something keeps working, after all, the body keeps working, the heart beats, there are probably currents forming in the brain, but I am not the motor. I am my own saboteur, it is simply necessary. Some people may call it vacation or relaxation. Vacation doesn't suit me, but dawdling does.

Kluge: But it is connected to work, in the gaps between periods of dawdling, so to speak?

Enzensberger: Things happen behind your own back, and if you are obsessively working on something, it can never rest completely. Things probably keep working under the covers, and after 14 days, when you get over your dawdling stage, it turns out that maybe one or the other solution has come up in the meantime. And that is nice, too.

Kluge: The first time I saw you, I did not actually see you, but Adorno pointed out to me, from the window in his apartment: "Enzensberger lives over there". It must have been 1960.

Enzensberger: Yes.

Kluge: He's the only one who can write poetry, Adorno said. Adorno thought that after Proust, poets in general were useless, after all.

Enzensberger: He didn't think much of poetry, no.

Kluge: He didn't find any of the other poets from the Gruppe 47 particularly remarkable; but he believed you to be able to write adequate, philosophically appropriate poetry, and pointed that out very carefully. He said: "Now we can't see you, but sometimes we can see you over there." That was my first encounter with you.

Enzensberger: The best thing about it is that Adorno would never have mentioned something like that to my face. He was …

Kluge: ...strict ...

Enzensberger: … he was of a Chinese politeness and discretion.

Text: Th. W. Adorno, Frankfurt Critical Theory

Enzensberger: And approaching Adorno wasn't easy, because he always had so many protective layers and that's why interacting with him always had something almost ceremonial. I was often at his place, we were neighbors, and at the publishing house I also had to do with his work – that means, we saw a lot of each other, but we always kept that distance. I really liked that.

Kluge: Could you explain how you felt about that, when you think back to 1960?

Enzensberger: Well, I mean, Adorno made everyone else always look like an idiot, because he was monstrously intelligent, that guy. For example, he was unable to utter a rough, syntactically incomplete sentence; everything he said was ready to be published. Of course that was intimidating, but I also liked it. Most philosophers are a bit colorblind, aesthetically speaking, they are bad writers, they are hard to read. But Adorno was very sensitive, he was a composer, he had a great interest in art.

Kluge: He had a musical relationship to art.

Enzensberger: Yes, his entire theory had something to do with it; and that is very attractive to someone who is a writer, for example. The ease with which this guy seemed to be able to create, is fascinating.

Kluge: You faced the rest of the world with little respect, you were described as bold. You attacked pretty much everything.

Enzensberger: It was the situation.

Kluge: You tore apart Der Spiegel, you pointed out that the FAZ fabricated news.

Enzensberger: That's not … it was never mere provocation, but I just felt the need to state the facts. That means, the polemic was a result of the subject, not because I wanted to shock, upset or provoke. That wasn't the reason.

Text: I AM THE SABOTEUR OF MY DEPRESSION / Hans Magnus Enzensberger about moles and storks in poetry

Text: On occasion of issue 669 of the magazine du: Hans Magnus Enzensberger / The space of the intellectual

Enzensberger: Quite the contrary, I was often surprised at how upset people were, when I was simply trying to state the obvious: for instance, this object is rectangular. I mean, that is not an insult, just a statement of facts, or at least an attempt.

Kluge: The FAZ published about 800 lines to contradict you. I think, your answer was about 7 lines.

Enzensberger: Possible. You know, it was the early years of the FDR …