Heiner Müller on Legal Questions

On the occasion of the Kleist Prize 1990

22 Oct 1990
Ten to Eleven
Heiner Müller
Heiner Müller


"The metaphor is cleverer than the author" (Lichtenberg), a "screen," an "instrument for bundling" (Müller), because "everything changes so much" (Gertrude Stein) - Müller explicates these functions of figurative language with reference to the use of metaphors in Shakespeare. This use of metaphor corresponds to the acceleration of the Elizabethan age (the second half of the sixteenth century), the consolidation of which compels Shakespeare to use an allegorizing language in his last plays.

Müller's "dramatic texts" The Road to Volokolamsk I-V (1984-88) rely on the novel of the same name by Aleksandr Bek, which addresses "legal questions" for the first time in Russian literature. The conversation now revolves around the question of how law comes into being (in Russian society), with examples from texts by Müller and historical-anecdotal illustrations. Three legal questions receive special attention: the protection of soldiers from their superiors, the demotion of a higher-ranking officer by a lower ranking officer, and the question of the extent to which a state has the right to defer the needs of its population in the interests of pursuing a military strategy. Kluge's attempt to explore the origins of law more precisely by referring to the diverse expressions for "Gewalt" (violence, force, power) in Latin is ultimately evaded by Müller, who says: "I think that I'm not allowed to think about this topic, I have to write about it."

In the last part of the interview, Müller uses two examples (Kleist's Foundling and a similar incident that actually occurred in the GDR) to emphasize the ability of metaphors to represent the past, the present, and the future simultaneously.