Transcript

Intertitle
"Every frozen structure has its academy \--"
Running Text
Heiner Müller is the president of the Academy of Arts - East / This is the former Prussian academy and the academy of those who emigrated in 1933 (Heinrich Mann was its first president) / How Heiner Müller almost became Brecht's apprentice, but avoided this fate / What is the role of the president of an academy that is destined to be "liquidated"?
Kluge
You are the president of the Academy of the Arts - East. Yesterday you were working as the president. How does that work? How does a day like that go? When do you actually get up?
Müller
That is unfortunately very variable. Actually I would rather ...
Kluge
Yesterday?
Müller
... get up at seven, because that is the best time. But recently I haven't been able to do that because the nights are very long. Once I am in the academy, everything takes a long time. Yesterday I was in the academy as of about 11 or 11:30. So in that case I got up around 9:30. I need an alarm clock for that these days. Then I drive there. I am still occasionally picked up by a so-called person-specific vehicle. There is one that is still intact, I think maybe two, one is currently being repaired. The driver picks me up, and that is how it begins. There are two drivers, and I think I have a very good relationship with them. They speak relatively openly now about what they think about particular things in the academy and in general.
Kluge
Those are the ruins of an intact hierarchy.
Müller
Those are the ruins of an intact hierarchy, but it is still very oriented towards the top. Almost no one dares to decide anything or do anything without the approval of the president, without an order actually. That is a problem that is very burdensome.
Kluge
And now you walk by the doorman, and then go up the stairs in classic style ...
Müller
Then I go up the stairs. There is also an elevator, but it's not worth using. It's just as fast to take the stairs.
Kluge
And then there is the president's office.
Müller
Then there's a president's office. The first shock I always have there is the furniture. It is basically Göring furniture, heavy German furniture, and there was probably at one point a plan connected to that. In this furniture ... there is a room next to it for meetings, and there are very heavy chairs ... you can hardly budge them without exerting a great deal of energy. So when you are sitting there, you are sitting there.
Kluge
Then the mail is delivered.
Müller
Then the mail is delivered, I flip through it unenthusiastically because most of it is totally uninteresting. There are a lot of formalities. Someone is having a birthday, and you have to write something.
Kluge
The staff has already prepared that for you?
Müller
Yes, they have already prepared that. Then there are letters from co-workers from the departments with various complaints, wishes, suggestions, concepts.
Kluge
How many employees does the whole academy have?
Müller
It still has 300, and the problem is that the entire department - there is a research department - and the whole department is actually being fired as of the end of June. And that of course continually creates tensions, conflicts. This concept that we have now, to make a European institution out of it, means of course a considerable reduction in the number of employees, and members of course. And everyone wants to be a part of it, and everyone knows that at most twenty will stay, and so of course a big fight for the positions is beginning.
Kluge
It's like being on a sinking ship.
Müller
Yes, exactly, there aren't enough rescue boats and of course everyone wants to get in a rescue boat.
Kluge
After you look through the mail, what do you do next?
Müller
Then there are usually already people in the waiting room who want something.
Kluge
Yes.
Müller
Those are people with whom there are appointments, but there are also many who don't have an appointment. Yesterday for example there were two. One of them had already been coming often, and now he came with his colleague. A couple of wild guys from the local scene who want support for some utopian conference that is supposed to last for the next years.
Kluge
Permanently in session?
Müller
Permanently. A utopian conference, and it is absolutely impossible to figure out what they want. They just keep talking about how they have good contacts with industry and other people, and that they will get money, and it wouldn't cost anything, they just need space, but it is impossible to understand what they really want to do. It could be something good. Then there are always tough decisions.
Kluge
What is the exact name of this new organization?
Müller
The name is very provisional, and we don't necessarily have to keep it, but it has to be called something at first.
Kluge
And what is it called?
Müller
Right now it is called "European Artists Society." Society has the advantage that it sounds like an insurance company.
Kluge
No, society [Sozietät] sounds like society [Gesellschaft]. It is not one of the big ones. There were many societies in the 17th, 16th centuries. The whole bourgeoisie developed out of societies. And what's it like now ... By the way, the original academies were called societies. And now you want to do something German with a secret connection to French interests and take up again ...
Müller
The French and Soviets and Polish and others. The problem ...
Kluge
You are now organizing as an academy everything that is not German in the narrow sense.
Müller
The point would be of course that only a third of the members could be German and two thirds foreign, that would be the point. And it would be my private wish that Germans would not be allowed to be president, but rather a foreigner. And by that I would ...
Kluge
So now you are sitting there as the judge Azdak, I would say to that, ...
Müller
Exactly.
Kluge
... and you rule. Could you now tell me what an academy is, exactly? What you are describing here is an academy in the sense of the earliest academies, like the academy Leibniz founded.
Müller
Yes, but that idea has also degenerated.
Kluge
Later.
Müller
Not only in West Berlin, but also in East Berlin, it actually has degenerated into a kind of old ...
Kluge
Honorary society, senate ...
Müller
Seniors' club. For example John Heartfield became a member of the academy only very late, because visual artists in the section for visual arts did not consider what he did to be art in the traditional sense. That is why it was very difficult to make Heartfield a member. There are examples like that in every section. The music section is the most organized, it is the most innovative, they are very good people, but that is also a personal achievement of Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau. For example, there is an institution for master's apprentices, that sounds horrible, even the word master, but that has established itself, and here I have an autobiographical connection to relate. When I came to Berlin I wanted to work in the Berlin Ensemble and I had heard - that was in '51 I think - that Brecht was a member in two sections, performing arts and literature. And because of that he could have three, or rather six, master's apprentices, there were three in performing arts and three positions for literature. I was the fourth applicant, and I didn't make it. I remember that I was with Brecht, and I showed him some poems that he flipped through, and then he said, "Very interesting, and what do you do for a living?" And I had heard that he asked this question, and I was ready for it ...
Kluge
Did he speak like that?
Müller
Yes, yes, "and what do you do for a living?" like that.
Kluge
Is that southern German or a mannered German?
Müller
No, no it was absolutely southern German, just a little, and that always was interesting to me. Only later, when I first heard Artaud's voice, did I suddenly discover a parallel to Brecht's voice, this kind of aggressiveness that can be in a dialect, when it is a thin, high voice. Working with Brecht was amazing, the theater fights, he planned fights in the theater, he thought it was necessary, and that is also a German theater tradition. At some point the director has to start a fight ...
Kluge
So that everyone wakes up, like in the symphony when the timpani is struck.
Müller
... so that they all wake up and so that he can get his way, and Brecht did that in a very calculated way. He had a whole selection of curse words, and he always fired the technical director during the fight around the fourth, fifth or sixth rehearsal. He never had a fight with the actors.
Kluge
Did he hire him again later?
Müller
No, he then went behind the stage and unpacked his sandwich and then Helene Weigel came and said, you know of course that Mr. Brecht didn't mean it that way. He needed that so that the others...
Kluge
As a proxy to shock the others.
Müller
Yes, exactly.
Kluge
And he did this in a high voice, he had a nagging, high voice, or how would you describe it?
Müller
Bismark, Artaud, Hitler, those are the voices.
Kluge
Bismark had an extreme voice, a falsetto voice ... almost a child's voice. How did Brecht's voice sound?
Müller
You can hear it on records.
Kluge
But I haven't heard it. Can you imitate it? Can you approximate how high it was ...
Müller
I can try. It would be best to try it with the songs from the Three Penny Opera [Dreigroschenoper]. He sang a few himself. How does it go ...: And Jenny Towler was found, with a knife in her breast,
Kluge
He spoke like that? and Mackie Messer is walking along the waterfront, and he has no idea about anything.
Müller
It was really ... true, what I gave you was a bit of a parody, but that is about how it was.
Kluge
That is how he spoke?
Müller
Yes. He didn't always talk like that, but that was the tendency.
Kluge
You were rejected as Brecht's master apprentice.
Müller
Yes, it was very simple. Brecht said, this question, very interesting, and what do you do for a living, and I was prepared for that, and said, yes, I thought actually that there was a possibility to work here at the Berliner Ensemble, and then he said, go to Rülicke.
Kluge
To whom?
Müller
Rülicke. Rülicke. Käthe Rülicke, and that was, to put it mildly, the opposite of love at first sight. Käthe Rülicke was his secretary, and his favorite lady at the time, and she couldn't stand me and I couldn't stand her. She was a type from the League of German Girls in the Hitler Youth [Bund deutscher Mädel], and she had... she made the assignments. I got an assignment to write the story for a play by Pogodin, The Kremlin Chimes (1942), a horrible play from the Stalin period, a play about a clock maker, whom Lenin assigned to set the Kremlin Chimes to play the International.
Kluge
And he couldn't do it?
Müller
No, he is able to do it, and it was also the first play in which Stalin appeared as a young hero, and that was a project of the Berliner Ensemble. Brecht thought that he had to - or maybe he really had to - occasionally have some obligatory pieces done in his house and he apparently convinced Ernst Busch to stage this play. The assignments for those kinds of employment tests were always connected with the planning, the work of the house. So I got this assignment and completely failed at it. I could only think of something totally dry, a retelling and so on, not very exciting. That probably also had to do with the fact that I was the last one to apply. The three others got the job, which deeply upset me, and later I was quite happy about it, because it was difficult to assert oneself in the orbit of a person like Brecht.
Kluge
What kind of poems did you write at that time? For example, what did you show him?
Müller
Those are partially poems that were later printed, you might know some of them.
Kluge
Give me an example.
Müller
An example was "This Report from the Beginning" [Dieser Bericht vom Anfang]; you probably know it.
Kluge
How does it go?
Müller
Oh, don't ask me something like that, that ... how does that begin. I don't know, we'd have to find it.
Kluge
Do you know your poems by heart at all?
Müller
I know many by heart, I actually know everything by heart, but it is difficult on command.
Kluge
So you didn't become a master's apprentice. What happened next? What did you do then?
Müller
I lived primarily from writing reviews of books that didn't interest me. That was very difficult because it didn't pay well at all, like today, and it took me a very long time, especially for books that didn't interest me. And the money was always spent before I had it. I also wrote a play, which I submitted to the Berliner Ensemble. I recently got the manuscript back from the Brecht Archive, some American found it there in the Brecht archive.
Kluge
You wrote it, submitted it, it wasn't promoted, wasn't accepted, and now you have one more play, because that is a play by you.
Müller
Well, a very dubious one. It is nothing that should be taken seriously. That is the subject of yet another story. After that I desperately needed money and I heard that translators were sought for the preparations for the world festival of the Free German Youth [Freie Deutsche Jugend]. They needed people to rewrite songs from other continents, and unfortunately I was also too late for that. All that was left were Polish folk songs and Stalin hymns, and Stalin hymns from Australia to the Fiji islands; there were Stalin hymns in every language. You would get a rough translation and an interlinear translation, the melody and the meter, and you could translate about three or four in one night, because it was always the same cliché. And you got 350 Marks per piece. And that was an incredible amount of money at the time.
Kluge
And what languages did you translate from?
Müller
I didn't translate from other languages; I only worked from translations from Chinese, Fiji, Spanish ...
Kluge
You changed it into language. You got the rough translation and you made poetic texts out of it?
Müller
Exactly. You had to make a poetic text out of it, which was sometimes very difficult, but it paid well. What was interesting is that we didn't think anything of it, it was a group of five people, and we all actually had a rather negative view of Stalin, that was '51, and we already knew pretty well what the real context was, but that didn't bother us at all. We worked at it like a job, and that didn't bother us. I don't think the others were bothered either.
Kluge
Rumpelstilzchen.
Müller
Yes, exactly. What I found interesting was that I then met one of my more successful rivals on the street, and I asked him, what are you doing, that was still during the try out period, and he said that he was currently rationalizing Lear, and then I knew that he would make it. Because he already had command of this vocabulary. And in the end he was successful.
Kluge
Rationalized. Does that mean to simplify it so that the Berliner Ensemble can run it, or what is meant by that?
Müller
No, rationalizing was a favorite word in the dramaturgy of the Berliner Ensemble.
Kluge
It didn't mean to simplify?
Müller
No, not to simplify. One had to rationalize because it was clear, not for Brecht, but for the assistants and dramaturges, it was clear that, for example, Shakespeare was of course confused. I remember that Palitzsch told me much later that Brecht made everyone read the complete works of Shakespeare. They didn't do it, but they had to pretend that they had somehow, and Palitzsch was probably the only one who had read the complete works of Shakespeare, and after that he was totally confused and said to Brecht that it wasn't right, what and how he wrote, and Brecht said that that was the point. But Palitzsch couldn't get over that, and that is where this term "rationalize" came from, because Shakespeare was of course confused, and what he wrote wasn't right.
Kluge
And to work that into rational minds, that was rationalizing? In the 16th and 17th centuries there were academies founded by Leibniz and others. What is actually the basic concept there? Talk about all of these complaints, that an academy in the Third Reich is nothing and that an academy in the GDR has now started and that one that serves only to validate West Berlin's obstinacy is also nothing.
Müller
Well, the problem is actually that a state or any frozen structure ...
Kluge
has its academy. But that is the pejorative form. At first there is the form that ...
Müller
The real concept has to be that...
Kluge
Without administration, free from the state.
Müller
... there has to be a space free from the state
Kluge
Against the universities, in which actually only administration rules.
Müller
Yes, exactly.
Intertitle
"Frederick the Great: Victory, Peace & the Arts"
Kluge
There is the academy that in a sense doesn't identify with the state as the only institution of the state. That is actually the basic concept of all academies.
Müller
Yes, exactly. And I found it just as good, this sentence from ... in an old paper about the first Prussian academy, a sentence from Frederick the Great or the II, where he says, the academy doesn't belong in a military parade. I find that to be a very important point.
Kluge
I think that is very good. His academy also had D'Alembert in it and a few really good people.
Müller
Yes, yes. And they definitely didn't know how to goose step.
Kluge
Or they are also not required to be present when there is a parade.
Müller
That is actually what it is about. There has to be room or a space where people can think without responsibility and also without ...
Kluge
A free trial for the mind, in a sense.
Müller
Yes, exactly, where things that are perhaps not at all feasible can be attempted. In the meantime it's been discovered that the East Academy was not founded by the GDR, but because there was a SMA (Soviet Military Administration) order to found the Prussian academy again, which had been abolished in '33, and the first president was therefore Heinrich Mann, that was the connection to the broken, interrupted tradition. Brecht was in the end very violent-tempered, because he had a heart condition, and there was a scene where he grabbed Alexander Abusch by the collar and said, what are you doing in the academy? See that you get out, and so on.
Kluge
That's what he said?
Müller
Yes.
Kluge
Alexander Abusch is a functionary?
Müller
He was the acting minister president, was actually Becher's creature, although Becher is another figure.
Kluge
... nothing could happen to Brecht ...
Müller
Nothing could happen to him, something happened only to his apprentices. Of those three master's apprentices, one got five years in Bautzen, the other 20 years in Siberia, he did five years, and then he was bought free, that was Horst Bienek, he was a master's apprentice of Brecht.
Kluge
And the third?
Intertitle
"Every frozen structure has its academy \-"
Running Text
Heiner Müller is the president of the Academy of Arts - East / This is the former Prussian academy and the academy of those who emigrated in 1933 (Heinrich Mann was its first president) / How Heiner Müller would have almost become Brecht's apprentice, but avoided this fate / What is the role of the president of an academy that is destined to be "liquidated"?
Müller
The third was Martin Pohl ... the first. The third was Heinz Kahlau. You don't need to know about him.