He Who Smokes Looks Cold-Blooded

21 Jan 1996
Heiner Müller
Heiner Müller


A few months before his death, Müller responded to the keywords "breathing" and "smoking" with an anecdote that interprets breathing as an indiscretion towards the dead. In his view, smoking is a means of practicing stoicism: "Whoever smokes looks cold-blooded" (Brecht) and "Whoever smokes becomes cold-blooded" (Müller). The conversation then turns to Rolf Hochhuth and his interest in the facts behind the character Effi Briest, the real-life model for whom died at age 92 in Lindau. Hochhuth also told Müller an anecdote about Adolf Hitler and how Hitler lost half his penis as a child. Müller and Kluge relate the titillating, colportage quality of such stories to Friedrich Schiller, with whom Hochhuth is closely associated. Müller cannot endorse Hochhuth's conception of the theater as a vehicle for passing moral judgment on the world; he sees theater instead as a means of transmitting collective experiences between generations. The most essential element of theater is transformation, but the final transformation is death, so that dying, fear of death, is what theater ultimately relies on. Müller describes Kant's moral philosophy ("the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me") as a form of terror. His first encounter with Kant at age ten (Metaphysics of Morals, Chapter Onanism) deeply disturbed him. He was hence all the more relieved when he later learned that Kant masturbated regularly. "He was refuted." Müller answers the question of whether the GDR's collapse resulted from its Puritanism or from its economy with a funny anecdote that reveals the relationship between the two. Müller describes Ovid's Metamorphoses as the failed attempt to found a civilization. The only consolation is to be transformed into a stone or a tree. Müller cites Brecht's desire "to transform myself into un-threatenable dust."