Explosion of a Memory

In honor of Heiner Müller's 70th birthday (1929 – 1999)

11 Jan 1999
Ten to Eleven
Heiner Müller
Müller's circle: Gautam Dasgupta


In the USA, several of Heiner Müller’s texts have been published since the mid-1980s by the New York publishing company “Performing Arts Journal Publications” (PAJ). In the broadcast “10 vor 11,” Kluge speaks with US editor Gautam Dasgupta about Heiner Müller on occasion of his 70th birthday.

Starting point is the question of Müller’s success in the USA. Against all expectations, his play “Hamletmachine” (1977) sold very well. Dasgupta says that naturalism/realism was a dead end for many young students in the USA, that they were craving grander emotions.

Therefore, Müller’s success in the USA is due mostly to his formal experiments (fragment) and his stance (anti-realism), which according to Dasgupta make him the “first playwright of the digital era.”

Complemented by two sequences that allow for a direct impression of Müller’s texts (excerpt from “Hamletmachine” as well as a text collage from Müller’s “Germania 3” (1995), accompanied by Frank Zappa’s “G-Spot Tornado”), the conversation between Kluge and Dasgupta focuses on the characteristics of Müller’s aesthetic expression.

Müller’s “principle of reality,” for example, shows in the way he combines fragments from different time periods (including an imaginary future) in his plays, “against the notion of real time.” In particular, Müller’s text collage was inspired by cubism and futurism. The Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky had a strong influence on him in regard to the aesthetic form of condensation. Dasgupta describes Müller as a man who imbibes extreme experiences over a long time, in order to express them “explosively” in one single line later. “He was able to take the entire World War or the Ice Age, he was able to compact the entirety of it all into the experience of the moment […] his lines were explosive.” That’s why Heiner Müller’s collected works were published in the USA under the title “Explosion of a Memory“ (PAJ, 1989). Another of Müller’s characteristics which Dasgupta describes is his concern for the “equalization of all forms of being” and his ability to give a voice to the dead of the world.