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Translated b y j o h n SIiepley


Published by Pinllico 2002

Copyright O 1001 by the Regents of t l ~ e University of M i ~ ~ ~ r r s t ~ r . ~ Roberto Calasso has asserted h ~ r ~ g h t s undrr the Copyr~qht, ) ~ ( I ~ I I > I and Patents Act 1988 to be ~dentlfied the .iilthor o f rhlr \;mk .IT

hi^ book is

subject to the r o n d i t ~ o ~ ~ ~t \11,1ll I I O ~ , th;lt . bY way of trade or othrrwisr, hi. I r l ~ t rc,sold. hil-rd o i ~ r . or otherw~secirculated w ~ t h o u t l ~ c ~ ~ b l i i h c rprior p '\ consent in any f o m ~ f b ~ ~ i d i ors co;er- othcl- rl1,111 o n that 111 which it is p i ~ h l ~ s l ~ IcId ~w i t l i o ~ .I t\ ~ I I I I ~ ; I I . . I ~ cond~tioni r r c l u d ~ ~h ~ r o ~ ~ c l ~ t bo n ~ ~ ~ g t ~ sc i r ~ ~ ~ ~ poo sthe. \~~I>\riluvnt ~ i l ~ . ~ s c ~ n rd pu

O r i g i r ~ ~ l p~11111~11r~t < ~ I I ~ ~ I ~ I I I ~ ~ I I I I I I J ( ~ ,ic~pyrigl~t ly 'I? 1 ~ ~ , I < / I I I I , 1991, Aciclphi Ecllzioni \.I>..\.. M11.111,1r.1Iy T11is t r . ~ n \ l ~ t l o i ~ puhli\l~rd111 tlir Unitrd St;rrc\ of Amel-~ca first 11y the U ~ l ~ v c r \ iof M i ~ ~ n c . ; o t . ~ loll1 t) I1rr\s Firct puhllchrd in Great B~-lt,r~n 1'11nlico 2002 hv Poetry hy I3rrtolt B r r r l ~ t iron1 '1)itticult Time\', ill Ncrr,111ljrrrlrr POI.IIF,Y 1.1- l V . i G , i\ 1 cditrd hy John Willctr .111dI<.~lphMJII~IC.IIII Y o I . ~M C ~ ~ I L I1970). /Nc\v . L.II. p.449. C:opyr~gtlt 1')7h. I<cproduc<~l p c r ~ n ~ \ \ of ~ ~ hy io 7.1yIor K F ~ . I I I C I ~ . lnc./l<c~utledgr,111c.

To Francesco and Melisenda





Fatal Monologue


2. The Sleep of the Calligrapher 3. DPesses entretenues 4. Enamel Scar





5. O n the Fundamentals of the Coca-Cola Bottle - 86

6. The Perpetual War


7. The Forty-nine Steps -

11 1

8. T h e Superior Man and the Absolute Cocotte - 114 9. The Ordeal of Impossible Words 119

10. A Report on Readers of Schreber - t-22 11. Accompaniment to the Reading of Stirner - 144 12. Prelude to the Twentieth Century - 176

13. Hiding Places - 183 14. O n Public Opinion - 186


15. A Chinese Wall -


16. The Practice of Profane Illurnination - 235 17. Brecht the Censor - 239 18. The Ancient Egyptian Character of Art - 244 19. The Siren Adorno - 247 20. An Apocryphal Grave 251

I wish to thank Michela Acquati and Ena Marchi for their invaluable help in preparing this book.


The Terror of Fables Notes

- 267

- 259

Note on Texts - 289

Fatal Monologue

As dream, as illusion, as a ciry of Gandharvns; so arc arising, abiding, and passing away expretsed.


Miidhyc~rnikai5srra, 34 VZZ,

Ecce Homo opens with disconcerting words, compared to the beginning of On the GenealogyofMorals, a work that recedes it by only a year. "We

are unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledgen--these are the first words of the Genealo~, and starting there, Nietzsche quickly arrives at the conclusion that in considering the whole of our lives and being, we "miscount"; not only are we "necessarily strangers to ourselves . . . we have to misunderstand ourselves." The argument then proceeds in the casual conversational tone Nietzsche assumed for the prefaces to his books, moves in other directions, and speaks of other things, never to return to those first remarks. Actually, these words do not sound odd to a reader of Nietzsche; rather, they seem like the momentary reemergence of a whole chain of thoughts already formulated in other writings, with restraint-as always in Nietzsche when he approaches the essential-and if anything, with a wish to conceal rather than to insist. It may also be because these thoughts were very close to confession, as shown by the use of "we": "I say 'we' to be polite," he would once have cautioned. Now let us turn to the opening of Ecce Homo. Nietzsche starts by telling us that his writing will declare what he is and that this explanation

seems indispensable to hirn. In other words, he will provide a n answer to that very question that the man o f knowledge cannot p u t to llin~selfwitho u t going wrong: " W h o crre we really?"' This is truly unheard-of, a n d we are all the more swayed by the italicized words with which the paragraph nnd such n person. Aboz~c. l , do not mistake d ends: "Hear me! For Z a m sucl~ mefor someone else."? I t is not the imperative tone thac colnes as a surprise l , but the clairn to be able to present himself ~ ~ n e q i ~ i v o c a lasywell as the brusque manner, as though these words were uttered in the grip of necesimmense looming a n d darkly suggesting "the most sity, with sort~erhing serious need" humanity has known. In rhis new act o f presentink himself, o n e feels a n approaching change, a change that turns above all against Nietzsche himself a n d threatens his most private self-image. H e recognizes it at once: "a duty against which m y habits, even more the pride of m y instincts, revolt."" So o n e wonders: W h a t was i t that in the space of little more than a yearthe preface to O n the Genealogy ofMomls dates from July 1887, Ecce Homo from October 1888-drove Nietzsche to set himself a task thac he considered doomed to failure and that wounded his instincts? H a d not he himself shown how suspect a n d degenerative such a wound could be? Was the great tree of thought, which never knows what it will bring forth, perhaps preparing a monstrous fruit, a fruit representing in miniature the tree itself?*Ecce Homo has always aroused the most serious perplexities, though certainly not for these reasons. Since the book was published, people have never stopped wondering what to call it. A cosmic proclamation? A psycl~opathological document? A self-portrait? T h e loudest sort of anti-Ger~nan invective? O r none of the above? But before asking these questions, which rnay all turn o u t to be beside the point, o n e ought to take a step back and pick u p once more the ominous remains of the first questions Nietzsche himself asked when faced with any piece of writing: W h o is s p a k i n g in these words? W h a t necessity is speaking in these words? Nietzsche's whole life has its unfathomable aspects. but this holds supremely true for the last year o f his career as a writer. T h e constant fluctuation of force, the cyclical mockery a n d exaltation, recurrent a n d reverberating reinstated by Nietzsche himself, from things close at hand, so elocl~iently to those things that lie beyond any conl~nunicable life, the very element o f intl.oduce thought into the actual How his thought, his grand wager-to

Of force, to remove its last rest~aints n d defenses against the pressul-e o f a the world, which were characteristic of philosophy before being pounded by Zarathusrra's hammer-seem to beconle more visiblc after a certain point. An irreversible transition is foreshadowed at every turn, as though everything Nietzsche had been so Llr was preparing to manifest itself in a new form. T h e first symptoms of rhis process can be seen in some letters written in December 1887. We see t h e same expression repeated to three different correspondents within the space of a week, thereby introducing the final phase: to close out his past by drawing a line under it. For I am. almost un\villingly but i n obedience to a n implacable need, in the process of scttling my accounts as far as people a n d things :Ire conmy cerned and of p ~ ~ t t i n g whole "till now" nd czctcz. Alrnost all I'm doing now is drawing a line underneath. The violence of inner fluctuations has been terrifying all these last years; horn now on, since I must reach a new and higher form, I need in the first place a ne\v separation, an even greater

What I've done in the last years has been to settle accounts, to sum up the past, and in the end I've freed myself from people and things and drawn a line under it all. Who and wh/it 1'11 have left, now that I must pass on to the real main point of my existence (1i.n doornc,d to pass on to it . . .), this is now an important q u e ~ t i o n . ~

I feel like working but am in a n~elancholymood and have by no means emerged from the violent shocks of these last years. Not yet "depcrsonalized" enough. Still. J know what is over and don? iuith: I've drawn a line underneath my past existence.'
Nietzsche, having come to the e n d of his work a n d despite his "unconquerable mistrust of the possibility of self-k~~owledge""~rhaps the sole critical point he shares with Goethe, the only other German he recognizes as his peer-then proceeds, by recognizing himself as object, to clash not only with his psychological acumen but with the harshest results of his thinking. Indeed, the condemnation o f self-knowledge is only a corollary of the condemnation of any meraknowledge, which Nietzsche's criticism has by now established in a theorem that is likewise a death sentence: In the effort to know its own instruments, thought necessarily destroys itsclf. a n d in particular, Western thought, the only kind that has calmly ventured o n this path. Turning then to personal experience, we scc that

6 . Fatal Monologue

Fatal Morrologlrr

. 7

whereas Goethe, at least in his maturity, had perhaps based his wisdom (the "perhaps" is essential) on the willed preservation of the ego in its most ordinary sense (a case of sublime hypocrisy) Nietzsche, in his most productive years, had instead pursued the active destruction of the subjecr, following the rule of a warrior monk by his sysreniatic undermining of every reference point and by practicing the "magic of thc extreme." So in considering this attempt at self-explanation, one would have more than ever to ask oneself, " W h o says '1' here?" And the answer, like the attempt itself, can only be paradoxical. Throughout 1888, a year marked by harsh and hasty writings, [he wish to establish an image of his own past will come increasingly to [he fore, no longer in solitude in the darkness of the cave but now ~lbrupcly transported onto a stage as broad as the world, where Nietzsche himself will have the scandalous courage to display himself and say, "Ecce homo." During the winter in Nice, at a low point in the usual continual fluctuations in the state of Nietzsche's health, a secret transformation occurs, and like a negative film image what will be revealed a year later seems to become fixed in the silence. But tbr the moment Nietzsche is still in the cave, the site opposite to the stage. In the first monrhs of 1888, he often, in speaking of himself, rerurns to the image of the W d d e (den, hollow, cave). This is for him a central and recurrent figure, and we will see it reappear amid the final signs of his life. "An animal, when i t is sick, hides in its den; and so does the bPtephilosophe. . . inadvertently I have become a kind of cavesomething hidden, which you would no longer be able to find, even if you went looking for it."" And earlier he had invited Georg Rrandes to approach his "cave-i.e., philosophy."'" From now o n it is clear that in his underground work Nietzsche aims above all at separating himself from his past, certainly not at possessing it: "Basically everything in me now marks an epoch; everything mine till now crumbles away from me, and if I reckon what I have done in the past two years. i t looks to m e as though i t has always bee11 the same task: to isolate lnyself from my past and cut the unlbilical cord that tied me to it."" 'This, from a letter to I'aul Ileussen, is Nietzsche's most explicit statement of his incetitions; in the same letter the sound of rhr last phase could already be heard, a few words that rnight stand as an epigraph for the whole year 1888: 'Things do not prevail over thc m a n who is able to put 3 will i n t o thenl; even cllancc occasions cntl by nrranging thelnsclves in accordancc with

our innermost needs. I am often surprised to see how little t h e extreme disfavor of destiny can do against our will. C>r rathcr, I tell myself that the will must acrually bc destiny for always being right once nlore even ; p i n s t ir. hyp2'r.indvon-.I'

If genius includes the capacity to take oneself literally, [hen Nietzsche, from the moment he sertles in Turin (5 April), ingeniously applies the terms of his letter to Deussen ahouc chance and destiny. If these phrases are accurate, then they must be fulfilled in every detail, first of all in the "closest things." From his first days in 1Urin we feel that Nietzsche is in]printing a positive sign, of ascendant life, on every aspect of the world surrounding him. "This is truly the city I need now!"'^-so begins the transformation ofTurin into the city of destiny. First to be transformed will be the city's general character and its aristocratic architecture; then all the circumstances of life, the prices, the food, the climate, the theater, manifest themselves as favorable signs. But by the last letters in autumn, in particular the Iasr one to Jakob Burckhardr, evervthing is transfigured. By now the will has devoured the external world, devouritlg itself as well, and ecstatically watches the spectacle it has set in motion. During his first days in Turin, the "hulnan cave" crosses an already prepared threshold, which his will, in the thrm of chance, now reveals to him. Early in April Nietzsche receives a letter from Brandes in which the Danish philosopher informs him that he will give a course at the University of Copenhagen "on the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche." Today it is difficult to assess the enormous extenr 01' Nietzsche's solia tude at the time. Having beco~ne shadow for most of his old friends, a difficult and invisible man. by now accustomed to p ~ ~ b l i s h i n g books at his his own expense, accustomed too to counting his loyal readers on his fingers a n d having to reduce their number as each new book comes out, to a Nietzsche seems to have circled as far from the world as point of insurmountable alienation, which his old friend Erwin Rohde had Felt at their last meeting, in thc spring oF 1886: "as though he came from a region inhabited by no one else." Brandes's letter arcivcs at this point as the first outside approval, produced by chancc t h n t has become destiny, the prelude to a stage, an action addressed to the world. T h e n , for the whole winter, rapid signs o f a n approaching upheaval kept flickering

Fatilf Mono fogur . 9

in Nietzsche, to erupt in the middle of his labors. August Strindberg's first letters in autumn represent ;I second threshold, where Nietzsche hcars the "tone o f universal history" resound and recognizes for the firsr time a n interlocutor of his stature, and this at the beginning of his vcry last days in Turin, f o l l o w i ~ ~ g drafting of Ecre Hnntn. Betwccrl these two thrcshthe olds, spring and autumn, we have a n entire cycle, a lightning advance o n a single ftont, in quickjtep, while his euphoria spirals upward. T h e first first sreps o f t h e l~urnnn traces o f this activity directed to thc outside, t l ~ e cave o n the stage of the world, are already in Nietzsche's letter responding to Rrandes's announcement. With this letter he enclosed a lxief curriculum: thrcc vcry simple pages seeking only t o specifjl a few facts, but in them it is easy to recognize various observations that will reappear, sornetimes almost word for word, in Ecce Homo, the writing of which had begun. There is n o reason to doubt Nietzsche's statement chat Ecce Homo was written with the greatest speed and assurance between 15 October and 4 November 1888. This is not to deny the results of Mazzino Montinari's examination of the letters and manuscripts showing Ecce Homo ro be a work in progress: Some fragments already appear off a n d o n betwee11 April and October, and it is also obvious that after returning the proofs to his publisher, C. G. Naumann, on 6 December, Nietzsche went o n correcting the text a n d writing variations o n i t during his very last days in Turin. So even if the outline of the work was established in a few days, one can say that many of its sentences and paragraphs had been o n Nietzsche's mind for months, u p to the rnoment of his breakdown. Besides, there is a close connection among all of Nietzsche's writings between April 2nd October 1888. Each o f these works is governed by the same gesture, the bursting forth o f a wild theatricality, his self-presentation o n the stagc by concentrating his whole being in its most intense form. With Ecre Homo this impulse is fully displayed, but the style, tempo, a n d manner are similar in c ~ s of' Wdgn~?,, Twilight of t l ~ e e The ?do/s, and T / JAntichl-;st-a1 1 of ~ them composed between April and September 1888. First among then1 is 7 % ~ of'Wzsner, which Nietzsche already mentions incidentally t o Peter Gasr in April: "My fingel-s at the moment are busy with a littleprzmphlet on mi~sic.""~ May the little book is finished, perhaps the most asBy rorlishing example in Nietzsche of the pure nrt ofgestu~e. n e might wonO der why just now, ten years after his break with Richard Wagner 2nd five years after the composer's death, Nietzsche should feel the need to write a

savage attack o n him. Here too the answer involves the whole process of Indeed, as we will s r r , only thr pscexisring, albeit Nietzsche's laar thought of Ecce Homo call account for his need t o write

Thr Case of Khgncr.

T h e first big problem that looms for Nierzsche at the beginning of his Turin spring is the acceptallce o f t h e theater, o f t h e stage. Having thought all his life nboztt the theater, he now finds himself faced with the i~nperative to prartic.~ And for Nierzsche, theater has always been synonymous it. with Wagner. T h e stage i r Wagner, a n d to mount the stage himself Nietzsche must rid it of Wagner, must set down and etch the differences like scars. T h e tenor of the text is derisive; the action has an unseemly mobility; here for the first time Nietzsche tries out the I'Y~L/u sstyle,Ii the mask of The the "decent ~ r i m i n a l . " ~ ~ ) Nietzsche who is quick to assume the role of histrio [actor] raises the histrio Wagner to rhtt sinister archetype of the simulator, that deadly category that had been o n his mind ever since The Birth o f ' w e d y Here, for the last time, Nietzsche stares at the features of the being who is his exact opposite, before meeting hirn o n the same stage, his own features set firmly for the last time irz n role, in the last pages of Erce Horno. T h i s dual movernent already recalls the gesture of the tragic hero who wills "the utter collapse into his oppositen;'- otherwise, why should Nietzsche choose t o present himself with the greatest theatricality, rhe very weapon of his antipode? Attacking, in the name of music, the perversion o f the actor who make5 use o f music, and thereby breaking the suprerne spell of decadence-this is 7 b e <,me of lVhg?lel:Using the weapons, gestures, masks, and indiscretion o f t h e dctor t o make m~rsic f o n e o self, a monologue that forgets itsrlJ'and is "the music offorgetting" IH-this will be Ecre Homo. T h e real response to 7Re (;axe ofWdgner was to come more than seventy years later. Just as Nierzsche recognized in Wagner his ordy existing antagonist, thereby rendering him the highest tribute, so it was to Nietzsche that Martin Heidegger devoted his most articulate piece of writing on the subject of a modern, though still untimely, thinker, paying him the supreme c o m p l i m e n t o f calling Iiirn "the last Western ~ ~ ~ e t a p I ~ y s i c i"' r ~ . " ;i And jusr as Nietzsche distanced himself in everything from Wagner's opof critics ponents, so Heidegger had little t o d o with all the and impugners of Nictzsche; much more imporrant, he was rlic only one to respond to Nietzsche. .lb be surc, the style and tone are diffcrcnr, not t o


F(ztdl Monologue .


say opposed. Where Nietzsche indulged in sarcasric clowning and violent confrontarion, the exacerbation of thoughts expressed quire otherwise in his private letters, Heidegger instead chose Wagnerian envelopment, the capacity to absorb any outside argument into his own idiom; for the thrust of the fencer, he substituted the ilndulation of the octopus. Heidegger's praise is as lethal to Nietzsche as Nietzsche's scorn is to Wagner. 'To be the last metaphysical thinker, the last tableau vivantof the West before its desriny flows into the glades of Being, revealing in the darkness what the West has never had rhe good fortune to see, while a Swabian shepherd leads LIS to the sound of spellbinding m~rsic (which, by the way, reminds us ofsonnething: perhaps rhe English horn of the watchful shepherd, he too rhe guardian of being, who forever enthralls us at the opening of the third act of Gist,zn?) is rhc most ironic nemesis that could befall Nietzsche. For Nietzsche's intention-and he was sure he had succeededwas to break out of the enchanted castle of metaphysics. He himself had already defined thar castle, in Heidegger's sense, one would say today, as a site of marvelous spells where the inhabitants are unaware of living under a spell. O f course, having emerged from this place. he claimed to have found not silent country paths but a desert that extends endlessly and easily swallows one up, where there is no marked goal. Heidrgger has splendidly demonstrated how Nietzsche can be absorbed into Heidegger's thoughr: In a grandiose historical perspective ranging from the preSocratics ro today, Nietzsche comes to represent the last period that has a name.'" T h e great thinkers parade in succession across the stage of the West, each quietly uttering his formula, his thought, that unique thought rhat belongs only to great thinkers; others have so many thoughts. O n this stage Nietzsche says, "Will to Power." His words are a seal, whereupon rhe curtain comes down on metaphysics; it will 110 longer have anything to say bur will continue ro act in the Ge.ctell, Heidegger's word for our world as the fulfillment of meraphysics. Let us look for a moment at this huge speccacle before questioning its legitimacy, a n old metaphysical vice. W h o could have invented i t but a rnan of the theater, a prodigious dirrc~or, who knows how to manipulate the strings of thought with the automaric perkcrion of the great puppet masters? And yet we know thar rhe v i r r ~ ~ e s fosrered by Heidegger are sobriety, steady and solitary reflection, and silence. How can this be? 1,et us turn now to Heidegger's language: Iironl Sein u n d Zeit through his last writings, throughout multiple variations, we arc always Faced with a n ~111-

nivorous organism that reduces e v e r y t h i ~ ~ g a substance honnugeneous to with irself. Ar first the movement is slow, sometimes inadvertcnr, puncruaced with tautologies; but these tautologies, Heiciegger warns LIS, arc always ion,eti~i~ig else-and so they are. They may be hypnotic devicm. for in a few p a g e w e find ourselves ensnared, sweetly drawn to precise, unforeseen conclusions of great imporrance, and yet not one of rhem has convinced us; we have not seen any gesture of persuasion. I'erhaps it is the nlurrnur of being that has dragged 11salong with its ultimate power. Heidegger's lexicon changed several rimes over the course of forty years, yet the process of his writings remained the s l m e while the spell he cast grew even greater O n e would say, in short. rhat Heidegger's thought, in order to act, needed all his machinery. Fl'heword is deliberate. Is it not from their equipment, the very pinciple of nloderniry, that these texts derive their strength? Let us now look more closely at how Heidegger's machinery works, which is above all by etyrnologi~-crl c-l7crins. H e begins by reflecting o n a word. We choose the first word: "thought." In the space of a few pages, a chain is forged o n the thread of etymology, no matter whether certain or dubious: Gedanke-Gedanc-Dank-Arzdenhen." Briefly, before our very eyes, a transformation has taken place: T h e indeterminate "thought" has become "grateful memor)r." Take another fundamental word: "representation." Here the chain is formed from Vorstellung, through the many compounds of the verb . c t ~ / / ~up to the obscure final term Gestell; the n, whole history of metaphysics is prefigured in this single transition. O r from Grund in the sense of "reason" and Grund in the old sense of "soil," one jumps, through S/ztz in the sense of "principle" and Satz in the sense of "leap," into the C ; I . t ~ r / o ~ i g k"the lack of foundation" of the Abgrund, it, "abyss."" It will be said rhar this implicit phonetic cabala has a long tradition in Germany, rhat Jakob Biihnnc and other sevcnteciith-century theosophists were n o less daring. But there i t was precisely a qursrion o f theosophy, knowledge of God-and the word "God" does nor ofren turn up in Heidegger, though at times the adjectival fornl "the divine" is allowed. But that, as we know, is something quire Jiffercnt. A n d w h : ~ A c:un phonetic cabala be without C o d , without a God who clivinely establishes language, p h s e i and not tl~isei, against the prime ;~siom Wesrcrn nneraof physics? It will no longer be a sophia, but i t will cerrainly srill bc rhought, even very complex thought, in which, however, i r will nor be only rhe rradicional figure of the philosopher who acts but also the likcwise mysterious

one ofthe funambulist. By now we are no longer in the promised land beyond metaphysics but in a more familiar sphere. the one Nietzsche called the sphere of the Artistik, all indispensable word, closer indeed to the life of the acrobat than to that of the philosophy professor. I t is the hrthest area of decadence, the seductive spot where all the treasures of the modern lie hidden, including the il~toxicarionof nihilism. We are even very close to Nietzsche, since this is just what Nietzsche wanted to leave beafter living to the point of exhaustion. Is not Zarathustra's first hind h i n ~ stand-in a tightrope walker? Is i t not Zarathustra himselfwho buries him, with immense respect, as the victim of his mortal risk? We are back to Wagner, hero of the Artistzk, who wanted to be a hero of something quite different, as did Heideggel.. Now perhaps we can better explain the bety witching q ~ ~ a l i of Heidegger's etymological chains: Are they not somehow equivalent to Wagner's compositional procedure? And was not Wagner perhaps, like Heidegger, an advocate of the authentic? Heidegger responded to Nietzsche's stated injustice toward Wagner with a more devious injustice, by denying Nietzsche the first privilege he had claimed for himself, that of not being, by Western standards, a philosopher at all, but a nomad who plunders the crumbling temples of philosophy and then returns to his desert. T h e will to power is not Nietzsche's answer to the question of Being /, reduced to a question of being /Seiendc./, bur the obscure criterion for understanding any possible answer to the question of knowledge, as a symptom of the rise or collapse of force, of the various degrees of affirmation or denial of the world. Whatever the will to power may be, i t is even more obscure than the obscurity recognized by Heideggel. Nietzsche himself, by likening it to a "chimera," warned against the dazzle ofclarity. T h e irreducibility of this formula-and of the eternal return, which is the formula's other version-to the basic coinages of Western thought, systen~atically forth by Heidegger in the second volume of set tiis Nietzsche, is virulently expressed in all of Nietzsche's last writings, in the whole phase that culminates i n Ecce Homo and the letters from Tilrin, before being lost in silence. And it is precisely this final chapter that shatters the framework suggested by Heidegger. Moreover, Heidegger was quite sparing i l l his references to'the ~ ~ l t i m a Nietzsche and I-ightlysaw re all the question as a n open one. RLIL of Nietzsche is an open question, and not all of his horizon coincides with that of the metaphysical theater set up by Heidegger. But one can still say [hat in the end Heideggel has never been more tiithfi~l hirnself than i l l his 1,ook o n Nietzsche, for thcrc he to

has shown thought in progress as Andenken, "grateful memory," bestowing on Nietzsche that singular gratitude that years before had inspired The Case of T h e tempo of astral friendship differs from earthly rhythms, responses roam through names, years, and things, and yet a certain order is observed in these movements. Would it not be time now to expect a Case of Heidegger?

111 If the phase that begins with the draft of Ecce Homo and ends with madness tends to elude even the most subtle speculative analysis, such as Heidegger's, it is because Nietzsche has tried something that already lies outside the sphere of representative thought. What he seems to have wanted to demonstrate visibly is the passage, alveady implicit in his previous thinking, from a theory that is radical but still respectful of formal conventions to a practice of an unprecedented nature, hvhich remains forever his most mysterious point. The trail of the theatrical manifestation of this pl-actice leads through everything that Nietzsche wrote between October 1888 and the very first days of January 1889: Ecce Homo is the only work completed in this period, and in a certain way it is the prelude to this practice. Faced with these last writings, which ought to be talien as a whole-Ecce Homo, last notes, last letters-one has only a single choice: Either to consider thern as clinical material, documents of the outbreak of insanity, or to read them in terms of their own necessity, linking them on the one side to all of Nietzsche's previous work and on the other to the silence that follows them. Here we will ignore the first possibility, not because i t is devoid of interest in itself but because of its necessarily heavy-handed approach to the material it is called upon to treat. To choose the other path, however, does not mean to shun the final outcome of madness, with the excuse that one should concentrate on Nietzsche's texts. O n the contrary, i t presupposes-and we will see in the end in what sense it can be dernonmated-that madness was implicit in all the activity of Nietzsche's last years, which can even be seen as the systematic constl-~rctio)~ of'madness. At this point, one might wonder whtrt sort of madness we are dealing with, with the understanding that the word is used here as a term of convenience, taken up and left in its natural imprecision. How does it happen that IVietzsche feels the need to write Ecce Homo?

Fatal Mo)iologi,r . 11

Did he noc see from the beginning that the very plan of this work runs counter to his secret sense of etiquette? I t is o n e thing to settle accounts with his pasc by silent study in the cave, quite another t o settle them by the most exaggerated self-dramatization on the stage. This prospect opens wide for Nietzsche during his fi rst stay in 'Turin. The Case oj'U:hR~ier represents the removal of thc first obstacle: the tracking down of theatrical k11sity where it pretends n o t t o exist and claims to presenr an authentic essence. T h e n finally the stage has been cleared: Nietzsche car1 appear on it t o assert the need for the juhe theatricral, deliberacely willed. But this filse the,~tririll t o be Nietzsche himself, the real Nie~zsche:'Xbo~~e has rill, do not nlist/ike mrjor someone r l s ~ . " Here a knot appears, at first sight in?~ extricable, a new form o f vicious circle. A n d i c is precisely this knot that was succinctly put forward by Nietzsche as one of his four greac "questions of conscience" in Tu!ifiglltuf'the Idols. that is, just before Ecre Honlo: "Are you genuine? O r merely an actor? A representative? O r that which is represented? In the end, perhaps you are merely a copy of an actor. Seco~rd question of c o n ~ c i e n c e . " ~ ~ lines later, having exhausted the list of A few "questions o f conscience," Nietzsche wrote: "Those were steps for me, a n d I have climbed up over them: to that e n d I had to pass over them."'" But Nietzschc does not (ell us holi! he responded to his "question of conscience," he only says he overcame it. And the answer will come in Erce Horno, which is the theatrical event par excellence in Nietzsche's life. T h e question of the theater in Nietzsche is quice other than one of aesthetics. If anything, it is the very question o f knowlecige that ope115 out in it. Ever since his notes from the period of Tht Birth of'?jaaRedy (r869-71). Nietzsche had acknowledged che an cithesis that was to torture him to the end: the one 1)etween the Dionysian man and the actor. It is the Dionysian man w h o generates the tragedy, the man who is able to experience it in ics endless metamorphosis. Hut alongside this ecstatic being looms a shadow, which will always accompany him: the actor. In him, "this world midway between beallty and truth manifests itself as a gamc with rap~ul-c, o longer n being totally swallowed up by it. In the actor we find the Dionysian mall. the poet, singer, and instinctive dancer, hut as an imitcltion oj'tLle Dionysia~z " rn/lz. - W no longer bclieve i n this language, we n o longer believe in these men, and what otherwise moved LIS as the mosc profound revelation of the world, now scrikes 11sas a repulsive masquerade. . . . We feel some~ thing similar to :I d c s e ~ r a r i o n . " ''The actor appears here as a parasite drawing substance from the sacrcd power of thc tr-ansforntation. I Ic is the
> 1 17


very doubt that undermines che trsgic affir~narion, constant f>ossihiliry the of it, and he empties as well any human action through simulation. From the time of these early observations until 1888, Nietzsche will [lever stop thinking about the actor. And for h i m , Wagncr will be the mosr potent catalyst. the one w h o will truly show him the extent of the terrible trap concealed in the question. Moving ahead by eighteen years to con aide^ the situation of Nictzsclie~ thought o n the eve of Err? Homo, we see that in the course of many transformations t h e initial terms have been in a sense reversed. T h e critical point in rhis evolution was the moment when the problcm of the ;lctor came in contact with Nierzsche's radical gnosiological criticism, already set forth in Human, All Too Human and carried relentlessly forward to the end. The first thesis Nietzsche wanted to refute was the filndamenral one of all W e s ~ r r r l 1110ugh~, affit.~xli~lg cruth as i ~ d ~ c ~ ~ u et ti i~ot ~ l l ~ c t ~ ~ j YLJ; ~ Nietzsche's dogged inquiry tolerates no doubts on this point: Every form of is a ,recessclry f~lsificrtiorl. which immensely reduces reality but presents itself to us as f i t conlprised the whole ofrealiry. This incrinsic falsity of representation is, moreover, our greatest organic defense, for without it we would only be the chaotic movement of the will for truth, which is basically suicidal will. T h e dilemma o f k~lowledgcis posed in these terms: Either thought wants evrrything (and t h r n it kills che subject that thinks it), or thought renounces everything (and then it kills life). For Nietzsche, this would hold true for all Western philosophy beginning with Socraces. Representation is thus a j>iRnrd relation with reality: This is the only basis o f o u r knowledge, and i t is arbitrary besides. If the i~nconscious simulation manifested in cognitive activity is defined by its character of necin n s essary inco~npletei7ejs reproducing whac i c s i ~ r ~ ~ ~ lan tde at the same time by its claim t o be at all moments the whole o f w h a t it sirnulaces, then the man o f representations is tirst o f all the actor-a passive actor w h o does not know and must not know he is such. This, of course, applies nor only t o his relation with the world but, primarily, to the suliecr's relation with himself; or rather, here simulation appears ill its pure scare, since it lacks any possibility o f verification. T h e subject himself, in fact. is the first simulation, che one rhat makes all thc orhcrs possible, a sirnulacion characterized by maxilnum persisrencc. At rhis point, it is already clear rhat the more Nietzsche pushes o n with his criticism of the accor, rhc more he is obliged to grant him importance and thc closer hc brings him to [he

center of the very nature of man. Eve~irually terms havc swirched pothe sitions: N o longer is i t the actor who grows like a parasite on the rl-unk of the Dionysian man; o n the contr;lry, it is the Dionysian man who call reveal himselfonly on condition that he don the g:lrb of the actor-, i l l a certain way grow over him. As Nietzschc proceeds with his devastating inquiry into the gl~osiologicalql~estion.he shows with incl-easing clarity that knowledge is primarily n r.ointdy o j ~ k n o n ~ l ~an~ineradicable thed e, atricality that operates within the individual, constantly reproduces itself in solitude, and must reproduce itself for the cconolny of life to be rnairltairled. Here it is not even a qliestion of tracing "what really happens." About the "inner process," about the groui~d-if there ever is %groundwhat little Nietzsche had to say is obscure. Bur the upheaval produced by his t h o l ~ g hlies in his having considered thought itself as exteriorit): pure t symptomatolog): a series of gestures, like nature itself. Here is the question thar Nietzsche raises: "?b what extent can thought, judgment, all of logic he considered as thc outer aspect. o r s y m p t o m , o f a much more inner and fundamental ~ c c u r r e n c e ? " ~ " answer is: completely. " T h e I'he world." This world of thought only a second degree of the pheno~nerlal is the final liniir u f Nietzsche's gnosiological criticism: t o turn all knowledge a n d thought inside out, presenting it as a continual surface across which rhc h b r i c o f nature extends, something that serves for r n n n ~ f . s t i z ~ a proccss but never for making a judgrneilt back from the process to its beginning: thought belongs t o the circle ofsig~zs. n e does not, therefore, in O rhe face of knowledge, now raise the question of trurh: Is it correct or incorrect? Knowledge cannot even insist o n the standard of correctness. T h e question is instead the very question of the theater: What and how much reality is knowledge capable of asserting and supporting? How much reality does it exclude? 'l'he actor thus continues to reappear at rhe cerirer. We met him at the beginning as the protagonist of decadence, that is. as a historical figure, but by now it would seern that his presence c m n o t bc eliminuted, since decadence itself has turned o u t to be something more thk111a historical process that can be engulfed by time. Decadelice is produced by the action of our consciousness a n d is the direct operation of t h o ~ ~ g h t . T h e Dionysian man. the Innn defincd'by his capacity ro emcrgc t i o ~ n hinlself t h r o ~ ~ g h nletnmorphosis. now heco~ucs slrecial exa~nple life, ;I of a happy cxccption. And t o what will the S)io~lysian man return whe11 hc

is once more within himself? Haven't we seen rhat the subject himself is a simulation? T h e theatrical nature of Western thought, the cootinuous identity of its scenario, its look of a game in which the pawns always move 011the silnc chessboard-these result from the implicit acceptance of a r u k : that the p r h u m is always in the midst o c the numbers, that the origin lies along [he way a n d asrerts itself all the same as origin, while the origin can only lie the chessboard, the chessboard being elread? [he dispersion. ~~t other, coniplementary rule of the scenario is rhat the dispersion never be stated as such, that it always be reabsorbed into something, that the game not be uninterrupted, as called for by its nature. that it always stop at some opportune point in the ganlr itselfi Ifphilosophy is tliouRlir that starts from zero, thought without foundation, then Western philosophy is thought that starts from zero and always manages to establish a primurn. But there is no path between zero a n d one. Nierzsche has given away the rules of this game a n d is therefore the great traitor of Western thought. When Descartes, with his genius for the falsely self-evident, stated in his

R e p h e ad directioii~~n ingmii that the operation of k n o u ~ l e d ~ e should be

preceded by the enumeration of the facts pertinent to the problem.i' the rnbdel latent in all Western thought came to light for the first time in the crudity of a practical suggestion. T h e device of enunleration is certainly , not a calm measure of the intellect; it has inlmensc powcr, a power that still suffuses scientific thinking. 7% require that the h c t s be enumerated is the first step leading t o rhc much more rigorous I-ecluil-emctltoi'a formal system. Bur wirh this step, exclusion is already adr1littc.d; the renunciation of the whole a n d the of simulation is explicitly introduced: Given a n enumerable set of facts, simulation is rhe process that allows o n e to consider thar set equivalent ro the whole of the probleln raised. Ikscartes is said ro have merely revealed a model already latent in the dominant line ofWestern rhought, its appearance being only a transition in the progressive rnanifesration of a single potential: forn~alizition.Nietzsche, in the course of his criticism of knowledge, his inquiries into the "sccrcr history of philosophers," sniffed o u t this identity qf'pl~lcc' Western thought, this in constant complicity of [he mosr diverse speculariolls, a n d he gave i t a

Futirl Monologue . 19

name, implicating all o f it in a single vicissitude: the history o f nihilism. And formalization is only another name fbr nihilism. If the comlnon feature o f metaphysics, the index fossil o f the West, is precisely the tacit claim that thinking :hour the world can and should present irself as a formal systcln. and if, for this very reason, cvcn thinking about G o d , which would seem to be exempt from this compulsion, has been increasingly transformed in our history from theosophy. as e x e g s i i o f a given a n d unattainable word, into theology, the rudiment of a deductive argulnellt a n d chain o f proofs, then it is n o wonder that p,hilosophy professors are scal~dalized over the n u m e r o u s contradictions f o u n d in Nietzsche's writings. I n fact, t h e sense o f contradiction in Nietzsche is quite new; he is speaking by n o w from somewhere else. H i s argument may be incongruous, but it can n o longer be refuted b~cause is inconit gruous: Here it is not a question o f incorporating the contradiction into a lax a n d disguised formal system, as it is in the grandiose a t t e m p t o f German idealism and especially o f Hegel. Here the contradiction is stated as a n independent and ~ ~ n r e l a r e d power, which does not expect to be justified; it is the very game of thinking that wants it a n d continues to insist o n it. Nietzsche represents the advent o f thought that has no wish to expend itself in the construction of formal systems, conscious o r unconscious. Such thought cannot, nor does it want to, provide proofs; rather, it offers itself as pure imperative, a succession of forms, basically unaware at every srep of what has gone before and what follows. W h a t can such thought d o with its contradictions? Maybe it forgets them. If thoughts are gestures. like the forms of nature-"We must consider our thoughts as ge~tures".~'-rhe~~ o f the more suitable criteria for considone ering t h e m will a c t ~ ~ a l be style, which is the "art of t h e gesture," as ly Nietzsche repeats for the last time in Ecce Homo. T h e sryle of decadence is U'agner's, but i t is also Socrates', and almost all our history is included between these two extrenmes. Hut by what signs does one recognize the style o f d e n d e ~ l c e First of all. decadence i l w ; ~ y s ? appears as a representative system, since it needs to exclude from itself a part of the world that it is not ready to support 2nd lacks the strength to sustain the pain and death implicit in all perception. This is thc withcring diagnosis that Nierrsche. man of decadence, let fall o n hirnsclf and o n our history. Since each thing is so connected with everything, to try to exclude

any one thing means to exclude evcrything." In this sentei~ce i e r ~ s c h e N presented his fulcrum, his gesture that compels him to seek beyond the man of decadence. T h e direction of this search, howcver, reveals s t once that it is a matter not of replacing one i t n a g o f nran by another b u t o f denying man himseli Indeed, exclusion is 1101il tenlkmrnry or secondlry characteristic of knowledge but what defines it. We cannot help excluding, even i f w e consider knowledge a fiction. because o u r bodies cannot do Hence the despair of nihilism: O n c recognizes the illusory ,,cure o f knowledge but cannot give u p knowing; one lives in a compulsion to know a n d such knowing is gro~tndless. this p o i ~ i~ t At t would n o longer be possible for Nietzsche simply to countel: as he did in the period of The Birth o 7kzgedJ with the antithetical image of the I3ionysian man. f T h e analysis has already been pushed too far along the suicidal path where o n e has to verify knowledge, and there are n o more exits. T o abandon the m a n of decadence means by now to abandon man. It is now that the eternal return appears in a flash. A n d it will be the basis for the enigmatic image of the superman, the lnetamorphosis of the Dionysian man: the being w h o proclairlls the eterilal return a n d lives it. Above the rubble of knowledge a n d the fragmentation of chance, the s u n reaches t h e " m o m e n t o f t h e briefest shadow," t h e Par~icclarity o f noon; as the true world a n d the apparent o n e are engulfed, the fi~ble goes o n tel!ing stories about its fate: T h e "escutcheon o f necessity" appears from the sky, a n d the world asks to be expressed in another First in the guise o f his double Zarathusrrrl, then, with Ecce Homo, presenting himsei/as the double, Nietzsche abandoned the path of philosophy with an abrupt gesture, the ongoing result of his vision of the eternal return. T h e fact that Nierzsche himself did not write much about the erernal return, despite the supreme importance that that doctrine assumed in hi's thought; moreover, the fict that what he did have to say in no way justifies making any unequivocal statement on the idea of the eternal return, since it combines other, often incompatible elements, whereby the argumerit would appear at times as a chain of proofs based on scientific fact, at others as instant certainty-all this would suggest'that we are in the presence ofsomething that call be approached only on its own terms. Actually, the eternal return is not a thought that can be added to another thought but apractice that overrurns the very state of thinking about the world as the sole imperative making ir possible ro endure the whole of existence. Nietzsche's attack on representative thought was now concluded: By its


very natul-e, any reprc.scntative thought is forced to cxclude some piirls of the world; i t is obliged to build a lazaretto where that part ofexistence not admissible i l l good society must live. This is above all pain, constantly opposed by thought in an efFort at anesthetization (and this effort is almost the definition of the modern), and tirrle, which thought kceps sepal-nting from itself? thus laying the foundations for revenge. A~lesthctiz;ltion of pain a n d evocation o f revcnge: this is the final residue left by thought after Nietzsche's disrespectful inquiry. These two featu1.e~already comprise 311 of metaphysics; the attack on Christianity and morality will be only a deriviltion from them. Now Nierzsche's aim is to abolish the permanent srructure of Western thought: the clash between ego a n d world. Nietzsche wants to emerge. ho~n representation, but by rejecti~lg Vedantic path of ide~ltificario~l, the lle maintains all the terms o f the confrontation and illuminates and preserves the biological need for rcpresentatio~ls,while transporting them into another space, which is n o longer that of knowledge o r of any kind of objectivity. Now it is the sea of force, where each epistemological gesture, the fear of a fictitious subject, becomes a savage wave amid the immensity of others. We are made not for knowing but for acting as iF we know-this "as if" is the necessary guaralltee o f thought, b u t it is a guarantee that has always had to remain ti~iconscious because to acknowlcdgc it is unbearable. For the be^tepl-,ilosopheit means paralysis a n d derision. Nietzsche chooses t o put this "as if" at the center of the action and insists that the action be exalted by i t , because only now does it lose all reference ;~nd appeal. in its pure form as an aggregate of signs that d o nor, cannot, and d o nor even u m t t o know their origins. With this last transition to the wholly groundless will, the world is once more an enigma, an enigma composed also of its various solutions.
R u t h o w d o we emerge from t h c circle of exclusion? Let LIS g o back t o where we started: "Since each thing is so connected with everything, t o try t o exclude any one thing means to exclude everything." Given this necessary connection o f everything, each instant will therefore include within itself; in extremely abbreviated form, all preceding ones. And yet we live it as a separate entity, bowing in this to thc constraints of representation. 'lh how insteati t o the ~lccessity the whole, MY should, in oppoof te us sition t o our i ~ n ~ n e d i aimpulse, discover a p)uc.tice that i~llows t o live the nbbreviateci whole in [he instant. And this pl.actice is only one: to live the instant (I.\ fit U)PYP to br ~ n ~ i l rrepfvztf%l,thar is, recoveri~lg the nej~l~ in

ceSsity of an unlimircd filturc, in wlliclr tlrc same is repeated, thc unlimired past of the necessity thar has constructed rhr present instant. This prrc,ice is the eternal retilrn. Thought has shed its skin. It is 110 longer a subjeer representing the world, b u t it is ils o p n o f t h e modd that it asserts itself, a n d therefore the world in its entirety. Rut this transition has occurred by making usc of the specific means of representative thought. I n order to approach necessity, thought has need of sirnulation-is this not the pactice of the eternal return?-just as it had needed i t to defend itself from necessity itself. T h e world is two-faced at every point: Its elements remain constant, their use is forever twofold. I'erhaps never before has this suspiciorl come to light as it does in Nietzsche, and not by chance i n theatrical form. T h e attack o n representative knowledge, accused of being unable t o recognize necessity, does nor lead t o not knowing or ro the construction of another kind of knowledge; rather, the very elements o f representation and its process-simulation-are now rurned toward necessity and converge o n the closest approach to the affirmation of necessity: the eternal return. "To itflrizp o n becoming the nature of bei~~g."jT We have so far been following a single track in the boundless Nietzschean labyrinth, the track that might ultimately lead t o answering the question "What necessity gave rise to Ecce Horno?" We have seen how the air of theatrical twinx, the rnan of decadence and the Dionysian man, appear in Nietzsche from the starr and accompany him ever after, through multiple nuances, transitions, a n d disguises. yet representing thernselves each time as inseparable companions, mutually hostile but accustomed to rhc Sdlnt. instruments, the same weapons. After the lightning flash of the eternal return, the seal of the final phase, a word thar had always pertained t o ly Nietzsche finds itself being glorified and once again placed v i o l e ~ ~ t at the center. It is the word "destiny." In Ecce Homo Nietzsche faces his destiny, in his dual aspecr as man of decadence and Dionysian man, in his single aspect as harbinger of the eternal return.

Ecce Horno is the work that Nictzbchc devoted to destiny. *I'hc subtitleHOW Recnrnrs What On? L-already offers the book as an cducation One in destiny. This imporrant notion, continually impoverished by the West throughout its history and finally relinquished to [he exclusive use of palm readers and sentimentalists, resurfaces in Nietzsche with both its archaic

Fatal Monologue


and its newest features, since now the context in which the notion thrived has disappeared: to conceive desriny amid chaos is a task that thought sets itself for the firsr time witlr Nietzschc. Frzteirtzd Hiitory and Fire Willrlnd F(ite-these are the titles of two scliool rhemes by the eighteen-year-old Nietzsche. We find in them a rranspllrent prefiguration of the final Nietzsche, as though with a steady bur unwitting hand he W;IS already ourlini~lg his thought as destiny. Even at that time, Nietzsche, in his invincible determination, could not conceive the will except as "fatal will," or rather, as the "supreme power of fate." And the will sought in Ecce Homo is no different, except that now, having con~plered circuit, Nietzsche wants to bring his thoughi closer to a [he prtrctire, insisting that his own destiny he visibly c o ~ l f i ~ u r e d his wriring in and recognized as such by the world. In this intention, Nierzsche dealt with the penultimate consequence of his thought, obeying his impulse .~~ with the "ancient sovereignty ~ f n l i n d . "Now thar thought has abandoned the claims of representation and has itself become a fragment of the world, the task can now be only to discover irs own necessity. But if this task presents itself as the story of one's life, it obliges one to describe and Enumertrte oneself. The word defining the thoirght that Nietzscht. wanted to avoid here reappears. But rhis rime enumeration is nor reduced to a mere practical measure. Here, on the contrary, it becomes an insolent challenge: to express one's destiny by gathering what one has casually sqirandered in life under the sign of necessity. T h e threat that we feel hanging over this enterprise is arlalogous to the ancient tradition about the baleful nature of the census. Nietzsche sil-nultaneo~rsly :~pproacl~es utmost the consistency and the i~tmost contradiction-a word that here does nor Jesignare a logical objection but n+s [thc inlpious] itself.


dence-all these discordant and misleading characteristics, by their very excess, end by convincing us thar Ecce Homo is exactly what i t promises to be, a sort of prodigious compendium of a polynrorphous being who oll fers 1 s a complete explanation and enumerates not only all the passages 1 bur all the gestures of his destiny. The mosaic of quotations from previous works inserted into Ecce Homo thus reveals in hindsight its formal justification, instinctively chosen by a great "fanatic for expression": to enclose in a single frame the entire repertory of tones and nuances, to compel oneself for the first time to make a frontal presentation. In ECCP Homo "I'll be seen complerely all at once,"") and this because, as Nietzsche was to write a month later, "now I no longer wrire a line in which I don't appear complcteiy on the stage."j' In this sense Ecre Homo is one of the ourstanding successes in Nietzsche's work. Its lightness and flexibility o f language, its capacity to move simultaneously and c o ~ ~ r i n u o uon ~ s l many levels, its combination of opposing rhythms-the aristocratic lento of certain abrupt openings, the nervous pre~tissimo,the judgment expressed in a staccato drumbeat-are the signs of maturity, of [he grand style that embraces and holds in its grasp the discordant forms of a man who, like few others, was able to pass through the whole circle of appearance. A perfect work-but what occurs in Ecce Homo is also something quite different. The great changes of madness unfold in [he hidden chamber of [his work, something mysterious haunts these pages, and the mystery is destined to remain such. This will come as no surprise to a reader of Nietzsche: That his book of maxin~umexposure should also be one mote cave, perhaps more inaccessible than the others, is part of Nierzsche's game.'12And Ecce Homo may even be a sign of modesty, the distraction of a masquerade to cover a discreet event that requires obscurity and silence: Nietzsche taking leave of himself. last days in Before recapitulatirlg history and all that said "In-the Turin-Nietzsche recapitulated his own history reviewing his whole past, as the saying goes, in the hour of his death. .]'here is no intention in all this, only a temporary submergence, thc biolugical foreshadowi~lg of great transformations, like dreaming of the dead: "Ir~diccztinr~ u i o l e n t (f changrs.-lf we dream of people we have long since forgotten or who have for long been dead, it is :I sign that we have gone through a violerlt change within ourself and [hat [he grou~ld upon which we live has been completely rurnrd over: so that the dead rise up and our .lnriquicy becomcs

Homo is constructed as n ser o f s ~ l ~ e r i m ~ o impossibilities: to don sed the garb of the actor (that is. of [he person with no destiny) to rread A huge stage and present the figures of one's own destiny; to point to Dionysus with the same wolds. m , e i~orrio,used f o Clrrist dres~ed ;IS Icing ("A~rd ~ ii~p the soldiers plarrcd r crown of rliur~rs, ~ x pirt it o n his he;d. all(] they s l

put on him a robe");{- to say s i n ~ ~ ~ l t a n e o"1 s l ~ dyn:unire," and u :m "I am a nuancc";.'"~ pass rhrougll one's destiny as a familiar place a ~ l d even open the doors casually on one's future; to ~rcp:irc humanity for "the lllost diffic111tdemand ever nl'ldc. of'it"."' with a slror-r book of i~ldiscrect autobiography, thiis indulging in onc o f the most o1)vious vices of deca-


. Fatal Monologue

Fatal Monologue .


our rn~dernity."~' E C C ~ In Homo Nietzsche dreams of himself as dead and gaze before his looks at himself, the posthumous man, with posthun~ous flight into all that is other has begun. To evoke the wllole i n l a g of one's own destiny means to evoke one's own death. This ;lnticipatio~l destiny of is the transgression that transformsfas into nefas, whar is lawf~11 into what is unlawful. At the end of his journey, in Ecce Homo, the very book devoted to destiny, the will to destiny is transformed in Nietzsche into the will to "if". and even Nietzsche, who had been able to dissolve the superstition of facts in the theory of knowledge, falls under the spell of destiny asfact. In Ecce Homo he dares to set down the facts of his life as desti~ly, before preparing, in his last days in Turin, to make his actions coincide directly with destiny itself. This movement violates the law implicit i i the notion of destiny-namely, that the time r e q ~ ~ i r e d anticipate oneself is, at the. to nrost, equal to the time needed for the anticipated event to take place. Only Friedrich Holderlin found a word for this impulse to violate fate fir the love offate. Nietzsche did not name it because he was to die of it. is T h e sin of Oedipus, according to H ~ l d e r l i n , " ~neither the murder of his father nor incest. It is in questioning Tiresias that Oedipus evokes the real nefnr in his life. Oedipus sins because "he interprets too infinitely," as if it was he who first experienced the exaltation Nietzsche felt when a world subject to infinite interpretations was thrown open by his own provocaFor this reason as well, Oedipus has become one of the pri~nordial emblems of the West. Infinite interpretation is the savage, briltal power that bursts secretly into history with the classical age in Greece. Oedipus, from the start, is unable to discriminate in the presence of the oracle: H e thus finds the twofold solution that once and for all indicates our ultimate ambivalence. First, the solution that allows him to escape dcalh at the hands of the Sphinx; then, the solution, torn from the soothsayer, that will sentence him to death. Only Oedipus succeeds in avoiding death from the oracle, and only Oedipus 6nds himself subject to a death sentence by the oracle. T h e indissoluble link between the two solutioos governs the whole space of thought as solution, within which we still find ourselves. Holderlin writes that Oedipus ought to have interpreted the or:lcle in this way: "Establish, in general, a pure and iigorous judg~neot.nlail>rai~l good civil order." Oedipus rejects gener:~lity;he wants the prrticullr, the person. But what is the real difference between the two intcrpretstions! That the first relinquishes a private solution and settles for the first derivation

from the oracle, while the second gives itself over to an indefinite process, which will stop only when the particular is irreparably unveiled? TObe suebut there is also another, less obvious difference. The interpret-ltian offered by Holderlin is a response obedient to traditio~l, an exegetic orto thodoxy, whereby any interpretation is the reading of a sign that represents the state of the world, a process involving always and solely images ofthe whole. Oedipus's interpretation, on the other hand, looks for a chain offragments, Even an exegetic orthodoxy can allow an indefinite series of superimposed levels of interpretation. But between them there must nlways be a homology, without gaps. Oedipus pursues a series of fragments [hat have only a single tie, the most particular and thoughtless: Each one points endlessly to the next. And this is the crux: Oedipus chooses the blasphemous and at the same time priestly ('Rut Oedipus in response at once, as priest"), of infinite interpretation. but he rejects its inner law: the endless, boundless, unstoppable multiplication of signs, now no longer s~ibject a judgment, orthodoxy, that could halt their to proliferation. Thus for Oedipus it is not his interpreting but his sin that becomes truly infinite. Oedipus chooses the path of no appeal because there is no judgment, but nevertheless he still violently craves judgment; thus there is no way to appeal his sentence, and he is condemned to execute it himself on his own body. With Oedipus's judgment on himself, a new image of ruin is born, to be reproduced through metamorphosis right down to ourselves, down to the most awkward, most vacuous "coming to awareness"-a final, modest echo of that original "almost shameless effort to take hold of oneself, the mad wild pursuit of a conscience." "Empedocles, long disposed by his feelings and his philosophy to hatred for culture and to contempt for every well-determined occupation, every interest directed at different objects, the mortal enemy of every one-sided existence," seems to us a man who suffers because "as soon as his heart and mind grasp what exists, they become bound to the laws of ~ e q u e n c e . " ~ ~ ' The opposite extremes of natnre and arc-or, in Hcilderli~is terms, of the organic and the aorgic-live in this man in their rr>ostexacerbated form. He is, as Nietzsche writes of himself, ~ ~ n d cover of the language of the er feuilleton, "at the same time a decade~zt and a begir~ni~zg.""Empedocles is by nature a poet, but he is not destined for poetry. "'['he destiny of his time, the violent extremes in which he had grown up, did not require song. . . . the destiny of his time did not even req~lire true action, which

26 . Fatal Munologuc

has an immediate effect and is a help. . . . it required a victim, in which the whole mall became actunlly and visihly the o n e in which the destiny o f h i s time see~rls dissolve, i l l wllicll the extremes of his time seem trllly to and visihly t o be reunited in one."lS Hut let there be n o lnisunderstanding: T h e victim must n o t simply suffer the p e ~ i a l t othcrwise we are back ~. in the Christian circuit of revenge. T h e victim mz(.it lw g ~ ~ i l ~ )he nlust be : the o n e w h o collapses in his own guilt. A n d precisely this was Nietzsche's great obsession, expressed for the last time in C c e Horno: "nor to take the punishment upon oneself' hut the guilt, only this would be truly divine.".-'" T h e mysterious sin of Empedocles is that he makes destiny too visible, dissolving it prematurely in the too intimate reunion ofextremes:' [Because of this action] rhc individu.ll collapses ,111d musr collapse, since the rangiblc rcunion, prematurely prociuced 1)). cribis and dissension, hns been shown in him, the reilnion that dissolved rhe psol~lcmofdestiny bur which can never be resolved individu~lll~ visibly, for othcrwise the and universal would bc lost in the individual, and ( w h ~is still \verse rhd11all t great movements of destiny and is the only impossible rhing) the life of a world would be extinguibhcd in 4 single enrity."' Instead, it is precisely this single entity that must he dissolved as a "premature result of destiny," because it was "too intimate a n d real a n d visible." A n d finally: 'Thus Empedocles had to become a victim of his time. Theprr,blums ofdestiny, in which he war born, /lad only appi~rentl~ be reto solued in him, and this solzrtioli had to reunrl itse@'asolriy ti7rnpomry,as it does wore or less in irll tragic indiuidilnls. ''9 'l'he a f f i o ~ l tto destiny, as the will to r/r$s, corrodes the defense of being in its credrures and thus necessarily drives them to ruin. But then this is n o t n p u n i s l ~ m e ~correspondlt ing t o a sin. since that sin is itseIJ;z U I ~ Jofdyir/g. I Shortly before writing Ecr-r, H o t ~ ~ io , a passage in 7i~~ili~yht h ~ n o f t Ic/ol,r where a f r a g ~ n e n of Human, AII Go H1rr)rLl~~" t clearly reappears in different words. Nietzsche described in / 7 i i terms this way of dying, b u t he kept completely silent about the tragic mech.ltlisrn that would prepilre it for h i m . His words are a defense of the ~onstl-uctio~r oj'cfentll: "then a real farewell is still possible, izs throne zcilro is takirigleizvr, i i still tllew; also a real esrimate o f w h a t o n e h a achieved and what one ha, wished, drawing the sum of one's lift.. . . . O n e never perishes through ,Inyol1c. h u t o ~ ~ e s e l.f . . From love of lif;, onc should desire a death: free, conscious, with-


out accident, without a m b ~ s h . " ~ ' Thave so altered the terms o f a n indiso creet Rousseauian autobiography, the heigllr o f decadence, into o n e of the unknown "hundred tragedies of knowledge" is the wonder of Ecce Horno. In [his n o term is lost. From start to finish, the text thrives on the bitrerest contradiction; the two theatrical twins, thc actor r ~ l d the Dionysian m a n , divide t h e last scene between them. T h e contrarliction appears above all in t h e alternation of t w o opposite gestures that r u n through the whole text, leaving doubts as t o which of the two, if either, ,ill prevail in the end. W e recognize in them the transposition o f a s i n ~ i lar dual movement in Zarath~rst~zz, movement that a t the same time the made &at work "a book for everyone a n d for n o one." T h e first gesture appears immediately in the opening appeal of the work: "Hear-me! For I

am such and such a pel-son. Aboue all, do not vrzisttzke me jir someone else." Nietzsche does n o t customarily ask t o be heard, a n d this is doubtless
something, as he says, his pride instinctively rebels against. But the course of his movement now requires such a gesture: O n c e he has decided, in the will t o ~ t @ s to take literally his transformation of representative thought , into apmrtire (and his practice is the presage o f t h e eternal return), once he has recognized the absolute theatricality of thought, the stage of the world opens for Nietzsche, and then we also witness-with surprise, given Nietzsche's distaste for any kind of propaganda in itself-the determined effort to prepare the public for Erre Homo. We see the birth of the idea of having the book appear simultaneously in four languages, the choice and sovereign courting of translators, the announcement of the book itself as a decisivefact of history. In this view, Ecce Horno beconles an event of "great politics," an initial skirmish in the "war of spirits."'-' This also accounts for the stupendous anti-German fury condensed in this book, more than i n any other of Nierzsche's works. T h e r e is little t o a d d , after a hundred years, to the clairvoyant precision with which Nietzsche treated the Gcrm a n spirit. As in the case of Wagner, here too he was able t o choose something that deserved his fury: Germany as the illtimate bearer of the great thought o f t h e West a n d therpfore the origin of its corruption and a dismal end-the only possible interlocutor and anragonist for his words, as time has shown all the more clearly. T h e second gesture, o n the other hand, never manifests itself in explicit statements, but it is c o n s t a ~ ~asserted in t h e f0r111. O n l y with the final tl~ dithyramb does it flare 11p in its violence. But there was already a trace in


a few words at the beginning ("aod so I tell my life to r n y ~ e l f ' ~ ) , where the l~ public has now vanished and the telling of Ecce Homo Ine~lnst d l k i ~ to himself in thc solitude of the monologue. And a monologue is exactly what the whole form of Ecce Homo will turn out to be. Nietzsche, to l,e sure, will don an actor's costume in these pages, since it is czlso his own. hut unlike his antipode Wagner, he will not thereby try to become an expert operator 011 the sensory apparatus. T h a t is not what interests Nietzsche. His art is something else, discreetly, almost fleetingly, hinted at in a few writings from the lasr years; indeed, he called it "n~onological art," the art of one who speaks with the void in front of him, the art of one who has created the void in front of him: "I d o not know of any most. profound difference in the whole orientation o f a n artist than this, whether he looks at his work in progress (at 'himself') from the point of view of the witness, or whether he 'has forgotten the world,' which is the essential feature of all monological art; i t is based on forgetting, i t is the music of forgetting." jj Monological art is first ofall art without witnesses, but in i r the other two obligatory terms in the analysis of art-the work and the artist-likewise disappear, since monological art is the art of forgetting and of forgetting oneself. There is only one other activity that is pursued in solitude, in the necessary elimination of the subject and indifference to the outcomenamely, solitary play, a monological and cosmological practice par excellence: where everything arranges itself according to necessity in a spectacle without spectators. T h e cosmic player "has forgotten the world," just as the solitary player forgets himself in playing and forgets the world because this time the player is the world itself. Such a conception hurdles the usual boundaries of art in one leap; nor does it try to establish others. Nothing would be so deadening as to treat it in terms of aesthetics. O f course, if ever a writer's oeuvre could be considered, in its entirety, as an example of monological art, it would be that of the man w h o stated the formula, the work of Nietzsche himself. Whichever way we nlove in it, backwal-d, forward, sideways, we hear :I sound that may also be private, the echo of a vast nlonologuc, a counterpoint of ~nusicalphantasms that pass across years and contradictions. Ilestiny does nor ask of us consistency; i t imposes its own, while rhoughts and wishes serve i t as pretexrs. In thr Lice o t the overwhelming cjegradation of thought reduced to prosthesis, almost all the organs in direct contact with the world having been amputated (all that ren~ains,uprighr on

[he head, is the defective antenna of thought about thought, metatbough, while immediate thinking has atrophied), Nietzsche appears as a tree that grows "not in one direction but equally upward and outward and inward and downward,"jO able to forget the trunk in every branch and each branch in the trunk, a power of expansion, the power of great form, governing what is written, experienced, dreamed. As the last example, nor by chance a literal monologue, we discover the t u m ~ ~ l t u o u s loquacity of Ecce Homo, which overcomes all obstacles and concentrates too many things in every nuance, in a steady erotic connection with language, only possible by starting from perfect solitude. There, every visible interlocutor disappears, and nothing remains but the labyrinth of thc monologue, the sound of inner voices in endless pursuit of each other: Zarathustra, the Cynic, Ariadne, Wagner. This premise alone can allow Nietzsche such felicity in the indiscreet task of judging himself.

In the realm of facts, Ecce Homo emerges as the last part of Euilig/3t of the Idols, a quick self-portrait, which then becomes autonomous and takes shape as a work in its own right. In the realm of destiny, Ecce Homo is the book thar represents the tragic breakdown of Nietzsche's life, death as his conscious farewell to himself, the ultimate discursive result of his previous chinking, offering again in theatrical form all its fundamental features at their most intense, even their most incompatible. Many signs show thar Nietzsche clearly felt the fatal significance o f Ecce Homo. In two letters to Gast in Noven~ber, days apart, he already, five unexpectedly, ends by asking his friend to give his words a "tragic meaning."57And yet so far nothing seems to threaten him; Nietzsche is in a period of unprecedented creative fervor: "I go on and o n , ever more, in a tempofoflissimo of work."58 At the beginning of December, Strindberg's letter discloses the first interlocutor; now that Nietzsche has begun to turn so violently ounvard, he proclai~nshimself and wants to himself to the world. In these same days, Nietzsche once more revises the nlanuscript of Ecce Homo, weighing i t "on a golden scale." After sending i t back to Naumann, he writes to &st, "This work literally breaks rhe history of humanity in two!"i'' Before entering the series of enigmas of his lasr days in Turin, Nietzsche again twice mentions with obvious clairvoyance, what he has accon~plishedwith Ecce Hoino and what remains to be fulfilled.

"Meanwhile I don't see why I should hastcn the course o f the tragic catastrophe o t my lift., which bcgins with Eccr Hoimo," he writes abruptly in a letter to Gast otherwise devoted to t h e subject o f operettas, a n d this theme, too, as we will see, is coded."" Finally, o n 27 December, he writes t o Carl Fuclis, "All things considered, dear friend, From now 011 there's n o point speaking and writing crbo14t me; with Ecce Homo I have put nd tzctlrl the problem of zuhn I ~zm. there will n o longer be any need to worry So about me, only about the things for which I'ni here.""' T h e first activc signs of deliriunl, which would last untii Franz Overbeck's arrival in Turin o n 8 January 1889, now began to nianitest themselves in Nietzschr. A number of letters from thcsc days, sen1 to friends and political leaders, are variously signed "1)ionysus" or " T h e Crucified" or "Dionysus the Crucified." O n l y the letter t o Rurckhardr. the longest, is signcd "Nietzsche." In order t o far11o1-n the ~ n e a n i n g rhrse "notes of madness," of Nictzschc, cver the o n e must grasp urhar has happened with Ecce Nc~~rno: m a n , has n o w become p o s r h u ~ n o u s ,has buried hiniself ( " I h i s hll . . . 1 twice witnessed my f ~ n e r a l " ) , ~ " d hc now reve:~ls the an comic finale of the tragedy. B L L ~ in ancient (ireece had been the satyr what S~, now reappears, in the Eul-ope of LP FiSt1rn ( " ~ F C O L I1~11lailltai11 closc rclatio~ls with Figtzro")."' in [he guise of perfect frivoliry. "'l'hat the most spirit should also be the most frivolous, this is almost the formula o f m y philosophy."('.' I n his ncwjnask as "jestcr of the new eter~ s, nities," Nietzsche comes forth with n scrics of dreadii~l r i t t i c i s n ~culminating in the sublime sarcasm of the second letter to Hurckhat-dl, which ends as follows: "You may make any use of this letter which will not dcgrade m e in the eyes of the citizens o f K a ~ e l . " ~ ~h r final consecluence As t of his practice, Nietzsche loses his mind a n d his name: he strips hi~llself of a m o d e of expression thar coincided with his person. "llon't read books!"(lil is o n e o f the last entries in Nietzsche's notebooks. Every line of the so-called notes o f madness sets up vibrations with the rest of his work. Each sentence seems to be ilttered under the seal of his previous thought, but the form of that thought is n o longer apparent; d its structure has been s u b ~ n e r ~ e In. t h e second a n d lengthier letter to Burckhardt, Nietzsche's language sccnlb r o collsist wholly of what before had Jived in its interstices: the burst of irony, the riddlc, the sudden disguise. T h e fabric of his rhirtking is n o longer visible. LVhat has hnppcllrd? Meanwhile, one can see that Nietzsche's perfect d1raliry is maintained to

the end: T h e Dionysian m a n is now Dionysus himselfi the actor has become thc f c i g ~ ~ e d maJma11. Every symptom can s ~ i l have a double interl pretation, and cvery interpretation now lacks any foundation. If. then, one would like a true picture o f w h a t happens in Turin, seen from the standDoin[ of the actor, there is n o point leafing through the various parhologi1 cal explanations that have been proposed. Nietzsche hiniself comes t o our aid, in a passage about the rnodern artist written precisely in 1888: The absurd excitability of his systenl, which makes him create crises out of every experience 2nd puts a drarnaric element into the srnallest incidents
of life, makes i t impossible ro count o n him in any way: he is no longer a

person, ar most a rendezvous of persons, nmong \sfhorn now this one, now that one, appear with shameless assurance. For this very rcdson, h c is a great actor: All thcsc poor crrarures, lacking i n will, whom doctors scudy closely, are airor~ishing rhe virruosity of their mimicr); rheir capaciry to for transform thernsclvcs and rake on almost (zny cl~crmcar they de~irc2.'~Thus, once again, the usual scene is rewritten: I t is the last appearance of [he Dionysian man and the actor, b u t this time a split a n d a final interfusion take place. with no return. O n c of the rwo characters is h t e d to disappear into the secret: the other, to s ~ ~ r v i v e a few more years as a clinical for case. Before our eyes, for thz last time, the LIionysia11 nian is transfig~lred into the god who, together with Ariadne, governs "the golden equilibriu m of all things,"('\a~ld alongside him, the actor is trluisformc.d into the madman who astonishes the psychiatrist by his acting talents. T h e actor is a coward not because he ral'es Iea\.e of himself but becalm he returns to himself (in self-defense he has persuaded himself that he has an identity), because he makes a distinction between the stage and of6srage. and because he comes ro a halt-like the process of knowledge, by its nature regressus i n i n j n i t u n l , which instead always stops at s o m e point: "What stops movement (to a presumed first cause, something unconditional, etc.) is laziness, weariness.""" In obeying the suicidal will to truth that he had recognized as a wilt hostile to life, as,thc destruction of life itself, Nietzsche in his last year was increasingly forced to realize the lctter of his thinking, which is moreover the mosr radical ca~lcellation the letter of a n d thus also of thc being who rhought it. T h i s affirmation of the lctter accordingly requires t h a t rhc dcclararive form of t h o u g h t disappear-. Thus, the notes of his madness can be considered as the last experiment

in a way of thinking that in them denies its own [urn]. This experiment puts life at stake: "To make an experiment of one's very life-this alone is fieedom of the spirit, this then became for me philosophy."'~ In this final practice, all of thought becomes silent monologuc, interrupted at intervals by forceful epigrams, just as the self-generation of the world is a soliloquizing and inaccessible acriviry, which proc1:lirns itsclfonly at intervals in fragnlents of forms. Any other disappears. T h u s each of t h e letters seems to imply a thought, as ~ h o u g h addressee knew it already. It is the impossible to bring them together in a consistent argument, these scattered tesserae of a vast mosaic, which has never been shown because it could not be and did not want to be shown. More than thirty years after stating that the chief cask of Nietzsche's thought is the abolition of identity, "disindividuation,"-' Pierre Klossowski finally worked o u t a complete, convoluted, and masterful development of his theses on Nietzsche, creating a design with the "Turinese euphoria" as its center-corresponding to the hypothesis of departure, according to which Nietzsche's thought "rotates around delirium as around its a x i s " a n d with the vicious circle precisely as its circumference. T h e first commcntator on the tl~rology f the circulus vitiosus d e u ~ , - ~ o Klossowski is also the first to tackle the last letters from Turin as a form of thought a n d to try to reconstruct, at least in part, their inner connections a n d progression. Previous attempts are valid at most as conscientious docunlentary evidence. Klossowski's intention, in a way the opposite of Heidegger's, is to remove Nietzsche from any context arid io try, inscead, t o reconstruct his thought as the unique sign of something distinctive a n d incommunicable. I n pursuit of this goal, Klossowski has made a number o f niemorable discoveries, bur in the final analysis it appears that Nietzsche, that most elusive of human beings, has once again refused to be pinned down. Swayed by the impetus o f his commentary, Klossowski also aiiclripts a reading of the Turin messages. Rut what particularly distinguishes these mcssages is thar, in their extreme transparency they refuse to be rcad: Illusory statements, random outbursts-in them the discriminating play of truth and sin~ulationcomes to nothing. At this point, any reconstruction of their inner movement, as though o n e were dealing with sornc other text by Nietzsche, seems doorncd horn the start. And we see this confirmed when Klobsowxki subtly tries, for example, to explain the allusion to rnagic in the second letter to Hurckhardt ("froni time to time [here


is magic")?J by tracing it back to what is also the biographical labyrinth of Ariadne-Cosima Wagner a n d Dionysus-Nie~zsche.'~ the first time, For we feel that there is an unbridgeable gap between this short text and not this explanation bur any ocher as well. N o con11ncnt:ltor will ever emerge from that labyrinth. Madness may simu1;lte. even with virtuosity, the language o f reason ("We artists are i n ~ o r r i g i b l e " ) , ~ ' where t h r but play of truth a n d simulatio~i been forever suspe~lded, has there is n o way for reasonable language to exercise its interpretation in accordance with the discipline of philolow. "0Ariadne, you yourself are the labyrinth: it is no longer possible to get out of it."-" Necessity and chance are each the mask of the other. 'The total acceptance of this double mask means coinciding with the world's movement and at same time abdicating the fictitious necessity for an identity o f one's own, Therefore, there is n o "endpoint where necessity a n d the fortuitous rneet;"'7 rather, chance a n d necessity always correspond, even though the conditions of existence require the two realms to be rigidly separated so [hat life can go on. O n c e this defense of life against itself is shattered, a third realm is opened, in which the discriminating play between truth and simulation is n o longer possible, and this realm is madness. With Erre Homo, Nietzsche had been prematurely separated from his own identity, which, according to the doctrine o f the eternal return, is nothing but a cl~clic~~l yndrurr~e.111NietzscI~e'sprevious thinking, the will to everything, the condemrlation of exclusion, required each state to affirm in itself the succession of all other states a n d thus deny any claim to exclusivity. Nietzsche is now governed by a literal application o f this doctrine, having been compelled to establish the image of his destiny in Ecce Homo, a n d it drives hi111 to wander in a vasc series of states, the plural destin), thar follows the collapse o f his own individual destiny. ''We should not desire a single state, but we should wamr to becomeperiodic beings: bccome, that is, equal t o existence."78 In this fragment, Nietzsche provided perhaps the most concise formulation, without naming it, of the eternal of return. To abandon t h r s t t ~ t p one's ideticicy is a particular instancc of rhe Process described: It means to put oneself into the cycle o f [he wholc, which musi corne back ro that identicy. but only after completing its periud, that is, passing through the chain o f all other states. T h e sequence that now opens out is that ofall s i m ~ ~ l a t i o n s ("What is disagreeable and offends my modesty is that at bottom I aln every name in history"):"' h4an, who is


. Fatal Monologue

FIrtal Monologue . 31

nature but w h o by nature denies being so, must simulate nature in order to rediscover that he himself is nature. T h e being who has become equal to existence generates the world from himself-:.l ' h e signs o f this process are distributed throughout the last letters from Turi!~.''Si:llno contenti? sot, dio, h o fidtto questa cnricatura" [Are we content! I a111 t h e god w h o has made this c a r i c a t ~ r e ] . ~ "

I n August 1889, o n o n e of her visits t o the clinic in Jena, Nietzsche's mother realized that her son had secretly taken a pencil and sonle paper f r o m her: " W h e n I said t o h i m jokingly, 'h4y old Fritz, you're a little thief,' he whispered in my car, with a look of satishction, as we said goodbye, 'Now I have something to d o when I hide in my den' (Nun habe ich d i r l ~ t u m zu tun, wenin id] in ~ ~ ~ Hiih/r elrrirchej."x' ffiih/r, as we have e i e h already seen, is a key word for Nietzsche. Zarathustra's cave, philosophy as a cave, the d e n where the w o u n d e d beast hides, as does t h e b?te philosophe-Nietzsche's remark t o his mother evokes a chain of thoughts and in the end recalls the lone mnn w h o in Nice silently separated himself from his past. After a year o n a 11~1ge stage, he went back into hiding. 'l'he "shining constellation" had passed forever: "a premonition that the end is near, like the prudence animals have hctore they die: they go off by thernselves, become s till, choose solitude, hi t-ie in caves luerkriechen jich in Hohlm], and become . . . W h a t ? Wisdom as ;I screen behind which the philosopher hides fronl-spirit?"S? O n c e again, if Ecce Homo is a work intended to show "how one becornes what one is," if the madness in Turin is pri~llarilythe manifestation of a practice constructed by all o f Nietzsche's previous thoughr, it will come as n o surprise to find a text from the beginning of this journey rhat already seerns t o delineate all its phases in happy ignorance. I refer to the 1873 dissertation On G u t h a n d /,jing irz the Extrizmoral Sense, where in a few brilliant pages, which remain among Nietzsche's finest, the arduous process that we have been following seerns t o take shape hefore o u r eyes. There, simulation, as a dominant force of the intellect, is already affirmed from the start: "The intellect as a luearls for-the preservation of the i n d i v i d ~ ~ a l reveals its principal forces in si~nulation Mask, stage. and performance ." are recognized at once as constituent elements of knowledge; the truth itself as "a mobile army of metaphors"; veracity is defined as the obligation t o "lie in accordance with a fixed convention."" Man appears as a metd-

phorizing being: "that instinct for consrrucring meraphors, rhat basic instinct of man, which we cannot leave o u t o f account at any moment since .. would thereby leave man himself o u t of acc0unt."~4There it is stated the si~nulative laws of knowledge are already given in the construcpedicate, cause, and tion o f language, where all the categories-subject, so on-are prepared, categories that knowledge would claim ro establish by means of language. Knowledge is a t e ~ p i z r m a colurnbarium, a sepul, cher. Knowledge makes i t possible to avoid pain." iI)un~bfbunded, pewe ruse these pages, recognizing in the swift progress of the argument the endless underground passages that Nietzsche would spend fifteen years digging after drafting this text. It all proceeds with fatal assurance. So we not find foreshadowed there not only the intermediate writings but the dissolution of Nietzsche's thought as well! We d o indeed: After describing the history of knowledge as the hisrory of concealed simul;ition, Nietzsche offers us another possibility, a perpetual alternative to knowledge as a defense against the world and the threat of heing crushed by it. It is t h e path of active, self-aware, playf~llsimulation, the one he [he himself would later follow. A n d here we find p e r h , ~ ~ s only aclequate description that could apply t o Nietzsche's final state, as i t appears in the notes of his madness:

That huge scaffolding anci srructure of concepts ro which the m;lll who must clings in orcier to save hinlsclf i n rhc coursc of Iifc. For rhc libcl.;lted intellect is merely a support and '1 toy for his d;lring dcviccs. And should he break i t , he shuffles it around and ironically reasscrnhles i r o11ce more, connecring what is Icdsr rclarcd : ~ n d separ:xring \vhar is closest. By doing so he shows that those needful ploys are of no use ro him anci chat he is no longer guided by conceprs hut by intuirions. Thcrc is no rrg~~lar leadparh ing from these inruirions inro the land of spectral parrcrns and 'ihsrractions: There are no words for [hem; ni'in Kills silent when hc sees them, or otherwise speaks solely through forbidden metaphors and unprcccdcnred conceprual srrucrurcs, in order to respond at least in a creative way, by dcnlolishing anci deriding rhe old harriers of [he concept, ro [he fecling of powerful intuirion that ciwells wirhin

Nierzsche has been such a firhidden meti~pl~or from his day to ours.

The Sleep o f the Calligrapher . 37

The Slesp of the Calligrapher

In this sense ~ v r i t i n g a deeper is


o r rarhcr,

death, a n d since you rieither can nor would pull

a dead m a n our of' his grave, so you canriot gcr
m e away From my desk at nighr.
-/.>~zt/z tidjk'z, 1.ctcers

to Felice

f ern the place. O r they peruse the book What Is the Goal o the Rrnjamrrrta B ~ ~ s ' S ~ h o o l ? T h e ~how to behave, devoting themselves to hours of learn imitative repetition 0f"everything that can happen in life." Specific knowledge is not imparted. At first young Jakob thinks of the place as a scam. But he will immediately change, forever. His loyalty to the Institute and his distance from every other form of life will keep growing. "What had then seemed to me ridiculous and idiotic looks fine and decent to m e today." At the end, with the Institute in ruins, the faithful Jakob will be the last to leave. A transformation has taken place, and it has been brought about by instruction. "There, at the gymnasium, there were a lot of notions, here there's something quite different. We pupils are taught something quite different here." And what is this "quite different" something that Jakob finds at the Institute? Later we will discover cryptic traces, boundless echoes, eddies of prehistory, but in speaking of Walser one must first of all rake note of his style, which goes forever off the track, shies hastily away from any hidden or obvious meaning, and calms down only as it approaches the lull of the insignificant. Writing is born from scribbling and must return to it. With Walser, we keep chasing around this circle.

From the moment Jakob von Gunten starts describing the Benjamenta Institute until the last lines in Robert Walser's eponymous novel, where we see the young hero preparing to leave for the desert, we get no sense of time. It may all be happening in days, months, or years; there is no way of knowing; duration is unspecified. A different measure of time is the real fence that separates the Institute from the rest of the world. Nor is there any indication of the seasons. Only once does Jakob observe that it is snowing, and he is quickly reminded of another snow, the vision of snow that he experienced on his visit to the "inner chambers" of the Institute, and we have no idea on what ground this snow fell. And yet the subtitle reads: A Diary. We are faced with a design and a rhythm, but they d o not match what is going on. "One thing is true: Here nature is lacking." This is how the Benjamenta Institute is presented: as life delivered from cycles, as a sky beyond the most distant revolution of the stars, and at the same time, as the waters of the abyss. Walser, who considered discrimination in general to be an extravagance, was certainly not one to make a sharp distinction between mirrors. T h e Institute proposes to teach its pupils how to serve. T h e teachers "are asleep, or else they're dead, or only apparently dead, or maybe they're fossils." T h e pupils have little to do. They memorize the precepts that gov-

Like Jakob von Gunten, Walser could only breathe "in the lower regionsn; he looks primarily at minuscule events, scattered bits of life, whatever is negligible; his tone may be light or childish or rambling, the tone ofwords that go by and cancel each other out. At symbols Walser can only smile. Above all, he would find it a dreadful task to connect one meaniilg with another-and tactless pedantry to consider such a connection permanent. T h e titles of some of his prose pieces, however, seem to suggest weighty issues: "Something about Jesus," "Caesar," "Essay on Bismarck," "The Red Thread" (of history). But here the letdown is even greater. After a few opening words that appear to foreshadow serious, panoramic observations o n the world, there is a sudden wavering, a change of direction that becomes ever more abrupt over the years, sometimes revealing a little of its darker meaning, and then Walser falls back o n the first small, or at any rate extraneous, things that lie within range of association and from there begins to digress until he reaches an arbitrary stopping place, with nothing more to remind us of whatever major thoroughfare we had first set out on. Last heir of the great romantics, Walser has a steady irony that presupposes the certainty that words are superfluous. Hence the prevalence of


. The Sleep of the Calligrapher

The Sleep o f the Calligrapher . 39

chitchat. "Here We Chatter" is the title of one of his short prose pieces and could ;~lso the motto for all his works. The labyrinthine chatter in be which Walser writes is a sign, a bulwark of murmurs and doodles against the threat of the Minotaur, a spell cast o n the reader that allows the author to disappear. Whoever Fails ro recognize thar each of Walser's words implies a previous catastrophe is likely to get him all wrong. Something has cut the moorings, and the hallucinatory vessel of Walser's prose sets sail without a crew, obeying impulses from wherever they may come. This wandering course certainly does not suggest free association; rather, it suggests the shifting receptiveness of matter.
1 used co be more cliheveled a n d sponrdneous. For rhr sake of order I losr a s o u n d . A largeness, 3 freedom, an ease, which was alre:ldy sufficienrly restrained, I repressed forsook rile. In purifying n~!elf, b ~ t something esenti~~l,~ with w h a r ' lcfc of lny ego I still get up to all sorts of rrlischief. -Kobr.rt VSirhrr; Klcinrs I'hcater cles 1,rhcns

particular for the secrets of his secret novel. At a distance of some years, he rccalled]ak~b von Gunterz as the book closest to his heart but also as perhaps "a bit rash,"4 probably for fear of having, despite it all, revealed too rnLlchin his tale. Discovering Walser is a little like Jakob von Gunten discovering the Benjammta Institute: You go from suspecting a hoax, to being sure of a mystery, and finally to discovering that the heart of this mystery is its near identity with a hoax. Jakob discovers char there is really no thought behind the facade of the Institute ("Is there perhaps some g n e r a l plan here. a thought? No, nothing"), but the true secret of the Benjamenta brother-and-sister pair, and W.llserls as well, is theJ"7ightfj-om thought Time is suspended in the institute but not suppressed. N o one in thar dull a disguised Eden, is able to reckon time; all are engulfed in a common unconscious state, an abnormal kind of sleep, that absence that Jakob notes in his teachers and in Benjamenta himself. And Benjamenta tells him, "Jakob. you're a little surprised, aren't you, at the I X L ~ way we spend our lives here at the Institute. almost as though we were ahsent in spirit?" In the face of such scandalous behavior, Jzikob thinks briefly of rebelling; but nothing comes of it, and later he will understand that this kind of sleep is the supreme result of the curriculum. "Today, you see, religion is no longer worth anything," he will observe. "Sleep is more religious than all your religion. Maybe when one sleeps one is closer to God." The Benjamenta Institute is the diametric opposite of Coethe's "pedagogic province." Moreover, we know that Walser had studied Goethei Wilhelm Meistel-s Warzderjahre and was very fond of it.; Instead of f o r m i ~ a ~ l personality, as they say in pedagogic jargon, the Institute breaks it down must overcome is conand dissociates it. Here the obstacle the ~ u p i l s sciousness itself. They therefore train themselves in empty repetition and mimetic obedience: They follow any external order to rid themselves of the the compulsion to think. They tend to reduce themselves to zero-in end Jakob will be able to say, "And if I go to rack and ruin, what will get broken, what will be lost? A zeron-and these zero subjects know they have nothing of their own and are thus perfect servants; above all they know that their own thoughts do not belong to them. T h e first, and least important, reasons that convince young Jakob von Gunten of the deep

Impatient with any sort of meaning and indulgent toward all styles, Walser would read trashy novels in order to have the pleasure of recycling their plots, with the addition of a few particulars, and he was satisfied by his invention.' In his thousands of pages of short "prose pieces," he spoke of everything while judging nothi~lg-or rather, letting it always be understood that judgment was to be considered suspended each time at the moment of improvisation. Tact, which he pushed to an extrelrle, kept him from assuming solid convictions. Over the impassive surface of this void, Walser furtively unleashed language, his only confidant. with a lack of scruples seldom equaled by his more eager and aggressive contemporaries. "When I really let myselfgo in writing, it may have looked a bit comical to serious people; and yet I was experimenting in the field of language in the hope it might conceal some unknown brightness that it would be a joy to reawaken."' Walter Benjamin spoke of the "inhuman, in~perturbable superficiality" of Walseri characters,' who are so imperturbable that Walser is ;llways discouraging anyone who might go looking for secrets in his writings, and in

The Sleep ofthe C:alligrapl~rr. 4 1

mearling of the teachings imparted by the Institute relate to society. The last descendant of a decayed aristocratic family, Jakob already has an inkling char in a world where everyone claims to be free and everyone is a slave (are not even those who seem to be most free actually "slaves, governed by a maddening, gross, scourging idea of the world?"), uniform obedience restores that ultimate asymmetry that is the indispensable sign of sovereignty. Reversing Hegel's thesis, in the realm of slavery the sovereign can only try not to be recognized, to approach the nonexistent and invisible, in accordance with the exampIe that Jakob sees in his perfect companion Kraus: "Kraus is a genuine divine work, a nothing, a'servant." Rut this is only a preliminary lesson in the Insrirure's curriculun~: h e T pupils are preparing themselves not to enter the world but to leave it, unseen. 'The world corlsists of time and wakefulness; the idea is to suspend them. T h e first weapon for bringing about this silent, stealthy upheaval is uninterrupted repetition, the category of the perpetual, a hybrid transition from the measuring of time to an indivisible continuum. Every gesture is deprived of its function, everything becomes exercise, meaning is eroded, automatis111 is regained, and the synlbolic function is sabotaged: "The eyes act as a go-between for thoughts, and that's why 1 close then1 every so often, so as not to be forced to think." Finally, a declaration of principle: "If only they knew how many things they spoil, the thinkers. Someone who applies himself to not thinking is doing something; well, that's just what's needed most."
Und gesellr sich zum Verborgnen. Zu den Lit-blingen des Schlafes. [And is joined with ths hidden. W ~ r h favorires of sleep.] rhc


There is an old legend of Chris~ian origin-one that for centuries lent itself to Islamic speculation, having been recorded in the enigmatic S U o ~ f t h e C ~ Z(S~ira in the Qur'an-whereill J P 18) we find the same sleep that is re-evoked, ambiguous, and counterfeit bur secretly faithful in Walser's novel. It is the story of the Seven Sleepers. An underground passage impossible to find runs from the cave at Ephesus to the "inner chambers" of the Benjarnenta Institute. In the chain of witnesses cunstituting the his-

this last and most recent one is so subdued as to be untory of the ~llyth, of were compressed into a recognizable, as though the ge~lealogy the nursery rhyme. T h c connection between sleep and the suspension of time can now be see11 in perspective, no longer in the life of a boarding school but in the story of r l ~ e cosmos. Fleeing persecution by the idol-worshipping emperor Decius, tht: seven Ephesian youths who take refuge in the cave without physical decay for 309 years. Their reawakening prefigures eschatological time in rhe most violent way that the order of the world can offer: After one of the111goes forth anlollg men "in search of whoever has the purest food" ( 1 8 : r ~ ) and to testify involuntarily to the miracle, &ich guarantees the resurrection of the body, the Seven will finally die. "Time can only be reckoned by means of movernenr; when no movement is perceived, no time is perceived, as in the story of the Seven Sleepers," wrote Avicenna (Najdt, 189). But this story was itselfa variation, and in following its wanderings we fall into prehistory. There is a passage in Aristotle that matches Avicennas words: "Thus there is no [rime] without change; indeed, when our mind does not undergo changes, or does not notice them, it does not seem to us that time has passed, just as i t did nor seem when they reawakened to those who, according c the myth, lay beo side the heroes in Sardinia: They connect the prior moment with the nloment after, combining them in one and abolishing the interval they have not perceived" (Physics, 218 b 2 1 ) . According to Sinlplicius, Aristotlc is here referring to another variant o f the myth of uwcor.rupted sleeprrs: the story of the nine sons of Herakles and the daughters of 'Thespios, who died in Sardinia and whose bodies remained intact, looking like men who had fallen asleep. T h e passage presumably alludes to a pracrice of inwbntio, of lying next to these bodies in order to commune with thern in dreanls."ut this is only one of the many ramifications of the theme to be before and after. Most important, there is a rich variety of found, b o ~ h sources to show thc connection benveen the Seven Sleepers and Canopus, the star close to the celestial South Pole and belonging to the constellation of Argo Navis, the ship on which, according to Islamic tradition, the Seven Sleepers were to embark.' Certain words in the Qur'an supposedly refer to the roll of the waves in the celestial abyss, a movement outside of movement: "You would have thought they were awake and instead they slep[, and we turned them to right and to left" (18:rX). It is in the same region of the sky,Xand nor on sonle Ogygia that cannot be located on terrestrial maps, that Kronos, the now dcposed god of the Golden Age, is said

to reside: "For Kronos hi~nsclf sleeps i111priso1iedin a deep rock cavern thar shines like gold; he sleeps the sleep ordained by Zeus co hold hi111 fast, and the birds that fly over the rock b r i ~ l g him arnbrosi;~ and the whole island is dre~ichedby the fragrance chat descends from the rock as from a foun rain" (Plurarch, L ) ~ , f i c i e orbe lz~rzrzp, irz 941 F ) . And yet his sleep governs the world; irnnlersed in slumber, he still "o\~ersees crcaall tion" (Orpl~icorurn Fr~zg~~zentd, 0. ed. Kern, n. I j 5). By m a k i n g one's way through the labyrinths o f the symbolic, o n e would reach in the end the opposition of the two celestial poles, whcre [he north stands for perfect wakefillness and the south for ~ l divine deep ~ e rhac sustains the world. Rorh are collnecred wirh S a t u r ~ who holds the ~, umbilical cord entwining heaven arld earth," but in accordance with cosmic inversion they have opposite meanings, like the rwo corresponding halves of an hourglass-shaped drum.'" f h e seven stars of rhc Hear, points o f light from outside the cosmos, are associated with the seven A b d i l , "mysterious characters w h o h l l o w and replace o n e another from o n e cycle ro rhe nexr. . . . they themselves are^ che eyes through which the Beyond looks ar the world":" l ' h e Sesen Sleepers arc received aboard the ship Avgo. 'They are apotropaic guardians, some of the initiatory vigil, the orhers of seafarers wa/led-up alivr in the storm.:' Walser, with n o conceivable conscious reference on his part, was impelled by what Ahy Warburg called che " n ~ n e m i c wave" to develop a new variation on the rherne of the uncorrupted xlecpcn, once again exposing the cssenrial feature of thar myth, rhe suspen~ionoftirizc, b u t leaving the whole grandiose cosmological structure char supports it submerged. It could hardly be orherwise, not only for the obvioils reason rhat Walser was unaware of whac h r was doing, b u t precisely because of the supplcmenrary m e a ~ i i n gthar the myth rakes o n in his hands. "I-Iere lat ti ire is lacking," says Jakob in rhe Institute. Reference to ally order whatsoeser is ruled our: the rapture o f nihilism presupposes indeternlinancy of meaning a n d is gratified by it. But by canceling meaning and abolishing a time frame for all that happens, this rapture leads back ro ilic very category that hnds irs supreme denionstrarion in the story of the Seven Sleepers: pure abandonwherein Islam identifies its own essence; abandonment; abandonniel~t men1 rhat it1 the Christian tradition is held to be sotnewhat suspect, the quietist heresy having been evoked to exorcise it, 2nd char accordingly appears in heterodox furms, as in Molinos or lean-l'ierre d e Caussade. T h i s

also explains why there has been s o lirrle speculation about the Seven Slccpers in the Wesr, where the legend has bee11 transrnirtcd nlostly in naive poetic versions, some of them full of charni, like Charbry's little Anglo-Norman poem.'> As Louis Massignon's illuminaring ;inalyses" havc sliown, the slunlber of the Seven Sleepers is an image of eschatological expectation beyond verbal expression. T h u s the pupils at the I n s t i t ~ ~ tin, this most recenc vere sion of the image-childish, minuscule, bur perfecrly correspondingknow "only one definire thing: We are wailing! 'Chat's all we're ~ o o for." d It is only by shunning all discourse that experience, e~iclosed a lethargic in and stubbol-11 silence, is transformed into a sytnpcom o f che Hoz~r, olie che "perfect, self-sufficient morne12t," while any orher rnoment of c o m m o n consciousness can only be split off, irs fulfillment postponed co rhe future:'5 "Thus we rrlade all sign o f thern disappear so thac people would know rhar the promise of G o d is true and [hat the H o u r is sure lo comc" (Qur'an, Sura 18:zr). Consciousness is doubled by losing itself in u cevtcrin ujay ("a cercain kind o f sleep is useful, if only t b r the ficr chat ir leads a just as the inabiliry ro d o something, for t h e specific life of its pupils of the Benjamenta Insrirute, "is like prerending to do ir in some other way." O n e o f the many meanings o f t h e story of the Seven Sleepers is thus che reraliation of wakefi~lness against irself. If the common human condition is a fictitious wakefulness rhat signifies sleep, the slumber of t h e Seven Sleepers is a wakefulness beyond wakcfulncss, where a possibility precluded by [he consrirution of the living is realized myrhically: the blur between wakefulness and the flux of what is happening, which corisciousness is ,fo?.cedto watch. T h e Seven Sleepers d o nor have thc measure o f time beby cause [hey live in a flow thal itselfcounts tinle and is c o i ~ n t e d it.

"I a m a dethroned king," the surly Beniarnenca tells lakob o n one occilsion. This ambiguous gianr, [he absenl ~ n a n who gri~mbles he reads the as beautiful, nothing 1nagnificent3' about him but newspaper, has " n o ~ h i n g allows "lengthy vicissitudes, serious strokes offare" l o bc glimpsed within him. so that for lakob i t is "this human elernerl[, this '111nost divine element thar makes him beau~iful." Benjamenta is K r o ~ ~ oearliest ~ n o d c l f the derhroneci king, god of s, o the Golden Age, whoni the lacer gods relegated, in rhe seeming inconsistency of great- myths, both ro the horrid cave o f Tartarus and to thc cave


. Thr Sirep o thr Griii6dphrr f

The Slee,~,o the (klligma,nher f


dripping with ambrosia o n the fortunate isle of Ogygia. In either case. he as is b~dyird, Benjarnenta says of himself: "l've actually . . . buried myself here." And Ogygia is at the same time a b r t u n a t e isle and the lsle of the Dead.'717he face of Kronos that we first see in Renjamenta is rhc one so ofren reproduced by more recent tradition: sinister nlelancholy; rhc old m a n who contains in himself the knowledge of nzrmer~rs, menszlm, pondus [number, measure, weight] a n d the powcr of destruction; the plnrfrctris cavcrri~, of destitution. But the Benjamcnra Insricute is also the happy lord Ogygia, where Kronus awaits in sleep the ultimate revolution of the stars that will reestablish his order, the resplendent earth o f the Golden Age. Behind the dismal stairways and corridors of the Institute, "an old aband o n e d garden'' can be seen. which the pupils are n o t allowed to enter, cvcn though they know abour it: "In our Benjamenta Institute there are plenty of other We are forbidden to enter the real garden." O n e day, "if o n r of us were, or rather had been, a hero w h o had performed some courageous exploit a n d put his life at risk, he would be permitted (thus it is written in our book) to enter the marble portico adorned with frescoes that lies hidden amid the greenery of o u r garden; a n d there a m o u t h would kiss him." To the s u d d e n strains o f The hfggir Flzrta Saturn's opens and snaps shut.
Est ignota prosul nostraeque impervia ~ n e n t i , vix adeunda deis, annorurrl squalida rnater, immensi spelunca aevi, quac rempora vnsto suppedirat revocatque sinu. Complectirur antrum, ornnia qui placido consumit numine. scrpens perperuumque viret squamis caudamqlie reductam ore vorar racito relegens exordia lapsu.

T h e divine consort of Benjamenta-Kronos, Lisa here assulnes the role of Adrastea, born "of foresight a n d inevitability" ( O ~ h i r o r i i m F~a~mr?zm, 110, lox), who joins the old god i n governi~lg the w o r l d . XDuring the regujar initiatory journey to which Lisa s u b j e c ~ s iskob-inlmersing h i m in the "pyre of lightq and in "crypts and arnbul~itories."finally guiding him onro the "skating rink o f ice o r gl;~ss"-oae o f her reniarks sums up tile lesson: " O n e niLlsr learn to love necessity, ro care ibr ir." T h e reader, by now accustomed to the transcr,ndr.ntal biifi,onpy of the various gnomic expressions encountered at every step in the Insticute ("l.itrle, hiit in depth," "Hands are the five-finger proof of vanity a n d h u m a n concupiscence," and so o n ) may be disconcerted to realize that a similar thought about necessity was uttered by Zarathustra a few years earlier. Hut the sorceress Lisa is a necessity about to be undermined and got rid ofi T h e cosrnos designed by her lord and brother in the Institure is a fragile image, a temporary and at the same time rigid calculation. O n c e again the d e t h r o ~ l e d king will have to move on. All these comparisons may seem irreverent-and with good reason. I'robably no o n e would be more surprised than Walser to see gods and celestial bodies circulating injukob uorl G u r ~ ~ rH : used a great many words, but it ne would be hard to find 'mythologf among them. A n d so? W r - i ~ i l has a ~g life o f its own uriknown to its author; this, ar least, was something about which Walser was never in any doubt. Few authors have succeeded in effacing themselves t o such perfection, becoming cocooned in their own words, happy in their invisibility; few authors havr been so secure in the self-sufficiency of their writing. and today, many others are ready to take i r o n faith, as a new dispensation. Yet this is not enough; there m u s t be a double leap: It is a question not simply of writing but o f the independent life o f images. Treacherously, "like thieves in the night," images burst in. O n e does not "do" mythology by filling pages with the names ofgods-an illusion that goes back to Carl Spitteler a n d Theodor Ddubler-but neione's ther can one be sure ofavoiding nlyrhology by i r r ~ b u i n ~ prose with -, disruptive charm, in radical indifference t o rnsaning and with the ertinction of will. O n the contrary, i t may be that ir is just such a practice that summons the images back. But it would be too dishcartelling to find a rule in this, for thc involuntary would t11t.11 rurri o u t to be merely a subterfuge of the will. Walser instead shows us that. if anything, the rcvcl-sc is rrue. Lisa n ~ ~ s t e r i o u s wastes away and dies, and with her thc lnstirutc is ly

-Cl,~ud,i~n. D e Consulatu Stilichonis, 424-30

l h e one truly visionary scene inldkub uorz Guizttn is when Jnkob visits the "inner chambers" of the Institute, following the wand of Lisa, Ben1amt.nt;<ssister and magical go-between. AS always in Walser, the odd~iess the of event is diminished and trivialized by the tone of the narrative, as though someone were relating a true fact while warning ar every irlornent that he is probably lying. But this in n o way detracts from the scene's specificity: This time it is [he darkness of the cosmic cave that is thrown open. "I had the feeling o f being at the center of the earth": dampriess, cold, darkness.

The Sleep of the Callig~apher . 47

likewise consun~eci,unstable experiment in emerging from the aiom. Now there is no protective space. Lisa's death follows a n o i i e o s ~ co~nrnitred by her brother. I t is up to Jakoh to redeem the o f i n s c With these rwo movements, the Institute dissol\rs s n d the way to the desert opens tor the old man and the boy. In a final Saturnine shock, Bcnjamenta first tries to strangle Jakob a n d then to kiss him. Saturn, M e r c ~ ~ r i u s jenex, as the idcllernisrs called h i m , would like to restore his whole riiat and ageless image, his "crookcd thought." and loosen u p his old man's useless r i s d i ~ : "Saturnuj cum sit w 2 e . ~ ,p o j ~ e ~ e r j p ~ ~ e r $ n g i t(Myt/~ograpi7i z~r'' k?ticani, 5 8 ) . Seze.r [old man] a n d p u r r [boy] are transformed, each becoming the other's g~iide. Jakob seems to possess by nature the virtues fostered by the insritute a n d thus has no need to will them. Benjamenta, on [he other hand, collapses bcforc the contradiction o f having w i l e d to bury himself in n o n will. Neither fences outside rhe world nor those hiddell in the world are allowed. Bur in the end, everything dissolves, once again in sleep. A new earth appears to Jakob in the night, Walseri real earth: "It was naturc and yet it wasn't, image and body at the same time." And hidden in Jakob's exquisite, ridiculous Middle Eastern fantasy appears the final nrotto, which absorbs and sets its seal on the previous ones: "Stop explaining." T h e patapair Benjamenta-Saturn a n d Jakob-Mercury now set o u t on the road; they will never come back t o tell us about Llirir final getaway: "It was as though we had escaped forever, or at least for a very long time. from what it is customary ro call European civilization." W h a t ia certain, however, is that thcy will not be going to Samoa, where UValtber Rathe~lau. in a n operetta-like gesture renriniscent o f Robert Musil's hrnheini. offered to 6 n d Walser a job so that he could live as a free artist. Walseri reply to such i ~ ~ v i t a t i o n s sums ~ i p perfectly his conception of his role: " I thank you, b u t 1 consider it unnecessary t h a ~ you take me by the arm. 'rhe world is tho,~sandsof years old and full o f u n h o ~ c d - f o r prospects.~"" Walser's journrys wcre always oiatioi,less. As Ire had already said in his first novel, (;Cjci11(1iiter Enner: "Does nature g o abroad?" l.he Henjamenti Institute is a [emporary regression o f utopia to its cosmological origins, which annihilate the very concept of it. Nature-culture, that pairing of opposites a n d our imperrincnt identity card, is elinrinated by exha~isrion an intermediate world of p ~ l r e in fluid, a new natum rzsrnpi)ydidicii, where the signs that identi+ the individual or group, but especirlly ~ l l e sprcics, are drainrd away in a sleep that is a biological coninion-

$ace, where consciousness is reabsorbed into what nourishes it. But for this very reason, i t is not surprising that many have seen in the Benjamenta Institute an image of oppression, o n e among many represenrations of a wicked society. T h e mistake is understandable: S u c i c ~ ~ days sins these ~ ) J ~ U U ~ / I ofspirit and dispels the letter, in a n infernal similarity to the excess practices o f the lostitute. Society has become a single esoteric bodF b u t with nothing to cover it, wherein all that is most awful and secret passes for everyday banality. N o one w h o stands in its light can see: So rigorously closed as to be equally hidden from its leaders a n d its ibllowers, it purr rulers and ruled up against the same wall, and neither are aware that the). cannot know what they are being forced to cio. T h e great criticism of culture, the line that runs from Friedrich Nietzsche to Theodor Xdorno and survives today mostly in spurious variations, established a n exact portrait of the new mati: niediocre above all, good, malleable material for society's experiments. But only in rare glinrpses did i t foresee the dazzling parody into which the whole structure would be transformed: cities hard as diamonds, tautology riddled by a multiplicity of opinions. a n d those opinions weighed by an invisiblc jeweler, in order that the sum o f all disorders mighr be the best equilibrium-"gnats of subjectivity," wrote Hegel, destined to be burned in the great central fire o f repetition. AL the e n d o f a long battle with nature, almost unprecedented in the roster of societies for the crudeness of its established methods, tire new nameless society". Industry," its only name so far, is laughably inadequate-tends ro replace nature: By n o w self-sufficient, i t assimilates itself to the o n e accessible image ofself-sfficienc. Nature itself has become a particular instance of this huge operation, which does nor require a purpose brit a litany, a mysand tical machine that can d o without any ofits pa1-l~ disown its operators, the ulrimare srylizatio~i power, ready for diffiision and contagion, as in of the beginning. Names are only its precarious supports, straw d o g . Max Brod tells how Kaika suddenly came to see him one day to express

his enthusiasm for/nbob wn Gzinrm. H e also says that Kafia enjoyed

reading W:~lser'sprose aloud a n d couldn't stop laughing2"--laughter that recalls that uf Kafia and his friends when he read them The F 7 i . Finally. Kafia had an office supervisor named Eisner w h o noted a certain resemblance between Kafia a n d Simon Tanner, the hero o f Walser'b 61-st novel." This detail already seems to belong to a remote civilization. T h e affinity between Kafia and Walser was noted by Musil in a ,914 review,

48 . The Shrp aftbe Calligrapher

The Skep o f the Ca/Iigrapher . 49

where Katka is even dcscribcd, unjustly, as a "special example of rile Walsrr type."^^ O f course, it is nui unusual to find passages in Katka and Walser thar seem to reflect one another naturally. When we read in Jakob von Gunten that "in a very simple, and in a cerrain way stupid. exercise, there are greater benefits and truer notions than in /earlling a Jot of conel~ cepts and meanings," we call i ~ n ~ n e d i a tfind in Katka an illustration of what WaJser meant: "to nail a plank with patient, careful skill and at the same time not do anything, and without anyone being able to say, 'For him rlailing is nothing,' but 'For him nailing is really nailiilg and at the same time notlling.' whereby the nailing would indeed become more reckless, more decisive, Inore real, and, if you like, more Foolish." In Walser. as in Kafia, prehistoric winds blow from the Ice Mountains. But whereas Kafka firrilly and increasingly (I-ansformedwriting into a steady confrontation with power ("Of all writers, Kafka is the greatest expert on power")," Walscr, incurably damaged before taking the first step, was too weak and in subs tan rial for such a challenge. He rnust always have known it, since only once in his life as a writer-with Jilkob von Gunten-did he face up to what later would slowly destroy him. The short prose pieces of his last years are quick, often splendid, attemprr at escape by dissociation. While Kafka left a number of testimonies, both magnifiient and embarrassing, of his chronic clash with what he still called "life." Walser always pretended to be talking about lrimself without really confessing a singlc word. " N o one is entitled to behave toward rne as though he knew me"','-these w o r J are tacitly posted at the heginning of everything Walser wrote. In his boundless helplessness, Walser never lacked the strength to keep silent. His loyal friend Carl Seelig, who contirlued to visit Walser in the various psychiatric clinics where the writer spent the last nuenti-right years of his life, recounts an episode in which we see the shadow of rhe Benjamenta Institute reeinerge for a moment: "1 will never forget rhat a u t u m n morning when we were walking [I-om Teufrn to Speichen, through a fog as thick as cotton wool. 1 told him that day rhat his work might last as long as Gottfried Keller's. He stopped as though rooted to the spot, gave me a rnosr serious look, and said that if I valued his frirndship I shollld never agaill pay hirn such compliments. He. Robert Walser, was a zero and wanted to be forgotten."" 727e Chile and Jzkob yon Gt~nrcri ~ v e h obviol~s similarities. Both revolve around a rltr ofpmrr; both arouse a cl-aving for symbolic interpretation

and disappoint i t in the end. Walter Beniamin, the m o t enlightened reader of both Walser and Kafka, avoided the temptation to identi+ them too closely by relating Kafka's work to prehistory and Walser's to fableregions where that later invention, synlbolism superimposed on literature, does not exist. T h e Castle and the Benjamcnta Institute are concrete expressions of power and as such contain the gerrns of every image, but in a dubious and still undifferentiated state that precedes the subdivision into arnbivalences thar constitutes the symbol. We will never be able to decide whether the Castle is a place of gate or hell or wllether rhe Benjamenta Institute is an image of oppression or the liberated life. The images lie hidden and entarlgled at the bottom of the well. What makes the diffel-ence is not so much their positive or negative meaning as the two reverse axes o n which (hey rest: for The C~zstle axis of wakeful~iess,for the struggles, without success, Jakob zjon Gzrnten the axis of sleep. K. conaral~tly to stay awake, in order to match the Castle's relentless wakefulness. He rriej to discover its secret and falls asleep just when the secretary Biirgel, a marginal figurr and chance emissary, calmly reveals to him some of the wonders "why he couldn't Castle's-crucial!-rules. And K. irnn~cdiaccly put up with a few bad nights and one sleepless night, why it was here that he had been overtaken by such irresistible fatigue, here where no one go[ tired, or ra~ller whcre everyone was continu:~ll~ tired without it affecting their work, indeed their fatigue seemed to encourage it." ( h v e r s e l y , Benjarnenta [ails for having trzed to establish the walled chamber of sleep within the big city. He will have to go far away. Both K. and Jakob are caught up in a journey where neither ever gets anywhere. Moral issues aside, abjection is the disturbing pleasure oilinking up with what is given. whatever i t may be; abjection always leaves meaning out of consideration and bows only to presence, in order to guarantee the separation of the abscnr; the sum of possible actions is embraced once and for all, and henceforth the process begins of debasing anything rhat might recall an ego's choice. Such a vice does not have many devotees, bur Walscr is one of them. This is the f~indamental origin of the great obsession rhat runs throughout his life and work: to serve. T h e mask of the servant as lift's supreme possibility appears in all of Walser's novels, From (kchwister Tanner to GehiilfP to Jakob von Gunten and the lost ~lovcl?Kcodor, of And we know that in his which only one hilarious chapter s~rvives.:'~


. Thr Sleep of the Calligrapher

The S l e q

o f

the Calligrapher

various jobs, Walser always sought subordinate roles. that of domestic servant being his highest aspiration. Enoch/Elias, according to Ibn 'Arabi, becomes completely animill, and thereby loses speech as well, thus u n d e r p i n g a mute unveiling forbidden to the human being;" Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Lord Chaodos. himself struck dumb, is gripped by a dizzying paralysis: "Even my own hcaviness, the general torpor of my brain, seems to acquire a meaning; 1 experience in and around me a blissful, never-ending interplay, and among the objects playing against one another there is not one into which I cannot flow. To me, then, it is as though my body consists of nought but ciphers which give me the key to everything."** Likewise Walser, by' the pure force of dissociation, and certainly without laying claim to any sort of revelation, patiently slackened all the threads that might have given dignity or consistency to his ego. He likens himself to zero, which can be added to any element without changing it, other than imparting to it a touch of nullity. And if abjection has a sign, it is most certainly zero. Jakob, Walser's agile double, says, "Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to give a false image of myself to those I have locked in my heart. . . . For example, I imagine it would be indescribably beautiful to die in the terrible knowledge of having offended and inspired the worst opinions about myself in those 1hold dearest in the world." And finally, he alludes in passing to the pleasurc aroused by such a reckless way of life: "What a strange perversion, to rejoice secretly at seeing that you're being robbed a little.'' For Walser the literary form of the abject is the gloss; it too "represents a perversion," certainly reprehensible in terms of "literary morality." The gloss attracts Walser because it "operates in all directions.'"' is determined by indifference in the presence of impulses, thwarts all cuotoun, continually duplicates itself, and is multiple and erratic. Between his many jobs as an underling-among others, bookstore clerk. law clerk, employee in two banks and a sewing-machine L~ctory, and finally butler in r castle in Silesia, and only readers of Jnkob uon Guntm will be able to understand his delight-W'l.kcr from tinie to time withdrew to the "Writing Roolrl for the U n e n ~ ~ l o y e d " nanle is Walseri;,n but (the true) in Zuricb, and there, "sented on an old stool in the evening. by the weak light of an oil lamp, he made use of his graceful handwriting to cop) addresses and do other such jobs assigned hini by stores. firms. and i~idividuals."") It is not only these periods but Walser's whole existence that

take us back to Herman Melville's Bartleb); the impeccable scrivener who revealed nothing and accepted nothing except ginger cakes. In these vegetal creatures, disguised in the clothes of the common man ("I am not particular," Bartleby liked to repeat) negation thrives. All the more radical in going unnoticed, their destructive breath is often not registered by any instrument: For man); Walser remains a cozy figure. His nihilism has even been described as "delicate and domestic, good-natured as a Swiss bourgeois.''3' O n the contrary, he is a remote man, a path parallel to nature, an almost indiscernible thread. Walseri obedience, like Bartlebgi disobedience, presupposes a total removal. An original failing bars them from the body of communicants, and this failing constitutes their riches. As sovereigns, they make no effort to find a remedy for their condition or even to commeilt on it. They copy They transcribe letters, which pass through them as through a transparent plate. They express nothing of their own. There is nothing they would alter. "I do not develop," says Jakob in the Institute; "I would prefer not to make any change," says Bartleby In their affinity, we see the equivalence between silence and a certain ornamental use of words. In the thousands of pages written by Walser-an oeuvre indefinitely extendable, elastic, devoid of bone structure; endless chatter to conceal the lack of any forward movemeor in its discourse-Bartlebyi words, though never uttered, are a consrant refrain: "I would prefer not to."

Dkesses entretenues

the park, and at times he also trains his long-range binoculars on the sky, which is crawling with worms. He has already taken note of many things. H e is trustworthy. I advise you to take a good look at his impeccable account ledgers. T h e economic connections, in this regard, need to achieve their proper luminescent obscurity, which only a rigorous paralogical analysis can release from those regions of nature and the spirit that are themselves muddled and arbitrary. "Your insistence on maintaining relations with me beyond the prudent measure of two books will probably d o you no good from the scientific standpoint, but I make bold to whisper in your ear that so far there has not been much hope for you. Yours, D. I? Schreber")


A v i ~ non-comrnuni~te\: aux 'Tout est conlmun,

m6me Dieu. [Warning to nonsornmunists:

Everything is common, exen God.]


(After long and roundabout wandering, 1 found myself back in Sonnenstein park, under a green tent of leaves that became ever more transparent. A serrated crack opened in them and there, a little farther ahead, I saw the Konigstein fortress: If the Stone of the Sun is also-and who can doubt i t i t h e Stone of the King, then the judge had discreetly yielded his place, for the time being, to Frank Wedekind. T h e latter, jailed in the fortress for committing the crime of lkse-n~ajestt cabaret songs, was in in the first months of the year 1900 working on the second and final draft of Mirie-Hahn. T h e vegetation before me kept thinning out, and 1 came upon, as in a sudden drawing ruom. a small table and a chair. both of stone. An envelope stamped with red sealing wax stood propped on the table, and i recogtrized the judge's alchemical eagle i t was one of his letters of instruction: "Dear friend, "I thought it well to absent myself for a short time from the and leave it at your disposal for a glotto-theological appendix on the real social situation of my girls, the bird-maidens, s o n ~ e t h i very close to my heart. n~ Frank Wedekind, land agent fc)r my house and ringmaster of my circus. keeps watch from the height of the fortress on everything that goes on in

Life in the Konigstein fortress had turned out to be agreeably eccentric. T h e prisoners were treated like officers in a frontier garrison, with cigars and liquor and readings while the wind whistled around the walls, doors banged, and windows creaked. There was a suggestion of paradise in the air, of the memory of Lenzburg Castle, almost hidden by the dense trees. There, in territory open for the impudence and dangerous games of childhood, Wedekind had already absorbed many of the phantasms in his work, later to be developed in advertisements for Maggi bouillon cubes until the clumsy mythological dramas of his last years. From one extreme to the other, he had touched on almost all the delicate topics of the time and had traced their nervous intertwinings at length. His words flowed doggedly between sex and money, the press and the circus, intrigue and the body, while always keeping an eye out for the police.

A first draft of Mine-Haha, now lost, dates from July-October 1895. T h e

second and final one was written in the Konigstein fortress, between September 1899 and March 1900. In those same months, Wedekind also reworked the manuscript of Tile Marquis unn Keith: "The fact is, my eyes now turn only to that region where the cross between philosopher and horse thiefis appreciated for its true worth"; "People never know whether they should look out for me o r if i r k my d u t y instead to look o u t for them"; 'There's nothing I can do about my insatiability," says the marwas published in Die quis, the only possible consort for Lulu. Mine-flai~a h s e i (voi. 2 , no. 3) in 1901. In 1903 it appeared in the Little Library series



. Dekses entretenues

Dkesses entretenues . 55

published by Langen, who was responsible for many of Wedekind's legal and financial difficulties, with the addition of the prologue, fourth chapion ter, commentary, and the s p e ~ i f i c ~ ~ t"From the letters of Helene Engel, edited by Frank Wedekind." T h e M a r q ~ ~von Keith had the "coarsc red hands of a clown," a n d so is Wedekind hid his own in cool gloves. W h e n Wedekind appcared on the scene, his figure immediately created c o n h ~ s i o n n d nervousness, and so a in his mature years his demeanor was disrant and formal. Bertolt Arecht looked o n him with admiration: "There he stood, ugly, brutal, dangerous, with his short red hair, his hands in his trouser pockets, and you felt that not even the devil could carry him off."' 111t h e beginning there were visirs by seagulls to Lenzburg Castle, the Srni~tus poetirus of the grammar school pupils, an epidemic of suicides. Benjamin Franklin Wedekind, named after that mean and thrifty hero of liberty, reads Heinrich Hei~re'spoems to his companions. a n d the female images that vanlpirize the nredulla are immolated i l l the attic: Palma il Vecchio's Venus, but also Hans Makart's L ~ ~ L L , Lossow's Galatea, a n d J. van Beers's Ada, this lasr swiped from a secret drawer of his father's; in the background are the protective shadows of a "philosophical aunt" and an "erotic aunt." Having fled the paternal roof, he finds in Zurich two things that will llever desert him: words written for money, "philanthropMaggi; and the Herzog ic buttresses for earning c a s h ~t the firm of Juli~ls Circus: "Every time I set foot under that tall teirr. airy and light, I feel a truly voluptuous shiver run through olc. Here I i l n envcloprd by an ;lir of and grand, and yet in its way so u11celebration, something s u n ~ p t u o u s speakably childish." (We ;ire in Zurich ill 1888: still in the f i ~ t u r e that lies evening of 7 February 1720 in Piiris, when a delightfill bunch o f partyre rrndait dans goers broke u p at the door of the Fr;itellini brothers-"On dans leur loge c r ~ n ~ m e celle d'une danseuse" [ O n e \vent to their dr,essing room as to that o f a dancer]-while the C o m t e Anne d'Orgel cordially greeted young Frlosois de Skiyeuse. thus t1lrc)wiog the 1:ltter's friend PluI Robin, impenitent rachottier, into despair: "11 )I avait la des Ppaves grnndioses, des objets dkpouilli.~ e leur signification premitrc. et clui, chez ces d clowns, en prenaient uric hien plus haute" (Ihere was grandiose wreckage, objects stripped of their prime ~ i ~ ~ l i f i c r nanti wbich. Llrnollg these ce. clowns, rook on a much lrighcr o n e ] . 'I'he eljtire heroic per-iod of m o d ernism was snuffed out at that moment). In M ~ ~ n i c the mandah,


tory bohemia of those years, the general imperative was sich ausleben. t o live to the full, to drain the cup to the dregs (which very much worried his landlady), a n d it was mostly proclaimed by lifeless a n d talentless poets. But Wedekind was driven by a particular preference for the lower d e ~ t h s a n d was already perfecting his rare ability to descend lucidly into the sewers. H e was especially interested in these categories o f men: the speculator, the plagiarist, the acrobat, the gambler, the pimp, the swindler, the journalist, the fire eater, the runaway schoolboy. And of women: the whore, categories among which he then tried desthe grisette, the hetaera-three p a t e l y to draw sharp distinctions. In Paris, between 1891 and 1895, he attends the Cirque d'Hiver, the C i r q u e d'Etk, the Nouveau Cirque, the Jardin d e Paris, the Casino de Paris, the Hippodrome, the Eldorado, a ~ l d the dlysee Montniartre. H e is accompanied by Rachel; the artiste h r i q u ~ Liontine; Kadudja from Alexandria; Henriette, mnumrlt saws rz.gretj 2 lZge de 26ans et nkyantjamaij victl [dying at the age of twenty-six witho u t regret and having never lived]; the morphine addict Marie Louise; Alice; Madame Fernande; Gerrnaine; Madeleine; Raymonde; and Lucie. H e again runs into the legendary Rudinoff, a wanderer and jack-of-alltrades, albeit temporary a n d disreputable ones, known in all the circuses and cabarets of the rime. H e acts as secretary to Willi Grttor, inspired adventurer, forgel; a n d cultural agent for money and the pleasure of creating messy situations. Among these characters, exotic plants at her court, resound the first strains of Lulu's delinquent saxophone. It Paradox of i2fine-H~~ha:is Wedekind's single perfect text but lacks his peculiar virtues-the jarring notes, the knowing degradation, the frantic n'ltur~lbackground. And yet all these qualities lie puppetry, the grotesq~le at the bottom o f the pond in the park, as gigantic carcasses, ~lnderwater plants feeding the wcirerswith their juices. 0 1 surfice: little ripples of 1 the transparent, elusive laughter. T h e paradox of' Mim-Hahn leads to an equivocal and secretly fertile rapport between Wedekind and his test. T h e girls' park appears for the first time in L)er S ~ n n e n s p e k t r uan "idyll" in the for111 o f a play, o n which ~~, ~ t Wedekind worked onti1 the surnliler of1894 b ~ never completed. T h e park is here the yard o f a bordello. T h e inmates are named Melittil, Kadudja. Elise. a11d Franziskr-fin;,lly Mi~lehrha-and they clrarly foreshadow. though in another sphere o f style a n d meaning. the girls being trained in the park in hlinr-H~7hn. I'hey are watched over by a sharp-eyed

madam, who bursts into colorf~ll o l i l o ~ ~overcwhat goes o n in her ~ ~i s house ("With nir guests I assume the l - e ~ ~ o ~ ~ s i b i l i t y in such a way ofacting [hat [hey restored in body and soul, and come b;lcksoon and 2s often as possible7') and who has nothing in cornmoa with the mystery-cult discretion of the instructresses of Hidalla and her companions. T h e upbringing of p u n g girls had. in any case, been on Wedekiod's mind fur many years: For Inore than twenty years, we can reconstruct the signs o f a grandiose project, wavering between novel and utopian drama, of which Mi7irH a h would presumably havc been a fragment. As a novel i t was to have the HiAnNa. oder Dds Lebrn finer Schneiderin (Hidcllla, 01The Life of a Seamstress); as a uropiarl drama, Diegrosse Liebe (The Grcar Love). There is no way to make a detailed analysis of the notes for Die posse Lirbr, contained in norebooks 38-42 in 'he Wedekind Archive, since they have get ro be published. Their overall content, however, is clear: Wedekind was developing a "utopia of life in the ark," in which Mine-Hahu would hare represented the phase uf the girls' education f r o n ~ birth to puberty. c . There is an echo of such a utopia in the secret treatise by the glant dwarf'' Karl Hetmann, protagooist of Hid(~Ih, which is entitled "Hidalla. or r h e Moral of Beauty." This was to be followed by the parts devoted to the erotic and sacrificial rites of spring and autumn and to the education of bogs. A vaguely ridiculous sacral aura, reminiscent of the myths revived in those years on the ceilings of opera houses, hovers over the project. Now there is talk of "divine lads" and "divine maidens," and the park has expanded to become the sitc of a theocracy based on "voluptuous death," the immolation of boys and girls as the highest point of the erotic journey. T h e boys, in truth, d o not seem all that happy: 'The handsomest ones are made available as sacred prostitutes to aristocratic ladies of any age who ciesire them. After some years, exhausted by their work, "they feel attracted only by things of the spirit1'-proof of the failure of utopia and a sign of Wedekind's ambivalence toward [his Spartm-Bab$ooi;ln dream. rather try all the Indeed, one might almost say that Wedekind u ~ o u l d wrong paths than recognize rhor-he has a l r e r d ~ laid out the only right one. in Mine-Haha T h e fragments of Die g a o r Liebe are all inexorably linked to the period and its anxieties: T h e form is awkward, and in the background one notes an intense need to makc use of the Africiin folklore collected by Leo Frobenius and the description of Aztec rites compiled by Bernardino de Sahagun. T h e idea uf sacrifice would accordingly be freed from the inevitable dtcor of Arnold B ~ c k l i n and Makart, and Isadora

~uncan's prefigurative tunics, which covered the flaming heart of the matter, would fall after a few final fl utcrrs: "Exactness, reality, is the sacriI, fice" (Mditr<ya?~l'-Sarn/~it4 10, 11). ~ d r k i n d ' uncertainty before the mirror of Mine-Haha is matched by the s consistent banality of the few critics who have paid it any attention. So far the greatest homage to this text has been the shadow of restless nostalgia rhat passed across Theodor Adorno's face when he mentioned it, perhaps the same shadow that dwells in his words about the sleeping Albertine. But not even he published anything about h'irze-({aha, though hc must often have dreamed of a paraclise of little girls. However, Arthur Kutscher, author of the imposing official monograph on Wedekind, three volurnes still indispensable for many details, devoted a page to Mine-Haha that is most useful for plumbing the pataphysical abysses into which the treacherous light of literature can cast upright scholars: "'l'he work Mine-Hal~a, as we know it, strikes us as extremely bizarre or remarkably vacuous. T h e formal artistic element is insignificant, unless one cares to give a certain are weight to language as such. No longer, as in Der Sonnensy~kt~ztnr, we faced with an ideal image of the joy of the senses, drawing its sparkling colors from nostalgia and unreality. Here the element of content prevails, o offering us the closed formula~ion f a system, an cducarional method char totally excludes the spirit and puts the accent solely on the body. Ofcourse, as an image of a dream of desire, unmindful of the problem of its realization, chis tcxt presents, in a poetic exaggeration, some notable elements from the hygienic. moral, and aesthetic standpoints. Jaques-Dalcroze was inspired by it when he founded his school of eurythmics in Hellerau. Wedekind himself ~ m c r i c e d nudism and gymn;atics. To the last, he kept in his studio a wooden sphere half a meter in diameter and a large drum, which he, along with his wife and daughters, used for exercises in balance and running. But all this is not enough to make his interest in this work con~prehensible to resolve its many enignlas."? or Appropriate commentaries o n Mine-Hahn speak neither of rhythmic gymnastics nor of hygiene. I posted a provision~l of these writings at list the tall iron gateway, topped by gilcied grillwork, rhat led into the park. Here i t is: Marx, Capital Marx, GrzlndrBrse


Maus\. Gsni xzrr le don Elwin. 7he ,2duria dnd Th~ilC;lrotz~l Raudelaire, F7z.ilsc;ej Baucielaire, Mon roeul- rnis ; nu I Benjamin, Zeirtrtlbark


"Knowledge consists in setting u p collections of ivocatire oddities. T h e king's garden or his hunring park should ccr~lt;~in the animal and vcge211 table curiosities in [he world. Those [hat no explorer has heen able to find are rlevertheless actually represented there: sculptured or drawn. T h e cullectior~s aini to be complcre; especially with ~nonstrosities,since the purpose of collecting is not so much knowledge as power. and the most effective collections consist not of realities but o f e~nblems."' of Kien-diiii~~; n.ns so large th;~tit ir "Then [he emperor built the had a thousand outer gates and ten thotlsand small inner ones; the first hall exceeded i l l heig11t the o n e in the palace o i K+i-~~nng. the east was To thc Phoenix Gate, more than two hundred feet high. To the west, in the middle of the avenue, lay rhe Tiger Park, which extended for sevcral dozen li. T o thc ~ l o r r h[the z n ~ p c r o r had a large p n d d ~ ~in the middle , ] g, ofwhich rose the Terrace Hatlied with Water, more than two hundred feet IligIl; c:llled i t [ t h e polid] Tki-?ti, In the p o ~ l d ivcrc rhe islands of Pb~/~-y-lni, fiing-d7~,is, Yng-cl,rou, and H o u - k q ilniratiu~ls what is in uf the sea, holy m o ~ ~ n t a i nturtles, fish, and ro on. 6) soiith was the s, rhe Hall o f l a d e , the d a t e in the Shrpe o l a i r d c Ki~lg. Great Bird. and SO rhc on. Later [[lie cn,percrr] liad rhc l k r r i c e c)f the (;ads boilt, and the r o w e r of r h e \X/ell Barrier, which measured five feet; a road, wide enough lor the

a turquoise rree similar ro a palm tree in ROzbehBn's dazed eyes; stuffed crocodiles hanging from the criling: severed heads; hedgehogs and anreaters-in the scill air of the m z ~ ~ z e zck~zlsz~m, ~m when [he funeral p o m p of thc sc\~entccnthcentury required [hat nature withdraw into the bibliothera nbsconditn. While nihil kept gnawing at the images until they wasted away to parchment masks, to be adapred to circurrlsrances i l l accordance with the brural dicrates o f Cardinal Mazarin, the gardens filled u p with artificial ruins; Moorish. Chinese, and Gorhic pavilions stood face-to-face a m i d the overgrown grass, signifying history's impending resolution in rubble and roys. A n d finally, good citizens wanted to have nature as a guest in [heir ciry; cliey inscalled benchcs, founrains, a n d paths; rhen they found i t useful to bring in animal specimens in special boxes. Whereas parks had once reproduced nature o n a reduced scale, now all of nature is already a park ill itself, encircled by society o n every side. Visible history thus arrives ar the picnic a n d festive desolation, bur the invisible history of rhc park is celebrated within the walls ofMinr-Hnhn, where the shreds of past and present forms are caught in a single spiderweb: Eden, zoo, boarding school, bordello, garden-of-the-flowering-bulbs o f Indra, enclosure for hierodules, riding srable, path o f iniriation, warehouse o f commodities. Where are we? In a place that rules o u t all contact with the surrounding world; the walls are i n s ~ ~ r t n o u n r a b loutside does not cxist. Those who e; live in the park can have n o notion of any orher life; those outside the park can only gaze at it in ignorance, as at a sealed heart. And yet there are two points at which this excluded place opens now and then to circulation with society: by welcoming female infants in s\vaddiing clothes, who larer, o f c u u n c , h:ivc nu recullcction o f how they were ri~kenillto the p r k ; and by resroring them to the outside, through show business and finally emergence fro111 the dead-end strucrure o t the theater into the external world. And from that world, through the box offices of theaters, flows tlie money to maintain tlie life spread o u t over the vine-covered cottages in thc p r k . Wirhi11 thar enclosure, :IS in a 1;lrgc aJchmica1 retort, a transformation rakes place: T h e raw material of litrle girls is transfornlcd by their u p b r i ~ i g i ~ into :I different nlaterial. Into what? For what pul-pose? lg T h c classic fiction of political economy is the Robinsonndc. I'roblems are thoughr up ro be pur to Iiobinson Crusoe, Homo oeronomirus: choices of

emperor's chariot, connected these buildings."'

. . . u n d c mulris accessionibus ralc.l'hcarru~~l auguri possir, er rota rerum universitas in unam domu111 comp,lcra ~ p c c t a r o t . i b ~ ~ s i h c r i . " ~ e h
when the \,ark was I'al-adisc, t l ~ c Huid a n d fleeting Ever [he h.lic hero concclltr:Ired rherc in si~nulrcra:names. until po\~crr s t ~ n rtatiics for the SOIIo f HC~IVCII; c the ljnguii ndai*ilii hrc;lllle


L)brs.srs .sci~tr(~trv~rtr.s

production, division of labor, use of the technics offered to him on the island. All around lies the big sea, fluid society that watches while he operates in solitude. At most, he will be approached by his savage shadow. But paradoxically, the primiti\~eimage of economic acrivity presents it as solitary actiorl. Here I propose a new fiction, taken n o longer from the transparency o f the beginning b u t from the frivolous fires at the end: This time we might call it the fiction of rhe park in Miize-H~z/7n.Given a sealed enclosure inhabited by female children and young girls committed to a subtle upbringing, whose cost is paid by the society outside the enclosure, of which we know nothing, it will be a matter of ieconstructing how and o n what terms the unknown society around the island o f the park permits it to exist, just as the reconstruction of Crusoe's activity was to make it possible to project an operative model o n the sea of society around him. A t the very beginning o f the Gruildrisse, M a r x lashes o u t a t Robinsonades, "conceits devoid o f irnaginarion," which serve to let the e n d product o f a historical evolution pass for natural fact: in this case, the individual as isolated entity. His theological hatred for the primurn forced him t o condemn it, but by adding the observation that such "nonsense, which had sense a n d reason for men of the eighteenth century," had been reintroduced "right into thr middle of the most modern economics"-and he cites Claude-FrCdCric Bastiat, Henry Charles Carey, and I'ierre-loseph Proudhon-Marx implied a recognition of the power of images lying in ambush behind the rude prose ofeconomists. Indeed, he himselfwould be the most prodigious creator ofphantasms within economic discourse, so it he comes as n o surprise that later, in C~zpitizl, decided, albeit ironically, to discuss the Crusoe hypothesis. A n d the ticklish place where he chose to d o so is revealing at the end of the first chapter o f t h e first book, as a n introduction to a series of Robinsonades. T h e others are devored to "the darkness of medieval Europe" and then, after mentioning the "naturwucl~sig" (natural and spontaneous) primitive community (an ever real-I-ingflrtio in Gpitill and certainly n o less extrav:igant arid irnprobahle than (:rusoe's island), to the "patriarchal peasant family" and an ":issocintion o f free men." All these hypotheses are examined against the world o f t h e production of commodities, for in them (though to varying degrees and even for opposite reasons) "the social relations of men with their labors and with the products o f their labor" tend to remain "simple and rransparent.""

T h e demonstnzndunl had hern presented by Marx at the beginning of the passage: "The whole mysticisni of the world ofcon~modities, the magic all and phantasms that enshroud the products of labor with fbg and result from the production of commodities, is immediately dispelled as soon as we take refilge in other modes of production."- There thus exists a specific perversio~l the world of commodities, which distinguishes it from every in other social form: a mystical perversion, as if phantasms, having hccn cleared from the sky, had all insinuated themselves intact into the seams of economic circulation. N o sooner does Marx evoke the phantasmagoria of commodities than he abandons himself t o a proliferation of images, and yet he does not offer a crypro-mythological strucrure adequate t o represent the totality of that world, unless it would be the whole vast, overflowing, a r ~ d unfinished edifice of Capital. Years later, however, a tiny, highly precise emblem of that world was t o appear, a miniarure bathed in that opalescent light rhat libertines say is act~lally distinctive product of the a "mysticism of the world of commodities": the park ofMine-Haha. T h e girls in the park d o not belong even to a family, much less to themselves. Like the exposed children of mythology, they are pledged t o a mission-1101, however, the heroic kind reserved for unique beings. On the contrary, their training will streamline them to endless permutation, to interchangeability, that is. to equit~lriprrri.--to the great Western practice of substirution. separation, a n d arbitrariness. They will become algebraic and erotic beings. T h e girls in the park are r sociaiprope~ty,which society sacrifices to itself Behind the Isis-like veil of the walls, the phantasms of the exchange process become bodies, a n d in particular freshly minted female bodics, by rhat inversion mechanism that Marx encountered at every step as thz counters&i~of capitalism and that he called the "personiof fication of things and r ~ i f i ~ i t i o n the relations of production." T h e girli bodies will, in their turn, again become phantasms, by being sold o n the stage of the theater. T h e initiatory aura comes as n o surprise; these are clearly the secret ceremonies o f the most bigoted and devious of nligions: the "religion of everyday life."x We are live coin, h e told us, remember?-that hospitable H u g u e n o t - ~ l a vteacher of ours-and we squealed with laughter at those words uttered with such liturgical gravity. But when 1 too found myselfwith a riding crop in my hand. a n d wa* i i l ~ r o d u c i n g n the stage the o

Ddrssrs cnfrrtenurs


younger companiot~s thcy'd entrusted to me, when I had got used to gazing into the hnzy darkness o f t h e nuciience ;und hearing its awful hrc;~thing, which sucked 11s in every time a n d spat us o u t again, 11s nimble ipaves [waifs\, re;ldy to repeat our pantomime every evening with increasing fluidity-1 felt with a pang the certainty that it was prcciselv oiu-selves w h o were that elenre~lt n t o which everything was converted, that which ari and rived o n the stage from the darkness extrn mz~l-or returned to i t shining in drops of mercury. or others say in gold coins. An elusive happiness dwells in the park. A spell emanates (rorn the little yellow boots and white stockings. the tightly laced shoes, the pale grcen garters, the broad-brimmed straw hats. the red bricks covered by Virginia creeper, the darting tongue of the salamander S i ~ n h a Gerrrud's slender , rod, the windows illuminated at night, where one glimpses the little girls' white dresses-a spell that still haunts the memory of the female narrator a n d seduces the reader into regions that Miidchet~iil Utliforin and Olivin suggesr but d o not attain. "We were happy, all o f u s , but that was all." An apparently innocuous sentence, which conceals the secrets of rite park. Might this suspended a n d unreasonable happiness perhaps be coerced, imposed by machinations that chemically separate it from everything? It is certainly based o n ignorance: of the world, which is never seen, of feeling, o f funcrion, of society-all obscure u ~ l k n o w n s T h e little girls. ab. sorbed in the exercise of their own bodies, can know nothing of all that. "To d o things without knowing whut thcy are": T h i s is how Adoruo at Darmstadr described "the form of every artistic utopia today": translating in his pathos Sanluel Beckett's dry ' Z i p i-c.Ia, silns invoir rjuoi, "which he used as a n epigraph for his lecture "Vers une nlusiquc informelle." in accordance with this inconT h e girls in the park behave it. gruous rule, indispens;lhle as i t is f o r whoever lina encou~ltered By exercising themselves, they tattoo the of their bodies a u d trans. > > .pose i t into p h a n t a s ~ n . "l'he Hesh has iis own s p i n t : I-his was almost W e d e k i ~ ~ dmorto, anct the sanle goes for the forms of things ~ ~ n k n o w n , 's those raw yet p r o d i g i o ~ ~ s lav ~ i n i ~ r t c d t materials t11;lt (:harlea Hautlelaire f o u ~ l d the bottom of the go~q'fi*~j;~l,yssJ and christened Ie fiuucnu. at Scouring the city srreets around thc p;~rk,N':~lrer H r ~ i j a m i ndiscovered that k Nou2~enuhad another name as well: c o m m o d i t i e . 'She unblemished happiness of reclusion, which allows o n e to experience forms as


pure exercise, is made possible precisely by the functions of a world that . . does not have symbols a n d therefore wants the park to produce phantasms and sell them. So we find ourse1ve.s faced with a variation of le bonheur dlan~ I;'ji.Iavagr [happiness in slavery]. As coin and phantasm, the girls in the park get ready t o circulate. T h e y process themselves, a n d in this they discover a happiness the outside world cannot know. As persons, they are slaves: locked in imponderab!e rapture for as long as they are such. in the park; destined for mockery, brutality, a n d torture once they become free in the outside world. T h e y must, in any case, be killed. Either slowly, in the p r k , if they break its rules a n d want not to be mere phantasms b u t to touch life, whether by trying to escape from the park o r by seeking erotic pleasure aspersons. This is what had happened to the two horrible, ominous old women w h o wait o n table for the girls in the park and w h o remind us of the slaves supposed by Hugo von Hofrnannsthal to be moaning faintly in Goethe's cellars. Or else they can look forward to a symbolic immolation in the outside world as soon as they leave the park, as happens to the fernale narrator. It is only a question o f time. These menacing truths dawn slowly on Hidalla; the omens gradually pile up as the end of her training nears. T h e transition to the theater then intensifies the 5zrhole -. process. I h e phantasms offered to the spectators by the girls are their bodies, which have n o way o f knowing what a body, u p o n which the whole discipline of the park is inscribed in minute arabesques, nus st represent for the howling public in the dark. But the pantomime these bodies enact is a ceaseless repetition of the rape comnritted by the Prince of Mosquitoes, who with equanimity sticks priocesscs, magicians' daughters, court ladies, a n d peasant girls in a barely disguised prefiguration o f the second and final rape that will take place in the basin of the Campidoglio. thus now in the outside world, the final stage o f the initiation: the sacred nupdals. Indeed, the world does not care to give u p its traditions, a n d in its ceremonies it has certainly not stopped following the a u g ~ s pattern o f all t theaters. T h e girls i n the park will unwittingly g o through it all again. Born from the water that eli~ninatrs traces of prelife, naked at the beall ginning of the journey as they will be naked at the end of i t o n the stage, confined in baskets to enter from darkness into the new phase, the11 locked


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up to undergo the v a r i o ~ ~ s imposed by their training, later selected as trials worthy initiates after a careful zootechnical examination conducted by ladies in long white silk gowns, and finally, led through hellish underground passages to the blinding light of reflectors illuminating the sacred marriage with the prince before a multitude of avidly staring eyes, though not so many as the countless ones that will exult around the basin of the Campidoglio, the site of the final immolation, which is called a n encounter with life and marks its end. Whereas a careful reading of the economic structure of Afine-t-i~hashows that the girls in the park are commodities, and in particular "excluded commodities," the "universal equivalent," Geldkvictall (money crystal), a careful reading of the psychical structure of Capital shows that the prime commodity is woman. T h e first chapter of the first section of Gpital, the only great demonology text produced by the bourgeois age, is already shaken by convulsions: Marx, like a rude exorcist, clutches at skirts, jackets, and pieces of cloth in mad pursuit of the metan~orphoses comof n~odities, that "social hieroglyphic" with its restless mobility, which still seems "at first sight like something obvious and banal." Instead, i t will turn o u t t o be "sonlething very twisted, full ofmetaphysical cunning and theological whims," something "sensitive and supersensitive."" These commodities, which "come into the world in [he forrn o f usevalues or of bodies of comn~odities," quick to betray their "n:ltural doare mestic form"](' to devote themselves to the perversion of the "valueform," the "money-form" that by its spectrd uniformity contrasts brutally with the "multicolored bodies" of commodities in their "natural forms." At the beginning of the second chapter, which takes up the "process of exchange,'' men also appear explicitly as maquereaux [pimps]: "Commodities cannot go to market by themselves and be exchanged. We must therefore seek out their guardians, the possessors of commodities. C;on~modities are things and therefore unable to resist man. And if they d o not consent. he can use force: in other words, he can take them over." O n e of'the few irrefutable practical rules of psychoanalysis is to look for symptoms more ed in the notes than in the text. At-the end of he q ~ ~ o t sentence, Mars "In adds a foo~note: thc twelfth century, so celebrated for its piery, very delicate things often happen among these commodiries. Thus a French poet of the period lists among the commodities ro be found in the Landit

marketplace, along with clothes, shoes, leather, farm tools, skins, etc., also

ffemmesfollesde leur corps' " [wanton women] . I '

The training of rhc bodies of the young girls in the park represents, as it progresses, the triumph of I'drtpozlr Ihrt, that first and still rather crude formula of great modern formalism: a pure exercise in the sealed chamber of nothingness, unmindful of any function, which no longer even knows &at a function might be. Just as the "body of commodities" is transformed a n d perverted by succumbing t o the pervasive breath of the "value-form" that translates it into money and transforms the object into a fetish, so the training of the girls in the park insrills the erotic phantasm in the natural existence of the body. Thus a commz~nicatio idiomatum is created among bodies, which no longer relate to an ego but all stand for the repetition of the "fetish character." As phantasms, the girls in the park deftly replace each other. They are equivalence itself and comnlunicate in the coin of pleasure that they represent but that they must not explicitly know: "Due to the total ignorance in which we lived, our relations were limited to the simplest elements. So I don't even remember that any of those girls in the park ever seemed t o and felt like the me spiritually different from another one. Each tho~rght next one, and if one of them opened her mouth all the others always knew beforehand what she was going to say. And so we spoke very little. Often at meals no one said a word. They all ate sunk in silence. It was only by their physical differences that you could tell them apart. When one said "I," she meant her whole self, from her head to the tips of her toes. We almost felt our I in our legs and feet more than in our eyes and fingers. I have no recollection of how any of the girls spoke. 1 still know tlir way each one walked." Edenic perfection, dreanlt by Kousseau and the rosplit, by Marx as reappropriamantics as a triumph over the ~ l n h e a l t h ~ tion-that is, a return, once [he forces of production had achieved their most complex forms, to a rapport with nature as a n "extension of the body""-appears here as finally conlplete, but derisively, as a fetish. Paradise lies at the heart ofdcceptio~l. "Among the first groups of beings with which man had to deal, and which by definition were there to deal with him. were first of all the gods and the spirits of the dead. They, indeed, are the true owners of the things and goods ofthis world. It was most necessary to exchanges with

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thenl. But on the other hand, them, a n d most dangerous not to exchanges. Sacrificial destrucwith then1 it was easier and safer to tion h;m the precise aim of being a rion.ltion that I I ~ L I S C needs be rendered. All f o r ~ n s f t h e o in Northwcst A l s c r i c ~ and Northciist Asia share this theme o f destruction."'.' Two opposite exchange systems: the oiodcled o n [be sacri-

which presupposes a nmercuri:ll, fice, and the production of con~modities, ubiquitous element that can be broken down into parts of uniform value: abstract Labo); "lacking quality" as a unit of nmeasurenlent, and money as an "excluded commodity," each rnirrori~mgthe other. In the potlatch, o n the other hand, the incommensurability, the nonexistence of'the measuring u n i t , is recognized. thereby d e n y i ~ l g that the exchange can ever be equivalent. Whatever is given must be followed by a n e.~cessiwresponse. signaling :I readiness for exch:lnge and unbalancing the scales o n the other side. T h e new response will be a new excess arid a new unbalance-and so o n , endlessly. It is essential that parity never be acknowledged. Sacrificial exchange is contradictory because i t denies the very principle of exchange, the measuring unit, which is shared by human language

a n d the elements of nature only in the Edenic condition. 1 he rnyth established the impossible symbolic system, the secret equivillences. each rime t o be reconstructed, that allowed the exchange to be ~ e r f u r m e dThanks . t o this impossibility, the exchange w s precariously redeemed fiom the sin rhat marks its origin. Rut equivalence has always been present in the sacrifice, corrodi~lg it. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, in DiczLektik der Aujkliirurzg, singled o u t the point where sacrifice a n d the exchang of curnmodiries join: It is sacrificial substitution, the underlying trick of the Enlightennient, that makes it possible t o establish the rule ofequivalo~ce. From the Enlighteno m e n t until the t r i u m p h o f industr): rhere has been a linear p r o i e ~ s f niethodical conquesr, a n d today we navigare in the fluid equi\lalence o f a of the everything with everything, ;lnd every cipher is trans~llrent:
a Word, per spa-ulirpn in lirrzigmritc [ t h r o ~ g h gl'~ssdarkly 1.

Verv oftcn, if we w~llltt o find the clearest and most \ohcr cxpl1n:ltioil o f some Western obsessio~l, havc only to look to Ar-istotli.. 'fhus the k o ~ . 1 6 ~ we clnrsiciu o f the implicit condctn~llrion f cxch~~~~e--a,rrespo~mc~i~mg o to the passage o n tile secood:~ry,that is. c o ~ ~ d ~ ~ l l ~nature .nf writillg in I.)e llble inierjretilriunc ( I , 16;i. 3)-ir in the /'oliti(r (L, 9. I Z / ~ ~ - I Z ~ X ~ ) acwhich ,

knowledges that "all goods have rwo uses" but that to use them as a value for exchange is "improper" because goods d o n o t exist "for love o f exchange." T h e circulation of commodities thus takes its place in "unnatural chrematistics," which is marked, according to Aristorle, by what for a Greek is the most unforgivable vice: striving toward the unlimited. Marx resurrects this passage at the beginning of A Contribution to the Critique ofPolitical Eco~zorr~y,n d t h e framework o f the first section o f a Capital is modeled o n it. But exchange had already appeared as a malign, alienating element in his Ausziige nus Mill (1844)~ where there was even the suggestion of a Christ-money equarion. in perfect agreement, rhough from the opposite perspective, with LPon Bloy. In Ausziige, the "soul of money" was actually presented as the deceptive hypostasis of an 'butside intermediary," which, by interposing itself benveen men, deprived them of what is their own: "the activity, or movement, o f mediation, the social, human act.""4 T h a t the condemnation o f exchange is closely linked to the condemnation o f appearance a n d exteriority, that it is even interchangeable with them, appears explicitly, however, only in Capital: "Things are in themselves and by themselves external iri'usserlich)to man and therefore Here we find a n imposing metaphysical premalienable (z~erausserlich)."'j ise, as often happens in a n analysis rhat claims only t o be historical. It thus suffices to give rise t o the fiction of the ego as a n enclosed area, with exchange taking place because the world's features have hardened in a deadly lack o f relatedness. And is it possible that this does not tiappen? Combining mythopoeric frenzy a n d a cold critical acutnen, Marx here introduces his utopian model as well, only t o thwart it immediately: "For this alienatioll t o be reciprocal, all that is necessary is for men t o oppose each other tacitly as private owners of these alienable things a n d thus precisely as persons independent of each o t h e r Such a relationship of reciprocal isolation does n o t exist, however, for t h e members o f a naturalspontaneous (naturw~ichsi~) community, whether it takes the form of a patriarchal family, a c o m m u n i t y in ancient India, o r a n Inca state."Ib Such irafirrwuchsig conmmonities are clearly considered as a body, whcre everything belongs and n o outside exists, since no errharzge exists to create the schism, through t h r L g between buying and selling that is f o ~ i l e ~ l t e d a by "dissolving money." (Schrzdemunzc. usually, is "loose change"; b u t scheiden, "to sepamte," a n d Scheide. "vagina." T h u s , i l l o n e of the most ] strained passages in Lnpitai "Ancient society denouclces it [ m o ~ l e yas Scl~eidemunze f its economic arid m o n l order,"l- and the wholc paswge o


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merely repeats, with significant changes in cone and arrangement [che two favorite quotations from Shakespeare's Ernon ofAthenr. which first introduced the subject, are now put inro a footnorc] folio 41 of the Economic and I'biiosophic Manzrsrripn, where money is in its pontifical power to loosen and bind ["Can i t nor perhaps loosen and tighten all bonds?"] and finally as a "universal niratrs ofseparotion [ScbeiduT,giminei]," culminating in the statement .It is the real Scheidmiz2nze.") Everything circulates internoliy Bur the outside appears as soon as the borders of the community are crossed. Then the community presents itself as a unity facing another outside unity, and thus in conditions of exchange. And it is here that Marx, in one fell swoop. den~olishes a couih ple of sentences the utopian image he has just created: "The exchange of commodities begins where communities end, at the points where they enter inro contact with outside communities or with members of such communities. But once things have become commodities in relations with the outside, by the same token they become such in the community's internal life. . . . From that moment on, the division is fixed, on one side, the utility of things for immediate needs, and 011 the other, their utility for exchange."'* Both for the individual and far the naturii~iihig commu~iity, collision with the outside is inevitable, and in that collithe sion the of imniediacy is dissolved, destructive exchange is born, and the phantasms of money and commodities begin to spread. And to close the vicious circle of nihilism, the subject that by asserting itself had released these phantasms is annihilated by t h e m This too had been recognized by Marx as early as the Aasziige azrs Mill: "With rrioney, and that means by total indifference toward both the nature of the material and the personaliry of the private owner, the total donlinion of the alienated thing ow7 man became manifest.'"" T h e liquidstion of the autonomous subject, however, occurs not in a brutal and immediately visible way but in a subtle and derisive form, whose triumph Marx sees in the improvement of the banking system-so derisive that the naive followers of SaintSimon saw in it the sign of its opposite: a return by man to himself, ha-ha! But, observes Marx, "this rrtzrm by ma. to himself and therefore to other men is only an appearance. it is a self-alienltion 211 the mow disgria.(fuland more extreme insofar as its clement is no longer conlmodiry. metal, or paper, the heart itself." but moral existence, sucial existe~~ce, m.retr of the hu111;~n Finally: "It is not that in the credit system money is overcollie iau&hoben) in man, but man himself is transfor~nedinto monqy, or rather

money is incorporated inro him. Human individrmiiry, human moraiiiy. has itself become a commercial item, a materialin which money exi~rs.""~ T h e human body thus becomes an extension of the body of money, mirroring the origin, where nature was an "extension of the bodyna of man. T h e "production of commodities" is thus not only a historical phase but history itself as internally corroded by nihilism, which is primarily the practice of replaceability, algebraic haste, the denial of whatever is incommensurable, and the radical abuse of metaphor. All innocence and blessed unity are negated by the very words that express them, in whose sound, as the seal of equivalence, Robespierre's answer echoes every time, as Hegl noted: "The answer thar Robespierre always gave-when they told him that someone had thought or wanted something or said something elscwas: L mort! Its uniformity is extremely tedious, but it suits everything. a You want the jacket: here it is; you want the vest too: it? here; you give a slap: here's the other cheek; you want the little finger: cut it off I can kill anything, abstract from anything. Obstinacy is thus irlvincible and in itself can overcome anything. But the supreme thing to overcome would be precisely this freedom, this very death."22 "But there is a blasted difference in the first place between barbarians who are fit to be used for anything, and civilized beings who apply themselves to everything," said Ma1x.L T h e context makes it clear that the "barbarians" are the Russians and the "civilized beings" the Yankees. and his tone anticipated not only a certain kind of macho speech in American movies but also suggested. by its abrupt outburst, that a decisive point was being reached: abstract work, work 'iampbroie, "without quality,'' pure negating activity, a category that having crept into the economy, emerges to crack with a diamond point the solid surfaces of all other spheres of life. It is here that Hegelian karma adds something to Adam Smith 2nd David Ricardo, enriching their icy empiricism with a lethal drop of metaphysical poison, the drop thar makes it possible to corrode a concrete element unknown to the empirical. Abstract labor means the reduction ofany acriviD to an empty unity, the dissipation of energy involved in any task, apart any specific difference, that is, from any quality or function. any meaning A huge furnace into which lace, sackcloth, rags. and flags get "productive erpendir~lre of thrown-anything, so long as i t buros-the brains, muscles, nerves, human handsl':'h The first inversion of the world


of commodities lies in this evaluation of productive labor as consumptio~z. 'I'he scale of value is shown precisely by the capacity to be burned. It can rhus be said that the most appropriate inlagc of abstract labor, as the advanced industrial age has shown, is pure exercise in the void: l : ~ i t ~ o r liiit cr as the model for all activity, a basis shared by StCphaoe MallatmC m d the assembly line, a r n i r r u ~ n i a p of the "third functioii of money."!' the cycle i M-C-C-M [money = commodity = c o m ~ n o d i t y= mooey], in which money appears as an end in itself and capable of being glorified \viihout restraint in the process of circulation. This cycle can be reconstructed by following the course of the girls in the park. First phase: production, park. T h e gil-Is appear as "laughing water," primordial agent o f circulation, traces of soma: during their training, they are material operating o n material (abstract labor has no subject. it is the work of manpower), exercise, abstract labor. the llihilistic practice of forni, the elaboration of the body of the coniniodity, which becomes the "commodity of all commodities," money. S e c o ~ i d phase: exchange. theater. T h c girls are now also persons, their value beiilg the phantasm they offer; their absrracr labor, pure exercise, turns o u t to be~fi~nctiotzal, but in a sellre that had not been ivilled by those who had squandered the energy of the exercise. I t could not have been willed, since the exercise. as r model of abstract labor, is beyorid v,eusirrg T h e theatrical exhibition causes money t o flow into the park,. while the "live coin" of the girls enters into circulation in the outside w u r l d T h e money they have atrracted already serves to o ~ a i n t a i nuthcr female inmates o f t h e park i s they too work to transform rhemsejves into money. Circulus uitinsw dea. "lndusrry establishes as rhe very principle o f its initiatives that any hunian like any natural heno omen on, is capable of being treated as expioitnble nii~teriai,and is therefore arbject to fluctuations in iaibr. as well as to all the iuivlini of ~xperiencr,"x~ wrote Klossowski. O n c e they become material, "emblenis come back as commodities," Kenjaniin notes, while our period proves increasingly eager to spread forms o n the market, filling with phantasms the scerle abandoned hi the orders of analogy and symbol-in short, by corrcspondencrs. This involi~es subtle change in a rhe statute of images. lfindecd. in ternms ofexchang, b e i n g are now primarily phantasms, then phantasms will in their turn enjoy the autonomy of subjccts and withdraw themselves from all jurisdiction. T11is detachment o f t h e thing from the person. which for Freud n~ai-kcd p a t h o l n ~ the

of fetishism. is now the assumption of every perception and every use of phantasms. Phantasms by now refer to nothing but themselves and heir own latenc power, which is all the greater insofar as thcy include in their individual and parrial bcir~gthe totality of the exchange process, jusr as a single coin expresses the totality o f ecanomic circu1:ltion. Fetishes thus allow the formation of a new Adarnic lallgudgt,: " O u r objects, in their mut ~ ~relations, are the only comprehensible language that we speak to each al another. A human language we would not understand, a n d it would re(Disconcerting rhings happen: O n c e it has been promain ineffe~tive."~claimed that fetishes have no power-and after breud has placed fetishism at the penultimate level of perversions. just above necrophilia, cxclai~ning in his Lecturrs "But now enough of these horrors!"-it actually turns o u t that the ligns and beings of the world c o m ~ n u n i c a r only i n r their capacity as ferishcs. while consequenrly fetishism itself appears as the primc guarantee of-social exchange: in a ward, of n o r ~ n a l i t ~ . )



Among the theorists of 1;rrt poilr l;irt, only Baudelaire understood that rhe ivory tower should be taken as antiphrasis, as a site for the "universal prostitution o f beings." to use the formula that Klossowski has applied t o Sade and that Marx, much earlier had applied to all of industrial society: "Universal prostitution appearsas a necessary phase in tllr social character of personal tendencies, capacities, abilities, a n d activities."'".The law o f exchange rcquircs a "univcrsal cquiv;ilent": the Vedic r a m 1 l n d the logos no longer being relevant and osable. they are replaced by the twin couple of "abstract labor" and "excluded commodity.'' money-and every level of the manifestation, insofar as it i s transmitted, becomes one of the variiliriitricn ous forms o f ptosritution, [lie last appearance of the ti~rolugin eloquently condemned by Saint Augurtine. "L'etre ie plus proitituC c i t i'tbepar excelience. c'est DieuJ'[rhe rnost prosrituted being is the being par excellence, God], remarked Baudelaire, and tiom there the cosrr~ic ladder descends, refracting the divine image down to the bourgois who s u r t ~ ~ i n s it, claiming to buy every~lling without selling himself, and who would like to withdraw from the constant dispossession suffered by everyone, first of all by God: exinL7?,iznise [he emptied himself]. T h e joke of the reigning order i\ that this incongruous claim appears to be well four~ded: a poer "If were to ask the state for the right to keep a hourgois in his stable, people would be much asto~rished. while if a bourgeois were to ; ~ s k '1 piece of hr roasted poet, it would be found conipletely natural." says Baudelaire in


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Dhesses entretenuei . 73

Mon roeur mis h nu. This may also be the reason why the world does not abound in love: indeed, "love may derive from a generous sentiment: the taste for But it is quickly corrupted by the taste for property"
(Baudelaire, Fzistes).

gets is unremitting tautology, the repetition of divine names, a constant exchange of incorruptible mystical commodities, whether they be words, bodies, images, phantasms, or objects. Seen horn a distance, this dizzying circulation produces an effect of static hypnosis, a miserable condition of demigods who would like to die but cannot. Second post-historical corollary: Common e.xcbange is mystical mcbange. T h e unit of measure-that is, the capacity of anything to be translated into anything else, equivalence (only the clect are equal), reciprocitythese are esoteric notions, and post-history makes them become the only immediate reality, since i t is on them that it bases the circulation of commodities and on such circulation that it models every other exchange. T h e countless mystical formulas and religious allusions used by Marx, from the Manuscripts of1844 to the last parts of Capital (to choose at random: "the Grail of gold," "the alchemical retort of circulation," "mystical nature of commodities," "trinitarian formula," "veil of mystical fog" [of the ~ r o d u c t i o nprocess], "blinding enigma of the commodity fetish") should be taken literally. Commentators have often avoided them as though they were baroque decoration to be excused, along with Hegelian coquetry, in the name of the sound doctrine they conceal. Yet never was that doctrine so sound and indispensable as in its discovery of the theological dimension of capital. The theatrical character of post-history. the fact that it is devoid of subsrance and constantly needs to be absorbed into a phantasmagoria that appeases its insatiable need for fetishes, explains the return to the abandoned stage of all the images of the historical past. Thus, behind the "live coin" of the ark dwellers, a throng of other beings appear as well, reflecting the origin of that coin. As "laughing water," we recognize the waves that flow toward Soma in the atmuspheric sea, the Apsarases with their rounded breasts and empty eyes, the inexhaustible celestial water nymphs, spontaneously appearing and disappearing in the pond in the park, the pool where the Rig-Veda shows us the beautiful Urvaii sporting with her water birds. T h e training of their bodies seeks to make them "in coins, ovoidal cowries, distended and shinillg. with scalloped edges. like "the right, equal word'' of the Dogon, which is wove11 with another right word. Exchange of twins, said the seventh nommo, bisexual ancestor and lord of the word, is the model of equal exchange. it is the twilight of

Mine-Haha, this dark novel about money, bodies, phantasms, and chattel, could only have been written within the framework of post-history, a word I happen to use as being just as obvious and just as obscure as prehistory. But let me here try to provide a brief definition for the dictionary: POST-HISTORY: portion of history that is enacted in the experimenthat tal laboratory of nihilism. Nihilism, of course, has always dwelt iri history, but each time it had to get rid of its various orders based on more or less strict and narrow correspondences, analogies, and canons. Once nihilism had inadvertently devoured the last existing forms, Hegel. in the role of funeral director, announced that history was finished. T h e owl of Minerva took wing, and many believed they were witnessing the triumph of history, which had just disappeared. It was often said, with satisfaction, that all of history was a tireless demolition of idols. Now that the operation was finally complete, i t remained only to sell the idols, while taking care that they retained their power of fascination over buyers, even if the regime of uniqueness had been replaced by the indefinite n~ultiplication images, of in obedience to an ever effective principle: Lower the price of everything but make sure that everything has a price. Arthur k m b a u d then opened the grand clearance sale of phantasms like a prestidigitator: "For sale what the Jews have not sold, what nobility and crime have not enjoyed, what the fatal love and the infernal honesty of the masses do not know. . . . For sale priceless Bodies, not belonging to any known race, world, sex, progeny! . . . For sale anarchy for the masses; irrepressible satisfaction for superior amateurs; terrible death for the faithful and lovers! . . . For sale bodies, voices, the tremendous, unquestionabie wealth, what will never be sold. The salesmen have not reached the end of the sale! Travelers do not !"~ have to render accounts i r n n ~ e d i a t e l ~ Indeed, this sale is still going on.
First post-historical corollary: ?he letter b rrotbing but spUtt. Among the experimental practices that nihilism, an astute rhetorician, has tried to put into operation in its theater. the first and main one is esotericism A chilling oxymoron has thus been created, one that grips our whole life. Appearance having now been dissolved as referring to another, what one

litrle de'essei e~irreteizues,w h o x fleeting forms Heine and [he nymphr, M~~~ had r l i m p s c ~in Christian crypts, still visited by rhc oldest guarlnd in the cellars o f rhe Cr&ditMobilier. As loilg as dians of the caves, : ,ark, they experience rile joys and rediscover the transthey remain in rhe t plrellcy of a girls. g/70ml, rhc ''young people's house" of the Muria Inimagc of a perfect i ~ p b r i n ~ ithat exhausted an~lg dians, che only suit thropologl; hkiSbeer, able t o f i n d "Nihilism is a feeling o f lra~rpilless." observed NierzschG the leading expert. If that sentiment has ever been shown anyhere ill its pure state, it is in the park in Mine-HaL. But once they lea\,e [hat s a n c t ~ ~ athey enter the world of unacknowledged a n d r~, nontrallsparelll ,,ihilism the one in which we live and whose busil~essit tl,e girls in the park the meanest humiliations while welis inflict

mare g o d for which rhe girls have been raised in their refined stable already appearb: mockery and ruin. I n the building with neither doors nor willduws, at the borderline bew e e n reclusion and the world, where rhe girls from rllr park are put o n display', the natural history of the rhearer r u m backward: Applause is once again the pulsation o f the spectators as the blood o f sairificiilI ;Iniillali gushes forth. Bur rheii the stage needs to discard such ancimr vestiges and take o n rhe characreristics of a cominodity: T h e panromime of the gil-ls from the park becomes a series o f magic-lantern slides, movrmenr o n glass, o r a collection o f dirt). pictures leafed rhrough slowly by a d a r k crowd behind the gracing. voyeurs who compose the new, shapeless cloud

of Eros around a many-bodied Psyche Beyo~ldrhc grating, the world has n o contour,, only sinister voices. It exults in the darkness; k r t shuffle toward the exit. Apologuc of Mine-liiih~iz: Whoever has once known the intoxication of tf being "live coin," an crclodcd cunlmudity, rhe c o m ~ m o d i o~ all c o ~ n modities. and a site o f i t ~ e t a m ~ r ~ h o sccasl ,n u r accepr the dsgradation of again finding herself a person. that is, a woman caog1lt in rhe pincers o f a social order thar pretends nor ro know that it is based o n the stimulating fluidity of universal prostitution and iniisrs thar char fact reniain uospoken. She has, moreover. good reamns: After leaving rhr park and having experienced that infinite agiliry a n d availahiliry she finds herself again in an unsullied world, which still kills in the name of its good manners and disavows the spectacle o f [he girls, though it no~irishesi r sccretly all its life. As Hegel observed in one of his norebooks: "l'eoplz don'r g o so much anymore to dances. public places. theaters. Ori shriearhle en fimille; on yeuieot aux moeu,r [They garher cogether ill their families; [hev rerurn LO thcir habirs]. These Dzoezrrs arc the universrl boredom of public l i k , morality."
LEONORE: In the tl~e;rrer,for busilless rea501ls. everyrhing is delibererely arranged as though all rhr spccrarors were as cpiltenlprible and abjecr as the company o f accors. B * U D ~ ~ Indeed. how often ;IC thc t h c ~ t c n ~ l ~ ~ : oil raking it good look at the femalc specraton in the boxes, have I fclt a sly joy rr discovering, in the way they majoticaliy nflcr thein~eliea rhe &ire olothcrs, rllc n m e ro

"An absrracr sens~l ,lity presupposes a n object that contains the possibili~y of all pleasures, ,,ys Marx.YJ Locked inside the park, rhe girls are intent o themselves into that object, followirlg the rules of precisely o n turniflq, thar, as Paul VralCry remarked, had bcen taught by "reasoned sensuallrY Baudelaire. From time t o time, the reachcr pays them a visir, his owl[tie yavrmenr, a n d lie observes rhe little girls from beheaded cane taps repearing, "Work is like Brussels lace: T h e essential is hind while unj~~stified absence." surroundr [he patrcl-I,: air,


'usr say one thing, Effie. Anyone who appears in p u b l ~ c


Ler me 1 for money no longer belongs ro society.


girls. initierion in rhe p r k neam irs end. when rhe last roucbes ~ ~ , ~ and rhe coins have been clipped to make them ready have heen [he excluded commodity is taken into rhe cheater rhmugil for l,assage~uays LO offer phanrasms to a public hidden behind heay grating while nroliey pours into rhe box office. 'The sacred nuptials of money and bodies are 11iarched o n rhe stage by a irreverent

prnromime i n

style of Heine, ialled The Hirice ofMosqnjtoer, where

hirrdsgiimz [lioly marriage] turns out to be primarily a good excuse girls. I n chis bouffo~tnelrc /yrique o u f i r i Y u i plunged d n ~ uric ati to r r , O J P ~ p n aaormd/t et w ~ ~ e u ~ e - d a r iiiitvzospMn dri gmads jorn, the ultii


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rules, barely concealed, rhat governed the lives of my girls in the p r k . Just rhink, m ~ z chhe, of the soft glow of a Second Empire parterre. but one whose boxes encircle the underground pool of Gamier's OpCra: T h e maidens ofiocieg, some serious m d grave, others blond and giddy, are reflccred in rhose tiny waves that receive and retransmit the light from their eyes, their jewels, their shoulders, framed by the boxes. They display a precocious bosom with aristocratic nonchalance or an unripe figure with candor, their fans secretly mangled by their teeth, their eyes vague and fixed, no less solenln and theatrical than the spectacle they are rer rending to follow And alongside them, o s t e ~ ~ t a t i o usweeping the floor with its sl~ train and the ends of its shawls, with the wide-open eye of the beast rhat seems to see nothing and examines everything against a boreal background, sometimes pink (to indicate ecstasy in frivolity), sometimes violet (coals being extinguished behind a blue stage curtain), rises the uariegated image oj'equiuouri beaun It represents the enclosed savage state of society. T h e triviality of its life, full of traps and knives, shows through its official decorations, but also through its artificial grandeur, which is linked to a slow movement of the eyes, a certain toss of the head, and a certain way of carrying oneself but goes no further. O r else: curled up on sofas, with their skirts turned up fore and aft to form a double fan, heary. sullen, obtuse, intemperate, their eyes &zed from brandy, their foreheads round and stubborn, in a hazy and gilded languor of which the indigent classes know nothing-here are the sinun, who have nothing of their own. not even the eccentric ornaments of their beauty. T h e girls in the park, having arrived on the stage, are also creatures of decoration; they have nothing of their own; they are objects given over to universal pleasure, ready to be stuck by the outsize pins of the logos behind the as well as by those of the Prince of Mosquitoes. its vicar on the stage. By silent exercises with their harsh discipline, in the White House and red houses, Hidallas hundreds of companions were being obscurely prepared for this too. T h e expectation of life, the imminence of disaster, anticipatory tentacles extended beyond the enclosure of the ark, dressing for the ball, the party observed in hiding from the darkness at the top of a stairway-it is the aura in which so many heroines of novels lived in those yeair before meeting Prince Andrey. But here the time has come to say farewell to any possible developn~ent, any story: Crystallized in the subtlest animality, with the measured pace of horses, n~iraculously elastic

in their gait, the inmates of the park can only dissolve like shadows swallowed up by the rellecrors. Soon thereafter. after they have been thrown inro the natural and murderous light of the unknown outside world, threatening faces throw Rowers as they pass, spectators throng fiom all the alleyways. because they have been immolated to something or other, in a ~ o o of water similar to the one where they played games in the park. l But we will learn nothing about it. for here Hidallai story breaks off, as though to suggest that the end is the dull thud of the eighty-four-year-old narratrix falling on the pavement. HIDALLA: Ultimate image of happiness! To enter the world from a theater box office, while the first spectators are already buying you with their tickets! O n 12 March 1918, around 4:15 in the afternoon, Frank Wedekind was buried in the Waldfriedhof in Munich. A strange. dense crowd had gathered. Representatives ofsociety-men of art, science, and the libeml professions-grouped around the relatives soon found then~selves surrounded by swarms of equivocal creatures, for the most part whores with their pimps. T h e sewers had been opened, and the inhabitants of that realm rushed out to say goodbye to the writer who had once been their loyal and happy guest Gaudy costumes closed in behind the gentleme11 in top lrats and frock coats, and as the cortege started, the uninvited mob surged forward, hoping to arrive first at the grave so as to miss no part of the spectacle. T h e mad stampede reminded one of the onlooken, Kurt Martens, of two lines by Wedekind: Happy the man who calm and satisfied tramples fresh graves! O u t of rhat picturesque. unseemly pack emerged a pale youth with long clumsy arms, the writer Heinrich Lautensack, who began giving agitated orders to a cameraman from Berlin who had come to film the scene and telling rhose present how to behave and in r.hat direction to look. Next he is said to have thrown a wreath of roses in the grave, while shouting words of homage to Wedekind-at that moment, he went out of his mindj to die in the grip of madness a few moiltllr l'iter i n the uprolr, the nine official speakers could hardly make themselves heard.

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ered as ego and rightly so; during that period it has sustained [he human cosmos in forms transmirted from generation to gmeration."The process is accompanied by a slight, sinister euphoria. What matters is to rerldcr the "basic schizoidness of thc human essrr~cc"' productive and provocative. "Schizoidness'~is not a rextbook word, freshly coined by Eugen Bleuler, but the seal on every hidden, fading nlonmeot. Ronne feels its stamp on his skin in the cafP or while eating lunch with men who talk about tropical fruits or in the corridors of a hospital. What exists? Those Irvrrs, handles, tables, waistcoats, rhost. convinced words, those necks planted like tree trunks-or his invisible delirium, his cold, then burning trance?
I have devvred v:lrious studies in my essays to
this theme uf al~aolute prose. I found the first

signs of it in IJascal, who speaks of creating

Dr. Ronne kept going in and our of hospitals, ~nol-gues, literature. H e and
had been living this way for quite a while, proceeding further and further into his first internal mmigntion. H e was an Cniigrk in a docror's white uniform. R d n n e i initial gesture was to coat, and later in a Wehrn~acht separate his fate from reality. It was unacceptable that what offered itself as reality should actuaily be so. A pile of dtbris, maybe. Material to connrcr with, even. Bur the more Ronne connected, the more his separation from ail of it grew. A silent eruption was going on. Around his head was a slight whiff of epilepsy. DL R6nne had aircdy appeared in Ithaka,a play imbued with medical it1 19x4.But Ronneh identity card filthiness that Gottfried Benn shows Brussels, in the earll months of 1916, as the placc and date of his birth. Benn at the time was a doctor in a hospital for prostitutes and was billeted with his orderly in a req~lisitionedeleven-room house. H e wis allowed to go our in civilian clothes, his hours on dtlty were few he ignored the inhabitants of rhe place, and w i ~ h war as a pretext he secretly emthe barked on a mental flight [hat was never to be interrupted. Very pmbably. he already knew that "the category in which the cosmos rnanifesrs itself is hallucination." Now "life was wavering in a sphere of silence and dismay,'" a hallucinatory stasis with Hucn~atinns.Konne experiences in hinlselfwhat Benn will later Cunnulrtc: "The ego is a late state of mind in nature, and fleeting besides.": Like Pameelm, another double daring from the months in Brussels, Ronne annotares his own clinical chart: "In this brain something is decomposing char for four centuries has been consid-

beaury through distance, rhythm, and intonation. "through the recurrence of vowels and conaonants" -"rhc oscillating numl,rl- of beauty," he says once, and "perfection through the order of words."

To what literary genre does Gcbiine (Brains) belong? Tu ahsolure prose. But what is iricarlr by "absolute prose"? Obviously, sornethillg that had burst forth in Lautreamont, in Arthur Rimbaud (Illurriiaatioa~, also but U n e iiiiiun en e ~ f i l )in Stephane Mallaim6 (Diiiagathnd, but tliey are all , still too lyrical; the mocking tone stands out only in Lautriamont and ~ l i r Rimbaud of Une sairon. Among his conrcrnporrries. Benn cited Carl Einsteill (Bebuqrrin) and A n d d Gide (iloiude~ and nothing else) as producers of absolute prose. As for the surrealists, they were iticapable of it. AndrC Breton declared his contempt f o r art and had too many alexandrines in his ear. For the best examples, look to Saint Perersburg: to Osip Mandel"am (TheEgvptkn St~nip and his prose in general) or Andrey Bely (in his grandiose intentions); or else to a lone woman, Marina Tsverayeva, when she speaks o f her mother and the piano or also of Aleksaiidr Purhkin. Such is the lineage. It has nothing to do wirll avant-gardc or manifestos. Indeed, it has no patience with ci~1ic.r. There is only one criterion, and Benn rtatcd it succinctly: "For anyone striving to give crpressio~m to


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his inner self, art is not something relevant to the social sciences but something physical like fingerprints."?

. . . language that neither wants to (nor can)

d o anything but phosphoresce, incandesce, .~ overwhelm, stun. I t celebrates itself, it d c ~ gwhat
is human into its subtle but also powerfill organ-

Gehirne is a record of drugged writing. An endocrine drug is acting here,

secreted by the p h y s i o 1 0 ~ a doctor through whose hands many corpses of have passed. This drug loosens the connccrions that makc realiv feasible. It isolates other connections, which exhibit themselves with mocking clarity to the drugged mind and which to other minds are indecipherable. This nourishes the shifting soil of absolute prose: A space where words arc givcn over to thc force of inertia and friction is reduced to a minimum. Images wink at each other, nouns interbreed, and no one kn6ws what they are talking about. Perhaps, a few moments later, even Konne does not know. H e stacks up fragmrnred figures on the shelves of a cafk; he puts himself in the shoes of a repulsive gentleman seated at another table. His perceptions are accompanied by overwhelming sarcasm; he rides the crest of a primordial wave. Meanwhile, Rbnne tries to respond laultlessly to anyone who speaks to him, and he is that the decomposition going on in his head cannot be noticed from outside. Ronne's obscurity of mind comes from a compulsion. We believe he Benn absolutely w h c ~ i tells us that "The Birthday" just "happened,"6 that the "writing totally obeyed a compulsion."7 We are not dealing with automatic writing as clumsily theorized and practiced by the surrealists. It was the irruption of a twilight state as the average condition (in the statistical sense) of consciousness. He, Rtinne, had no need to train, stretch, or goad himself to reach that state. O n the contrary, he needed to hold himself back, in order to go on shaking hands with his colleagues, soberly greeting the nurses. and ordcring a beer. The drug was flowing in a lethargic and unfathomable sensory apparatus, like water from a faucet left open during the night.

ism, it becomes monologue, indeed monomania. -Gottfizrd

Benn, L ~ t t r r We//~>r~bofl to

Weary of all avant-gardes and formalisms, we take a dim view of these words, since we have heard so many others likc them. "Wri~ing that refers to nothing but itselfn-how many times have we heard that? But what looks similar can also be immensely distant. That "phosphoresce," which for Benn was the result of long sojourns on the other side of the river Acheron, can never become a pedantic prescription. T h e literature that celebrates itself and only itself and has cut all its moorings is precisely the one that derives in minute detail from that psychical darkness, that silent cavern where at intervals the style phosphoresces like an ignir faruus. Many have brandished this literary thyrsus, but there have been very few bacchants. And today almost all of them are dead. Benn takes leave of Wellershoffi "But I would be happy if I've succeeded in showing you that it's not just a question of style and language, but ofproblems ofs~~bstance."*


&an, Englischea Cafi

T h e azure sky is in Benn from the start. But it is the azure of someone who traveled very little, whose knowledge of other languages was poor. whose idea of delight was to read a detective story in English. Even Nietzsche, after all, took a few walks around Santa Margherita. Ben& biographical landscape instead is dirty snow, with a few wooden hulks sticking up in it. It is Berlin around the end of the w a r the scene that greets Benni final representative. the I'tolemea~l who enrerges from his beauty parlor, This is no Club Med divined by tile poet. "hore" is a vision of devastation thnt invades any bystander, all intmsity chat relates to nothing, a cutting mental irruption. This azure is sacrilegious, a enamel scar. an

He found this significa~lta n d orninous: perhaps

metaphor was already a11 attenlpt to escape, u kind of illusion and a lack of6deliry.

-(;ot@i~d Relrn. "Drr Gebtlrtstrrg"

When Riinne was a doctor in a bordello and had reached the age of thirty, he began to reap the stylistic consequences of the earth tremors being produced i n him, glacial and carboniferous, the friction of continental plates. Metaphor lay always to hand, like a jiminy for a burglar, if the only possibility for relief was offered by a chronic "attempt to escape." And the "lack of fidelity" sounded like a rousing virtue for someone who, like Ronne, felt oppressed by sincere and truthful citizens, purveyors of p~iblic opinion. "The Conqilest" and "The journey' are variations of an archetype that is the polestar for the modern: the strolling of the schizophrenic, introduced by Georg Buchner in Lenz, doused with metmpolitan poison by Baudelaire, unraveled with amiable despair in Robert Walser. To stroll in an unknown ciry, anlong hostile Belgians armored in their language. to sit for hours in a cafk, to end up for no particular reason in sordid neighborhoods, and finally to walk around in a greenhouse-this is all it takes to be sucked back into metamorphosis, the ceaseless billowing of figi~res, which can also be terrifying. 'By now the forniless was spreading. and the monstrous lay in wait."" Strolling and escaping now coincided. was a supreme sense of exhaustiorl. "I sudO n e of Benn's My [athcr exhaustion and a poiso11 in my denly felt a always suffered from fatigue, his daughter Nrle was to say. It is an exhaustion that comes from above and crushes like a giant hand. 'The frequency of such verbs as "waver," "fluctuate," and so on also pays homage to expressionist conventions. But what conveys B e n ~ i s tone is the backwash in the blood, the crouching vampirism in the breath, a cosmic gasping.
l'hose \vho Love strophes also love catastrophes; whoever is for sratues must also b e for ruins. -C;~l@ied Rrtzn, Drci alte hIBnncr

why. There will be time for beauty later, maybe the next line, maybe some forty years later, amid venereal disease and Wehrmacht uniforms, in multiple internal emigrations, and always with a poker face. Hut it had all been made possible by that "unprecedented" year when "Riinne, the physician, the flagellant of individual things"ll was born in Brussels, a year governed by a feeling of landslide, of forever wandering about while losing one's footing. Catastrophe first, then strophes. It should be noted that Ronne is not a "born artist," even if at the end he "perceives art."" What happens in hini is not a literary apprenticeship but a slippage of geological strata. H e witnesses something, or rather, undergoes it. and there he sinks. And as he sinks, for a moment he would still like to be one of those steely and obtuse who toss down a glass at the officers' club and accorllpany it with a quip. That way i t would be easier to survive. The solution wilI come later, in a perennial "double life." O n e day Ronne, or Benn. will open a medical practice, treating venereal and skin diseases. And he will write a few perfect poems, six or eight by his own count. This is how poets arc: "petit bourgeois, born with a particular irnpulse, half for volcanic action and half for apathy."I-5
If l must bc precise, my happy moments were
all connected with crime: adultcry, drunken-

ness, infidelit!:

hatrcd of p;~rcnrs,L ~ l s i d ~ ~ ~ h l c ro

standard of morality, stolen

a scntcncr by H;lmsun truest words in h u m a n

carne to my mind: is only one lovc, the

kind--among the

his tory.

HPYI~Z, Stimmc hinrer Die

d e m L1orhang

A breath of criminality blows ihroughout Gel~iree, striking the stagnant

air of the cemetery behind the pastor's house, the house where Benn was born; it blows as well through Nietrschc and "as statistics prove, more than 50 percent of Germany's great men."" Thei-e is the cruel 1.otheran dictate of Benni father, forbidding the son to administer morphine to his mother in her tortured death throes, since siltrering comes fronr the Lord and we must accept i t as such; there is the nest o f ~ n i c e embedded in the diaphragm of a girl drowned among the reeds. T h e doctori hand grazes them. Without having to move a step. Benn falls into extremes. and his

T h e Rijnne stories are not always beautif;{/.They are sometimes d ~ l i l . sometinles overloaded: at times images a]-e not set free or are set too free, while bits rnd pieces of poetry remain trapped by the harsh laws of prose. But what does i t matter? There is, after all, a throb in every line, a hammering at the temples, a fever that dries up the throat, and one cannot say


. Errrtnzd Scar
these sounds collide wirh [he knors of Germanic consonants. B u t for Benn, and for the anrennae with which he constantly prohed words, they were almost the whole vital t c n i i o ~Had that been taken away from him, ~. he could eves ioiagiile having spent his lifr rrlling cigarettes behind a counter.

words are tinged wirh rhar magic rhar Nieasche had evoked: the magic of rhc extreme, the eye of Venus.
. . . down with truth


Benn, Leber~sweg einec ~ntellckrualicten

. . . n quick look, just Icahng rllrough someBenni daughter Nele had written from Denmark to ask him a quesrion like a p o d Nordic girl: God? Benn got up his nerve. and remenlbered having written, "God is a bad stylistic principle."" But thcn he added, "To believe already puts me outside of God, that is to say [he univcrsc, and affirms that in g n e r a l 1 would be something. But I'm really nothing, it's just that something runs through nie whose provenance and direction have always seemed veiled to me and every day more ~ e i l e d . " N o one. '~ not even Nietzsche, knew so well as Benn how to mock the Germans. But rcading these overly simple words to a daughter who wants answers from her daddy, we cannot help thinking of a few other great GermansEckhart, I-Iiildetlin, Nietzsche. Benn was forever overiur~ling categories in the minds of many of his readers. How can one be regressive and classical at the same time? How can one be algae or a jellyfish and at the same time the capital of a column? How c m one obey the fluctuations of a primudial lymph and at the sanie time esrablish the rigid rule of form? Fearful as i t may be, one can manage to follow Benn o n one of the two paths, but how to d o so o n buth? And yet, unless one follows him on both paths, one loses him. Benn escapes: H e hecomes a brute nostalgic for the primordial or else a wan defender of form. To read Benn, one must see the algae on the capital and the capital in the algae.
Words, word^-nouns!Thry have only to spread cheir wings and millennia drop from rhrir

cin1t.s produccs a slight inloxication.


BPIIII. Doppelleben

Wlloever reads Beno's prose. from the Ronne stories to No1'ei o the Phenof' typt, is struck by a volley of verbal splinters, mostly nouns, and often composite nouns, hybrids invented on the spur of the moment. They are not readable in linear sequence, but arrange themselves in constellations. And then the prose appears. a prose like the segments of an orange. Aware that N u v e i u f t h e P h e n o ~ e was "markedly incomprehensible."'7 Benn once politely mentioned the circumstances in which those words arose. It


u l s during the war, in the Landsberg barracks, and he had happened on an art book, The Beauiy o thr Fpmnlr BonY, reproductions of Famous f paintings from all periods. Benn leafed through it, and from that perusal his prose was horn: "Always new details, which otherwise would have had with effort and annotated m d might never have been to he asse~nbled found."'* And now instcad: "Venuso, Ariadnes, Galateas rise from their cushions under arches. p t h e r fruits, veil their mourning, drop violets, convcy a drer111."~') There are doves, dogs, boats, conches, swalls, hares, shrubs. Then begins "the process, which may last half m houi''") And it is deposited oil a page. Hut here is the secret: Keep turning the pages, d o not even let your eyes stop.
'I'here is rhc morro ot'an old French family rhe ReC~umanoirrs. which if I>asic.~lly motto of the all artists: "Hnic tot, stzng, BHrtrrtmiznoiw" drinli your 1)lood. He.~~~n\a~~oi.t.e: is t o s,ly, for which



Bmn, Epilog und lyrizches lch

cl~e .mist, i f y o u sufkr, d o as I~crt yo~r';in, yo(, are your solc r c d c n > p ~ i o;ind your gotl; if y o ~ i r c r~ tl?!: yoti rnclsr drink your Olood, drink vour lllood. Hraumatxoirc!

Benn read everything and collected names i l l his notebooks. Later he rediKovered [hem, isolated and radiant. "Phaercians," "megaliths," "Lerna." "Asrarre," "Geta," even "olive" (as in "The Birthday") or "thcogonics"for a Romance-language reader, i r is hard to grasp the force with which

--(;nt@iir.d Bnln, 'li~ren f ~ i r l a b ~ l l ~ d rede K

OTIt / ~ FunhrnentaL o f t / ~ e e Coclz-collz Bottle

. 87

O n the Fundamentals of
the Coca-Cola Bottle

O n receiving the news of Martin Heideggets death, ltalian culrural critics, wit11 rare exceptions, were quick to offer new proof of a certain persistent poverty. For a few days, newspapers and magazines treated us to a succession of canned obituaries, thoughtful exhortations, and academic litanies. There was talk of negative and positive existentialism (the latter a comical subspecies on which ltaly has a monopoly), of Heideggeri adherence to Nazism, and of Jean-Paul Sartre and Juliette Grico as notable examples of the philosopheis influence; nor were allusions lacking to a certain obsolete cluality in Heidegger as far as presenr-day problems are concerned. O n e seemed to be witnessing a series of dutiful and hasty farewell gestures to a glorious old figure who had always been secretly hated and whose exploits people had trouble remen~bering. So it came as a real surprise when an article by Massimo Clcciari, fresh and vigorous in its approach, appeared in the magdziile Ritiiz~ciw. o t N only did Cacciari not apply to Heidegger the s t i ~ p i d riglnarole ("irrationalistic alignment . . . objectively rerction;iry . . . dec:ldence . . . exponent of the monopolistic bourgeoisie") to which we have been inured for decades by our vaguely Marxist culture ("a11 i n ~ r e a i i ~ b ~nlisleacti~lg expression," as Cacciari correctly observes), but he also recognized these stupidiries for whar they were ;ind rwcpt them away with a gesrure of impatient contempt, along with [heir eve11 more disgusting sccul:~r ment equivalents ("lack of fiith in inan . . . mysticol atrirude . . . disinregrdtion of value^'^). Once [his salurary disinfestarion has heen carried out, and we hlld ourselics in the void-char exhilar:~ringvoid. the one begin where thought call operare-we may f i ~ ~ a l l ~ ro comlnemorare Heidegger whiie rediscovering the shadow of his thought projecred all around

us. For even before we get to the Pastures of Being, Heidegger's thought can and should lead us to an understanding of the n~etaphysicalfilndamentals of a Coca-Cola bo trle. But there is another c o n t r o ~ e r s i a limage o f Heidegger, o n e much stronger than thar raised by the inadequate objecriorls a1w;lys raised againsr him in Italy. More than by any other, this image h.1. 1 s >een p u t forth by the one adversary who could measure u p to Heidegger in a Germany i~ltimately forsaken by philosophy: *I'heodor W. Adorno. In a little book, admittedly not o n e of his best, Adorno furiously attacked Heidegger as the incarnation of the "jargon of authenticity." Wh;it is this jargon? In the cultural pages of conservarive German newspapers and the inaugural lectures of Nazis hiding out in universities, in appeals to sound German customs and the praise of ecstatic mountain climbing. in the condemnarion of foreign words and the recourse to "dialogue," "hierarchies," and the "spil-it," all threatened by mass society, Adornoi ilntkiling ear detected dire words and expressions that had their origin somewhere in the romanric tradition and were now wandering adrift, like pernicious messengers and revenants, in the Germany o f Bonn: "Sacral without sacral substance, frozen emanations, the clich$s of the ;argon of authenticity are the waste products of aura. " Thus, behind the terrorism of Heideggerls philosophical language, Adorno, like a shrewd dog sniffing for truffles, detected those treasures of profound banality that had nourished Germany since the Biedermeier years in the first half of the nineteenth century, the rise of Nazism, and created a pedestal for Konrad Adenaoer and that still inspire the slogans of the German Christian Democrats. In Adorno's view, Heidegger in the end was to blmm for having concocted a complex speculative plot to justit? the acceptance of the norm. And we know that for critical theory, to whose [radition Adorno belongs. [he worsr disgrace of thinking is to renounce Marxian "criticism ofwhat exists." All this would no doubt be praiseworthy were it not fundamentally false. Not that the "jargon of authenticiry" is not alive and well, often i l l a sinister way, in Heidegger's writings. But to take (r as a key to everything is no less a blunder rhan the blatanr error comlnitted by those seeking to demolish the great composer Richard Wagner on [he hasis o f t h e unnritigated rubbish he sometimes uttered. i)espite ail rhc ~llluring mythology usually associated with Heidegger's pmo11-[he forest hur, [he paths in the fields, the "interrupted paths1'-his fearful philosophical mzchine is

88 .

0 t 1 ~ / I Ct:~tt~d/r~t~o~~ti~lj of ' t / (,'oc~/~-(:~Ii// h ~ [30t

operated by something quite different fro111tlint ' l k i ~ t o a i c bigotry that c r o p u p at times in sonie of his writings. In each of H r i d ~ ~ g e l 'phases, s from that of Sei,i a,id Zcit to tliat of his last o r r c ~ ~ friigments, we feel la~ that thc game is by a cold, lucid, imlrlacnblc pown: qiiintesscnce of the modern: T h e monumental nihilism that has guided Wcstero thought sinre its origins toward a glorious self-destruction here celebmtes its twilight of the gods. Like a Tibetan monk endlessly spinning his prayer wheel, Heidegger, with prodigious virtuosity, goes over a n d o v c ~ ttic whole history of f r o n ~the Greeks t o Nietzsche. dropping down into abandoned gorges and irrevocably twisting the meanings of accepted terms. T h e history ofrnetaphyrics. a history that is a desrillr has never attained such terr i b i n g clarity as in Heideggerb analyses. ILis, t o be sure. a clarity at the price of much violcnce and injustice; it is a destioy retouched by r ~,iastcrh~l cosmetician so that its line leads direcrly to the threshold of Heideggeri hut in the Black Forest. There he would like to takc it by the hand a n d carefully guide it beyond itself, over "slender little b r i d g i t o the "overcoming o f metaphysics." But even those who, with constant suspicion, follow this trail of the destiny of metaphysics must admit that it il~r.olves original and illumian nating design. N o o n e ha5 succeeded in reconstructing with such compelling rxsctitude the cage within which Western thought has fatally operated from Plato t o o u r own dry, repeatedly doomed t o call itself into question until all its possibilities are cxtiausted. T h i s limit. Hridegger stares, may be said io have been reached with Nietzschc. last thinker in rnetaphyiics and irs closing sign, who evoked that devastati~ig and intoxicating "will to will'' that governs us today. (The subtlr iscvcnge inflicrril by Heidegger at this point is clear: H e sends the most elusive philosopher o f the West hack t o the garden of Arn1ida.I fronl which he had always tried to escape; this is already a good example of Heideggeri strong-arm tactics.) Wliar happens to thought after Nietzschc? l ~ l c r c must rrturn t o the I fundanlcntals of the (:oc;~-Cola bottle, which I mentioned at the bcginn i n g Bcsidcs being :I fascinating intcrpretcr o f ciassical philosophical texcs, as well as a s ~ ~ r p r i s i n g contriver o f s t r i n g of v e r l ~ i l associations. Heidegger was an indispensable guide to the prcsellt. Ib veriG this, one need only turn t o two of his es5ays: "*l.hc Question ( : o ~ ~ c e r n i n g l e c h nology" and "Overcoming of Metrphysics."~How maliy congresses, huw many vexed reflections o n the evils and blessings of t r c h n o l o ~ h w ~ we



had to put up with throughout the twentieth century! H o w many vacuour disputes hetiveen "scientists" a n d "hunianists"! H o w many recommendations o f different ways of using ~ c ~ h ~ i o l oAs thorlgh any of it acgv! tually depended on o u r will! Whcn technology has already set its stamp o n our will! Technology, to all intents and purposes, nleans metal>hysics, Heideggcr suggests. Having run off the tracks of history, the Wrst s p chronically relives thc destiny of metaphysics in the eloquent silence ofits own operation. I t is in~possible account for the Coca-Cola bottle withto out going back to Plato's Idens. It is impossible to speak of the Coca-Cola bottle as a thing without explaining that it could otily appear in a world chat "has already destroyed things as things." All this may seem abstruse. But it is a n a t t e m p t to approach the supreme abstruseness of what surrounds us. l i v e r y iew in our midst feel the need for meraphysics (a wvrd now almost always used in a derogarory sense), it is because everything is already metaphysics. And-ultinlate joke!-philosophy has now become primarily a useful fact. Useful for what? For Ge-Steli 1 will skip the usual ironic senlarks about Heideggeri linguib~ic acrobatics and abuses a n d merely speci$ that this word, ordinarily used in the sense o f "scaffolding" as ivell as "bookshelf," becomes in the late Heidegger the black sun around which he arranges, in eccentric harmony, compounds o f the verb steNerz (to put), fro111 the uoiiiellcfi (to represent) of classical nieraphysics t o the bestelleri (to order, in the comrnercial sense) that is heard every day in the business world. And what, finally, is Ge-SteN? Ge-Ute& indicates above all the appeannce of a11 that exists (and therefore includi~lg man) as availability, material t o be used, exploited. Man becomes "the most important raw material." capable of and is m,pioycd as such. In a vein of metaphysibeing ravished ad lihitun~. cal irony, i t then turns out that the employee is the figure c o r r e s p o n d i ~ l ~ in every sense to this state of the world. And so-and it may come as a surprise to many-only Heidegger could have come up with a definition of Hitler as first among employees. And i t is significa~lthow the obscure Ge-Stell accords ~ e r f e c t l y with the analyses o f the visio11:iry Marx in the first book o f Cvpitir/,which depicts the world u r "w:irrhouse o f c o n l modities." a lace of total av;iilibiliry and exchang. I n considering fut-ther v~ri;irionso n Ge-StcN we see that they also throw l i ~ l on Hcideggurb forc~nost i~ c~icniy, Adorn.). Adornoi d i ~ l e c t i c f o the Enlighrennlent is superimposed, in its cruci;ll fcaturcs. o n ttie destiny o f nihilism as ~ e c o a n t ~ ~ d b y Heidegger in his Nieiachr and in many of his


larer writings. Thus, h d o r ~ i o i theories o n i~ldustry and 011 the culture industry find a natural place a i n o i ~ g inany il>plicrtions of c ~ - y t e i / . the H o w d o rhese collisions a n d coincidences among hostile thinkers happen? Because beyond all the obvious things that makc then1 mutually i s conlpatihle, they are united b y s o m e t h i ~ much deeper, allowing us to r~ pass from one to the other as from one knor to another in the mrne oerwork (of secret agents'): the fact that they drive nihilism rci its most radical forms while trying at the saole time to look at itfirti ozltsidi,, an enigmatic a n d fleering chat Heideggel called the L'overcoo~ing metaof physics," Adurno called "utopia." and Marx highlighted as the end of prehistory Nihilism is the great funnel of Western thought. T h e c1o;er one gets to its mouth. the more the inconlpatible eiemmts are foi-ced to mix. This may produce a senrc of vertigo. But without that vertigo, t h o ~ ~ gis ~ t l now impossible.

The Perpetual War

"Hardly anyonc could venture to write a n introduction for The Last Dajts ofMankind. It would be both arrogant and s~~perfluous.h e introduction T is carried ir~side everyone born in this century and doomed to live in by it." T h u s wrote Elias Canetri, who for nine years had "let every spoken and written word [by Karl Kraus] take effect on me: for five years without resistance, for four with growing criticism."' KJhat follows is not an introduction but a cluster of occasional notes that have sprouted around some of the joints in that majestic and monstrous construction known as The

Last Days ofMankind.

Kraus's fundamental experience was acoustic, a n d it was constantly repeated. Like H i l d e ~ a r d e von Ringen, Angela da Foligno, and many anonvmoils schizophrenics, he heard voices, b u t his voices were all the more alarming since they had bodies, circulated in the streets of Vienna, seated themselves in cafks, a n d even put on affable smiles. T h e inflections beat on him like waves; their ileadly horde provided the nlost faithful company for his "threefold solitude: that o f the coffeehouse where he is alone with his enemy. of the nocturnal room where he is alone wirh his demon, o f the lecture hall where he is alone wirh his work."' behind a reading desk on a bare stage, Kraus hinlself became the voice-thac-catchesall-voices, while in the darkrless other unknown b e i n g were translnrnled into the Wild H u n t of legend: " l ~ n r g i n e a r ~ u ? the Wild H u n t i n a thc of concert hail, trapped, locked up, and forced to sir still, and then repentedly summoned to its true nature." '1-here was :I vibration i l l his voice t l ~ a t sent a quiver through the audience: "Chairs a n d people secr~red1 0 under this

I wouldn't have been surl,rised if the chairs had


. 7be I'erpetunl


The Perpetual War . 93

bent."-'These sequences ot'scorching and magical elecrric shocks were repeated more than srve11 hundred times. vcry often in Vienni. And according ro eyewitnesses, the L'iennese r e a d i ~ l p wcrc the mosr nlemorable. For Kraus needed thdt arena, thr~t for his hallucinations. I.ike all true air, demons, he was bound to a snlall terrestrial circle, drawn by a n invisible pair of comp;tsses. From that soil he derived his powers. and to thar soil he returned them. Kraus's first public reading in Vienna took place on 3 Ma). 1910.T h e program offered three p f e c t texts for perfomlance: the uncharitable hut playful Heirie zcrid die Folgeo (where Kraus clain~edto he serting up for once and for all a watershed in the literature ofdecade~lce), Dir chir~esiscl~e M ~ U Pand Die W l t der Platake: essays at once visionary and frivolous-if Y, hlonsieur le Bourreau will, for the rnoment, allow such a thing. Thus they manage to bring together the erotic hack room of 1 Chinatown l a i i o d r ~ 2 wirh the imminent eruption of the planet, all of it then confirmed by the erratic appearance of advertising posters. This, then, was Kraus: an essayist barely arrived at that ripeness that is a11 and ready to extend the tentacles of an omnivorous and already "arrnored"' idiom, with its sparkling combinations of syntax, to the new enormities and trifles offered to him e\.ery day-and Kraus asked nothing more--by rfie Neue Freie I'resse. But that was simply his last cover before unveiling the more demoniac substance, more dangerous to touch, of his worcis. That moment would come a few years later, the day he began to give public readings from his "rngedy in five acts," The Last Day ofMankind Outside. there w:is still the war, and in the darkness of the hall, rhis tiny Inan, wirh "a face so niobile that it couldn't be pinpointed, penetrating allti exotic, like the face of an animal, but a new, a different Face, a n i~nfamiliar one,"' lul~erzrsed the in a provincial war. H e rehearsed it as though it were a creaking old theater, while the war was going 011.This man, pursued from the start by acoustical hallucinations and believing from the start, with the consistency of an ancient Chinese, that the most evil F~crs ensued directly from scraps had finallJf of conversations he had overheard on rhe screets of Vicn~la, succeeded, by the rllost prodigious coup de th&tre of his life, in reversing the situation. And rhis awesornc even[,-which eluded everyone and h u ~ l g over everyone, found its hallucinatory replica ii,/,ik. i t was h;lppenillg, its acouscical facsimile, at a reading desk on the b;lre stage of a theatel. in Vienna. O r rather, from there a voice was raised that called the facts into existence, just as the ktcts had aroused the voice. And once thc war was

over, he was to go on adding new scenes to that proliferating texr, which had started to grow along with the war and now ended by expanding until it reached a length unsuitable for any theater, but the only suitable and ultimately adequace length tbr the voice-that-catches-all-voices, for his sharnanic gift, which had allowed him to capture nll possible prisoners in his net of words, &on1 newsboys to foppish officers, from the fiamous

, I

journalist Alice Schalek to old Biach, from patriotic housewives to court chamberlains, from shopkeepers and poets to the two emperors. If we keep clea~ly mind this incongruous intage of a shaman wearing a in starched collar and little oval spectacles, we can see how fully The Lnjt Days oj'Mnnkind departs from every literary genre. It is not an early example of "documentary theater" or "epic theater" or "political theater" or "theater of the absurd." to cite the paltry labels chat people have sought to apply to this work (and it is not hard to apply them, at the cost, otcourse, of losing the essential), hut a miisicalpracticr. A remote and chilling magic, in which breath and blood mingle, in which every name is already bewitched and expression is given over, without any nodes sty or restraint, to the "whim o f t h e surroundings," as Kraus himself once called it with fierce understatement, adding. "It is its flood and throng of names and manners, voices and faces, apparitions and memories, quotations and posters, newspapers and rumors, rubbish and circumstances that accidenrally gives me the signal for attack-and every letter of the alphabe[ can become a sign of fate."') Kra~is demonstrates that a new astral body, composed of fmgments of sentences, the shells ofroving images, and splinters of accents, has formed in the world. It covers the earth like a motionless hood. o d every movement of language is firsr ofall a gasping effort to breathe under that mantle while trying in the end to rend it. For some years, this new leaden sky had covered up n reality thktt had been making heedless headway through the had already been intcnt on showing that those streets of Vienna. Kra~is phantoms out of humorous gazettes, when closely examined, revealed hellish features and turned out to he so many attendants ofdis:tster. But now the background ofthese minor facts had her11i~ncovercd, like the wings of a stage suddenly l i t up by floodlights, and it was s l a ~ l ~ h t eIrb write The ' . Last D q ofhlnnkind, Kr:il~shad almost n o need to e~llrsgc iiltcr his or perspective, as F4r his local chro~licles wcrc concerned. Hc garhered his

The Perpetual War . 95

usual materials and let fly agairist a new backdrop. l'hc "wall o f fire" o n were projected in the siler~ce f his room ("'The o which his hallucinario~ls experiences 1 need. I hrvr them b e h r c m e or1 the wall of hre I see f r o n ~ my desk"): h;ld merely beconlr a "barrier of fl;~nies,"the backdrop OF any theater o f war. 7'hel-r his loqu;icious characters now appeared, along with countless soldiers "k~llenfor the resumption of tourisrn.""There appeared their shadows, to be ever more swiftly devoured, until the "barrier of flames" became a cosmic stage curtain enveloping the blazing

la net.

The L n ~DfiY,-of;bfatrki,zd has orlly one literary p r c c e J e ~ ~ t , thar Kraus t one could not have known and that we ourselves can seal-cely krlcjw, since part
o f t h e material is still unpublished: the "second part" of Flaubert's Bouvlrrd et Pic~~clwt, known as [he ,vpit, rhat mass of qtlotutiunj, collected in rigllt bound volumes, each colnprising about three hsndrcd sheets. which reposcs today in the Municipal Library in Koue~i. is the purzc~~It time equivalent of what rhe 791p a g s o i ?at L n t Dnjl~. ofhfankiad, aboot h a l f o t which consist ofquotations, were in w'zrrinie T h e two texts could be seamlrssly joined, and the whole [hillg would form thar Great Hybrid within which we live and where every distinction between wartime and peacetime has become a iokc. Even though all agree that rcirrv is ever niore inconceivable, the slaughter only increases. that dazzled Kiaus is the same one thnt had made The Flauberr's last ycars comp~ilsive and kvrrish: the prodigious eruption of la bh~st, [srupidity] as the beginning of a new em, an era paved and cemented with ir once ally kind of alkahesc or universal s o l v r ~ had disappeared. ~t This appalling event, h o n i whose light most averted rheir eyes, was obsessively followed and properly recorded primarily by three writers: Flaubert. Kraus, and finally, Lion Bloy. To them we grarefully turn as to the pioneers of a new science, the only one wherein we can iollow the [reacherous waverings of that uninterrupted experi~nent-without-experimenter that is rhc world's recent history. a If one were to choose the syrnbol~c n d juridical act niarking the hegin1 1 i r l ~ this "gJurious era" of ixperirnent, it would nor he so much some of overworked episode of the French Revolution as a simple and effective bureaucratic inc.enrio11char came so11iewh:lr Inter, o n r thar the Conventic111h:id already i~lrroduccd a 'bli)od n x " bur that Hon:lparte, by the ;IS t h e year X (28 May 1802), ratified as the normal of 28 Flor&l

merhod for army recruitment: conlpulsory conscription. Since thrn, humanity has become more and more obviously "human material," as the al1d walk-ons with rheir placards in 7 t h Ldsf Days ~ f h f i ~ n k i n d p r o u d l ~ tirelessly repeat. lust when hun1:lniry wrs proclain~ing reign o f the the subjcct at the top of ics lungs, i t was getting ready to coLlnt its members as so many items available for the operations of an ultrrior subject, which was then society itself. We ourselves are now a managcable entity, one that rnay even survive tor a long time in the stillner, ul. the w;lrehouse bur char rnust expect at any moment to be called upon to help redress the balance of slaughterand no longer because we i r e basically the privare property of'a princc bur bccause humanity (which is obviously still Western), having a~tairledits full rights, has nothing to look forward to but to let itself be molded crudely by society 2nd eves thrown on the scrap heap at the end. Throicghout the ninctccnth centur); this new truth srrps slowly (what else is Berljatl~inConstant's Ue i'e~prit ronqz/it~, de /iisz/ipntzon ahout?) dl, et and sluggishly into perception and declares itself in reality. But the moment in which i t emerges in all its oppressive pomp is 1914.Then, in a few months, the first thing to go to pieces once and for all, is that conception of European equilibrium that since the Peace ofWesrphalia, that is, for a little less than three c e ~ ~ t u r i ehad been the in~possible s, dream of those who siill thought that to engage in politics meant ro corztrol sorncthing. But this is a l ~ ~ l o a tmodest corollary to the most iniporcanr theorenl s demonstrated by the war: thnt the murderous impulse of events would seem to he autonomous, or else guided by an invisible experimenter who surprises and ~ilocks very leaders who are convinced they caused these the events. Now everything goes beyond all expectario~lsand intentions and yet obeys a consistency of its on1n while acting direcrly un [he bodies and souls of the victims. It is too late to contain an enterprise that ir already preparing new surprises, and no war can be allowed to end without laying the foundarions for the concentration canips that will bloom in the nexr one. War is, in short, a spirit of industry wholly devoid of ideological prejudices: Lxnin's goatee or Wilhelni 11's curled musraches are all the same to i t , and atlove all useful. l'hus we come to thc age thar hangs perperually under the sign of these "last days of nlankind," which are endless, ~o~l and also to the culmi~iationof t h i i t peculi;~rp h r n o r ~ i e ~ by which the more complex events become, the rrlorc irrelevant do those clainling to guide them turn orit to he. T h e Great I'olirician of the new .ige puts ;I l i ~ ~ l c


. The Perpetual War

plaster I\japoleon on the mantelpiece and locks himself in his office t o work o n a crossword puzzle. But there are always a few squares he cannot fill. Meanwhile, the continuity of life is assured by lazily shiftin,cr the massacres from o n e square to another o n the planet. 1r is Stupidity th;lr envelops these brural hrppeni~lgs a protscti\~c in cloud: There was a time when its necessity would have been called structural. If the cracks that open between evenrs d i d nor get filled by wads o f stock if laboratory schizoidism were nor concealrd by the conviction of doing Good, and a Good that keeps steadily improving: if the devastating rationale did not contain the incarnation of Conimon Sense; i f . '. . -the machine would jam, a n d the great age of experiment woulti fall into a sudden, dull silence. T h e buzz of Public Opiniorl helps to prevent it. This is the unsurpassed psychical fuel that now drives life forward. As Kraus once remarked, "'Life goes on.' More than is lawful."" 111addition to being the worldwide proclamation o f the Lltal news that had already been circulating for some time throughout Europe, to giving us enrry into a world where the further we advance [he less we know, a n d finally t o welcoming the seeds of chaos that had long been lurking o n the threshold of our psychical a n d social life, the war of 1914-18 signified t h e pulverizing o f experience. Strictly speaking, all rhst can be said of that event is contained in a sentence of Walter Benjamin's: "A generation that had still gone t o school in a public carriage found irself under the iu o p e n sky in a landscape where ~ l o t h i ~ b g t the clouds remained u n changed, and in the middle, at the cen ter of a field of llrces where explosions a n d devastating currents clashed, was the tiny, fragile h o d y o f man." Anything that goes beyond this senrence is in a way painrless and redundanr. Rut the fact. hostile and opaque. [hat resulrs from it srill remains before us: that men returned from the front "struck d u m b , n o t richer but poorer in c o m m ~ ~ n i c : ~ b xe e r i e n ~ e . " "All the psychological el p ~ forces were set against that realization, for had it been :~ccepted, the whole war would have had to end, destroying the zeal that emerged because n o o n e was able to recognize the "bloodthirsty look" o f peace, especially o n illat V i e l ~ ~ ~ innkeeper's face whcrt c'~nildncss esc reigns."' At first. young (;ernlans had heen allowed t o dep;ll-r for the "tempests o f t : of ststeel" as described by E r r ~ s J i i n ~ e r "Having grown up in a curity, we all felt a desire for the unusual, Ibr great danger. And so the


The Perpetual War

. 97

war seized o n us like drunkenness. We left for the front under a rain o f flowers, in an air intoxicated with roses a n d blood. T h e war was supposed to offer us, finally. great, strong, solem11 Thomas Mann's attitude, r h o ~ ~ g h more fearful a n d n~ean-spirited,was not much different: H e hoped that war meant the repudiation of the laxities of peace and a resroratiorl o f the Germanic essence, which h a d been trarnplcd o n by malign commercial nations. 'l'hey expecred a grander experience, a n d they witnessed the disintegrarior~o f experience. Today "experience" can only refer t o a past. Orherwise it is synonymous wirh "horror." As Junger himselfwas to observe ten years later, in 1930, the real experience o f r h e war would turn o u t to be not fir from 6actory work, from the "precise work rhythm o f a turbine fueled by blood."'.' He thereby intraduced the category that designates the secret aspect of the availability of "human niaterial': total mobiliwtio~l. Under the sign of this category, the final assimilation of peace a n d war was in place as prepark~tionfor a chronic civil war as a future possibility. Having left for the front with the ardor o f a yoling Germanic warrior, Junger in the end thus specified with admirable detachment the peculiar sense in which the war o f 1914-18 seemed "different from other wars whose history has been handed down to us." I n that "great carastrophe," first o f all, "the p i u s o f war had been permeated with the spirit of progress." And the first fruit of that amorous encounter had been t h e rapid absorption o f the "image o f war as a n armed action into the vaster image of a gigantic working process." N o t only did the war serve industry, but the war itself was already a n advanced form of industry. War based o n total mobilization was "an act by m e m s ofwhich the current of modern life, with its whole vast network of ramifications, is channeled, thanks t o a single move o n the comnlaild dial, into the great current o f warrime energy." A n d so what the young warriors, who went to the front dreaming of aristocratic tournaments, found there was primarily "the democracy of death."'" Kraus never theorized about the war or, strictly speaking, about anything else. Ensnared i r every moment by his voices. he conlpletely lacked speculative d e t a c h ~ o e n t .D u r i n g the war, t h e s ~ v o i c e smoltiplied a n d was not splintered. but-and this was his most astonishing fe;lr-"There one voice that he did not hear. he was possessed with every specific timbre o f the war a n d rendered it compellingly."" Hut behind these shanla~lic journeys lay concealed from the sr:lrr, clear and steadfast, those same nvo implication later to be for~nulated such dissinlilar wrircrs as Be~lj;l~nin by

and Jhnger: o n the o n e hand, the pulverizing of expel-ienrc; o n t l ~ e other. total mobilization as the main procedure of the new eta. And to ;lrrive at this conclusion, Kmus never needed to abarldon himself to the "air intoxicated with roses and blood." %'hat is the most terrible senrence, rhc faithful echo of horror, in The Ldsr D a y o Mnnkind? "Clusrers form." These two little words discreetly acf from rhe very first page, the second company us in the stage d i r e ~ t i o n s line to be exact. T h e y swell like poisonous clouds for hundreds o f pages and strike us at the end, when their unique significance is finally revealed in scene 4, 29,") where they are spoken by rhe Faultfinder to designate the throng of bystanders who want to have their picture taken alongside the corpse of the hanged Batcisti, while the j o ~ i a lhangman looks on. Groups are not an expression of democratic spontaneity. Their origin is much older. Groups always form arourld a corpse. When there is no corpse, that empty place evokes the many corpses thar have bern there and the many yet to appear. It is the last rite that holds civil society together. T h e group is a "crowd crystal."'; Those who form it obey a calling, suddenly revealing their adherence t o a vast sect: devotees of an officially innocuous, essentially persecutory power: Opinion. T h e y throng togethcr a n d josrle each other without realizing it; they all converge toward one point, which is the empty circle at the center of the group. There, as R e n i Girard has pointed olrr, they were once able to see the mangled hody of rhe victim of the original lynching. Kespcct for Kraus as a modern exponent of satire that "is not only critical and negative h u t in the highest scusc bccorncs thc guardian of ~ a l u e s " ' ~ has kept many from accurately perceiving the narure of his work, and especially o f ii7e L,nrt IIiry, ufMizizkind. i ' h e rirle is well k ~ l o w n , the texr much less so. If Kraus had filled 792 pages just to say that war is a bad would have thing-as many have believed and insist on believing-he been not the author of his play b ~ one to f the characters Hayed in it. I n ~ the cafi, among friends, in the office o r ~rcsraurant,there is no harm in speaking out lg.1i~lsr thc "nladness of wrr." And how m l n y people have we seen going into raptures over that dreadful peace dor-c thac Picasso presented to Stalill? Kra~rs s;lid something quite different: H e said that peace is founded o n slaughter and that wur is the chariry hall at which humanity stages what i t normally does. but does nor like to talk a b o u ~so ,

char thc public will get exiilcd and rnake enough small offerings to allow the s l ; ~ i ~ ~ htue continue. Unlike many. Kraus did not depirl the horrors r r of the war. H c only brought the news that peace in the end was imposriblc:

I:ACL:I I N L ) I . I < Not r l ~ i h I : r)lle. .l.his ollc has n o t rakcn place on rI1c surf'ace of lifc. . . . n o , i r has raged inside liFe itself: 7.11~ front hns beer, extended ro the whole counrry. And there i t will sra); Arid this changed lik, i f there still is life, will be accompanied by the old spiritual condition. The world is ~erishing and won'r know ir. Everyrhing was yesrcrday arid will be forgotten; no one will see today or he afraid of rolnoriow. They will foraet thar [he war was losr, Forger they began it, forget rhey foughr it. That is why the war won'r end.'')

T h e i a s r days of mankind" are the first days o f t h e world of perpetual war. T h e most cffective of K r r u s ' magical practices is quotation ("putting my times bemeen iluotatiori marks").?'l But we arc not dealink with a declaration of principle, ready to he cilrried nuray by a burst ofsupposedly autonomous creativity. Kraus is never autonomous, not even in relation to the posters he glimpses in the street. When at the very outset of Lmt Days, are h e warns that liere "the rawest ii~ventions quotation^,"^ we must once for the marvelous typographical again take him literally. Indeed-except (and they are Farewell utterances that flow from the Faultfinder's n l o u ~ h Kraus toward the world in whose corngestures of irlsult by the rl~uw~rtelpanv he ~ e r i s h e s and except for the portions in verse, which serve to cx) tend the limits of an enormous range of sound at whose extremes srand Goethe and Offe~lbach-Kraus tarnpered as little as possible with the raw lnaterials offered to him horn time to time by the world scene. Whcreas perhaps one-sixth o f C m r g Biichner's Lla,itonj Death-the only play that be called polirical in r sense similar to Krous's-consists ofquotatiuns, the quoted texts in Liijt l l r i y i make L I al~llost ~ halfof thc whole. To give a few concrete cxanlplrs of what miphr s e n ) t6 be t l ~ e 111ortunlikely sccocs: scene 2, 19 (Schalck ~ v i r l ~ laughirlg S e r h i ; ~ ~ ~ thc wolncn} repe'lts the situation and some qaips horn a n :lrticlc by Schalek hcrsclfi sccnr 3 , 19 (in rhe mosque) is derived, again by extracrilig snlall blocks of words, i r o ~ n n ara ~; ticle in thc Siiddcirtrche M o n n t ~ h rscene 3, l o (Alfred Kerr; "Runla~li:~n song") reproduces wordfir word the poem publislled by Kerr under the

I !


. The Perprtual War

The Perpetual War .


pseudonym "Gottlieb" in DPT g ; scene 3, 21 ( t h e docror who warns E againsr smoking) is taken from a letrer by Professor Molerclar of Dlrmstadt thac had been printed in Die Fackel; scene 3, 31 (letter to O t t o Ernst) is cornposed of quotations from lctters hy Ernst's enthusiastic reldcrs; scene 3, 33 (Schalck speaks) is woven entircly o u t of quotations from a news report by Schalek, quoted more f~illyin ilic h c k e i ; in scene 4. 7 . the psychiatrist's grandiose speech o n the food situation in Germany orchestrares topics presented dryly in a bulletin from the Wolff Agency; in scene 4, 22, the contents and price o f the "Hero's Pillow" are repeated verbatin? from a n advertisemenr; in scene 4, 25, remarks by Paul von Hindenburg a n d Erich Ludendorff are mostly taken from a n interview with the^ by the journalist Paul Goldmann; scene 4, 37 (Wilhelm I1 a i d his men at General Headquarters) is based on testimony by Rear Admiral I'ersius, which Kraus had found in his book o n the war at sea. A n d one could go 011 a n d o n . Finally, even the Faultfinder's speeches are woven o u t of q u o t a t i o ~ l s from Kraus. Aphorisms, bits from essays written in peacetime, articles from Die FackeL published while h e was writing Last Days-all this is swept into that ultimate vortex of words whereby Kraus prrsents himself just as he does the other historical characters, that is, as a picturesque a n d raving solitary in the picturesque Vienna of the war, w h o is dubbed the "Fackelkraus" a n d pointed out in the street by the ~ n e m b e r s h c t i o u s of groups. But ar the same time, since his name is hidden behind the figure of a comic character (the Faultfinder), his words are a voice that n o longer belongs t o h i m a n d that guarantees the life o f this n o n s t o p spectacle. T h e i r function is like that of the blade used by Chuang-tzu's butcher, w h o for nineteen years used the same knife to quarter thousands of oxen; the blade never lost its edge, "because I Ict it s o through only where it cann-in the imperceptible empty interstices. And I'rince Wenhui answers the butcher: "7'hank you, you have just taught m e how to prolong one's life, by using it only for what docs not consume it."" Exactly a year a n d a month afier the assassination in Sarajevo. Kraus, in three days, wrote the "l'relude" to Lmt l h y s a11d conceived the ~ l a of the n work. 'The first months of war had been'a period of paralysis and silence for him. And he gave the reasoils for this silence in the pulsing words of the speech "In dieser grossen Zeit,"" where he even alluded to the growing din o f voices in his room, "whether they come from animals, from cliildren, o r only from mortars," but stopped short with the injui~ctiorl:"If

anyone has something to say, let him step forward and shut u p !" 4 For ten months thereafter, only o n e slim issue of Die Fackel would be published, in February. But for Kraus, this silence, as would later be the case on the advent of Hitler, was the dark side o f a molistrous discourse about to burst ouc: "Everythi~lg Kraus wrote is like that: a silence turned inside o u t , a silence thac catches the storm of events in its black folds, billows, its livid lining turned outward. "li n c e Kraus's tension had reached thar state o f O mimetic and judicial fever that for hitn was the necessary condition for writing, he threw himself into his most reckless enterprise and succeeded: "The world war entered completely into Tile Lmt Days of'hilznkind, with no solace and no respect, 110 embellishn~ent, o sweerening, and above all, n this is the mosr important point, without ever getting accustomed to it."16 H e announces it in a splendid letter to his beloved Sidonie Nidhern); o n 29 July 1915, a letter rhat might stand as an epigraph for the whole work: I've seen too many sad things in these days, and yet they have given birth to a new job-a job char ends each time at six in the morning, just when I sniell the victims rorring under my window. I'll tell jlou what sort of job i t is, of which I've finished writing a first section in three days and three nighrs, but first let me give you an idea of my state of mind from chis page in my diary (which 1 already nieant to send you):
16 July Now, while from my desk T can hcar the daily, inevitable, and awful cry-Extra! Extra!-which will henceforth afflict the human ear for all rime, now T have spcnr an hour in Thierfehd [a Swiss village where Kraus had been with Sidonie]. And nothing, nothing has changed! No idea, whether thought, spoken, or shouted, would be loud enough, no prayer fervent enough ro pierce this material. So to J . / I O Z L ~ impotence, won't 1 have to disclose everything rhat I this c m i d o iust now-and at least do sotncthing: expose myself! What elsc is there to do? This road will have to bc taken, even if it goes on too long, as long as the road to China is srill open. I'll chokc on w h ~ ought to he t shouted, s o as not to chokc somc other way. I'm not sure anymorc of nly nerves in the street. But it would l x bettcr if all t h i s were to happen according to ,I precise plan, and also that it be dedicated to t h a r person for whom I live, and I'd n o longer care to live if s/v thought thllt to keep silent threatened lier own human dignit\: t o


. The l'erpetzml War

The I'erpcrual Wdr . f o j

che point where 1 can no longer stand to witness evcrlcs i n silence, or rather words chat have erased humanity's memory for all of cosrnic time. There is a person without whorn nothing c a n happen, because everything must happen for her. . . . This stare of fatigue has still released a spark, and i c has given birch to che plan for a work that, should i t cver appear. would cerrainly be equivalent ro exposing myself in the most total fashion. The firsc art, the prelude to the whole, is finished and could even srand by irself. But where to send i t ? Switzerland, where we rook refuge wirh our dear little automobile, fails us in this. Maybe it will he of some help to us later; or otherwise America. Anyway, whatever may or may not happen at chis poinc. I now feel freer.l' T h u s The Last Ddys ofMankind was born.

Kraus implies that the "last days of mankind" are unending a n d tend to become a chrorlic condition in which one can survive with tranquillity. T h e war that Kraus described was an eruption of the peace that he had just finished describing. a n d the next peace would be an eruption o f that war h e was describing, until a new war would turn out to be an eruption of the previous peace. But Kraus was not to see that war. This very new age in which we live would descend from it, t o repeat the mechanism of the former age a n d moreover, t o a i m to make tranquillity and slaughter coexist, now no longer separated in time but only in space-and a very elastic space, besides. At times the distance is measured in continents, a t times in neighborhoods, as in Beirut.

glorious era,"2Xwho puts any Mutter Courage in the shade) or of old Biach ( n o death is Inore epic than his, when he gurgles and chokes o n sentences from the newspaper, whereupon, in retaliation, "groups form" around his corpse in scene j, 9), or the invincible, sug;lry ravings o f the feuilletonist H a n s Miiller ( s c e ~ i e , zj), o r the scene with the patriotic housewives I (scene 2, r8), or the tormented intimate dialogue of the Schw;lrz-Gelber couple (scene z,33)) or the exhortation to tourism uttered by the schoolmaster (scene I , ()), o r the meek and bloody ravings o f Franz Tosef (scene 4, ? I ) , o r the Prussian von Dreckwitz's vigorous and sportive bloodbath spirit (scene 2, 14), o r the choral delirium, as of a domestic slaughterhouse, in the filial scene of the last act. Brecht, like a good German, instead of putting "art a t the service of the shopkeeper," p u t s it a t t h e service o f the Cause, which is n o t always better. Didacticism in itself is already a disaster for form, but most o f all this captious a n d blackn~ailingdidacticism, this attempt a t the aesthetic transfiguration o f Sovietism, ends by arousing a certain disgust. In the course of time, the same thing may happen with Brecht as happened with Voltaire: a complete chemical separation of texts. O n the one hand, many of his poems will be read as being by the greatest Chinese poet o f the century; o n the other, there will be an increasing tendency to forget his misused theater. Like Voltaire's tragedies, which everyone used to know a n d today n o one dares read, Brecht's plays belong in great part to those literary creations that marry for love the mediocre side of their period's intellectuality and sink with it to the bottom. Leopold Liegler's book, the T h e hagiographic literature on Kraus-from first authorized study, to the products o f a few zealous campus dwellers w h o in recent years have started browsing o n "the Austrian Mind"""offers t h e most convenient a n d immediate arguments against h i m . According to the image o f Kraus that emerges from this apologetic mosaic, we would have on o u r hands a h u m a n being exclusively endowed with fine sentiments, prone to all the proper indignation. vaguely nost;llgic lor a purer and mol-e noble past, fond o f w o m e n and animals, and encased in his ideas as in a coat of [nail. All of which would lead o n e to suspect the worst. But fortunately the image is False. Me:lnwhile, if we want to grant Kraus the highest honor; th:~tof being "the greatest (;erman satirist, the 011Iy one irl the literature of this l r ~ l g i ~ a g c whom one II;IS the right to llalne next to Aristophanes, Juvennl, (>uevetlo, Swift, and (;ogol," by the same token we will have tu recognize tll;lt he sh;~reswith thesc writers ":I very

A perceptive reading of The Lajt Days ofM~znkindwouIdbe fatally damaging to Bertolt Brecht Such a reading is long overdue. Having drawn for decades o n the rich storehouse of t h a t text a n d having derived from it most of the formal devices that were t o make his theater's fortune (from rnont;lg to the scrambling of levels, from cabaret parody to the use of raw material), Brecht would find himself forced t o accept a direct comparison, a n d this would crush him. Kraus abandons himself t o the force o f Ianguuge without restraint. like one possessed, without any ulterior motive of social pedagogy, and hc achieves almost unbearable heights o l c o m e d y and terror: I mention only the appearances of Schalek (the 'true her-oirze ofthis

ruq .

The I'erprtunl Wnr

The Perpetual War . tux "His passion for imitating them [his fellow men] is at the same time the expression of and the struggle against this implication, and also the cause and the result of that ever-watchful guilty conscience in which the demon has his habitat." Finally, with an elegant wave of his hand, Benjamin presents us with the genealog). of the satirical wrirer: "I'he satirist is the figure in whom the cannibal was received into civilization."-%Benjamin's words echo Canetti's about the "murderous substance" in which all great satirists communicate. And they also echo a late sentence by Kraus, who in a few words describes his work of gloomy exorcisnl, where from the starr he had not been spared contagion: "Night after night, for twenty-six years. I laugh when the raw material o f m y time gets ready to pass inro my mold."" T h e subtitle 7mqrdy i,z Five Acts should be understood primarily in its rhetorical function as antiphrasis. Just as the single acts d o not have the necessary requirements to be such, since each would last at least a whole night, so the word "tragedy" hangs suspended like a neoclassical relic over the heads of hundreds of characters, all of them unfit to be called tragic. As for the dialogues between the Faultfinder and the Optimist, which perform the f~lnction the chorus in Greek tragedy-and perhaps no text in of modern literature achieves the fiery eloquence of sce~ies 29 and 5, 544, they d o no more than suggest that tradition. T h e Faultfinder, of course, is Kraus himself, who subjects the war to the acid test of words, hut he is also a little Viennese figure alongside the others, an eccentric whom the! have all seen grow up and who now, behind a lectern, recites his works like a maniac. "They can say what they like . . . but what a writer!"'%bserves one of his anonymous Viennese listeners, and with this the judge with the flaming sword is cut down to size and becon~es bigger than all no the other little Viennese figures "There have been periods when causal thinking was a fine thing, the mark of a small clique ofdiscerning people; today it's dishwater, every newspaper reader offers us the fundanlentals of his W e ~ ~ a n s c h ~ z ~ u r i ~ a rheumatism; today whar we most put up with his i i d is the iuxtaposition of things, and to give expression ro i r h:a beccmm our most suitable and substantial task."i') So, amid rkc rubhle of a later war, wrote Gottfried Benn, one of those great wrirers who111 Kraus did not care 10 understaod. And yet in Lart tlayr. Krsus was acting . the sense of ~n that sentence. Antiquated as he was in some of his tastes. 11lds ~ ~ s p i c i of~ s o the modern, he was nevertheless devastating in drawing the ul tim;lte h r ma1 consequences from [he situario~l around him. I n s t e d o ~ ; ~ h a n d o I ~ i t ~ g

definite kind of substance, which I would simply call 'murderous.""" And Canetti's curt remark should be enough to deter us from the image of a humanitarian hero. As for his relation to the past, one can fully concur with what Benjamin observed wirh subtle irony: "It is his program to reverse the developme~rtof bourgeois-c:lpitalist affairs to a condition that was never theirs."ji But things change in the face of existing realities, and one need only read once the "tragic c o ~ ~ p l e t of Franz Josef (scene 4, s" 31) or the fbrlorn judgment on him (with its marvelous beginning: 'He l and not a tyrant, merely cold and not ferocious. . . . was ~ ~ l c r ea y H e was a tireless worker, and among various death sentences he also signed one that struck down humanity")" to understand that Kraus was the first and only writer to bury, without hesitarion, without tears, and with perfect knowledge of the W ~ b s b u r g "demon," the whole gloriour history of that mon;lrchy thar "for reasons of prestige . . . must long havc wanted to commit suicide."33 He was really not the right person for the kind of operation that in stock-market jargon is called a recovery in values.

In his lollg essay on Kraus, Benjamin quotes a single but decisive passage from T / ILnst Da-a $Mankind: "Kraus portrayed himself 1s hopelessly ~
subjugated to the demon; in the pandemonium of the age he reserved for himself the most melancholy place in the icy wilderness lit by reflected flames. There he stands on the Lart Day ofMankind-the 'grumbler' [that is, Faultfinder] who has described the receding days."j4 T h e passage from Kraus follows: "I have taken the tragedy, which is divided into the scenes of decaying humanity on inyself, so that it might be heard by [he spirit who takes pity o n the \lictims, even though he may havc renounced for all time his connection with a human ear. May he receive the keynote of chis age, the echo of my bloodstained niadness, through which I share the p i l t for these n ~ i s e s . These are the lines in which Kraus. more Iu"~~ cidly than a~lywhereelse io his work, acknowledged his involvenlent in the evil he was skewcriilg. Not only is reality here tinged by hlilck nlagic, but so is the l ; l ~ i ~ u a g e hurls itself a that realit) To grasp 111i.sinfernal that c connection, one must venture all the way to th;~tarchaic 2nd demonic nucleus thrr Betljamitl was rhe first to perceive in h n u s : '"The dark background from which his image detaches itself is nor formed by his conremporarier, but is the prinleval world or the world of the demon." Thus. again we approach obsessive voices. and the voice-that-catches-all-voices:


. The Perpetual KTzr

The Perpetual Wdr . 107

himself to expressionist pathos, which tries to compensate for the impossibility of tragedy by the immediacy of pain, Kraus set up the only theatrical structure suited to the case: a theater of repetition and aimless chatter, in which atrocities go forever hand in hand with futility, a perennial juxtaposition of everything with everything else, which allows for no development, where every direction is equally legitimate, and one is not even given the satisfaction of seeing a finger pointed on the stage at those responsible. Do you really think the world war was decided on by a handf~~l of wicked men?


that fights wars for which no one can be held responsible." And this because never before had it been so obvious, as in August 1914, that no one, among all those clearly and thoroughly responsible, had any idea what he was doing: "None of them was fully aware. Austria can't help it! She just let herself be e ~ ~ c o u r a g e d Germany to drag Germany into the war. And by Germany drove Austria to wage this war that she didn't want.",^' T h e Viennese "I can't help it" here takes on a cosmic dimension, like the posters of the Gersthof innkeeper Wolf. That sentence contains the most despairing condemnation, one that reverses the Gospel saying "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). For Kraus, no one is more loathsonle than those who did not know what they were doing: 'They now rank first among the unforgiv~lble. And since our whole world, in peace and war, is an e x p e r i m e ~ int which no one knows what ~ the experiment is about or where i t is heading (not only that, but-and this is the worst-people den], not knowing), it is subject to the same condemnation. And so nothing was left but the comical, a category elastic enough to absorb the parade of catastrophes. Indeed, this is what sticks in one's mind after reading Lnst Dnys: first a se11se of oppression, the feeling of a progressive loss of breath; then a progressive exhilaration, as gradually the circular and demented nature of the action emerges, along with scenes of frightful comedy, like the one between the court councillor Schwarz-Gelber and his consort, nke Bardach, at the end of the second act. None of the great playwrights of the twentieth century has conceived anything comparable. And perhaps only Ernst 1,ubitsch could have filmed it properly. But I said that this comedy is frightfill. Behind its hundreds of voices, each riveted by its slightest nuances, we can hear Kraus's unique and compulsive voice. 7.his is the demon who sits beside us and goads 11seach time to inescapable, automatic laughter, which has the sound of dry leaves. T h u s the actual ending of Lnst Dnys should only be listened to, a11d it overflows the text. It can be found on a recording," where Kraus reads the true introductio~lto what h;~ppe~led "the last days of ~llankind"; nfier its title: "Advertisement for Tours of Hell." T h e subject is a b r o c h ~ ~ that re spares us nothing in offeri~lga prograln of visits to the battlefield of Verdun "at the reduced pricc of 117 h n c s . " Kraus printed i t in full on a single folding spread in Die fizrkel,' and he used to read it in p ~ ~ b l iT h e c. text is divided into two main sections. .I'hc first gives the reasons for this

FAUI:I,FINI)I:K: NO, they'r? only the irlstrurnents of the demon' who brought us to ruin, and with us Christian civilizatio~l. we'd better take But it out on them, since we can't catch the demon who branded US.^''

Kraus is careful to bypass any question of responsibility, which can always be conveniently attributed to reactionary intrigue or to the intrinsic malevolence of capitalism. These last facts may not be in doubt, but they are still secondary to the "abysmal void" of Foreign Minister Poldi Berchtold's face as he appears, smartly dressed and charming, in a photograph on which Kraus comments. This is "the void into which we have all been flung and that has swallowed us up."" Because it has not cared to pay attention to these little things and has treated such words as paradoxes and not as sober observations, a society devoted to Good Causes, with its moist eye and ever thoughtful brow, has gone on accumulating "correct analyses" in the face of the century's successive atrocities, while a greater consideration of tone of voice, gestures, and minutiae of style would have spared it from making such an enormous contribution to the legacy of stupidity in our time. Thus, before Nazism existed, even only as a name, Kraus wrote the most precise description of Nazism to appear in the German language. And not because he was informed in advance about the iniquities that would be committed by Hitler and the big industrialists. All he had to d o was to hear the voices and look at the faces in the street twenty years before. Behind idle questions of responsibility, Kraus found something much more distressing: the certainty of general irresponsibility, the now ritual impossibility of achieving that knowledge of guilt that is the very soil of tragic events. T h e world that Kraus rehearses before our eyes is "a world

touristic initiative. W i t h the scrupulous pedantry of someone w h o insists o n showing that his offer is well w o r t h 117 francs, t h e arlunymous a u t h o r explains w h y krerdun deserves r u be included in t h e pantheon of t h e picturesque: "In this small area, where more than a million, indeed perhaps a million a n d a half m e n gave their lives, there is n o t a single square cenc i m e ~ r r f surface t h a t has nor been blasted by grenades." T h i s makes o Verdun "the battlefield par excelle~lce"a n d therefore "an image o f terror a n d horror of unprecedented grandeur." But in the details o f the l o u r dnd t h e satisfactions it offers, a sort of psalnlody begins in which each versicle begins with a verb addressed to the customer:


Depnrt by rhr evening express train, seconci class, from Basel. . . . S t q

ovcrnighr i r l a first-class horel, service and rips included. . . . Enjoy an ample breakfasr i n rhe morning. . . . Cross rhe destroyed villages in rhe Forritied zone of VALIX their gianr cemererics with hundreds of rhousands of \virh dead. . . . \/itit the Ossuairc (charnel house) ofThiaumonr, where the remains of unknown casualries conrinue ro be collected a r ~ d scored. . . . Visit rhe Trarlchee des Ba'ionnerres o r des Ensevelis. . . . Skirr rhe Ravin J e la Molm. . . . Eiljoy lunch a r Verdun's best horel, with wine and coffee, tip included. . . . Keturi? in rhe afrerr~uon through the horribly devasrared Hauciiaumont zone. . . . Dine a r our horel in Merz, wirh wine and coffee, rip included. . . . Lue~ything inrbrdetl iri tile price o f 117fi'zn'.s, with krvish / ~ o s p i t a /infilst-ckus l~otels. i~~ Kraus reads in a solemn a n d persuasive voice, as though slowly extracting a salesman's high-q~talitysamples from a suitcase. T h e n comes a page in his text where t h e psalmody o f verbs is resumed a n d transformed i n t o a volley o f raging syllables. T h e voice lacerates a n d paralyzes; its violence sweeps everything away, like an elephant in a H i n d u village. T h e decisive sentence is hidden in t h e middle of t h e psalmody: " U n d c r ~ ~ t rhat d a ~ ~ this goal was w o r t h t h e trouble o i making this trip, a n d this trip was w o r t h t h e rroublc o f fighting the w o r l d war."'j For this is t h e m o t t o o f o u r world: "Er/eryt/7iizgiiz(,lzrded. "

The Forty-nine Steps

By nature, Walter Benjamin was jusr the opposite of a philosopher: He was an exegete. T h e shameless boast of' the individual who says ''I think such-and-such" seemed basically foreign to him. Instead, from the beginning, we see in him the disguised determination of the exegete, the gesture of hiding behind piles of material to be commented on. We know that his dream was to disappear. at the height of his work, behind an insuperable flow of quotations. And so far [ have not mentioned the premise thzt constitutes the first and crucial transgression of such a commentator: to relinqllish the sacred text with hypocritical nodes sty, but at the same time to treat any other text or object ofdiscussion with the same devotion and care traditionally required by the sacred text. O n e has no hesitation in saying that nothing essential changes in Benjamin from the clandestine theology of his early writings to the Marxism ofhis last years, except that the vice of the commentator becomes increasingly perverse, urging him toward ever more refractory material, as he himself reveals in a rare and marvelous moment of confessio~lin a letter to Max Rychner in 1931: "I've never been able to study anti think except in the theological sense, if I may put it that way, that is, in accordance with the Talmudic doctrine of the forty-nine steps of meaning in every passage in the Torah. Now, my experience tells me that the most worn-our Marxist platitzrde holds more hierarchies of meaning than everyday bourgeois p r o f ~ ~ n d i twhich always y, has only one meaning, ~ ~ a m e apology." Certainly those Marxists who, ly born to adore Georg Lukics, now struggle to come to grips with Benstairways. Were they cajamin are not equipped to face such rne:~ningh~l pable of ascending even the first steps ot'his work, they would already have dismissed him as an cxanlple of the most superstirious depravity.


. 7 % Forty-nine Strps ~

The Foviy-nine Steps .


T h e pompous a n d mournful triumphal arch that introduces Benjades min's work is Der U~sprung deut~chenfi~uerspielx, o r The Origin o f G(>rmnrl Sorrowfhl I-'laYx, to translate literally the ambiguous title of the st~ldy that Benjamin, with a t o ~ ~ c f pure rclmantic irony, was bold oh ellough to offer as part of his application for a u ~ ~ i v e r s i tte:iching post. y 'The irony, as one might expect, was not understood, and the post was denied him; indeed, rhis is a book likely to throw anyone, not just professors, into confi~sionand dismay. It can be read o n at least rhree levels: as study ever written o n the rich theatrical literature of the niost inlporta~lt seventeenth-century Germally; next, as a dissertation o n the history of allegory, in which Benjamin, with perfect instinct, bases his'arguments primarily o n t h e early iconologicrl analyses by the Giehlow-WarburgPanofsky-Saxl school (that is, the most knowing eyes in this century to read the images of our past); and finally, secretly and in a play of mirrors, as allegory in action in Benjamin's thought, which here justifies his own come by this predilection for the allegorical form. Hut how did Benjami~i form? Let us try to tell it as a kind of imaginary biography. Picture Henjanlin as a cabalist shipwrecked in the vision of a nature wholly entangled, to its ruin, in the chain of sin, a nature that no longer offers illuminating letters, written o n things, such as only Adam might have read, b u t a Babelic tangle o f signs, a text forever corrupt. Having abandoned the Scriptures and clandestirlely emerged from the ghetto, he joins a group of the most radical romantics a few centuries later, keeping q u i r t about his origin a n d observing t o himself, with a hidden smile, how these youngsters go wild i l l their disorderly search for certain themes a n d notions long familiar to h i m from the Cabala. W h a t attracts h i m in the romantics is rather the lightness with which they move amid the sinews of form, their capacity to dismiss any consistent totality, as though they too soon obhad recognized the disfigured character of nature. But Benj~imin serves in them an ever clearer tendency t o exalt the powers of the symbolic, t o seek a language o f images implicit in things. T h e saturnine cabalist incognito ; ~ c c o r d i ~ ~tnrns his bick. slightly i i i s g ~ ~ s r e d these foolish gly by ambitions, and retires t o a spent crater i n the shelter of buttresses built with heaps o f books: the seventeenth c e n t u r y There, under the "So/ei/ ~lclir ~/[I M ~ ' / ~ I z c / ~[black " of n~elancholy], grandiose nleditad ' o / ~ P sun his tion is finally fulfilled; there Renja~ninmeets a dark Beatrice, allegory, so often misunderstood by her romantic companions, and discovers in her the only device propol-tionate t o the a b r u p t , nlaimed, a n d

forlorn essence ofhistory as a natural process a n d of nature as the history of the chain of sin. And this is precisely because of the violent arbitrariness of the allegorical connection between the image a n d its nieaning, which reveals the ~lnbridgeahle distance between the two orders, similar, Benjamin suggests, to the example o f alphabetic writing, the first brutal imposition o f meaning o n a letter that does not want t o accept it. I n short, for the very reasons that drove Goethe to reject allegory and devote himself instead to the blessed immediacy a n d totality of the symbol, Benjamin reclaims it, because only in allegory can o n e recognize what classicism was never able to grasp: "thefaci~.shippocratil.fz o f history as an unrelenting primordial landscape." 'There is n o sharp distinction between symbol and allegory, since allegory is the symbolic itself in disarray, dead from hypertrophy. But this decomposition of the symbol liberates a vast power, the cold algebraic meaning, and it is rhis that makes it possible to decree conventions with sovereign will and insist that anything can stand for anything else. "Seventeenth-century allegory is not the convention of expression but the expression of convention": This is likewise the basis o f the myth of writing, a perennial feast of death, given over to the "sensual pleasure with which the meaning rules, like a grim sultan, over the harem o f things." Uninhibited allegory, now remote from any living order o f o~~ meaning, t h e pure c o m p ~ ~ l s ti o marshal images a n d repeatedly construct their meaning through distorted combinations, above all causes the images themselves to overflow. Just as objects obsessively invade the stage o f the baroque theater until they become the true prot:igooists. so pictures erupt like threats in the emblem books, to celebrate the growing gap between image a n d meaning. W h o , opening Andrea Alciati's Emblemrlta a n d seeing a n amputated hand with a n eye o n the palrn, planted in the middle of the sky over a rural landscape, would ever think ofprudence, as the text for the emblem requires? Instead, he will recognize that a hurnan body has been mutilated, a silent allusion to the state of nature as rubble and a n unconscious est;tblishmenr o f the fragment as the prevailing aesthetic category. By the accumulation of these materials, the sr;ige is being set for the modern. 'The history o i that time prefigures the real history of today: These images, which then emerged illto the world like wild beasts from their cages. are still at large. Ka&a described them: "1.eopards break into the temple and empty the sacrificial vessels; this is rcpe:lted time a n d again; in [he e n d i t can bc fbreseen and beconlcs parr of thc cere~llony.''In allegory, a writer is the witness of this scene.

The Superior Man and the Absolute Cocotte .


The Superior Man and the Absolute Cocotte

Having haunted so many restless youngsters in the firsr thirty years of the twentieth century and having then been interred arnong those books known to have once been important, though no one can say why, O t t o Weininger's Sex a n d Chaiucteihas just been reissued. And one can already foresee that although it will excite the unseemly enthusiasm (after all, it's so Middle European!) of a few rare zealots, most people will greet it with a flicker of impatience, if not indignation, and ask, "What? After three quarters of a century, d o ive still have to put up with this arrogant and suicidal young man? This srudent who went out of his way to bad-mouth women, homosexuals, and Jews?" Agreed, but does today's sorry official culture really have any reason to look down its nose at him? T h e true anci-Sernire says, "Besides, some of my best friends are lews." T h e true enemy of women says, "Besides, she's a nice girl." T h e true homophobe says, "Besides, I like them." Weininger is just the opposite of these people. First of all, he himself was Jewish; second, it was precisely his atrocious remarks about women that aided Karl Kraus, thar most eloquent worshipper of woman. in putting the law to shame when it sought with impunity to condemn a number of Viennese fiIIes de joie; third, what Weininger wrote about h o n ~ o s e x u a l i tis an early, clumsy effort to ~ approach a subject about which modern thought has never been able even to rise above clumsiness. So one begins to suspect that the who]; story is a bit more complicated, ambiguous, and misleading. 1 will try to tell it for what it also is: an erotico-philosophical feuilleton. Believe it or not, there was once a time when the "problem of sex" actually existed, and was not merely h d d e r for statistics, sociologists, marriage counselors, and liberators of humanity.

For three generations, from the n~idnineteenrhcentury on, any hint of t sex gave rise to excruciating spasms and c ~ s a pall over everything. 'Then, as always, sensitive young people indulged in n~asturbation,but in the heroic certainty that they were courting madness arid death. Indeed, according to what was then acceprrd doctrine, the spinal cord would supposedly turn rapidly into pulp and rricklc down the backbone. And when Strindberg, in Sor~f a Stl-vant, revealed rhat this was one of o many deceptions ptacticed on him as a child, i t was a gesture of unheardof audacity. There were also, as Frank Wedekind described, epidemics of suicide anlong high school students overwhelmed by erotic fantasies and guilt. And the whole world kept piling libido on every knickknack: All o f Art Nouveau can be seen as an attempt to eroticize industry, the beginning of the mass production of objects (winding flights of stairs, untrusrworthy door handles . . .) that Weininger's amoral, insatiable woman might continually relate to in her increasing boredom with the ever present and inept man of the law, so stupid and so convinced of being the custodian of the spirit. And it is even plausible that abstract art, whether pre-lnfol-meI (as in Schmithals) or absolute decoration (as in Gustav Klimt), was born of an excess of erotic tension: T h e chromatic blur serves primarily to cover or envelop in a vibrant veneer scenes too indecent to be shown. It was amid these quicksands that O t t o Weininger was born in Vienna in 1880. H e was one of those fatal individuals especially to themselves) who cannot say anything without carrying i t ro its "ultimate conclusions." Like many others, he had the vice of the Absolute, and with a neophyte's energy he went looking for it where people at that time supposed it to be: in science. But for a shrewd eye like his, it was precisely science that presented an image of distressing uncertainty behind its positivist arrogance: T h e most subtle theorists, like Ernst Mach, had reduced the ego to an anteuoovI through which impressions flowed. T h e nihilistic sword of the new epistemology drove consciousness into the "sea of sensations" and transformed it into a "bundle" ofcharlce psychic aggreptions. T h e subject, ~ r o u d and positive, discovered itself,to be a patchwork, a "kaleidoscope" thar "reduces everything to a hodgepodge of elements," "renders everything n1e:uiingJess and without fo~~ndatiorl," "destroys and the possibility of st;~rting from n fixed point for thought." In the end it destroys "the concept of truth." Behind these agonizing results, onc glimpses the impassive slleer of


. The Superior Man and t/le Absolute Cocotte

David Hume. But who was it who championed the unity of the subject against Hume's corrosive acids? T h e great Inlmnnuel Kant, and the whole of nineteenth-century German culture was a continual gesture o f homage and betray;ll toward him as the last bearer of the law. Weininger therefore turned to Kant as to an urlassailable rock in the "hodgepodgen o f elements. Had he been an ordinary spirit, his path would have been laid out: a chair in philosophy and a lifetime o f sober research as a neo-Kantian thinker, of which there were quite a few in the Germany of those years. But Weininger had an aberrant originality and followed his own phantasms rather than common sense. And his m i n d was equally violently obsessed by ethics and by eros. Thus he had the utrer effrontwy to launch himself o n a hitherto unheard-of project: to marry epistemology and sexuality by squeezing Kant, "the superior man," and Lulu, "the absolute cocotte," into the same bed. As might have been foreseen, the two of them sprang out of that bed with mutual repugnance (perhaps Kant's famous

The Superior Man a~zd Absolute the



Realrepugnu ~zz?) .
From this incident emerged Sex and Character, first a graduate thesis, then a heavy tome, and finally a contagious best-seller until the late 1920s. Hut Weininger was not around to witness this Iasr phase: H e had fired a bullet into his heart a few months after the book's publication in 1903 H e was twenty-three years old. T h e reasons for his suicide can be divined from the illuminating fragments collected as O n Last Thi?lgs a n d published posthumously Weini~lger who had invested his book with the fanatical necessity of being the truth, had come to a growing realization that his creatio~l was a grandiose hilure a n d above all that the person O t t o Weininger was not the spotless and perfectly conscious subject he had thought: rather, he had increasingly come to resemble woman's proxy the criminal. Judge Daniel Paul Schreber, caught in a similar conflict, had found a way out in paranoiac delusion. T h e Kantian O t t o Weininger chose suicide: "The decent man proceeds by himself toward death, if he realizes that he has become definitely wicked." So how should one read Sex and Character? Certainly not as a scientific treatise. That would be to fall into the error of which Weininger himself was a victim, in order to derive-the mean satisfaction of smiling superciliously at these sornctinles hilarious pages, pure fin de silcle grotesqueness, in which he lashes out at women, Jews, and homosexuals. No, Sex and O'haracter is a desperate, subtle confession, both lucid and raving, that stages an intermezzo in the "tragedy of consciousness." And precise-

l y f o r theatrical reasons, Weininger had to give i r the seal of scientific solemnity, to formulate it in that grave and cumbersome language that is nevertheless continually shaken by a tremor, the first sign of a psychical tempest, the omnipresent threat of eros. T h e hidden point from which the whole book proliferates is the specter of the androgyne. '['he bisexuality marvelously depicted by Plato, the cabalists, Jakob Hijhme, and books of alchemy, all the way to Honort de Balzac's SPruphitn, and riow a lost and elusive chimera, resurfaces by murky underground channels in young Weininger, as it also did, and by no less murky channels, in the slightly older Wilhelrn Fliess and Signlilnd Freud. Having stated the obvious fact that masculine and feminine traits coexist in every person but carrying it-as though obsessed-to its "ultimate conclusions," Weininger ended by noting that bisexuality necessarily led to an incurable and baleful split in the subiect. O n one side is man, son~ething, affirmation, the heir of Kant's transcendental subject, reduced to a policeman ever on the alert, his will vainly tense, in danger of losing his identity and damaging the law. which in his coercive vacuity he represents. O n the other is woman, nothing, negation, this amoral and irresponsible creature, this Lulu who has no ego (and yet is sovereign), who tells lies nut of biological necessity and copulates continually with everything around her. This outrageously comical comparison was not invented by Weininger, as his undiscerning critics have always insisted, but transcribed by him. T h e text from which he transcribed it was none other than the clandestine system of thought that governed (and still governs) our civilization. Weininger sketched that oppressive cage in the darkness and made it recognizable. 7'hinkilig the cage's founding assuniprions through to their "ultimate conclusions" caused it to creak. Or rather, Weininger himself tried to get out of the cage but could not, precisely because of his "scientific" a n d Kantian assumptions. Outside the cage, he might truly have begun that "research on principles" (nlasculine and feminine) promised by the book's subtitle. And there he would havc encountered alchemical and mythological symbolism to serve as a p i d e . Ipstead, Weininger's involuntary grotesqueness rages just when hc is fumbling to emerge from his cage. Once he had finished writing Sex nnd Charrrcter, W'einingcr seems to n have realized that his whole systenl did nothing but d~>.rcribe hnllucinlrtion ~ r o d u c c d fear of the void and its troubling synonym Woman: by


. The Superior Man and therlbsolute Cocotte

"And this is also thc explanation nF man's deepest fear:fiur of the woman, that is, fear in thefdcc o f t l ~ nbs~nce e of'menninq: that is, fear befbre the s~dzrctive nbyss of the void." For if "woman is ~narzksin, as Weininger observes at the end of his Kantian "deduction of femininiry," his whole book could no longer claim ro have described woman as a real being, but woman as a perpetual hallucination of sin. And this is no small feat: He may not have written a scirnrific work, but he was surely a faithful and clairvoyant chronicler of the specrcrs of his civilization. His error, once a g i n , was the one that Karl Kraus is said to bnve pointed out in Strindberg: "Strindberg's rruth: The order of rhe world is thrnreoed by rhe feminine. Strindberg's error: 'l'he order of the world is threatened by woman." T h e "cultural world," in its ever renewed respectability, has'not been exactly generous toward that valuable error krlow~l SEX and C,'haracter: as when the book appeared, because it had too much success, was read roo avidly by young girls, and therefore could not be raken seriously; today, because it is offered as a period piece, for the grotesqueness scartered throughout it and for the pompous incongruity of the scier~~ific apparatus ~ l l a goes with ir. Very few people have actually ack~iowledgrd debt of t a gra~itudc this book. And those who did were writers who were indccd to horrified by the "cultural world": Kraus, Strindberg, Wittgenstein.

The Ordeal of Impossible Words

The sound of the banalities generally uttered about Sinlone Weil can already be heard in these few words by Sirnone dc Beauvoir: "A great famine had just struck China, and rhey told me h a t Simone Weil broke down and wept on hearing the news. Those tears, more than her philoa sophic gift, made me feel respect for her." This sentence illus~rates reaction that is still with us today: O n e pronounces Simone Weil's nanlr and is immediately surrounded by co~lrrite faces. Rising to the o c c a s i o ~ ~ , someone says he respects her because even though she was an unskilled intellectual and graduate of the Ecole lVormale SupCrieure. she took a job in a R e n a ~ ~factory; another ups the ante of admiration because she lt joined in many trade-union struggles; someone else recalls the war in Spain; another vouches for her piety and alludes thoughtfully to her lasting reluctance to be baptized; and some estimable and obtuse layman will also stand ready ro call her a "sai~lro f our time." I thirrk nothing would have ar~noyedSimone Weil more than to see herself reduced to an upholder of good cawes, one of those sanctimonious and undiscrirnirla~ing people who plunge into eveiy good deed of the momelit. Those who sprak of her this way would really likr to evade and ignore her, since they are incapable of "paying attention to her soul," as one of Hugo von Hofinannsrhal's charactel-s demanded. Unlike Sirnorle de Beauvoir, we will nor be conccnt with a few sobs over China. By now i t has been settled beyond a n y doubt that crying about the world's disasters is no Inore significant than a eel-cificatr of good conduct. Let us look instead at what is really intitnidatjng in Simone Weil, which Beauvoir clu~llsily calls her "philosophic gift": her thought. Let us finally open her books, especially her truly secret books, those

rzo . The Orde~zl qf'lmn~~ossible Word

The Ordedl of impossible Word .


Cahiers written in the overly clear handwriting of a model schoolgirl between ,940 and 1943, the year Weil died in L,ondon of exhaustion and tuberculosis, at the age of thirty-four. What sort of mind emerges from these books? Certainly not one suitable to be considered in the usual histories of modern philosophy, and not even one capable of feeding those encyclopedias that are all the more dismal the more they claim to bulge with ideas. No, Simone Weil was not an academic philosopher, nor was she one of those tiresome. long-winded pundits who continue to hold the stage today. We need only read a few of her pages to realize that we are in the presence of something ofwhich nlaily may even have lost all recollection: a mind both transparent and hard as a diamond, a mind stubbornly focused on a slim bundle of words. And among them we recognize almost all the impnuibir words: those words so old, so immediate, but also so abused and threadbare that many people avoid saying them and circumvent them out of fear and shame. Those who d o so are sensitive, enervated, and cultured. For Simone Weil, it would not have been possible. She continued to fix her gaze directly on tboir words. the same ones, moreover, that we find woven into the few inexhaustible texts to which she always returned: the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the pre-Socratics, Plato, Sophocles, the Gospels: "Love," "necessity," "good." ,> "desire," "justice, maihrur," "beauty," 'limit," "sacrifice," "emptiness."

Weil was well aware that these words are likewise ordeals: Those who utter them are made to pass through the fire. Those who are able to utter them, because they know what they refer to, emerge unscathed. But almost nobody emerges unscathed. In the mouths of alrnost everybody, such words are mangled corpses. Under Simone Weil's pen, they return to being what they are: mysterious crystals. To observe these crysrals w t ntih tention, one must at least be a mathematician of the soul. And that is what Simone Weil was. It is customary to distinguish two periods in Weil's brief life: one of "social commitment" until 1938, the other of "mystical conversion" lasting unril her death. These embarrassing definitions belong in a biographical dictionary. T h e truth is that Weil was always one thing only: a gnostic. When in the early years, they called her " t h e - ~ e d Virgi~l" and she was inciting the stonebreakers of Le I'uy to revolt. when she irritated Leon Trotsky with her unassailable objections, when h e participated in the struggle against Fsanco during the Spanish Civil War (and (;eorges Hataille made fun of her in the character of Lazare in Blru du cirl), Simone Weil was already what she would later discover herself to hc. "Very few arc the

spirits to whom i t is given to discover that things and beings exist," she once wrote to Joe Bousquet. And in her writings, we feel from the beginning, with the articles calling for inlnlediate political action, that truly for her, "things and beings exist." O f course, in that first n ~ i l i t a ~period, the wholc vertigino~~s lt network of connections and resonances, from algebra to the zodiac, that we find later in the C~/,Ieri not yet formed in Weil. A ~ l d there is already an had yet impressive distance, as far as lucidity is concerned, between Weil and her most renowned contempor;iries. Think of all the Oxford dandies, poets from the Latin Quarter, and German exiles who discovered "social commitment" and even the "proletarian cause" in the early 193os! But Simo~le Weil was the only one capable of si~nultaneouily following the oppressed to the point ofworking with thenr on the assembly line, and recognizing that the very country the oppressed looked to as their liberator was actually the most abusive n ~ u t a t i o n oppression. In examining the socialist world, of Weil did not fall into any of those traps into which almost all intellectuals of the time threw themselves, quite content to feel that they were on the side of history. She did not need to wait for the proofs, the documents, that so many others with sluggish reflexes were still waiting for half a century later. T h e lucidity of her mind was enough for her, and when Trotsky with glum amiability, teased her about her drastic ideas. she once replied, in connection with the words "revolutionary" and "counterrevolutionary," that "if one wanted to seek the truth, i t was necessary to set limits to that terminology." Sublime understatement. I have spoken of "crystals" and of "attention." 7oday, w h e ~ l beaches the o f the world lie strewn with huge ideological carcasses, to encounter Weil's writings may be the equivalent, to use the categories of Mount Analogue by Renk Daumal (one of the few writers akin to her, as well as a friend), of finding apeiizdam, that strange "curved crystal," difficult and dangerous to procure, that is "the sole substance, the sole material body in which the guides of Mount Analogue recognize a value." In this world of analogy, "it is the sole guarantee of every coin, as gold is for us," and also the only source o f "incontest;~bleauthority." '1% find it, one need only have a clear mind ;ind tllat p;irticul;ir cl;iirvoyancc of sight that Weil called simply "attention." Hut she also ren~emberedthat "true attention is a state so difficult for m a n , a state so violent that any person;ll disturba~lce in sensibility is enough to prevent it." And the sarne word allowed her to offer the most ele~nentary, in the end persuasive, definition of culture: but "What is culture? The formation of attention."

A Report on Rraders ~f'Schreber .


A Report on Readers of

T h a t Schreber is sane is not something rhat will be accepted by any thinking person. But one must surely recognize rhat here is a Inan both intellectually gifted and worthy of respect for his feelingsn (p. 659). T h e second review, signed by one R. Pfeiffer, deserves to be quoted in full for its lack o f perception: Thc author, a typiciil paranoi~~c, introciuces his book with a brirfopell letter to Professor tilechsig, followcd by 350 pages describing in dct;lil his deliricxperrs will fi~ld rlorlling neiv. ous systematized idcas, in which ~nedicill What is more interesting is the vcrhatim reproducrion i l l the documents of thr tl.ial proceedings and the co~irt's reasons for deciding to lift the ban o n Schrebcr, despite the persistence of his delirious ideas. 'l'hcre is no rcason to fexr a wid? circularion of [his book among the 1;1y public, a l [ h o ~ ~ gi h t might. dcspirr the obvious situation of rhc hcts, create confilsion.~ O n e o f these two reviews very probably attracted the attention o f the young Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, then an intern at the Burgholrli hospital. O r perhaps he encountered SchreberS Memoit, a m o n g the new works issued by the same publisher who, a year before, had brought sogenannter okklrlter o u t his o w n first book, Psychokogie und Put/~ologie Phuizomenr. Be that as it niay, we find J u n g already citing Schreber's Memoin in 1907, in his fiycholo~giedcr Dementiapruc~~.ox h e Psychology [T of Dementia Praecoxj .' We know the fundarnell tal import;lnce o f this work in Jung's development: It marks, a m o n g other things, an early declaration o f principle with respect t o Frcud. Indeed, in the preface, dated July 1906-three nionths after beginning his correspondence with Freud, t o w h o m he h:ld presented a c o p o f his Assoziutioristz~dien-Jullg is anxious above all to explain how much he is "indebted to the brilliant discoveries of Freud" (p. j), a n d after specifying that n o criticism o f Freud makes sense except zcjithin psychoanalysis, he mentions for the first tirne certain reservations of his own, especially his resistance to p1:lcing sexuality "so predonlioantly in the f o r g l - o u n d " or g r s n t i l ~ g t "the i universality which Freud, i t seems, postulates" (p. 4). The" eonlinous words manifest a difference o f perspective that was to be pri~iticillly wiped o u t in the next few years, only t o reappear later in a r n t ~ c hInore radical form at the tinie o f JuogS hre:lk with Frcod. 111 7 7 1 l' f D i ~ mrntiu 1'177ecox, the references to Schreberk M[,iiioirs serve p~-inl:lril~ ilto o f the and there is 11" lustrate certi~ill~l~:~r:~cteristics illness being treate~i,

Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs were published in 1903 by [he firm o f Oswald Mutze in 1,eipzig.l 77iis edition, printed at the author's expense, is hard to come by today, the family having apparently bought up a n d destroyed most of the existing copies.' T h e book did not, however, wholly escape the notice of psychiatrists. T h a t same year, 1903, a review of it apZeitsch).tft I'sychit~trir, fur followed by another in peared in the Alkem~ine 1904 in the De~rtsche Zeitsrhrzft fur Nerven/~ri/kund?. h e first reviewer, T C. Pelman, set o u t to distinguish Schreber's Memoirs from the mass of those "more or less voluniirlous works by our ex-patients in which they make loud, public accusations claiming to have been denied their freed o m a n d p u t the blame o n criminal doctors."' Pelman, with a gesture of ironic detachment, dismisses at the outset any sirnilarity to these "dubious literary products," pointing o u t that Schreber's book has "only o n e thing in c o m m o n " with t h e m , "namely. the fact o f havillg bee11 written by a mental patient, while in all other respects it towers high above them" (p. 657). Indeed, Schreber's primary concern could not he said t o express personal resentment; but rather, he "offer[ed] his person t o the judgment of experts as an object of scientific observation" (,p. 658). Having thus given his approval to Schreber's worthy purpose, I'elman provides a quick and extremely vague sulnmary of the hlemoirs. H e shows greater interest, however, in the court proceedi~lgs~vhereby Schrehcr e v c n t ~ ~ a l l y regained particular he concede; that the judge's judicial battle his freedom, and in with the authorities was 110 confrontation between "two ordinar). adversaries," since the dispute can be said to have occurred "on an equal level." Finally, I'elman concluded, "t;or these reasons I would be sorry if t h e book were removed from circulation . . . because it deserves a better fate.


. A Report 011 Readers !f.Ychreber

A Report on Rrrzders ofsrhreber . rry

a t t e m p t a t interpretation. T h e first interpretative essay o n Schreber's Memoirs is thus the one by Freud, written in the autumn of x9ro. Before examining its theses, I would like to review a few aspects of its complicated prior history. T h e proble111 of paranoia had already come ~ i p for Freud i n the early years o f psychoanalysis, as attested by the many times h e mentions the subject in his letters to Wilhelm Fliess in the years 1895-96 and especially by the farsighted "Uraft H," enclosed with a letter of 24 January 1895 and devoted to :I first theoretical h r m u l a t i o n o f paranoia. Here paranoia is traced back t o the various pathological modes of defense already singled out by Freud-namely, hysteria, obsessive neurosis, and states of hallucinatory confusion-and at the same time differentiated from them; the draft for the first time, arnong other things, emT ploys the tern1 "projection" (later treated further in "Draft K"). h e much less drastic p b l i c explanation o f this theory appeared the following year, in Freud's Weitere B e ~ n e r k u n ~ e n die Abwehrneur~ps~chosen, iiber whose third section is devoted to the "Analysis o f a Case o f Chronic Paranoia." Here, for the first time in the G e r m a n language, Freud uses the term "psycho. ,> analys~s, referring specifically to the case of the paranoiac female patient who was sent to h i m by Josef Breuer and who is the subject of the study. I n this rapid analysis, Freud's aim is once again to show how "paranoiil, o r gmups of cases belonging to it, is also a defence-psychosis; that is to say, that it results from the repression of p i n f u l memories, as d o hysteria and obsessions, a n d that the form of the symptoms is determined by the conFreud does not, however, risk establishtent of the repressed r n e m ~ r y . " ~ ing a theory of paranoia o n this basis and specifies that his analysis is limited to "some such conclusion as this: this case is a defence-psychosis a n d in the category o f paranoia there are probably others like it" (p. 170). I11 fact, this caution conceals his already clear ambition t o provide an exhaustive interpretation of the entire paranoiac pathology, a n d some o f the terms that recur in the course of this analysis, for example "projection," will also remain fundamental in successive formulations of the theory. W h a t Freud instead abandons entirely is the theory of a specific sexual trauma, with the discovery in 1897 "that there is no 'indication of reality' in the unconscious, so that it is impossiblt. to distinguish between truth and emotionally-charged fictiotl."; Finally, in a letter t o Fliess in 1899, Freud goes a step further in his theory of paranoi:~.coming t o consider it "a surge forward of the auto-erotic tendency, a regression t o a former state" (letter 125; p. 304).

After this letter, more than ten years pass during which Freud makes almost n o m e n t i o n o f paranoia in his published works. H e continues, however, to wrestle with the many problems raised by it, as is apparent in his letters to Jung, who, in The Psychokogy o f D e m e n t i u Prclrcox, had already discussed the case of the paranoiac w o m a n presented by Freud in 1896. Jung recognized it as "extremely important for psychopathology,"8 and in the end he offered a criticism that touches the truly delicate spot in Freud's study: " T h e 'hysterical' mechanislns h e uncovered suffice to explain the origin of hysteria, b u t why then does de)nentiu prtrrcox arise?" (p. 35). As early as the first months o f his correspondence with Jung, Freud raises t h e question o f paranoia, a n d in a letter of 6 December 1906 he states openly, "I have still fbrmed n o definite opinion o n the dividing line between dementia praecox a n d paranoia. . . . But m y experience in this field is meager."" Freud will come back to this second statement several times, nlmost with a feeling of inferiority with respect to Jung, who had numerous patients suffering from paranoia and dementia praecox in the Burgholzli clinic. A n d it is significant that Freud's great study of paranoia, the paper o n Schreber, is the only one o f his great cases t o be based solely o n a text. After his first meeting with Freud, in Vienna i n March 1907, Jung wrote to him, obviously comnienting on conversations they had had as during his visit, "Azltoerotij~ri the essence o f Dementia praecox strikes me more a n d more as a momentous deepening of our knowledgen (p. 25)and here we see the reemergence of the theme mentioned in the letter t o Fliess in 1899 Even in the early exchanges, we observe differences in terminology between Freud a n d Jung when they are dealing with paranoia and dementia praecox. C o n l m o n t o both, however, is their impatience with the ambiguous term "dementia praecox," which, in fact, was t o be replaced by the fatal word "schizophrenia" only after the publication in 1911 of Eugen Bleuler's important treatise De17rentinpr~~erox, oa'er Gruppe der Schizophrenieil. I n April 1907, Freud sends J u n g the outline of a paper, "A Few Theoretical Remarks o n Paranoia." This is the first time that Freud, in 3 gesture o f paternal trust, asks Jungls opinion o f a manuscript. In these fundatnental notes, he states, a m q n g other things. "The sexual instinct is originalIy autoerotic," "In paranoia the libido is withdrawn from the object," and "I'rojection . . . is a variety o f rrprrssion. in which a n image beconles conscious as perception" ( p p 39-40). J u n g reacts to this manuscript with oblique criticisms. H e shows it to Bleuler, w h o tclls him he will use it in his m a j r ~ r study o n dementia prarcox. T h e


. A Report on Readers ofSchreber

A Report on Re~zders f Schreber . o


observation added b y Jung, in his letter o f 13 M a y 1907, is supremely comical a n d illuminating for the history o f psychiatry: " H e [Bleuler] doesn't want t o say autoerotism (for reasons we all know) [that is, prudery], b u t prefers 'autism' or 'ipsis~n.'I have already got a c c u s t o n ~ e dt o 'autoerotism.'" ( P P 44-45). Meanwhile, Jung relentlessly continues to feed Freud inreresling cases o f dementia praecox encountered in his clinical practice. In J u n e 1907, Freud singles o u t among them the case o t a paranoiac with "hon~osexual experiences," a n d this is the first time that homosexuality appears in ronnection with paranoia. I n a letter of 17 February 1908. however, Freud suggests t o J u n g for the first time r possible theoretical conlleition between homosexuality a n d paranoia:
1 have been in conrrlcr with a few paranoia cases in my practice and

tell you a secret. . . . 1 h;~ve regularly encounrercd a decachme~lc libido of

from a homosexual component which until then had been normally and moderately cathected. . . . My old analysis (1896) also showed thac the pathological process began with rhc paricnr's estra~lgementfrom her husband's jisterj. My one-time friend Fliess de\:eloped a dreadful case of paranoia after throwing off his affection for me, which was u~~doubtedly considerable. 1 owe this idea to him, i.e., to his bchaviour. One must try to learn sonlcthing from evcry experience."' I n this letter, Freud throws a sudden light o n the obscure basis a n d complex personal connections that mark his theory of paranoia. It turns o u t here t o be linked in its central element-the role o f hon~osexualitywith the most serious, passionate, a n d painful psychological experience in Freud's life: his friendship with Fliess a n d its breakup. Clearly, J u n g grasps or once t h e importance o f what Freud revealed t o h i m , a n d he replies three days later with a ploy that takes o n a n all too obvious meaning in light o f w h a t occurs between them a few years later: "The reference t o Fliess-surely not accidental-and your relationship with h i m i l ~ ~ ~ e l s m e t o ask you to let m e enjoy your friendship not as one between equals b u t as that of tither a n d son" (p. I 22). T h e solid basis is thereby laid for a difficult and emotional relationship, one that will also be broken in d u e course. During 1908 the copious exchange of ideas o n para~loiabetween Freud a n d l u n g continues. as does a c o r r e s p o n d e ~ ~ c e between Freud and Srindor Ferenczi, w i t h w h o m Freud succeeds in working o u t a crucial hypothesis: " W h a t w e regard as the manifestations o f their disorder

[paranoia] . . . is their attenipc to cure thernselves" (letter t o Jung, 26 December 1908; p. 191). T h e year 1909. marked by Jung's second visit t o Vienna in March a n d by the trip of both men to America for the Clark Conference in the summer, was t o charge the relationship between Freud a n d J u n g with ever more ambiguity a n d a~nbivalence.Meanwhile, l u n g discovers myth as his favored material for analysis. and Freud, for the time being, shares his enthusiasm. At the beginning of 1910, they are making preparations for the Nuremberg Congress, a n d Jung seems increasingly aggressive in presenting his ideas. I n the importanr letter o f 11 February 1910, in which he describes himself as "sitting so precariously o n t h e fence between the Dionysian a n d the Apollinian," J u n g emphatically statcs, "Religion can be replaced only by religion."" While the favorite pupil speaks of "the Walpurgis Nights o f m y unconscious" (p. 296), the master does not insist o n their differences a n d proves a c c o m n ~ o d a t i n g , albeit worried. T h e Nuremberg Congress is held at the end of March. W h e n it is over, Freud and J u n g spend a day together at Rothenburg, a n d it was probably o n this occasion that J u n g first spoke t o Freud a b o u t Schreber. T h e r e is, however, already a first indirect reference to Schreber in Jung's letter of 17 April (p. 307), and from then o n until the end of the correspondence there are numerous such references. Freud seems in particular t o have playfully absorbed various expressions from the M~nloirs, such as "miracled," "basic language," a n d "nervous conjunction" (this last appears often in the correspondence with Karl Abraham as well). In a letter o f 22 April, Freud refers explicitly t o "the wonderful Schreber," whose book he has set aside for the holidays, a n d he observes that the m a n " o ~ l ~ h t t o have been m a d e a professor o f psychiatry a n d director o f a mental hospital" (p. 311). During the summer of 1910, after a particularly exhausting year, Freud went to Holland for a rest a n d from there left in September for a longdesired trip to Italy, ;rccompanied by Ferenczi. T h e journey coincided with a m o m e n t of intense self-absorption o n Freud's part, when he found h i n l ~ e l f c o n f r o n t i n ~new obstacle in his self-analy~is.O n c e again it was a a question of Fliess and paranoia. Ferenczi kept pestering Freud with questions precisely about paranoia, a suhject he himselfwas involved with for the moment. and Freod must frequently have been loath to respond. for once he was back in Vienna, he felt the need to justify himself t o Ferenczi in a revealing letter that includes these words: "Nor only have you noticed



. A Report o t ~ Readers ~f Schreber

A Report on Reuderf o f Schreber .


that 1 no longer have any need for that full opening of my personality, but you have also understood i r and correctly rerurned to its traumatic cause. . . . This need has been extinguished in Ine since Fliess's case, with the overcoming of which you jusr saw nie occupied. A piece oFhomosexua1 investment has been withdrawn a ~ i d ~ s for the e~llargement my own ~ ed of hils."" ego. I succeeded where the para~loiac Freud had taken Schreber's Memoirs with him on the trip to Iraly, and he read about half the book, but with the feeling that he had already grasped its secret. Back in Vienna, he ininlediately announced to lung, without mentioning Schreber, thar he was preparing an article on pal-anoia. But lung understood whar was going on and promprly replied, on 29 September, "1 was touched and overjoyed to Ic;ir~lhow much yo11 appreciate the greatness of Schreberi mind and the liberating iepoi A O ~ O L of the basic language." Further on in the same letrer. Jung dernonstr:~ted [hat behind Schreber he had glimpsed [he whole mythological and religious background wirh which he was concerned at that moment: "The Manichaeans (Schreber's godfathers?) hit on the idea that a number of demons or 'archons' were crucified on. or affixed to. the vault of heaven and were rhe filher~ofhuman heiugs."" Freud replied, " I share your mrhusiasm for Schreber; it is a kind of revelatioil. I pl;~nto introduce 'basic language' as a serious rechnical term. . . . After another reading I may be able to resolve all the intriguing fantasies; I didn't quite succeed rhe first time. , . . I wish you luck with your immersion in mythology" ( p 358). Freud worked on the Schreber case from then until mid-December. O n the sixteenth, he wrote to Abraham and Ferenczi that he had finished his paper. A few days earlier, he had announced to lung that he would bring the manuscript with him to Munich, adding, "1 am not pleased wirh it, bur it is for others to judge. . . . 1 shall h:we to leave other parts of my speculation on paranoia for n later paper3' (p. 377). And on 18 December he repeated, "The piece is formally imperk c t , fleetingly improvised. 1 had neither time nor strength to do more. Still, there are a few good things in it, and it contains the boldest thrust a[ + + + [sexual] psychiatry since your LIrm. l'r: I am uiiablc ro judge irs objective worth as was pssible with earlier papers, because in working on it 1 have had to fight off complexes within myself (Fliers)" (pi?. 379-80). Nothing could be clearer: Once again the ghosr of Flies3 Ioon~s behind Judge Schreber. Freud's paper was p ~ h l i s h ~ d 1911. i l l i111 ~ S S L L C tile in of &hrbuch chat marks rhe great watershed in [he history of psychoanaly-

sis. Indeed, it also contained the first part of lung's new book, Wajzdlungc~nm d $mbole der Libido, which made i t clear thrlr the pupil, now8 turned rebel, had taken a quire different path. Meanwhile, o n 28 March 1911,lung's young and ralented disciple Johann Jakob Honegger Jr. committed suicide; in Nurcmberg he had presented a paper on paranoia that would later exanticipated with remarkable lucidity the ideas that J u ~ i g press on the subject." O n 14 April, Schreber died in the IIiisen psychiatric clinic, near Leipzig, unaware that his Memoilzc had become the basis for [he theory of paranoia that would donli~iate the cellturb and without Freud k ~ l o w i ~of his death. lg Freud's paper o n Schreber consists of three parts and a postscript. T h e first part follows the course of the judge's illness as described in the hfernoirs. Freud gives an extreniely partial summary. picking o u t from Schreber's tangled account only what may be useful for the iilterpreration he later offers. Almost entirely lacking, tbr esample, is any reference to the political aspects of the judge's delusions, to the "compulsion to think." or to transforrnations of the "basic language." T h e second part of Freud's paper is entitled "Attemprs at Interpretation." Afier a rapid methodologicdl preamble, [he crux of the theory appears: "The study of a nunlber of cases of delusions of persecution have led me as well as other investigators ro the view that the relation between the patient and his persecutor can be reduced to quite a simple formul a , " 1 i This formula says, "The person who is now hated and feared as a persecutor was at one time loved and honoured" (p. 424). I n Schreber's case, this person is obviously Dr. Paul Emil Flechsig. And here comes the homosexuality: "The exciting cause of his illness, then, was an ourbursr of homosexual libido; the object of this libido was probably from the very first his physician. Flechsig; and his srruggles against this libidi~lalin,pulse produced the conflict which p v e rise to the pathological phenonlenon" (p. 426). Having revealed this enurnlity, Freud pauses for a moment ro ask himself, "Is it not an act of irresponsible levir): an indiscretion and d i ~ ~ g a caluniny to charge :I rnali of such high ethic;tl ~ t ~ ~ las the former Senatsprasident Scllreber with homosexoalit~~?" Having overcome this grave doubt, which n y s much about [he cautio~l required at the time by even the least cautious of psychonnalysts, Freud goes illto dct;lil ahout the relatio~lship i i h Flechsig, d i s c c r ~ l i n ~ x behind his hgure chose of lead Schreber's father, whose qualirier AS an rothorir;~rilnp e d ~ ~ o g u ~


. A Report on Readers

of Schi-eber

A Reporr orr Rerlders oj'Schreber .


Freud to find h i m particularly suited to the role; his dead brother; and finally the G o d in the Memoirs a n d his representative, the sun. These transformations seen1 to Freud t o be connected to the theme of the Double, which he mentions, however, only in passing. Finally, at the end of the chapter, Freud analyzes the problem o f the motivation for the outblc;lk of the conflict, which m u s t be related t o " s o n ~ e privation in real life" (p. 442), a n d he suggests that this privation might have been Schreber's lack of progeny: "Dr. Schreher may h a w formed a phan tasy that if he had been a woman he would have managed the business of having children more successfully; and he may thus have found his way back into the feminine attitude towards his father which he had exhibited in the earliest years o f his childhood" (p. 443). T h e third section, " O n the Mechanisnl of I'aranoia," c o n t a i ~ l s Inore coluplex theoretical considerations. Here the starting point is the observation that what has gone before is insufficient to establish rhe "distinctire character o f paranoia." which most be sought by entering into the "mechanism by which the symptoms are f o r n ~ e d . " Meanurhile, r brief '~ Freud to single o u t "the weak spot in their [the genetic digression allon~s paranoiacs'] development," which "is to be looked for somewhere bew e e n the stages of auto-erotism, narcissism and homoserudity" (p. 448), a n d he adds that a "similar disposition would have to be assigned to patients suffering from Kraepelinh dementia praecox or (as Bleuler has named it) ichizophrenia" (p. 448). At this point, Freud begins t o analyze the in~pulses, the of transformation, under the pressure of various proposition "I ioue him" into "I hute him." as part o f persecution mania o r in other forms such as erotomania. paranoiac jealousy, a n d alcoholic delusions of jealousy. It is this portion of Freud's paper that has perhaps had the most influence o n subsequent psychoanalytic literature, because o f the extreme subtlety and flexibility of the transformations suggested to which the? can be related. and the vasr range of As for the formation ofsymptoms of p r a n o i a , Freud singles o u t as the mosr striking characteristic the proccss ofprojectiuri, which hc defines as follows: "An internal perception is suppressed, a n d , instead, its content, after ~ ~ n d c r g oai certain degree of distoition, enters conscious~~ess the n~ in form of an external perception."' And Freud pro~llises take u p this cruto study, biit this w;ls nor to happe11. W i t h cial theme again in some f i ~ t u r e ts the passage o n projection, all the fundaniustal c l e n ~ c ~ iin the papcr have been presented, and Freud goes 011 to 1final, intrici~te orchestration of'his themes, stressing first the three phases of repression in p;lmnoia and then

1 I

problems connected with the "detachment of the libido," a phenomenon peculiar ro paranoia but not unique ro it. At the end of this section, various diffsrences with Jung o n the subject of dementia pl-aecos-differences that h a d already cropped LIP several times in their correspondencereappear in disg~lisedform. Having thus arrivcd at the end o f his analysis, Freud feels the need-and this is clearly significant-to state that his theory of paranoia was formed prior to reading Schreber's Memoin: "I can nevertlleless call a friend a n d fellow-specialist t o witness that I had developed m y theory o f paranoia before I became acquainted with the contents of Schreber's book. It remains for the future to decide whether there is more d e l ~ ~ s i o n niy theory than I should like to admit. or whether there is more in trurh in Schreber's delusion than other people are as yet prepared to bec lieve" (pp. 465-66). A n d this surprising, periultimate s e n t e ~ ~ isethe real end of Freud's paper o n Schreber. T h e n there is the postscript, two a n d a half pages o f filndamental significance in the history of psychoanalysis. Freud read them at the Weinlar Congress (21-22 September 1911, the last public occasion o n which Freud and Jung seem ro have been officially united). Here Freud's attitude seems almost to be one o f mild self-defense: having begun by recalling that in analyzing the Schreber case, "I purposely restricted myselt'to a minimum of interpretation."'Vreud recognizes that a wealth of other material can be extracted from the Memoils a n d cites in this connection the references to uiid Schreber in J~ing'sWz~idiz~rigeri Syml,ole der Libido and in an article by Sabina Spielrein. H e then turns to the subject of the sun as offering new mythologiculinterpretations, mentions totemisni t'or the first time, and in the last paragraph rakes up, again for the first time in his work, the theme of mythology in general, with words that were to have considerable resonance: This short postscript to my analysib oEa paranoid parienr rnay serve to show [hat lung had excellc~ir grounds for his asserrion [hat the n ~ ~ t h o p o cforces ic ofm'znkind are nor exrincr, but that to rhis w r y d;~). they give rise in the rleurosc to rl~c s~r1ic psychological 17roducr~;s the remotest past ages. 1 in sho~11J to t'lke LIP 2 suggcstivii that I ni),sclf n1:ldc some rime ago. ;11ic1 like add char the same Iiolcts good otrlic 6)l-cesrhar \vork 6)r-rhc ti)rmatior~ ofreIigions. A n d I a m of'rhc opinion [liar th' tinie will s o o n hc ripe FOI. 11s to makc :111 extension of^ principle o f which the truth has long been rccognizcd by psycho-annlysts,and to complctc \+,hath ~ hitl~erto only ;In i n s 1i;ld dividuill and ontogcllctic application by the addition of its nnthropologicnl


. A Report otr Renders of Schwber

A Report up1 Renders ofScbreber . 13.3

and phylogenetically conceived counterpart. "ln dreams and in neuroses," so our principle has run, "we come once more upon the childand the pecut liarities which characterize his modes of t h o ~ g h and his cmorional life." "And we come upon the stzz,fzgc too," r h ~ we may complcre o u r proposis tion, "upon rhcprivrritive man, as he srands revealed to us in the light of thc researches of archaeology and o f ethnology." (pp. 469-70)

With this tribute, Freud also said farewell to his favorite pupil J u n g a n d at the same time announced Totem und Z b u . Jong, for his part, reacted b;,dly to Freud? prper o n Schrcbel: I q :I letter of 11 December 1911, rather resentful in tone, he referred to a point in the paper where Freud speaks of the paranoiac's "loss o f . . . libidin11 interest"'Vn the world:
As for the libido doubt

ture "Der Inlialt der Psychose" [ T h e C o n t e n t o f the Psychoses], which Freud a t the time had liked. In these pages, Jung gives what has remained 3 classic explanation of the methodological differences between reductive interpretarion (that of Freud) and : ~ m ~ l i f y i n g interpretation (that of rung himself), here called "co~lstructive."~'7 h e Schreber c:~se,according to I lung, can be said to reveal in a striking fashion the insufficiency o f the first method, which permits the analyst to complete only "one h a l f o f the w o r k ' (p. 186). while leaving quite open the qiiestion of the purpose a n d dynamics o f the delusion. to which Jung thought he hiniself had already provided a first answer in Wandlungc~z und Syrnbolr der Libido.

1 must confess that your remark in the Schreber

resuscitated ail the dificulries chat have beser

ani~lysis . . has set up booming reverberations. This remark, or rather the .

expressed rherein, has

me throughout the years in my attempt ro apply thc libido theory to Den]. pmec. T h e loss of the reality function in

D. pr. cannot be reduced to re-

pression of lihiilo (defined as sexual h u n g e r ) Not by me. :it m y rate.:"

T h e tone, the m o m e n t , the context of these words make them look like an explicit declaration of war a n d the recognition of a now unavoidabie split. T h e Freud-Jung relationship had begun with discussions of dementia praecux, a n d it collapsed with them, along with the ridiculous name of the disorder. W e are left with schizophrenia. Jung's different view. of libido appeared more clearly than ever in the second part of Wandfuiryrnund Syinbole der Libido, first published in the Jahrbirch of 1912 illid issued later in the same year a l o ~ i g with the first part in a book. There are other references in i t to SchreberC ilfernuirs, and still more appear in the rrvised version published b y J u o g in 1952 under the title Symboic drr Wuridiung. H e r r J u n g states explicitly, a m o n g o t h e r things, that Freud's analysis uf the Schreber case is "very iinsatishctory." a n d in a footnote he claims to have drawn Freud's attention to the Meurzoirs. Otherwise the references are illustrative, a n d the M t r n a i ~ ~ conare sidered o n a par with ail the o t l ~ e r mythnIogic;~l, poeric. mystical. i l ~ l d psychopathological subjects discussed in the book. In any case, in 1914,rwo years after their break, Jung attacked Freud in connection with the Schreber case in his long supplement to his 1908 lcc-

In 1911, same year in which Freud's paper o n Schreber Gippeared. Sabina the Spielrein published an article o n a case of schizophrenia in which she referred t o the Mcmoirj. O f Russian origin, a pupil of J u n g in Zurich a n d involved with h i m in an ambiguous love affair, a n d n ~ i l c h esteemed by Freud, Spielrein is one o f t h e most interesting a n d least studied among the pioneers ofpsychoanalysis. T h e dates o f her birth a n d death (r886?-after 1934) are still uncertain. Alexander Grinstein lists thirty of her psychoanalytic contributions from 1911 to 1931. Finally, we know that Spielrein was Jean Piaget's training analyst a n d that in 1913 she returned to the Soviet U n i o n . where she disseminated Freudian doctrine a n d taught in Rostov until 1733, w h e n psychoanalysis was b a n n e d . In t h e abovementioned article, Spielrein analyzed the case of a schizophrenic woman that presents some analogies with Schreber's story: for instance, the fear of 'LCatholicizariori"as a "conversion to sexuality"; the influelice of the psychiatrist Auguste Forel o n the patiellt, similar to Flechsigls o n Schreber; and the mythological delusion. which Spielrein subtly traces. Moreover, in the "Final Considerations" of the paper, we find Freud's basic statements in his postscript to the Schreber case anticipated almost to the letter: "The parallel with the mythological way of thinking goes back to a pnrticuli~r affinity of the dream mechanism with archaic thought. 1 was nluch struck by this during the analysis o f this patient. If Freud a n d Jung have esmblished a ixirallel between neurotic a n d d r e ~ m h e n o n l e n ; ~a n d schizop phrenia, I think I a m able to add all essenti;il clement to their conception by proposing that all this be considered in relatioll to its phyloge~ly."2~
In a review o f the Schreber case i l l 1912,Blculer, despite 111 his douhts alld hesitations, openly ;~cknowledgedthe enornlous importaoce o i F r t l l d i

134 . A Report on Readers oj'Srhreber


A Report ow Reuders of'srl~reber .

I ~ J

paper: "This brief sixty-page essay contains a huge wealth of thought. It is not to be read b u t studied."?-' T h i s acknowledgment is followed by vario u s objections that Rleuler h a d been brooding over for years, b u t h e wholly accepts the crux o f rhe theory, that is, the connection between a n d homosexuality. Wirh this review, [he first phase of the history of the Schreber case hecomes somehow crysrallized. Freud, for his part, will come back rime a n d again over the y23rs to questions connected wirh his paper o n S ~ h r e h e r , b~ t it will always be ro find confirmation for the ' u ideas formulared in it. As for his followers, a sort o f holy terror has seemed t o surround Schreber's name for decades. T h e theory of paranoia is obviously accepted, but no one dares t o take a closer look-though the rnastcr himself had suggested it!-ar other aspects of the Memoirs.


Schreber's Memoirs. 1 opened it and i l n ~ n e d i a t e saw that I'd find it very l~ interesring. I didn't know where it had come fro111and I didn't even connect it with Freud, whose work I had n o t yet rrad."Lfll'hebook was there by chance, having been left behind by a doctor who had lived in the studio a n d had enligrared to America. C:anetti asked Mahler if he might take i r with him, I)ut he did not get around to reading it until May 19.19. I r was a disturbing experience, o n e that irispireci him to write the rwt, chapters o n Schreber in C7).owdsarid Pozuer. A note from 10.19 testifies t o the book's immediate effect: What things I have Found here [in Schreber's book]! Support for some of the ideas that have been haunting me for years: fbr instance, the insoluble

1 I

O n 6 July 1928, the Litrrarische Welt published a piece by Walter Henjam i n entitled "Rooks by Mental Patients" and subtitled "From M y Collection," Benjamin tells of finding o n e o f rhe rare copies of Schreber's M~iz0ii.s a small anrique bookstore in Bern in 1918. H e does not recall in whether at the time he had already read Freud's essay. Rut never mind: "I was highly fascinated at o n c e . " ~ j Schrebeis Memoiri occupied a central place in Benjamin's precious c'pathological library," along wirh a book by the nineteenth-century doctor C. F. A. Schmidt: "If t h e world of delusion, like that of knowledge, also h a d irs four faculties, the works of Schreber and Schmidt would be a compendium of its theology and philosophy" (p. 617). In an elegant digression, Henjanlitl then gives his readreport on the themes and language of the Memoirs, concluders a flreti~lg ing with a passage in which casual journalism yields t o the tone of a great essayist: "There is something daonting about the existence of such works. As long as we feel accustonied to consider the sphere o f writing as, despite which ineverything, superior and protected, the appearance of mad~less, sinuates itself stealthily as never before, is all the more terrifying. H o w has it succeeded in penetrating? H o w has it hecn able to get past the guards of this hundred-gated .fhebcs, the city o f books?" (p. 618).

link betweerl paranoia and power. His entire system is the descriprion of a srruggle for power, with God Himself as his real antagonist. Schreber long imagined he was the only surviving human being in the world; all the others were the souls of dead people and God in multiple incarnations. The ld illusion that a man is or w o ~ ~like to be the o n l y one, the only one among corpses, is decisive for the psychology o f both the paranoiac an? the extreme practitioner of power. . . . Rut Schreber also had in him rhrs cornplere ideology of National Socialisn~s a delusion. . . . This study of para1 ' noia has its dangers. After just a fcw hours, I am seized wirh a rorrner~ting feeling of being locked in, and the more collvillci~lg system of madthe ness, the stronger my fear.'It is clear from these words, a n d from the whole passage, that Schreber appeared to Canetti to be a little like the sovereign inhabitant of the last room in that huge waxworks museum of power called Crowds a n d Power. A n d it is just in that position, right before the epilogue. that Canetti placed his retelling of the Schreber case in the book that for decades occupied his life. -l'he technique is narrative, ns required by Canerti's particular method-he also tried it succrssfully on Franz Kafka's Letters to Felice a n d Speer's iWemoirj-of thinking while narrating, a rnerhod that makes the reader realize he is being led to an inevitable interpretation of the facts when he thought he was sinrply listening to a recounting of them. Canetti deals first o f all with the paranoiac's ';L.~iseofpo~ition":It is alimport;incc, which allows rhe p;ll.anoi;~c speak to ways :I position ofcostl~ic o f constellations "as though they were bus-stops just r o ~ u l d c o l . ~ c r . " ' ~ the And here the connection with the powcrtul figure ;llready appean: "By the very nature ofpowcr, the same must be [rue o f r h e ruler. His sense of his

So far, the one great artempt outside o f psy'choanalytic circlo to inrerpret

Schreber's Memoirs is by Elias Czanetti. Here, roo, it is interesting to note how he came to read them. In Augusr 193'). Canetti was living in I,ondoll, in the srudio o f the sculptor A n n a Mahler, daughter o f the composer. "Among her hooks, which I knew well, I noriced one that was new to me:

own position is in no way different from that o f the paranoiac" (p. 436). T h e second point touched o n by Canetti concerns the ~ r o w das it appears , in the myriad souls surrounding Schreber. T h e third point is the obsession with conipimries, eq~ially essential for the paranoiac and the ruler. T h u s the structure of Schreber's delusion in relation to political power has already been outlined: l)isg~1isedas onc of the old conceprions of the universe which pres ~ ~ ~ ~ rbesexistence of spirits, his delusion is in 6cr a precise model of o ed politicrii power powcr which feeds on the crowd and derives irs s ~ ~ h s r a l ~ c e from it. An arrempt at a conceptual analysis of power can only blu'r rhe clarity of Schreber's vision. This coritains all che real elemenrs of the situa[ion: [he strong and lasting attraction exercised over [he individuals who are to form a crowd; the ambiguous attitude of these individuals; [heir subjecrion through being reduced in size; the way they are taken into the man who in his own person, in his body, represents political power; the facc that his greatness must continually renew icself in this way; and finally, a very imporrant point not m far mentioned, the sense of carasrrophe which is linked with ir, of danger to the world order arising from its sudden and rapid increase and u~lexpectedmagnetism. (p. 441) As we see, m a n y o f the themes patiently developed by Canetti in his great work can be found concentrated, and greatly intensified. in Schreber's vicissitudes, if we look at them in terms of power. And Canetti will certainly be the last t o let go of such a theme, since his story-meditation follows this line, avoiding any possible distmction; he is similar in this to Freud, w h o treated Schreber's text f r o m a n equal a n d opposite bias. Canetti's m e t h o d allows h i m t o arrive at s o m e of his most i m p o r t a n t aphoristic conclusions: "'To be the last man to remain alive is the deepest urge of every real seeker after power."2') "No-one has r sharper eye for the attributes o f the crowd than the paranoiac o r the despot who-as will be more readily admitted now-are one a n d the same" (P. 447). "I'aranoia is a n iihess oj'power in the most literal sense of the words" (12. 448). And at the end of the first part of Flnerti's treatment, the image of Hitler and Nazism appears, operating "in a rather cruder and less literarc form" (p. 447) than Schreber's delusion. In the second part, after having established a firm link between parapicture o f noia and power, Canctti goes o n to give a kind of descrip~ive the paranoiac, still as seen through Schreber. T h e psychological analysis is

A Report on Rr~u/ersf .Yc/~,-rbrr. o



prodigiously acute here, and i t points from the start in quite other directions than Freud: "[There was] a well-known attempt to find the origin of his particular illness, and of paranoia in general, in repressed homosexuality. There could scarcely, however, be a greater mistake. Paranoia may be occasioned by anything; the essencc o f each case is the structuru o f the delusional world a n d the way it is p~opied."."' In thc analysis of this structure, many themes already treated by Canetti reappear by contrast: Here the accent is o n rigidity, o n the petrification of the paranoiac's world, as opposed to the world o f metamorphosis, to which a splendid section of Canetti's book is devoted. In Schreber. this rigidity is manifested primarily in his "mania for finding causal relations" (p. 452), and in verbal obsession. O n this point Canetti achieves some of his best characterizations: "Perhaps the most marked trend in paranoia is that towards a complete seizing of the world through words, as though language were a fist and the world lay in it" (p. 452). At the close o f this second section, Canetti restates with even greater claricy his theme of the relation between paranoia a n d power: "In this, too, the paranoiac is the exact image o f the ruler. T h e in only difference between them lies in their p o s i t i o ~ ~ the world. I11 their inner structure they are identical. . . . It is difficult to resist the suspicion that behind paranoia, as behind all power, lies the same profound urge: the desire to get other men o u t o f the rvay so as to be the only one; or, in the milder, and indeed often admitted, form, to get others to help him become the only one" (p. 462). T h e a p a t h y o f psychoanalysis toward Schreber gradually breaks down after the end of World War 11. Very little stands o u t from prior years except for two articles by W. J. Spring and K. 1 Knight, dating from 1939 . ' and 1940 r e ~ p e c t i v e l ~ . ~the appendix to a lecture delivered in 1946 to 111 the British Psycho-Analytical Sociery, Melanie Klein refers to the an;lIysis o f the Schreber case as containing "a wealth of material which is very relevant to my t ~ p i c , ' which is then a rapid sketch of the "paranoid-schizoid po'~~ sition" in relation to various processes o f splitting. A n l o ~ l g tllc various quotations from Schreher in Freud's paper, Klcin especially singles o u t those concerning the division o f s o ~ ~(fOr cra~llple.1:lechsig1s), :1 process ls she understands as "a projection o f Schreber? feeling that his e o w l s split" (p. 23). O n this and other points, Klein suggests correctio~is n d a amplifications o f Freud's theory but concludes, however, that "Freud's


. A Report on Readers ?f Schreber

A Report uw RerzJen of'Schreber . 139

approach to the problem of schizophrenia a n d paranoia has proved of fundamenral imporrance. His Schreber paper . . . opened up the possibility of understanding psychosis a n d the processes underlying ir" (p. 24). In 1949, the Amcrican psychoanalyst Maurirs liaran began publishing a number of short articles o n Schreber,'.' later to be recycled in his derailed analysis of 195'):'' These concriburions esrablished almost a niodel text char keeps reappearing today: a prudent variarion o n the themes in Freud's paper a n d the extrapolarion of a few details from the Menroirs t o lend them new i ~ n p o r t a n c e , hut without raising doubts about the fundamentals of Freud's analysis o r carrying it to more far-reaching conclusions. Articles by A. C. Carr, K.Waelder, J. Nydes, I? M. Kitay. R. 3. Whire, and H. F. Searles all belong to rhis kind of rext, naturally wirh notable differences o f position.'j T h e last two authors :ire primarily concerned ro stress the impurtance in Schreber of the mother complex as well, a [heme larer taken up in a n interesting paper by R. Sroller, which deals in general with the problem o f bisexuality in Freud.'"he mosr in [he obvious sign o f the renewed interest of official Schreber case appeared in 1962, when a syniposiurn was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, o n Reir~terprctntionsofthe Schrc~berCt~je: FrezldJ Theoyy

lar, the mythological and anthropological examples char the authors come LIP with arc quite meager a n d randonl, especially when compared wirh the enormous possibilities along these lines t o be f o u n d in Schreber's

Papers began appearing after 1950 provicii~lgnew information about Schreber's life and family, thus fi~lfilling wish expressed by Freud forty a years earlier. T h e first moves in [his direction were by W. G. Niederland a n d F. Baumeyer,"' w h o from the beginning offered highly interesting data chat have become the basis for all studies o f s c h r e b e r in the context o f his family. T h e figure who particularly emerges from these articles is the farher, Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber, a n enlightened and sadistic pedagogue who for [he whole nineteenrh century had, a n d in an underground way srill has. an enormous influence i l l Germany as a chanmpion o f hygiene, gy~nnastics.a n d a narrowly moralistic upbringing. For many years, the mosr docunleured work o n h i m was the dissertation by Alfons Ritter, a young Nazi who venerated the elder Schreber and inscribed this apothegm at the beginning of his book: "The path ro the renewal o f the German essence and Gerttian strength necessarily leads to 3 profession of h i t h in blood and soil.""' T h e elder Schreber seemed to him, with some justification, to be 3 precursor of such a "renewal." Niederland's a n d Bau~neyer's studies were able to explain some hitherto mysterious derails in Schreber's Memoiu by reconnecting them with facts in his life. In addition, in the Arnsdort clinic, where he was the director from 1946 ro 194'). Baumeyer unexrthed some cli~iicalfiles relating ro Schreber, files thar had come froni the archive o f the Soonenstein n~irsing home. These docunlents were in the most recent German edition '~ of Schreber' Memoiri, accoilipanied by Baumeyerl ~ o m m r n t a r y . . T h e y are especially imporrant because they contain a number of statements by Schreber that are not in the Memoirs, iincludi~lg Famous sentence "Die the Sonrze ist e b r Hure" ("The sill1 is a whore"). o n which Lacan shrewdly cornn~ented.~-' O n c e the figure o f Schrebcr's tither had been recalled from oblivion with such surprising results, rrscarch war extended to p ~ v i o u s generations of rhis remarkable family of scientists and juiists. A n excellent article published in .( docunlc~rrs rhe recurrence, i l l val-ious forms, of certain nloralistic obsessions in the jl~dgc'sforebears, thclrl,y c;lirilig a glaring lighr o n an ad~liirtedly heavy k l r n ~ a : ' ~Finally rhr most brillia~lt work, o n e that tnorc o r less sums u p thcse first i n v e ~ t i ~ ~ t ioo ~ l~ h r e h e r ' ~ FS s

Until 1955, most discussions o f the Schreber case continued t o be confined to Freud's paper, there having been no new edition of the Mcwzoilr in German or any other language. It was therefore a n extrenlely usefill, indeed event when a n English translation, amply annorated a n d edired by Ida Macalpine and Richard A. Hunter, was put~lishedin that year.'- In their introduction, the two a t ~ t h o r s first oiltline the history o f the Schreber case a n d of t h e notion of paranoia in the evolution o f psychiarry, showing the many and curious fl uctuations and uncertainties that have marked it from the beginning. This highly ilseful hisrorical introduction is p;tired with 3 theoretical discussion at the end of the volume in which [he authors, with daring sincerit): d e n o ~ ~ n c e inadequacy of the Freudian theory. T h e alternate theory they proposed is, howcver, extremely wr;lk, a n d as such 11.1s bee11 rhc target o f Jacques 1.rcani cruel a ~ o c k c r y . 'For Macalpine and Hunter, rhc crucial elcment in Schreber's ~ p;lronoia can he said t o hc his " f i ~ l t ~ s i o s pregcnital procrearion."" proef voked by his frustrated wish t o have c h i l d r c ~ i T h u s the whole axis of . Freudian interpretation is shifted, without bearing much fr~iit. particuIn

Accompaniment to the Reading of'stinrer . 149

last a n d most bewitching offspring: "Stirner's book shows once again h o w deeply rooted abstraction is in the Berlin essence. A m o n g t h e Freien [Free O n e s ] , St[irner] is obviously the orle with t h e m o s t talent, independence, a n d precision, b u t with all that he t o o turns his somersaults from idealistic abstraction t o t h e materialistic k i n d w i t h o u t arriving a t anything."" Each o f these iudgments s h o u l d b e kept in m i n d while reading the furio u s attack o n Stirner i n T / I C&rr?~an ~ ZdeaLogq: w h e r e h e is presented as "the mosr feeble a n d boorish m e m b e r of that philosophical confraternity [the Freielz group] ."7

his bitter enemy, combines praise for Stirner with gibes a t M a r x in a n o t h er letter to Frobel a few days later (6 D e c e m b e r ) . O r rather, for the first time h e uses Stirner as a stick with which to beat Marx: Marx professes comniunism, but he is :i fanatic of egoism, and with a corlscience even less apparent than Bauers. Hypocritical egoism and the urge to play the genius, his posing as Christ, his rabhinisni, pricst and human victims (guillotine) reappear in the foreground. Atheist and communisr fanaticism is srill, in realiry, thc Chrisrian kind. Sneering and gnashing his teeth, Marx, a new Babeuf, would send all those who srand in his way to slc~ughtcr. e imilginei these festivitics, since he cannot obserzle them. FaH natical egoism is loaded with sin and guilt, while egoisin that is able freely to acknowledge itself as such is the pure kind, which does not live like a vampire on thc blood of man, with the excuse of understanding him to be a "heretic," "itthun~anmonster," "pi~hlisher,""shopkeeper," "capitalist," "bourgeois" . . . and so on. A mean person's egoism is mean; a fanatic's is hypocl-iticCll, false, and cager for blood, an honest nian; is honest. For each wants and shoi~ld want himself, arid to rhe extent chat each r r ~ i !Lvallts ~ this, the abuses of power book ro you.

Feuerbacl?, ktter to h s brother, Late 1844

Feuerbach's first impression is that Det- Eli'llzige is a work o f "extreme inrelligence a n d brilliance" a n d that it has "the t r u t h o f egoism-however eccentric, one-sided, a n d untrue-on its side." Feuerbach goes o n t o say t h a t Srirncr's a t t a c k o n a n t h r o p o l o g y ( t h a t is, o n h i m s e l f ) is based o n a misunderstanding. For t h e rest, he considers h i m "the freest a n d m o s t t a l e n t e d writer 1 have ever known."* S o a t first Feuerbach t h o u g h t o f answering Stirncr in a light a n d friendly m a n n c r in an o p e n letter t h a t would begin: '"Inexpressible' a n d 'incomparable,' k i n d egoist: Like your . writing itself, your judgment o n m e is truly 'incomparable' a n d 'unique. But caution a n d suspicion s o o n g o t the uppcr hand: In a n o t h e r letter to his brother, o n 1 3 December, Feuerbach already suggests that "Stirner's at7,

balanced. I have

Stirner's (Schmidt's)

L a ~ e r i, n a lerter to his m o t h e r on 17 December, Ruge again c o m m e n t s o n Stirner: T h e hook by M a x Stirner (Schmidt), whom Ludwig may also kriow (he used to come in the evening to the Walhurg tavern and sat in front, makes a b~ra~lge impreasion. hlany parts are absolutely niasterful, 2nd the whole effect can only be liberating. It is the first readable philosophy book to appear in Germany, 'ind one might say rhat i t marks thc appearancc of the first Inan cn~ircly devoid of peciantry and old-fashioned attitudes, indeed entirely sclf-assured, were it not rhar his own fixation, which is rhat of uniqueness, makes him niuch Icss self-assured. Anyway i t has given me great joy to sce rhar diainregl~acionhas now reached this total form, whereby no one can swear with impunity on anyrhing.l" B u t i n this case too, enthusiasm for Stirner does n o t last long. I n 1847, Ruge enthusiastically approves K u n o Fischer's violent a t t a c k o n Stirner a n d t h e "modern s o p h i s ~ s , "a n d this marks t h e beginning o f the habit o f branding Der Eixzige a n infamous book. A n d w h e n Stirner publishes his reply, Ruge p r o m p t l y suggests t o Fischer, "It would certainly be a g o o d

tacks betray a certain vanity, as t h o u g h h e wanted t o m a k e a n a m e f o r himself a t t h e expense of mine." Finally, i n the review h e later wrote o f Dcr Einzige, Feuerbach seems t o b e intimidated a n d chiefly concerned t o p r o t e c t himself. H e d o e s rlot care t o m a k e concessiorls t o S t i r n e r a n d defends t h e h o n o r o f his o w n doctrine. T h e n silerice. In 1861, in a letter t o Julius D u b o c , he recalls rhat old controversy as having been settled for once a n d for all.''

Ruge, letters of November and December 1844 to the pub/i~/~ev Frobel

Ruge's first m e n t i o n o f Stirner appears in a note sent in N o v e m b e r f r o m Paris, reporting that Heinrich Weine's poems a n d Stirner's Der Einzige are "the t w o m o s t irnportant publishing events of recent times." T h e audacities o f t h e "Deutsch-fiai'llzosi~cl~en /ah,-biicher" (mealling Marx) n o w seem "largely outdated." Ruge, a t first a friend a n d defender o f M a r x a n d then


. Act ornpc~nirnr,nt t l j ~ to lierzdinRof Stirner

Accompnniment tu the Reizding of Stirner


idea for you to answer Stirner wirh a letter a n d trip him rip once more over his basic stupidity. .l'liese people get f ~ ~ r i o when sonleone shows us then1 their lack ofgenius a n d wit, h r in the end i l .111 comcs down to the fact thar they ;Ire gcniuscs and other- peoplc ;I!-c;~sscs.. . . *I'Iiey c o n h ~ s e tl'lt>ologic.rzl cnovetncnt with philosop/ric,/r/ movetnent or, it1 other words, rhe praxis o f will with the praxis of freedom."'



T h e first mention of Der Eirrz@ in the press ;Ippears in 3 bricf irem from ? ~ November 1844). After ide1:riBerlin in the A%r~r/l'lrimrrA h e n d z e i t u ~(12~ @ing Stirner as a "close friend" of Bruno Rauer, the anonymous iour~lalist goes on to explain that LIey E i i r z i ~ nevertheless an all-our arrack o n rile is "outlook of 'humanitarian liberalism'" (namely, Hauer's). But what strikes ~ t h e reviewer p a r t i c u l ; ~ r lis Stirner's excessiveness: " W i t h chis b o o k the neo-Hegelian tendency is pushed to its extreme: the fr-ecdorn o f the subjective spirit is here sought in the individual's rota1 lack o f restraint, in every man's singularity, in egoism." Frightened as he is, the writer is still attracted t o Stirner: "Even if this principle, as here presented, is still roo one-sided a n d untenablt., i t is nevertheless based o n true a n d correct intuitions, a n d if sifted, may turn out to be fsuitful." This first ITviewer was expecting a thrill f r s m L)n. Ezi/zicyr,a n d he got it. These were rhe culminating years of "critical criticism," criricisrn that "took n o prisoners."" It s e e ~ u r d natul-a1 to expect something that made o n e say "this goes t o o 6ar" while putting to rout all previous artacks 11s being t o o timid a n d caurious. And here i t was. '1-he last phase in the "process of decomposition o f absolute spirit"!' was being carried out. I-iaving fired a few skyrockets, starting in 1842, wirh his short essays (the most impor-rant one, "7'he False Principle of O u r Educario~l," appeared in the Rlli'il~ijchrZ e z t u ~ ! ~ ; paper [IIC t o which M a r x also c o n t r i b u t e d , a n d o f which b?, a n olninuus coincihis dence lle became eciitot-in-chief rsvo days after Stirner had p~~blisheci last :irticle in it), the silent, ;tIooFStirncr- nolv canie for-ward with a ni:~ssive work thar made only one claim: that o F b u ~ - y i philosophy in n~ T h e 61-stlong, systematic reviews of IIrr Ei~/zigr canic,, i order o f prtsn r i g , froin Fe~lc.rbac11,' Moses Hess." and thc l'russian officer a n d h t u r e general, Franz Szeliga."' Stirner replied to them with a n cssily restating the idcas o f Llcr. Eiilzigt, a n d making then], if poshil~le,even less tolt.1-a1,le.I- 'l'he s,lme thing hap-

pened two years later, when [he rrnowned historian o f philosophy Kuno Fischer vehemcnrly attacked Stirner's book. T h e author's response (signed G . Edward) was again harsh and sarcastic.'" After Drr finzi<?e, Stirner's public activicy seems t o c o m e unraveled a n d virtually disappears. H e publishes translations of Jean-Raptiste Say a n d Adam S m i t h , which were supposed t o be accompanied by his o w n commentary. Rut in the first he reserves his commenrs for the second, a n d in the second the cornlnents are ~ ~ n a c c o u n t a b l y missing. In 1848, for t h e j o u r n a l des o~terr~~('ichisc/~m L~IIJJL*:., writes a series o f terse political news he reports, punctuated here and rherc by esoteric allusions, b u t h e leaves them ilnsigned. Even the two volumes o f r h e (;eschic,hte der Rerlktion, publisl~ed Berlin in 1852, conceal behind [he inviting title a work o f cornpiin larion, a n anrhology wirh a vague ourline, in which Stirner appears mockingly in a fw hidden lines. O n e can say that after Der Einzige a n d the two replies ro his first critics, Stirner declared silence a n d , moreover, mainrained ir. A n d meanwhile, [he world declared it o n hinl. W h e n Stirner died-because, i t was said, a fly had infected a carbuncle that had erupted o n his neck ([he same kind o f painful boil thar for years t o r ~ n e n r e dMarx o n the anus while he was writing Ckpital)-only a few friends attended his funeernl a n d few newspapers reported it. It was J u n e 1856.

7b understand the atmosphere o f Berlin i n the 184os, that peculiar mixture of Absolute Spirit and shopkeeper mentality, stale respectability a n d noble aspirations, bigoted deference a ~ i d "critical" anger. which h4arx (impatient to cnlerge from it as from the ultinintc ghetto) found so exasperating, there ia not much use in following the writings o f the various Young I-Iegelians close t o Srirner, from thc two Bauers to Feuerbach himself, except to note how little awnre they all were of [he realiries o f life. Every editorial hack in Paris around rXzo was soniehow forced to be better informed. This nnivett greatly intcnsifies the clash that Stirncr, by accepting the language o f the whole idcalist rradition in order to bcsniircli it, manages to produce thc sublime ; ~ n d ridiculous. the But there is a still very lively book that tells us abour the city at that moment-from its waiters and flalieurs to its police informers, b'inkers, whores, and artisa~ls-a11d fro111a pcrspective well s~ritedto its troubled Berlin, in which Srirner makes a fleeting appedrance: spirit. I t is Ilro~lke's

Armmpaniment to the Reading ofStirner . 153

'The author re-evokes rhe disorderly scene of Stirner's wedding, with friends playing cardh. the betrothed couplr forgetting the rings, a n d two brass ones from his purse. Bruno Bauer saving the day by Such irreverence had made the city rreri~ble. And it is Dronke w h o uses rhe word Ubermmrch in connccrion with Stirner a n d his friends: "Since they stand 'above' life, life will pursue its goal as best i t can, paying n o heed to the 'whirns' of philosophical It was n fortuitous matching of Stirner with a word waiting to explode. Nor is this the only time such a thing happened: O n e of the first appearin ances o f the term Nihilzswzz~s Germany, following those :InJean Paul a n d Jacobi that Martin Heidegger pointed o u t , occurs in a note in conin nection with Der E i n z i g ~ Karl Rosenkranz's ph~losophicaldial-y."'


To rnany people todaF Stirner's name rings a bell only because Marx a n d Engels speak o f h i m in ?'he German Idtology. And indeed, t o read D e r Einzige side by side with t h e c o m m e n t s of M a r x a n d Engels is still a mandatory ascetic exercise for all good readers of Stirner (and o f Marx). T h e text o f The German Zdtolugy had an extremely tortuous history. It begins with Engels's letter tu Marx of17 November 1844, devoted t o an enthusiastic examination of Der Einzige-too enthusiastic a n d too ready to find acceptable and usable elenlents in the book. Marx, who with his usual political foresight had seen Stirner as the enemy from the beginning, must have answered Engels sharply. But unfortunately the letter has been lost. In reply, in January 1845. Engels makes amends by beating a retreat. A few m o n t h s later, o n returning from a s u m m e r trip to England, Marx a n d Engels decide ro settle accounts with the Young Hegelians among whom they had come of age. A first reckoning, The Holy Family, had already appeared a few months earlier, but this new book, 7Xe C;errrtari Zdeo/ogli was clearly centered o n one adversary: Max Stirner. Its criticism of Ilel- E i t ~ ~ i ~ takes up 3 2 0 dense pages in the Mmx Engels \Wrk~. Stirnets starenlellts are singled o u t line by line, attacked, and mauled. And the stratagcl-ns of this procedure will disclose liar s o niuch Stirrler's secrets .IS those of Marx xnd Engels in o n e of their phases of irreversible t r a ~ i s f o r n ~ a t i othe o n e in n, which Marx invents Marxisnr as a lingua franca. 'This shapeless manuscript is the laboratory from which every future International will emerge,

especially the Third, even though The G e r m ~ ~ n /dpology teems with antiSoviet sentiments. Having finished ~11ei1destructive book, which became t h r pattern for all future routing o u t o f petit bourgeois anarchivrs a n d individualists ( m e a ~ ~ i nwith slight variations according t o the m o m e n t , a l ~ n o s t g, all human manifestations), Marx and Engels tried for several months to get after arduous negotiations, funds eventually ran the text published. A ~ r t out. There were other figures in urgent need ofdestruction, Pierre Proudh o n in particular (and Marx would ask Engels's permission to draw o n various themes in f i e Gernztzn Ideology for The I'overty of'Philo.cophy). And so The Gemtln Ideology was stored away in the great attic o f Marx's unpublished works, to be exposed to the "gnawing criticism o f the mice," which damaged many pages. Marx did n o t seem t o mind: As he was t o note in the introduction t o A C-ontributio~zto the Critique oj'I'olitic,al Emnom~ (1859), t h e manuscript had already fulfilled its rnain purpose, that o f "clearing u p the question t o ourselves" o n the part of its two authors. And that clarification had been both too drastic a n d too deep-seated to be made public. Engels, too, though he wavered from time to h e , must have thought something similar. I n 1883, he proposed t o Eduard Bernstein t h a t the manuscript of The Gerrntln l d e o l o p ~ p ~ ~ b l i s h e d installments as a supbe in plement in L)er Sozicllde~r~okrut, hc called the text "the most insolent and t h i n g that has c v c ~been written in t h e G e r m a n language."" But he quickly gave u p the idea because, according to Rrrnstein, he feared the text would offend certain right-wing Social Democrats." '4s for Stirner, Engels was to give vent to a final illuminating judgment o n him, explaining in retrospect the political reasons for 7'he Germarz Ideology in quite different and much more convincing terms than those set forth by Marx a n d himself in their text: "Stirner has experienced a rebirth through Hakunin, w h o moreover was also in Berlin at that time a n d was seated in front of me. with four or five other Russians, at Werder's course o n logic (it was 1842-1843). Proudllon's innocuous, a n d only etymological, anarchy (that is, absence of ;I state authority) would never have led to the anarchist doctrines of today if Bakunin had not poured into them a good dose of Stir~ierian 'rebellion.' As a result, anarchists have likewise become 'egoists,' such egoists that you aln't find two of them able to get i l ~ n ~

with each other."" T h i s is the private counterpoint to tlle brief public

allusion t o Stirrler that Engels had made the previous year: "And at the end came Stirner, the prophet of present--dayanarchism-Rakunin took a lot from him-and over sovereign 'self-awareness' he erected his sovereign unique 'I.'"'" T h e Antistirnrr, as t h e book attacking Stirner that bursts h o r n i h e franiework of The C; Z d ~ ( 1 1might rightly be called, was in the e ~ ~ d u~~~ published after the deaths of both Marx and Engels. I n IC)03-4, Hernstei~l came o u t with a partial edition of it under the title Def. "Hciligc Max." Until then, it had not been known [hat Stirner was the adversa1.y Marx a n d Engels had spent hundreds o f pages reviling. T h i s helps t o explain scholars in the 1890s still contifiucd to why various socialist theorists : ~ n d show a n obvious sympathy for Stirner."


So far, Der Einzig~, had found readers only a m o n g en\ightened left-wing intellectuals, including Hegelian ancestors o f every sort of well-meaning radicalism, solicitous for Humanity, Freedorn, Progress, and so on. As confinnation there is the reply-forceful, but "berween civilized people"-that the worthy Friedmulld, son of Bettin~r van Arnim, a t t e n ~ p t e dto makc to Stirner (in an article that many attributed to his mother).'" Anjway, Marx and Ellgels had also abused Stirner, while still pretending to place him inside the circle of well-meaning G o o d Guys (Feuel.hach, Hruno Bauer, et al.). ?'he criminal aspect of the book was excused as a somewhat daring outburst. T h e y kept silent ahout the sudden fits of brutality that disrupt the continuity of the text. Hut the age of the "sense o f histor)." was impending, and it was to squeeze philosophy into the mold o f t h e histor). of philosophy, striking o u t that extrelne aspect belongillg to chillking irself that would hc revived only with Nietzschc's "magic o thc extreme." 'l'he C revenge carried out by the "sense o f histor)." o n Stirner initially took the exemplary name o f Kuno Fischer. As the admirable Fritz M a u t h n e r remarks, "It is already proof o f Stirner's inlportance that a m a n born old, born his F,xcellcncy, like I'rofessor Kuno Fischer should come a cropper . with him, as he would with S c t ~ o ~ x ~ n h aandr in the end with Nietzschc."~7 ue Even before Fischer began publishing his historical manual of modern philosophy, whose purpose was to set in order the threaten it^^ swirl of thought o f previous dec:rdes, a p a ~ n p h l e t attacking Stirncr had already a n n o u n c e d his intention t o remove a n y indecent intruder from that

g a d u a l , carefillly evolving ascent that the history of thought ought t o be if it really wished to culminate, as it had demonstrated, in the incompatible marriage of Hegel and Darwin. And yet Fischer still treated Stil-ner's case with a certain respect. His essa): undoubtedly agile in its execution, is read today primarily because ccrtain expressions have over rime assumed an esoteric significancc o f which Fischer does n o t seen) t o have been aware. I will cite only thesc: Fischer sees Stirner's book as a n attempt at a c o u p dlPtat: " T h e sophistic autonomy o f the subject against the hierarchical autonomy of thought-what else is this if not a change of dpnasty a july Revolution of t h o ~ g l i t ? " A5 for "sophistry," it seems to him '~ t o be the "suprenle enemy" of thought, the "diabolical principle belonging t o it" (p. 2771, and therefore a shadow that cannot be eliminated a n d now threatens t o swallow the very body of thought. Hegel's philosophy, that "pantheon o f all systems" (p. 280), had produced its own sophistic double, like arr allergic reaction that was now pursuing a n d transfixing subthought in every one of its recesscs: "It is the reaction o f the r~lndon~ ject against the free subject, of the nonphilosophical personality against (p. the pl~ilosophicalone, o f hrutdity against ~-rllture" 280). T h e "struggle ," against c ~ ~ l t i ~ raecreaturc hatched by the didactic century par excellence, was t h u s iibout t o raise its ugly little head in the assemhly o f minds: Here, already, was the specter o f the Tuileries in flames, which would give Nietzsche nightmares (and Fischer was writing o n the threshold of '48)! Fischer w:is t h e first, albeit cautiously, t o sniff t h e barbarism in Stirner. N o t only that, but he spotted its origin in the highest a n d rnost subtle articulation attained by thought: that perennial bahble hetween Substance a n d Subject that had been deposited in novelistic form ir: Hegel's Z%enornenology uf'i2,Iind. Stirner's d e m o n operated by crushing that "dialectical difference," so that "the subject. a n d precisely that individual, atomistic one, hecame the destiny of substance," abandoning itself to "its all own enioyment in the destruction o f all the powcrs of substr~nce, prevailing thoughts,"?" and transfornling itself into 'pure negativity. "(L,et us too abandon ourselves t o savoring everything these expressions can be said to have exuded.) For history, Stirner would have nothing to o f k r but the "text of a headstone" (p. 281). W h a t Hegel had foretold was thcrcfore not the rnystei.iuv~raniz~nrtio~zis between Subject and Substance but the destructive work of purity: "Pure self-awareness is in truth the annihilation

Acconlpnniment to the Rrlcdinf of Stirnrr . 117

of substance" (p. 286). Now a movement begins "from nothing to nothing, wirh no points of support" (p. 287). all refer to Stirncr but are taken from the first part of Thesc Fischer's pamphlet-, which is devoted ;is well to the usual and more noble purveyors of the warlling signs of disaster (Feuerbach, the Haurrs, and so r on). W h e n he comes to deal directly wirh I l ~ Einoige, Fischer's argurnenr turns banal, while at the same rime aiming t o debase the p h a n t o m of Stirner and expel it from philosophy. But even here presentiments arc nor lacking: "1-0 sllarter men egoistically into brutal atoms siunply means. in truth, to scek 17 sheepdog tor rhern [here it is Elitlcr who begins ro loon^. still euphemisrically], and whoever srarrs beating others with a 'stick will know very well thar thegeizdarm! is not Gar away.""J In his prolix explanaFischer dwells primarily o n the subject's new face, Llntion o f D e r Eii.i~ztg~', veiled by Stirner's "monomania": "Sophistry [read: Stirner] has named the crude, brutal individual as successor to the spirir" (p. 309). T h e hisrorian would like to maintain to the last a superior irony in the face of this degenerate thinking. Rut in the end it does nor hold up: -She sinister Iaughter that Stirner attributes to the ego exasperates him, and then he cannot resist a deprecation rhat betrays his solemn vacuity: "Laughter is an act that in general is only possible for the spirit; orlly the complcte, rrrtiolzal subject, identical with the essence of the world, can really lnzrgh; laughter is the dissolution of egoism and the upheaval of the individual; with it one is irrevocably consigned to the world of spirits" (p. 311). With rhis truly excessive claim that o n e can laugh only from a n academic chair, Fischer slammed the door of the boarding school bchind the teacher Max Srirner, who, her~ceforth considerecl unworthy to mingle with philosophers i l l thc cafe, was consigned to debtors' prison, among criminals, swindlers, and other ragged specimens of life a n d the spirit. And yet his laughter has never ceased. Stirner's reply to Fischer is the final coda ofwords to cvmc from the circle around Der Eittzigc.. It appeared in Die i$igonc.i/ and was signed "C;. Edward," hut there is little d o u b t rhat the author was Stirner hirnselt. ?'he tone is slightly resentful, less free than in previous replies. Hcre Srirner ernploys the usual technique, already ~ ~ s byd Fischcr as well. of j u x t ~ ~ o s i n g c quotations it1 order to denlonstra~e their i n c o ~ l g r u e ~ ~It ris a teckiniclue c . wirhout luster in rhis case, though Stirner once again shows admirable skill in his passages of direcr and brutal sarcasm. l'hcrc is [lot much to

point co in these pages, except a f e w essential lines, Stirner's credo a n d true fiarewcll:

1 wish only to hc m).selt~1 despise n;Iturr, merl, ancl thcir laws, h u m a n society and its l o \ . ~.uici I J I - C ; I ~oFfcvcry gt.neml rclation with ir, evcll that of , all rhc clainls of your dury, t o ,111 the designations of your catcgorical judgmmt, I oppose the "ataraxia" of my ego; ; ~ n d ;ilrcdtly make ;I I concession by making use of language; I am the "~~nspeakablc"; only "1 show rnysclf." A n d do I not perhaps have. wirh rhe terrorism ofrrly ego. I which rcjccts everything human. ; I S much reason as ~ O Lwith your hu~~lanitarian terrorism, which im~nediatel~ marks m e a5 an "inhuman monster" if 1 cornmit something against your catechism, if 1 do not let myself be dist~~rbed 111yenjoyment of ~-nyselP-" in
Fischer must- have raken these words as confirlilation of his adversary's lack of decency. T h e proposal to consign him to the dregs of humanity shines through 11iscountcrreply. H e speaks of the "Saint Virus dance of a sophis1 whose every movement betrays absurdity and every leap stupidity."3? W i t h pointer in hand, Fischer distinguishes (ah, the inexhaustible repetitiveness of the West!) between the "laws of ethical liberty" and the "lawless will that dissolves the limits o f spiritual self-cdeternlinarior~ill the empty zero of their abstract dialectics." There is rlo point asking o n which side Stirner stands, and Fischer adds chat he himself finds it "barbaric to consider spiritual forms with such mortal fear" (p. 153). as Stirner indeed does. Here the warning purpose of Fischer's pamphlet is clcar: To attack Stirner rneans to defend oneself' from the "reacrion, not of doctrinaires, but of wicked, uncouth, brutal subjects against the principles o f liberty and their f u l f i l l ~ n c in~science, art, and politics" ( p . 154) T h e adversary's ~ t change o f category, from philosopher to criminal, is here made plain. Fischer seems to want to apologize for having suggrsted that Stirner in some way belonged LO history, albeit the history of heresy: "I do not generally speak of heretics, and if I did, I would not grant a man like Stirner the honor ofconsidering him in this historical category" (p. 154). T h e images, as always more revealing iharl the concepts, verge rapidly tow:lrd the apparent strength of these pirates [Stirner and the so-ciilled savage: "rTl~c sophists] lies in quite another sphere than thought, [hey behavc toward their premises as d o prrdrztory stntes zuitlr ril'ilized stdtrs" (p. 156). C o n fronted with this "barbarous doginatism, "one must say it "has nothirrg in common with the name o f philosophy a n d criticism" (p. 156). A n d 11uw


. Accompd~~imevrt the Reading of Stirner to

Accompaniment to the Reading of Stirrzer .


finally comes the decree o f expulsion: " I t has been said rhar Stirner would b e t h e e n d p o i n t o f G e r m a n philosophy. . . . I w o u l d say rhar S t i r n e r stands ( ~ t r.ornr7r((271 IAL'r E c h ~ot' G c r l n a n philosophy," a c c o m p a ~ l i e d tl~r. ) by t h e final donirish ~ r i t t i c i s ~tih~ : play oil words between "to s t a n d a t the e corner" (up1 11er Eche itehr.l.1) xncl t h e o n e w h o s t a n d s a t t h e c o r n c r (der Ec:i-kr,nste/?n; e a n i n g "corner boy").l ' h u s Fischer ends his subtle polenlics m by calling Stirner a "street loafer." Actually it would have been simpler to begin thar way. B u t b y n o w i t seelned clear th;lr t h c philosopher o f t h e down-and-out was rnerely a philosophizing b u m . Better to forget a b o u t h i m , a n d they did s o for fol-ty years.

every arbirrary shackle imposed from ourside. I r is a soul's cry for rhe immoral trurh, bur imrno[.al only I)ccause devoid of all moral support, n soul rirelcssly ~ h o u g h unconscio~~aly cng'lgccl i l l proclaiming rhc of s~tbmitring a principlc ofwhich i t has bccolne conscioi~a to and in which i r hclicvcd. [rising i11) with indignation ; ~ ~ l hatred ag;tinst ~ h daily ~~racrices cl c of\)(.'chccrn"sys~cmarizcr-s," who clo not hclicve hut insisr o n f~lith, arhitrarily c s c i ~ ~ c bo~itls, and expect otllcrs to :ldjusr to rliem h u ~ i i h l <:onrcm~. POS.~). history i a living con~menrat.yto h4ax Stirtier, ;In acturll revolr of lifc, in its ~ i m p l i c i r agaiiist the bookiah Iucubrarions that p l a ~ ~ n e d de~, to l ~ t d er with the ghosrs of spirit~lnlprinciples creared artiticiali!., where rhe i spiritual principles hy which i t once really lived now no longer exist..'.1


Russia is the c o u n t r y where Stil-ner f o u n d the mosr svnlpathctic soil for his ideas. T h e most n ~ u r u a l antagonistic figures o f the 1840s reacted to Ller l~

Einzigc p r o ~ n p t l ya n d with fervor: Vissarion Helir~sky, Aleksev K h o m y a kov, Aakunin, Fyodor I>ostoyevsky, Aleksandr Herzen ( w h o w i t h impass i o n e d e l o q u e n c e takes u p S t i r n e r i a n r l ~ e r n e s in



(Ither Sl~orr,

though h e does n o t m e n t i o n Stirner b y n a m e until 1858). W h e n o n e thinks o f tlie eagerness with which all Gernmari texts were read in rhose a n d if o n e also remembers that this was just w h e n t h e nihilist cloud was beginning t o thicken, it is nor hard to see Stirner in a n unfaithh i , anlbiguous, Russian version, which s~cits i m m u c h better than t h e inh flated language o f Hegel's German heirs. .Then o n e need only o p e n to a n y page o f I l ~ s t o ~ e v s k y N O ~ P S J ; ? O I ~ I 's I/ndersrou~ld,w h e r e t h e a n o n y m o u s voice thar speaks (and here t o o we are dealing with a

After 1848, Stirner's n a m e appears less a n d less frecluently. f i e t'lkes his place a m o n g those m a n y obscure figures w h o appeared a t a ~noment-the Vorr~nl-z f t h e subversive Y o u n g I-iegelians, t h o u g h they were o f t e n o scared by thcir o w n audacity-that German); avid a n d p r o d u c ~ i v e , would have liked t o p u t aside. 1111866, however, Stirner was again mentioned in t w o books o n t h e history o f t h o u g h t that were destined t o have considerable influence: Gr~lndriss e Ckchichte der Philosophie by J o h a n n E d u a r d d ~ E r d m a n n (all o f paragraph 341.4) a n d C;eschic.l~te dec Muteriulisrt~us,b y Friedrich Albert Lange. A n d i n 1869, E d u a r d von H a r t m a n n was t o discuss Stirner's ideas i n his m o s t a m b i t i o u s w o r k , calling Der Einzige "a book thdt should be read by anyone interested in practical philosophy."~' B u t t h e decisive words would be Lange's, w h e n h e speaks o f Do. Einzige as "by a n d large t h e lnost e x t r e m e w o r k w e know."") Years later, a y o u n g Scorsnlan, J o h n H e n r y Mackay, f o u n d himself in t h e British M u s e u m with Lange's book in his hands, a n d hit u p o n Stirnel's words. T h e curiosity ld i t h e y al.oused w o ~ ~ sooil b e t r a n s f o r ~ n e d n t o devotion: "After a l m o s t half a century, Stirner fqnds in Mackay his first a n d m o s t faithful evangelist."'- T h u s w e witness [lie f o r m : ~ t i o no f o n e o f t h e m a n y paradoxes surr o u n d i n g Stirnel-: t h e cseario~ia r o ~ ~ n d m o s r i m p i o u s figure o f :I clithis niate o f s a n c t i m o n i o u s , uncritic,tl, ; I [ I C ~ ~ , I C U O veneration. For years, LIS Mackay would swoop d o w n o n t h c traces o f Stitt~er's life, guided by a d u b i o ~ i bprinciple: "15 i t possi1)le t h a t :I lifc of such greatness was nor also sf rich i n grenr outcr expel-icnccs?" Wcll, yes. ' ~ I I L I S , whether b e c a ~ ~ o e the biograpIicr's i n c p r i t ~ ~ d c l ~ c c a u s e f a eel-rain niocl<ingly elusive quality 01o

"collegiate assessor")

s o u n d s immediately like Stirner (in Stirner, i t is t h c underground o f philosophy t h a t speaks), o r follow t h e destinies o f Raskolnikot: Kirillot~,o r Ivan Kara~nazov-all characters w h o i n o n e way o r a n o t h e r have b e e n touched by Stirner's d e m o n . It seems o n l y right that t h e first to perceive t h e Stirner p h e n o m e n o n clearly should be a Russian, and o n e certaii1ly nor a devotec o f t h e shining \Vestern I l ~ i l i g l i t c n ~ n ebut, rather, rlo less rhan ~it t h e most infl~lenri~tl thcologin~i f t h e Slavophilcs, hlcksey Khomyakov. In o connection with 110.finzigt, lie oI)servcd, r e is I o r I I ; I I i i ~ o ~ i aig~lific.1~1cc 0111' i~~iiioticcd c~I nor 1))' rhc critics, l 3 i 1 r which-o11c. n l u t ;~.jsume-went uliohscrvccl I?! rlic nutI1o1hi~~isclf:l i o f~ h e ~iiostto~i11 t ~ t ;IIICI ti11;11 pso~cstot-hpirit~~,tI lil>cstj~ ~ 1 i 1 1 j t -1

160 . Arrornpnnirnetrt to the read it^^ of Stirner

that we find in every manifestation of Stirner, the results Lvere rather meager. And the more uncertain the signs were, the more Mackay gave vent to a pompous and emotional glorification, which also aimed to conceal the depressing reality of his hero's life. Mnck;~y's book is, however, the first and only biography of Stirner to date." I t is therefore an indispensable reference, not only for the material i t contains (fairly scant, but we d o not have much more) but as a monument of that cidt of Stirner, heedless and hugely ridiculous, that would soon give birth to the figure of the "Stirnerian," a variation of the "anarchic individualist."'"


Ar.r.on/panirnentto the Reading of Stirner . 161



T h e most singular element that emerges from Macka).'~biographical research is the dearth of material: All the manuscripts had been lost, almost all the people who had known Stirner were dead or vanished or unapproachable, and there were no surviving letters and no pictures of him (the only one extant was sketched from memory forty years after Stirner's death by the hand of his enemy Engels). His signature on a document has What little we know about his life been unearthed with some diffic~~lty. speaks of a student from the provinces who arrives in Berlin just in time to hear a few lectures by Hegel and Friedrich Schleiermacher; he passes, not exactly brilliantly, the exams for becoming a teacher in the state gymnasiums (where he will never be appointed); he frequents the group known as Die Freien and becomes a teacher in a private school for girls. *17here are even fewer details of his later years: poverty furnished rooms, debtors' prison (twice), the humiliation of publishing a n appeal in the Vossirche Zeitung begging for a loan. his obscure death. Stirner's new worshippers were to find very few relics. T h e ones collected year after year by Mackay and offered in vain to the authorities in Berlin were bought in 1925 for a modest sum by the klarx-Engels Institute (later the lnstitutc for MarxismLeninism) in Moscow, in whose department of forbidden books they are In this instance, at least, thc Sovicts were unstill-presumably-stored. deniably faithful to Marx and Engels.

S T I R N E R AN11 N I B I ' Z S C H F .

Stirner was rediscovered in the 1890s in the wake of Nietzsche's suddcn rise to fame. And :I dispute soon developed that would continile for years.

There are those who say that Nietzsche derived many, too many, of his ideas from Stirner w i t h o ~ ~ t acknowledging him. Others deny that ever Nietzsche ever read Stir-ner (this was the position taken by his sister, Elisabeth, and accordingly by the Nietzsche Archive). Still others, like Franz Overbeck, were plagued by doubts and uncertainties, but it was he who ended by collecting the decisive proofs: He consulted the list of books borrowed from the library o f t h e University of Basel and discovered that in ig ~ 1874 Der E i ~ ~ zhad~been read by Nietzsche's favorite disciple of the rnoment, Adolf Baumgartner. H e then sought confirmation from Baumgartner, who remembered very well having read the book at Nietzsche's insistent suggestion. And he even remembered a few words about Der Einzige: "Nothing rnore daring and consequential has been conceived after Hobbes." Baumgartner's testimony was later augmented by Ida Overbeck, who remembered two conversations in which Nietzsche mentioned Stirner to her with a kind of grim exaltation, saying also that he should not talk about him because one day he would be accused of plagiarism. After reaching a ciisagreeable level of bitterness (it \vould be one topic raised by Elisabech in her various vendettas against the Overbecks), the controversy h d e d away with time. Since then, the question of the connection between Nietzsche and Stirner has never been put forward in all its in~plications,though they are immense. Scholars have mostly been content to refer only briefly to this turn-of-the-century controversy. As an introduction to this intricate matter one might read: Robert Schellwien, Stirner zind Nietzrche (Leipzig, 1892); a silly book, but the first to put the two writers on the same level as "consecluential prophets of individualism." Ola Hansson, SP/TCI- d z i ~ Deuter (Berlin, r894), pp. 92-136; (here Stirner is included among the favored seers of the moment, in the elect and composite company OF Edgar Allan Poe, Arnold Biicklin, and Paul Bourget; as for Nietzsche, Hansson writes that Stirner was his "John the Baptist." C. A. Bernoulli, Overbeck und Nietzrche (Jena, (908); this is by fir the most important source; it reports the statements by Franz and Ida Overbeck and offers an account of the controversy. R. F. Krummel, Nietzrche zind der deutsche Geist (Berlin, 1974);from this valuable annotatt p ed bibliography of writings a b o ~ l Nietzbche ~ l to the year 1900, one can reconstruct the intertwining of Stirner's fortunes with Nietzsche's in the I ~ ~ O leading to the formation of two L~ctions certain German cult~rral S , in circles of the time, both bursting with excessive claims: one that sees Stirner 3s the shadow of Nietzsche; the other, Nietzsche as the sh;~dow of


.,i)nnimer~t the Reuding o f Stirner to

Arrompniment to the Reading of Stirner . 163

Stirner. Errlest Seillii.rc, Apollon o d c ~ Dionyjoj? (Berlin, 1906); one of the most unusual books o n the Nietzsche o f t h o s e years, it treats in detail the Nierzsche-Stirner connection a n d is the first to list a series o f rextual parallels that are most certainly convincing, pp. 191-zoo. Albcrt LPv): Stirner et Nictache (Paris, 1904); primarily inrerecting for its reconstruction of Nietzsche's reading in the Basel period, based on the books he borvo1. rowed from the universiry library. C. P. Janz, Friedrich Ni~~tzxJ~l: j ( M u n i c h , 1979)) p p 212-13, 343-45; this is the fullest biography o f Nietzsche, but on the Nictaschc-Stirner connection it lacks sufficient documentation and contains errors.


H. C . Helms's book includes an excellenr Stirner bibliography ( n o o n e

had attempted one before).(" This work, which purports t o be a version of G'errnan Ideology updated to the multinational corporations of o ~ i r day and twice as long as the origir:al (which was already more than long enough), is marked by its shrill a n d nagging tone and its frantic persistence in tracing all the evils of the world back to Stirner: from Nazism to German television, homosexuality, revisionism, the cult of vacations and the cult of Heing, Kitsch, imperialism, counterrevolution, nudist colonies, rhe free market, and anthroposophy All these wicked phenomena, to pursue t h e thread o f Helms's argument, are the more o r less direct consequence o f some publication o r translation or glorification of I l ~ Einzigt', r a book that can be said to embody (even if rhosc t o whom i t was actually addressed sectn unaware of it) rhat "middle-class" ideology rhat is, Inoreover, the hvored instru~nenr the intrigues ofcapitalian~. far rhe thefor So sis is merely an adaptation o f Tile (>rnlnn /dculuu. But it had nevsr occurred t o anyone before Helms t o esrablisll ccrtain connections, albeit. such obvious oncs: for example. the t r i l ~ m p hof tl-lc counterrevolution in Russia after 1905 coincided with the appearance of' n o fewer than three translations of Dcy 1;i:'~zi'e between 1906 and 1910. Helnls is a master at dwe)Iing thoughtf;llly on things like this, and also at demonstrating thar all that is ncrdcd t o explain solnetlling i's the wish to explain. Let us watch him in a c t i o ~ "'The fact that in rhc counrerrevolurionary period ~: Der Eizzijy, a rexr that ~lnril that n ~ o n ~ had bccn officially undesirrtble, ~nt should be hurled so proh~sely Russian 111i11dsa t t c t r d both the need for at

this ideology and the basic agreement between the ruling counterrevolutionary circles and a considerable porrion of those being ruled" (p. 351). So everything is clear. Put any kind of obscure plot into Helms's hands, and he will shortly jolt you with the cry: "Cherchez Stirner!"But luckily, not everyone in the world is helpless in the face of deception. l'hcre are still toward the e n d of "the Marxists," observes Helms, weary b u ~ l n b o w e d his labors, and "the 1M:lrxjsts seem t o have begun to perceive and localize the source o f the infection" (p. 495)-which would o b v i o ~ ~ s be Stirner ly in all his "present danger" (p. 495). 'The word has finally been spoken. A n d speaking o ( dangers, one is obliged to offel- s o m e observations chat can also be applied to Nietzsche. It is time ro relinquish s ~ l c h official defenses (that they are now universally accepted only testifies to rheir inadequacy) as "Nietzsche was used by the Nazis only because his wicked sister Elisabeth manipulated a n d Calsified his texts." No; for thosc who teacl~ "how to philosophize with a hammer" (Stirner was the first to dare to d o so, suggested Mauthner-and Marx the second, o n e might add), these dreadful misadventures are in a sense prepared from the start. Those Inust who practice t~.~pevimcntalp/7ilosoph~ expect thar abonlinable people will one clay experiment with this same philosophy. And when the veil o f avrrsion dicrated by worthy senrimenrs is lifted-if it ever is-from the itnage of Nazism and L~scism, will have t o be noted that those two pheit nomena are clear instances ofthac compulsion to experiment, not only o n nature but o n ourszlves, that is the mark of the century in all its manifestations, whether Soviet, Yankee, Chinese, or finally, Old World. It would only be surprising, very surprising-and special research groups could be organized t o explain the phenomenon-if Nietzsche and Srirner had nol been used by the Nu/& Helms has thus done a praiseworthy iob in collecting the many picturesque instances of degeneration for which Stirner is responsible, somewhat the way a "Marxist" might compile a record of Soviet degeneration. With this difference: wllerras in the latrcr case one hopes to return t o a wholesome body of [.eninis[ and Marxian doctrine, in the case of Stirner the degeneration is openly present from the beginning. Stirner is degeneration. But here the paths diverge: For a surgeon like tielms, who has unassailable ~ o n v i c t i o n s n wholcsunle~less o and a11 the rest, all that is needed is t o operate, with sharp, crurl instru~ncnts, exrirpare rhe infecred flesh to while there is still time. For those who preserve a residue ofcuriosiry

about thought, it will be important instead to investigate the meaning of that majestic degeneration that Stirnrr placed at the empty heart of his work. W h a t degenerates, in fact, is emptiness itself, operative nothingness, which is also the element in which our everyday life ~unfolds. Propelled by hatred, Helms has in any case succeeded in assembli~lg an overflowing wealth of material, which he then ruins, as is his wont, "for the good of the cause." The pathetic testimony of a certain European left, which has always lived (like, one might say, Mme de Cambremer) in the nightinare of never being advanced enough and in perennial expectation of being once and for all debauched, this massive and rancorobs work is still ~ ~ n d e n i a b ~lsefill, ly indeed the most useful work on Stirner. O n e should be grateful not only for its bibliographical soundings, especially in the muddy waters of pre-Nazi Germany, but also because here the hasty reader will be able to find a nearly conlplete collection of the many linguistic and psychical stereotypes ranging from the Third International to the sanctimonious left, here presented-and it is no small feat-in an overwrought focus that makes them a bit more attractive compared to their more plainly ugly manifestations.


Stirnerian currents also appear in the history of the ill-fated Bavarian Soviet, but this time in the form of that "anarchic comn~unism" with which Erich Miihsam countered, with enlightened na'ivetk, the obtuse nayvet6 of the individualistic anarchists. Miihsam was an exemplary figure of the period. After preaching the recovery of society's dregs by the revolution (criminals, prostitutes, and tramps seemed to him psychologically more interesting than workmen seated at their benches) and discovering Ascona and Monte Veritj (a sacred site for all "alternative and underground culture," which blossomed there in grandiosely esoteric and ridiculous circumstances before becoming known exoterically and worldwide, still ridiculous but no longer grandiose), Miihsam was imprisoned, first by the Social Democrats and then hy the lvazis, who tortured him to death.4' One can immediately recognize in him the very image of the intellectual loathed and despiseci by the right. Impatient with all discipline, chaotic, and given to wild and exuberant daydreaming, divided between utopia and loose living," he was, however, no less loathed by every law-

and-order leftist. In Munich, he worked side by side with an eminent figure o n that political stage, Gustav Landauer, a leader of the Bavarian Soviet who was brutally killed by soldiers. Landauer, who some yeais before had helped Mauthner in his research, was also imbued with Stirner's ideas, though he seldom mentioned him. But some of his youthfill writings were even signed "Caspar Schmidt." And Landauer's right-hand man, at the time of the Bavarian Soviet, was a provincial actor who went by the name of Ret Marut. Thanks to Rolf Recknagel's meticulous research,.' today we can recognize this man as B. Traven, author of The Death Ship and The Tredsure oj'the Sierra Madre. Betweell 1917 and 1919 (and then until 1 9 2 1 , under increasingly difficult clandestine conditions) Marut published Der Ziegelbrenner, a magazine edited wholly by himself. Graphically (and also in certain of his themes, such as an overwhelming hatred for the press), it took its inspiration from Karl Kraus's Die Fackel, but the breeze that blows through it is pure Stirner. Before vanishing completely into the anonymity of multiple aliases, thus becoming the oirly f~llly Stirnerian figure so far, Marut-Traven gave expression to his thoughts and dreams, all orbiting around Stirner, in the frenzied pages of his magazine. Meanwhile, he helped Landauer in the stormy government of the Bavarian Soviet, still the single, hapless attempt at power by "anarchic communism." (There is a piercing irony in the fact that his only verified assignment was that of press censor.) With the collapse of the Bavarian Soviet, lynching and death were also in store for Marut-Traven, but he was able to escape-how, we d o not know, for we know almost nothing about him. Shortly thereafter, in Mexico, he seems to have begun the elusive life of a man with many names but whose real name we still do not know.


The greatest affinity with Stirner can be detected in readers who seldom or never name him. Aside from Nietzsche, who never wrote Stirner's name, and Marx, who wrote about him only in a work henever published, these affinities can be found in the most incongruous places, and even more often in the cinema than in books. T h e "unf'rithomable" characters of Orson Welles tell us more about Stirner than whole bookshelves of studies on the Young Hegelians. And Stirner's anomie is a hidden benchmark to which one constellation in the Hollrvood zodiac unwittingly refers: the

166 . Accompaniment to the Reading of Stirner

Accompanimerzt to the Reading of Stirner . 1 7 6


"!awless" character forced t o become a "law unto himself" (in accordance with an epistemological paradox that lies at the base of Der Einzige). But Stirner also watches over the marvelous ravings o f Nagel in Knur H a m sun's Myst~ri~j. in general all of Hamsun, his desperate a n d criminal And variety of uprooted vapabondage, is inconlprehensible without Stirner. And who can be the guardian angel behind the stubborn, irrational adventures o f t h e hobo who rides the rails, as told by Jack London in Tbe Road, if not Stirner, the ~netaphysician tramps? (In this case, great literaof ture unloved by professors, that of London and Traven, does well in [he movies, in the more than befitting adaptation o f t h e hobds adventures :hat Robert Aldrich-hats off!-has given us with The Evzperor of thp North.)


It seems obvious that there is a connection between Stirner a n d various so-called existential philosophies. Karl Liiwith had already placed Stirner alongside Soren K i e r k e g a r d in a plainly existe~ltial context,j.' and even Martin Buber was to combine Kierkegaard and Stirner in a laborious exarnination of the question of the "individual."-" T h e n along came Juliette GrPco, and in the devastated Europe of 1945 people n ~ u r m u r e d about existentialisrn and pointed o u t the new guru, Jean-Paul Sartre. But in the search for ancestors, Herbert Read qciickly thought of Max Stirner, whom he called one of the most existentialist of past philosophers, and he observed that whole pages of Der Einzige could be read as anticipations of Sarrre."And Giinther Anders, reflecting o n the inevitable existerltial rebirth from the ruins of war, had already tried t o trace early l-leidegger back t o Stirner:] As for Albert C a m u s , his critique of Stirner, though noble, neglects to mention the vital inlpulse that Inany o f his own characters received from him.4s Bur many others would also try t o g o back "to the fount." Anlong thern, H e n r i Arvon, with his book t h a t clain~s-true, more in the title than in the text-that Stirner was the ancestor of existentialism. " ' T o d a y the subject is c o n ~ m o n p l a c e : n e finds it taken up. for example, in the O book by R. W. K. P a t t c r ~ o n , ~ " seeks to juxtapose Stirner with phiiosowho hers (Nietrschc and Kierkegaard, as usual) and writers (the masters o f decadence, those who might have said t o themselves, " L p N i m t j i l t ma Bhfftrice" [Nothingness was my Beatrice], the anagogic version of the first c y a n d last Stimerian statemelit: "I h a w f o ~ ~ n d md cause o n nothing").

From the idealistic terminology of Der Einzzge, derided a n d then abandoned as wreckage, i t is easy t o go back for revelation to a cloud ofpsychological aberration. Rut psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have rarely ventured t o d o so. Ernst Schultze examincs a case o f Stirnerian p x a n ~ i a . It ' involves a young wornan who stole, disrobed in public, a n d ~ c o m m i t t e d o t h e r indecent acts because she was convinced t h a t any manifestation o f her will was lawfi~l.'l'he psychiatrist shrewdly places some o f her assertions side by side with scattcred o n e s by Stirner i n Der Eiwzige. But the argument does not go beyonct this obvious cornparison, thus stopping precisely where it shoc~ldhave begun. T h e only renowned psychiatrist to take account o f Stirnerian dor?n6es in his research is Ludwig Binswanger.j2 But here, once again, we come back to that "philosophy of existence" o f which B i n s ~ w n g e rrepresents a kind of psychiatric extension. Q u i t e different, however, is the psychologirrll potential of Stirner's quest. It was Oskar Panizza, another "damned soul," not a philosopher b u t a literary ruan driven by a physiological affinity, w h o noted it. I n "Der Ill~~sionismus die Rettung der P e r s o ~ l i c h k e i t , " parnphlet o f und a 1895 dedicated "to the memory of Max Stirner," Panizza carries to its ultirnate conclusions-and with the sarne inexorable a n d irrespo~lsible acumen with which. two years earlier, he had demollsrrated "the immaculate conception o f the popesn-the idea of the spectrrzl nature of thought as we find it in Der Einzige. After a few initial indulgent jokes o n the positivism of t h e time, which had lethal psychiatric consequences by conrincling t o treat the psyche as a secretion, I'anizza launches into his bristling paradoxes. By swift transitions, he dcriuces from Stirner's premises an image of the world as perpetual hallucination, proof of a radical illusionisn~that c o ~ l l deasily move in the direction of certain ~nastcrsof Buddhist epistemology. But I'anizza is a coastal slnuggIer of philosophy a n d prefers to navigate in psychics1 inlets of the West that will soon be taken over by psychoanalysis. 111 any case, his conclusion is perfectly Stirnerian: "If we d o not destroy thought, thought dcstroys us" (p. 169). T h i s brief pamphlet, so impudent toward science, can be r e d as a glorious conrrihution to that science o f "psychical coercion" (p. 176) then looming o n the horizon.


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Accompaniment to the Reading of Stirner . 169

T h e first country to translate Der Einzige was France. And the text lands right in che most lively literary arena of those years, between symbolism and anarchy. The first extraccs appeared in che Mercure de Frzznce and were translated by Henri Albert, who was also Nietzsche's translator. Then, in 1900, two translations, one by Reclaire, the other by Lasvignes, were published, respectively, by Stock and ~ d i t i o n s la Revue Blanche, the latter de being another center-together with the Mercure-where the best literature of those years came together. Stirner thus appears in France in an intermediate place arnong Marcel Schwob, Felix FhCon, Alfred Jarry, and Stephane Mallarm&.Gustave Kahn was one of the first in France to write about Stirner. And Andrg Gide would sigh over the differends between Stirner and Nietzsche, while obviously leaning toward Nietzsche. The Italian climate was quite different. Again, there were two translations: O n e in 1902, by Bocca, was extensively cut and preceded by an introduction by Ettore Zoccoli, who was also the translator. Worried about the favorable reception that Stirner's "criminal individualism" was encountering, Zoccoli outlines the vicissitudes of Der Einzige in some detail, and in particular, in accordance with the tendency of the tirne, he draws a comparison between Stirner's ideas and those of other anarchist leaders. The other Italian edition, whose translator is not named, did not appear until 1911, when it was published by the Libreria Editrice Sociale. Meantime, Zoccoli, who had already published a short book on Stirner and American anarchism,54 devoted the first chapter of his more ambitious work to him.55 This book, immediately translated into Russian and German, was one of the principal channels through which Stirner's name was spread in Italy.


Stirner was received in Italy in much the sarne way that Nietzsche hdd once been: with a total inability to grasp the kernel of his thought and with conspicuous effects instead on che attitudes, customs, and language gestures o f a provincial mind set that still flourishes today. Benito Mussolini himself was part of it. Though physiologically unsuited for the role, he would have liked to become "tin echter Deutsch, "an "authentic Germany," and early on had placed Stirner among the dolomite^ of thought," next to

~~ "Nietzsche, Goethe, Schiller, Moncaigne, Cervantes, and so O I I . " And every so often, he would remember to toss ouc the name of Stirner, as in a 1914article in Avunti!, in which he responds to "Cotnrade Rordiga" on che subject of neutrality and allows himself a rapid aside after criticizing the vision of "a socialism totally extraneous and refractory to che play of environmental influences." Here, Stirner fleetingly reappears in a n obvious reference: "A marvelous but absurd construction. Even che absurd can be mar'ego."'i7 O n one occasion, Mussolini velous. We are thinking of Stirnel.'~ would be driven to proclaim, "Leave the field free to the elementary forces of individuals, because no other human reality exists outside the individual! Why not bring back Stirner?"i8 Buc this was in an article of 1 9 1 9 , in the Popolo d'ltalia, skillfully tuned to the rnood of the moment. An official pl~ilosopherof fascism like Paolo Orano will speak q ~ l i t e differently in the glow o f the Empire (and from the start he had condemned Marx and Stirner as "the apostles of the philosophic left," representing in his view "the crowd and the den" [of terrorists]).The paragraph devoted to Stirner in his summu is entitled "I'olitical I'oison."") It singles out as a terrible danger the kind of thinking that "has found its glacial forrn~klationin Max Stirner's Der L7ij'l7zi,ge z{7zdsei,n Eigenthzrm" (p. zyy), the driving edge of a "narcissisln of ideas" chat fortunately "has nothing in common with the raw, concise, resolute realism of the Blackshirts" (p. 269). H e scill felt, however, an obligation to warn young people not to lose their way on such dubious paths. "The youthful soul must not poison itself with the formula: 'I have made the world,' 'I create it at this moment'" (p. 270). But a fascist likr Orano, for whom history had to culminate "in a Roman and Catholic way" (p. 17), was unable to go beyond a certain condescension, albeic paternal, coward "the youthful soul." Instead, it took a genuine member of the Herrenklub of Berlin, a ferocious Germanophile like Julius Evola (he was never enrolled in the Fascist Party, which he despised which could for its "feminine" softness), to arrive at the real co~lclusion, be only one: Stirner was a Jew. Thus, without any foundation (but what do factual proofs nlatter in such a grandiose design?), we find Stirner, as the "father of total anarchism," included by Evola among the agitators in who have carried out the "destructive w o r k of Hebraism "p~.ecisely the cultural field, protected by the taboos of science: Art, and Thought." These agiracors are, in the order ill which they arc. listed, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, (1esai-e I,o~nhroso, Stirner, Cl;ludc Ilebussy (conceded to be olily a "half-Jew"), Arnold Schoenherg, Igor Stravinsky, 'li-istan 'Tzars,

Acc~mpt~nimerrt the R e a d i i ~ ~ tu (Jtirner


Salomon Keinach, Max N o r d a u , 1,ucien Levy-Aruhl, H e n r i Rergson, Emil Ludwig, Jakob Wassrr~tlann, n d Alfred L l b b l i l ~ . ~ ~ " a

In early-rwentierh-cerlturyItctlian culture, Eugenio Garin discerns a Stirneror^-adi~~i-Valli line t o be placed beside the "Nietxsche-1)'A1111unzioOrestano triad.""' Hy following these two lines, o n e will doubtless find certain juicy cot~spiracies still lurking in the shadows. But one finds nothing of i~llportance relation to Stirner himself a11ri his ideas. Much can be in g l m e d , however, fro111the covers of books: 'The funereal Art Nouveau of the Bocca brothers (who publisheci Zoccoli's translatio~l) sh;)ws a candelabrum with multiple flames coming together in a single cloud of fire a n d smoke. ?'he Libreria Editrice Sociale has an eagle standing o ~ against a ~ t metaphysically enlpty sky, with the tips of some of its feathers procrutling beyond the h m e . Again, for Zoccoli's L k t ~ ~ ~ r c hthe ,Roccn brothers offer ia n, a s o l e l ~ ~big-breasted, and nluscular caryatid, tired of her job, who finally raises her arms t o break the columns and architr;tves that she has heen holding u p for too long.





Anyonu concerned with the above three topics will gerlerally not deny Stirner a chapter o r a page o r two o r at least a few notes. O n the vicissitudes of Hegel's followers, there is n o t h i n g yet to take the place o f Lowich's classic work Frorn HegeIto Nietzsch~;which is still valuable in exmining the historical scene around Stirner, treated here, moreover, with a certain conciseness. T h e literature o n the young Mars, in all its ranlifications, customarily conceals o r omits the deeply troubled and violent c o n n e c t i o ~ lbetween Marx a n d Stirner, who usually gets inserted in innocuous lists o f Young Hegelians (thereby raising comical problenls: Stirner is an extremist par excellence a n d by tradition belongs to the lefttherefore, he should be to the left of Marx, but n o one wing Hegelia~ls; Ideft,:111d therefore . . . ). Paradoxican be to the lefr o f Marx, wlio is t l ~ r cally, certctiil studies of the group around the young Marx written bc;iui.~ the p ~ ~ h l i c a t i o n /17e (;ermntz [~/c.ull?y~ m u c h niore balallceri in of scelrl . n almost say that the hlitrxevaluating the figure o f S t i r ~ ~ c rO~ 'e woc~ld Eogcls text has had the effect itot o f g i v i ~ l g Stirner greater inlpol-t;iitce. :I]beit as adversary, but of squeezing him Forever in a vise of scorn. Even in 1936, Siii~ley Hook. in his tresr-k~loivohook, could lcgitinlately remark

t h a t it was not generally known that Marx had written a book a b o u t Stirner.".' According to the prevailing opinion of experts o n the subject, Stirner should be considered prim;lrily as an eccentric writer whose luck i t was t o trigger Marx's polemical verve. And in their holy zeal, many such experts are astonished that Marx and E ~ ~ g eshould have taken s ~ ~ pains ls ch to refute so obviously unpresent~ble work. For a recent exalnple o f woea ful legerdemain, take a look at the fil-st volume of Storiir el manliisttio, edited by Eric J . Hobsbawm and other scholars (Turin, 1978):In chis project, to which clai~ns represent the Marxisms, a meager flowering in plurality, Stirner gets mentioned four times-and always in insipid contexts. Even such elementary information as any school textbook ought to contain is n o t given. It would be a11 the niore pointless t o expect these works of corpselike synthesis to recognize that Stirner can be useful not only in whole sections are inreading The German I~/eology,:a b o o k of ~ v h i c h con~prehensibleunless o n e has J ~ EirzzIge ope11 beside it, but also, for T example, in reading the C;~~~ndrisje, where only the presence of Stirner, this too intimate enemy, as much a n enemy as Richard Wagner was for Nietzsche, can help in understanding certain obscure passages. Another illuminating example is provided by Cesare Luporini's long, cautious preface to the Italian translation of The G;.ri)lnn I~leulog~.~4 after a Here, beginning that professes, albeit in an undertone, good intentions of every kind ( o n the classic Khrushchev model: Just have a little patience artd by the end of the century we'll rehabilitate you all!), where Stirner is promoted t o the honor of being called "lu Stir.)zer,"05 where audacity goes so far as t o recognize that we will need "to rethink the role o f Stirner himself, now that we have got beyond that dispute with anarchism that was later associ1.uporini rhen proceeds-perhaps with his hand o n the ated with brake after having dared too much-to ~ n e n t i o nStirner cursorily five more times in the seventy-nine dense pages devoted to introducing the reader t o a work where Stirner's n a m e recurs obsessively for more than three hundred pages. ll Since the beginning of the century, Stirner has becn h a l ~ i r ~ ~ aas-y signed to the family of "anarchist individu~lisrs."Rut let us not forget ' h a in Der he llardly men[ioned the word "a~~;trihy," ultlike and the other founding heroes (R:lku~iin.Pierre I'roudi~on. I'yotr KI-uporkin), he never took part hinlself in any poIitic:tl activity (so :is we k11ow). Stirner's ~ o s i t i o n the span of anarchism w:ts airc;tdy ohvious allywan in even before Mackay's biography, in Max Nerrla~l'shook, where Srirner is



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Accompaniment to the Reading of Stirner . 173

the most important entry in the chapter on German anarchism between 1840 and 1 8 8 0 . ~ ~ the claim is made for Stirner's basic importance t o And anarchism in Georgy Plekhanov's little book, which was to have an enormous ~ i r c u l a t i o n . ~ ~ i n a l l y , Eltzbacher was to include Stirner's among Paul the seven basic varieties of anarchism (alongside Bakunin, Kropotkin, I'roudhon, Leo Tolstoy, William Godwin, and Benjamin Tucker) in his treatise, which resembles a kind of botanical handbook of a~larchism.~y


C o ~ n m o n all studies on the Young Hegelians is their obvious concern to to "situate" Stirner in their midst. And the obligatory frame of reference is Feuerbach rather than Hegel. But Stirner was not so much an extremist disciple of Feuerbach as he was someone who unmercifully mocked him. T h e criticism aimed by Marx and Engels at Feuerbach was much milder and more incidental by comparison. Basically, what they demanded was that ideas should be "put into practice," that alluring praxis that bewitched the century (and imbued the everyday atmosphere, as even Dronke observed: "The 'praxis' of the century lays hands o n material means, when mere conviction, mere theory, n o longer helpn).70 But actually Marx and Engels had little to find fault with in the "religion of humanity" that the modest philosopher had proposed as a liberating solution. O n the contrary, they had been profoundly nourished by it. Stirner, o n the other hand, saw in Feuerbach's good-natured "free thought" something hugely sanctimonious, an encouragement to the abysmal sottise that would later draw Flaubert and Baudelaire to its epos, to culminate in Homais, Lton Bloy's shopkeepers, and the Soviet "new man." But the historians of philosophy were ill suited t o recognize these passages: T h e y noted that Stirner made use of a language largely derived from Feuerbach and argued that therefire he must be offering a continuation of it, albeit an aberrant one. To catch the element of radical derision that links Stirner to his alleged comrades, it took an eccentric of philosophy, a mystic of skepticism like Fritz Mauthner, who gave a masterly description of i t in a few pages." T h e calm lucidity of his prose helps us finally to forget the farrago of c o n ments on Stirner-often mere paraphrases-that had been acculnulating for thirty years, and we begin to understand what ought to be the premise to for any reading of Stirner: to reduce L)er E i n z i ~ a series of "positions"

(anarchism o r Hegelianism or existentialism or whatever) is the surest way t o neutralize its unique monstrousness. Likewise, the digressions o n the insolence of the "I" who speaks in Der Einzige make n o sense unless one grasps the way such insolence is vitally interwoven with a singular experiment in knowledge: Stirner puts into operation (or into praxis, ifwe wish to respect the habits of the time) an absolute nominalism, unprecedented in its consequentiality, and at the same time, he severs the complicity of thought with language, with its inlplication, at least in all postCartesian philosophy, that thought is the same as discursive thought. For how otherwise would one arrive at that certainty that is philosophy's goal, without the intersubjective help of linguistic signs? And at this point it is clear why Mauthner has been the only one to grasp this process in a perfectly natural way: His words come from that "Vienna of languagen wherein dwelt Wittgenstein, Kraus, Freud, and Adolf Loos. His eye singles out immediately, and allnost by instinct, the savage epistemological machine operated by Stirner, something that none of his most solemn readers had been able to perceive. Stirner's criticism leads not to a "position" but to aphasia, and only by starting from silence can one get through.


After the first edition of 1844, Wigand reissued Der Einzige in 1882, an edition that seems to have passed unnoticed. T h e book, however, hecame mandatory reading with the 1893 edition in Reclam's Universal-Bibliothek series, costing eighty pfennigs, which had an introduction by I'aul Lauterbach. Since then, Iler Einzige has been constantly in print. T h e current edition in Germany today is still in the same Keclarn series. Since 1972 it has included an essay and notes by Ahlrich Mayer.


Locked "in the desolate expanse of a narrow cell" because of his political past, Carl Schmitt recalls a few words sung by Wagner's Siegfried ("I alone inherited Iny body / by living I consume it") and notes, "'l'he music is by Wagner. Hut the words go back to Max Siirner"-an allusion to Stirner as a n obscure connection in the between Nietzsche and Wagner. And thereupon a memory of Stirner comes back to Sclimitc that


. Aczompaniment to the Reading ofstirner

Accompaniment to

Rearlin~ ofstirner . 171

applies n o t o n l y t o him. R u t Elany others w h o encountered Stirner i n t h e s a m e years remained m a r k e d b y h i m a n d a t t h e s a m e t i m e embarrassed and offended-and they m a y n o t have talked a b o u t it:

delinquents. R u t was i t n o t N i e t ~ s c h e h o extolled Prado, t h e "decent w criminal"?

I first read Max Stirncr i n high school. 'I?) this I owe the fact that I found mysclF f i l l - many rhinss I srill encounter today and wl~ich orhel-wise might have cL~~lgtit I,? urpr-ise. Anyone hmili;~r mc with the dt,ptIis of E L I I . ~ ~thought between 1830 'lntl 1840 is ready for the greater part o f C~II \vhar finds a voice t h r o ~ ~ g h o u t world today. T h e field of rubble left h>, the the self-decay oF(;erman theology and idealist t~l~iloaopl~y transformed was
in 1848 into a fielcl of forces traversed by t l ~ c o ~ o na11dcos~nogollic ic sig~ls.


Heidegger has n o t h i n g to say a b o u t Stirncr. Yet H e i d c g g e r is n i l ~ i l i ~ r n ' ~ greatest theorist. A n d Stirner is a p u r e l u m p o f nihilism. Hcideggerk silence quotes a n o t h e r silence o n Stirner: Nietzsche's.


W t ~ ~is rexploding today was prepared before rS48. 'I'he fire ,that burns i today \vds lighted then. 1n the liistory of the spirit there 'Ire a few uranium n~incs. Among them 1 would put the pre-Socrntic. some of the (:h~il-ch l:athers, and ccrt'lin \vrirings from the period beh~re 1848. Poor Max fits in there perfectly. Considering him o n thc whole, he is repellent, coarse, J brnpg,lrt. 3 show-off, a degenerate st~rdent, boor, an egomaniac, and clearly ,I serious J psychopath. H e screeches in a h i g h - ~ i t c h e d , unpleasant voice: 1 a m 1, nothing matters to me c s c e p ~ myself. His verbal sophisms arc ~ ~ n h c ~ ~ r a b l c . His bol~elnianism,enveloped in cigar smoke, is nauseating. Anci yet h t ~ x knows something very important. H e knows thrlt the "1" is not an object of thought. T h u s he found the best and in any c.ire most Cer~llantitle in all of German literature: IIPT Einzig~M I I L / S P ~ Y I E i ~ i l t l r ~ . ~this moment At . M a x is all that comes to visit me in m y cell. This, o n the part of a I-abid egoist, moves mc deeply.-' Schmitt's ambivalence toward Stirner is that w h i c h all m o d e r n c u l t ~ l r c of a n y interest has had fur h i m . T h e o t h e r p a r t o f t h a t culture. which is very vast, has blotted o u t Stirner w i t h o u t even realizing ir. IUo o11e will visit it i n its cell.

W h e n Ueberweg-Heinze names Stirner for t h e first t i m e in his authoritative history of philosophy, ir is t o say that h e wrote an "ironical caricature o f Feuerbach's criticism o f religiol~."Years later, M a u t h n e r was t o correct that j u d g m e n t slightly by ampli@ing it: "Stirner's b o o k c a n b e seen as a grandiose critical parody of F e u e r b a c h . " ' Hut o n e m i g h t g o a small step further a n d say t h a t Stirner wrote (I grandiose parody o f p h i l o s o p h y itself.


"Today there are still certain dedicated m e n w h o because o f his b o o k take t h e anarchist S t i r n e r f o r a m a d m a n a n d f o r S a t a n i n person; a n d t o d a y there are stiil certain m e n , dedicated in o t h e r ways. \vho m a k e a n e w e p o c h o f h u m a n i t y start with h i m , precisely because h e was a n anarchist. Hut h e was n o t a devil, a n d h e was n o t crazy; o n t h e contrary, h e was a silent a n d noble m a n , w h o m n o power a n d n o w o r d could b e said t o corrllpt, 3 Inan so unique that h e f o u l ~ d o n in t h e world, a n d consecluellrly m o r e o r less w e n t h u ~ ~ g rh e; was o n l y a n inner rebel, n o t a political leader, since he y was n o t eve11 b o u n d t o m e n b y a c o r n m o n t o n g ~ e . " ~ , ~

It is h a r d t o see w h y S t i r n e r s h o u l d 11ot have a place beside t h e o t h e r crin1i11;lls o f t h o u g h t discussed in T/-i,c L>?~-trt~i.tiouRi.ilson. C o u l d it b e because it would have been roo easy r o revile h i m ? O r because h e is 11ot evcn gr;lnted t h e dignity oE;r c o r r ~ ~ p t i n g i l o s ~ ~ ~ l lO r ? s u m c 0t11c.r ph e for m o w r c c o ~ ~ d i rcason? I'erh;~ps (-;corg I,uk.ics xvantcd only "respccr.rhl~" tc

PreLude to the Twentieth Century


Prelude to the Twentieth


W h e n I think of T h e Book of our century. I don't turn to A l; m-/wrche o r Ulysses or 7hr Mun withoztt Qualities, those majestic constructions, exemplary not only for rheir genius but for rheir precision and obsessiveness as well, t o which public opinion now grants due respect, as to those cathedrals made of toothpicks that some ~ r o v i n c i a l hermit has spent the best years of his life silently building. I think, instead, of a book in which one seems to breathe the more exclusive air of the last century. T h a t was the time when ir was written, a n d it remained unfinished at its author's death. I am thinking of Bouvard et Picurbet by Gustave Flaubert. This book is the inevirable pavement o n which all our footsteps move: in Kamcharka ps a n d in Patagonia, par les c l ~ a v ~ etpar les gr&ves, between suburbs and ruins, wherevcr the ground has been leveled by those two Titans who met one h o t Sunday afternoon in summer o n a bench o n the Boulevard Bourd o n a n d immediately recognized that each had a hat in which h e h a d written his name: Bouvard, Ptcuchet. "Look, we've b o t h had the same idea, t o write our names in our hats." "Good Lord, yes, somebody might take mine at the office!" Sub specie aeterniratis, the meeting between these two obscure copyists is probably n o less significant than the o n e bcrween Napoleon a n d Goethe. A n d irs two actors deserve the title o f Founding Heroes of our world. Just as the twelve labors of Hercules correspond to an equal nun)her o f constellations in thc zodiac, so the sorry adventures of the two clerks eager to draw o n Knowledge run from one end to the other of o ~ ~ r Psychical Earth a n d enfold it o n every side. T h e convolutions of their brains are a labyrinth in which o n e day, wirh ecumenical faith, all the things o f which we had long been proud were received: the Arts a n d

Sciences, in a mutual embrace. T h e y speak ro us o f a world rhat for the first time had been completely written down: in newspapers and recibold paradoxes and fearfill warnings, pes, in hons mors and condole~lccs, a cold technical ~ n a n u a l s n d spiritual guides. And every element in this Scripture adhered ro every other, thanks t o a wonderful ~rnil!rl-snl &P: Stupidity. T h a t was the background of everything, behind which opened only [he silence of sidereal spaces. Bouvard and Ptcuchet, these two geniuses w h o arc still misur~derstoodtoday (they had at least o n e indispensable quality o f genius: T h e y took everything literally) a n d w h o are even acwere the first to have a horrific vision o f the solicused of being i~nbeciles, darity of the Whole. They saw the Universal Equivalence produced by Stupidity the same way rhat visionaries once saw oneness in a speck o f dust and the flaming stars. And they understood that in the Face o f rhac Ineffability, no word need be added. All that was left was a single act of devotion: t o copj because repetition, here as in any rirual, is commemorarion of the Unrepearable. "What are we going about it?-Don't think! Let's copy. T h e page has to be filled, the ' m o n u n ~ e n t completed. Everything equal, good and evil, ' the beautiful a n d the ugly, the irlsignificanr a n d [he typical. Nothing is real except phenomena." Having come to the end of their adventures, [hey have a double copyisti desk built for then~selves.And they start copying everj!thing, buying piles o f wastepaper by weight. T h e unfinished second volume of Bouvard et I)icu~.het was to be a vast, still pond of quorations. In his last years, Flaubert was "a ravaged old heart." From the windows in his house at Croisset, he watched the boats drift by on the Seine a n d talked to his dog. H e even avoided raking walks because they ended by plunging him into depression, forcing him to endure ]:is own company. Then the past attacked him to the marrow of his bones, and he remembered that he was n o t only a fanatic of "Art" (always with that palhetic capital letter) bur "the last o f the litcle seamstresses." a soul that had always had to barricade itself against a sharp 2nd painful sensibility, ~ l n a b l e to sustain the conflict of life. I'erhaps his doctor did nor I-calize how right he was when he called him "an overgrown hysterical "Life only seems bearable t o m e when o n e succeeds in avoiding it," Flaubert once wrotc. to his friend Georgc Sand. And t,ehind those ~ v o r d s one the "complete presenti~~ient" l i k that he had h;id :IS ;I very of young Illall: It had presented itself ro him as "a disgusting odor of cooking

issuin~, from ;l ventilation d u c t . ' And yet he would go on cravi~lg t in the i hallucinatory state o f writing. In these 1:rst yr:lrs, with his mother dead a n d his income reduced, Flaubert all o f a sudden found himself in a n "endless solitude," exhausted hy his stubborn march toward an unknown destination. A n d he was aware o f being simultaneously "[he desert, the traveler, and the camel." O n c e again he was in the throes of a book, a ~ n a n u s c r i p t that grew with maddening slowness: Bouvnrd er Picuchet, an "abominable book," an "inlpossible book," "a crushing arldJFightful undercaking," which sometimes seemed to him demented and not far removed horn the craziness of his two proragonists. In order t o recount the srages of their epos without pedantry, he read a n d annotated niore than fifteen h u n d r e d volumes, e, most o f them i n ~ ~ npretentious, empty, dull. Even "great authors" got mixed up in this ludicrous caravan. Ever,ywhere h e found material for his " n ~ o n u m e ~ l twhich he hoped would prove worthy o f that jealous a n d ," implacable deity, t h e "infinite" being t o w h o m h e was dedicating it: Stupidity. W h a t was the burning fury that drove him? At first it was the desire for revenge. Bouvard er I'PL.uchetwas to be an opporcunity t o "spit bile," t o "vent anger." T h e $an of the book seemed t o be summed u p in one senthe d i s g ~ ~ they inspire in st tence: "I will vomit o n m y c o n t e n ~ p o r a r i e s me." 0 na'iveti.! Just as his two characters had been naive when they gave up their jobs and, drawing o n a small inherirance, retired to the country t o explore knowledge, so their author-the devotee of "Art1'-had deluded himself into thinking he was usirig these two characters to demonstrate something, hurling them against an invisible enemy. Instead, these two characters devoured their author. "Madrrtze Bavnry c'est moi'-this too LImous remark shines in its esoteric significance only if we understand it as the corollary to a theorem that Flaubert did not utter but discovered: "We are all Bouvard and I'icuchet" (and obviously Flaubert to begin with). T h i s is the flash of intuition that illuminated his last years. As the two heroes gradually begitl srudyiug landscape gardeni[lg (unwittingly invenring a n d liquidating the avant-garde) anid CeIticis111, geology a n d mne~llonics, tragedy and pedagogy, politics and magnetism-and while their a ~ ~ t h went o n tracking them, reading through thousands of intolerable or pages-I~lauhert appmacheJ the nlocki~lg truth: "Bouvird and Picuchet fill me t o such a point that I have become them! 'l'heir stupidiry is mine, and this kills me."

If the "Art" t h a t F l a ~ t b e r talways mentioned, eve11 in letters to his niece, wrls of :l certain unprecedented kind compared to the art of which Horace and A1ex:lnder Pope wrote, then Stupidity, which is the subject o f Boz/zmrd et J'irucl/et, was also all ~ ~ n p r e c e d e n t ead d grandiose phenomen non. It too required a capital letter. But why, just at this time, did chat primordial chnracteristic o f man advllnce so many clainls? Here we must make a historical digression. Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, one sees the twin emergence of Stupidity and kitxch. Both are perennial powers whose signs can be recognized everywhere and in every period, but at a precise point in history they unveil their Medusa faces. Henceforth, everything in the world is born accompanied by its degraded Double; not only every knickknack bur every idea. Just as there is romanric kitsch a n d classical kitsch, as well as t h e Renaissance, Gothic, and "modern" varieties, so now Stupidity reformulates I'latonism and paleontology, enlotions and rationality, rebellion a n d subjugation, disbelief and devotion. T h e two tlonshomrrzes Bouvard and P2cuchet ( a n d Flaubert inside thern) then discover that Stupidity is n o longer a characteristic o f certdirl ideas. O n the contrary, with the evenhanded impassiveness of a god, it distributes itself in all directions: a m o n g believers and atheists, countryfolk a n d city dwellers, poets a n d mathematicians. Stupidity is rhe bloodthirsty paper realm of p b l i c opinion. Thus, Bouvnrdet Picuchet is not the story of rwo poor idiots w h o try to lay their hands o n knowledge a n d founder every time in quicksand. the Rather, it is the one inevitable modern Ody~.s<y, debilitating itinerary that every "new man" is forced t o undertake, in Flaubert's time as in our own. Knowledge triumphs as soon as all wisdom has foundered along with Lastc, which was its last, discreet, arld volatile heir. Unless there is initiation, anyone can find Ilin~self, when faced with knowledge, in the rd position of B o ~ ~ v a a n d P6cuchet. And like them, the "new men" are perfectly formless beings, blank slates (this is what philosophers claim so that they can write o n them themselves), elastic a n d empty bodies. devoid of roots, and yet all the more goaded by infernal goodivill t o create for themselves what c a n n o t be cre:lted b u t can only he had beforehand: roots. T h e y clutch ar knowledgc, at every single branch o f t h e great tree o f knowledge, in order to hide in its foliage and froiu there d r : nourish~ ~ ment from the soil. Rut every bough breaks. 13heirnothingness is always too heavy. Flaubert recognized chat he too (like the rest of us) was a "new man."

He knew that he was recounting an Odyssey with no Ithaca at which to land. But he recounted it also in order to put to the severest test the only antidote he recognized as effective: "Art." Perhaps he thought that "Art" might force Stupidity into a further and still more mysterious metarnorphosis, the one to which he had once alluded in a letter: "Masterpieces are stupid; they have a tranquil air, like the actual productions of nature, like large animals and mountains." And it is like a large, unfathomable animal that Bouvard et Pk-wrhet gazes at us today.

Public Secrets

Hiding Places

Walter Benjamin was incapable of approaching a form wirhout radically changing it. But this was certainly nor o u t o f that defiant experimentalism [hat gives such a hopelessly decrepit tone t o so many monuments o f modernism a few years after their appearance. Indeed, his gesture may even seen1 to be the opposite: T h e r e was always something antiquated about it, sornerhing outdated, ceremonious, a n d subtly obsessive. Certain radiant colors could otlly sparkle for hinl in the midst of a quantity o f faded and dusty trash, a little like the lilac stockings that betrayed Proust's Monsieur d e Charlus. Such trash was for Benjamin the preparadisiacal form of culture. Before being redeemed by the eschatological hour, the existence of things attained its unique felicity in total abandon, in the condition of debris, at the edges of a vortex thar for Benja~niri was the very course o f history. Amid his wide-ranging a n d unpredictable reading, Benjamin moved like a junk dealer conducting a silent friend through the passageways o f his vast sroreroom. T h i s is his city: T h e testimonies o f m a d m e n pile LIP o n o n e corner, while under arcades o f marzipan, o n e discovers sracks of children's books, crumpled, rattered, and scribbled all over. Farther o n stand rreatises o n the endless subterranean, peripheral, a n d celestial stories thar accompany, incognito, rhe m o n o r o n o u s , exhausting pace o f history O n e rhen emerges o n the grand boulevard of the romanrics, a broad square, paved wirh letters a n d memoirs. For someone like Benjamin whose m i n d lived in such a place, withour ever being able ro get o u t o f ir, writing reviews coulcl nor be that banal profession, thar promise o f humiliation, chat it is For so many. H e needed to h ~ v e reviews, even if only rwenty lines long, arrive in the his r~ewsp;ll-)el- coded messages from rhe Junkman's Sroreroon~, ns signaling

Hiding Places . 185

the displace men^ of objects, ncw arrivals, unexpected disappearances. O n c e in a while these articles so~unded likc dry, inexorable orders of exand Theopulsion: O n e need only read his revirws of Max Hrod's Knfki~ dor Haecker's Virgil to see once and for all how to demolish a book. But obviously such messages would not have come only from current topics: It was necessary to rummage a m o n g travel diaries a n d ghostly classics; a m o n g the papers of anthropologists, politicians, theologians, and linguists; among pa~nphlers, children's books, photograph albums, and treatises o n handwriting analysis and other disreputable sciences. T h e list of books reviewed by Benjamin bemeen 1923 and the outbre?k o f t h e war is already an illuminating fragment o f autobiography. 1-hese hundreds of map, open o n the void, of a "phpsiognomical" articles plotted a n~eticulous culture that si~nultaneously avoided "nobility of spirit" (the whole "feudal school of German feuilletonisrn" and those who could still talk about man without shuddering), the dwindling avant-garde, and the impending d~illnessof the Soviets while successfully plundering valuable elements from these three opposing fortresses. But n o one paid m u c h attention, Although Beniamin, with almost childish satisfaction, wrote that as a reviewer he had achieved a "position" in Germany, even that of "leading critic of German literature," his voice has the sound of a depressed monologue: amiable, mannered, and sociable, like certain m a d m e n w h o talk to their wardrobes. Except for Gershom Scholem and Theodor Adorno, no one seems to have heard his voice in f those years, somewhat as The Oriiqin o German 7iliirgedy found only two readers at first: H u g o von flofnlannsthal and the formidable Carl Schmirt. ( T h a t Bertolt Brecht ever understood Benjamin has always struck me as highly doubtful.) Nevertheless, these assignments, at once public and private, coincided with one of Benjamin's profound desires. For what could be more esoteric than writing for the newspapers? T o reveal one's own secrets, appropriately disguised, o n a page that circulates everjwhere, but only for a few hours, and to know that by the next day they will have happily disappeared while continuing t o exist in that secularized version of the realm of Platonic ideas known as thc clrchives. 'I'his produces an ambiguous elation, one that Proust recounted in two m e n ~ o r n b l e pages of

Baudelaire h a d already given a more precise a n d noble name: prostitution), the ephemeral, and esotericism. As a result o f all this, the most private and idiosyncratic Benjamin can be found n o t only in his letters and important essays but also in his reviews. A few lines about a bad book can become a repository of confessions. Where in Benjamin would one look for a striking theory of repetition, combining the Nietzsche o f Tllus Spoke Zarathustra and the Freud of Beyond t l ~ e ()leasure Principle? In a review of a history of toys-and no-

where else:
Every great aild profound experience would like ro be insatiable, would like repericion and return to lasc until rhe end of all things, the resrorarion of an original situarion from which it emerged. . . . Play is not only a way for mastering cerrible original experiences by softening, mischievously evoking, and parodying them, but also for savoring triumphs and victories with che greatest inrensity, and always again. . . . The transformarion of the most upsetting experience into habit: This is che essence of play. O r listen t o h i m on eros: "Indeed, the child a n d the collector, or rather the child a n d the fetishist, rest o n t h e same terrain; they b o t h arrange thenlselves. albeit o n different sides, around the steep, excavated massif of sexual experience."

Cbntre Suintr-Ucuue. But for Benjamin, an eminent formr~l strategist,


also hinted at a further secret, one very close to the heart of his work: the dazzling connection among maximum availability to the ~ u b l i (to which r

On I'uhlic Opinion . 187

O n Public Opinion

[in Ai$ztlg

dit I'~(,JLx(, uirddr~liz enc/~ieiz IYi~lr. dip [ I n [he beginning w a the l'res5

and larcr carne the World.]

-Krti.l Ki.l~z~s, LicJ \.on dcr Pressc Ilas

T h e most obscure history is the histor) of [he obvious. T h e r e is nothing m o r e obvious than public opinion, a term that public opinion holds t o be innocuous a n d that has c o m e t o comprise in itself huge areas of what can be said: T h e vast pastures of public opinion are the pride of civilization. A n d yet opinion is a fearful thing, which has under,uone tortuous, ridiculous vicissitudes until its triumph in the present. There was a rime when philosophers used to start with facts, which have n o w Red a m o n g the unicorns. Public opinion remains: mistress of all I-egimes, shapeless. everywhere, and nowhere, its ovcrsiied presence is such as to allow only a negative theology. \With the fall of divine rule a ~ i d debase:lle~ltof the the vicariate of metaphysics, public opinion has beer1 left in the o p r n :is the last foundation stone t o cover swarms o f w o r m s , some iguanas, and a few r, ancient serpents. H o w does one recognize i r ? O r r ~ ~ r h ehow does o n e recognizc what is vzot public o p i n i o ~ l There is n o map of opinions. a n d even ? if there were i r would not be o f any use. For public opinion is first of all a formal power, :I virtuosity that groivs elldlcssly and arucks any nlatcri:d. Its hoax is to acccpt any meaning, therc1,y p r c v e ~ l r i it lfronl hcing recog~ ~ nized for whatever- ideas i t Ilas to offel-. Jndiscl-irni~li~te, pcrindr. nr c t l d f ~ t l ~ r , public opinion swalluws u p thought and reprodllcei it ill similar terms, only with a Few slight modifications.

Karl Kraus is the "proposition builder" w h o spent his life pointing o u t these modifications. For thirty-seven years in Vienna, 1899 t o 1936, he published Die Fac.kel, the frontline bulletin of his war. I t was not so much a magazine as a newspapel- about newspapers. a parasite o n parasites, and people read it in rrams and coffeehouses. Here is what Kraus had discovrred: l'uhlic opinion can talk about everything \ , c ~ t cannot say e v e r y t h i ~ l g .For public o p i n i o n has a style, a n d o n l y by s r c ~ d y i n g its slighresr peculiaritirs o f diction will o n e bc able to gain access to its illordinate crimes, t o its familiar poisons, t o its srnirk over one's death. in short-just as public opinion says-to everyday reality. We still follow rhe rhetoric of opinion alld continue t o usr one of its main features: the stock phrase. W h a t is the oi-g~zn public opinion? T h e press-and of today, the whole, immense communications network. T h u s . Kracrs devoted his newspaper and a great part o f his existence to the press, as an appointed site of public opinion, where o n e can have the leisure to contemplate the fluid surface o n which we move at every m o m e n t finally congealed in letters. A n d he certainly did nor want w h a t insensitive interpreters chiefly praised h i m f6r: to improve the puess. By 1904, Kraus had left n o doubts o n this matter, which lies a t the core o f his argument with Masimilian Harden: "I once wrote: 'Harden, w h o measures journalisnl with the yardstick of relative ethics, wants to improve the press.' I wavzt to make it worse, I want t o make it harder for it t o carry o u t its vile intentions under the cover of spiritual pretensions, and I consider a stylistically better press more dangerous."' In concentraring o n the press, Kraus had grand visions, such as did not often v i s i ~ even great poets, w h o concentrated o n the pure word. Consider the uol-ds I have ~rsed2s an epigraph: T h e world, its substance, 1 is, from a n industrial standpoint, a by-product; from a neo-Plaronic standpoint, it is an emanation o f the press. Facts issue from opinions by superfetation. "Is the press a messenger? No: the event. Words? No: life. It n o t only claims that its news about events are the real events, b u t it also produces this sinister identity by which appearance always says that facts become news before being Facts."' Let us imagine a great theological civilizatio~l: Anyone horn in it inherits a total thought, preceding Filct, which then is articc~lated and manifrsred in a language. narrower than its origin, the reminder of sonlething previous and srablc. For someone born in the theological civilization of post-history,

On Public Opinion . 189

thought is a depository From which o n e call draw cveryrhing except the ~ e experience from which each single thought is born, while ~ t availabiliry of the pasr as a deposirory is irself thc disturbing experience common to all forms of the new age. I f L ~ I C Enlighrrnnlent hnti realized its utopia, the subiecr would really have been a tabula rasa, ahlc to endure thar total abrasion of meaning produced by all-consuming nominalism and hy rhe method that endlessly dissolves substance. And i c would also have had unprecedented agility. But that is not so, and therefore it is not utopia thar belongs to pose-history but rather its inversion and p r o d ? . O n c e the substance is exhausred, the m e t h o d spins artificial substances from its are'still more solid, own slime: Buildings by now Ilave no foundations t3~1t as though they grew from the earth. And wc cercainlv find neither the fake tabula rasa in the subject nor the acknowledgment of a previous choughc; rather, we find the continuity of opinions, a homeostatic whirl o f utterances swarming from past and present. a Cartesian forest of mental railroad tracks, the permanent explanation oEhisrory in the endless speculative fairground, or Acadhtnir des Jeux, described by Leibniz."~ut the subject knows nothing about it. 0/7(7npinion is nsgoodas another: T h e abyss yawns in this comn~onplace s in every other. These few a words enclose the paralyzing formula of post-historical algehra. T h e continuity o f opinions is the rllaterial chosen by Karl Kraus for his prose work, thousands of pages, the 922 issues of Dir fizckrl. It is an essenof tial charac~crisric Kraus's prose that it carries within it a specter: Ir may be a passage explicitly quoted from a writer or newspaper, the composition of a word, a stock phrase that gets reworked, a punctuation inark. I n any case, unril the spectral element has been identified, Kraus's pmposition cannot be read correctly. This procedure is r e q ~ ~ i r e d once one recognizes that the world has become a ncwspaper. T h e result of this procesr dure, to which Kraus stubbornly clung, is rhar the author n l ~ ~ renounce any though[ of his own rhar can be expressed, as is custoiiiarp, in a serics of p r o p o s i t i o ~ ~T .h e p i i r v ~ u nis now [he c o ~ ~ t i n r ~of y s ~ i r opinions, a totality of language in coilstant proliferatiol~. 'The writer pretentis to be cancel-ned o111ywith opinioils in ordcj- to make his way t 1 1 r 0 ~ i ~their h g t . jumble and capture ~ h ~ ~ ~Hish Ariadne will be language. Indccd, Kraus's relations with language mighi only be told as an 21-otic epos:

I do not rule language, bur language rules me complerel~~. me, she is For I nor rhc handmaiden of my thoi~ghrs. livc with her in a relationship thar lets me conceive thoughts, and she can do with Inc what shr likes. For the fresh thought leaps out ar nle from words, and [he language char created it is forrr~rd rerroactivelj: Such pregn:lncy of rhoughrs has a grace [hat obliges one ro kneel down and requires all kinds of trembling attentions. 1,ang~lage is sovereign ro thoughrs, and if a man succeeds i n re\.crsing the relationship, she will make herself useful ro him around the house bur bar hirn rru~n worn b." hcr
(In this passage the spectral element is woman, with the p h r a s e o l ~ ~ that traditionally pertains to her. T h e equivalence of woman and language, re~s curring in all of Kraus, is ilnplied and made all the more o b v i o ~ by the fact that the word Sprach~e-language-is feminine. In consideration of this, the various pronouns have been translated as though [hey applied to a relationship between persons.) T h e work o f the "proposition builder" is to abandon himself ro language, which is supposed to conrain a force of its own, a latent thought, the only o n e capable of breaking the spell of public opinion. "Thoughts come t o me because I take them a t their word."5 But once it is removed from the immediate exercise, from being captured by the work o f language, thought departs. It is indissolubly bound to the word that called it forth. W h e n Kraus writes, "Progress makes coin purses o u t of human skin" (p. 279). we see him establishing, with n o waste ofwords, the "dialectics of the Enlightenment." But Kraus would never have wished t o describe that dialectic. And if we have reason to be gratefill to Theodor Adorno for having done so, we recognize at the same time that the implications of Kraus's beyond the point whereAdornols involved metaphors continue to n~ultiply explication begins ro rest o n its oars. 'l'hus, Kraus's though[ can only be recounted by someone w h o does not understand it: "Many who have fallen behind me in my development can state what my thoughts are in a more comprehensible way."6 O n thc ocher hand, Kraus himself, who does nor like t o "get mixed up in [his own] private affairs" (p. z y j ) , would surely n o t be equally clear a n d certain. Kraus believes one cannot know where thoughts come from, and therefore he supposes that they are fornled beforehand a n d g o wandering about; only those who havr formed their language can receive them. A writer would be bolneonc w h o "believes in t h e metaphysical path of


. On I'zrblir Opinion

Ow I'zrblir Opinion .

thouglit, which is a miaslna, while opinion is contagious a n d therefore has need o f the i m ~ n c d i a t c infection to I>e received and spread."' Hut why not even consider all of Kraus's aphorisms as a series of opinions? l'here would seem to be nothing to keep one from doing so. As such, they make a bizarre and contradictory collection, insolent a n d incongruous, in which the author often seems t o suppol-c with one hand what hc destroys with the other. In the end, one notes that rhese are the opinions of a man who cares nothing about being "consistent with his own opinions." But one will also llote chis: 'l'he things Kraus says become unrecognizablr as soon as they are restated in other words, because "if a thoughr can live in two forms, i t will not feel as much at ease as two thoughts living in a single forrn."K If at this point in its history, though[ is n o longer the sovereign organizer of l a ~ l ~ u a g e t must necessarily pass each time through bu the hell of opinion, it is precisely language that will tip the scales: "the difference between a way o f writing in which thought has become language and larlguage thought, a n d one in which language represents simply the shell o f an opinion."" Opinion has the appearance of a furmally homogeneous continuurn and tends to abrogate the nlinletic power of language; Kraus, o n the contrary heightens the difference and makrs l a n g ~ ~ a g e into theater, t o the extent of calling his work "written rccitation,""' while 31ways stressing the lightest and most elusive element: the tone. "If I must make a liberal demand, I d o it in such a way chat reactionaries obey and progressives repudiate me. W h a t matters is the accent of the opinion ; ~ n d the detachment with which it is stated."" Where the man in the street is prompt to offer his deg14.itibu.c noil est rli.rputclrzdz4n2, Kraus talks Iikc a mathematician o r an underworld judge. Bur what is his Euclid or his law code? We will ne\.er find out, but we d o find, equally vehement, the imperative to rectify language. T h i s undertaking was called "rectification of nanies" in ancient (Ihina; but whereas Confiicius could appeal to a powerful all-inclusive custom to reestablish but encrvatcd order in words and thus in China, Kraus, in the Byzan~int: Kakania, had at his disposal only a musical mct;~pllor:to speak as though aPprali~\g aperf>ctgitc.h for language: And the 1;inguage that re;lchcs his ro opinion means by lanear has only words in comlnon wilh whnt p~lblic guage. I n the information culture, the pages of De fizckeIconstirute an i enclave in which language is presented with c11;lracteristics that cannot be reduced to tliosc that newspapers have imprinted o n the \world: Instead

of the deadening clal-ity o f wol-ds as an instrument of c o m m r ~ n i c a t i o n , w h a t wc f n d there is t h e i l l r ~ m i n a t i n gc o ~ n p l e x i t yof language as a "means for- c o m i r ~ g terms with creation."" Kraus looks back ro a n orito gin that rcfuscs t o clef ne itselfi "The origin is the goal"'3-such axiom. 'l'he great Judaic heritage resounds whcn--accol.ding Adorno-the

is his first

thcse words, the memory

of Adalll givillg ~lanles. I I J this origin is ~ilirroredin a messianic e n d , A to a legend that also influenced

Miter Henj:1111in a n d

Kingdom would be established by leaving everything as it

is, t>,~crptfo;.nJ27~~ mot/;Jt'clztions. Holy Writ and its counterfeir cop): .ili$t the ne\vspaper, can pass into each other,'.' in I ~ t directions, precisely hy h means of slight niodifications:

I f it is true that the 'tc~/pr.eme ~ l i s t i task s r

[of satire] is i t ~ g i - q h i avrtl~~ge~nent,''" c then this is the basis for Kraus's

theory o f q ~ ~ o t : i t i o n , height of his satirr. T h i s slight modification the might be merely the addition of'quotation marks t o a text and its reproduction, without comment, in the pages ofL)ie Packel. Because these pages are a trial by ordeal, the quotation will rnierge dead or alive, in any case transformed; it will have spoken another language. At the outset o f World W'ar I, Kraus wrote. "It is m y duty to put my epoch between quotation marks. for I know that that alone can express its unspeakable infamy." Thus, a t ti~nes,the simple typographical combination of two newspaper quotations on the eloquenr blankness of a particular page is enough for the language of infi~mv pass judgment o n itself. to By adding Judaic esorericis~nand the obsession of modern formalism, whereby language becomes equivalent to musical material, Kraus achieved
a frrnzy ofwords that in the short run should have led him to the Cabala

or t o absolute literature. It led him instead, like his demon, to apply both of them otl a wild and difficult terrain: the press-words coded, then as and now, t o say something ovcrwhel~ni~lg too close for comfort, the world t r a n s h r m e d i n t o ulriuei.sel uLpoi.ttzge, as S t i p h a n e Mallarm6 p ~ it. N o ~ t other great writer of the century has dared to weave the magic of words and thc black magic of sociery into so dense a web. Kraus's political polemics are the most ex;lccrhated rrutpoui. /hut, l'' and his nrt/)ouu 1;zi.t gives his polemics a force unknown to political speech. Public o p i ~ l i o ~ l appears for the first time, as he tried. 'The goddcss A L Kspealcs as follows: ~

665~1, five lines by Parin

menides (fr. I , 1 8 - ~ 1 ) , -' o n which all manner ofcxrgesis has bee11 anti will


. O w I't~hlic. O/~ir/ioti

On Public Opinion . 193

necesary ~ h a poll leal-n cvt.1-).rhing r both the ~~nrrcmhling of well-roi~ndcd'l'rnth heart as well as thc opinions of mortals, in which tllerc i b n o rruc certail~ry. Rut likewisc this too ~ O L Ish;lll study, how appcarancc nlust gloriously hc :lff;rmcd by passing whc>le thl-o~~gh e\c~-yrhin~.
I t is

as stated, respectively, in frs. 10, 6 and 8 , j o . T h e bond of necessity cannor be dissolved, since appearance "will never sever being from being" (fr. 4, 2). Gorgias is rhe great f gure who marks the severance of the connection between opinion and appearance, the devious and ruinous corollary to the weakness that prevents appearance and 'AhTjB~ia from remaining joined. With Gorgias, the terrible sobriery of the West speaks out: "Being, [because] unmanifested. does not have appearance ( ~ O K E ~ V ) in score; appearance [because] powerless, does not have being in store" (fr. 26). This rift cannot be crossed, and the lack of contact abrogates rhe criterion, which is a reference to 'Ahfj0e~a: Now, opinion, the discourse of appearance, becomes discourse about appearance and its manipulation. We enter the combinatorial realm of the modern in the released forces of the discourse, the algebra of power. But the whole history of nihilism, that is, our history, shows us a timid nihilism that does not dare to go all the way: T h e criterion of truth having collapsed, truth itself has not collapsed, as thought would have required. This timidity is actually the most astute and overwhelming act of reason, which has seen the prime insrrument of social control in maintaining the noti011 of truth. Plato, in the Theaetetus, described this process with admirable bluntness, once and for all: "But in the things 1 a m calking about, namely, questions of right and wrong and holy and impious, they want it firmly stated that these things have neither a nature nor a reality of their own, but that society's opinion becomes their truth, when such opinion exists and for as long as it exists" (r72 b). Here, by now, opinion has emancipated itself, becoming an autonomous force adjusted to nothing external except to society as a tangle of opint ions, while one of the meanings of an ancient jul,~ m e n attributed to Simonides of Keos is revealed: "Appearance (TO~ O K E ~ V ) violence to does v )" truth ( ~ a a A 6 0 ~ ~ a v(Republic, 365 b-c). T h e bond of necessity stated by Parmenides is replaced in Plato by that of proportionality between categorically divided regions, according to a process of assin~ilation--the relation between model and copy-whose pattern one finds in the Kepublic (509 h-e). And given Plato's inexhaustible ambiguity, one will not be surprised by the passage in Parvnenides (130 b) where he abruptly ~nentionsthat such proportionality has neither the force nor the audacity to extend itself to everything. 7'he correspondence stops before the ridiculous and dirty debris of appearance:

T h e enigma of these words lies perhaps in their i~npressive clarity. in the forgocren gesture of expressing together the two separate realnls of 'AhTj0r1a and 66\a, the joint relation of being and appearing, the heaviest burden, one of which subsequent t h o ~ ~ g lhas never ceased trying to lt throw off. l'he 60;a of Parmenides is still, sin~ultaneouslyand in the fullest sense, opinion-appearance: the ordeal between word and thing has not yet been broken. 111 four lines. three words (60<u.;-60~06\'sa-6o~ip0<) indicate variations in appearing and oddly correspond to fr. 28 in Heraclitus, where a similar variation ( ~ O K & O V T ~ - ~ O K ~ ~ ~ ) T C ~ T O ; ) comes in two lines. T h e path of names and opposing forces-indeed, all cosmology belongs to it-66<a lets us foresee the illcerruption of the discourse, which takes shape against the background of the undivided heart of 'Ahfi0r1a. (The reluctance on the part of philologists to recognize in Parmenides a twofold affirmation of 6 0 \ a and 'Ahrj0&1a, and not thcir incurable opposition, can only he explained if one compiles a case history on the whole course of Western thought, of which philologisrs have X been, wirhout realizing it, the perpetrators.) A O ~ Cis at the same time the image and discourse of appearance; in it, the whole expresses itself in rhe the flashing o f names and forms. In ' A h i 0 ~ 1 a whole is recognized "by many signs" (fr. 8,2-3) for that which ir i~ldesrructibl~ ill rhe fullness is. of the continuum. l'hey are the two $GOEL; that the whole admirs (see Plutarch, Adversus Coloteu, 1114 D): superi~nposed spheres, both enclosed, but the one in the intact ~ntirety (oGhov), withour divisions, of AhTj0r1a; the other in the enumerative c.ovn~~leteness 6xa\vra), perpetually reshuf(~ . tl~ fled, of 66<a (see fr. 9, 38). A t r a ~ ~ s p a r e ninirialory doctrine chat can be traced back-as a variation that already pl-t.fig~~res nullibing future of [he philosophy-to rhe pri~i~ordirl~ between the ~nrniicrtltio~i its prinp p and ciple: terms that ceri;linly do not correspond to "incelligiblr" and "senAsiscotle o n w o ~ ~like. applying ld sible," as the whole (;reek traciicion f r o ~ n to R r n i e ~ ~ i d a s c of opposites that clo not pertail1 to him. What holds 'Ahlj0~1aand 66Sa togerher and keeps one from crossing over into the other is their comlrlon obedie~rcc the same goddess, Ai~ll-l4vayk.qto

194 . Oit Public Opinion

Ow Public Opiniori . 191

"And o f things, 0 Socrates, that would seem to be ridiculous, such as d hair, m u d , dirt, o r any orhers that may seem low and co~itemptible, o you wonder if ir is necessary t o say char a separate form exists of each, distinct from the one we touch with our h;lnds?" Socrates does nor dare, and perhaps his hesitancy is not the last of his ironies; but [he degradation o f appearance also involves [he ruin o f whatever, beyond Appearance, did not want to join with it, even metaphorically. From now o n , the great nihilistic analysis, the o n e that runs rhrough the whole history of Western philosophy a n d culniinates in the Nietzsche of the years 1884-88, will reveal each successive essence to be a disguised appearance. At history's high noon, announced by Zarathustra, unprecedented words illso ring out: "With the true world we hfzil~ abolished the crppnrent one."lX T h i s final passage of nihilism, which would turn the wheel of Western thougllt back t o the point p e c e d i n g its first rno\lement, is precisely what history, by emerging frorn itself, has not granted. T h e whole network of oppositions that until today have formed the g r a m m a r a n d synrax of thought, in the end, risking being deprived o f authority, has been deposited in facts, and there it gloriously lives o n , without foundation and as though in play. Its immense power has become perhaps even greater: Even if n o o n e believes in the theorems anymore, everyone practices [heir theater. T h e structure has reached irs maximum strength once it is n o t stated b u t simply staged. N o w crowned opinions occupy [he hyperUranian ~ 0 x 0 they are the gods of opererra, parodic and earthly stand~ : ins flung into the realm o f being, t o inhabit the place irollically prepared for them by [he dispersed ideas. Opinion, from the m o m e n t it is rlo longer a momentary nierltal disposiof tion but has hecome the ~inmentionables appearance, surreptitiously usurps an authority rhar had belonged ro thought and removes itself from the acrual play o f appearance. A n d people of opinion are adulrs and n o longer have any need t o project the source of authority onto the hraway Plain of 'AhljOr~cc, "where the reasons and form5 and niodels o f w h a r has happened a n d what will happen lie niotionless" (Plutarch, De dcf;rr.trl orarulorz~m, 422 b-c). Opini011 finds c o ~ l f i ~ ~ i i a tillo itself, it flows by iti ~i self, and servit~ldc become sponraneolis. 'l'lie totality of opinion then has constitutes a body, the (;reat Beast dcsc~.ibcdin menlorable passage in l'laro, [he prime source for Simonc Weili theory of society:

All these private individuals who ask to be paid, whom the politicians call Sophists and consider to he thcir rivals, teach nothing else hut thcse bclieh oF thc crowd, which i t expresses when i t asscnlhles, and this they call wisd o ~ i i;IS if one were ro Icarn to know the inlpulscs a n d desires of some ; Great Heast, growit srrong, how to approach and touch i t , a n d when i t is more inrracrable and when Inore docile, and what arc rhe sounds i t is liliely to emit, and what sounds crnitrcd b), another make i t r;mc or fierce; and after learning all this and living with the creature, wich rl~c passage of time should call it wisdom, and having organized i t as a n art, should turn ro [caching it, w i t h o ~ lcnowing anything about the truth of these beliefs and ~t desires in relation ro the beautiful and the usly, rhe good and the bad, the just and the ~lnjusr, should only apply ;ill these nanics to rhe opinio115 bur of the (;re:it Beast, calling the things it likes good, and those it dislikes had, and wirhour knowing any orher reason for these thinas, should call whdr is necessary fine and jusr. never having seen or hecn in .i position to show how the r ~ a t ~ ~ i - e necessary differs from that of the good. (Republii., of the 493 a-c). Today we n o longer nerd Sophists ro incite the Great Beast, since t h e Sophist is the ir-nmediate self-regularion of society, an organism nourished by the tensions it itself incessantly generates, an order [hat is preserved only so long as it expands. T h e last, anonymous subject o f society is the destiny o f science as a [oral experiment o n the world, an experiment in which humanity is the chosen material. T h e Soul o f the World n o longer has a human face, nor does it appear on horseback in the streets of a ciry. Likewise, deceit n o longer needs t o be personified in a subject. T h e decline of h2ephistopheles as a dramatic character is acrunlly his triumph. There is n o way to disringuish opinion from thoughr except by analyzing its language. Ever since the trial by ordeal berweeli word a n d rhing was broken, this curse has accompanied disc~lrsivethought. 'Though the Sophists were the first to reveal it, Socrates was the first t o see its consequences and ro attempt to rescue thoilght from the Lirnl trap. Faced with he become a parasite o n the p;~rasitismof opinion o n rhot~filit, chose parasites, to ciisguise his own language in theirs, and in short, to extract thought from the discot~rseof others. 111 the Kcyublic- (340 d), he is acrlic cused of "argui~lglike a sycophant." 111 Socratcs, thought, ~111der pressure of sophistry, ~ h a n d o n s seat of aurhociry a n d s u ~ ~ s t i t u t irony at a the es

distance: ?'he stink of the rabble that Nietzsche sniffed in hiru is the price, heroic and degrading, of this first cont;lct with opinion. 7% cover oneself with opinion in order to wear it out is a mortal risk: Opinion is thought's shirt of Nessus. Socrates' behavior carries out the renunciation of original words; henceforth, thought agrees to move o n the plane o f social violence, which is rhe violence of opinion; was it not to be public opinion that killed Socrates? This is the first attempt to extract thought from Iangiiage that speaks without consciousness. Language that speaks in us beyond our conscious~less also that of the robber and guest to whom, by is applying Occam's razor, t h e name of unconscious has been given. B u t o opinion neither robs us nor clairils the ambiguous status of gt~est; n the contrary, like a paternal benefactor, it reassures us and fortifies the bastions of our ego, which are festooned with opinions. What does the emancipated man have to boast of except his opinions? T h e y are one way to display the fingerprints of his ego. T h e black magic of opinion is so incomparably effective because opinion is a reasonable l,~nguage, n d ~.easonahleness a does not involve consciousness. Originally the mobile physiognomy of appearance and the process of forms in language itself, opinion seenis increasingly to congeal in the course of its history. 111 the end, it is paralyzed in its "majesty."'" Now opinions can be defined as statetnents uttered viole~itly and spontaneously, apart from all consciousr~ess, ancl this leads to the cautious hypothesis [hat the petrification o f opinion is the last p l ~ e n o typical mutation stamped by culture on man. 0 1 1 this prospect of motionless horrol-, the future has also opened. T h e altar of opinion is the commonplace. Every time a comnionplace is uttered-to guarantee ceremonial orthodoxy, the officiants will have at their disposal no more than a certain number of tones and modes of expression-the original abyss yawns once again, ,lnd the elements are divided. L t o n Bloy suggests that a commonplace be defined as the parodic inversion of a tl~eolo~zirnenon,way of speaking about G o d : "Without a their knowing it, the most vacuous bourgeois :irr tremendous prophets; they can'c open their mouths without con\wlsing the stars, a n d the abysses invoked by the cliasms of their Stupidity."'" And o f light are irn~nediately his words find a sequel in Kraus: "to learn to see abysses where there are c o r n m o n p l a c e ~ . "Flaubert in Bouziard et I'ic~~chet, ~ Bloy and Kraus. they all cackled tllis cllormous phenomenon, but only Kraus lived to witness its final, dreadful metamorphosis. Commonplaces, stock phrases-these are stones of language "that take

us hack to rhat little known epoch immediately preceding the catastrophe. 'At that time,' says (knesis, 'the earth had only one language."'22The supreme goal ofwriting has always been, to quote Mallarm6 once more, to get away from languages that are "imparfnites en cela yue plujieurs" [imperfect in that they are many] and, at the same time, to discover in things a language written and spoken in silence, as attested by centuries o f specuIarion on hieroglyphs. But if, at s certain point in time, everything turns i~ico parody, eve11 this doctrine, which n o tradition has developed as has the Hebrew, will have to encounter the current presence of its counterfeit. Nazism will bring this about. Its operation implies "the annihilation of metaphor":'-' T h e image, retranslated into a language o f facts, now gives off the sounds o f rorture. This is the event that silenced Krai~s when Hitler took power. Brecht noted what had happened: When the .l'hird Reich was founded only 3 tiny message c3me from rhe eloqrlent one. In a poem of trn lines hc raiscd his voice, only to complain char ir w;isn't enough for him.'^ But Kraus did n o t sirnply fall silent, as he had a n n o u ~ l c e d his last in poem, the one to which Brecht refers. 'l'he "elocluent one" denounced in the harshest terms the loss o f w o r d s that resulted from t h e advent o f Nazism: H e wrote Die dr-itte Whlpurglsntzcl/t ( T h e Third Night o f Walpi~rga), 111ighl~ growing uvrr the colnlnon grave of the centur); a a oak forbidding massif, a n ironclad work of which only the incipit is generally known-one might say almost justly, since, in accordance with the rule of the "proposition builder," the tirst proposition in the book corresponds to the whole: "Apropos o f Hitler, nothing comes to mind." And the text goes on: I am well aware that, with [his result of prolonged thought and many atremprs ro grasp what tins happened and the force hrhind i t , 1 6~11 considerably shorr ofexpectarions, which perhaps werc srrerched as never before toward the polemicist from whom ;r popular mistlnder-st.undi11~ demands what is called taking a stand, by doing precisely, every tinlc a n evil has in some way touched a sore spor in him, what is also called &ing up to it. B u t there are evils where this ccdses ro be ;I nirtaphor, while bellind rhe face the brain. which also participates in some way in these :~ctions, would no lollgel- t h i ~ ~ k capable of having any rhoughts at all. I fcel as itaelf

though I've been hit on the head, and if, before actually being s o , I nevertheless would not like to consider nlyself satisfied to appear to bc silenced as 1 in hct am, it is in obedience to something that obliges me to take account even o f a Failure and to explain the situation in which such an absolute collapse in the sphcrc ofthe (;er~nanlang~~age placed me, and my has personal sense of weakness on the occasion ofthe reawakening of a nation and the est;iblishrnent of a dictatorship that today colnlllands everything except languag~.'~ Ifwriting has always aspired to lead metaphors back to their origin, which is then once again found to be something improper, the Nazis immediately did something all too similar, with their "eruption of the stock phrase into action" (p. 123). T h i s is the event that imposed silence o n Kraus and then made him write t h e grandiose c o m m e n t a r y o n his silence. W h e n "rubbing salt o n open wounds" is a present fact and n o t the remote and forgotten origin of a metaphor, when dead metaphors reawaken t o be applied directly ro the bodies of the victims, the metaphor itself decays, and its e n d is the hellish mirror o f the origin: "Since the thing has happened, the word is n o longer usable" (p. 123). Finally, "blood spurts from the scab o f s t o c k phrases," a n d t h e word is silent. "7'his is-in t h e n e w faith, which isn't even aware o f it-the miracle o f transubstantiation" (p. 121). "Incognito like H a r o u n a1 Raschid, he passes by night a m o n g the sentence constructions of the journals, and, from behind the petrified f a p d e s o f phrases, he peers i n t o the interior, discovers in the orgies o f 'black magic' the violation, the m a r t y r d o m o f wordsnX-this is Walter Benjamin's n~arvelousimage o f Kraus. In almost forty years o f these nightly forays, Kraus had already discovered what was to happen until o u r o w n day, but he did not care t o be a witness ofNazism in the same manner. H e had never disdained a n y kind o f enemy, enveloping t h e m all, from the least significant to the most infamous, in the miasma of Die Fuckel, h u t n o w for rhe first rime an inlmense adversary looms and he does n o t treat it as such. In I)ie di-itte W~lpztrgisnnck~t, e can see that many things cross on Kraus's m i n d concerning rhe lackeys o r hierarchs o r inadequate o p p o nents o r propagandists of Nazism, but the figul-e of Hitler is the only o n e t o remain indistinct. And chis is the last and most difficult revelation left by Krai~s: e was the first t o recognize that he srood o n the rhreshold of H an age char drains the conceptual and dramatic notion o f adversary by extending it to everything, dispersing it ill fog, easily turning anyone into

his own enemy. Afterward, norhing is left bur to listen attentively to the sounds o f the world, the great slide from o n e archon to another, a n d to spell o u t the signs that allow o n e t o rread cnuriously in the atnorphous. Here there is n o need t o take u p the tragedy o f Kraus's last years. T h a t is a secret door over which he himselfwrore, " O n the occasion o f t h e end of the world I want to retire to private life,"' while he was dying o f p u b lic life. Hut his last works have a special significance: After writing a n d not publishing Die &tie W~lpa~;~isnuck~t, published inste;ld ;I very long Krcios issue of Die Fackel with the title "Warum Die Fackel nicht erscheintnwhich contains large exrracts from the unpublisl~ed work-to explain his own silence and to mock those w h o were still counting o n his "taking a stand" in the face o f Nazism. Before his death, he published a few more issues of Die Fuckel, devoted primarily to Johann Nestt-oy, Jacclues Offenbach, a n d Shakespeare a n d only marginally t o politics. " W h e n the roof is burning, it's n o use praying o r washing t h e floor. Praying, however, is more p r a ~ t i c a l , " 'as Kraus had written many years before. Ir is to this ac~ tivity, supremely defenseless and yet practical, chat his last work returns: the preparation of Dk ~ p m c b e a v o l ~ ~ o f~ e , n writings o n language containing, among other rhings, memorable essays o n the comma, the apostrophe, subject a n d predicate, rhyme, a n d typographical errors; the book would be published only after his death. 'I'he political significance o f rhese pages is condensed in a few words: "If humanity did n o t have stock phrases, it would n o t need weapons."") Meanwhile, right o n that threshold where Kraus recognized the insufficiency of his and all other words. the p e r k c t appropriateness o f his pre.vious words was retrospecrively confirmed by events. Apart from the unprecedented, Nazism added nothing 11i.w. O n the third night o f W:ilpurga, the Nazis are ignes h t u i that become a fi~neral pyre, hut the theatrical machine chat operares rhe phant:~smagoriais rhe sanle o n e that Kraus had been observing for years, a m a c h i n e in whosc gears che world is still caught. In the end, Kraus was allle to address these words o f farewell t o the press, his first t:lrget and the mouthpiece of opinion for 31 ocher evils, 1 shorthand for society as degradation: "For Narional Soci;llism has not destroyed the press; it is the prc,ss that has made National Soci;~lisll~. rcAs action, only in appearance; in truth 3 fi~ltillment.";" Kraus died in 1936. I ' h e n calile the war. followed by ye:lrs o f peace wrinkled with horrors in the ncw society. Now rhc divine being is society itself. T h e new society is all agnostic theocracy b:ficd o n nihilisnl.

A Chinese Wall


In a province known 2s the last empire, which neither knew nor cared to know whether it was one or the other but was convinced it could always reach an agreeable compromise among all the i~lcornpatibles, "one day everything-wherever you looked-turned red. . . . Whispers, murmurs, shivers! O n the street, in trams, in the park, everyone was reading a red notebook."' It was April 1899, and "there, in Kakania, that state since vanished, in many ways an exemplary state, though ~ n a p p r e c i a t e d , " ~ Vienna welcomed with greedy curiosity the first issue of Die Farkel, written en tirely by a twenty-five-year-old newspaper COJI tri bu tor named Karl Kraus, who was clearly up to no good ("we're not asking ourselves in a high-sounding way what to do, but honestly what to do away with")' and promptly unveiled his secret aim, the ruthless ambition to be impossible in where actually, "one can't become iniposthe city of "pleasant relatio~ls,",' sible."j N o one can take offense, since a mandatory doubt does away with all good and evil: Everyone is too acquainted with everyone else, having seen each other since thcy were children; everything has something else behind it, revengc for a henefit not gained, flattery for a benefit in the offing. From that year, "already stiffening at such a challge"" (the turn of t h i cenrury), for the next t h i r ~ ~ - s e v e n yeal-s,Die Fackeldisseminated without letup "betrayal, earthquakes, poiso~i, and firc fro111the mundzn intelligibilis.'"

Many writers were the11 ripening precipitously in the hothouses of the cafks, and to found a magazine was the most normal of gestures. What was

unusual, however, was the proposal to criticize everything within range. And the intention to make a frontal attack on the Nezir F w i ~ Presse, Vienna's so respectable, so eleganr, big dailv newspaper, was rash indeed. Kraus had arrived at these decisions after swift and tortuous years of apprenticeship, whose symbolic beginning can be placed on a day in the spring of 1892 when he a n d Hugo von H o h a n n s t h a l celebrated their liberation from final exanls by meeting in [he gardens of the Heetho~enplatz.~ Hofmannsthal was then the archangel Loris: His first writingsin in An der srl~onenblaurw Dotzaz~," the style of the Viennese "gay apocalypse"-were the meteor that had had the delicacy to stop in the middle of the sky in the city where "everything stands still and waits" ("Best wishes for a good end of the world, Your Grace!").'" And even before he was out of short pants, he had been welcorned to the Hall of the Muses, where he had been assigned a velvet niche. December 1891 had witnessed his meeting with Stefan George, the beginning of an astonishing ballet of torments and misunderstandings, broken off, like his schoolboy ciushes, by the intervention of Hofmannsthal's concerned and understanding father. T h e friendship is documented by a monrh-long exchange of frantic notes between the two poets; by Hofmannsthal's acknowledgment that "You reminded me of things 1 T h a t lie hidden in m y ~ e l f " ; ~ ' and finally, according to an oral tradition traceable to Hofmannsthal, by the image of George, [he rwer~ry-three-year-old "prophet," hysterical over the breakup, kicking a dog and muttering '>ale z~oyou" [dirty hooligan].l2 By now Hofmannsthal was already taking walks "amid acacia and jasmine"'3 with Hermann Bahr, the tireless and long-winded majordomo of the New, who so often changed his livery and would later become a constant target for Kraus's vituperation. T h e ultinlate essences of Viennese decadence gathered in the Cafk Griensteidl, the Jung-Wien [Young Vienna] group, only nlildly toxic as compared to those being cooked up in the same decade by the hgerrurc de France. In addition to young Flofmannsthal, those seated there included Arthur Schnitzler, Felix Salten, Richard Beer-Hofniann, a few forgotten figures, and finally Hahr, who had momentarily drawn the battle lines of rnodernisrn 011 those little tabletops and proclaimed the "ovcrconling of naturalis~n""~ an inartentive civiliz;ltion that had so far succeeded in igto noring it.'' O n the sidelines of the group sat Karl Kraus, who in 1892 had embarked o n a sporadic career of literary journalism c o ~ ~ t a n l i n a t e d by life. "Friends?" Beer-Hofmann said of him, "We're not exactly friends; we

just don't get on each other's nerves."") Hut Kraus soon developed a lack p. of tolerance, first for Herjnnnn Hahr, then for the whole g r o ~ ~T h e reasons For- this rejection \vere to pile up, layer upon layer, for the rest of his life. 111January 1897, the (:aft: Gricnsteidl was closed so that the I'ulais Herl~erstein. which i t was 1oc;ired. could he renovated and divicled into in apartments. This is alludcd to in Kraus's f rst developed piece of writing, Die ciur~olirteLiteratur, an ail t o o biting squib, a jezt (ifmassnrre carried o u t o n t h e J u n g - W e n group. "Life will break t h e crutches o f affectation:"17 AS far as 11c was concerned, this so-called Young Vienna had now turned o u t to be the final avatar of the decrepit Vienna of' decoration.
ANAI.OI : S0111echill~ CISC



t o me.


What's char? T h c unconscious! MAX: IIIICOIISC~OLIS? '1'11~ ANRI.OI.: 1 mea11, I think r11;lr uncor~scio~ls scares exisr. M X Well A:

ing r o o n ~ s ] u n i f o r n ~ s , , chronic n l i s l ~ n d e r s t ; l n c i i ~are sf:~stellcd a r o u n d ~~ , a center, which was--as t h e Vicnnese H e r m a n n 13roch xaw from the distance of exile2'-rht. cnlpty box resel-vcci For t h r cmpcl.ol- in every Kakanian theater, a d;lrIi cavity, resigned to a necessary absence. Vienna w;ls kllso said to he the city ofcorr-uption par excellc~~cc, d i t cert:linly an was, b ~ l t with 'I kind o f pathetic cynicisnl, as we can see in h i ~ l d s i g h t . Having been overtaken by industry, which had its fire elsewhere, it \vas almost forced t o specialize in the enamel with which to cover itself. It \$.;IS the first city to produce aesthetics '1s raw material; i t was a colon) in the center of Europe, too absorbed in the complicated relations, Byzantine a n d prehiscoris at the same time, anlong its various pcoplcs a n d races, t o be able to conceivc the existence of,4sicl. I'rofessional c h a r m was thus sketched o n a dark hackground, a n d the s a m c t h i n g happened to the sparkling city as t o Schnitzler with his "cheerfi~lideas," which became gloomy in his hands as soon as he stopped for a m o m e n t to think ahout them: like a story "that I told m y friends o n e day, and as I told it, the kept getting more serious, ilntil at the end, to my surprise, the hero l got stabbed a n d died a n a w f ~ death."" Years later, Hertolt Hrccht would say of Kraus, " W h e n the age laid hands upon itself, he was the hands.'"> B u t a t t h a t time, a r o u n d the e n d o f the century, the talc, full o f arabesques, digressions, a n d anxious pauses, went o n being spun "in the hest of demimondes."'+



Around the e n d of the century, "Vienna was n o t so n l ~ ~ c h city of art as the the city par excellence o f decoration,"lX its wings evenly protected by a fine aesthetic dust. Schnitzlcr's "sweet little girls," spices in the city's eros: the rare aristocrats whorn the " d i f f i c ~ ~ l t " o f n ~ a n n s t h a lis s ~ ~ ~ p o toe d H s have taken as models of language a n d behavior; che function;~riesw h o set. still succeeded in experiencing the bureaucrclcy as ceremony; the w faithless a n d silly but <,hove all gallant; the feuilleto~~istsh o powdered cvery trifle; the (;usti lieutcnants,l" victinls o f incongruous frenzies o f honor-all this, a n d Smooth wclrcis, v a l - i c p t ~ . t l pictures, IIiviJcd, sccrct fcclil~g, Agonies, cpisodc\ and "the m;lnv thi~lgs that fall like frost anci rusc o n overly rcfined souls,"'" [private dinamid scrcrns, F,lrnily albums, wax figures, czbinetspa~*tirulie,s

Throughout history, from I'l~~to's I<~pztblir o u r own time, a curse of the to improper (nletaphor-orn,llnent-decol-ation) as sign threatening t o escape the logos is periodically confirnled in classical and neoclassical poetics, where, behind the appeal to Aristotle, o n e s l i m p x s the terror o f the erratic sign. 'With the first raclical romantics, the final escape o t ' n ~ e t a p h o r is announced; henceforth, it hides in a forest that has become the site of literature. Hot this event. which society finds irgreit;lhlc, is followeci by a devious readjust~nent, and the great romantics themselves, in 2111 their ambiguity, were the vehicle for it. 'rileo d c r of rhetoric was ini~u;isiri~ly losing its bindillg power, and i t was replacid, with leth;il tolcralice, hy r dy;lrchy of Orrlament and lnscrunlcllt in which thc two o p p o r i t o . psi-tindi~lg :IS always to be e n e ~ l ~ i ere-creati the lapsed r . q ~ ~ i l i t , r i ~ ~ ~ l lvet-y d i t i i r e ~ i t s. long lines. O r n a t n c n t is n o w fuunil t o bc llighly usefill as a h e l l , a t i r c l c s

chaperon without which Instrument would never agree to appear in society. T h e aura of these two undivided powers is ambiguity. They are festively welcomed in an immense salon where there are only two kinds of guests, "those who use an urn tbr a chamber pot and those who use a chamber pot for an urn."" O n the sidelines, "speaking in the void," two implacable individuals keep insisting that there is a difference between the two objects: Adolf Loos and Karl Kraus. In 1908 and 1910, respectively, they will each publish a scandalous manifesto-essay: "Ornament and Crime" and "Heine and the Consequences." T h e titles thqmselves reveal that they were driven by a judgmental fury thar forced them to involve the whole culture in their aesthetic intolerance. With one of his abrupt Loos gestures as a fictitious "good A m e r i ~ a n , " ~ " immediately notes an important fact: namely, that in the present, "ornament has no organic connection with our civilizationn2- and is therefore degenerative. Like an immense tattooed criminal body, the city spreads out before the frightened eye. Aberrant sirens project from respectable facades. "Houses have tumors, the bow window. I t will take surrealism to paint it: Houses exude a In fleshy excres~ence."'~ an operation that takes up all of history, insistent nominalism dissolved the body of images and symbols; the city became their morgue. In his outburst, Loos already portrays an enlightened humanity that will prefer smooth objects, free of necrotic images, and will forget the ornamentation it destroyed. This did not happen: Though there was no apparent liturgical justification, a body of images, p i d e d by the infernal Beatrice of kitsch, emerged and regained possession of the world. But, our age being secretly docetist, that body is phantasmal, a pure envelope. Kraus wanted to retrace the history of form as envelope 2nd exemplify it in a name. He hit on Heine as poison and wound, a poet who was self-assured in his torment, conscious of his degradation, and too gifted not to try to disguise it: "But form, this form that is the envelope of the content, and not content itself, clothing for the body, not flesh for the spirit, this form would still once have had to be discovered, before being established forever. Heinrich Heinq took on the job.">" The precision of the attack (which seized on the peculiar weakness of romanticism, incapable of producing middle values, and for which "every slip from the level of genius meant a slide head over heels from the cosmos into kitsch").") has ofren kept people from seeing that what Kraus was arrempring in this essay was less an "evaluation of Heine's poetry than the criricism of a form of life""-the same form of life that triumphs today in a

more cunning version. O r n a ~ n e n and Instrument still govern the stare of t things, at the intersection of rcvo tendencies: "For one, art is an insrrument; for the other, life is a n ornanlent."" This ~ n u t i ~ homage, which al corrupts art and life, produces a compact cuphony; what is lost is only a memory: "Art disrupts life. 'l'he poets of humanity re-establish chaos every time. 'l'he poets of society sing and lament, bless and curse, within the order of the world."-'-'



Latent, incompatible with the decoration by which ir had been nourished to the point of disgust, another Vienna began to be formed in those years, in the place where i~nnoticedcrystallizations of thought occur: behind history. J u s t as Paris, the arsenical city, "where bodies soon consume,"'4 was the privileged soil for the release of the Double in the early part of the century, so Vienna, city of sweetness and merciless analysis, everywhere frizzled, a suicide with inlpeccable manners, rotated around the pivot of language in the same years, and from there the final disease was transmitted to the rest of the world. This was the Vienna to which Kraus belonged, a city not to be found in documents or commemorations because it exists only behind barred gates in the works o f a few great solitaries who were guided by the same obsession, which they exercised on different materials. Freud, Kraus, Wittgenstein, Schoenberg, and Loos are the principal stars in this constellation:ji 'To all of them, language appeared to be a vital, initial, all-inclusive question, with an urgency thar the rimes were able to counter only with the zeal of semiology congresses. In an extensive network, still largely to be explored, analyses of female undergarments connect with unconscious cryptographies; the search for "what can be said in general," with the "unconscious logicmof what musical language says; unsparing Witz [wit] about psychoanalysis, with the psychoanalytical investigation of Witz; the Es char Freud horrowed from Nietzsche dnd Georg (;roddeck, with the gram~natical1.5 [ i t ] to whose use in language Kraus devoted a ~nernorable essay. Es: This neglected little word presides over the obscssion with language, and thanks to that obsession rediscovers its powerfill archaic features, as glimpsed by another Viennese, 1x0 Spitzer, who devoted 311 his inventiveness to language: "The great neuter of naturc is the most correct definition of the es; in other words, the 6s derives fro111 the niythopoietic ,

in1;lgination of men: rJs r-qyr~et is raini~lg] as mythical as Iz~/)j)itei. [it is toruzt" [Jupiter thunders].") And Spitzer here rekrs explicitly to KrLlus's essay, which says: 'Fj: chaos, r l ~ e sphere, rhe whole, what is largest, most felt. which is already presenr bcfort. whar is born first. Light, clay. evening are 11ot subjects (as grammarians crroncousIv s ~ ~ ~ p obut ) s c t,retiicates: they cannot be sul,jects, because i r is the L'). that must first bring them to the light, t o the d a y to the evening, while developing irself in rhen1.'"%'hy [his convergence 011language? All history was fosrering it: Wirh [he reign of rules ended, t h e adventurous srudy of them was beginning. "Man is n o longer, only his symptoms are left"z8-such wns the implication, and the grear Viennese haruspices took note of it. T h e y had in comm o n t h e severitv of m i l i r a ~ l tmonks: W i t h the abrogation of morality, "which wore shackles like jewels,"") a much more exacting etiq~lctte a m c t o establish clear distincrions in the practice of language. Kraus's words could stand in epigraphs to the works of each of these highly different individuals: " T h a t someone ,.nay be a murderer proves norhing about his style, bur the style rnay prove him to be a murderer.".'" Meanwhile, murderers all over were trying t o ennoble the~nselves style: "Every gesture by is a n arabesque, every breath is orchestrated, every beard is a statement. All this is necessary because otherwise horror would abide in the desolate cavities of windows. But I'm not fooled by the facade! I k110\v how much art has had to leak out o f life, and how much life out of art, to make this children's game beriveen a r t and life possible."" All the Viennese theorists grew u p "roofless behind artistic fi~cades'""; they turned their backs o n those facades and, in a no-~rlan'sland strewn with historical rubble, sought language, with different procedures. equally convinced thar the secret was waiting for them, u ~ i r i l langllagt. again revealed itself as a neurral, toral, overhanging power o f \ v h i c h we are the object before being the subject. was an upsetting discovery, which destroyed the wings of the surrounding stage. T h u s , the capitfll o f decoratioll vanished in the dust of crumbling stuccoes shorrly before life finally abandoned i t to its ghosts.

th the ; who has ~-e:~d r o ~ ~ g h more t11;ln jo,ooo pages OF /lie h z c k ~ I the 209 scenes a n d epilogue ot- 7Ae Lnst Lhlys oj'iCl(ztlkiulA. \vhcre the world and the theater f nally agree o n \vhat c;lnnor hc I-eprescntcd; the Ionf, essays addressed to [lie evencs of the d;ly and t o the punctuation in all edirion of Goethe: rhe implac:l1>lc "opcl-e~~ab prose" on rri;lls f i l l - nlornl turpitude; ill the nine collections o f \Khr~eit1 H V , Y P ~ , where so Illally olxolcte rules of versihcation are respected allci s o many u ~ ~ p r c c e d e ~ ~ t c t i are ilnthemes posecl o n poerry; [he enciless q u o r a t i o ~ ~tsh r c.o11~7lets ; added to !:lcclucs O f k n l > a c h ; rhe rwo inciispcnsable critical intl-oductior~s H e i i ~ e n d to a Johann Nestroy: thc with Ll~erabcally ne\vspaper publisher Imre Bkkesby and with rhe in finlous Johan Schober, rhc Viennese police chic6 the new rranslations o f Shakespeare inro the language that had already the besr Shakespearean rranslarions: the polyp-like periods of Die Drirre ~ ~ z l l , u r g z ~ n in/ twhich the difference in language designates c , by antiphrasis the brutality of its object, N:~zih~n-anyone who has navigated among these omnivorous words and the11 revisirs rhe aphorisms will find the clarity o f r h e image that emerges from them confirmed, but ironically, for this clarity now appears to be the result of a monstrous compression. T h e aphorisms epitomize rhe whole work, but o n l y after having been through the \vhole work does o n e realize that inexhaustible catacombs open beneath them. For Kraus, the unir of measusenlent is the proposition: As in certain Sllang bronzes, a ram's chest is also the face of an owl a n d the horns are also salamanders, so every one of his proposirions is complere in itself bur at the same tinle the expression of an unbou~lcicd01-ganism, which is not w e n so much rhc individual work to which ir belongs as the totality o f III Kraus's wricil~gs. its turn, this totality, fro111thr homogcnrity thar comes from its exuhcrant e x e c ~ ~ t i oappears-at n, 3 cIist~c~~cc~-to 2 single he breath lleld i;)r an unbe;lrahly block. a sort ofsinglc aphorism. r si~lgle long time, almost as though thc rneani11~ Kraus's words had become of' literal: " T h e longest brearh is o f the ; l p h o r i s o l . I ' [ . h e aphorisnl is rhos h e laboratory for the " b ~ ~ i l d o f proposirions"; i't is also thc c11d of the es process, irs firsr and lnst swp, rhe c;lsicst anti moxr dit5c11lt. -I'hc samc goes for the reader: H e will recog~iizerhe aphoris~lls s cllc 11lost i n i ~ n c d i a t c l ~ r accessible texts, which latur turn o u t r o 11c (he I I I O S L l - c l ~ ~ c r a ~ lyield 10 t their n ~ u l r i ~ > l eu s i o ~ ~' s . I c n~:lstersro I ~ I I O I I I KI-i111s rel;~t~~cl (;corg i l ~I is f11.r Lichlcnberg and Nictischc. both of \ v h o ~ nalso I ~ I L I I I ~ l l [he ;~plloris~ll i a deceptively discursive t;~rln, the greatrsr conder~sacior~n chc surticc ;IS i r o

Kr;~as'siphorisnrs ;IW e a s y to get illto bur much harder t o get our of. Flashes o f intcn~perance, dizzying anrithescs, and systeniatic at firsc seem t ~ e r f ~ ~ n c t o r i l ydelineate a trenchant, domineering chal-actcr. to If, however, one explores h i s other works, the clariry disperses. Anyone

208 . A Ci1inc.s~ K4zii

emerged from language, a form that has "something dark, concentrated, obscurely violenc . . . -entirely opposed to the maxim, which is a n adage at the service of fashionable society, and worn smooth to the y o i n ~ beof coming lapidary, while the aphorism is as unsociable as a stone . . . (but a . . stone of mysterious orlgln, a heavy meteor that would seek to be vaporized as soon as it falls).""+ Compared to his great predecessors, Kraus will again exacerbate that lex minimi that for Jean Paul was t h e t o k e n of Witz," because he was drawn even more than they were to a f o r m where t h e distinction between t h e m e a n d development was a r ~ r ~ u l l ewhere d, every element was ar the sarne time material and structure. T h e accusation, first formulated by Kraus's early critics and many times repeated, that his essays were "mosaics of aphorisms" is thus all too cxacr, b u t this is a sign n o t of weakness but, rather, of their originality o f form. Indeed, many of his aphorisms, which Kraus collected in three volumes, appear for the first time in the text of his essays, and they are equally in t h e right place whether isolated o r interwown. Their perspective changes, however, even when Kraus lifts thern from the text without making any o f his customary alterations. N o w preceded and followed b y silence. stripped of presuppositions and consequences, the words of this writer w h o weighed every derail o n the scales ofabsoluce justice explicitly take o n t h a t excess of truth ("an aphorism never coincides with the truth; it is either a half truth or a truth and a halfn)4" that redeems all of Kraus's work from t h e coercion of the law a n d its weapon: proof. For "it is not a question o f 'proving' a thought to a reader, since a proof is not a r h o ~ g h t . " ~ ' a n y times M the aphorism succeeds, as Kraus demands, in "getting ahead o f t h e truth." Superbly: "It should jump over it in a single bound."" This is a severe requirement, a n d the reader will necessarily be slow t o discover which aphorisms actually correspond to it. H e may even be surprised to find them allnost hidden in the middle of idiosyncratic outbursrs, nervous flutters that d o not try to be anything more. Ru[ this too c o r r c s ~ o n d s a to principle that Kraus always followed: to seek the most ephen~eral pretexts, to occupy the nlost degraded materials, t h e most corrupted forms, so that often his finest aphorisms nre and should he hard to distinguish f r o m generalizing plntit~ides about life.

1 c o ~ ~ lnot have I 7 u i l t rhe (; Mi111 witllc7~1t ci curril~g veins o f the cirrth. I" tl~c - M ~ I I~ ~ P ~ I Y
OF 1 t i E GREAI

Here is how Kraus's work looks from the outside: Pages are .scr~lr~g cve~ily pagcs. The! may have turncd ~ L I b c ~ ~ c l 011 L or worse-hut in a peculiar concaren;~tioll,whjch is purely ourward, they keep on going with no necessary end i11 sight. . . . An overall srruct~~ral principle is ncvcr prescnt. For the srructurc. lacking as a whole, is present in every sentence 2nd is instantly conspicuous."' And here is how it looked to Kraus: When I begin a work, at rhe moment 1 rake my pen in hand, I have no itlea of the srructure or the particulars of the work. And yct after having writren rhe frsr proposition, I already feel, from its grammatical rension, how long thc work will be, and this has never deceived me. (One could compaw this feeling with that of an engineer, who recognizes thc cornplccc arch of a bridge frorti irs juncrion.) The writing rhen proceeds \\,ithour i n rerruprion until I am completel~. ~ h a u s t e d . ~ ' e Except this is not a bridge. Kraus's work connects only with the soil o n which it grows. It belongs to another grarnmar of space, of which there is n o closer example than the Great Wall of China, which also provided the title fur o n e o f Kraus's astonishi~lg essays. It srretchcs o u t , compact a n d endless; many have seen its fortificntio~ls,uniformly squared, but few have made the coniplete circuit, which takes years, and n o o n e would be able t o tell you the form of the whole. Elias Canetti, in Vienna around 1930, made a stubborn tour around that wall and left a description o f it that is a perfect gloss o n Kafka's story:
a Sentence joins senrcnce, piece joins piece i n ~ o (;rear Will oF(:hina. I t is joined equally well; n o one knows wh;lr i r acrually enclosbur es. Therc is no cnlpire bryond this wirll, rhc w:lll itselfis tllc et11~)irc; rhe all

juices of [he ernpire rhar ma). have existed wcnr i ~ ~ chis \\,all, 111ror b cotiro i srrucrion. N o one can tell wliar was inside or what was outsidc; rhc empire la). on both sides, the wall stands r o ~ v a r j s horh the inside ;rnd the. ourside.

'1.h~wall is evcryrhinS, cyclopr,ui end in itself, rhrough [he world, ut3hill, do\\nt~ill,thrrrugh dalcs and plains and very many dessrts. Since rhc w:~llis alive, ir may chink rhat evcr!.rhing else is ciesrro~ed. f irs O armies, which p o p ~ ~ l a r c d which had ro guard i t , only 3 single, lollrsome it. senrry is Isti. This lonesome srnrry is also its lonesorne expander. Wherrver he looks into rhe countryside, he feels the need to erccr a f~lrthcr secrion. -1.k most diverse marcrials offer rhemselves; hc is ahlr to form them on [his wall for years. and ir will into Ilew ,lshlars. O n e can

fizr-kc4 ( M d r c h 1906) in


~ I L I ? ~ o~fc rI c n l ~ r k s collected ~1ndc.r tlie headiilg

Y b j ~ L L ~ " ( r u b h i s hA.n d w h a t will s ~ ~ a d u b i o u s cl1:tractt.r talk a b o u t as ) ch h e sirs uncerenionic>usly in o n e o f t h e city's coffeehouses i f n o r czhout ~cloinen? f rhese first aphorisms, m a n y deal w i t h w o m e n , a n d ttie worldO ly priority o f this topic over others will he rnnintaincd in t h e three collections o f a p h o r i s ~ n s h < ~follow over rhe yeal.s: T h e first sectioli o f .Spriiche t t ulzd IVzderspriir-he (1909) hears the title " W o m a n . F a n t a s y ; t h e first o f 1'i.o

~ I o m o ~tcundo ~t (1()12), "Ahour w o ~ n a l l a b o u t Morality"; the first o f Aicrd~ts ,

(1918) is d e ~ o t e do "F.ros." S u c h regularity ~ i i u s surely have m u c h signifit t cance for a captious form;ll spirit like Kraus: As in Mozart's Don C" ~zoijannz, t h e light a n d g r i m overture t o his work comes, t o ever), degree, u n d e r rhe sign (*woman. H e r e t h e n r t w o r k o f antitheses a n d conflicts hegills ro get k n o t t e d , arid t h e tourney o f contradicticlns opens thar will r u n t h r o u g h every o n e o f his pages. A n d t o cover u p s o m e w h a t the subtle grL~fting operation, Kraus here pl;lys at h i d i n g himself in a fairly d i s r c p ~ l t a b l c social guise, t h a t o f t h e cnrcrraincr, a n d t h e f rrce, divine face o f F.ros flaslies fort11 i l l Viennese drawillg-roo111 chatter. R u t even in the c>thei-registers o f the work, successively revealed in t h e f rst ten years o f D i e /+rc.keI, w o t u a n m a i n t a i n s h e r initiating f ~ l n c r i o n .First o f all, i l l t h e satire o n topics o f everydajr life: Afrer a rapid, dcvasrating, b u t n o r indispens,lhlc tiigrcssion t h r o u g h t h e scandals o f K a k a n i a , t h e r e Follow in q ~ ~ i csl ~ ~ c c e s s i otlie < n stock exchange, t h e trade ~ ~ ~ ~ iindustry, thc. ~ ~ n i v e r s i t t h, e m e n u with ons, y which the K r u p p s pI3cate j o ~ l r ~ l a l i s:IT 3 r e c e p t i o ~(~h e sanle K r u p p s w h o rs t d o c k t h e wages o f their workers for t h e d a y of rhc Kaiser's visit t o t h e fittory, a n h o n o r that dispenses with h o d ) . l ' h e first pretext rhat finally a n d forever separates Kraus f r o m t h e deadly addicrion t o prcrexrs is rhat peculiar sc:l~ldalthar "begins w h e n the police p u t a n crid ro it":' govcrnnlent intervention o n t h e side o f sexual n ~ o r a l i W i t h issue 11 j o f D e f i ~ r k e l t~ i (September rgozi, w h i c h is rakcn LIP a l ~ n o s r cnrirely by a piece entitled "Sittlichkeit u n d Kriminaliriir," rhe form o f Kraus's essays emerges cornplere: Anrplc q u o t a t i o n froin Shakespeare. Lvickedly a t t u ~ i e d t h e presro enr, introduce t h e e x c i r e ~ n e n t f [he tritest c o u r t proceedings-;I o trial for in adultery!-oil a cosn1ic scale. T h e feniale sex. g ~ l i l t y its origin. starids rlways at t h e center o f rhese instances o f nlalc jusrice: (:ocotres, procuresses, adulteresses, a n d prostitutes appear in sortiid c o u r t r o o m s t o b e subsyrrelri rh:lr rnikcs it possihlc i;~silyro jected t o t h e vexltions o f a j ~ ~ r i d i c a l tllClrr:lligc o f i l l control [he misery o f rhe civilizarion inflicting it. Fi~i:~lly, tenrionally lirerary essays, which will later include, amollg othel.s. t h e t w o

never come to ,in ~ n d . ~ ? Ccrtainly, this builder's xctiriry is a very strange o n e , :tnd h e himself insisted o n distinguishing it clearly fronl o t h e r writing possibilities: ~ r While, for example, 1 cleem myself nothing b ~ an ordinary pro/~ositiow huildtv; innoccnr of any effecr 011life and ofan): ethical rnh;~ncemcnrchat I i i i ~ ~ u i g e I>roJ~lcc. c;io nrrerthclcss withi11 [his modest rctiriry I think I llavc more reasons ro h c megalomaniac rhan everyrhing char today c.ills itself writer, ~I10~lgh;tIways ~til.ecr the inren\ity of work and sensibility I all only to rhc single proposition and Ilever, 1;)1 cxnmplc, ro a novel (2nd just [he same for t.;lch t>rot30sirion,so char there call hc no diffcrcncc in value a ~ i i o ~ my Ixoposiirioos, 2nd cich co~~srrucrion ig appears e c l ~ ~ r lhnislieil ly anci well done).'-' C o n v i n c e d t h a t "civilization e ~ d w h e n t h e barbarians flee from s Kraus could I x a r t o live o n l y o n t h e f r o n t i e ~ . ~ ,n :I wall t h a t was b o t h a o sign o f prorection . ~ n d f t h e in1possibiliry o f escape a n d t h a t h e s o m e o rimes called the u,aN o f i i z n g z ~ "I ~ ~ ~0f;e11 close ro rhe wall o f language, ~ a111 ~ : a n d n o w I carcll o n l y its echo. O f t r ~ i bash illy head againsr the w:lll o f I language."" W h e n , i i i his last years, Ire was accuscci o f b e c o m i n g inconiprehensible a n d inaccessible, it was because t h e sentry, squeezed a civilizarion a b a n d o n e d by [he barbarians a n d a barbarism b r o u g h t U P o n civilization, felt "buried alive"i" in t h e wall a n d n o w t u r n e d o n l y t o the ondcrgrc)und streams o f water t h a t h a d l o n g been f l o w i ~ l g there. Every art is erotic.



Disguised as a cynical flxneur whose wisecracks i m p a r t a knowledge oflife

by definition suspcct, K r a r ~ s h e a p h o r i s t a p p e a r s w i t h issue 198 o f t

De i

menlorable ones o n Nestroy and Heine, starts in June 1905 with a discussion of Frank X'edekind's Paridol-n? Box; in those pages, myth makes its entrance in the narrow arena of a circus cage. O n e must, however, rake the aphorisn~s a guide if one is to find, beas hind the flurry ofwitticisms, those morganatic associations that for Kraus will alway relnai~ladamantine bonds. First of all, the womanllanguage combination: With radical archaisrl?, Kraus sees in wornan and speech the two fragments of nature that society constantly exchanges and subsumes , in its own pure e l e m e ~ l t money, without ever succeeding, however, in eliminating their still exrraneous features, the gaze they direct at orders other than the civil one. "In the art of language 'what is improperly used' is called metaphor. Therefore nletaphors are perversions of language and perversions are the metaphors of love.'"Vo remove the subjects of the exchange from their function is a perverse practice par excellence, the unforgivable impropriety in social custorn. And in the background of the dark paths o f metaphor a n d perversion, the coniunctio in pleasure of womankind and language is celebrated. T h e erotic relation with the word and observacio~~ the syntactical abuses perpetrated by woman o n soof ciety are the shining aspects of a search, whose sordid reverse side is the de-eroticking of thought in the suppliers of public opinion a n d the persecution o f the woman w h o acts for pleasure or rvc~l-horrors!-for pleasure and money at the same time. O n the level of immediate satire, there is a swarm of vicissitudes gleaned from the judicial annals o f Vienna: Tranrposed into Kraur'r version. they produce moments when we ,night think we are witnessing the "birth of operetta from the spirit o f prose":i" T h e Riehl case (Regine Riehl, brothel keeper), the Hervay case (Leontine vun Hcrva): accused o f bigamy and evil practices), and many others are nlonuments to the ludicrous nature of justice, the majestic heights of :I civilization ignorant of life. Here, then, at the center are the hammered and indelible sentences ("A trial for from individual imcrimes agail1rt decency is the necessary & v e l o p r ~ ~ e n t nroraliry to a g,enerxl o n e , against whose grim background the assured p i l t of the defendant l u m i l l o ~ ~ s l y stands while a11 around it revolves an inexhaustible and gilded ronde, the social romance &Vienna, dreadful bur al\vaYs-it is a point of honor-light. Indignation, by itself generally makes for bad poetry, b u t the perfec-

even more of those o n similar thel-ncs in the result o t a se~lsrlalalliance bctwcell feudal horilage and vengeful raptus. %'alter Benjamin correctly saw there the shadow of R:iudelairc, who was the fir-stto establish the "soli-

tion o f these prose pieces-and

Uio c.l/i~it,~-iJ.c.lie hi'uuer, four years later-is

Kr:lus. as heir o f the great darity of rhe a x i l o f letters with the dandy, wllistled "biting nlinuets . . . to the chiissi-i-roiiiof Justitia and VC~LIS."'~' never had anyone shown so plainly char what is frightful And about Jmritia is not so much her p~rnirive aspect. which any sort o f hurnanitariallism is q ~ ~ i co illitigate, as her ignorarlce and clumsy incomtk petence before the facts o f life; and that V e n ~ ~who e v e r ~ w h e r e s, weaves her immoral plots. in the s l u n ~ and in thc most austel-e offices, is always a s benevolent adviser to one's intelligence. an adviser w h o has. :Inlong her prime tasks, the indispensable one of mocking society.

tique, e.xcessif: romine tous b p l ~ P ~ ~ u m P romnnilts

tiqzxi, ma2.i tr?~.sain.[Hatred of the bourgeois
is a

romantic phenunleno~l, rxcessive like all


roniantic phenomena, but very sound.]


For [Mizzi Vcith] did indeed lead a certain kind of life. And not by herself, according to what they say. A brutal stepfather prevented her from becoml~ ing a rrlcphone operator. Nor did he allow hcr to work in a n ~ a t c fidctory or to learn thc tobacco tradc. On the contrary, from hcr early youth, she was obligcd to take lik on irs lighter terms and cultivate an inipulse that is the worst blot o n worltarl: that of pleasing rnerl. Her stepfdther demanded that she be pretty and not even try to hide it. And rhcrcbre he disgraced her into profiting fronr a phpical dcfpct tlliit human ariety dcenrs worthy of only a penny of :ilms and its own contempt. Had she been born without hands, t o live rhis way would hi~vc heel1 dcccnt, nlbeit punisJ~able for ~agabotlda~e. since her hands were beautiful, ihe was i fake cripi~le. 13ur thereh~rc dishonest, m d thre:ircsed ly the 1 ; : ~ g ~ i ~ ~ , s r ~ v:~g;ibo~rda~c.thc ill1 same. l ' h e fathcr, who had not forced those h a n d s to rui11 thcnlsclvcs working a t a bctory bench, hehavcd with her Iikc a criminal. She siunk so low that her figure ended by being emphasized by her coilette instead OF

being hidden bchinc! .In apron. Such exhibitions arc ;I h r m of prosritutiorl, ancl those who ahandon rhcmsclvcs to them arc 311 tile 111o1.c~ C S F ~ S C ~ L since by doing so, they r~~-ousc ncsrllctic cnjoymcnt in the indigndnt an spccr;iror, the Jcfccts showri I,y orher cripples arouse only moral sells;ltio~ls. AIIC~ ~ X C I I S ~ ;i wo~llall the 1hat can't help i~ if ~ 1 1 ~ hc;~utifill 's \vill nc\cr acccplcd by socicry, since rhc. latrcr h,ls ctr~~ntlcss ~t it.; disvcils P(l\rll r(, ~ ~ ~ l c e l; l ~ A f:ltJlerwho Fosters c)r rolcrares s~lell ~ h i h i t i o ~ ~ s t l c\ri[, r beconlcs gLliltyof a crime. Mizzi Veith was hro~ightLIP to c:lrn t ~ l e ~ s ~oir~ - c f herself and with i t the scorn of bourgeois sociery.('j

now rlia~fire has ignited rhc lious~.. 'l'hc soci,ll structures that should h . 1 ~ ~ guardc~i l l c i ~ c ~ I arid protected us are valued as fi~el.'l(,

Kraus, smiling o n i i n o ~ ~ s l conternplatcs the sanctinlony of rhat "cony, tiniioi1s amazelncnt that nature has failed to allot the same measure of insufficie~~c~ to both scxcs; t h ~ it ha5 creittcd woman, for whom pleasurc is t only a forerastc of pleas~11.e, and man, w h o is left exhausted by Hc observes, and \vithout expressing an opinion, he begins to channel a flood o f associations. Meanwhile, he suggests that what he has noted a b o u t woman also applies to nature itselfi likewise, the ridiculous and authoritarian part of man is also that of society and the spirit. All the themes o n which German philosophy, from Kanr onward, had discoursed, with its of tendency toward solemn moralizing about the b c h a ~ i o r man, are here surrepritiouslp derided, because the poisonous thread o f sexuality has been introduced into the h b r i c of the discussio~l.Any prolegomenon t o future metaphysics now leads directly t o libertine witticisms. T h u s , o n the basis of certain neglected sexual observations, Kraus elegantly, firmly, and quietly dismantles the platform of dignity. And against the light, he already sees all of Western civilization taking refuge in the back roorns o f Chinatown laundries, where are preservcd excited letters El-on1 ladies beyond suspicion t o a Chinese waiter, t h e gentle, impeccable satisfier o f white worrien w h o beconles, on occasion, their murderer. O f course, the ladies who hastened toward the "great bach o f p l e a ~ u r e " ~ ~ i n dens of rhe impulse to Chinatown did n o t know thep were being moved by t h e s c ~ m e salvation that Wesrern civilization clumsily tries to suppress: "the yellow hope"!'"' But though clarity was never great in sociery in this movement a n d was grcar, if limited, in its Indics, in Kraus, on the othcr hand, clal-ity was so prominent rhat he diligenrly lisred rhe reasons for this impulse. H e inventcd a utopian ~ l ~ o d ewhich corresponds in many respects with the l, historical reality of China, in the manner of the eighteenth-century theorists but with different intentions:


111t h a t remote epoch, s o m e people-who

d i d n o t share the tendency, wllicll today has become a sign of nirturity, of no[ acknowledging r h e b i p a r t i t i o ~ lo f h u m a n k i n d " ("it has n o t yer been recognized by sci~nce"!)(~~-~~sed to construct, demolish, and construcr all over again tables ofvices and obligatory virtues for man and woman. Nietzsche had recalled the whip and Ariadne; August Strindberg, in his Rzidyei- ALE f i u , restified to the exnheranr comedy of the war between the sexes, and there was an undoubred pang to it; Wedekind hunted down the last specimen of wornan as Wild Beast in the sa\rdust and papier-m;ic\li of the circus; Peter Altenberg lovingly described his erotic little girls; O r t o Weininger, in a scientific frenzy, tabulated fernale defects and at%rnled the original biscxuali~y that Freud, during his shadowy friendship wirh Wilhelm Fliess, was convinced he had discovered. It seldonl occurred co anyone that mythology and Pl;lto's Syiwpoiiiivi might ti:lvc ~ n ~ to suggest along rhese lines; rhe ~ c h age of inrhropological corninon sense was only rbour to begin, and in rhe tribe of Europe ttlc numr,.tii clniriiri rras h t i l l in force. Ar this surprising pc~iot came the ubiquitous iniilrmtiol, o f sex: Nietzschc rphorizril, " T h e degree and kind of a man's s e r ~ ~ a l i reaches u p inti, thr cupiiiosr sum mi^ ty of his And what far our earlior oncerrors llad hccn a cosmic irnpIicarion llow had ro he discovered a ~ ~ d - c r p c r i ise c social desriny, that o is. natural cnt:~srro~hc,n the occ:~sionof its fearfill rc;~wakcning: W'c have built our hut5 o n .I cr;lrcr t h , ~ twc thought was \ t r 1 1 r , WC. have spohll ivitll Il;l[urc 1 1 h ~ l l i i ; l nI:lng~~;~gc. since lie did not ondcrvi~ndits and
wc c l l o ~ l ~t h ~ i wotllci 110 Io~lg,cr IIIOVC. . qrc I1:1ve ciared to *,arm .. our ferr at rhc s;~crccl rhal once roused the malc spirit to action. And fire

A (Zhincsc Jocs not co111111il when he cornmirb i t . He docs n o t need ;I sin

scruples of conscience to find pleasure in l i e is l)acltward hccausc he has 11otyet hnishcd licluicl;lting the treasures ofthought that have accumulated for him over thousands of ycnrs. . . . Hc is a juggler \vho comcnglgcs his mands life and love with a finger, while ihc panting ;~rhlctc whole person. . . . Ile kcrps morality ant1 131c:~sc~re scpar:lte ancl rli~ls prcvents them from being a ~luisance. . . He is not sentimcnral and does not .




Chinese Wall

A Chinese Wall .


have that lack of economy i r i the soul [hat we call morality. He does not two know the duty to love his neighbor, where it rcquirrs t h a ~ he hanged with one noose. His life is quite removed from a ~ i c k ethics that weakcns the strong Inan, sirlce i t cnioins him ro protecr [he weak. . . . He lives ft~lly ;~nd feels no need for chc humanitarian spil-ir. . . . (:onvinccd r l l d r he is replaceable, h e gives cxccprional proof of a social sense that in Western crhics is disguised egois~rl.He is able to m;~lie room; his love for his neighbor operates not in a spatial diniensiori b ~ a~temporal o ~ c He does nor r . live in the delusion of individuality, which tries t o asscrr itself'iri he world of bcrs. He submerges himself in [he recming Inass of the crowd ~ n is thus d indistinguishable ro himself as to the eyes ofothers. Since all are cql~al, they can do wirhouc the benefits of democracy."'


origin is the goal"72-Kraus's secret is hinted at in this Line. A n d it is precisely [he word "origin" that has attracted the interest o f crirics, from certain well-intentioned apologists, who have seen in it an appeal to "aurhenticity," a word that o n some lips is a stab in the back, to various thoughtful castigators who have recognized in it a vicious supersticion, so that Kraus seems reactionary to more advanced minds. (Sonietirnes they add: what a pity, since he was antimilitarist.) And i t is hard to say which is more gross: the enlightened, progressive intelligence, which sniffs the stench of elitism in anyone w h o thinks for the pure vice of thinking o r even simply pays attention to words, or the parvenu of the spirit, for whom nothing is sufficiently fi-ee II-vrricontact with modern life; remote from the vulgarity of the times, of which hc himself is a striking example, he is the last descendant of all those who followed the precepts succinctly stated irl Gilbert and Sullivan's Pntiet~ce:
Be eloquent in praise of the very dull old days which have long since passed nway, And convince 'em, if you can, that rhe reign of good Queen Annc was Culture's palmiest day. Ofcoursc you will pooh-pooh whatever's fresh and new, and declare ir's crude and mean, For Art sropped shorr in the cultivared court of chc Ernpress Josrpliinr. . . . . . . . . -. a sentimencal passion of a vegetable fashion must excite your 1hen languid spleen. An atrachmeur i lir Plaro for a bashfill young porato, or a nor-cool French French bean!"

Kraus's insolent asides-on incessant female sensuality and tnale sexual ineptitude, o n the pleasure of the woman who provokes the spirit of man, o n such disastrous anthropological irnpoverish~nentsas the \\loman who also has a brain a n d the m a n who also has an insistent sex~~ality-must all be traced back to the peculiar function exercised by nntithesis in his work. First ofall, if Kraus is not a thinker but a language that thinks, then it will come as n o surprise that his ideas should present thenlselves in pairs of opposites, as is especially required by the structure of language, which, from its bilateral phonological oppositions to thc fatal bif~~rcarions the of abstract lexicon, is built o n opposition. Rut it would be naive to considcr Kraus's curt statements, the abrupt caesuras that recur in his pages, as binding: O n e must always keep in m i n d that what is at stake here is the extrerne truth of the aphorism. A n d as a surplus over truth, these aphorisms c o n s t i t u ~ e device that is of n o use in describing the world of opposites, a only in making it now translated into a language of opposites. It is usefi~l revolve toward its origin, which docs n o t acknowledge them: "'The antithesis is not included in creation. For in t h e latter all is inconlparable and devoid of contradictions. O n l y separation of the world from the creator makes room for the longing that for every opposite f nds its lost image."" Here that privare cosmogonic abyG over which all o f Kraus's work hangs suspended suddenly opens. I n this writer who demanded the absolute in fine print but did not refer to any explicit crrtainty, rhc word "origin" crops LIP in crucial passages. "Y0u remained at the origin. 'l'he

But t h e question remains: "Whar's t h e use o f yearning for Elysian Fields when you know you can't get 'em, and would only let 'em o u t o n building leases if you had 'em?"'4 According to two prevailing strands o f Western thought, the origin can be invoked as a reference either to nature or to a prirnz~m[hat is both chronological a n d metaphysical. Kousseau a n d l'latci stand as leading spokesmen for these tlvo paths. In Krails, o n the other hand, the origin does n o t have a clear ancestry. although o n c can recognize the Hebraic phylogeny in ir:'I-his origin, which is only "the in which the word dissolves its ~ ~ ~ is l t , only extraneous but hostile t o conceptualization, i nor




Wl al

A Chinese Wuli . rr9

unable ro transform itself into an instrument. It does not serve to pay homage to historical or prehistorical models. Kraus, this theologian o f language. offers n o verbal exits. If anything, he offers only an orienration ofone's gaze:'l'he word, wich all thc heavy armor of its antitheses, canllot d o more than turn toward thc fluidity of thc origin and reecho-nor thing. There would be state-the Xdaniic intermingling of sound : ~ n d nothing niarvelous in rhe word wirhout the look i r sends far back, the farrhesr from itself and everything, when it is contemplated in its clandestine encounters wich the writer: "The closer one observes a word, the farther back ir sends one's gaze.";" And all this serves as presentirrient, wirh nothing imperarive about it; here it is not H a m a n n speaking, o r a latterday cabalist, but "only one of the epigones 1 who live in rhe old house of language. "-' And yet, unlike many who glori& rhe origin, Kraus does not see in the epigone a spent force; indeed, for him, it is only for rhosc who live in the end that the origin is freed from the misleading ambiguity of thepf-imum. This was clearly ~inderstood Benjarrlin: by Now if language . . . is a womdn, how fir is [he aurhor rcrnoced, by an u n erring insrincr, from [hose who hasrcn to be rhc first wirh h c ~ Ilow rnulti, fariously he forms his ~hought, which incircs her- wirh intuition, rather rhan slakc her with knowledge, how he lets harred, ionrempt, rnalice ensnare one anorher, how he slows his srcp and sceks [he detour of epigonism i n ordrr finally ro give her thc ple;~su~-e i s [he sum of a 1 rhc [hat 1 previous ones plus the ldsr thrust that Jack [[he Ripper] holds in r.cadincs.\ for I . ~ l u . ' ~


served a world that continued to produce machines that it could not conceive:The grear social theories are i n certain ways also to be classified among such machines, huge experimental apparatllses that, under laboratory conditions, were to operare o n all humanity. For the age is experimentaland in art less than elsewhere; indeed, the greatest experiment takes place where the capacity to imagine i t is lacking. In this sense, World War 1 is the unsurpassed experimental event of the cenrury. And that is how Kraus saw ir. For himself, he chose the opposite path. Whnr the age did without perceiving it hnd to be experienced and expressed by Kraus, by a hidden accord of counterbalances indissolubly linking the two parts. Like his master Nestroy, Kraus knew that art is "the quickest connection between a gutter and the Milky Way,""" and in exercising it he found himself conrinually invaded by the swarm of implicit hallucinations that wcre nor consumed by everyday banality. Thcse are images projecteci on the "wall of fire"8' in front of his desk, n t night, and they are also voices, bomb fragnients ofsentences that loom during the day and grow gigantic in the darkness: T h e page of the newspaper, for example, is immediately translated into a n oral jumble. As in a f~lble, Kraus knows h e is doomed to hear rhese voices fbrever. All the inflections, accents, cadences-[hey envelop him acousticslly, challenging, jecring, piercing. This spiritualism wirh rhe living was forced on Kraus by the precision of his ear. For him, the quotation is firsr ofall a magical means. Whatever he quotes has been felt as a threatening, hallucinatory presence. but in the end i t has been overcome by the fury of rhe has wrenched the ghoulish writer who, lying in wail like a words from their zoutext to enclose thcrn forever, as though in amber, i n their stiff and ultimately revealing gesture in the pages o f Dir Fackel. Thev rerain few signs of the treatment-ar mosr some typographical spacingand the perfect example is the one in which there is n c visible rrace of rhe shamanic operation.

There is another imporrant corollary to the rheorem about woman and language. As early as 1903, Kraus wrote thac in the origin o f r h e sexrs, is "woman's free sens~~alirythe full value by which nature cornpensated her This myrhical division of elc~nents when i r gave imagination to mall. qives rise t o a complex game ofcxchangcs a n d I>alances by which art is nourished. 'l'hus, the society thac has domesticated eros sin~ultaneously
1 1 ,



undergoes a n atrophy of thc imaginarion: in the end, the two events coincide. And society kecps going precisely b e c a ~ ~ isteis incap:lble ofimagining rhe separ;ltio~lfi-on1 life in which i r contil~ues live. K ~ ~ a u s obto thus

"It is deeply roored in K ~ ~ L Inature, and it is rhe stigma of every debate S'S concerning him, char all 'lpologetic arguments miss theil. mark. T h e grear work of L.eopold Liegler springs from a n apologetic posrure. 7% ccrtifiKraus as a n 'erhical personaliry' is his firsr objective. -rhar cannot be d o ~ ~ e . T h e dark background from which his image detaches itself is not formed by his contemporaries, h t ~ r rhe primeval world o r the world o f rhe is




demon."a.5 Every magical encounter presupposes ;I profoond mingling of opposing forces: This is why the apologetic defrnsc of Krilos ir so inadequate in trying to make him inlo a kind nfcharnpion of good causes, a "defender of the rights of the individual" and whatever nobler things an inert imagination is able to come u p with. He wls all this too, of course. But Kraus's relations with the world seem much darker, more ambigl~ous, infernal: He was compelled, driven by his demon in the midst of demons. In many issues of D e Fackei a feeling of oppression was produced by the i endless flow of print, page after page without ;I single heading, ivhere. once involved, one gets the feeling of being caught in a thickening tangle, a sense o f urgency that takes one's breath away. the omnipresence of an avenging judgmenr All these allude to the scenes of torture that take place in the cellars of the Great Wall, scenes in ivhicli Kraus does not only play the part of victim. What goes on there, what exchange of torments and pleasures, can only be perceived at intervals. But a bargain-priced nobility is insufficient today. And besides, it is vulgar. Not by chance, it was Elias Canetti, one of the great experts on presentday delnonry, who ivrote tlrr only eyewitness account on this aspect of Kraus. There are few pages so illuminating-about Kraus or their author. Canetti describes a state that many experienced but, paralyzed either by adoration or a deserter's hatred, were unable to talk about: their obsession with Kraus, who transformed many of his admirers into purely emotional zombies. Himself ruled by voices, Kraus ruled through his voice. For Canetti, the experience of Kraus's readings" is the moment when his captivating power was symbolically discharged:
In spring r1)24-1 had only jusr returned ro Vienna a few wccks earlier-

took him years to free himself. He condenses in a few lines the demonic tension of that period of his life:
For ar rhar r i ~ n e t r ~ ~exprrirncccl \ c h ~itt n1e;uns to live in a dictarorship. I ly I was irs volunrary, its devorrd, its pdssionatc a n d enthusiasric follower. Ally h e o f K x l Kraus's was

c o r r u p t , dn immoral crcature. A n d even

r h o ~ 1 ~ i1 1never rcachcd the point, as was cusromary in subsequenr dictar torships, of exterminating the alleged vermin, 1 nevertheless had whar I must confess, ro my sharne, 1 had whar 1 cannot rcrm any differently, I had m y "Jewsn--people w h o m I snubbed when passing them in rcstnuranrs or on [he srreer, whom 1 d i d nor deign to look ar, whose lives did nor concern

me, wlio were ourlawcd a n d banished for me, whose [ouch would have sullied m e , w h o m I quite earnestly did nor count as parr of humarlity: [he victims and enemies o f Karl Kraus.6-


friends rook m e ro m y firsr lecrure by Karl Kraus. T h e huge c ~ ~ n c c r r - h o u a e d i t o r i u ~ n su was j a ~ ~ i m e Id s;~rfilr in back, able . tosee very lirtlc ar char disrance: a small, rather frail m,In, slightly hunched, wirh a face char came ro a poinr below, of iln increciible a g i l i r ~ the movernenrs o f w h o m I did nor uncicrsr;~nd,they 1:ad sornerhing of;ln ~ ~ n k n o w n creature to [hem, a newly discovcrc~l ~ n i m a lI, could not hi~ve ; said which. n His voice was sharp a n d agirated a n d easily dominarcd the a l ~ d i ~ o r i u rin sudden and f r q u c n r i ~ l r r n s i f ; c a t i o ~ l s . ~ '

Canetti saw i n those readings rhc sple~rdor n law that scorched and deof srroyed in its fervor.^'^ He was violently engulfed by Kraus's power, and i t

"Nothing more distressing than his followers, nothing more lost than his adversarie~."~Tolitary amid these ruins, Kraus had a relationstrip with his enemy object that has nothing to do with the good conscience of an accuser. To approach it, one is obliged to set foot in a secret zone, where Krai~s's connection with the world will appear to be of a different orderat worst, reversed. Having passed the barrier of burning light, one now enters a place of lasting twilight, and there once again o n e finds the countless voices a n d specters that had besieged Kraus's desk for so many years. But this time they are there with the tacit consent of the writer, who never came to terms with them. They are waiting for something: They are postponing dcath, because in Kraus's heart was the mad Jewish rejection of death, the struggle with the jealous Lord to hold onto life. T h e figures in every sci~ndal collected to expunge the primordial scanarc dal, \irllich is death itself. Unlike Stefan George. who tried by ceren~onies to separate himself from the rabble that honored him (a "flight from time toward eternity" that was rather the "flight u f a contemporary toward the hieratic"),"' Kraus does not mind ~ n i n g l i ~with the foulest everyday rublg bish in order to involve i t in words. For hc is certain that ifthe word is not interrupted, dcath is forestalled. With the violence of hiblicnl char:lctcrs when they turn to the Lord. Kmus revealed i l l two of his most important poems-"Todesfurcht" and "Range Stunden-the root of his obsession:

to write endlessly is the u l t i ~ n a t e exorcis~ngranred him by time to stave off death. H c live5 with de:lth, hecai~sethe word directed lo the origin is ~s it as endless, and t h ~ thc hellish fornls that r>vol<e t~roliferatc always. And this word ij irlL.or.po,uted'"' in those f;gl~rcs: rhcy hang in

weakliesses but also certain c l ~ ~ a l i that were scarcely apparent in the tics pe\,ious phases). I he stylistic lineage is obvious: the extreme syntactical mobility. the quivering play of nutitheses that devour each other only to

hloodsr;lincd chxin

horn my Form the m a n y h r m rhxt you have gr;unred rne to kecp . ~ n d a blessed bond of pain in endless voices from my mourh."'
I t is now clearer

be promptly regenerated, words u r ~ e x p e c t e d l brandished like es~ cutcheons, c o n t e m p t for g~.adualness, aphoristic tension in cvery sentence-all this comes from Kraus. as does tlie construction of a stage o n which to place society and culture. Benjamin will add his mournful, exalted sense of allegory; Adorno, an incipient yet already rigid formalization of thought h u t especially an inexorable and unequaled eye for industry, as revealed in his most admirable book h1inima Mortrliiz. And in music he will n o longer read the cosr-tios but the astral light o f the psyche, of forms, and ofsociety. Nature, ambivalent stand-in for the religious element, is in Kraus not only an object of thought but also n model of thinking, the site of the manifold play ofappearance. Kram has n o t just one thought, but m:uny. H e ignores philosophy;

how tlie pages o f D i r Eat-krlfilnctioncd as a ~nagicalbar-

rier, as is the reason for the tendency to fill them entirely with type, elimiL3e;lth ~ ; I I infiltrate cvery i~ltersticel l the Great W~III. I i Faced nating he;~ds: with extinction, Krnus recognizes that he is e n t a ~ l g l e d a n enormous in chain with his ow11specters: All of them, bound to hi111forever, will have ing t o join hi111 in c o ~ r s t r a i ~ ~death; unlimited existence must he imposed o n the most mortal forms in the world. In this blasphemous refusal lies Kraus's true prophetic gesture. D a m n i n g o r saving himself b u t always dragging behind hini, as in a ~neciievsl 'Iiiunlph, all that he himself has condemneci: This move of p ~ ~ frenzy alone cancels whatever blinding efre fect his satire may have. Beyond the imaginary theater of voices and hallucinations, it re-creates a faint curtail1 of light, which this time, however, does not destroy but conceals, allowing everything to go o n spinning its crazy wheel. " H e used t o s;ly he w o ~ ~ like t o live forever, that he didn't ld t>elieve he w o u l ~ i have to die . . . 'That the spirit ought to have tile power to prevent death. . . . H e snid verhatiri1: 'Only in a state of madness can 1 fall into the hands of death. It's not trlre that (;oerhe dicd pe~~cefi~lly. He howled for three days and three nights because of his fear oEdying.'"'"

if he reads Nietzsche or Schopenhauer or Kant, it is primarily

because they are great writers. His maniacal insistence on precision in language is combined with a surprising indifference to the discipline ofspeculation. He stands LIP in the midst o f ths tribe and speaks; a prior certainty acconipnnies his gestures. This is n o longer so in Benjamin: Agnostic condemnation of reality as such is instilled in him horn the beginning. along with repugnance at recognizing its dark ancestry. So Benjamin became a Marxist: All of nature appeared to be ensnared-by magic-ir~ guilt. But in nature lies the only possible liberation: T h e r e the messianic light appears that will later be called revolution. For those w h o turn t o d o o m e d nature, destiny, having now become only a b n l e f ~ ~ l power, has destruction in store. T h i s is explained i l l Benjamin's admirable essay o n Goethe's ElectiveA@rziti~: "If they, n o t caring about the h u m a n , fall prey to the power of nature, then the natural life, which does not preserve irs innocence in man unless i t is linked to a higher life, drags the latter down with it as well."'"'This is a grin1 mythology but it has noble precedents, and it reappears here in ;III its splendor. It was O I I this basis that Benjamin judged Kraus, therehy derivillg the argurliellts to distance himself from him: .l'hat tllr ociologic;~l area never bccomcs transparent ro him-no morc in his atrack o n the press than in his defctise o f prostit~~rion-is conrlcctcti to to of 110t this attaciirncr~t nature. .I.hdt to hirii the fit st;~tc 11li1ri at-,~cars as

GLJlL'l' A N D


In Kraus, thc origin is so srrollg i t lifts thc chain of guilt; io Benjamin r n d t h e ~ i Adorno, the opposite will occur: T h e chain of guilt will forever in blight tlie origin. Kohcrto I3ailen [lied to say that Krlur, Be~lj;lniin.:lnd Adol-no rcprescntrd three successiuc : I I I ~illcreasi~~gly~ i l ~ ~ e r i lwilys o f v ble elmerging h-om the Actually, considering t l ~ c ~ n order, one notes in a progressive decrcasr. in [he alprcity to sust;~inI-ealiry ( b u t i t should be added that, as in every great decadence, each step liberates 11ot only new


. A Chinese Wall

A Chinese Wall .


t h e destiny a n d f ~ ~ l f i l l n ~ o f n a t u r e liberated t h r o u g h revolutionary ent change, b u t as a n clerncnt of nnture per se, o f a n 'lrchaic nature w i t h o u t history, in its pristine, primeval stntc, throws uncertain, disquieting reflections even o n his idea of frecdom and o f t ~ u m a n i t y It is not removed from . the realm o f guilt that he has rravcrsed froru pole to pole: from m i n d to sexuality.""

But actually Kraus does not want to remove himself fro111 guilt; he is not seeking a paradise of origins nor one of postrevolution, and his inflexible immobility has a strength that criticism leaves intact: "Spellbound I stay on this spot, / and I can't go back and don't want to go a\vay.'"Ii Benjamin's mythology, on the other hand, will not resist the temptation to transform itself into historical doctrine, thereby distorting itself and history: T h e fundamental fragment " O n the Mimetic Faculty" sin~ultaneously presents these two faces. Here a flow is already outlined from mimetic power (and hence: speaking nature, chain of guilt, magic as coercion) to the semiotic power of language, understood as a depleting liberation. And to grasp the slavery of prehistory, as his myth requires, Benjamin must suppose a utilitarian origin, one of terrified self-preservation: "[Man's] gift of seeing resen~blances nothing other than a rudiment of the powerful compulsion is in former times to become and behave like something else."'"' What here is concisely alluded to will later be made clear. h r too clear in Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's Diakrtir of'Ei~li~-htenment: splendid pages if we include them in a series of glosses on Odysseus and the Sirens; awkward and f ~ l m b l i n ~ when taken as an interpretation of the past. And this time it is truly a rudiment of the Enlightenment that keeps one from looking back at the origin withour superstitious terror.


''111 this great big time, which I knew when i t was so little, and which will be little again if any time remains to it; and which, a meramorphosis of this kind being i ~ n ~ o s s i b in the sphere of orga~lic c ~ e l o ~ n ~ ewet , le d n should have to call rather a fat time and in truth heavy as well; in this time, in which what could not have been imagined is just what is happening, and in which what can no longer be imagined will have to happc-n. . and which, if it could be imagined, would not happen""-In this great to big time" in which Kraus is f"~ted live, the intermingling of word a n d

thing is not only a dream of the origin but tends more and more to be diabolically fulfilled in everyday reality. To have recognized this constitutes the uniqueness of Kraus's vision of language; he is thus not only one of the last archaic human beings who stabilize with words a rapport prior to any sort of nominalism but also one of the few new human beings to perceive how, at the outset of nominalism. the polluted waters of the word again with the thing. 'l'his is the moment when "pens impiously c o n ~ b i n e AS long as the shells of opinions are dipped in blood and swords in floated on the waters and hid them, a breath of unknown origin still blew over the word, but i t was the word of the end. I f in 1908 Kraus could already declare that, in his view, "the pressure gauge stood at ninety-nine,"YY i t was to demonstrate not a thoughtful expectation of disaster (which i t was not all thar hard to foresee) but the sober certainty that the word was already by this time word of the end-namely, a word standing precisely as a mirror reflection of the origin. He knew very well that "the last days of mankind" were a whole epoch. To turn the word of the end back toward the origin, to live in the mirror deception of a world that destroys not itself but the discriminating spirit in order to produce a deadly equilibrium, a parody of Eden-this requires a paradoxical strategy thar accounts for many of Kraus's methods, including the decision to move in the cot~tinuu m of public opinion, to draw from i t all his materials. For public opinion, that Platonic idea that goes about the city in civilian clothes, by now happily released from any antiquated participation in earthly matters, is the place par excellence for mirror images. Here one can grasp the ultimate reason for Kraus's opposition to Hofmannsthal. Kraus rejects the quest for noble, uncontaminated materials, which for him is a knee-jerk reaction to the "transformation of our tradition into a corporation."'"" (Later years have merely extended this process to Tradition in its exoteric sense.) Indeed, all aestheticism can be seen as the interference of industrious ';te'nographes a c i r h des nuanrfjJ'[sharp stenographers of nuances] ")I who begin to amass and catalog~leprestigious signs in "mythological trunks, rheological hatboxes, and baskets of quotations":Ii" from sensation to taste to vice and to rarity, the great collection that today the multitudes have exclusive access to begins to build up. In the first issue of Llie Fdckel, one already finds Hofmannsthal described as a "collector of gems from all literatures."'(" A few years later he is a c t ~ ~ a l l y compared to Maximilian Harden, the virtuoso of' flowery journalism: "Colnmon to both is the k ~ c t that when they drink wine, they go into


A Chirrese Wall

raptures over the vessel, with this sole difference, rhat Hofmannsthal afterward describes to us the precious stones rhat are mounted o n it, while Harden after ellch sip goes to consult his card file under the letter G, and later Kraus copies whatever he finds writre11 there about g o b l c r ~ . " ' ( ~ ~ ~ n d was to heighten the metaphor still more, writing that t-lofniannsthal "has g o n e o n living, by now soher for s o m c time, from the intoxication o f drinking from gold goblets in which there's n o wine.""'i W h a t Kraus revealed and established for the first time is the m o m e n t in which forrn enters as an essential part of the production process. Style becomes available: It is a commodity administered by civilization like oil reserves a n d the past. T h e claim that olie style is the objective spirit o f a particular moment thereby also disappears. T h e last attempt to aim so high was Art Nouveau, which lived and died in this conrradiction, expressed in the wishful thinking that made the industrial product regress t o a form o f nature. T h e rise of the category of dress, o r rather of presentation-what was designated at the time as "ornamentn-marks the entry o f all of history into the closet. Today all this envelops the world. and the blunting of perception is so advanced that in the end, Harden's convoluted prose and certain articles by SrPphane Mallarmb-though only born from the same death-may be judged interchangeable: Both of them are examples of exquisite tin d e sikcle journalism. T h e moment of aestheticism as a final intrusion of the spirit o n the market, seen with the hindsight o f slaves, may also seem quite similar to the moment when literacure took h u e of itself, which was indeed heralded in Mallarrnt and then continued to be manifested off and o n , often clinging to a pious obedience ro form, silhouetted against a background of absolute negntion. Hegel had already noted this in the romantics while rejecting them. .Thus, if in both cases it is a question of form, the ambiguity o f the game was fated to worsen with time, and coday we are living in its perpetual death throes: the late mimesis of rupture, combined with the reawakening of the rnasses, converges primarily o n a picnic o f French theorists: it is nothing h u t the homage of bigots to the heroes oEtriin~;~re.rjiori. a gnostic world inhabited by ag111 to nostics, there is no gesture g ~ ~ a r a n t e e d rrclnsgress, and there is nothing sadder than a communiry of e n l i g h t e n d nlinds still regretting the f n a l , Lln~ili:~lsill.

We have broken the ages in half. Whnt to do with fol-~rls, the New, the Enor~nous! Not for one, tloc for a l l were we cor~structed.'~'(~
So sing the cafk bacchantes in thc "magical operetta'' Literdtur, still one of the sharpest satirical skewerings of the avant-garde. And in other works as well, K r a ~ ~ s withering words t o say a b o u t the advanced a r t o f the had "parasites o f the end o f the worldn:'(~' h e expressionist and dada crew, I and sometimes even great writers like Gotrfried Renn. were caught in his net. But Kraus's criticism of new forms has n o connecrion with the foolishness o f t h o s e critics o f the decline of the arts who shudder with horror at the principles o f fragn~rnration,montage, a n d hybridization. 0 1 1 the contrary, Kraus knew perfectly well what reckless claims, rigor in darkness, were implicit in those principles, a n d he was unsparing in his attack or1 those who once :lgain proclaimed them without being able to imagine their m e a n i n g O n l y in specific differences in these fornrs can o n e grasp r their povcrt): bee how f ~ short of their axioms they 611, while to reject the axioms themselves is sheer bigotry. Kraus was able t o criticize the feuilleton article, which was devouring literature from within a n d ended by offering its prey as an encouragement t o good living. But he applied the principles o f r a n d o m digression, t h e fleeting impression, a n d t h e transposition offlrinerie into an art form, which is a kuilleton discovery, in such perfect prose as "l.ob der verkehrten Lebensweise." And the perception of the surrealiry of the city, which runs from Baudclaire t o Benp. jamin in E i n h n h ~ i t r i i s ~ Andre Breton in Nadiii, a n d Louis Aragon in Pdysnn dr Aiiii is already contained in the aphorisms :lhour certain petrified rehns-landscapes o f Vienna or Berlin. T h e s ; m e goes for the theater: es All the a ~ ~ d a c i t iofexpressionist theater look tinlid in the presence of the i~lexor;~hlc excess o f :lny serrillg lily reductio~l ini;~ges, 7 / i r Lnit I)im to in o Ma~zkjiic/,where countless forms inherircd f r h n ~ i t c r a t ~ ~ rfrom the f l e, Goerhea~~ srrophc t o thc di~,tmiiztio,the C h i ~ l c s e o o t ; ~ t i o n .Nesrroy;~n q farce, the diatribe, the plot for a puppet thr;~tel.,the curtain-raiser, the essay, c o m e together in m u t u i ~ lslaughrer. A n d the Inany w h o have f rhought i t clevcr- to remark that the f a ~ n o u s r s t sentence of IIir Ijritte

mipu~gisnacht ("Apropos of Hitler, nothing comes to mind") would currespond t o :] total lack of ideas in the whole book are unaware o f the terrible formal unity of rhat text, in which quotatio~ls from the Nazi press are enclosed by a counterpoint that has n o precedents in Gertilan prose, and t h e simple typographical arrangement provides an iliurninating shock that o n e would expect in vain from the pedagogy of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. For years now, the monopoly o n writings against the evil powers has been assigned t o Brecht, but a few words by Adorno are enough t o demonstrate the inconsistency of some of his efforts in that djrection: To present processes kvithin large-scale industry as tl.ansacrions betwecn crooked vegerablc dealers suffices for a momentary shock-effect, hut nor for dialectical thearre. The illustration of late capitalism b4. images from the agrarian or criminal registers does nor permit the monstrosity OF modcrn sociery to emerge in full clarity from the complex masking the highest level as the n~achination rackets outside society not as the coming-to-itself of of society as such.'"X
it. .

. . It har~nlesslyinterprers the seizure of po\ver on

Kraus expressed that corning-to-itself. In rvery ra~llificationof his work he introduced new forms, without ever theorizing about them, and he was always looking back to a fictitious place of perfection inhabited by a few classics, at whose center was Goethe's I'andoril. In this, h e surely showed t h a t "interplay between reactionary theory a n d revolutionary practice""'" that Benjamin attributed to him. The enemy is the nrw power with old emblems at its disposal.
-K,IY/ Krtzu~

I n March 1931, the young critic Erich Heller delivered a lecture in Prague in which, in connection with Karl Kraus, h e referred to a h m o u s passage from Confucius: "Ifconcepts are n o t correct, works are not finished; if works are not finished, art a n d morality d o not flourish; if morality and art d o not flourish, justice is not exact; if justice is not exact. the country does not know where t o lean. Therefore one nlust not tolerate words not being in order. T h a t is what matter^.""^' Karl K r m s reproduced this "magin Die Fackel, thus accidentally meeting the source nificent

from which all his work cierives: a Chinese sorites. H e haci discovered its principles through undisciplined practice, without the help o f a cultural bond: All he knew about China was what he read in thc newspapers. Yet Benjamin's allegorical fancy was o n c e again precise w h e n he likened Kraus to a "Chinese idol with a furious sneer, whirling rwo naked swords in a war dance before the crypt of the German language."'" C h i n a is. in fact, a sort of secret horizon for Kraus: In relation to the world, as an acceptable image ofcivilization, it is the only one not t o exhaust itself in the "civil war of customs against nature";'12 in relation t o writing, because it is in the description of certain features o f Chinese that we find the most precise detinition, transposed, o f Kraus's linguistic utopia, which o n e could say is represented particularly by that language, o n e that is n o t made to spare n ~ e n t a lexertion, while combining the maximum clarity of detail and the maximum complexity of resonance. And if all of Kraus can only be understood as "written recitation.""-3 if he was able to deduce the punctuation of a Goethr rnanuscript o n the basis of an incorrect canonical edition,ll"t woc~ldcertainly have comforted him t o know that in ' Chinese, to read the classics' is said with the same expression as 'to recite a prayer'; Chinese texts generally have no punctuation; it is by reciting them that one learns to place tht. period: To understand means to feel the rhythm."' " Like t h e thinkers o f ancient C h i n a , Kraus considered the world through ernblemi, a n d like them he seems to have understood that "the changes that can he noted in the course o f things are identical with of the sc~bstitutio~ls symbols that are produced Ily thought."' l o T h u s , for example, the present reality ii the ocean of public opinion, the changing mass o f linguistic stereotypes that follow o n e another in the public psyche and o f which the newspaper offers a convenient abbreviation. And in this ocean we recognize precisely the mirror image of that surface o f stock phrasei o n which t h e Chinese classics draw, "literature based o n centones." Perhaps the most outstanding work of sinology in this century, Marcel Granet's Danses et lkgendei de la Chine ancienne, concludes that, strictly speaking, the whole o f archaic Chinese literature is a single disguised quotation and that t o seek in it "the prime h c t o r t h e origin:ll text . . . would mean exposing oneself to a dangerous e r r o r . " ' - Relying frorn the same text, Chinese authors lead the reader by on a qi~otation different paths t o thonghts that are even opposed. Relying o n original opinions, contemporaries live in necessary agreement. W i t h a twofold gaze in a twofold space, Kraus contrasted an origin rhat implies :I scripture
L l

corilprising the whole with a n end where what speaks is a multiform and nameless voice, which has a word for every fact a n d ahead o f that word, every fact. T h e use o f the quotation was therefore indispensable to him, since the quotation is precisely the form that denotes estreme proxin1it)i either to the origin or to the end. Kraus, a Chinese of the end, finds himself obliged to quote continually, b u t in accordance with Western rules, his quotations constantly proclaim the order of the day, a n d t h e day is precisely the Day o f Judgment.lls A n d like his great Chinese predecessors, Kraus does not indicate the source. After "the fundamental note o f o u r time, the echo o f m y bloody delusion," has sounded, wLere "the most striking inventions are quotations," the destroying whirlpool that surrounds the "cosmic point" from which "even what happens at the corner of the Sirk-Strassc is regulated"'~"creates a sufficient void for the inscription, in solitude, of the epitaph: What emptiness here in my place. Every anxiety consun~ed. Nothing remains of me except the source, which it did not indicate."" the T h e desert a r o ~ ~ n d Great Wall is now identical with the blankness surrounding the locus of Kraus's text.

Before so complex a vision o f universal interdependence, the accusation rhat is still repeated against Kraus-that h e saw only symptoms, n o t causes-appears vacuous. I n this, surly messenger boys claiming to be Marxists are in agreement with such "spiritual" authors as Max Brod. I t seems ironical to level such an accusation at the writer who soberly illustrated the economic function of World War I: "to transform commercial areas i n t o battlefields, so t h a t these in their turn become commercial areas.""' If we examine the reasons for this accusation more closely, we immediately encounter the petty notion of cause that we still drag around a n d that is one of the most distressing symptoms of a general incapacity t o perceive what is going on. If rhe Bad Guys in power were really sufficient reason for any disaster, the world would certainly be Inore under-

standable, m u c h less wicked, a n d also of scant interest. W i t h obtuse gravity, Max Brod scolds Kraus for having devoted a little o f his attention, at the outbreak of World War I , t o a "silly advertising poster."l22 Rul Kraus continued t o look at advertising posters during the war also because, before the war. he had seer1 in advertising posters the war that others, who now were looking only at the war, had persisted in not recognizing. Many academic chairs in sociology have been established since, and many people are now convinced rhat looking at advertising posters is not an idle pastime. It should be added, however, that Kraus is not a tireless decoder o f social messages; he perceives emblems a n d manifests himself through emblems, where others see hoaxes a n d explain deceptionsalways a bit too obvious, oddly enough, since the whole remains obscure. Whoever rhinks he can quietly trap a n image in a semantic grill is a little like the legitimate lords a n d masters of those ladies who happily took refuge in Chinatown. A n d it is primarily for this that Kraus attacks psychoanalysis: H e had recognized it as the first great social model for reducing the rotality of meaning t o a one-way street. For Kraus, here once again Chinese, totality requires continuous circulation: Causes can become symptoms, and symptoms turn o u t t o be causes. His argument tends to proceed like a Confucian demonstration, which at first sight looks like a chain o f causes a n d effects a n d instead is a circular order, a n endiess movement, in which we are caught up as soon as we set foot in his work. From the outset it is hastily suggested to us that "diagnosis is one of the most widespread d i s e a ~ e s . " l ~ - ~ ("The root is o n the s u r L ~ c e " :T~ ~ symptom is not reabsorbed into ' he the cause, and what eludes the cause can become the most difficult riddle, of which the cause will be the outer aspect. In this fixation on the sign as such, Kraus is in agreement with a nlovernent of thought that has had a disquieting effect on all o f modernity, a n d we would be misled were we to limit it to the area of literature. " T h e beginning is the sign":'2i These are not the words of a symbolist poet but of the mathematician David Hilbert.)




M a n y were surprised to observe the constancy a n d energy with which Kraus devoted himself to Offenbach in his last awful ye;lrs, when ;~ctually he m i g h t have seemed ro be governed by t h e archetype o f T i n ~ o n f o

Arhens, squandering his assets among false friends and knowing them to be such, while the Nazi program had already been I q e l y revealed. Yet there is nothing more consistent: 'The mirroring oforigin and end, which Kraus had always lived in his work, now found a form in his life as well. W h e n Kraus w ~ three years old, his k ~ m i l y s moved from Jizin, the Bohemian town where he was born, to Vienna:
His first contact with the big city had left him with a feeling of shock. H e was frightened by Vienna, and his earliest memory was o f being lost. He looked back o n himself as a little savage, wholly confused by, the uproar. the difficult winding streets, the enigmatic dangers lying in wait at every turn. I b rake a walk was an adventure o n which he would embark with his hearr in tumulr, anxious, thinking he would never tind his way home. His rldcr brother Richard, who was a practical sort, would rake along a whole loaf of bread. Maybe he had a healthy appetite, but Karl saw in this h c t a measure of caution dictated by circumstances, a little like the rations of hardtack with which sailors are supplied for every eventuality. As far as he was concerned, he was nor interested in marerial life; but since he was afraid of never coming back, h e carried in his arms the thing rhar was most precious ro him, his pupper theater, a n d under n o circumstances could he be persuaded to part wirh it.IJ6

And from rustic farce, \vhich leads ro rhc magical world of NIz,~bcf~.Nm, he had drawn m o r e lyrical mcanillg, from rhc buffoonish murder o f w o m e n more genuine horror and romancc, r h a n what those pocrs who had aimed at i~inrcnrionally could offcr

T h e map of the city as a childish realm of fable and ar~xiery was to develop along similar lines in Benjamin's Berlirier Kindheit. Rut what distinguishes Kraus is his dogged, mad decision never to be separated from his above d l , the fact that "sacred a r k in his travels through the world-and it was 3 puppet theater. Later it would be replaced by language, and what better way than operetta to bring the two things together and merge them? Presumably, a few years after his walks in the park with his puppet theater, Kraus
got from Offenhach's operas, which he happened to hear in a summer theater, much more decisive imprcssions rhan from the classics, which his teachera had urged him to accepr wirhour understandii~gthem. Perhaps through the caricature of rhe gods, the real Olyrnp~ls disclosed to him. was I'crhaps his imagination was spurred to the task of forming, o n the basis o f

Ln Belle HPli.n~, that image of the heroes nor yet gran red him by the Ilind

Offenbach, "sorcerer of p r o d y and parodist of r n y t l ~ ~ ,was~to he for "' ~ Kraus the occult psychopomp who would introduce him to the Terra Specularis, interwoven with rapture and rorment, where the parody of the end makes i t to grasp the glare of the origin. For in his eyes, operetta is the only world that still follows the laws ofchaos, where causality is suspended, and every event thus floats uproored from its leaden pedestal. Nonsense bursts forth undisturbed to soothe those who had always noted its presence behind the disguises of reality. At this point, the equivocal becomes rhe rule, and only the flimsiest membrane separates the two worlds, Paradise and Hell. I r is "the inimitable forked tongue of this music, its way of saying everything with a posirive and negative sign at the same time, its betrayal of the idyll through parody, the joke rhrough the lyrical,"'"' that operates in this double realm. This is the eschatological hybridization that Kraus recognizes in contemporary post-history through the lens of operetta: dreadful, when one thinks of the endless "last days" in which "characters from operetta recited rhe tragedy of hurnanity";l-'0 paralyzing, when one thinks that "Offenbach triumphs in the demonical wit by which, during the last military parade before Hitler, at the moment when the cavalry passed in front of him, the orchestra felt moved to but play, not, for example, the march from 7Ariri/~ri'user, the infernal cancan, the one from the realm of the dead";I3' dazzling, if in the figures in the operetta one also recognizes. as does Kraus, the promise "of transforming, not gods a n d heroes, but playing-card kings and fairy-tale princes into men, and men themselves into p ~ p p e t s . " ' 3 ~ e unblemTh ished life of marionettes can reemerge only in operetta, and this is what Benjamin meant when he wrote, i n his review of a public recital from Offenbach given by Kraus, that "the souls o f t h e rllarionetres have ended up in his hands."'-" I'rotected by Olympia, thesutonlated doll in 7he 7;11esoJ'Hu&rirtnn, "who sn~clled ofthat perfun~c with which Eros blessed / my dream,"'-'/' Kraus begins moving his puppets to the tune of Offenbach, thus obeying the supremely ambigitous itnperativc of ~ l ~ u siil lc general: "to loosen the cramp o f I i f ~ . " ~ ' ~ ~ I ' h c rigid marionette in the dissolving that s i n ~ ~ ~ l t a n e o t ~ s l y flux of sound is precisely the emblem o f that n~usir:


. A Chinese Wall

pronlises death a n d a different life, freed o f all defensive constriction, where every gesture would have the necessity a n d perfection o f Kleist's fencing bear. A n d like the unforgettable Kleist, Kraus recognizes in the marionette a form of higher life, which the automatism of the machine offers to the world and which the world has not accepted, making it instead its ruin. In "Frauenlob," that difficult poem of his last period, Kraus alludes to his vain flight, in a dream that takes place within chaos, toward a p u p p e t w h o is the suprenle image of Eros: an Offenbach Marie A n toinette "throttled by bourgeois e ~ i l d o e r s . " " ~t is thus at a paradoxical I drear11 presence, Olympia a n d Perichole, wornan-machine-~rordto the strains of an Offenbach operetta, that Kraus directs his gaze, the only solution, almost alchemical, that o n e is p r m i t t e d to predict in the 7&ra Speperularis, the obscure but distinct voice in a dream. We hear it resound at rare intervals in a n enormous work: T h a t the solution is obscure will appear reasonable to anyone already aware that "artists are merely those who are able to make a riddle out of the solution."'" For the others, one can only repeat: "Never mind, you seekers! 'I'he mystery will be illuminared by its own light."'j8

T h e Practice of Profane lllumirlation

Around W'alter Benjanlin, theorist o f aura, an increasingly shining a n d legendary aura has gathered since the publisher Suhrkamp, in 1955, issued the two volurnes of his writings, edited by T. W. Adorno; 240 copies were initially sold. In 1968, many young Germans spent their days reciting crude slogans ofThird International vintage, but at night they dreamed of Benjamin, his Empires of Quotations, his enigmatic a n d decisive judgments, his capacily to connect t h e tiny a n d the immense. Meanwhile, posthumous publication o f his writings has gone o n multiplying, each year offering the thrill of some new text: the book o n hashish, reviews, essays, fragments. A m o n g them, the o n e that immediately comes t o mind as a majestic block of shorthand symbols (Benjamin's handwriting, which is an essential part of his work, was virrually microscopic), a mountain crisscrossed by gorges and eroded by caves, canals, a n d ravines, was the edition of the Letters, published in I 9 6 6 in nvo volumes totaling 8 6 2 pages. T h e book, precious in itself, is also useful in refuting anyone w h o claims to possess a clear a n d distinct image of Benjamin. Of all such irnages, three are the most common, and in recent years, venornous quarrels have been waged over their respective truths. They correspond sonlewhat to different faces of himself that Benjamin presented to three of his illustrious correspondents: Gershom Scholem, Bertolt Brecht, and Theodor Adorno. To begin with Adorno: A close friend of enj jam in's since 1 9 2 3 (but they never addressed each other by the informal du, though Benjamin addressed Adorno's wife so), h e quickly perceived the immense authority of his person: "It is hard for me to fi 11d the right words without f:lllillg i r ~ t o the kitsch of enthusiastic expressions whenever I try L O convey what a u

intense iti~pressionhe madc." Whcn H e n j a m i ~ ~ an exile in I'aris, and was by then without resources, Adorllo got him assignments from the Inscitut f ~ Sro ~ i a l f o r s c h u ndirected by Max Horkheinler. About their later rela~, cions much has been said that miserably poisoned Adorno's last years; and I have no wish here to go over painful, often violent recriminations. I will only ol~serve thitt those relations seem to have been secretly governed by a singular paradox: l ' h e affinity betwee11 the two was as strong as a fundamental divergeilce. In the long, flowing letter in which Adorno explains to Benjamin the reasons why the institute is rejecting his $plendid essay on Baudelaire for publication in its journal, there is a constant wavering between remarks that display a grasp of Benjamin's methods almost in their inaccessible crux, and others in which one can see a strange wish on Adorno's pare to give the recalcitrant Benjamin a few philosophical raps on the knuckles, accusing him of not knowing how to use the Hegelian category of mediation. And yet Adorno himself, many years later, w o ~ ~ l d perfectly clearly formulate the reason why such criticisms left Benjamin untouched: "In contrast to other philosophers, even Bloch, his thought, paradoxical as it may sound, did not develop in the sphere of concepts." T h e protective mantle wrapped around Benjamin for ninny years by the institute has caused him to be taken too often for a general "cultural critic" and exponent of the Frankfurt School. Both are equivocal definitions (even if justified). But one might more justifiably see Benjamin as Ernst Bloch's wife saw him for the first time: Deep in thought, he was walking by himself along the Kurfurstendamm, and Karola Bloch dared t o ask him what h e was thinking about. Benjamin replied: " M y dear madam, have you ever noticed how sickly rhe little marzipan figures look?" In these words speaks the Berlin child who goes on spinning cobwebs of melancholy fantasy about objects and who, even after donning the adult clothes of the flaneur, moves amid the shifting scenery of the city as once in the encoded world of the nursery. Unless one hears this voice in all of Benjamin's work, I fear its aroma is irreparably lost. T h e second common image of Benjamin, co which the German students were loyal in '68, is the Marxist one, and this time the connection is with Brecht. But ambiguities abound here as well. T h e fact is that Benjamin, at) omoivorous reader, had always avoided s t u d y i ~ l g Marx (by 1933 he had read only The C'Lass Strz~gRle France). And his conversion in to Marxism was for completely abnormal reasons, which Benjamin himself explains wirh great acuteness in an important letter to Max Rychner:

"I've never been able to study and think except in the theologic:ll sense, if I may put i t that way, that is, ill accordance with the7ilmudic doctrine of the forty-nine steps of nleaning in cvery p:lssage uf the .Ibr:lh. Now, my experience tells me that the most worn out Marxist pltrtiril~t~~ Inore l~olds hier;~rchies meaning than everyday b o u r g o i s profunriity which ;llways of h:~sonly one meaning, namely, apology." Memor:~blewords-but one might add that when Benjamin got his hands on Nikolay Bctkharin's A B C uf'~~ont~wunisrr2, only was he not transported into an ecstatic ascent of not the forty-nine steps, but he confessed that the book had been a "disastrous experience" for him. And his attempts to swallow "ciialectical materialism" were t o be embarrassing to the end. This man, who was al~ilost physiologically incapable of being banal, seemed driven by a nlalign wish to inflict w o u n d on himself. Only this can explain why he was actually so~rleti~rles attracted by the most dismal Soviet version oEMarxism. T h e last image is the one drawn by Scholem, Benjamin's oldest and closest friend. This great scholar of the Cabala communicated with Benjamin from the start in terms o f the "metaphysics of language." And their correspondence is one of the most fascinating of the century. It was wirh increasing sorrow that Scholem watched Benjamin pass under the mantle of Brecht. H e feared his friend was succumbing to a fatal self deception and continued to invite him to Palestior. B e n j a n ~ i ~ i postponing his kept departure. But I doubt if he would ever have been able to follow the path laid o u t for him by Scholem: T h e peculiarity of Benja~nin's cabalis~n was that he had to exercise it chiefly on non-Hebraic subjects. And all places were better suitcd to this eminent scriptural comlilentator than the real places of Holy Writ. Also Benjamin. like h u l Klee's Angeiur Nouur. in which his "secret name" was hidden. was dragged along by a scorn) that blew fro111I'aradise and kept him from keeping his k e t on any land at all, much less a Promiscd 1,and. Reading Benjamin's correspondence, we find these three quite different images exposed to the three correspondmts even on the same days. How did they manage to coexisr? N o differe~ltly from the way such :I wildly esoteric fragment as "Theory of the Similar" and the essay "The Author as I'roducer," which provided many watchwords for the Germ:~ns t ~ ~ d e n tcos. exist in Benjamin's work a few months apart. And if as Adorno sugg.;isred, Benjamin's thought did not develop ''in the sphcre o f c o ~ ~ c e p t s\vllat ." then is its true sphere? It may perhaps be a place that call be rccogl~ized


. The Practice of Pro&ne Illzrmination

only w h e n o n e enters it, like a landscape o f ruins o r a garden s u r r o u n d e d b y high walls. T o cross that threshold does not require a n y special mental discipline. Rather, what is indispensable is t o have soughr, a n d f o u n d , a n experience thar has the paradoxical singularity o f being at t h e same time fully esoteric a n d lGlly secular, o f r h e k i n d Benjamin alluded to with disconcerring clarity in his essay o n surrealisnl: [ W ] e penerrarc the lnpsrery only to the degree chat we recognixe i r in the everyday world, virtue of a dialectical optic [hat perceives [he everyday as impenetrable, the impenetrable as cverydny. 'rhr most passio~latc invesligation of rtlepathic phenomena, for exanlple, will not !each us half as much about reading (which is an eminently telepathic process), as [he profane illumination of reading about releparhic phenomena. And [he mosr passic~nate investigation of [he hashish trance will nor reach us halfas much about thinking (\vhich is eminenrly narcoric), as rhe profine illumination of thinking about the hashish trance. T h e reader, the thinker, the loiterer, t h e p n e u r , are types of illu~ninati just as much as the opium eater, the dreamer, the ecsratic. And more profane. Nor to menrion thar most terrible drug-ourselves-which we take in solitude.'

Brecht the Censor

"Bert Rrecht is a difficult character," Walter Benjamin o n c e noted. As ind e e d h e was, b u t h e has b e c o m e all t h e m o r e difficult b y d i n t o f being easy. Let m e say ir at once: I, for one, prefer t o flee into the night rather than have t o watch the actors o n c e again join h a n d s a t [he c u r t i n call a n d speak harsh truths to a n audience o f ladies a n d gentlemen w h o are already p u t t i n g o n [heir fur coats while casring benevolent looks a t those talented boys a n d girls o n the stage. Like Federico Garcia Lorca, like G e o r g Lukics, like Jean-Paul Sartre a n d Cesare Pavese, Brecht has been rriumphantly received for s o m e t i m e n o w as o n e o f t h e heroes o f a vast middlebrow cultlire with g o o d a n d progressive intentions. A n d so, t o read h i m today, o n e m u s t first rid his writings o f that thick crust o f solemn social kitsch that has gradually settled o n t h e m . A boring job b u t n o t a n overly arduous one: All o n e needs d o is forget for t h e m o n l e n t the plays a n d didactic perorarions a n d t u r n instead t o the poems a n d the Stories o f H e r r Keuner t o refurbish t h e image o f an enigmatic, coarse, almost disagreeable, a n d very, very insolent writer. A n d o n e sighs w i t h relief: T h i s "character" is m o s t certainly difficult, b u t h e is a great writer a n d n o longer grist for well-meaning souls. I t is parr o f Brecht t h e "difficult character" t h a t his most private a n d secrec book-the Work/ournrzl (rgj8-55)-should be subtly self-censored. I n d r a f t i n g these notes, for almost t w e n t y years, i n D e n m a r k , Sweden, Finland, the United States, a n d Berlin, Brccht was forcver chinking o f r h r possibility char a n e n e m y eye m i g h r see a n d use t h e m . A n d 011e d a y h e n o t e d t h a t h e actually f o u n d his o w n diary " m ~ i c h distorted d u e t o posle sible ~ ~ n d e s i r a breaders." O n e could say t h a t all t h e vicissirudes of Hrecht's life are m a r k e d by


. Brpcht the Censor

though they were a bunch of hysterical college professors primarily in search o f funding, servants of capitalism. And yet, in those very years, Adorno and Horkheirner were able to discern, for the first rime and with unsurpassed lucidir): the outlines of the culture industry in the reality of America; by conlparison, Brecht's analyses seem rudimentary and, above all, marked by a tiresome certainty of being on the right side. Even his relations with Walter Benjamin, by far the greatcst and most devoted rcader Brecht ever had, reveal some fairly odious aspects, as can be gleaned from Benjamin's notes on his stay in Svendborg. When Benjamin showed him his admirable essay o n Franz Kafka, Brecht commented that it "carries water to the mill of Jewish fascism" (once again, rhe obsession with enemy readers). When he saw that Benjamin was reading G i m e and fi/nishment, he pl.omptly burst out in one of his provocatory judgments: "Brecht attributes to Chopin and Dostoyevsky an especially detrimental influence on health."' Finally, when in America he received the news o f Benjamin's terrible death, Brecht noted the fact in his diary without a word of farewell to his friend and immediately went on to nitpick the the manuscript of "011 Concept of History," the last Benjamin submitted to the Institute of Sociology, concluding, "In short, this brief essay is clear and clarifying (despite its metaphors and its Judaism)." "Despite its metaphors ": Largely untrained in speculation but with a good nose for smelling out where and why thinking becomes dangerous, Brecht tried for years and years to create an airtight artistic theory and practice that would withstand the assaults ofwhat, with a certain cl~inlsiness but sure int~lition, called "metaphysics." H e did not succeed, for he which we can be grateful. I t is still, however, of extl-elme interest to reconstruct how this need to defeat the invisible enemy was created in Brecht. Certainly the enemy was not, as he would have LIS believe, the "Aristotelian theater"; rather, it was the specter of art itself, insofar as i t remains intrinsically ambiguous, elusive, and loath to lend itself to any worthy social action. "Art is on the side of destiny": This sentence, tucked away in the diaf logues in The PzirCIIase o Brass, may perhaps hold the key to Rrecht's attitude. T h e side of destiny is the ungovernable side, overwhelming and divorced from will; it is the cloud of unknowing from which all writing emerges. O n e cannot understand Brecht's stubborn insistence on makiug his theater instrumental, governable, stripped of all magic, onless one recognizes the formidable presence of his antagonist in the shadows. Brecht's "epic theater'' soughc to extirpate the magic ofthe theater. But magic is not

this fear of falling into the enemy's hands. For him, the first enemy to escape from--and this is to his everlasting credit-was culture itself, understood as a manifestation of the "nobility of the spirit," in the words of the hated Thomas Mann. Whenever he heard the nlajestic wing feathers of the G i s t fluttering around him, that tireless spirit that, especially in German lands, never stops chewing its cud, Brecht spat o n the ground-then, with his characteristic mocking gesture, put out his hand and "begged for tobacco." By this twofold movement, Brecht repudiated the realm of essenccs (and therefore of Great Authors, Grcat Wotks, and the Expression of Free Culture) and at the same time declined to i-enounce the superfluous: "The theater, indeed, must absol~ltely allowed to remain a be superfluous thing, which means. of cosrse, thar it is for the superfluous that one lives." As long as he remains enclosed in this eloquent irony, Brecht's behavior is perfect and makes one think of certain irivincible Chinese sages, "with fine and limpid hearts," who moreover were among his secret models. But the story of Brecht is much more twisted and murky. O n e of his in regular vices was to lock up his many ene~llies the same prison, forcing them to serve the same sentence: "slaughterers who emerge from libraries"; harmless seducers, guilty only of pleasing women (perhaps even the wornen who pleased Brecht); and in general all those authors whose work he considered lacking in an "Enlightenment nature." We thus find in the WorkJOt~r~~al an overflowing stock of accusations, insinuations, and sarcasms striking o u t in all directions, at Lukacs and Thomas Mann, Tohannes Becher and W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and Alfred Doblin. His judgments are almost always acute and almost always too acid. T h e same goes for certain great events: At the outset of the war, Brecht, from his solitary observation post, looked contemptuously at England and tried to equate it with Hitler's Germany. Imperialism a g ~ i n s t imperialism, he said. Years later, in Hollywood, he scanned the American cine~na with surly incomprehension, scolding it in a manner typical of the European intellectual he abhorred so much: He accused kt of being hostile to the Author, the Great Work, and Culture. Moving in the sad circle ofGerman refugee writers in America-one must remember they were officially designated "enemy aliens"-who were ofien pushed aside as annoying petitioners, Brecht looked wich obvious rancor o n the group fro111 the Frankfurt School, headed by Theodor Adorno a n d Max Horkheirner, almost as


. I j r ~ ~ ltlw Censor ,t

something that was superimposed on the theater under particular historical circumstances and that can therefore be eradicated by other techniques. Magic abides in the theater: indeed, it abides in every word, in that it names an absence. A few decades of Brechtian performances havc given us experimental proof of this: Brecht has become a style of staging, a new magic-sometimes powerful, sometimes trite. W h o today can honestly maintain that in attending a Brecht play, one is not subjected to that magic "torpor" that Brecht so feared in the theater? There is still much to be discovered, however, about.the peculiarity of Brecht's magic. And I would look less at the much-abused category of the "alienation effect" than at the technique of quotation, which is in a way the esoteric face of his art. A monurnent of that technique, much richer than any theatrical text by Brecht, is Karl Kraus's 770-~age-long The Lnst Dnys ofMankind. Brecht derived a powerful impulse from it, one that he never openly acknowledged. But i~ is also true that in him the category of quotation took o n new aspects, which we find throughout his work. even in the WorkJoz,rnul, a paradoxical and abnormal creation, all interwoven in counterpoint between Brechr's personal notes and the photos and newspaper clippings he glued to his pages. By concentrating o n quotation and working o n preexisting materials, Brecht was accepting a fact more fundamental today than ever: the rejection of direct expressiorz. Whoever no longer recognizes himself in a society-and this is the situation of all new art-does not even recognize the fictive ego that society grants him by inviting him, with false magnanimity, to express himself. T h e writer accordingly becomes an imaginary subject who no longer has available a Inngurlge in common with society and who therefore is obliged to waver benveen a personal encoded tongue and the whole repertoire of languages and forms handed down to him by the past. By mounting these scattered fragments, making these languages and forms collide, the writer will tell the unprecedented story in which he has been allowed to participate. This explains, for example, why certain poems by Brecht. in appearance so direct, 5-eem to have been extracted from the works of some ancient Chinese poet. And i t is just this unbridgeable distance that gives these few words of "basic Germa~? an immense resonance. Nothing in Brecht is more valuable than his conspicuous conrradic(ions. T h e man who wrote, "What times are these, when a dialogue about trees is almost a crime!" committed that crime more than once, devoting

to trees some of his best poems, which rem:iin Inore deeply engraved o n the metnosy than Artuto U or his GzIiIco. l'he ni;it~who always harped i on the need to utiIize writing confesses, through his alter ego Keuncr, that when leaving his house he loves to look ;it trees because in a society where autonomous people are "objects of use," trees still maintain " s o m e t h i ~ ~ g and therefore comforting." for one can hope that even carpellters lrcognize in the111 "something that cannot be utilized." And this same man, who had mocked all sublime qualities in literature, devoted to an elder tree one of the few poems of the century that can, without exaggeration. be called sublinle. Its title is "Difficult Times": Standing ar my drsk Through the window 1 see the elder trec in the p d e n And recognise something red in i t , sornethillg black Ar~d at once recall the rlder all Of rny childhood in Augsburg. For several minutes I debate whether to go to the table Quite serio~~sly And pick ~ i p spectaclt.s,in order to sce my Those black berries again on their tiny red stalks." N o explicit denunciation of the world's evils has the intensity of these few indirect and reticent lines.

The Ancient Egyptian Character of Art

T h e great era of modern aestherics is quite short: It begins with Kant's Critique ofJudgmrnt and ends with Hegel's Aesthetics. After that, one must instead seek artistic enlightenment in glimpses and by indirect paths: a few lines from Baudelaire or Nietzsche, a letter by Mallarmk, aphorisms by Kraus, malicious remarks by Valtry, gibes by Renn. T h e chief purpose o f aesthetics today seems ro be t o provide work for academic institutes. Adorno is one of the last links in that succession of writers w h o were able t o speak of art after it had been proclaimed dead, as can be seen in many pages in his best works: Minima MonlGa, P/7ilosophy ofModem Music,

Mahler, and some of the essays in Noten zzrr Literatur. A master o f the art
of obliqueness, Adorno dealt with aesthetic problems in an offhand way. as T h u s his last work, published under the title Aesthetisc.he T/~eorie a posthun~ous fragment of 533 pages with few paragraph breaks, seems all the more disconcerting. o n the edge of O n e opens the book only t o find oneself quicksand-for Adorno this may be dialectics. O n e is drawn into a kind of transposed raving

la Samuel Reckett (and indeed, [he work was t o

be dedicated t o Beckett). H o r r o r of the origin governs all o f Adorno's thought and also forces him not to allow his inordi~late discourse t o have a beginning: "It is simply a matter of this: from m y theorern, according to which there is n o philosophical primum, it also follows that o n e cannot build a structure of argument according t o the usual gradual progression; o n the contrary, o n e must put together the whole by a series of partial units, more o r less o f the same weight and arranged concentrically o n the same level; for it is the constellation, not the sequence, that conveys the

idea." .I.his is a perfect description of thc archetypal form o f Aerthetische Tl-rmrie,which is only partially, yet splendidly, manifested in the book. But t h r hook can also be described in the opposite way: as a system o f aesthetics, vast in s t r ~ l c t u r c , inlmense in a m b i t i o n , a n d constantly ly ashamed o f itself. Massive main walls arc c o n t i n ~ ~ a l being hidden by tangles of vegetation, wild iinderbrush, and carnivoroi~s plants. O n e rediscovers the great Adorno by losing oneself in this ungovernable luxuriance, but whoever penetrates as far as the bare construction will be surprised t o recognize there n o t a renovated Hegeliail Escorial, heavy and majestic, hut at most a rirnid Petit Trianon. (Rut think o f the abyss that separates any Petit Trianon from the oppressive ministerial edifice evoked by so m u c h recent aestherics.) It is clear, therefore, that this is by n o means a work to be recommended to anyone wishing t o maintain the illusion o f Adorno the rigorous philosopher: Here, as ncver before, it is easy to see that his dialectics is first of all a disguised rheroric. But this is not t o say that an orthodox dialectician is closer t o the [ruth than a prodigious rhetorician. It is certain, however, that Adorno does not share the grim heaviness of the new dialecticians. His prose-formed in the school of Kraus a n d Benjamin and then emancipating itself-is a siren: T h o s e who find it awkward generally find Wagner empry and Proust long-winded. Such people are consistent but a bit deaf t o form. If anything, one would have t o call it a conragious prose: Many w h o have heard it have then been afflicted by a stylistic ricrus that also blocks their abilirv t o think. So let us overlook the theoretical premises ofAesthetische Theorip, which are its weakest part, and look at it instead as a work that, despite a certain academic allure, is desperately autobiographical. Miserably vexed by young people w h o in their eagerness for praxis spell o u t the Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno turned back at the end t o the secret center of his thought, unknown to his official followers, a center that is certainly not in Marx, nor even in Hegel, but close t o the animal mureness of art. This was where Adorno had started, a n d here h e closed his circle. Adorno conceived art, from the beginning, in the mirror o f utopia. 111 his ieferences to utopia, a recurrent fata Inorgana, one can often f nd signs of an appalling Enlighte n m e n t na'ivetk, even a n d especially in this last book. For example, he conveys the idea that thc possibility o f paradise o n earrh should correspond to an advanced stage of the forces of production. R L I"utopia" for ~ Adorno is rather a zone o f fantastic light, where thc Hebrew tradition o f the Kingdom, clandestine and all the stronger in irs defenselessness, lives

stripped of ally doctrinal suppor-t. hlany of Adorno's marvelous passages filter into the dialectic thanks to a safe-conduct from utopia, as though making an ; ~ r d u o u s ascent ;lmong gnostic archons: the image of music as thc gesture of bursting into tears; the sleep of Albertine kvatched ovel. by hlarccl and by Adorno, his philosopl~ic;ll double; the convergence of the realms o f nature and grace in the 1 x 1 scene of fizzlst /I; even the dazzling " definition o f a r t as "magic liberated from the lie ofbeing t r ~ ~ t hor; finally, in Aestk~~t;jc.l~e 7Reoli~>, impassioned vindication of the "beauty o f nathe ture." Adorno's truth lies in the interstices of his pl~ilosophizing, hssures, tiny at times, opening o n a no-mr~n'sland between forms and thought. O n e could actually Iiar\rest from Acst/l~~t;scj~e Tlleorjc a rich anthologv of these flights, which turn o u t to be so [many blind alleys in the argument. T h e silent )Ion cot~fitnu'(zr.o f the iniagr. the pure extraneousness of the object that "OPCIIS its eyes." n~otionless presence, hypnotic opacity-these are characteristics of art that find in Adorno a n advocate whose words are disturbing: For him, [he origin a n d goal of his thought lies in the chimerical sound of a "language of thingsw;in a radical, albeit concealed. revolt against his master Hegel, who had described and approved the domesticating aspect of art as a seal that serves to "remove from the external world its reluctant stra~lgeness." the enigma. For Adorno, instend, the central categciry of art is And this already serves to belittle aesthetics as "science": "All works of art, and art in general, are enignlas; [his has dogged the theory of art since ancient times. T h e fact that works of art say something, while at the same time concealing it, points to their enigmatic charactcr in terms of Ir~nguage." There exists f o r Adorno a secret alliance between nature a n d art to reniovc themselves fi~rtivelyfrom the tyranny o f t h e spirit, but o n the other hand-and this makes all the knots inextricable :lnd the mists and turns of thought that tries t o unravel them fasci~~ating-Adorno, like Benjamin, is completely immersed in the Enlightenment nightmare ;iccording to which the original h c e of natclre is that of a "chain of guilt," or rather, myth as blinding destiny. (I am speaking, c!fcourse, of the utopian-Judaic wing of the Enliglitent~icnt,not the I<oc~sseauian wing.) ?b free itself, nathat works ture has to be dead: "Jt is owing only t o their mortal e l e ~ n e n t of arr participate in reconci1i;lrion. But in this they remain slaves of myth. This is tlieir ancient Egyptian charactcr." Splc.ndid words, which only a slave o f r h e Enlightenment could have writren.

The Siren Adorno

America, 1944: a place o f easy hallucinations, especially for G e r m a n speaking refugee intellectuals, who were reduced to the role of "petitioners in mutual competition." At the same time, they were exposed to their first, brutal contact with pure industrial society, often shuddering a n d retreating in the face of the "mechanization of the spirit." There were severa1 suicides in those years. and there was desolate solitude in small apartments in New York and Los Angeles. Mall) did not give up but became ath he tic ghosts o f the old Europe, relics of a culture that n o one now had any use for. From this humiliating condition, T h e o d o r W. Adorno was able t o draw valuable material for his greatest bonk: Minirrzd Mordlia. A n d his moment of maximum creative strength coincided with his situation o f maximum helplessness: A n u n k n o w n intellectual, desperately melancholy b u t at the same time highly curious about everything, with bulging eyes and the little hands of a delicate child forced t o grow LIP too soon, he assunled the guise of an empirical sociologist in an effort t o be of use and offer some concrete research to the American lewish Committee. But the true concreteness lay precisely in his troubled a n d shifting gaze as it rested o n the looming objects in the New World, o n scraps of senon tences from newspapers, o n the professional smiles of his colleag~~es, the fortified cottages of horrible, happy fiamilies. Adorno I-evived an aphoristic form that h a d been Nietxsche's, then M a x Horktiein~er's,Ernst Bloch's, and Walter Benjamin's, and now put i t to a different usc, allowing him to plunge decisively into the private life of rhc society around him: a life o f trivia that emerged already televised and that n o philosopher had hitherto thought worthy ofconsideration. Adorno allowed his gaze r o wander ar length over these trivial things,


. The Siren Adorno

The Siren Adorno . 249

until he saw shining rhrough the111 the whole past of our culture, a landscape of catastrophes now contracted in hellish harmony and fragmented as in a psychoannlytical case history. Ohserving glossy advel-tising images song that carricd the distorted echo or listening to the words o f a of a Rrahnls lied, Adorno knew it was a question not of protecting "culture" from these horrors but, on the contrary, of recognizing in them the mocking origin of culture itself, finally unveiled in reverse at its end: "In their counterfeit light shines the publicity character of c ~ ~ l t u r e . " For those able to grasp, through the meshes oEa prodigiously dense and tense prose, the nlechanisn~of what Adorno called "criticism of culture," Minima Muralia is a contagious book. I d o not rhink anyone can say he has read it properly unless he has experienced it for some time as an obsession, feeling obliged to look, as though for the first time and often with paralyzing fright, a t rllany everyday situations he had hitherto taken for granted. So eventually it becomes healthier t o dismiss this obsession and its widespread intrusiveness, a n d perhaps even return to a more shortsighted and distracted gaze. But it is an obsession for which one remains ever grareful, and when o n e reopens this book, certain sentences rcelnerge like talismans that once helped to cross the enchanted forest. For anyone w h o has had the good fortune to meet them, they remain silent a n d charitable wirnesses whose power is still intact. I should like here t o record only o n e of these sentcnces, perhaps the most precise definition of art 1 know: "Art is magic liberated from the lie of being truth." I said that Minima Muralia is a contagious book, a siren book. O f course, to hear rhat song o n e must have receptive ears. Otherwise o n e may end u p judging it as did t h e eminent historian Delio Cantimori: W h e n the publisher Giulio Einaudi requested his editorial opinion o f t h e book, Cantimori pronounced, "It is the belated p r o d ~ ~oft rhat literat~lre c of socio-psycho-philosophical maxims and considerations that were much in vogue during the Weimar period." Case dismissed: two lines of historical framework, as always required, and a n implied contenlpt for a hybrid literary genre with ancestors as u n t r ~ ~ s t w o r t h y C;corg Lichtenberg, as Schopenhauer, and Nierzsche. Speaking o f Nietzsche, Cantimol-i was t o !lave occ;lsion a few years later t o spell out his attitude as :I rcsponsible c d ~ ~ c a t inr a lnemorable leto tcr published in Cijnz,r~s/~ndo stot.ia. It is a text that ought to be cluotcd di in full, an unsurpassed catechism still inscribed in lerters of bronze behind many wrink1t.d brows. I will confine myself here t o o n e of its utter-

ances: " T h e good educator, in this case rhe publisher, should not publish Nietzsche, because Nictzsche leads readers astray." Rut-said Cantimori, now arguing against Ccsare \':lsoli, w h o had deemed it urgent to rescind forever Nicrzsche's Italian visa-this does not mean that Nietzsche should not be allowed to circ~ilate all, at least among "people now adult, o r in at the process o f becoming so, or at least intellectually a n d nlorally 'ma, >, . ture. Ti) avoid a still-dangerous hmiliarity, however, the cautious Cantimori advised against keeping Nietzsche's hooks handy in one's own library: "Naturally, 1 won't keep Nierzsche o n the same shelfas the Einaudi edition o f Gramsci or the Einaudi and Feltrinclli editions of Salvemini, and not even with the 1.aterza edition of Nitti, o r with Marx o r Plato; I'll put hinl with the poets and rragic dramatists and novelists; 1'11 put him o n the shelf for nlo~lstrositiesor the one for astrologers, o r should I keep him with the philosophers and theologians?" A truly serious dilemma, and we have n o idea how Cantimori resolved it. Many who are much less subtle, complex, and inforr~ledthan rhis acclaimed educator and who turn t o him as to a secular Madonna of Loreto have instead drawn one simple and tude co~lclusionfrom his delicate embarrassment: %'hatever he is, astrologer or poet, let's rhrow the Plague Bearer out! Well, in both his pedagogic thoughts o n Nietzsche and in that now distant editorial opinion o n Mininra Muralin, I think Carltimori represented a loftier and more trouhled version o f something quite sordid that we continue to encounter every day: a certain tendency (obviously zeal) to police culture o n the part of its more enmasked as educatio~lal lightened Italian represenratives. Still, the accusarions o f censorship leveled at the Einaudi edition o f Minivzn Afomlilz seem to me a bit misguided. It was published in abridged form, leaving o u t a substantial portion of the original, and the accusations were provoked by the publication by Erba Voglio of the little volume entitled Minimrr (im)nzoralir?,which offets the very pages so far never trnnslated. (And they are excellent pages, but no better or more radical than those we already hrld: editor Gianni (:archiak idea that Einaudi's criterion for its edition may have bee11 a systematic p r u ~ l i n g Adorno's "excesses" itself of appears rather excessive.) rTb publish Minimn Morctlicc in 1954 (that is, only three years after the German edition) and to publish ir this way, in trarlslation and with an inrroductio~ ofsuch cluality, both o w i ~ l g thc enthusiasm a n d intelligence to act, of Renato Solmi. was i l l any casc a f ~ ~ r s i g h t e d one almost happily

foolhardy fiive~l tile bIe;ikness of Icalialr intellectaal life in those years. Indeed, this gl-eAr booli ;lt first passed u n ~ l o t i c r d , a11d otlly after ~CVCIII yerrs did rlic h r c e of hisrory rcquirc that it be rccogtiiicd for what it isa n d ro think rhnt i r took Ft-ench, Uritish, and Amcrican t7ublishcrs. so ofcen senerally ~liorc clia~lcwellty years ro offer a ~ i ~ r h i i cornpalg r;~ble.'So this episocle consoles me once :,pin in tliinki~igt h ~ the most t daring and inventive part o f culture ill Italy is represe~ltedby tlie ~ u b lishitlg industry, while the most refractory part, hostile t o t h e "labar o f the concept" /[inA ~ / w id e ~ t bi;q~i#i/, nixy actually bc the bloc of big 2nd little academics.

An Apocryphal Grave

A desolate cloud hangs over t h e last months of Walter Benjamin's life. O n the night of 23 August 1939, Gerrnan radio interrupted a musical program t o broadcast the a n n o u n c e m e n t of the Hitler-Stalin pact. A Few
days later, as the Nazis were invading Poland, German refugees in Paris were rriade co assemble in the Colombes stadium. There were about six , thousand of t h e t ~ la n d among them was Walter Benjamin, with a suitcase a n d a blanket. For ten days they waited in an oppressive heat, while excrement accumulated in large buckcrs. O n the tenth day, Benjamin was sent along with many ochers to an internment camp at Nevers. It was a completely empty chiteau, with no light and no beds. Benjamin slept a( the foot o f a spiral staircase, in a cubicle that he h a d ro crawl i n t o o n his hands and knees. A survival market soon developed. Benjamin would offer lessons in philosophy to "advanced" pupils in exchange for three Gauloises or a button. But later he was to have more ambitious ideas: H e wanted t o found a magazine for the camp, "naturally at the highest level." T h e editors got togethcr one day for a meeting, entering the philosopher's den o n all fours. "Gentlcnlcn, ir has to d o with getting an armband," s;lid Benjamin with some solemnity. T h c armband rneant permission to leave the camp for a few hours in rhe morning. They tlcver got il. I w o months later, Benjanlin was freed, thanks to the intervention of Adricnnr Monnier. T h e idca of creating a magazine it1 order to gec a n a r m b a n d scems to m e t o correa s p o n d t o the only conception of praxis suited t o Benjamit~: n act that opens the possibility o f emerging from an inrernnienr camp, which is then History itself. 'This gnostic conception is i ~ l c o m p a t i b l e with the much more widespread one fostered by those for whom praxis primarily

means transforlning the world into a n internment carnp, chereby carrying History co ics triumph. Between his release from clie Nevers camp (November 1939) and his Highc to southern Frllnce ( J L I1940) ~ n o ~ i t h s of which we know ~ ~ pass, very little. From rhis period comes a piece ofwriting, in part jotted down on newspaper wrappers. Events and [he form of the writing obligc LLS to consider i t Benjamin's final testament: the eighteen "Theses on the Concept [Begrzf/ of History"-nine pages, dense and glittering, carved on a lump of lava. It is on them, more than any of his other writings, that rhc fury of interpreters has been unleashed as they continue their efforts to drag Benjamin in opposite directions. It looks fiom the start as though Benjamin has here returned to 11ei11g whar he always was: a prodigious allegorist. With the precext of presenting a series of speculations, the theses hold out a garland of images. T h e first is right out of Edgar Allan Poe: . . . an automaton constructed in such a way that it could pl;ly a winning game occhess, answering each move of an opponent v,.it Ii d ~ o u ~ i t e r . move. A puppet in Turkish attire and with a hookah in its mouth s a t before a chessboard plr~ced a large table. A system of mirrors created rhc on illusion that rhis table was transparcnr from all sides. Actually, a little hunchback who was an expert chess player sat inside and guideci the puppet's hand by means of strings. One can imagine a philosophical counterpart to this device. Thc puppet called "historical riiarcrialisn<'is ro win all the time. Ir car] easily be a niatcli for anyone if it enli.sr5 the services of thcology, which today, :is we know, is wizened and has to keep our o f sight.' 'J'his image already contains all the ambiguity of [he late Benjamin: W h o is the real player? T h e puppet dressed as a l i ~ r k "called 'historical materialism"'? O r the hunchbacked dwarf, theology, who offers its "services" but moves the puppet's otherwise inert hands? And what d o "theology" and "historicrll materialism" here represenc? As far as theology is concerned, it is notjlard to answer. A nomad and a cabalist in d i s g ~ ~ i sBenjamin had believed from thc beginning that the e, times rcqllired that he not devote himself to thc traditional problems of his doctrine but plunge into and rnimic mystical categories in the boundless world of the profilne. 7.hus he had chosen, willy-nilly, the most disparate objects 3s COVEI. for his innate esoteric knowledge: obscure baroque dramas, coy collecrions, the writings of psychopaths, evocations OF urban

landscapes (like chepnssages of Paris), hashish hallucinations. A L Iin treat~ ing these materials, theology each ci~ne protecced and concealed by a felt copious, curving shell. Now, instead, i t had acquired its thinnest, most risky covering: that puppet dressed as a Tbrk, who had to win his match. To the symbolic eye, the image of the macch already evoked the proximity of death. But whar, then, was this puppet? Here the answer gets complicated. Not only is the "historical materialism" ofwhich the eighteen theses speak radically different from anything that has ever beer1 called by that name, but in a way it is the nntithesis of Marx's very theory and of the praxis that swore by that theory all over the world. Together, the theses constitute a devastating attack o n what "liberal" historicists called "progress," what Marx called "development of the forces of production," and what German Social Democrats had celebrated for years with their most feeble-minded slogans: "Every day our cause becomes clearer and people get smarter" (Wilhelm Dietzgen). What was i t that united them all, and not only in the idea of "progress" but in the connected sense of "work that ennobles" and nature as material to be exploited (and which "exists gratis," besides, observed the undaunted Josef Dietzgen)? T h e conception of time as a "homogeneous, empty" sequence. With the pathos of fierce despair, Benjamin opposed this vision of history as a continuum tied by an uninterrupted thread, whether red, black, or purple. For him, "the catastrophe is progress, and progress is the catastrophe." In the face of History, a single gesture is called for: Halt it. And chr only means for introducing this improbable discontinuity is that "weak Messianic power" with which "like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed."l Seeking to restore "to the concept of the classless society its genuine Messianic face," Benjamin eliminated first the features of a muscular, benevolent, and rather obtuse working class in power. T h a t class had been deprived by its leaders oF the only true revolutionary force-memory-and been swindled into accepting in exchange faith in che future and the rising course of history. "Nothing has corrupted the German working class so much as the notion that it was moving with the current," s;lys the eleventh thesis:' For Benjamin, now, the oppressed are n o longer the working class or the proletariat but a vaster and more silent mass: the dead, the "nameless" killed by History. Now it is a matter not of replacing one last time the personnel in charge of char cogwheel called History but of blowing up the wheel

itself: T h e object o f Benjamin's fury is nothing less than all of History. This is enough to separate him irrevocably from all theorists of socialism, who in their "ideal; have venerated the "locomotive of universal history" above everything else, while Benjamin would like to stop i t by pulling the emergency brake. T h e only point on which Benjamin remained ambivalent was, as always, Marx himself, w h o in his image o f t h e classless society had secularized the image of messianic time, with a gesture akin to Benjamin's theological practices. But Benjamin also knew that in Marx t h e messianic image, by being secularized, had come to be confused with that of an ordinary workers' club. It is one of Benjamin's obvious weaknesses that he pretended not t o have noticed this dreadful mix-up. A n d this is just what makes certain pages from his last years stiff and wooden, pages in which h e persisted in exercising a calling that physiologically did not suit him: that o f "historical materialist." But having reached the testamentary threshold of his "Theses o n the Philosophy of History," Benjamin has a flash t h a t reestablishes stellar distances. H e still speaks here, of course, in the name of "historical materialism," but now this concept has been completely emptied from within, by the hand of the dwarf hunchback a n d chess master. According t o Soma Morgenstern, Benjamin conceived the theses as a response to the Hitler-Sralin pact. It was in that spirit, at least, thar he read them to Morgenstern. But there are no explicit references in the text. Benjamin gives the reason for this in the tenth thesis:

whcn o n e turns t o the manilscript o f the French version o f the theses, written by Benjamin himself. Here the violent co~ltraction the German of text loosens enough to allow i~nequivocalspecifics: "As for ourselves, we starr from rhc conviction that the fi~ndamentalvices of the politics of the Icft sustain each other. A n d a m o n g thcse viccs we point to three: blind faith in progress, a blind f i t h in the strength, rightness, and swift reactions that take shape in the masses; a blind h i t h in the party." T h e decisive word "party" is missing in the C;ern~an text, b u t it echoes beneath it from beginning to end. It must surely have been very hard for Benjamin to sever his hopes o f Russia, given that even in 1938 he had not dared to voice any obiections to the Moscow trials. But with the theses, Benjamin's "historical materialism" a n d "dialectics" finally had to withdraw to their natural surroundings: absolute solitude, where any possible connection with an existing praxis was lacking. 'I'he ugly slogan of his friend Bertolt Brechr ("The party has a thousand eyes, the individual only two") would n o longer have any hold o n him. T h u s , as never before, there reemerges in the theses, a l n ~ o s t raw, the fully paradoxical use that Benjamin reserved for the very terms he was preaching, not only "historical materialism" but also "dialectics." Adorno was not mistaken in reproaching Benjamin for not being "dialectical" enough, despite all his declarations of faith. Actually Benjamin's dialectics is something that was born and perhaps died with him. It too is an allegory, a reference to sonlething ot11t.r than what the word "dialectics" proclaims. H o w else is o n e to understand a dialectics that does not aim at any Hegelian o r Marxian o r in any way secular "overcoming" but fixes its gaze o n a single point: the "Messianic cessation o f happening"?i A n enigmatic allusion, which Benjamin i l l u ~ n i ~ ~ aby d t e referring to a subtle passaze from Focillon o n the "rapid felicity" of thar moment when the beam of the scalc "scarcely wavers," a n d we witness the "miracle of that hesitant immobility, the slight, imperceprible tremor tliat indicates to m e that i r is alive." A good "historical materialist'' would have read these lines with perplexity a n d dismay. When the Nazis occupied Paris in June r940, Stalin had flags flown in celebration o n the public buildings of Moscow. Benvccn the ninth and the thirteenth of June, two nill lion people fled south, Benjamin amollg tt-ie~n. H e had succeeded, after much effort and delay, in getting a visa for the United States. Now there was a frontier to be crossed. In Mnrscilles, in November, he divided his supply of morphine with Arthur Koestler, " e n o ~ l ~ h

I he themes which monastic discipline assigned to friars for meditation


were designed to turn them away fro111 the world and its affairs. The thoughts which we are developing here originate from similar conhiderations. At a moment when the politician5 in who111the opponents of Fascism had placed their hopes are prostrate and confirm their defeat by betraying their own cause, thesc observatio~ls intended to disentangle the are political worldlings from the snares in which the rraitors have entrapped them. Our consideration proceeds frorn the insight that the politicians' stubborn faith in progress, their confidence in their "mass basis," and, finally, their scrvile integration in an uncontrollable apparatus have been three aspects of the samc thing./' T h e argument cuts both ways: T h e traitorous politicians may be not only the German Social Democrats, long an object o f Benjamin's scorn, but also the Soviets, the newest target for his anger. Any d o u b t vanishes

to kill a horse." O n the morning of 26 September, he left with a small group to cross the Spanish border. They reached the frontier after twelve hours of painful hiking. But it had been closed on that very day. Their visas would no longer be accepted. During the night, Benjamin took an overdose of morphine. Next morning, he sent for a woman friend a n d gave her a short letter for Theodor Adorno. T h e n he lost consciousness. His companions, after considerable negotiation, succeeded in crossing the frontier. T h e friend had Benjamin buried in the cemetery of Port Bou. A few months later, Hannah Arendt went looking for his grave, in vain: "The cemetery faces a small bay directly overlooking the Mediterranean; it is carved in stone in terraces; the coffins are also pushed into such stone walls. It is by far one of the most fantastic and most beautiful spots I have seen in nly life."6 Some years later, a grave would be shown, isolated from the others, with Walter Benjamin's name scrawled o n the wooden enclosure. According to Scholem, it was an invention of the cemetery attendants, eager for tips. "Certainly the spot is beautiful, but the grave is apocryphal."7


The Terror of Fables

Many of you will remember the chapter from Roberr Musil's 7 % ~ Man witl~out Qutrlide.r in which Ulrich reflects o n an expression he has read in 3 sports article: "a racehorse of genius." T h a t a racehorse should be called a "genius," chinks Ulrich, signifies s o n ~ e t h i n g that involves the whole history of the world. A n d from rhis he draws the necessary conclusions: specifically, ro take a year's leave of absence from his life as a mathematicianthus becoming entirely a "man without qualities." But let us rry t o transpose Ulrich's experience t o today: In all probability, we would not be reading the expression "a racehorse of genius." We would read sonlething else: "a mythical racehorse." A few days ago, openone, 1 don't reing a newspaper, I saw a full-page a d for a car-which member. A picture of the automobile was accompanied by rhese words: " T h e total myth is born." Obviously, rhis sounds normal, just as "a racehorse of genius" sounded normal t o Ulrich's conten~poraries.N o w we mighr ask ourselves: H o w did we arrive at rhis peculiar normality? H o w many centuries and millennia lie hidden behind the sports reporter's invention, or [he a d man's? If we look at the c o m m o n use of words, we realize immediately that the word "myth" survives primarily in two accepted meanings. O n the one hand, it refers to an absolute, to something prodigious beyond which one cannot go. This is what-the a d man is thinking when he chooses the expression "rota1 myth" to designate the car he is glorifying. T h u s , "mythical" here means something wrapped in the aura of the extreme. 'She second meaning is just the opposite: Everywhere we go, we meet people who declare thar they d o not believe in the "myth" of something or other, that they're opposed to it and hold it u p t o public disdain. H e r e "myth" simply takes o n the meaning of "lie": generally an

imaginative lie, accompanied by some enlotion, which the clear mind must dispel and stamp out. I think that behind the distressing banality of these two accepted meanings of the word "myth," a long story lies hidden, and it is by no means banal. Quite the contrary: I would say that it throws open the very vortex of history. Certainly we will not get into it in this brief digression. Still, I should like to remind you of certain points that can be discerned behind the comrnon, unconscious, and proud use of a word. And as a modest practical proposal, I would suggest for us all a means of self-defense: Use the word "myth" solely for the stories of gods and heroes called such by the ancients. This means abandoning forever the company of both ad men and debunkers, who-among other thingsoften coincide, like the hostile theologians in Jorge Luis Borges's story who discover in heaven that they are the same person. T h e scandal over myth and its irrepressible lie is not simply one of the waste products of contenlporary enlightenment. We find it everywhere in Greece, starting with Xcnophanes. Rut there is one text in which the argument against myth is conducted with maximum authority and maximum force. It is Plato's Republic-. I'his dialogue sheds light on everything that over the centuries has been stated to defend myth or to condemn it. One rnight even say that all that has been written on the subject since then is nothing but a series of glosses on a few lines from the Republic-. In a famous passage in Book 10,Plato speaks of the "oJd quarrel between philosophy and poetry." And poetry means Homer. Indeed, the whole Republic can be read as a staged dispute between Plato and Homer, a dispute that has never ended and that even today invisibly guides our words. I t is not, however, a literary dispute. For the Greeks, Honler is above all the first theologian, the first repository of wisdom about the gods and the world. In fact, Plato launches his attack on Honler in Rook 2, well before Book 10, which deals with the function of poetry in the city. And here the argument is theological. Homer is bluntly accused of having composed "false myths." Whereas in Book ro poets are condemned because they practice mimFsis, the dangerous art of imitation, here they are accused of "depicting images that in no way rescn~ble things they have tried to ort tray." the The deception would thus reside in the divine stories themselves. But how can we believe that Plato was really disturbed by the adulteries, rapes, and other misdeeds of the gods? That would mean to read him like a Church Father or a Stoic moralist, whereas Plato is par excellence a metaphysi-

cian, and i t is precisely on metaphysical grounds that he objects to the mythical tales. Let 11s follow him now as he takes a decisive step. If EIonler's stories were worthy of belief, what then would be the nature of the god? T h e god would be, says l'lato, a gd~s, wizard, a magician capable of changing his a appearance at will, deceiving us by roaming "in many forms." And here comes the ~netaphysical question: Should we believe that [he god subjects himself to this incessant metanlorphosis or that he has a "simplen form and "emerges" (ekbainei) from himself less than any other? Here we have touched rock bottom in Plato's accusation: Homer, the enemy, is nothing but the representative of a realm, the realrn of metan~orphosis, and he is the bearer of the knowledge of metamorphosis. For philosophy, this is the enemy realm, the realm of ungovernable powers, whose witnesses-the poets-should be expelled from the city. So when I'lato simultaneously condenlns mimetic poetry and Homeric and epiphanic, it is because a serious, invinmyth, which is ~netamorphic cible threat comes from these tales and forms. Unlike anyone before him, Plato was seized by a sort of giddy terror at the proliferation of imagcs. T h e waves o f thc "boundless ocean of dissimilarity" were breaking all around hirn. If we try to limit the area ofthe quarrel with Homer, i t would then be the area of appearance, of images, of simulacra, of eidola. And eidolon, "simulacr~~m," here be the crucial word, just as idolatry was will the crucial point in the quarrel between Judeo-Christianity and paganism. Now, rnyth is precisely a knowledge of the simulacrun~ through the simulacrum. Not only does the mythical tale not take a stand against the "boundless ocean of dissimilarity," but it would seem to glorify it, as if nothing could pass through the diversified barrier of appearance. And it is precisely in diversity, in thatpoikilia that rules in events on earth and that we already recognize when we raise our eyes to the stars-called by Plato the greatest danger lies "the ornaments (poikilmata) of the sky"-that hidden. The simulacrum, in fact, seduces one to imitation. The man who looks at the sirnulacrurn is tempted to become the sirnulacrum. And if the wheel of sin~ulacra appears diversified and perverse, this man will becon~e-as it says in the Republic-not nlerely a poet but a g d ~ sa wiz, ard, exactly like the god he celebrates. I t is in this word that, for Plato, the enemy is condensed, be he god or poet. Plato's city expels not only a certain type of man but a certain type of god: the Homeric gods, to be precise. As for the man to be expellcd, Plato

calls hinl not [>I-i~narilypoet but a "nlan skillfillly able to transform hima self into everything." Fronl that, one can see th:lr l'lato's opposirion to the practice of metamort,hosis takes precedence over his rejection of a certain use ofwords. And this practicc is revealed precisely in the skill of anyone w h o treats simi~lacrahy t r a ~ l s f o r n ~ himsclf into tllern. Therefore, hidin~ den behind the opposition to poetry loorns ailother, where the realm of words is even abandoned a n d two alltagonistic kinds of knowledge clash. Plato alludes here t o the trauma, the rift in the history of knowledge, that occul-s when instead of saying "n is transformcci into b." one says "n is 6." 'fhc first form, necessarily narrative, is [he one in which k~lowledge is displayed wherever we find myths, a n d there is no civilization [hat does 1 the not contain solne knowledge of this kind. 0 1 other hand, predicative knowledge (in the form "n is 6 " ) appears rather late and only in a few places, one of which is archaic Greece. T h e final cornparis011 would thus be this: o n one side, n knowledge that today we would call algorithmic, that is, a chain of statements, of signs linked t o the verb "to be"; on the other, a metamorphic knowledge, all inside the mind, where knowledge is an emotion that modifies the knowing subject, a knowledge born from the image, from the eiddon, and cu11-ninating in the image, without ever being separated from it or admitting a knowledge higher than itself; a knowledge driven by a n inexhaustible force, which, however, has the grace t o offer itselfas a literary device; that is, analogy. I n this morral duel, when the predicative form of knowledge became dominant, one of its first concerns was to develop a theory of myth thar would discredit its cognitive power. 'The first symptonl of [he terror of fables ur;ls thus the elaboration of some sort of theoretical reconstruction of their origin. 'The function of such an exorcising enterprise was above all to obliterate the idea chat the myth itself had been born as a n all-embracing and self-sufficient theory. W h a t I'lato was accomplishing by condemning Ho~ncr was therefore a y a n d i o s e attcnlpt to undermine a whole form of knowledge. But let us look closely at the dangel-s of imitation: T h e mythical stories, b!, their nature, seduce the soul t o imitate them, as though they inevitably belonged to the circulation o f simulacra. And how did this process ofimitation occur? I will give two e x a n ~ ~ l echosen from the tmro s, ends of the mythical rangc, which filnclarne~ltally coincide. 3'he first is from Homer. >I*harthe gcstures of myth are n ~ o d e l s for human actions is atrestcd for the tirst time in the Ilind: Achilles looks at Pria111. H e is about t o restore t o him the corpse of Hector, wrapped in

linen and lying on a bed. Rut the night must still pass before the father can see him. So Achillcs invites Priam to eat. W h a t argument will he find to convince the petrifiecl old m a n ? Achilles begins to speak of the children o f Niobe. I'ierced by the arrows o f Apollo a n d Artemis, they lay aband o n e d for nine days. Everything around them lay still, like coagl~lated blood. IViobe a n d all the orher hunlan beings remained motionless. Such was the will o f Zeus. " T h e n , o n the tenth day, they were buried by the gods, sons of Urnnos." T h e gods came dow11silently from O ~ y t n p u s n d a d u g a grave for six young women a n d six young men. "Then Niobe remembered food, since she had grown tired o f weeping." Later she was transformed into a rock. Achilles continues to speak to Priam: "Well, even we, divine old man, think about food." Perhaps in other texts, equally old and today lost, one might find similar scenes. Before performing a gesture, a hero remembers a previous gesture that formed part of a story of the gods. A n d that mernory gave him the form for his actiorl a n d the strength t o carry it out. But the ILnd, for the Greeks, was the origin. Each o f its lines can be read as something being said for the first time. T h u s , mythical exemplariness is stated once a n d for all o n this occasion: Two desperate men, one old and o n e young, must persuade themselves to eat. T h e gesture thac then came t o Achilles' mincl was thar of Niobe, she who had seen two gods kill all her children and then all the gods descend from heaven to bury them. First they kill us, then they bury us. Everything the gods wanted to tell us about thernselves was contained in that image, that story. Now it would have t o be repeated, just as it would later be repeated countless other times by others who perhaps did not even know its name-the gesture of Niobe. T h e second exalnple that I would like t o offer you is a story o f the Bushmen of the Kalahari, collected in 1879 by Wilhelm Bleek. Here, the o n e who speaks is not the bravest a n d mightiest o f the Achaeans but a wretched nomadic hunter, hounded by blacks and whiles, about four feet seven inches tall, and like all his people, able to c o u r ~only to three. T h e t following text den~onstrates relations with Canopus, a p r o n ~ i n e n star his t in Bushman mythology: My grandfather 11sed to speak to (;anopus as soon as the star rose. Hc woi~ldsay: "You will give Inc your heart, which is full; you will take my heart, with which I feel cfesperately afflicted. So thac I too can be fi~ll, like you. For you look full of food and so you are n o t little. For I a m hungry.

You will give me your stom;icli, with which you ;Ire satisfieci. You will cake my scomach, so that you coo may be hungry. G i v c me also your arm and take my arm, \vith \vhich I do nor Itill. For I miss che target. You will give your arm. Achilles a n d the Bushman thus act with a conlmon premise. T h e y think every action acq~lires meaning insofar as it conceals a double within, a mental epiphany, an exemplary action that once a n d for all gives form to the gesture: an action that may have occurred on the veldts of heaven or among the cliffs of Anatolia but that envelkps every other similar action in its light, forever. N o one, I think-friend or foe-has ever been so lucid about myth as l'lato. And no one-I think-has practiced ~ n y t h such an ambivalent in way. O n e point, however, remains steady: His condemnation of Homer, the stubborn rejection expressed in Books z and 10 of the Republic, was the crucial event in C I L L ~history, as far as the understanding of myth is concerned-or rather, as far as the nonunderstanding o r myth is concerned. O n e might say that, from then until today, the most diverse theoof rists, each in his own way and sometimes at a dis~ance centuries, have been anxious to obey l'lato's injunction. They have been philologists and theologians, antiquaries and poers, historians and archaeologists. But before alluding to them, I should like to return for a moment ro Plato's ambivalence. [n the Phaedo he states a position quite the opposire o f the one set forth in the Republic. Speaking of myths, Socrates says, "Beauriful indeed is this risk, and we somehow need to be enchanted with these rhings [i.e., with the fables themselves]." Knowledge by simulacra appears here as a sort of spell to which the mind subjects itself: a dangerous and beautiful enchantment, a risk we must accept because the knowledge that comes to us by this path would not be attainable in any other way. Now let us go back to the Republic. After Plato's condemnation, one might say that the mythical tale was p ~ under house arrest, or at best o n ~ t probation. T h a t the ancient fables were absurd, immoral, perverse, and childish has been repearcd countless times over the centuries, prinlariiy, of course, on the Christian side. Rut the noble Neoplatonic allegories, which reach their peak with I'roclus, also served to enfeeble them by making them pious and obedient to a design. And finally, when ranks of learned mythographers began to make headway among scholars of classical antiquity, science too obeyed Plato's condemnation, confining

mythical events, with desperate and often comical diligence, to unsuirable and inadequate spheres. Wilhelrn Roscher's Lexikon, an enormous and magisterial work of ~nythography,bears obvious signs of this. There we find upright scholars doing their best to trace fables back to atmospheric phenomena, to disparate forms of clouds and dawns and thunderstorms. Just as, starting with Wilhelm Mannhardt, the other deadening word, "fertilit):"c;irne along as something to trace every image back to. Shortly thereafrer, another obsession, the obsession with ritual, would appear, still with the same purpose of corralling and classifying the pro~niscuity ofimages. And in our ow11day, the last imposing attempt to systematize myth, that of Claude 1,ki-Strauss, appears as rhe work of a Linnaeus of images, chiefly eager to conceive what myth could not conceive except unconsciously, that is, countless variations of the nature/culture opposition, a rhought that might more accurately be attributed to Lkvi-Strauss himself and to our whole period. dominated by society's superstitious faith in i [self. In the nieantime, however, mythical simulacra have continued to act. Rut in what forrn? Ovid defined his Metamnrpl/os~.s '>armenperpetuuin," as which we might translate as "endless enchantment," with an eye ro the original meaning of carmen. This work, along with Nonnus's Dionysiaca, is the last surviving suninia in which simulacra speak in the language ofsimulacra. Ovid's successors, 1,). and large, did not sing but painted. It is instructive to draw a comparison between Ovid's countless commentators and his illustrators. Among the commentators, beginning with the Ovid rnoralise'of the Middle Ages and then for century after century, there is a tenacious attempt to subject Ovid to a euhemerist, ~ n o r a l i z i n ~ , or flatly n a r r a t ~ l o ~ i c a l interpreration. Compare that with the illustrators of Ovid and the Greek fables. I t i Guido Reni's Atalanta or Gianlorenzo Bernini's Apollo nrld Drrphne, in Ecl~o and Narcissw by Nicolas Poussin (whom Bernini himself called a "great fabulist") or Rembrandt's Rape o f Proserpina, in l'itian's Rape of Europa or Carlo Saraceni's Dnedrrlus and (carus, in Francesco Furini's Ulysses and Oerzelop~ Dosso Dossi's Zeus or Painting Butterjies, it would seem that Ovid's carmen continues to be interwoven, without a thought to period and customs, as though the same knowledge of simulacra werc transmitted silently from one to another or a tapestry of words was being continued on canvas and in marble. Thus fables, which when expressed in words had ended by terrifjing people, have continued to he secretly contempl:~rcd.O n e would like to think that

European civiliza~ionfound this honorable c o m p r o ~ n i s e[o guarantee their survival lly welcoming them into the irresponsible sphere o f a r t . Says Sallus~i~is OHthr Gods crpld thr World, "For the world itself can in be called myth, in that bodies and things appcar in it, while souls and spirits are hidden in it." It was necessary to arrive at the end of paganism, with this ohscure little Neoplatonic treatise, to come upon a definition of myth so dazzling in its simplicity as to make all others secm fr~iitless. So when we look at the spectacle of the world a t o u n d us, we already find ourselves in a myth. And now we can understand why mythical tales, even when they come down to LIS fragmented and mutilated, sound L~miliar and difkrent from all other stories. 'l'hesc tales are a landscape; they are our landscape, hostile and inviting sim~llacra that n o one has invented, which we continue to meet and which expect us only to recognize them. T h u s now we can own up to wllar was-what is-that ancient terror that the fables continue to arouse. It is no different from the terror that is the first one ofall: terror of the world; terror in the face of its mute, deceptive, overwhelming enigma; terror before this place of constant metamorphosis and epiphany, which above all includes our own minds, where we witness without letup the tumult of simulacra. Now, if myth is precisely a sequence of simulacra that help to recognize simulacra, it is naive to pretend to interpret myth, when it is myth itself that is already interpreting us. I t acts on us like the wooden image of Taurian Artemis: Orestes stole it from the shrine. H e traveled a long way holding it tightly in his hands, a n d all the while he felt madness hanging over his head. T h e n one day, he thought he would try to live by himself and hid the statue in a thicket of reeds, not far from the Eurotas River. There the image lay for years. O n e day two young Spartans of royal blood, Astrabacus and Alopecus, discovered it accidentally w l ~ e n rhey entered the thicket. Upright, wreathed in branches, the staruc stared at them. T h e two Spartans were driven mad, because they had no idea what they were seeing. T!lis is the power of the simulacrum, which cures only those who know it. For others it is a sickness. '1.11~1~ myth: 'I'he power that arouses the tcrror is also the only one tli;lt can cure it, as happened with Orestes. Rut only if it is recognized fol- wIlar it is.




1. Friedrich Nictj.schr, O w the C~pnrtllo,gofMortll~, tr. Walter K n ~ ~ f i n a n n R. J. 2nd f lollingdnlc (NCWYork, 1989). preface, para. I , p. 15.

2. Fricdrich Nict~sche,Lcc.e Homo, tr. Walter K a u f ~ n ~ n n (New York. 1989), prefiace, para. r, p. 217.

3. Ibid. 4. Nictzsche, Gf~netlko'~ qfMortlls, preface, para. z, p. 16.

5. Nietzsche to C. F ~ ~ c h14, Decernber 1887. s 6. Nictrsche to C . von Geradorff, 20 Dccemhe~. 1887. 7. Nietzsche to I? Gast [Heinrich Kliselirz], zo December 1887. 8. Friedrich Nietzsche, Bfyond G o d a n d E u i l , section 281, tr. K. J. Hollingdale
(New York. 199o), p. 213.

9. Nietzsche to K. \on Scydlicz, 1 2 Febtuary 1888. 10. Nict7sche to (;. Rrandcs, 2 I>eccmber 1887.
1 1. Nict7sche to l? Dcusscn, 3 January 1888. 12. Ihid. 13. Nict7sche to I? G'ist, 7 April 1888. 14. Nict7sclre to I? C;aat, 2 0 April 1888. 15. Nict/sche to A. Strindberg. 8 Deceml~er1888. 16. N i c t ~ a c ~ ~J. R ~ ~ r c k h ~ ~ r d t , to c 6 January 1889, in The l'ortirbkf Nzrtzscl,e tr. K'altcr Kaufmann (New. York: Viking, 1968),p. 686. 17. Friedrich Nieczschc. I-'as~/~z~moz~r ~ m r / 11671,J u l y - A ~ i ~ ~ ~ s t T h e Fr~~ its, 1882. ~ostl~ztwroi~s Fr~rprents cited hy nulnhcr and date as cstahlisheii t)y the C:olli-Montinari arc edition. 18. 1:ricdrich Nict/.schc,7~1e (;/ty Scrcwtz,, tr. W:lltcr K'lufin.lnn (New York: Vintage Rooks. 1974). 367, 13. 324. 19. Martin Hcideggcr, N i e t z r d ~ ~ (I'hllingen, 196r), vol. I , p. 480. 20. Ihid., p. 475. CI 21. Martin Hcideggcr, V Ss h~i.utde7rkcwi (T'iibingen, 1954), second i).lrt, passim. 22. Martin tfeideggcr. Ijcr S N ~ Z G r z ~ n d ( I ' f ~ ~ l l i n ~ c n , p p r ~ o f f . uum 1957),

23. FI-ictlrich Nicrzschc, TJit ( , ; 1 ~ c ~ ~ f ' l t i ; epilogue,1rr. W;llrer K.~ufm.cnn(New 1~~1~~ ; ki)rk. 1967), p. 1112. 24. Nietzschc, E1:;z.c /lorno, prcticc, p;1r;1. I . 25. Friedrich N i c w s e h ~ "M;~xinjs . ;lnd AI-rows," z X , i l l 'li(~ili~yhtf t / lIdol$, in '/he (? ~ / bl-t(/l/lrNirtar/~c, 472. p. 26. [Oid., 42. 27. Friedrich Nicr/.sche, Die I)l/,t~~si.rchr,,/r,r,~~~y, par.?. HJI..\~I$~,II dtrr Geburt r l e ~ 7;.11~lidir, 3 (I.eipzig, 1928). vol, 28. Nietzschc, I'ostl~~or~uus i ~ ~ r l m t~s ) [ ~ 21871 (ti)[rhe projeered work hl~lricnnd Fr , j, Tragedy). 2'1. Ihid., 2 [ 1 ~ 6 A,U I I I I ~1885-Autumn 1886. ] ~II 30. Il)id., I [jh]. Aurutnn 18Xj-Spring 1886. 31. "Nihil eriam tam ~nultiplexcsse potesr ;lut dispcrsu~n, quad pcr illam, de qua
rgirnus, cnumerarionenl cerris Iirnitibus c i r c u n ~ ~ c r iarque in aliquot capita disponi non bi possit." KcnG Descarrcs, ReCqillne nrlrlirertioncm inLq<,rlii, 8. 32. Nier7schc, I'ortl~unrous Frzg~nrnts,6l1841, Autumn 1880. 33. Ibid., I ~ [ z I ) Spring 1888, , 34. Friedrich Nirrzschc, "How the 'True \Vorld' Finally Uccame a Fable," in LJilight ?f thr, IlhlS. 35. Nietzsche, l'ostl,r,~;~ow Frngr~ir~wtc, 7[54], lare 1X8(5-Spring 188-. 36. Nierzsche t o P Gasr, 13 November 1888. 37. John 1 9 : ~ .

54. Nicr/.schr, " W h y 1 r\m a Ljcs[iny," par:1. I , in /; Horrlo. 55. Nict/sclic, I%(.(;t!y,~/c.c, 367. 56. lhici., 371, 57. Nicrl5chc to I! (;.is[, 1 3 and 18 No\,cmhcr 18x8. 58. Nict/.schc to I.. Overbeck, 13 NovemOcr 1x88. 59. Nict/.sciic ro I). (;.isr, 9 L)cccmher 1888. 60. Nicr/.schc r o H Gasl, 16 1)vcernhcr 188X. 01. Nierztche t o C. Frlchs. 27 1)eceniber 1888. 62. Nictzschc to]. I ~ L I I - c k h ~ 6d r , r J;lnuary 18Xi),in 771rl',,rt(rbkNietz~~~he, p. 680. 6.1. I1)id. 64. Nict/sclie ro F. Avcnari~~s, Deccn~ber1888. 10 65. Nictzsche ro J . Burckhardt, 6 January 188.1, in The Portable NiL,tache, 1). 687.
(71i.,tnsl;rtioiislightly :llrerrd.J (10. Nierzschc. /'o,tl~z/rwortii%lLfmnlts, 21[4], Atrt~~riin 18x8. (17. Ibid.. 16[89],Spring-Summer 1888.

38. Respecrively in Nierzschc, Ercr Homo: "Why I a m a Destiny," para. r. dnd "The Case of \Y!<igner," para. 4. 39. Nierrsche, Ecce Horiro, prrfice, para. I . 40. Nierzschc ro F. Ovcrbrck, 13 Novernbrr 18x8. 41. Nietzschc ro H Gasr, 16 l>rcernbcr 1888. 42. Niet7schc, Rryond Goo/lnnd E d , 40. 43. Friedrich Nicr;.schc, ';\ssorrcd Opinion5 and A4axims." 360, p.lrt I ot'vul. 2 Hzrmnn, All Too Hum/ln, rr. K. J. kIollingdale ( C a ~ n h r i d ~Cambridge Univcrsiy I'ress, c: 1986), p. 293. 44. Friedrich Hiildcl-lin, Allrrlrl-kungrr~Z Z / I T Idd$us. 45. Nietzschc. T / J (;,!J~ Scirlrcr, 374. J 46. Frirdrich Hiilderlin, Frntlkf;,l-tc,r.I'l(i~/ Drl- 7j,rldo E ~ r ~ c d o k l r ~ . for 47. Niet7.schc. Ecce Howlo, " W h y 1 Am So Wise," p a r a I . 48. Friedriel1 Hijlderli~i, ; r u ~ ~ / / z u h t. ~ / ~ r ~ i o k b . . ( r n

68. Nict/,sche to 1. U ~ ~ r c k h a r d4,lanuary 1889. t 00. Nicrzche, Pojtlr~or~ous Fr(1~1~1rrlts 2[132], Autumn 1885-Autun~n1886. 70. N i r t ~ s c h e , Po~tl~umozts Ffizgmrnts z4[1]2,Ocrober-Novcrnber- 1888. 71. Pierrc Klossowski, " i j o n Juan sclon Kierkrgaard," ilce'phn1r.j-4, (1937):zK 72. Pierre Klossowski, k er~ckc~iicirux rt (I'aris, 1969), pp. ~ r g - j b . 73. Nietzschr ro J . Brlrckhardr, 6 January 1889, in 7 h c PortnbleNiL~tucl~e, 687. p. 74. Klossows ki, i"lr~tucheet lr cr'rrlr uicirux, pp. 345-47. 75. Nictzsche ro J. Rurckhardr, 6 Janrrary 1889, in 7 7 ~ Portt~ble r Nirtuche, p. 686. 76. Nietzsche. Postl~ionousFri'ymrnts, 10[9j], Aururnn 1x87. 77. Klossowski. Nietzsche rt lr crrcie ~;,ux, 3.3. p. 78. Nierzschc: l'ustl~r~~lzuus Frngmer~ts,1[7o).July-A~r~usr 1882. 79. Niet/.sche to I. Ilurckhardc, 6 January 1889, in 7%rPurt(zble Nietucl~r,p. 686. 80. Ibid, p. 687. In Italian in Nirtzschcb lerrer. XI. C . A. F:. Uer~ioulli, Orsrbeck I ~ Y I~Wc,twcljr~. E ~ E (Jcna, IOOX), vol. 2 , p. 307. 82. N i e r ~ s c h r ,T1)p;( .Science, 359. !z, 83. "On l i u t h and Lying in the E.xtralnoral Sens~,." para. I (disscl.tatio~~ 1873). of 84. ll)id., para. 2. 85. Ibid.,,l. I , 2.
Xh. Ibid.

40. Nicr7~scl~c."Wlly So Wise," par;l. 5, in kcce Homo. [.li.rnhlarion slightly altered.] I Am 50. I loldcrlin, (;rl~rrdzurnEmnprdokles. 51. I l ~ i c l . 52. t:riC<lrichNic[zschc, 'vl'l~c\Xl;~~idcrcr t lis Shadow," txrrr 2 ol'\,oI. 2 of ;inJ Hunrtrn, All 7710 /ILIIW(III. 18j. 53. Friedrich Nict~.ache, "Skirmishch oFan llnrimcly Man," 36, in 7il~ilight (!ft/l(' l d ~ kp. 537. ,

2 . T H E SLEEI'


I . (f the c c t i o n "I.ckti~rc."in Kol>crt Walscr. IJer /:Lro/iiirr ((;c.ncvn, 1y6X). :. 2. Ktrber[ Wtlscr, "Mcinc H c m i i h ~ n ~ c ni,l " (;rossr l,.k.i~re l U';,lt, cd. (:;1r1 Scclig

(Zurich, 1937).1 198. .' 3. Walter Rcrij;lniin, "Kohcrt W.llscr," in O~,strmrw~ltc..Y~./,r~firr~, book vc~l.2, (Frankturt, 1077), 11. 327.


Notn to (,%~[r//trr . 4


4.<:.Scclig, W~riltl(,i.l~r~yri~ iiril l<o/Ic~i.t W$rbr,r(St. <;.lllcn, ri)i:), p. 14.

5. li. M;icliler, 1)tr.i I,r~l/r~ir l<o/Ii.ri\Y+//.sii~.~ (<;encv.~, 1')66),p. 104.
0 . E. liohclc, "S.~~.clini\clic ~ g von d c n Ncunclll;iSc~-n."in tili.iilP Sr.lii.i/trir, vol. 2, S c

('l'iihingcn, I ~ O Ipp. 1~)7-2(19. ), 7. 1.. M,lsigllon, I.(., ~irtir'y(,~ M i ~ ~ y ~ P I lGrcr il(;c.o~ir'n.v In Arirbrz~(I'.lris, tl~ ~ l~ri~ pnr 1962), pp. 14-15; <;. clc S, .lnd )-I. von L)echcnd, Hiriwlri; Mill(I3oston, 1969), p. 26').

1. l3crrolc Brccht, 1918,in (;c.strmwrrlt~W r k e , vol. 7, p. 3. 2. Arthur Kirescher, 1.i.crrlk Wdrkiird: S~eii~ Lrb~wurrdsriil Werk (Munich, r 9z7), vol. 2, [>I>. 130-31. 3. RI. <;r,tner, Lo peil~l(, cl~iizuisr(Paris, 1934), p. 332. 4. I.(T /nc+~oirrsl~i,-tori~i~rs de Se-rwn E'ic~w, 6. Ch'~va~rnes, ed. chap. 28.

8. Sancillana .tnci Dcchend, Hnmlet? Mill, pp. 139, 418-10. 9. A. Jercnii.ts, Ff[ry~dh~~ch~ ~ ~ l t u r i r i ~ t i r(/ ~,~ ~~ s tlci ~ ~ -(Berli~i, iiri i ~ i ~ ~ ~ i~ u l t r c r19.19),12. 189. ~ 10. M. Schneidcr, El orrgri1 inusicirl iir lus i~i~i~~rnlr,-siinholus initulugin? L r e ~ z ~ l ril IN tUr(7 ililtlglL~.< J ~ c c I ~ I 1946), P.186. (R I;~, 11. H . Corbin, "I'hysiologie de I'homrnc dc lumi?rc d.~ns \ouhsrnc ir.inicn," in le

5. Rlorhofius, Publ~istur (Liibeck, 1747), p. 348 6. K x l Marx, hlirrx en gel^ Werke (Berlin, 1956- ), vol. 23, pp. 91-93, (Hereafter

7. Ibid., p. 90. 8. K.trl blarx, Cirpitirl, in M E Y vol. 25, p. 838. 9. hl'trx, (.kpitir/, in MEW vol. 23, p. 85. 10. Ibid.. p. 62. 1 I. l l ~ i d .p. 99. , 12. Karl Marx, G'ruwdrisse (Berlin, 19j3),p. 39r 13. hlarcel Mauss, "Ess'li sur le don," in S ~ c i o l u ~eteantli~opolo~ie i (Paris, 1960), p. 167. 14. Marx, At~szt@ atrs Mill, in MEW Ergbd. I , p. 446. 15. C~rpital, M E K vol. 23, p. 102. in 16. [I~id. 17. Ihid.. p. 146. 18. Ibid., pp. 102-3. 19. A t ~ ~ z u g r Mill, in MEW Erghd. I , 1). 455. (it~s 20. Ibid., pp. 448, 449. 2 1. M,irx, G'rtrnd~~sse, 391. p. 22. G . W. P Hegcl, Aphorismew nus drm Wastebook, 1803-1806. . 23. blarx, (;rziwdrissr, p. 2 j. 24. Marx, Cirpitnl, in MEW vol. 23, p. 58. 25. Mnrx, (;rlrwdi.i,.,.e, pp. 117% 26. Pierre Kloaowski, Lir ~wowwuie viunnte (Paris, 1970), p. [jo]. 27. Marx. At(sztige irtts Mill, in M E K Erghd. I , p. 461. . p. 28. M ~ r x (='rt~ndris,.e, 80. 29. Archnr Rimbaud, "illuminations," in Rimbnud: (:umplete Works, ,Sekctc~dl,etters, tr. Wall'tie Foulie, ((:hic.~go,1g66),pp, zjj-jj. 30. Marx, C,'ruildri~sr.p. 134.
31. Fr.unk Wcdekind, S(-hlossWrttc,rst~iw, I , scene I. act

Ow~bl-r I~~/ rt (varioils authors) (Hrugc\, 1961), 17'). p. 12. Mmignon, Lrs ~ll~,rgrsf ,h l a ~ e l l a ip., 14. d ~ 1. . iCt~arhr~.J,sn/~/liir,O o r i ~ m ~ r~iid Srt r z i'etit i'1r.t (1 lcilhronn, 1879) and Is1,tnlic sources for chc Icgc~ld chc Seven Slccpcrs in M. I Iubcr. I)ir V;/nildrn-lr~yeildr of uun drw Sirbrw~rhlii/>~w (Lcip~ig, 1910);I. Gitidi, "Tcsti orienr.lli inediti sopra i Sette Dormicnti in EScso," in Knccoltir d i ~critti (Rorne, 194j) vol. r , pp. 61-1g8. 14. L. Massignon, "Lcs 'Scpc Dorrn.tncs': Apoc,ilypse dc I'lslam" .lnd "LC culte l i ~ u r g i ~ u cpopulairc dcs Scpt L>ornlar~ts ct Marcyr~ d'Lph?~c," O/,erir h f t t ~ o r(Beirut, in [~ 1963),I>c)ok3, pp. 104-1') ancl 119-81. 15. I.. Massignon, 1.r.s t r ~ ~~1ai1s p s lrpr,71sc;r i~.liriniqt/r, Mlwurtr, book 2, p. 607. in 16. Robert Walarr, "Minotauros," in ilkl,kri,ade (Geneva, 1968), p. 19'). 17. H . Giinterr, (,>r[ (Hnlle, r()19), 170--72. pp. 18. R. Eisle~,\%ltrwi?1ili1telt,71dH1n7n1elszrlt(M~lnich. 13;0), vul. 2. pp. 390-91. 19. Miiihler. Oir, Lehril Koho-t Wrl,.rn, p. 107 20. Max Brod. Sti-e~thcrrrs 1.rhrir (hlunich, 1960).pp. 393-94. 21. 1;1,rn/K.lfk.1, Brief> (1-r.mkfurt, ryjg), p. 75. 22. liobert Musil, "l.iter.~rische(:hronik," in 7~1~rLtichri; /Ip/7ori,mri1, 1L;i,i!~js told Redeil ( I lamhurg, r r ) ~ ~ ) 68:. p. . 23. E l i ~ s C.inctti, "K.iIkd's O ~ h e 'li-id: 'l'hc Lctccrs LO tclicc." in 771e Li1i1scirwc.eof' r Word,, tr. Jocicllim N c ~ ~ g r o s i l (New Li)rk, 1979). 1). 1 1 1 . ~cl 24. Kol)crt W.ilser, "[),IS Kind ( I II)," in lV~c,tr,i~lrjbc,i~ ((;c~~ev,i, 196;l), p. 406. 25. <:'irl Seelis, h > r t ~ o i ~ i ~ / - %(l\,tscl.~ T~lnuary eiir~ 6 19j7). 26. I<obcrt \Xi.tlscr. "'l'hcoclor." in I:c,.,tzr!y ((;cncv.l, 1966).pl?. jO;-ii. 27. '1; I , L I I ~ L ~ , 7/1(,ti<;l~ ~ / o ~ ( ~ / ,(/ .i ; ( ~ I r / ~ ~ / I II, ~ ~ [/ II I II ~iiroi>111 /J/~ i I I i ~ 111 , S ~ (.ri)kyo, 1 9 6 6 ) ~ pi'. 11-1 3. 28. F I L I ~ Ov u n I IoIrn.lnn\rh.~l."'l'hc I.c~tcr0 1 I.ord <:h.tndo\," Lr. .l;wi.i Stcrn and J;II~ICS ~ I i-l lI ,S(~l~r~~(~c/l'7~oii.o I ~l ,~ ) j ~ ) ,138. S~ >, (NO\ Y I>. 2'). liol1ert W;llscr, "1)ic <;lo\\c,"in h.krskriuril(,( ( ; C I ~ C V A6 8 )p. 196. 10 . ~ 30. M;ichlcr, Ons Lrbc~i~ l<oLri./Wrl,-e,s-. 1'. 47. 31. Jacket iopy f;,r thc It,ali;ln edition t)C O P T(;l'l)iilfc ('1'11~ Assiscant) (Turin, 1961).



I . <;o ccfricd Ben n , E)~ilo~y lyri,.rl~c.sIrh, in (~rsnrnmeltrWrrke, cd. I Wellert~wd ) . shoff, vols. 1-4 (Wicshaden, 1c)j8-61) [herenfcer G W ] ,uol. 4, p. 8. All p.iss.tgcs quored are by Bcnn. 2. <;ottfried B e n n , Z u r I'roblrrwtrtik des IOrl~terischen, C;K vol. I , p. 78. in

3. ( ;otrfried Kcnn, I,c~h~ns,cr:~~ I P ~ L ' I Iiit(~ll(,ktutil~~t(,~~, vol. 4, p. 38. in GLK 4. Ldccrer0/27 Octo[)er 1940, in Nrirfiti,~Ii W Oelze iqjr-1941 ( W i c s l ~ ~ d c ~ l . 1~)77),
p. 246. 5. (;ottf'rictl I3cnn, ML'I'II, I I I Ii (~M I I I I ~ I lIl P , N ~t i GW v01. I , p. 401. ' 6. Letter of11 April 1942, in Brief> ~ I H :<)e/zr i?.{r-io f r, p. ill. 7 I.ecter r o \VelIcl-hoffof 22 Novenlber I L ~ ~in (;orthird U~rnn, O ,;i'hltc. Brief'(Wiesh~rcicn,I L ) ~ ?p., 202. ) S. Ibid., pp. 204-5. 0. Gorrfried Benn, "Die Keisc," in (,'\L,'vol. 2, p. 33. 10. Gorrfried Benn, "Die lnsrl," in GW vol. 2, p. 46. I I . Ben n, Lebrnswl~ l~ines I1ztrllrktzmlistr17, p. 3 0 . 12. Illid., p. 37. 13. Lottfrird Berrn, P r o b l r ~ n t , d ~ ~ r in GW vol. I , p. 515. Ly~y,-ik, 14. Lortkiecl Berrn, Zucht undZrlkrlnfi, in (~'IY,'vol. I , p. 457. 15. Benn. Epilog zlnd lyriscl~esIc~J, I I . p. 16. Letter ro Nelc Soercnsen of 24 Augusr 1949,in N.! Soerrnsrn. ATei~iV a t n I GottfriedRerirr (Wieshaden, 1984), p. '17. 17. Cortfried B e ~ r nIloppellrber2, in GW,' vol. 4, p. 133 , 18. Ibid., p. 133. 19. Gottfricd Benn. Roman d e Pl~iinotyp,in GIV: vol. 2 , p. 171. ~ 20. Benn, Doppellebetl, p. 133.

8. K.~rlKraus, i l i r lc,/rtc,~i 7;zglec d1.r Merin.l~hcit(Munich, I O F ~p) p 726, 67'). , 9. KIKIU';. "N;icI~ts"( I ( ) I X ) , in Brim Whrt gewo~wrneri,p. 435. 10. W ~ ~ l t l ire l ~ i . ~ r n i ll~ ,r f , i h r ~ i n n d A r m ~ l t , " (;o~ir~wrnc~Dr e " ~ ug in SJvrlfiew (Fl.ankt;lrt, 1977), ~ ( 7 1 .2 , I700k I , 17. 214.



1 . [A beaurif~ll wicked sorceress in Torquaro 'Ii~sso'sG.1-usnlemme liberata. and -1ians.) 2. ["I)ic Fragc nach der T e c h n i k and "i'll~crwindu~rgr r hleraphysik," both in d


und Ai!fiiitzr, 1954.-'lians.



1. Elias Canerti, "Thc New Karl Kraus," in The I.blr.i~.i(~,i(.c~ oj'vl/o~zls, Jo'rchinl tr. Neugroschel (New York, 1979).pp. 218, 219. 2. Walter Re,]jdmin, "Karl Kraus," in Nr~ectinrrr: bi.i/?)fij. Aphu,G,ws,

Autobi~~~yra/,/~ic.i~/ rr. F,dmund Jc.l,hiorr (New Yi)rk, 19;.8), p. 2(;0. Writi~igs, 3. U.\ C:<lrlerti,7%1e7brd1i~ My l:,r,; [I-. itrnchim Neugroschcl (New ~ o r k1gX2),tl. 71. , 4.(:anetti, ".l'hc New Karl KI-.ILIS," 214. p. 5. (:;unerri, iThr lbrcl~ M y 1:iir; p. 71. in 0. Karl Krauh, "l'ro dome er mundo" ( ~ ~ i z ) Beinr W I ~ I in , gr1io1111rie11 (Munich,

I I. Kraus, I)ie Ietzte~i7iige ~l~ak.r hlrr~schh~it, 643. p. 12. E I I I SJC i ~ l g c/YI, S'tiih{yeioittern (1920), in Mdrke (Sruttgart, n.d.), vol. I , p. 11. ~ r 13. lir~isr Jiinger, Ilir 7utiilr. Mobilmar.hrr~rg (1930)~ Werkr, vol. 5, p. 133. in 14. Illid., pp. 125-26. 1 3 0 . 132. 15. Canctti, " T h e New K,lrl Kraus," p. 217. 16. IKefcrences are lo scene and line nurnber-l)~ll\.] 17. Elias Canerri. Ci.oii~ri<i~ndPowrr, tr. Carol Stewart (New York, 19961, pp. 73-75. 18. Leopold Liegler, Knrlk'raus uwdsrin wrk (Vienna, lgro), pp. 57-58. '1-his hook is the firsr a n d unsurpassed monument of Krausian apologeriis. 1 0. Kraus, [lie Iehtr~iT ~ I drr Menrclillc~it,p. 659. ~LL 20. Karl Krdus, iiErf:ihr~~~ig," Diehit.kel, nos. 381-383, Septenibcr 1913. p. 33. 21. Kraus, Ilie Ietrtc~wl i g e der 12leti1<%:/, p. 9. 22. Cl~uatig-tzu,111. 2. 23. IIelivcred on 19 November in Vienna and as the only text in no. 404 of Dir Fizckel, j Deccnlhcr 1g14. 24. Karl Kraus, "In diescr grosscn Zeir," in Weltgerichr (Munich, [1965]), p. 9 . 25. Benjamin. "Karl Kraus," p. 2 4 3 26. Canerti: "'l'hr Ncw Karl Kraus." p. 217. 1-lianslation slighrly altered.] 27. Karl Kraus, Brieje irn Sidotlir Nrid/wrrry' z,ow Borntiw (hlunich, 1974), vol. I , p p 179-80. 28. Karl Kr;lus. "Notizrn," Die h c k r l , nos. 423-25, May 1916,p. 18. 29. [In Englith in original-Trans.] 30. Callrrti. "'l'hr New Karl Kraus," p. 216. 3 I . Benjamin, "K'irl Kraus," p. 269. 32. Kraus, Die l r ~ t z t ~ 1 der Mewscljl~zir,p. jo I . 7p n 33. Illici., p. 497. 34. Benjamin, "Karl Kraus." pp. rjj-56. 35. Ibici., p. 256; K ~ A L ni1. /rtztert Ergrder Mensc/J/~c,it, . 681. IS. p 36. Ucnjaniin. "Karl Kraus," pp. 250, 253. 260. 37. Karl Krctus. "I(riegssegcn," Dir firckel, nos. 706-11. Deccmbcr 1925, p. 29. 38. Kr;l~ls, k t z t c ~ ~ i der Mmsr-l~lirir, j X 5. Ilic TciIr(, p. 39. C;o[rt-ricil BCIII~, I , I ~des ~ 'I/I ~ I I ~ Oi ~ J(;esirvin~el~e' I< I~ I J ll /I, W,rk(,(Wicsl);ide~n, 19621, \sol. 2, 17. 161. 40. KKILIS, /c,tire~iTic(> c ~~. / ( ~ I I s c ~ Jp/11. c49~ , [lie d J ~ 5-96. 41. Illid., p. 412. 42. Ibid., pp. 41 j. 40% 43. "Keklamcfahrre~izur Hiillc," o n rhc rc~crrclin~ kislw.i l i ( ~iilis eigen~ri Krrl t xc/~i-ifif~i, Lelxndigc. \vort, 1 ?X/ 17.

Notes to Chapter 10 . 275

2 1. C. (;. Jung. "1'h~ (:ontent o f t h e I'sychoses" (r908/1914), supplement: "On vol. 3, T,$~pryrhogenesjs o f ~ e n t a l llisc~/lw~, 1x7. p.
I'syiIiolo~ic;~l Under-\t.~nding," Collectrd \&ks, in 22. S.llrin.1 Spielrein, "i:ll,er cicn psychologischc~~ Inhalt Cines Falles Schizophrenic (Dementia pr;~ecox)," J/ll,rb~~~li/iir/)-'yc.l~o~t~i,~~tij,~b r ~ o p a t ~ o ~ o g ~ in ~n~p~

1. I). I! Schrcl,c~, ) c ~ i ~ k ~ c ~ i ; ~ ~ ( I ; ~N(,~.l~c~lllo./rilL~ci/ N:lcIicr:igcn l rii1e~-~ k i ~ i ~ ~ ~ i ~ nc,l,sr 11nd eincru Anh.lng ii1,c.r <lie Fr-,~ge: "Unrer \velihen Vo1-.1~1s\er7~1ngc.n cine fiirdasf geisreskr.~nkcrachccce I'e~-u'n gcgen ihr-en c.rklirten Willen in einer Heil~~nse.~lt fcscgchalren werdcn?" (I.eipzig, 1903).

fi)i~JC/J~/ll,~('il j(l9ll): 196-97. 2.3. ELI~CII I'II~LIIcI., revic\v of I're~ld, "I) n ~ e r k u n g ~ ~ R aurobiographisch bcschriebenen F ~ l von I'aranoia (De~uenria l par~illoides),"Zentralblatt j i r Pyc.ho~ztrii!,~~.r r(r912):346. Freud, " O n Narcissism: An Introduction" 0 ~ ) 1 4 ) , Collected I'apers, in 24. Sigrn~ind
vol. 4, pp. ZO-59; "A C.lse o t I'aranoia Running Counter to che Psycho-Analytical Theory of chc L)isc,,lseV(ryrj), in (,'o//,,[.tedPapers, vol.

2. D. I? Schr-eher. ,bi'einoirsof'.?I~ ni.i.~~olis lIl~/,~.i.~,.lnJ \vith r\vo essays I)!. I. Maccd. C I I ~ ~ I I C~11d A. Hunrcr. (London. ~ ~ j jp. 369: Eli.1~C,u~ccci.I % ( ,Hz/iil/iil / ' I . o / , ~ I Itr.. P , R. ) , ~ ! ( > , ~ c l ~Nn ~~ ~ g r ~ ~(Newl York. 1078)~ 1 1 ~ ) . i e che p. .3. C . I'clnlan, revicw or I).iniel P,tul Serel)cr lrii-/, O ( ~ i ~ k ~ ~ i i i . ~ f i ~ k IV(?.IJP~Iriil?i e i r ~ ~ i ~ kmillrei~,in ..l/[rrzrileiile Zri~schriji I?yl~i.l~;iit~i(~ j;ii ho(190;): 6i-. 4. R. 1' feiffer. rcuic\v of I>. I! Sch~-cl,er. L)ei~ltu,iiir/i~~L~r~ilel~ eiiler iVr~i.i)eilkl./riikeil, in Di~r/tsc.lrc~ %eitsc.l~rlfi-i i ~ Y c i ~ i ~ r n / k i r ~ r : 3 52- j 3. f; 27(1904) 5. C . G . lung. "'l'hc I'sycli~~logy Dcmenti.~ of Praecox" (1907). in (Iollertrd Wbrks, vol. 3, Tkr l!!,~c.l~ci~~t,wrjris cif'A.fc~i1ti71 L)/~.(>ilj~, F. C HLIII(Ne\v York. 13601. \lnssim. tr. R. .: 0. Sigrnltnci Frei~d, ' F ~ ~ r t I ~ c r L Re111:lrks o n [lie Defence Nriuo-I'sychoc~" \1S96), in (Jnllrc~rd I'i~/~ris(New Y o I . ~ ,I,) 59). vol I . 1,. 16.). 7, Sigmund Freu J, Tl~c. ~ i ~ y i ic!f1 s/ < ~ y i . / ~ o - A ~ i n l , ~ ~ i ~ : \Vi//rclir~I.%'ess, 0 Lettrn to Ili.i?fis ntidn'ores: r,?S,--ryur, eci. hl;~l-ie u n a p ~ r t e A n n a treild, Lrr~st B , Kris. tr. Eric blosbacher and James Stmcliey (New Yclrk, 1~)54), letter 69, p. 216. 8. Jung. "Pvchalogy of I>rmentia I'racctr~,"p. 34. 0 . 771e17Pzi~l//z/ii~ L,c.tte;.,. ed. Willi,lm h l i ( ; ~ i l - e [I-.R.llph blnnhcim and R. F. :.C. , Hull ( P r i n c e t c ~1974). P. 1 j . ~~, . l o . Il,icl, pp. 120-21. 1 I . Ihid., pp. zc)j~-c)4. 12. Tlie < . ~ ~ T i ~ ~ . ~ / ~ Ooj',5';<yi11z(r1d l~~/~'llc'~ /~;~(~ii~lii11~1 F ~ I . , . I I ~ . Z ~I., r y / ~ X - ~ y ~ q , .5'ii'11clor vol. tr. l'c~~er'l'.Iol'l>r ( ( ~ ; ~ r l ~ I ~ ~ -M'I\\.. , IO[)Z). I>, :?I. I icigc 1.3. t.i.i~~/cl!/~~~ig p. ij6. Lettri.s, 14. 1. F4oncggcr. " Ul,c~pcll-,ln(iicIcV,';~linbildung,"/ , ~ l ~ , . l ~fii ic .~l / i ~ ~ ~ c - l ~ o i i i i ~ ~ ( ~ ~ t i c r ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ l ~ i i C / / ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ / 1 ~ ~ l ~ t / l ~ ~ ~ o ~ ~ i s i - I/,)I ~ ~ 734-3 j. /'/ii.!i~li~~~ig(~ii 2 ( l 0):
l i . Sigm~~nd 1:l-cud. "l'\ycho-t\n.~lyci~ NOICF 1111011:IIIA~ltol?i(>>llicnl Accounr
of.1 ( :.~sc ~ I ~ l ' , ~ r ~Il)~ i i i i ~ ~~lir:,~ r ~ ~ ~ i o i c il11s ) , ' ~ < ( el o c~i ~ e f./d/ri~i/~c/ I / > ~ cr. !Alix St r-;tcIiey L I I I ~ /'I I- , J.11nc. Srr,lchcY( N C W YOI-I<,19jc))\\YII. 16. ll>icl.. 1). 444. 17. Il>id.~ 452. I?. IS, lhic1., I?.467.
;. PI). + L ? - - L ~ .

pp. 150--61;"Certain Neurotic Mechanisms

in Je;~lo~iry, I'aranoia, 'lnd Homoscxu'~lity" ( r g r r ) , in (,'O//e~tedlhpers, vol. 2, pp. 232-43; "A Nei~rosisof L k ~ l ~ ~ n i aI'vssession in the Scvrnteer~rh c n r ~ ~ r y " g r j )in C'oNerted cal C (~ ,

I??/)~~ls, 4, pp. 430-7L \rol.

25. W:~lter Benjamin. "Uiicher von Geisecskranken," in (Frattkfurr, rg72), vol. 4, bk. z,p. 616.

26. Tl~ic information is from .I personal letter from Elia Canerti, whom 1 here thank
for allmving me to quoec it. 2'. Canctti, The Hunlnn I'roz~iiit.r,p. 120. 28. Elias Canctti, "The C.ISC Schreber: IIII," in Crotuds iznd Pou~er, Carol of rr. Stewarr (New Ycrrk, 1984), p. 435.

29. Ihid., p. 4 4 3 30. Ibid., pp. 447-50. 3 1. W. J . Spring, "(~)bservarions n World Desrruction Fantasirs," Psyc.hon~inlytir o Qziir~.tei.(~~ X(193')):44-56; R. I? Knight, "The Re1,itionship of Laterit H o m o s c x u , ~ l i t ~ the to Il ," Mechanism of P;~r:~noid e l ~ ~ s i o n sBulletin ofthe Meilninger Cliwic 4 (1940):149-5% 32. Melanic Klcin, "Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms," in E r ~ z ~ n n d Grntitrrde nild Otl~er \C+~i-k,.,ry46-lyrfz (New York, 1c)X4),pp. 22-24. 3.3. hI,~uricsKaran, "Schrebcr'~I>elusion of ehc End of the World," l~yrl~onwizlytic Ql,izrtrr$ I S ( I ~ ) ~60-66; "Schrelier's Flallucinntions i~houtche 'Little Men."' Iyit~~rO): w n t i o n i ~ l j o z i r t ~ d ~ j ~ c . l ~ o - A n n ~ v s i ~ 32-35: "Further R e r n ~ r k s I f 31i19jo): abouc Schrrber's
Iiallucinarions.'' Iritrr~~ntioiti~l/~iziri~nl~$l'~~~c.l~u-ilizi~~sis 419-32; "Schrc1)er's 33(1952): I'repsychotic Phase," I r i t i ~ r r i ~ ~ i o i ~ n l j o z ~ r t ~ n l ~ ~ I ' ~ r / ~ o - A n n43-51; "Tile Im34(19j3): ~ ~ ~ s
I"1l-r o f rhc I'erso~~alityl Scl~izophreni,~," il lrlr~~rililtioizill JUUI.~IIII ' I ~ ~ L ~ / I Oj(r9 54):~ 1,)-28. ~ ~ I~ 3-AII I I~Y 3'1. M a u r i t K.1tn11,"Schrel~er'sHcre;~ ttel-," 7%(, l$./loizn/r/j~ti(.,Srridv c!f'lbr <:liild 14

~ > o r t a l ~ofeelie Non-Psychoric c

(1959): 114-82.

35. A. (1. (:;~rr,"Olfierv.~tion\on I'a~-;lnoia. ~ n J ~ f I i clicI;~rionrhi~ rhe Sclireber ir LO

C:ase." I t ~ t ~ ~ ~ l ~ r t i o i i i r / ~ / ~ '~ uitj' ~ ii ~li~ o - ~ l 44~(1963): 105-200; I<. W;~clder, (?f l) t . l ~i ~sis "pllic

I < ) . l l ? i ~ l . I?. 462. ~

20. I.>(,I/LI(/I(~I~ 11. 471. l.'~~i(~i.s,

Structure ofI':~r:~l~oiei Idcas." lirt~r~7i1tioi1nlJouririllc~'l'syc~l~o-/lnit~~is 32 (1951): 167-77; J. Nydcs, "Schrcher, I'arricidc, and Paranc>id-hl.tsochisn~," h~trrnntioniz/Jot/r~l~~/cif'

276 . Notn to (,71(t/)tc,r10

Notes to ( , ' / ~ ~ p t I Ir . 277 r l'imtzgi~i~irc. (I'ari~,rghi)), pp. 7 5-79; M . M a ~ i n o n i Lepychiatre, son you. "et Irr pycl~attalyse , (I'aris. 1970), pp. 165-85, 229-31, and Eductztiow impossible (Paris, 1973). p p 21-32. 48-43, .lnd ~).lsim. 52. 11. I? Schrebcr, D m k ~ u u r d i ~ ~ k e i t e r ~Nrrurnkranken, cd. and with an essay by rir7rs S. M . Wcher (Frankfurt, 1973).

I+ycho-Arr/r(ysi 44 (1963):208-12: I? ht. Kir;~y.introductic~n .lnd summ.lry ot'thc cylnpos i ~ i r n n /?rici ter/~rc.t/rtioi~s 't/~i.$I / J I . ~ ~(;,/xi,: , I -l r r u d j 771eo1y nf ' / + t r a ~ ~ oi ~ n , o uf , J~ n /trt<~1.trirtio,i~7/ /ouri~nlc$I'~ycho-Arrtr~~sis ( ~ y h z )141-94. 222-23: R. L3. Wliite, "'I lie hlother-(:ontliit 44 : in SchreOcr's I'sycliosis," Ii~teri~,~ti~~t~,r/~/~,~(~-~r,t/ - , - I ~ 42 ~ ~ J J1:~ jj--j: ~ 1 1 d I J ~ ' P /~~ ~ JI I , (1961 ~ J "The Schrebcr Case Reconsidered in the Light of 1'sychosoci.ll ( ; o r ~ c e ~ t \ . " Jirtcr.~r~rtioirr~/ /ournalqf'rlyc~/~o-Aira~sis(1961):213-2,: H . F. Sedrlcr, "Sexu,ll Prores\cs in Schi.lo44 phrenia," in Collrctrd ILzprrs or1 Schizopl~rc~tlirr RrL~ted ,7,1d .Slrbjri t, (l-ondon, 1965). pp. 423-42. 36. R. Stoller, "Fairs cc hyporhkses: Un cxanivn du co~) frcudirn dc bisrxunlite," Nouuelle Revue cle Psyc.hanalysr 7(Spring IC):~): 13i-ii. 37.Schrcher, Memoirs ofMy Nrruow I//t~(,ss.

53. GiIlcs I1eleure and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oed+us: C,7apit~lisrn nrrdSrhzzupi~renia, tr. Robert Hurley et al. (New York, 1977), p. 56.
54. Freud, "I'sycho-Analycic Notes upon an Autobiographical Account." p. 439. 55. 11eleure and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 57. 56. Anthony Wilden, "CricicIue of Phalloccnrrism: Daniel Paul Schrcl~cr n o Women's Liherdrion," in System a n d Structure: Essays in Cornmuniciztion a n d Exchangt. (London, r y p ) , p. 291.

38.Jacques Lacan, " O n a Question Prelirnin.lry to Any I'osslhlr lirarmenr of Psychosis," in Ecrits: A Selec,tion, cr. Alan Shcridnn (Ncw York, 1977). 39. Schrehcr, Memoirs o My Nervous I//?rers, pp. 3X1ff. f 40.W. G . Niedcrland, "Thrcc Notes o n tlic Schrebel-(:asc," I'syc./~oarin~vtit. Qzmrterly 20 (1951):577-91; "River Synibolism,'' parts I and 2, I'sYchoniin(~,ttc. Qu(zrter4 25 (1956): 469-504 and 26 (1957): 50-75; "Sclirehcr: Father and Son," I'sychoarialytic Qu~zrter4 28 (1959): 151-69; "The 'Miracled-Up' World of'Schrehcr's Childhood," The Psyc/~oanalJ,tic Study oftl~e Child 14 (1959): 383-413; "Schrrber's Farher,"/our~rizlcfthe Alneritzn
~ s y c / ~ o a n a ~ t i r A s s o ~ ~8a(1960): 492-(19; "Further Lhra and Memorabilia Pertaining i tior~

57.Much has been published on Schrebcr since 1974,when this essay was writren. But all of it follows nlore o r less the paths that wcrc already laid out. O n e ought, however, co singlc our ,I hook wricren by a Dutch sociologist that offers an impressive mass of new information ahouc Schrcbcr and his hmily: Han Israkls, Scl~reber:F/rt/~r.r,ttrdSo)r, rr. H. S. L ~ k c (Madison. Conn.. 1989).

to the Schrebcr Case," Internatioiza(/ozl~.~~all'sycho-Analysis 44 (1963): 201-7; o f

F. Baurneycr, "New Insights in the Life and I'sychosis of Schreber," I i ~ t r n r a t i o i ~ ~ ~ / o u i ' n a l

ofl'sycho-Analysis jj(r952): 262; "Der Fall Schreber," I'yche 9 (1955): 513-36 (reprinted in Denkwiirdigkeiten eines Nervewk,,t,ik~,r-see note 42 below); "Noch cin N ~ c h c r a g zu Mrdizii7 Frcuds Arbcit iiher Schrcber," Zt2itjc~/~r~f)f~rpsyc/~oso~t~atische und Psyc/30awalyse 16 (1970): 243-45 (also reprinted in Dt.trkrciiirdigkriteil eirrrs Neruenkrmrkrn). 4 1. Alfons Ritter, Sc-/~,t.btv: Hildz~ngssystem [),I, rines Arztrs (Erfurc, 1936).

1. [Puhlishcd in English as 7%r 470 ,z,rd Hix Ouw, tr. Steven ?1:Byington (London, 1907).-Trans.] 2. F, A. Lange, Geschic/~trr leri~I,tt~ricrlixt,rt,.rx dex (lserlohn, 1866), p. 292; the judgment seems co ]lave stuck, since we read "Drrr Eittzige, a famous, or rather infamous, book," in W. E. Biermann, Anarc.hismux rt~rdhbt,rnrt,.r~rist,rto (Leiprig, 1906), p. 52.

3. Ectorc Zoccoli, I gruppi ,zn,zrc/ y / i Stnti Urriti e lbpera d i M a x Stirner (Modcna, I ~ O I pp. 31-32. ),

42.D. P. Sch~.cbcr. Llt.irkt~~ii,dikt~i~.r, Neruc,nkrawkri7, ed. I? Heiligcnrhal and tines R. Volk, with two article\ hy F. Baunieyer and a glossary of chc "basic language" (K'iesbaden, 1973). pp. 341-66. 43.L;~can, "Or1 .I cluescion." p. rzl.

4.Letter to M. Hildehrand, z r October 1889, in Marx Eng& Werkr (Berlin, 1956f.f.) [hereafter M E W 1, vol. 37, p. 293.
5. 11ocun1cnts of the Landesarclliv of Baurzen, cited by B. Andreas and W. Miinke, "Neue 11,lren rur Ileutsc/~mId~~ologir,." Ari6tu f u r Sozialgeschicht 8(1968): 18-19. 6. n/lElY vol. 27,

44."Une <rude: 1,l rcmarclu,ttile t'i~nille Schrcber," Scilicrt4 (1971): 287-321 (no aullalne giver)). thor'~ 45.M . Schnrzln,~n,S O I I / I ~ . ~ I ~(.N r ~ , I T / w York, 1973). 40.W. (;. Nicderl,~nd. "Schrebrr a11d Flecli\ig,"/(~zrrnttlc!ft/~r American I'sychort?~rtlytri. A,ioi.itriron I 6 ( 196X):740-48. 47.I . . I ~ ~" IO, n .I cl~~cl;tlol~." I 1,. I;.<). 48.1.1-cucl,"I'sycho-Andlyric N o ~ c ol)ol~ :\~~[ol> u ~ ~ t p. 465. \ .In Acco ." 49.L..IL.I~. " O n .I ~ ~ ~ ~ c \ t i1'.o 190. n,"
50. ll>ici., 1). 217. 51. (;. liosol.l~o,"1'aranol.l er I'rimitive" . ~ n d "Rcpt:res pour la psychosc," in Essa; sur Ir sYrnbo/tytte (l':~ris, 1969), pp. 199-241 .uld 315-34; 0 . hlannoni. (,?ef;portr


7.Karl Marx and Friedrich Engrls, The German Ideol~~gy, M E N vol. 3, p. 168. in 8.Quoted in W. Rolin, I.udzui~~ Feuerbnch (Srurrgarc, 1891),p. 106.
'1. All in Azrsgeu/ii/~ltrR j ~ e f uon zirrdan I.tldwiK Feuerbacb (Ixipzig, rloq), vol. 2, ;.

P 259.
1 U. Arnold Rugc, Hri<$c~t~chs~l 7~rFbuthbliitter ntrs d e n / ~ h r e n182j-1880 (Berlin, zlnd rXXh), vol. I , pp. 379, 3x1-Xz, 386. I I. [hid.. p. 42% 12. Max Stirner. L)lv E i t r z i ~ undseirr Eiiscntum (Scutrgarc, 1972), pp. 153, 159. 13. Marx ~ n I:ngels. Tilt2(;errnnn I d e o l o ~ in M E N vol. 3, p. 17. d , 14. Now in Whkt., v(11.4. ( F r a n k f ~ ~ r1q75),pp. 69-80. t,

Notes to (,7/~L7ptrr . 279 I1

15. In the for111o t a pamphlet, Die Ietzcv~/'hiiosop/lrll (Darmstadt, 1845), then col1841-1847 (Berlin, 1921), pp. 1x8-206. lected in LSuzirrIistisr.l~~ArIfiBtze 16. In the Norddrutsc/~c~ Bliitter of hl:u-ch 1845; but nrxt year, the eager Szeliga, a
Llvorire la~~gliingsrock of-Marx . ~ n d Engels and ofStirner as well, tried ro incorporate something ofStirncr's in a p,1rnphler. At the end of the pamphlet, he states [hat it "tesrilies to A great lack of clarity to designare rgoism as the enemy of universal reform; o n the contrary, i r is its precursor, its school o f h a r d knocks"; Drr 1Iniuersalrejurnz u n d ( i e ~ Egoismus (Charlortenburg. 1X46), p. 27.


I.. A. Lange, (,'i,jcl~ic/~tr h1dtrrialijmus, p. 102. des

.i-. K. Joi.1, l'/[)henu~f~e I ~ O I p., 229. (Berlin, )

38. 1. H. MncKay. Mizx Stirnrr: Seitz Leherr ~ i n d s e i n \V+rkr (Berlin, 1898); later exp.~nciedin successive editio~ls: Tl-eptow. 1910, and Charlottenburg, 1914. 39. Some usef~ll supplen~cntation and correction of Mackay's data can be founci in v,lrious stuclies and documcnrs collected by I). Ilertrneiyer, ed., in M a x Sti~-ner (Ld~lsanne. 1379). 40. H . <;. Helrns. L)ie Ideo/ugie drr a i i o i ~ v t r iC,'t.jellschafi (Cologne, 1066), ~~~
pp. 510-600. 41. K. h.luhsdrn. Llrr Leidetrswtg Erich Miihsam (Zurich-Paris, 1935). p p 13-31. 42. H e dreamed of Ascona becomillg "a meeting place tor persons who by the naare ture of their individ~~aliry unsuited ever to become useful rnembtrs of capiralistic hunian society"; Erich Miihsam. Asconrr (Locarno, I Y O ~p., 57. ) 43. Rolf Reeknagel, Brirriiycrzur R i o g q h i e drs B. 7i;zuen (Berlin, 1977). 44. Knl-l I.dwi th, Das Intiiuiduurrr i n dt~r Rolle drs Mitrrrr'nschen (Munich, 1928), p p 169-80. 45. Martin Buber, Dit~fiageatr Einzrbrfn (Berlin. 1936), p p 9-27, den 46. T h i n k i n g of course, of LYtrr rt lr n h n t , in Exister~tit~lism, Marxism, andAnarrl~isrtr(London. 1949), p. 24. 47. Giinrher Andrrc, " N i h i l i s m ~ ~ s Exisrenz," Die Nrue Rrindschar~,1947, und pp. 58-62. 48. Albert Camus. L'Hummcr rc:~~olti (Paris, 1951): pp. 84-88. 49. Henri Avron, Aux source, dcr l>xirterrritrlisrne:Max Stirt~rr (I'aris, 1954). 50. R. \S'. K. Patterson, Mczx Stirrrer: t h Nihilistic &*st iOxford, 1971). ~ 51. Ernrr Schulrze, "Srirner'sche Ideen in einem paranoischcn Wahnsysten~," Arrlli~, f2r I3y~./liatrie und Nrrverikranklreiten 36 (Berlin, 1903): 7'13-8 18. 52. Ludwig Hinswanger, (;rl~ndfi~fi,vrnenn d z ~ Erke~i~~rtnis rnr1r~-cldichew Daseins (Zurich,
1'142). 5.3. Reprinted along with oilier short writings by I'anizza in Die krimitzellr hvrhose (Munich, 1~)78), 11')-77. pp. 54.Zoccoli, lgruppi cznizrcl~ici de:q/i Srnri L.iliti r l i ~ j ~ e r a Max Stiriirr. dz 5 5. Errorc Zoccoli, I.>lnizrcl~ia (Turin, 1907). p p 7-65 i b . 1,ctrcr lo Ccsare Berti, 3 November 1911,from Forli prison, in Opera omnia, vol. 4 (Florrncr, 1952), p. 258. 57.O ~ P Y(~mWl?i~, 6 (FIOI.CIICC. p. 331. CI VOI. 1953). 58.Ihid., vol. 14 (f'lorcncc. 1954), p. 194. 59. I'nolo Orano, Il/;r~r-ismu (liome, 1940), vo1. z, p. 240. 60. I u l i u Evoln, Inrroducrion ro L'Itrtrrrmtiotrnle rhrlzic~r,I ')rotocolli"&i ' k r ' i rrtrzitriri"di Siori [I'rotocols of the ISlders of Zion] iRomc, 19?7),pp. xix-XX.I'hih is tllc sliglitly varied and revised version-and Stirrlcr's n'inlc is parr of thc revision--0fi111orhi.r lisr ofg~-e;lr cctrnspirarors oKHchraism oflcrcd by Evola .I few months e;~rlicr:Marx, Heine, Biirne, Freud, Nordau, 120mhroso, Rein;lch. I)urklieim, I-insrein, Zurncnhof Offcnhacli,

17. Max Srirncr, "Rrcensenren Srirners," reprinred by]. H . Mackay in Kleinrrr Schrl$en, 2nd ed. (Berlin, I C J ~pp.) 343-96. ~ , 18. G. Edward [Max Srirner], "Die philosophischen Reaktionare," reprinted in MacKay, Klrinerr S~hrzfien,pp. 401-1 5. 15). Dronke, Berlitz (Frankfurt, 1846), vol. 2, p. 116. 20. Karl Rosenkranz, Aus einfiri Gzgrbz(c%> (I.eipzig: 1854)~ 133. p. 21. kfE\lli vol. 36, p. 39. 22. "Marx und der 'wahre' Sozialismus," L)ir i'Vezle Zeit, rx, no. z (1895): 217. 23. Engels, Lctter to Max Hildebrand, 22 October 1889, in M E W vol. 37, p. 293. 24. Ludwig Feur~rbachuirdrlerAntf;Ingdrr deutsi./le~ir Pl~rlojopliie[1888], in MEW! ~ 0 1 21, P. 271. . 2 5. Eduard Bernsrein, "Dir soziale Theorie des Anarchismus," Dir iVreueZrit lo, no. I (1891-92): 421-2X; Franz Mehring, Geschichrt~ Sozialdemokratif (Sturrgart. 1897), der

p. 207. 26. Friedln~lnd von Arnirn, "Die AuHiisung des Einzigen durch den Menschen," Die E ~ i ~ ~ o n c ' i ~ 180-251. 4(1847): 27. Frirz Maurhner, Der Atheisrnrks undseine Gesrllichte i m Abtzndlande (StuttgartBerlin, 1923),vol. 4, p. 216. 28. Kuno Fischer, " h.loderne Sophisten," reprinted in L>~P Epigonen ((1848): 279. 25). Ibid., p. 281. .30. Ibid., p. 300. 31. Max Srirncr, "Die philosophischen Reakrionirc," p. q l r 32. In Die Epigonrtz 4(1847): 152.

33. "Every insignificant pamphler published in Berlin or other provincial or disrricr towns of German philosophy was ordered a n d read ro tatters and slnudges, and the leaves fell out in a few d;lys. ifonly there was a mention of Hegel in it"; A. I. tierren, My I'ast and 7 % o u ~ l ~rr. ,Consrancc <;a~-nett ts ([.ondon, 196X), vol. 2, p. 308. 34. 0 1 1 Stirncr's rcccp~ionin Russia, see, firs1 ofall, I! V. Annenkov, Tllr

Extriro~riitrtzr~ Ilenzdr: I,iterrzrv A.Ie~inoirj, 11-winR. 'l'itunik (Ann Arbor, bl ich., 1 9 6 8 ) ~ tr. pp. 211-14: also copious references in 1 C;. Mas;lryk, The Spirit qf'Russia (London, 1919); : I? Sclicil)crt, ktr Zjtzkz~trin Z,et~ir~ zu (L.eidc11, 1956); M. Mali.1, Alexander Herzrtr nil(/ tht' Uirtl~ of'kussinn .Soriizli~rn (C:amhridge, Mass., 1~)61): U!<llicki, Unirtopilz ronser~~ritrirr A. (Turin, 1973). 35. Eduarcl von H:lrrnlann, I%ilosophiedes I~nbewusst~~r (Berlin, 1X69), pi). 611-12.


. Notes to C'l,apter 14
17. All quor:~rions(1-om rhe prc-socr;~ricsare frorn Diels-Kranz, Die Fragmente der


chinking of The Mikrzdr, as a document of Judaic infiltr~tion-

Schiinherg, Stravinsky, Wassermann, Diiblin: in Julius Evola, Tre aspetti delproblema

l i ~ r ~ u k ~ ~ r ~k e ~ ; (Berlin, 1964). ti rh ed.

18. 1;riedricIi Nierzsche, "How the 'li.ue World' Finally Hccame a Fable," in Tu,i/ight cd'tiic~ IdoIs, in 711r I'o~tclbleNirtzvii~e,~ : Walker Kauf~narln(New York, 1954), p. 486. t 1'). Karl Kraus, "Warurn die I:;tckel nicht erscheint," i11Die Ikckel, nos. 890-905, end ol.!uly 1934. p. 24. 20. LGon Bloy. EsPgPse d e l i ~ u communs (11)oz)(Paris, 1953). p. 11. ~ x 21. KI.;~LIS, Sprac/w, p. 438. Die 22. Lton Bloy, Ex-{yPsc.~/(lr.l lje1~s communs (NouveIIe SSPrie) (1913) (Paris, 1953), p. 333. 2.3. KI-aus,"Warum die F ~ c k e nichr erscheinr," p. 9. l 24. This poem, entirled "Uber die Bedeurung des zehnzeiligcs Ckdichtes in der 888. Nurnnier der Fackel," was published for the first time in Stitnmrn uber KnrlKraus (Vienna, 1934). pp. "-12. 25. Karl Kraus, Die dritte W~hurgisnncht (Munich, 1952). p. 9. Aphorisms, Autobiographi26. W.11 ter Benjarniii, "Karl Kraus," in Refections: Es~/~yj. rr. cal W~itin~yj, Edrnund Jephcott (Ncw York and London, 1978), p. 249. 27. Kraus, Die dritte \Y~zlpuyistincht,p. 20. 28. Kraus, "Spruche und Widerspruche," p. 70. 29. Kraus, Die Spracl~e, 227. p. 30. Kraus, Die drittr LYhLpur,nacht, p. 280.

c.braico (Rome, 1~)36), 38-39. pp. 61. Eugenio Garin, Crotmche difilosofia italiana (Bari, 1959),~ 1 .166. 62. For cx:trnpIe, D . Koigen. Zur I'orpchichte des moder~~enphilosopischen SoziaIismw in Drrrtschkant/ (Ikrn, 1901). (13. Sidney Hook, From Hegel to Marx (London, 1936), p. 165. (14. Cesare Luporini, L'ideologi,z tedesca (Rome, 1977), pp. xi-lxxxviii.
65. [In Iralian the names of eminent men are sometimes preceded by the definite
article.-Trans.] 66. Luporini, L?deologia tedesca, p. xxiv. 67. Max Nettlau, B i b l i ~ ~ a p hde Ihnarchie (Paris-Brussels, 1897), pp. 35-36. ie 68. Geotgy Plekhanov, Anarchismrls rold Sozialismus (Berlin, 1894), p p 17-26. 69. P.1u1 Eltzbacher, Der Anarchismus (Berlin, 1900), pp. 246-66. 70. Dronke, Berlin, vol. 2, p. 125. 71. Mauthrler, Der Atheismtli undseine Geschic-hte, vol. 4, pp. 201-7. 72. Carl Schmitr, Es Captiuitate Salus (Cologne, 1950), pp. 80-82.

73. Maurhner, DerAtheismus ~rndseineGeschichte, vol. 4, p. zry. 74. Ibid., p. 210.




1. Karl Kraus, Die Fackel167 (26 October 1904): 9. 2. Karl Kraus, "In dieser grossen Zeit" (1914), in \Y2ltgericht (Munich, 1965), p. 13. 3. G. W. Leibniz, "DrGle de pensee r o u c h a n ~ nouvelle sorte de Reprisen~ations," une in PoIitisrhe S<.hrrften(Darrnstadt, 1931),vol. I. 4. Karl Kraus, "Spriiche und Widerspriiclie," reprinted in Brim \Y'ortgeilottimen (Munich, 1955): P. 134. 5. Karl Kraus. "Pro d o m o et mundo," reprinted in Brim Wortgenommen, p. 236. 6. Ihid.. p. 285. 7. Karl Kraua, "Heine und die Folgen" ( I ~ I O ) , Unre,;q~ngder Welt durch in schuxzrzc~ MnnYic.(Munich, rg60), p. 105. 8. Kraus. "I'rv dorno e mundo," p. 238. L 9. Kraus, "Spruche und Widerspruchc," p. rzz. 10. Kraus, "Pro donio et mundo," p. 284. 1 1. Kraua, "Sprucl~e ~ i d u VC1iderspruche," p. 121. 12. Karl Kr;ti~s, Spruchr (Munich, 1954), p. 38' 1)ir 1.3. Karl Kraus, "Der srerhcndc Mensch," in Worte in Versrn (hlunich, 19591, p. 59. 14. Karl K~.aus. "An meinen Drucker," in Worte in VErsen, p. 463. 15. K;lrl K r ~ u s "Herbstzcitlose" (1915), in Lintergang der Welt durch schu~arze , Magie.

P 413.
16. Kraus, Die Sprache, p. 341.

1 . Robert Scheu, K(ITIKrnus (\'ienna. 1909), p p 4-5 2. Roherr Musil, The Man ~r~ithotct Qunlities, vol. I , tr. Sophie Wilkins (New York, 1996). 17. 28. 3 . Die Fnckel, 110. I , April 1899, p. I. 4.Ihid., p. 7. 5. Die F i ~ c k ~110s. 232-33, Ocrohcr 1907, p. 43. "I have long sought the means l, to make nlyself unbearable to my cor~ten~poraries," wrore Leon Bloy--along with Snren Kierkcg.1.1rd rhe most essential refercncc point in considering Kraus's relatio~ls with the new society-ill rtle lirsr issue of Lr ErI, March 1885, a short-lived publication that consrirutes o n e of rhc luore significant prccedcnts of Die Enckrl. htoreover, both Hloy and Kr.tus recalled the sarnc publication. Henri Rocheforr's Lc1 L'rtiterne (1868-69). 6 . K,~rl Kraus, "Nach zwdn7ig Jnhren," in Wort(,in I/rrsert.(Munich, 1959). p. 253. 7.W:tlrer Rc~tjarnill."1<;1rlKKIUS," K($?ec.tiotrs, Ecimund Jephcorr (New York in tr. a n J I.or~cion,1 9 7 8 ) P. 239. ~ 8. I? Schick. K~rIki-aus (Reinheck, 1965),11. 28. 9. Atr do~.,-c/~i,tlr,l I L I P I II ) O ~ N[IO n I ~ Lka~ltifi11 ~ I u c I ) n ~ t ~ ~ h e ] - w ::I~ s ~L I C I fortnightly pul)lica~ion presenting lircraturc : ~ n dmu\ic, wlicrc Iloflnannsthal puhlish~,d L I I I ~ ~ rhe p e u d o n y n ) of L.oris Mclikov and Arthur Schnirzlcr under that of An;t~ol. I 10. K;~rlKraus, "Spriichc und Widerspriiclic" (1909). in L I ~ , ~ I P I Wortgenommerr (hlunich, 1 9 ~ 0 , 144. p.


. Notes to C'hqter rg

Notes to Chapter 15 . 283

31. K.wl Kr;~us, "Nachwort zu Hcinc und die Folgen" (1911)~ Untergangde~r in Mrlt, I>. 217. 32. KI-aus,"Heine und tlie Folgcn," p. 1x8. 3.3. Il~id., 200. p. 34. Sir 'l.homas Browne, h'ydri~ttzl~llitz, llote L., .I[ cnd. 35. O n KI-ausand Wittgenstein: E. Hellet, in "Wittgcnstcin und Nierzsche," in Die Kri~t~clrr Kzlilst irls Innere (Fmnkfurr. 1966), pp. 233-63, nienrions the connection between the works of these rwo: his tlicmes arc taken up and expanded by W. Krat't in "Ludwig Wittgenstein und Karl Kraus," in Kebeller~des (Gistes (Stutrgart, 1968),pp. 102-j4; and lt~ (Paris, 1971), pp. 18 ff.. zz ff. Writtgenstein then by J . Bouveresse, L a p ~ ~ r oi~ralhezlreus~ had an ilnmense adnlira~iortfor Kraus: When he decided to entrust Ludwig von Ficker, with the sum of ~ o o , o o o crowns to be distributed editor of rhe magazine Der Br~,irirt'); to wrirers in difficulty-Trakl, Rilkc, Else Lasker-Schiiler, and a few orhers were later chosen-Witrgensrrin tpecified that his decision had been rdken "on rhc basis of words that Kraus wrote abour you in Die Fackrl and o n the basis otwords char you wrore about Kraus": cf. Ludwig Wirrgensrein, Bride au Lzrdu~igvon Fil-ktzr (Salzburg, 1969), p. 12. T h e to first put~lisher whom Witrgenstein offered rhe 7i.lrr.tlrtrrs was Jahoda, publisher of Die tclckrl, ;tnd ivhen it was rejecred, he wrore ro Paul Engelmann, "I should very much like ro know what Kraus says abour it." For rhesc and other derails, see P. Engelmann, Letters finnl Llrdlcli~IY/itt,qensteirz wit/] a Memoir (Oxford. 1967), pp. 122-j2. It is curious to note tli,~tKraus had a violent argumenr wirh Wittgensrein's father, Karl, an influential columnisr o n econoniics for the Neue Freie I'resse, in the early years of Dip Fackel: cf. no. 65, p. 16; no. 67, pp. "-16; and no. 71, pp. 11-12. O n Kraus and Schoeitbcrg: Schocnbel-g wrore this dedication for Kraus. on a copy of Harmonielrh,-e: "I learned from you more than one should if one wants ro remain independenr"; the rexr is quored in Schocnbcrg's response ro Rundfiage iiber hkl-1Kraus (Innsbruck, 1917),p. 21. In DieEai;Grl, nos. 272-73, p. 34, Kraus pti~iteda letter from Sclioenberg challenging a critic; in no. 300, p. 9, he reproduced a page from the manuscript score of S c h o e n b e r e Buch der hangerzden G r t e n ; in no. j74, pp. 14-25, he defended Schoenhcrg a f ~ e a concert chat had caused scandal. A comparison berween Kraus and r Schoenberg was made .is early as 1934 by Ernst Krenek, in 23, the music journal edited by Willi Rcich and ~nc~deled f l i p firckel, in a text larer republished, along wirh rwo othafter ers a b o i ~ r Kl-,ru\, in Z ~ r SpracbeKebracht (Miuiicli, 1gy8),pp. 172-74, 224-39. Krenek r clearly illurtratct hcrw the conceprion of language in Kraus is also valid as a reference of point for the mutical p r ~ c t i c e rhe composers of the school o f v i e n n a . Kraus. on rhe othcr hand, ,llw~ys rcniainrd aloof ro this music. Ort Kraus inid Freud: The mocking hosrility coward psychoanalysi\ revealed in Kraus's apkiorisnls has an interesting Factual h ~ k &ro~lnd. L),l, no. 191,p. 8, carlied a po\irive ~evicw Otro Soyka ol'k'rcud's /%,-re Oy (.i/r~tribzltions t l ~ c on 7%coTv~ f ' . S t ~ . s r ~:at .I iti~tte t ~ l ~ , (1905) W I I C I ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ c h o a n a was istill in lys s disrepute; when rhc 111-awlbroke out wirh 1:licss over prioriry in tlie theory of original hi~cxu~llity, Freud, in January 1906, wrore kraus a letter I ~ e g i n n i n ~ these words: "The with p ~ r t i a cc~incidence your conceptions and aspir~tions l of wirh mine must he the reason why I h.tvc been able ro find my name repc,atcdly circd in I)ir, lkckel"; Kraus took Freud's

1 1 . 8ri(fi1m'/~sel z7Iii3dlrrl ( ; O O I ; ~ J IIYIJ HOfi)r/zirilsthal(Munich, 1953))p. 7. 12. Ihid., p. 241. 13. I de Mendelssolin, S. Fi.rcl~~r ! zrndsein li.rlrz~(Frankfurr, 1970), p. 195. 14. "Zur ijhcrwindung des Naruralis~nus"is the title of Bahr's essay, to which the y o u t h f ~ Kraus replied with he article "Zur Uberwindung des Hcrniann Bahr," in Die ~l (,'eseils~%laft, M ~ay1893, pp. 627-36. 5

15. As Kraus wrote in a review of Hofmannsrhal's C;estorir: "For us in Austria, however, to think o f o v c r c o ~ n i n ~ nctturalism would be biting iron), an amusing parridox. N O
longer to havi, the naturalism that we do notyet have would mean to get rid ofsomething we do not possess"; Die,June 1892, p. 800. 6 16. Quoted in Mmdelssohn, S. Fischer undsein Verl~~g, 195. p. 17. K. Kraus, Die demolirte Literatur (Vienna, 1897), p. 37. 18. Hel-m.tnn Broch, Hofiannsthal undseine Zeit (hlunich, 1964), p. 51. 19. [A reference ro Schnirzler's 1901 novel Lieuteirrzirt Gltlstl-Trans.] 20. "Glatt? Wurte, buwte Bilder, / Halbcr.r, hrim1icl~t.s Enlpjihden, /Agonies, episodes," front Hofntannsthal's introduction to Schnitzler'h Aiiatol. 'l'he second quotation is taken from ,I review written in 1892, likewise ofiliratol, that Hofntannsthal never published; i t was found anlong his papers and was in Die Neue Kundschau 4 (1971):795-97. This review ends wirh a senrence rhar demonstrates Hofmannsthal's perfect awareness. from the beginning, of the Viennese syndronie: "Amid the nervous chatrer of the figures, the Medusa-like character of life cnlerges from rhe shadows: What is he~tseless,enigmatic, solitary, the deaf and lifeless misunderstanding berwcen [hose who love: the dark conscience, as of a fault con2n2irtcd: the presentinlent ar dawn of escaped infiniries, of smothered, dissipated wonders; and the many rhings rhar fall like frost and rust on overly refined souls." 21. Broch, Hofintrnnsthal p. 20. 1 22. Quored in 1 . Kohn, Karl Kraus. Artllzrr Scl~nitzler.Otto IYhininger (Tubingen, 1962). L>. 14. 23. Benjamin, "Karl Kraus," p. 253. 'The senrence wah quoted for the first time by Benjamin in his essay o n Kraus; i t does not appear in Hrechr's writings. Werner Krafr ashulnes rhar i t was said in conversation. 24. Karl K n u s , "ller Fall Riehl" (1906), in Sittlirhkeit urrdKrimz)~n~itiit (Munich
[196j]),p. 228. 25. Kraus, "NachtC (1918). in Beinr Wortgenommen, p. 341. 26. Karl Kraus, "Hei ne und die Folgrn" ( I ~ I O in, Untergang der Welt dzo-(./I ) ~cllzoarze Magie (Munich, 1960), p. 191. 27. Adolf Loos, "Ornament und Verbrechen" (~goX), Siimtliche Schrificriz (Vienna, in 1962), vol. I , p. 283. 28. 'I: W. Adorno, "Riickblickend auf den Surrealismus," in Noten zur Literatur (Frankfurt, 1958), p. 160. 2'1. Kraus, "Hcine und die Folgen," p. 191. 30. Herru.~nnIlroch, "Einige Bemerkungen r u m Problem des Kitsches," in Dichten undErkcwnen (Zurich. 19jj), p. 297.


. Notes to Chapter r j

Notes to Chapter 15 . 285 50. Elins Csunccci, "Karl Kraus: The School ofResistance," in ~h~ conscience of Words, tr. lonchim Neugroschel (Ncw York, 1979), p. 35. 51. Quoted by S. von Radrcki in W i t iLhglilztbe (Cologne, 1953). pP. r3-24, 52. Canetci, "Karl Krnus," p. 36. 53. Kraus, "I)~uckfchler"(r920), in L)i~,SprtlLhe,pp. 52-53, 54. K r ~ u s "l'ro d o m o cc rnundo," p. 279. , 55. Kraus. "Nacht5," p. 4 j j . 56. Karl Kraus. "Rechensch~~fcsherichc," Die Fackel, nos. 795-39, December in
1928, p. 3. 57. Kr.~us."Spriichc und Widerspruche," p. 45. 58. Ibid., p. 26. 59. ': W. Adorno, "Sittlichkeit und Kriminalitdt," in Noten irrr Literatur 1 1 I 1 (Frankfurt, 1965), p. 77. 60. Kraus, "Spruche und Widerspruche," pp. 44-45. 61. Benjamin, "Karl Kraus," p. 258. 0 2 . Ihid., p. 257, 63. Kraus, "Prozess Veich (1908), in Die chinesische Muuer, pp. 13-14. 64. Kraus, "Spruche und Widerspruche," p. 48. 65. Friedrich Nierzsche, Beyond Goodand Evil, rr. R. J. Hollingdale (Harmondsworrh, Eng., 1990),para. 75, p. 92.

side in the dispute; cf. no. 210, pp. 26-27. In 1908, in the midst of his attack o n Harden, Kraus cited n letter of support that Freud had sent him at the time of the Hervay case (r904)I"Lcontine von Hervay, accused of bigamy and evil practices"]: "A reader, who cannot he your supporter all that often, congratulates you o n the penetration, the courage, and the ability to recognize the large in the small as shown by your article o n che Hervay case"; Die Fuckel, nos. 257-58, p. 40. O n Kraus and Loos: Alone anlong the great Viennese language figures, Loos was always a great friend of Kraus. Together with the lovable and incorrigible Peter Altenberg, they fotmed a diversified trio united by immense mutual esteem. From the beginning of Die Fackel, Kraus speaks in Loos's favor; cf. issue 29, p. 19. In the first.volume of aphorisms and in "Heine und die Folgen," the affinities of substance and intention benvcen the nvo are clearly stated, and they are mentioned continually in all the following years. In 1930, Kraus dedicated his book of Zeitstrophen to Loos with these words: "To Adolt Loos, pure counterimage of the world here depicted." Finally, it was Kraus who spoke at Loos's grave: T h e famous issue 888 of Die Fackel, the thinnest, contained, besides the three pages of the speech, only Kraus's marvelous last poem, an allusion to his silence in the face of Nazism: "Man frage nicht, was all die Zeit ich machte." As for Loos, he had saluted Kraus in Rundfage uber Karl Kraus, published by Ficker in Innsbruck in 1917, with praise that is general bur that corresponds to his absolute faith in his friend: " H e stands o n the threshold of a new epoch, and to humanity, so long separated from G o d and nature, points out the path." 36. Leo Spirzer, "Das synthetische und das symbolische Neucralpronomen im Franzosischen," in Stilstudien (Munich, 1961),vol. I . p. 202. 37. Karl Kraus, "Es" (1921), in Die Sprache (Munich, 1954))p. 7 7 38. Gottfried Benn, "Nietzsche-nach funkig Jahren," in Gesarnrnelte Werke, vol. I (Wiesbaden, 1962), p. 492.

39. Karl Kraus, Die chinesische Mauer (1909) (Munich, 1 9 6 4 ) ~ 279. p. 40. Kraus. "Maximilian Harden" (1907)~ Die chineszsche Maueu, p. 56. in 41. Kraus, "Der Liiwenkopf" ( r l r j ) , in U~tergangder Welt, pp. 186-87. 42. Kraus, "Girardi" (1908), in Die chine~i~che Muueu, p. 138. 43. Kraus, "Pro d o m o er mundo" ( I ~ I Zin ,Beirn Wortgenornmen, p. 238. ) 44. Maurice Blanchor, Lhtzttrtie)~ ittfini (Paris, 1969), p. 229. 45. Jean Paul, krscl~rrle Aesthetik, para. 45. det46. Kraus, "Spruchc ~ ~ Widerspruche," p. 161. n d 47. Karl Kraus, "Meine Wiener Vorlesung," in Die Fackel, nos. 303-4, May 1910,
p. 37.

66. Kraus. Die chinesische Maueu, pp. 280-81. 67. Ihid., p. 283 68. Ihid., p. 284. 69. Kmus, "Spruche und Widerspruche." p. 71. 7 0 . Kraus, Die chinesisc/~e ~I~farret; 286-87. 289. pp. 71. Kraus, "Nachcs," p. 427. 7 2 . "11~1 bleibst am Ursprung: Ursprung isr dar Ziel." Kraus, "Der sterbcnde Mensch," in Worte in Ursetz (Munich, 1953). p. 59. 73. William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, I'utience, in 7i.ea.rr~ty (!fGzlbert andSrrlliz~ati,
cd. M . Green (New York, 1961), p. 225. 74. Ibid., p. 226. 75. Kraus. "Nachts," p. 328. 76. Kraus. "Pro dorno er mundo," p. 291. 77. "lch t i n nut einer der Epigonen 1 die in den1 alten Haus der Sprache wohnen." Kraus, "Rekenncnis." in It'hrte i n Krsen, p. 79. 78. Benjamin, "Karl Kraus," p. 258. [ ~ l i a n . s l ~ ~ t i o ~ ~iltered.] .\lightly 70. Kraus, "1'" (1903),in Sittlichk~zturid Krzmitilrlitirt, p. 302. 80. Krul~\, "Nesrroy und die Nachwelt" (1912 ) , in (Jntt~t;qatzK Welt. . . , p. 226. der 81. Kraus, "Pro d o m o et rnundo," p. 297. 82. Walter Benj,~min, "Einbahnstrasse" ( I O ~ Xin, (;esammelte Werkr,, vol. 4, book I , ) Frankfurt, 1972, p. 138. 83. Benjamin, "Karl Kraus," p. 250.

48. Kraus, "Spruche und Widerspruche," p. 117. 49. Meng Tien was the general to whom the emperor Huang-ti cntrusted the completion of the Great \K':III. His words, ro be taken in a geomanric sense. arc reported by Sscu-Ma'li'icn, ,(hi/~-c/~i, 88. O n Meng Tien, see J. J. I.. D u ~ v e n d a kLjegrote c/~itiefe chap. , mrrrrr (1,cidcn. 19yj),pp. 15, 33-34; 0 . F. von Mollendorf, "Die Grosse Mauer von der : China," Zeirschr~ji L)elitschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaji 3~(1881)92-97.


. Notcs to Chapter IJ
106. Karl Kraus, "Litrrarur oder Man wird doch da sehn" (1921), in Dramen (h4unich. 196;), p. 13. 107. "Der Lichlcr." in Die Tackel, nos. 557-60, January 1921, p. 17. Kraus's attitude toward German-lariguage wrirers of rhe avanr-garde became stinsing only with the wAr and was especially so afterward. Indeed, it is clc.~rroday that the war, except in rare cases, either killed those writers or spared them to reveal rlleir hitherto-disguised banality. But JS far as Kraus is concerned, one should note that, before rqll, he had published pieces hy Jacob van Hoddis and Albert Ehrenstein in Die fickel. His great admiration for Else Lasker-Schiiler and always remained unchanged. 1 OX. 'I. W. Adorno, Minimtl Morrllia, tr. E. F. N. Jcphcott (I.ondon, 1974). p. 144. 109. Benjan~in, "Karl Krau,," p. 247. 110. C2~1otarion printed in Die Fa(-kel,nos. 852-56, 1\/1ay 1931,p. 60. 1 1 1. Bcnjamin. "Einhnhnstrasse," p. 121. 1 12. Kraus, Die cl~ir~e~.iscl~e p. 290. Mauer, 1 13. Kraus, "Pro d o m o et mundo." p. 284. 1 14. T h e episode is related by Kurr Wolffin Autoren / B i i c h ~ r l A b m t e u r r (Berlin, 1969). pp. 86-87, and g,lve rise to Kraus's e s a y "Schandung dcr I'andora," in Die Sprache, L'P. 54-59. 115. Marcel Granet, "Quelqucs particularitis de la 1;ungue et dc la prnsie chinoises," in L?tudrs sociolngiyue.r sur lrl Chine (I'aris, 19jj), p. 146 notc. 1 10. Marcel Gr,~ncr, Lapensie chinoise (Paris, 1934), p. 3 ~ 9 .

84. Thcre were more than seven llundred of these rcadinp; they were held, hetween 1910 and 1936, primarily in Vienna but also in various Gcrrnan cities, in Czechoslovakia, in Paris, and mice in 'Trieste. 'They rook place nlostly in regular theaters: Kraus read from his own works or thosc of other writers he liked. In his last years, he recited, always alone and ar a reading desk, whole operettas by O f f e ~ l b ~ c h whole plays hy Shakespeare. A and cornpletc lisr (](readings appears in O . Kerry, KNYI-Krtrlus-Bibliographir (Munich, ri)70), P P 78-83. 85. Canetti, "Karl Kraus," p. jo. 86. "For the incomprehensible and urlforgettable thing (~~nforgettahle anyone to who experienced it, even if he lived to be three hundred) was that this lawgluwedc it radiated, it scorched and destroyed"; ibid., p. 31. 87. Ibid.. pi.. 37-38 88. Bcnjamin, "Einbahnstrasse," p. 121. 89. Karl Kraus, "Snkrileg an George oder Suhne a n Shakespeare," in Die Fackel, nos. 885-87, 1)ecemher 1932, p. 46. 90. Kraus. "7bdesf~1rcht," \&rte i n Ver.cen, pp. j7j-76, 11. 31-32, in 91. "Doch hingen in blurig gespiirter Verkertung 1311 rnriner Gestalt die vielen Gestalten I die du zu bewahren mir vorhehalren, I und in den1 schrnerzbeseligten Rund I unzahlige Srirnrnen an meincr Mund"; Kraus, "Bange Stunde," in \k'f~rtt,itz Versen, p. 239. 92. H. Kann, "Er.innerunge11 an Karl Kraus," in Nztional-Zeitung, 23 April 1944, Sunday supplement. 93. Walter Benjamin, "Goethes Wahlverwandtschaftcn," in Gesammelte Srhrzfen (Frankfurr, r978), vol. I, bk. I , p. 139. 94. Benjamin, "Karl Kraus," p. 259. 95. "Gcbannt steh'ich auf diescm Fleck i u n d kann nichr zuriick u n d kann nichr wcp"; Krnus, "Hange St~inde," Wnrte i n CGrsen, p. 238. in 96. Walter Benjamin, " O n the Mimetic Faculty," in h'ejrctioils: Essays, Aphorisms,

Autobiugrtrlphictil LV'ritings, tr. E d m ~ i n d Jephcott (New York and London, 1978), p. 333. 97. Karl Kraus, "In dieser grossen Zcit" (1914),in Wrltsericht (Munich, 1965), p. 9. 98. Ibid. 99. Kraus, "Apok.lIypsen (1908), in Unterpng der Welt, p. 1 1 . 100. Kraus, "Girardi," p. 137. 101. To quote Robert dc hlonresquiou's phrarc in Les Chauves-snuris (I'aris, [1892]),

p. Z'.
102. Karl Kraus, "Maxirnilian Harden," p p 60-61. 103. K;lrl Kraus, "Dic Einacter," in Die Furkel, ng. I , April 1899, p. 25. T h e h i s t o y and natul-e o f t h e incompatibility herwcc.n Kraus and Hofnlannsthd are complex quesrions that bear thinking abour. A description oftheir relations can be found in Arntzen, "Karl Kraus und Hugo von Holrnannsrhal," Sprflche i m rechnischrri Zeit<zlttvr (1968): 147-63. 26 104. Karl Kraus, "Maximilian Harden. Ein Nachruf," in Die tackel, nos. 24-43) lanuary 1908. p. 24. 105. Karl Kraus, "Aus der Branchen ( I ~ I I in, Liter,ztllr u n d Luge (Munich, 1958), )

1 17, Marcel Granet, Dtrlnsrs et Iigrndes de [ti Chine anciennr (Paris, 1959), vol. 2, p. 591. 1 18. Walrer Benjamin, "Uhcr den Begriffder Geschichtc," in (ktrmmelte Schrzfen (Frankfurt, 1974).vol. I, hk. z, p. 694. I 19. Karl Kraus, Die Lrtztrn Zrge rler ilfcizschl~eit (I\.lunich, 1957). pp. 681, 9, to. 120. "Wie leer ist cr hicr I an rneiner Srrlle. I Vertan alles Strcben.1 Nichts bleibr von mir 1,1ls die Quellc, I die sie nicht angegebenn: Karl Kraus "Grahschrift," in Wnrte i n K,rsc,r~,p. j I 6. 12 1. Kraus, "In diescr gro,sen Zeir," p. 1 1 . 122. Max Brod, Strritbirre3- L.eben (hlullich, 196o), p. I 54. 123. K r ~ u s"I'ro d o m o er mundo," p. 274. , 124. K r ~ u s" l n dieser grosbell Zcic," p. 11. , 125. David H i l l ~ ~ r(;esumnrc~[t~~Al,l,andl~~t7~on rgj j), vol. j, p. 1 6 . ts (Berlin, 126. G . Goblor, "Les parents dc Karl K r ~ u s . " t u d e G~wntrtlique3, no. I (1950):47. ~ s 5: 127. Kraus, "C;rimassen iiher Kultur unci Buhne" ( I Y O ~in, Die chinrsischr M f ~ u c , ~ ; ) reprinted in "Spruche und Wi~ierapruche," 98. p. pp. 149-50: 128. 7.. W. Adorno. "Hoffinanna L~-~ihl~unge:en in C)ffer1hachs Moriven," in Moments rr2ztsictzz1.x ( F r ~ ~ l k h ~ r t , p. 47. 1964), I 2'). Karl Kraus, "Offcnhach-Renais~a11ce.~' Llie fi~lkel,nos. 757-58, April 1927, in

p 47.
130. Kr;~us, lrtzten 7;IRed ~ ,Merischheit, p. 9. Die r 131. Karl Kraus, "Vorwort" (to L,a (,'rr;ule),in Die A~;rckel, 916, Nvvcmber ryjj. p. 6. no. p. 132. Kraus, "Offeithach-Rc11aissa11ce~'~ 46.

288 . Notes tu Chapter 2 0

133. 13enjamin, "Karl Kraus lirsr Offenbach," in Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, bk.


1'. 5'7. 134. "Llenn die hat nach ienem Duft grrochen / wonnit Eros meinen Trauln gesegner"; Karl Kraus, "Frauenlob." in W r t e i n I/rrsen, p. 497. 135. Kraus, "Spriiche und W i d e r ~ ~ r u c h ep." q7. , 136. Ktaus, "Frauenlob," in 1Vorte it2 Versen, p. 497. 137. Kraus. "Naihts," p. 338. 138. Ibid., p. 452.

Note on Texts




1. Walter Benjamin, "Surrealibm," in Rejections: Essays, Aphorzsms, A~rtobzographzcaiLVrztzngs, rr. Ednnund Jephcorr (New York and London, 1978), p. 190. T h e tests rranslared for this volurrlc originally appeared in the L~llowing books and pub1ic:irions.
1. Walter Benjamin, "Conversations wirh Brechr," in ReJrrtiot~s:Essay, Aphorisms,

"Fatal Monologue," in Friedrich Nierzschr, ECLY Homo (Milan, 1969). "The Sleep of the Calligraphel.," in Robert Walser, Jakob

Autabiugraphic~ziWritings, rr. Edmund Jephcorr (New York and London, 1978). p. 212. 2. Berrolr Brechr, "Difficult Times," translated by Michael Hamburger, in Bertolt Brecht: Poems 1913-19~6, various rranslarors, ed. John \Xiillerr and Ralph Manheim (New York: Methuen, r976), p. 449.

Guntrn (Milan, 1970)

"DCesses cntrerenues," in Frank Wedekind, Mine-Haha (Milan, 1775) "Enamel Scar,"


Gortfried Benn, Cervelli (Milan, 1986).

' O n the Fundamentals of the Coca-Cola Bottle," (Torripre drllir Sera, 31 October 1976. " T h e I'e~perual War," In Karl Kraus, Gli ~rltirnigiorni delli~rnizr~it;l (Milan, 1980).
1. [ M i n i m aMoralza: Rejections,fiorn Damaged Life was tinally published in an ir English translation by E. E N. Jephcott in 1974. Since 1~)78 has been reprinred several rimes by Verso Edirions, London and New York.-Trans.]

".l.he Forty-Nine Srrps," I,Esprrsso. 4 July 1971. "The Superior Man and the Absolute Cocotte," Corrjere drlla Sera, 14 Drirrnber 1978. "The of 11npossil)leWords," Corriert dells Sera, 2 February 1979.


I . Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History." in Illuminations, rr. Harry Zohn (New York, 1969), p. 253. 2. Ibid., p. 254. 3. Ihid., p. 258. 4.Ihid. 5. Illid., p. 263.
6. Quoted in Gcrshom Scholem. M~lter Benjamin: The Story u f a Friendsh$, tr. Harry Zohn (Ncw York, 198X),p. 226. 7. 11)ict.

"A Reporr or1 Readers of Schrcher," in [I. I? Schrcher, Mrmorie di rrn malizto d i nervi (Milan, 11174).
"hccorupanirnenr to thc Reading of Stirner," in Max Stirner, I.'unzco e LZrzctcproprietd (Milan, 1979).

"Hiding I'l;~ces," C-orriere /lella Srrir, 17 J


L I I ~ ~ 19-9.

l'~il>lic [ > i n i o ~ ~ , " O A~/~~L,nhiatza, 1971.

"A <:hincsc Wall," in Karl Kraub, [letti e cotitrdddettz (Milan, 1972).

"?'he Practice oFI'rof:~~neIlluminarion," Coyrirre della Seril, 25 March 1978.

ryo . Note on k t s
"Rrecht the Censor," (,70r.rieredell/i Sertr, 21 hlarch 1976. "The Ancient Egyptian Character ofArt," L%iprt,sso, ro J;~nuary 1971. "'The Siren Adorno." Corriere d e l h S P M ,2 Deccrnhcr 1976.

"An Apocryphal Grave:" Cmrirre dtdla Sera, 26 September 1980.

"7'he Tertol. o t Fables," Corriere d~.ll,z.Srr.//, 4 November 1990.