Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rahel Varnhagen's book, "Dasein" in Heidegger and Lasker-Schüler


Moegen andere von ihrer Schande sprechen,
ich spreche von der meinen

O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter!
Wie sitzest du besudelt
Unter den Voelkern.
Under den Befleckten
Faellst du auf.

Von deinen Soehnen der aermste
Liegt erschlangen.
Als sein Hunger gross war
Haben deine anderen Soehne
Die Hand gegen ihm erhoben.
Das ist ruchbar geworden.

Mit ihren so erhobenen
HaendenErhoben gegen ihren Bruder
Gehen sie jetzt frech von dir herum
Und lachen in dein Gesicht.
Das weiss man.

In deinem Hause
Wird laut gebruellt, was Luege ist.
Aber die Wahrheit
Muss schweigen.
Ist es so?

Warum preisen dich ringsum die Unterdruecker, aber
Die Unterdruecken beschuldigen dich?
Die Ausgebeuteten
Zeigen mit Fingern auf dich, aber
Die Ausbeuter loben das System
Das in deinem Hause ersonnen wurde!

Und dabei sehen dich alle
Den Zipfel deines Rockes verbergen, der blutig ist
Vom Blut deines
Besten Sohnes.

Hoerend die Reden, die aus deinem Hause dringen, lacht man.
Aber wer dich sieht, der greift nach dem Messer
Wie beim Anblick einer Raeuberin. [2]

O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter!
Wir haben deine Soehne dich zugerichtet
Dass du unter den Voelkern sitzest
Ein Gespoett oder eine Furcht! -Bertolt Brecht, 1933

Books are always the most precious artifacts in a Jewish household, after all they're meant to contain everything that has held together the strings of history in their untimely but tempestuous wanderings through the averageness of men and women in their times, the wafting breezes that provide men with tools to understand their despair in the darkest times and to hinder poetical thinking in whatever form it comes, from sinking into the crude oblivion of uninteresting times. Borges had remarked once his admiration for the Jewish people, those who held fast to a book as their home and even in the political times of the 21st century this has hardly changed... placing their existence almost into a metaphysical metaphor, as the Greek musician Mikis Theodorakis phrased it at one point in an interview with a major Israeli daily[3]; yet their books contain no metaphysics in the sense of a "net of security", but rather the "Existenz" itself upon which one is doomed to be thrown upon in the inexorable duties of everyday life, during which one fails to notice the "bannisters" that shut the past off forever and separate one age from the other[4]. In their books there's no possible security of the self; the truth isn't arrived at the end of a syllogism but permeates their concerns at the very foundation, it constitutes both a condition and a pre-condition for thought.

Books are treasures, not only in that they account for the long history of a people or nation but because they're in themselves this history. In a rather comic manner it was the books - the Greek, the Latin, the Bible, the philosophers, what marked the entrance of the young Moses Mendelsohn to Berlin heading northwards to the Rosenthal Gate, just as their silence before the catastrophic events of the 20th century and their inability to provide consolation was what marked the fugue of Hannah Arendt some two-hundred years later[5], but heading southwards fleeing from the hatred and indifference of those very same who burnt the books nearby, the silent books. Turning upside down the waters from the calm of the post-diluvian waters into the parting of the Reed Sea - and bringing together all the Arks of Noah that had wandered aloof from an Italian painting, that had almost sunk with the clenching and screeching noise of shattering glass. Perhaps the same waters in which that young man had drowned himself on explicit command of his father[6], of his fatherland of Blut and Boden. On the Day of the Atonement.

Then at the same time even today one fails to understand how this could have happened, how the philosophies had legitimized the long-awaited Messianic dream in which instead of rising humanity to Heavens, it had been downgraded to Hell[7]; there're no possible explanations nowadays because it is my firm belief that the moment one can explain something, it's also possible to explain it away – this is at least the case with philosophies, for you can never falsify them because they're not history, unless one were to follow Hegel a little bit. In this very same sense you find yourself rather estranged at history when the collapse of the loftiest of civilizations sprang forth like a mad fountain and then only much later upon a certain anxious reflection you come to realize it's impossible to come to terms with this outrage because it is by no means "history", but rather the crude experience of reality and altogether nothing remains more estranged from us than the recent past. Even with Goethe as my father and Nietzsche as my brother, there was no other recourse than the imaginary flight in which one dispossessed himself of everything worldly and in the way animals run from their predators the Jews fled with their books, their history, with themselves.

"Stirb und Werde"[8], mumbled to herself an old lady on the boat to Palestine, and extremely saddened in fact, because Palestine was not Jerusalem, whose shining walls and treasures and shrines had been left behind in Berlin, they had burnt down as swiftly as the waters had overturned the course of history so that its foremost writers were now scrapping the streets of Vienna. From the irrational course of the events also the philosophers set on this pilgrimage from burnt down Athens to the watery Jerusalem of the Prophets, but the arid vivacity of the ruins hovering over the rooftops could at most reveal the genius of Goethe reading the Arabian nights, an old Antigone in iambic meter and a small treaty of Böhme, "The Way to Christ". In fact these books had been everything that survived the deserted and crumbling Athens and that built the foundations of Jerusalem. Nowhere had been Schiller so passionately discussed as in Jerusalem, for "Zur Nation euch zu bilden, ihr hoffet es, Deutsche, vergebens; Bildet, ihr könnt es, dafür freier zu Menschen euch aus".[9]

And that's how the journey of love and of double-sight, of world-surviving eventually receeds and the circle is completed in Jerusalem. Rahel had lived some 200 years before and had lived in such a way that only Schiller again could come to my aid and complete with "Vor dem Tod erschrickst du? Du wünchest, unsterblich zu leben? Leb' im Ganzen! Wenn du lange dahin bist, es bleibt"[10]. Rahel had this passionate desire in life that had inspired Goethe himself and many of us to the present day, in that there're some among us that seize upon untruth with a passion for truth, whom the European hagiography has described as the "purest and most authentic German Frau" by no less than Napoleon's sister. Rahel spent her life among books and letters and taught a sinking world that what matters the most in fact, is the personality and the uniqueness of character - a lesson that one has a certain trouble hearing while living under the toll of a world in which all the abstractions and labels have surpassed the human persons behind them and defined their identities in the most comic of ways. She personified the "daughter of Goethe" in its closest resemblance so that today many Jews in Europe and beyond can refer to her as the "prostitute" of Berlin - a claim that in itself unknowingly perpetuates the anti-semitic cliche held for over a hundred years about Jewish women in general, particularly among the European aristocracy; a character in fact theatrical enough as to unrealize itself before our eyes and melt into an uncanny vantage point through which a lense of broken dew breaks free and flees to feed the imagination of the uncanny homeland.

And Rahel who died with the firm conviction that she would never had wished to spare himself the condition of being a Jewess did travel to Jerusalem in a two-fold sense; firstly in the sense of Else Lasker-Schüler, even though a German in its most exuberant possibility but sounding something very oriental and Hebraic, something atavic and melancholic which apparently sings Praises in the diminished fact of everydayness - that is what one would call today poetic thinking and which is able to gather its strongest visions from within the ashes of the darkest times; space in which untimely she joins the ranks of Kafka and Celan, not in being a poetess but in having the "ποιησις" that is demanded to act in the world and to change the course of the waters, even if there's the slightest risk that a sink of own's own might sink therein. Or simply stand by a Hütte, which eventually leads to the river.

Lastly she traveled to Jerusalem in the books that are so treasured, and one can only imagine how often she burnt after 1933 so that no catalogs could contain her name, because she gave herself to the world so immediately and directly that it consumed her, and so did the flames with many others. "Every book is after all somebody's life, but now all what counts are the numbers, the catalogs. Men and book are numbers alike, perhaps it is difficult to grasp - but how do they then grasp their content?"[11], the answer is rather simple, they don't grasp their content because there's a little brook in between our world and their understanding - a blind gap that covers the graves with piles of hay and sings benedictions. That edifice of the Jewish tradition built on justice and that is contained in the books that in themselves are what we are... you see the difference? For Heidegger it is perhaps time and being questionable what we are, our specific "Dasein" and our "τελος"[12], but how can you, whenever "The time is out of joint! O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right"?[13]

In this second sense Rahel also followed Lasker-Schüler in landing on the earthly Jerusalem and escaping the flames of hell towards "Morgenland" after reading God's mind in the twilight instead of anticipating his mind for the sake of all "humankind". The book on Rahel landed in a tiny bookstore perhaps brought by one of those who remembered the verses of Goethe and indeed very possibly the only ones who still remembers them to this day. As it laid on my hands the eliptic circle had been closed and a gap had been bridged, if at any rate the book wasn't returned to its rightful owner then it was at least placed in the care of the lover, with all the dialectical damage it implicates[14]. Because it is known to contain a person's life and another person and another person, the only way in which a heritage can be passed on... passed on; and this is not the care in the sense of Heidegger, the care of time which is in itself measured and therefore wafting into temporality and mortality[15].

It is the care of what we are, these books, these stories (stories as "Geschichte" and not "histories" as "Historie"[16]), these people, the longing, the unawaited for... turning the waters upside down once again, turning Endlösung into Erlösung, as a young woman in Kassel signs this book and bequests it to all those who remain, to all those who need to pay their debts and wait for a person's life to be spit out of the railways. Completing a circle, returning, turning in, nurturing. Not willy-nilly had Amos Oz said once in a novel, that as a kid he wished to be a book and not a writer, because writers can be just as easily killed as any other human being, but a book! A book can find his way on a ship and land in Jerusalem or Barcelona or Reykiavik [17] and silently safeguard a person's life until the next antidiluvian torrents water down so that even in this world of history, at a given time some people can own their own story and look at themselves back two-thousand years in the spirit of a century, in the spirit of a person's life. And incidentally the theatrical truth unveils among all our dead philosophers, among all our burnt books, among all the atavic mourning. Morning veils again, and...

He shall summon freedom
For the son and the daughter
He shall guard over you
As the beloved one
Pleasant are your names
They shall never cease
For in the seventh day
They shall dwell and rest (דרור יקרא)

To which, to conclude Else Lasker-Schuler responds:

Hatte wogendes Nachtbaar,
Liegt lange schon wo begraben.
Hatte zwei Augen wie Bäcke klar,
Bevor die Trübsal mein Gast war,
Hatte Hände muschelrotweiss,
Aber die Arbeit verzehrte ihr Weiss.
Und einmal kommt der Letzte,
Der senkt den unabänderlichen Blick
Nach meines Leibes Vergänglichkeit
Und wirft von mir alles Sterben.
Und es atmet meine Seele auf
Und trinkt das Ewige.. (Dasein) [19]

... And yes Brecht, we also speak of our own, but you lied and Heidegger did too. Expecting to encounter the truth at the end of the road, and when you awoke the truth encountered first in that place where it all ended, whose name wasn't heaven, whose people had no names. Truth had always been there in "Dasein", but you waited for so long that even Lessing chopped its head off not without mourning.

"The chief fallacy is to believe that Truth is a result which comes at the end of a thought-process. Truth, on the contrary, is always the beginning of thought, thinking is always result-less. That is the difference between "philosophy" and science: Science has results, philosophy never. Thinking starts after an experience of truth has struck home, so to speak. The difference between philosophers and other people is that the former refuse to let go, but that they are the only receptacles of truth. This notion that truth is the result of thought is very old and goes back to ancient classical philosophy, possibly to Socrates himself. If I am right and if it a fallacy, then it probably is the oldest fallacy of Western philosophy. You can detect it in almost all definitions of truth, and especially in the traditional one of "aedequatio rei et intellectus" [the conformity of the intellect to the thing known]. Truth, in other words, is not "in" thought but to use Kant's language, the condition for the possibility of thinking. It is both, beginning and a priori." -Hannah Arendt to Mary McCarthy[20]

[1] B. Brecht, Gesammelte Gedichte Vol. 3 (die Krise Jahren) Suhrkamp Verlag, 1967.
[2] Quoted by H. Arendt, preface to Eichmann in Jerusalem.
[3] Ha'aretz Daily, 2004.
[4] H. Arendt, "Home to Roost", Responsibility & Judgment, Schoken, 2003.
[5] A. Elon, "The Pity of It All", Piccador, 2003.
[6] F. Kafka, "The Judgment".
[7] A. Heller, "A Theory of Modernity", Blackwell, 1999.
[8] Goethe, "Selige Sehnsucht".
[9] Schiller, "Deutscher Nationalcharakter".
[10] Schiller, "Unsterblichkeit".
[11] E. Goodman-Thau, "In der Arche der Unschuld"
[12] M. Heidegger, "Der Begriff der Zeit", Blackwell, 2001.
[13] Shakespeare, "Hamlet"
[14] G. Rose, "Love's Work", Schocken, 1997.
[15] M. Heidegger, "Sein und Zeit", Akademie-Verlag, 2001.
[16] A. Heller, "A Philosophy of History in Fragments", Blackwell, 1996.
[17] A. Oz, "A Tale of Love & Darkness", Harvest, 2005.
[18] Dror Yikra, song of Shabbat
[19] E. Lasker-Schüler, Sämtliche Gedichte, Kösel, 1966
[20] H. Arendt, M. McCarthy, "In Between Friends: Correspondence", Harcourt, 1995.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Six years later

I met N. in the summer perhaps, it should have been 2001 or not even - while I was still a rather spooky schoolboy, I wore a little tie and my pullover was often unkind, showing on the front a little wadge like those armshields used by royal families in those days before the turmoil of time. My days at the time were very directionless and somehow I happily lamented my fate daily, the toll of Hyperion's belovedmost; seldom I spoke to my father about the daily life at school where I spent all those hay-resembling days, being there was perhaps the greatest achievement of my life but yet one that bestowed upon me very little happiness or at least I used to think so.

School was very uninteresting for me, but the school days were all what I ever wanted... some kind of deliverance from the evils of ignorance and conformity which I experienced daily in my own surroundings and person. It was some kind of a late childhood and even though I wasn't to keen on playing sports (in fact I had been a total failure, at least whenever I was commanded to in school hours), I enjoyed the feeling of educated freedom and the increasing amount of books in foreign languages which I owned, even some adult novels that at one point or the other I bequested to Camille and Angela - not because they were erotic or unproper, but perhaps too overwhelming for my age and never went in together with the poems of Hoelderlin about Hyperion and Greece or the little books about the saints of the churches and the immaculate mothers.

I could see myself as I did yesterday whilst I watched the movie.... the little Jewboy at the boarding school lamenting his fate with the funny irony of the lyrical age "Sir... do you ever reflect about your life? You see? I'm Jewish, small, homosexual and I live in Sheffield!". I could only remember those serious and piercing conversations with the school counselor about not taking drugs or how terrible it was that most of the class really knew whom I was in love. This wasn't true though, for I had no real or imaginary loves back in the day, except for some burnt-blonde and rather innocuous-looking lad whom I often saw at the shopping mall almost everyday after school... after whom I sort of chased for months and months on no end, it was a rather frustrating love experience I must say. Then at the same time the guy I had been presumably in love was some little bastard that for whatever reason I befriended, perhaps it was the lonely irony and the closeness somehow. At the same time he was in love with my best friend and in return for all the private details of his life I received in return a lousy pullover.

The only lessons I found interesting had been those with M.J. because they were not at all distracting but rather imbued with a feeling of self-knowledge, of security, of stronghold. What later I knew Karl Jaspers to have called "the homeland" in his letters to Hannah Arendt; this had been true at the time for me... and I was familiar at the time with the German poems about Greece and Arcadia,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Auschwitz as a Creation Story

"Therefore thus said God: You have not hearkened unto me, proclaiming liberty, every man to his brother, and every man to his neighbour; behold, I proclaim for you a liberty, said God, unto the sword, unto the pestilence, unto the famine; and I will give you away to the terror of the kingdoms of the earth"
-Jeremiah, 34:17

The discussions Auschwitz as a creation story didn't wane away into something without the burdensome significance of having been in itself an after thought, or a truth which isn't arrived at but that exists there somehow even before you actually open the conversation. I shall briefly expound some general reflection on Auschwitz as a creation story, that might ground epistemologically the reconstruction of the foundations that lie at the core of the "fallacies" which form the undercurrents of contemporary philosophical discussions, that are in themselves historical and experiential in a sense. I will follow a model similar to that of Hannah Arendt's "phenomenology of the public world" with certain built-in alterations that I've inherited from the hermeneutics of social sciences and the literatures.

Auschwitz isn't a self-standing concept or image, therefore it can't be accurately described as an entity or identity of "Being" (to use the language of Heideggerian deconstruction), Auschwitz isn't a "Sein-des" and accordingly it doesn't constitute a "ground to stand", condition that in the Jewish hermeneutic tradition (since Rashi) takes the meaning of "Existence" (that in the Hebrew languages is analogous to "being present"; needless to say this idea of "Being" is obviously inherited from a Greco-Christian tradition of thought (not Judeo-Christian) and is entirely unfamiliar to whoever wrote the Bible, namely I'm saying that "Being" wasn't a foundational problem in the Bible, that "Ontology" didn't fall into the Biblical thinking. This problem might have acutely displaced itself back to the center of "Anxiety" before Existence with the Cartesian doubt that unbounds an untimely Greek preoccupation and summons elements that thereafter would gather "dualectically" (a term borrowed from the philosopher Andres Ortiz-Oses, pupil of Gadamer) in what we know as Modernity; I'm of the opinion this "doubt" broke its reins free since Spinoza and challenged the net of metaphysical security that since Roman times solved the problem of history (and others as well, i.e. consciousness, memory) with the introduction of such "handing-over" known as the "Tradition" and its authority. This authority however illegitimate remains unchallenged all throughout the history of theology when the philosophical thinking of Aristotle mainly but also some others is turned into dogma by Christian and Islamic thinkers that have integrated him into the Tradition. It is at the same time part of the Catholic self-understanding for example that the Tradition is a part of faith, secondary in importance to none.

The Protestant reformation in the other hand didn't overturn the tradition in the sense Marx would later on, but it did schew it by "protesting" this authority, this protestation is in a way one of the forefathers of the great protestation known as "Modernity"; hermeneutically speaking one can trace the elements of this Modern rebellion to the beginning of philosophical thinking in Socrates (and not in the Pre-Socratics as some interpreters of Heidegger have claimed) all through history. This could verify the thesis of Eveline Goodman-Thau that the tradition in fact stood broken since its very beginning and consequently collapsed as a matter of fact in a rather natural process brought about by a self-reflexive anxiety, which could be another of the many definitions of Modernity. I'm by no means implying that Auschwitz as a historical momentum is the obvious consequence of this "breach" in the tradition of philosophical thinking or that either Hegel or Marx could be held accountable for Auschwitz, my thesis is that the illegitimate authority of the Tradition held as legimitate by the religious canons is in fact no explaining Auschwitz after its collapse, but rather stresses very acutely the inability to actually grasp of Auschwitz stands for. I would define Auschwitz to be a "Sei-endes", instead of a "Sein-des".

With the rise of Modernity (neither as a historical period or as a philosophical tendency, but rather as a preoccupation) two parallel concepts originated, firstly the "Absolute Spirit", namely the most extreme form of abstraction of "Beings", and then later the concept of the "Self" which is another no less extreme form of "concretization" of "Being". The former represented by Hegel and the long tradition of Hegelian and Marxist thought and the latter by Kierkegaard, Schelling, Schleiermacher and the philosophical school known as Existentialism. "Being" and "Intellect" fought each other fiercely since the Middle Ages and encountered major breakthroughs in thinkers such as St. Thomas and Master Eckhart, yet with the rise of Cartesian doubt and the collective strength endowed to "Anxiety" but particularly with Kant but only fully realized in the middle of the 19th century, philosophy set on a pilgrimage from "Intellect" and "Reason" to a previously deserted land in which "Self" and "Being" fought one another no less fiercely. This process was triggered more than anything by the philosophers of the Rennaissance and Enlightenment; the first in returning to classical values (and in Germany the Classicism of Goethe) and the second by initiating a process of secularization that set a "firm" foundation for human rights, citizenship and national states within the frame of that "protestation" against the illegitimate authority, which in increasing autonomy also exponentially boasted anxiety and decreased happiness, what one finds presented in a rather extreme fashion in the political philosophy of Kant.

It is my opinion however, that the secularization didn't achieve its aim in "overcoming the religious past" but rather "translated" the same old dogmas into a different language and handed over the mythologies of creation and destiny from the hands of the organized churches to those of the princes and rulers, but the myth didn't disappear altogether because the Western world by the force of necessity from within a sense of anxiety over its own history (perhaps rooted more than anything in St. Augustine) necessitated the myth more than anything else. The nation state with its ethos (as seen in political philosophy of Hegel) became the standard of ethical life and its foundational origins the new myth of creation. "Dasein" is the nation state.

Auschwitz becomes "Dasein" only when we speak of it in terms of a city, both earthly and heavenly, and this has become possible through the investigations carried out by Robert Jan Van Pelt (A Dutch architectural historian) in that the Nazis had indeed planned Auschwitz to be a major German city from which they would establish themselves to dominate the Slavic world, the plan to be carried out resembled almost with exactitude those of medieval German towns and in itself the "Greek polis". In fact Auschwitz has become something more than a concentration camp, it is matter-of-factly a city, a city to fulfill the messianic Utopia of National-Socialism. I shall never adhere to the opinon that it is the tradition of metaphysics and theology (opinion held by Eveline Goodman-Thau among others) that has led to Auschwitz, I will argue with Ernst Cassirer that it is actually the secularization or translation of the old mythology what has in fact produced that breach in history known as Auschwitz, but not Auschwitz itself that was produced without the help of much metaphysical thought or theodicies - it rathers springs in midst of a very very weak and childish ideology. A certain colleague of mine has produced a rather innovative explanation to which as a philosopher I can't entirely adhere to: That it was the functionalist architecture that took away man's feeling of being at home in the world that led him feverishly to embrace Nazism as a way to be in touch with "reality" through the rather comic "theatre" of war.

Auschwitz doesn't speak for the whole of German contemporary history or the larger context of Second World War or even modern Antisemitism, but as a concept (memory-wise) it becomes a creation story because it nonetheless produces a groundless form of existence and it becomes the foundational principle of Identity, or the search for it and the despair caused by the rational reality of this Unidentity is what I would call Postmodernity, without forgetting another version of postmodernity that comes with the reflection over this despair; this I shall term "Mourning". Unreflected Postmodernity and Mourning, which I shall not place in the "aftermath" of Modernity but as the second phase of Modernity in which we shift from the Modern imagination into the Modern consciousness (and this includes a teleological version of technology).

For those of us who reckon with the "factuality" of Auschwitz it becomes a negative creation story because as soon as we enter the reflection over our form of Modernity in our pilgrimage we find Auschwitz to be the stumbling block in between the New Jerusalem of the Existential philosophers with their anti-reason and the old deserted Athens, modern philosophy is indeed a rather touristic tale of three cities. This exodus towards Jerusalem that according to Gillian Rose started with Nietzsche's Judaica and that I would place as far back as Spinoza once again. Auschwitz is the central point of self-reflection, because it doesn't challenge philosophical structures at all but the actual concept of men, of humanity... which ever since the Bible and the Greeks was believed to be the requirement not even of philosophy but of thinking and of worldly activity; Lessing defined this humanity was the ability to experience the world in anger and laughter which are per nature biased. A world that can't be too much sure about being human, can hardly engage in philosophical reflection, certain not rational reflection. The irrational despair from within the antinomies of reason to find an explanation, but in sight of a collapsed metaphysical structure one can't glimpse into the totality of the system anymore; but rather follow Benjamin in his interpretation of Kafka as he thought the Czech writer to be looking at the world in his novel "The Castle" from a multitude of redeemed and unredeemed vantage points but never by any means from all of them.

In this sense we can only start reflecting from the perspective of the "metaphysics of everyday life" which are in my opinion theology and aesthetics in their hermeneutic version, because Auschwitz has proven history isn't necessarily progressive or linear, Auschwitz is the breach but as people living our lifetime in terms of worldtime it is necessary to trace back somewhere and to the same extent that the working myth of the Nation provided the ground for Germany's "Lebensraum" in the Nazi period, the "city" of Auschwitz provides us with a working myth of our intellectual origin not too far distance from what Romulus has been to the Romans. Only in a myth of origin can the human person reveal any self-understanding, similar to Nietzsche's "Becoming what one is" and the "Verwandlung" of Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus that is taken up by certain contemporary Heideggerians in terms of "Daimon" as the postmodern God, whereby death and life have met each other with uncanny similarity and the antinomies of the political and the anti-political in the tale of three cities for Gillian Rose (Auschwitz, Jerusalem, Athens).

This metamorphosis contains the truth which is the pre-condition for thinking, but the inherent difficulty in the myth and creation story of Auschwitz is that Auschwitz IS, sense in which it's not necessarily true or false but a concomitant living reality and truth, it is the mirror of Western humanity and certainly for the Jew it is not just a mirror but the basket of Moses, without Pharaoh and without Miriam. Moreover Auschwitz is not the spirit of Auschwitz, and it is sheer luck that we no longer live in that world, what means by no means one can reconcile with it altogether; at the same time looking back into the tradition of philosophy one can never start anew without circumventing the essential reality of the concentration camp and the fabrication of corpses.

The possibility of a new beginning lies not in a pessimistic tent-building over piles of shoes and glasses but on the turning upside down of the diluvian waters to their former calm, that constitutes in itself what Levinas called the "impossibility of possibility". Auschwitz is a ground to stand that is no ground at all and in this sense it befriends Modernity as a mirror, a self-image on which modern men and women can actually engage in a quest for the beautiful and the good and returning to the very beginning of the cultural sciences but with a strong ethical and philosophical foundation, one containing the other - this is Jewish hermeneutics (I'm indebted in this to Eveline Goodman-Thau). If we're to believe that the history of beauty has come to a premature end and that it exists only by accident, then naturally the good must exist as well only accidentally, eliminating the possibility of choosing oneself for the good and the sources of all possible morality, of whichever kind, altogether... in a time with the Platonic dicta of the ethical life seem to work no longer. And here we don't speak about the ability to speak of ethics, which of course had never been more imperative than nowadays, "we're not speaking of isolated little acts by which, as with a needle, a person can pierce through the desolation of his everyday life, of his sham existence, to reach the absolute... This will not savage his dignity. We speak rather of a life form which is determined - and therefore, able - to bestow nobility upon a person's everyday life" -Hans Urs Von Balthasar (Theological Aesthetics).

This "jump" into morality (borrowed from Angel Prior in his book about Agnes Heller's Kierkegaard) depends entirely in our ability to unearth the beauty, and therefore of living a dignified life whose main driving force isn't an ideology but a concern with everyday judgement as our stumbling block, reason for which Auschwitz must be always the territory that defines the philosopher's origin, and his definition of himself as being entirely in the present, to use the Biblical word.

Hannah Arendt spoke very clearly about this phenomenon: "In Auschwitz, the factual territory opened up an abyss into which everyone is drawn who attempts after the fact to stand in that territory.... If the factual territory has become an abyss, then the space one occupies if one pulls back from it is, so to speak, an empty space where there are no longer nations and peoples but only individuals for whom it is now of much consequence of what the majority of peoples, or even the majority of one's own people, happens to think at any given moment. If these individuals who exist today in all the peoples and in all the nations of the world are to reach understanding among themselves, it is essential that they learn not to cling frantically any longer to their own national pasts -pasts that explain nothing anyhow, for Auschwitz can be no more explained from the perspective of German history than from Jewish history -that they don't forget that they are only chance survivors of a deluge that in one form of another can break over us again any day, and that they therefore may be like the Noah in his ark; and finally that they must not yield to despair or scorn for humankind but be thankful that there are quite a few Noahs floating around out there on the world's seas trying to bring their arks as close together as they can".

The issue at stake in this creation story in my theory (and I prefer theory over philosophy, because philosophy since Hegel is a "whole" that can hardly be seen whereas theory sees something and develops a view of it, notion secondary to none if one is to attempt a grasping of the beautiful and of himself as a good person. I owe this notions to Agnes Heller) is not that of eternal mourning -the famous "I mourn, therefore I am" of Derrida- but of the eternal morning; in which the spirit of Auschwitz is the only thing that can remind one that beyond any beyonds and posts, beauty must be sought for in the world and not in the philosophies and the bookshelves so that it can be clearly pointed out in the morning light (just like God did in the Genesis story, moreover the Jewish traditions points out that man is a co-creator with God at any given worldtime) and thoroughly experienced; this is the only channel available for a truly humanizing philosophy that can return man to a situation of dignity, when the heavenly can no longer appeal to him.

Thus the spirit of Auschwitz becomes a negative theology of world responsibility in a phenomenological sense, and paves the way through Modernity into a world that might be able to choose itself for communicability (in Karl Jaspers, or unalienation to interpolate Rosenzweig's reading of Kafka's negative theology somehow) and therefore for concrete world-models that rest not on deliberate freedom but on the assurance of man's humanity, not from the sources of "rights" (which in a Hegelian sense are intimately bound with an ethics that can only spring forth from the nation) but from the sources of humanity itself; this is what Eveline Goodman-Thau terms "the way to Monotheism", which I prefer to translate (and not to overcome) into the language of secular philosophy. Summoning a political experience of the world in terms of "Geschichtlich" and not of "historisch" that can pierce through everyman's everyday life, and not only through the lenses of the world-survivors, a experience of humanity human in every sense.

I don't want to do away with metaphysics as most of my contemporaries would, following Gillian Rose in the "metaphysical fallacy" of postmodern thinkers; but I want to argue that the equation isn't complete and that before the chickens can come home to roost, the essentially human view of aesthetics and theology must be develop as a pre-condition; I confess to be rather Idealist in the Hegelian sense at this juncture.
The spirit of Auschwitz is the only channel available in my view at present, to reach such understanding that is thoroughly resultless, namely that science should no longer act as dominant world-view (and founder of human rights) establishing truth as an end-result but rather thinking (and not philosophy alone, for I believe literature, art and politics among others enable concrete models of thinking and judgment) as a piercing experience all through the process of thought, in the same level of "to be", so that the time of modern men can be no longer out of joint. In forgetting this spirit one foregoes his sanity and the world's self-understanding, which is the unfortunate case of modern thought that has been set "free" (and being modernity's favourite paradigm) but wanders aloof hereabouts rather drunk and unaware of the nihilism inherent to its condition, being ungrounded in anything and in desperate need for the language of the tradition of thought which it has allegedly forsaken for the sake of clarity. However, it is never totally clear at twilight, only when it's already morning and after the long nights of mourning. I shall term this to conclude, the turning upside down of the diluvian waters, nearing the ark of Noah... the way from Endlösung (Final Solution, Extermination) to Erlösung (Redemption), when the chips are down.

Discussing Heinrich Blücher

Blücher on the study of philosophy: "You can do it only if you know that the most important thing in your life would be to succeed in this and the second most important thing, almost as important, to fail in precisely this."


Because there can be just there two choices! To keep them in mind... Succeeding then always depends on the outer world somehow, if they are ahead enough for your thoughts. To fail? Painting, for example, means always failing, never succeeding. To know this gives me always the strength to start a new painting.


Bestimmt! Wahrheit wird niemals nach dem Zwielicht von Kunst und Philosophie darstellt zu habe. Nor noch Dichting köennte es erwarten, erfahren und darin gegründet zu sein. Kunst/Philosophie sind immer auf einem "moment of truth" angefangen und dann im darstellungsbegriff the moment ist schon durchgekommen geworden and you return to the Schöpfungsaugenblick again. Es wird niemals folglich vollständig ausgebaut, in der meinung von Goethe und Rilke.

"The chief fallacy is to believe that Truth is a result which comes at the end of a thought-process. Truth, on the contrary, is always the beginning of thought, thinking is always result-less. That is the difference between "philosophy" and science: Science has results, philosophy never. Thinking starts after an experience of truth has struck home, so to speak. The difference between philosophers and other people is that the former refuse to let go, but that they are the only receptacles of truth. This notion that truth is the result of thought is very old and goes back to ancient classical philosophy, possibly to Socrates himself. If I am right and if it a fallacy, then it probably is the oldest fallacy of Western philosophy. You can detect it in almost all definitions of truth, and especially in the traditional one of "aedequatio rei et intellectus" [the conformity of the intellect to the thing known]. Truth, in other words, is not "in" thought but to use Kant's language, the condition for the possibility of thinking. It is both, beginning and a priori." -Hannah Arendt to Mary McCarthy


But it's good and important then to have certain skills like dialogue, keeping friends, and so on. Creating ein geistiges umfeld, so to say practising reality.


To keep those channels open (friendship, dialogue, discourse) means to leave a possibilityin my opinion to alter an everyday life that can never be falsified, just like philosophies and works of art, an act of ewige Schöpfung.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dutch Forum


This was from Yom Kippur 2004 at Arie's house in Tel Aviv. Keine Bange, aber.... It wasn't too religious, after all one isn't supposed to take pictures and even without mentioning the cigarettes on the table thereafter we had a wonderful meal of Hungarian gulash with potatos baked with cheese! All of it prepared of course by me when it was already Yom Kippur.

A few months before going to Yeshiva at Asher's house (my Talmud teacher) with the nicest Jewish guy from Dresden, Simcha.

This is Ashes, the Talmud teacher (haven't seen him for some 2 years)

This was already in Yeshiva at some regular evening in the dorms! My picture is so terrible... long hair, drunk and everything. In the middle my roommate, some Russian psycho by the name of Shlomi, a former circus acrobat and the other guy some very lame fellow named Eran, Israeli-Canadian and absolutely nonsensical, he also thought he had the largest penis on earth (our neighbour).
Now this is Shlomi the roomie again, isn't he sweet? He's a little loud though :-) And a compulsive smoker that always stole my cigarettes and bought only cheap ones for himself so that I wouldn't ask, what a creep! But he is just the very best... well you see? That's the best that can come out of the Jewish people! So don't expect much...

This is Oved and me at the Western Wall, still in Yeshiva... rather lame hangover days, before they sent me to jail (#)! Oved was the new neighbour, also a really cool friend and a fine German Jew, except for coming from Wyoming... poor creature! Madly uncivilized. Just recently married to an Egyptian woman I think. While other people prayed we just whined in the back.

This thing is Levy, Oved's replacement as a neighbour (and then we'd become roommates for God knows how long!). He doesn't look user-friendly and is a rather savage creature but just for the record we also became friends in yeshiva and he remains my best friend to this day, first he was a loser in yeshiva, then he was a loser in a chef school in the middle of nowhere whose dean was worse than a former kapo, then a loser in the kibbutz where any Dutch or Turkmenistani or Russian had its share of laughing on him and now a loser in the army. Lovely piece of Jewish rotten bones.

That thing tries to learn Talmud but he's too dumb, actually that's not the problem.. It's all about being in Yeshiva. We're all heretics and 3/4 Atheists now, only Shlomi remains under dictatorial control because he's still in. Maybe we should send him over some Crystal Meth, it'd do the job just fine.

Which is what Oved did, otherwise look down...

Hamas training facilities at the American yeshiva!

A shaheed! (Beer monster strikes) -Yeshiva-style

The Spirit of Religious Zionism.


That's Maggie! Pavel's cat and the most beautiful of them at that. In a week I shall no longer see her, perhaps ever. It can only remind me of Arendt writing to Jaspers that what is at stake in life (and the only lesson one can learn from philosophy after the collapse of the metaphysical) is that what matters is not the philosophies and the world-views, but the truth, the life and the world, or what Agnes would say, "anything that could help change everyday life even a little", which is the underlying motif of this thinking space, and even when often the despair and the irony preclude one from much serious thought available out there, the point is that everything is written in the spirit that it might help change everyday life, not philosophies or traditions or scholarship for those have already lost if not their validity altogether, at least their illegitimate authority. Even in the most evil of deeds one has to choose himself so that others cannot do it for him and this is where the secret of contigency lies and the greatest treasure of Modernity, in whose survival the picture of humankind once clear and immanent, is at stake. We create ourselves everyday but also bear potential for our destruction and that of our world, no reflection can arouse anymore from the net of metaphysical security; today men face world and God in their utmost nakedness and the vulgarity of this experiences throws one back upon himself to experience the uncanniest form of unreality which indeed is not in the films or the literature or the technological consciousness but in the petty mind-informed obsessions of everyday life; the only thing we can change because it's the only possible world - that of the murderers but also of the artists, animals, children, etc. and as long as we share it per force of necessity one needs to choose it over and over, everyday.

I learnt early in my life that one can die everyday, catch a mortal viral disease or any other illness, become incontingent, criminal, evil, murderous, dishonest while at the same time he can also choose himself for the good and if so, though bearing little meaning today, there's at least a way in which one can bequest something that can never become, like the house of Goethe that in our days represents not only the world and the truth, but the picture of humankind in a place where the self-comprehensibility of the whole is broken into fragments that art themselves into clusters but one thing should cut across them all: the desire to change everyday life!

Against Brecht

Poetry lies, and that's at the root of the modern problem because the image itself bears unidentifiable verses torn apart from the joints of time and cannot tell lie or truth, at most it's able to evoke and in the passing moment of it the revelation is upset and no longer beset with that necessary turmoil for the journey back and forth in between men and world; at best Beings run the show but no one has sighted them yet other than the philosopher's God - that formless identity that created the world once and bequested the management to the powers that be, in lying poetry has hindered the possibility for the world to create itself anew at the moment of birth or passing which today is termed motion, consequently timely change is perfunctorily performed by confusing facts that attack the newspapers and befall a serious world that cannot reflect, it cannot laugh without being serious, sense in which Modernity resembles Athens more than freedom, and the collapse of the experience was not the flight from reality of Idealism or the legitimating philosophy of Modernity but that extermination camps; whereby willy-nilly the clock turned backward and humankind began anew without a beginning in the myth or an end in the railways... dangerous contingency that words can only but alienate even more so that experience today resembles some kind of chemical thing that sells for not so much.

The thinker loves and cares for the world, but at most he can be an inker... to leave bothersome marks in the map of the urbanized unkindness, he can no longer bind the arks. In the age of poetic lies he cannot leave the self altogether and drowns in a form of melancholy which the moderns call philosophy but that is at the same time hardly faithful to its origin and moreover cannot exemplify the human truth of Gods and poets, because this in itself was removed to a total disrepute bordering on demise and replaced by a scientific language in which beauty can no longer be grasped as an object, therefore the ultimate aim of good blurred altogether in the subjects that the philosopher grasples but remains trappled in Beings, mirroring images and wonders offered by the world's uncanny way to present itself. Poetry lies, my poetry lies, therefore all philosophies leave through the back door and what comes home to roost with poetry isn't truth but an image that desires, desires an interpreter but he in himself cannot tackle with objects which for the sake of clarity, beings are not.

The image in our days is called technological nihilism and does not spring from totalitarian ideologies or modernist tendencies or perverted morals, it stems in the problem of Beings, formless artifacts that dwell on artificial soil, that of the uninterpreted image, not even misinterpreted. Brecht, why did you lie?

Philosopher of Nature

Another point of pivot
Exchanges cold threads of fear
Into the wind
Of rustling anger
Receiving a soluble solution in return
Transforming waters in canvas
Into human-like portraits
In shadeless grays
That perform story-telling
In the moment of change
Before the passing
That was once birth
That had less lonely names
Heavenly sights
Of the nearest street
From a vantage point
Of the redeemed life
That one could no longer harbor
Or blue it apart
With dense notions
Of a poetry
That could not lie
Because it read the world
Through the laws of Nature
Unmistakeably reasonable
As rivers
That ran free
With the spirit of freedom
That animals had
In a worldless hollow!
O tainted soul!
You're summoned thither
To find the joints of time
What once poets did
Before twilight
In the innocent dayhood of a life
In a banal cycle
Of storms and rooves
Falling upon each other
Clenching their teeth
In that motionless silence
That one day
Unjointed the time
Through watered down spaces
Once occupied by voices
With letanies
Of a punctured memory
From a forgotten wasteland
Nowadays turned
Into an immanent change
Or a city
Dwelling in itself
Experiencing change
In atomic forms
That pervert days
For the sake of the possible
The unknowable
That of the loving kind
Twilight strikes
And empties the brooks
From underneath
Incessant sadness
O Hoelderlin!
Philosopher of Nature

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Auf die Erde, stünde ich damals, nicht zebereiten
Das Bau, das Schau, des Erbes... so ganz

Heiße Sehnsucht vor einer Mauer
Im schweigendes selbstzweigespräch
Diejenige hartes durch Erdens Zustand rennt
Den Gott der aus seinem Vorbild sieht man
Nie länger, und das Nachbild weint von
Urstandlosigkeit, des Werdens.

Er kommt näher zu Mir
Aber niemals durchangekommen wird, hingegen
Er ist geworden, in einer Frage
Die Eva muesste nicht antworten
Als sie selbst, gefährlich,
Beschließt, die Anfang zu können.
Geschichtlich, fährt man,
Zuhause, im Urbild
In der Urheimat


Ich ekel' mich an
Hinter dem roten Vorhang
Wonach, meine Woerte bedauer' ich so!
Die fliegende Verganenheit auch
Als die durch einer Verwandlung
Von einem unergaenzendes Moment ins Bild fluet
Ab der Dichte
Von einer froelichen taglichkeit
Nach dem Augenblick eines Turmes
Sehr oft Schuld-gestaehlt
Von Aengsten erfuellet

Friday, January 19, 2007

New York, Auschwitz, Jerusalem - My Three Cities of Death : Fragments of Gillian Rose's Philosophy of Love

"My disastrous Judaism of fathers and family transmogrified into a personal, protestant inwardness and independence. Yet, as with the varieties of historical Protestantism, progenitor of modernity, the independence gained from the protest against illegitimate traditional authority comes at the cost of incessant anxiety of autonomy. Chronically beset with inner turmoil, the individual may nevertheless become roughly adept at directing and managing the world to her own ends. Little did I realize then how often I would make the return journey from protestantism to judaism."

"There's no democracy in any love relation: only mercy. To be at someone's mercy is dialectical damage: they might be merciful and they might be merciless."

The Dialectics of Love in Poetry

No thorns go as deep as a rose's
And love is more cruel than lust

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives for ever,
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Da ich ein Knabbe war [Hölderlin] כאשר הייתי נער

Da ich ein Knabe war,
Rettet' ein Gott mich oft
Vom Geschrei und der Rute der Menschen,
Da spielt ich sicher und gut
Mit den Blumen des Hains,
Und die Lüftchen des Himmels
Spielten mit mir.

Und wie du das Herz
Der Pflanzen erfreust,
Wenn sie entgegen dir
Die zarten Arme strecken,

So hast du mein Herz erfreut,
Vater Helios ! und, wie Endymion,
War ich dein Liebling,
Heilige Luna !

Oh all ihr treuen
Freundlichen Götter !
Daß ihr wüßtet,
Wie euch meine Seele geliebt !

Zwar damals rief ich noch nicht
Euch mit Namen, auch ihr
Nanntet mich nie, wie die Menschen sich nennen
Als kennten sie sich.

Doch kannt ich euch besser,
Als ich je die Menschen gekannt,
Ich verstand die Stille des Aethers,
Der Menschen Worte verstand ich nie.

Mich erzog der Wohllaut
Des säuselnden Hains
Und lieben lernt ich
Unter den Blumen.

Im Arme der Götter wuchs ich groß.

כאשר הייתי נער
אל הציל אותי רב-פעמית
מהצעקה והשליטת בני אדם
אז שחקתי טוב ובטוח
בפרחי הסבך,
ורוחות ברקיע
.שחקו עמי גם
ואיך אתה שימח ליבם
של צמח וצמח
כיצד מתפרשים הם
ידיהם הרכות אליך,
ובכן, שימחת את לבי גם
אבי הליוס!
וכאנדימיון הייתי אהובך
לבנה קדושה.
כולכם אלים
ידידים ואמינים
...שהיו יודעים
איך אהבתכם נפשי!
האומנם! איני יכולתי
לקרואתכם בשמות, גם אתם לי
לא הזכירוני כבני אדם מזכירים
.כאילו הם הכירו זה לזה
אבל אני הכרתיכם אפילו יותר
מאשר אי פעם הכרתי בן אדם
אני מבין את השלות האתר
אבל מליי בן אדם לא אף-פעם.
המזמור הסבך הלוחש
ולמדתי לאהוב
בין הפרחים.
בידיי אלים, אני גדלתי.
Translation is mine

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Neues Haus [Goethe] בית חדש

Wer auf die Welt kommt, baut ein neues Haus,
Er geht und lasst es einem zweiten,
Der wird sich's anders zubereiten
Und niemand baut es aus.

מי שבא לעולם, בונה בית חדש
הוא הולך ויורש אותו לאחד
אשר עצמו מכין אותו לאחר
ואף-אחד אותו לא גומר, לא חודש.
Translation is mine

Deutsches Reich [Schiller] הרייך הגרמני

Deutschland? Aber wo liegt es? Ich weiss das Land
nicht zu finden.
Wo das gelehrte beginnt, hoert das politische auf.

גרמניה, איפה זה? הארץ
איני יכול לנצוא
היכן המשכיל חל, הפולוטי גומר.
Translation is mine

Guter Rat [Hölderlin] הצעה טובה

Hast du Verstand und ein Herz, so zeige nur eines von beiden,
Beides verdammen sie dir, zeigest du beides zugleich.
יש עליך הבנה ולב, ובכן, תופיע רק אחד משניהם
אתה דן אותם ביחד, אם מופיע שניהם בו-זמנית
Translation is mine

An Zimmern [Hölderlin] לצימר

Die Linien des Lebens sind verschieden,
Wie Wege sind, und wie der Berge Grenzen.
Was hier wir sind, kann dort ein Gott ergänzen
Mit Harmonien und ewigem Lohn und Frieden.

הקווים החיים הם מובדלים,
כדרכים, וכגבולות ההרים.
אשר כאן אנחנו, שם יכול אל להשלים
עם הרמוניה, בגמול לנצח, בשלום.
Translation is mine

Menschenbeifall [Hölderlin] תשואות אנוש

Ist nicht heilig mein Herz, schöneren Lebens voll,
Seit ich liebe? Warum achtetet ihr mich mehr,
Da ich stolzer und wilder,
Wortereicher und leerer war?

Ach! Der Menge gefällt,
was auf dem Marktplatz taugt,
Und es ehret der Knecht nur den Gewaltsamen;
An das Göttliche glauben
Die allein, die es selber sind.

לבי קדוש, אינו? מלא היופי החי
? למה החשיבות עלי יותר מאז שאני מאוהב
אז איך הייתי גאה ופראי יותר
שופע יותר בדברים אם כן ריק?
אה! ההמון חובב
אשר היטיב לכיכר השוק
והעבד רק הוא מכבד האונס
והם שכאלוהים בלבד
הם המאמיני באלוהי
Translation is mine


H. and his friends became acquainted in a very dark room whereby they couldn't see each other but through the smoke that punctured the stuffed air, it was at the end of a war in which many decent men and women had died... in fact they didn't die, they had been simply thrown to their deaths while H. and his friends keeps a certain sense of irony that made God laugh and whenever the angel of Death came by, he found himself slightly amused and a little helpless so that he would trade their deaths before their eyes which had become already blind at the time, thus whether the room was dark or not was no longer of importance.

After a good number of years H. and his friends remained in the very same room and the smoke made the air more difficult to inhale as time elapsed, they wouldn't dare to speak to each other because the angel of Death might come around and find them in a moment of seriousness and immediately throw them into the pit that a legend told was right in the middle of the room, whilst it was obvious in any case they couldn't see her coming but often it is told that fear doesn't need to be seen. They laughed hysterically and kept her aloof, as the air became thicker and thicker. Sometimes the hysterical laughter turned into tears as well because only the river laughed before those days and one had to imitate nature if he wanted to distinguish properly between right and wrong.

H. was a poet of little reknown and often went for a stroll along the tiny room just to sense the smell of the pit, and as he did all passing became of little relevance because the blindness became merely an object of sight, as though black could still be distinguished as a colour in a scale and balance of worldly objects. Because of his nervous and constant strolling his friends started to suspect that it was H. himself who melted the air with the smell of the pit and confused the hearkening voices of Death, but since it wasn't allowed to speak no one of them could complain therefore the routine of hysterical laughter continued routinarily. An older friend whose character wafted in between great goodness and public madness started thinking in terms of colours because H.'s poems couldn't contain any truth anymore and his colourfulness grew into doubt and anxiety and then his hysterical laughter was no longer real.

He felt constraint and occupied with murderous thoughts that couldn't harm anyone and felt an uncanny desire to speak his mind but because so many years had elapsed he could at most go on laughing in the same hysterical manner but in a nervous reflection that could hardly resemble truth, and he continued having this daydreams in which H. stole the air in his strolling around so that one day when he quit laughing altogether he pushed H. into the pit and asked his friend in a loud voice, "Where's the thief?", but suddenly he encountered no response and the thick silent air was replaced by the vicious seriousness of his friends.

Then the angel of Death came and took them all except the friend who pushed H. into the pit, and he remained alone in the room until the days couldn't be counted no more asking himself, "Where's the thief? Where's the thief?" and as no response came he laughed so hysterically once again that the angel of Death came to serve him companion but never dared to take him, because the thief hadn't yet been found and in his blindness he could hardly realize H. had fallen into the pit many twilights before.

Eventually even Death tired out and let him out of the room, but he couldn't find the door because he had only seen in colours.

Vertrauensbruch zwischen den Echt und Falsch


There's a problem in poetry that can be hardly solved by philosophy because it lies at the very pivot of one's interior castle, it is the problem of truth.

This truth indeed has very little to do with the authentic and the false, but rather encompasses both in an objectivity that can only be experienced by means of music, by means of revelation, of compassion, of estrangement.

This problem attacked Lessing and became his lonesome companion through the many years of his life, through the many letters and the anger before his own inability to find himself at home in the world with it.

Grasping the fragments of a truth that chops the head of the other which burnt to their innermost essentiality past the railways, this unsoluble problem disolved perennially when history ended and truth found a place among the dead wonders of the world, alongside Greek and Romans, empires and saturated towers.

I believe Heidegger made some baby steps toward the solution by which unknowingly he murdered Kafka and made himself all too homely by allegedly removing the foundation and throwing freedom outside reason into the abyss that creates an ever-changing present, he didn't believe it a Christian problem.

But his repetition wasn't new at all, it came with a metaphysical rebellion that started in Kierkegaard and found a pivoting point in Nietzsche, a reworked version of Hegel's recollection in which one can only grasp philosophy, revelation and truth in the very moment of its passing or right thereafter, twilight of names, bereft.

I shall nonetheless be more interested in Lessing because he didn't propose a solution, rather a model of speech, of human speech, in which this problem without being overcome could be discussed. This model was termed "friendship" and laid at the very beginning of our tradition with the Romans.

But the bridges of Grittli are no return or consolation, there's no longer glorious past. We all had to do something not to remain innocent, to choose our suffering for the sake of the world, to choose our own untrodden path and become existent, contingent, broken into pieces... like our bridges.

There's no real speech these days, but a rather lame and mute morse code. It's a postdiluvian nakedness once again as the rape of Noah by his son. Everything watered down in a moment of bliss that contained the anger of all possible flight, the waters turned themselves up and down and Noah drowned altogether with all the unique and individual possibilities of salvation.

It ain't time to turn to God for advise, for it's got nothing to do with him. We're bereft and stand on our own in this groundless world, wandering and wafting like a Cain of our days after the most murderous deed, history. We started to count the days as soon as we left our heavenly home on earth.

The truth tears apart the noble hearts and hides inside blocks of advertisements, at the end of railways and becomes immune to love, happiness, beauty. The rawest form of existence, because after all it is that which remains at stake and comes home to roost, one unbearable minute of mirrorhood that waters down all the colours of the world, all the paintings and all the words, the worlds. An empty glass house is the result, a drowning Noah is the sight.

We leave our houses of security and nauseate. What have you done? What is your sin? What is your humourless irony? You've professed nothing to believe in, humanistic mechanic, dilettante, horrid screeching noises draw crowds to your house that can only provide mirrors without floors, without ceilings, without doors. But the gate is always closed, always closed, always closed.

I hear your voice mumbling from within the wombs of the wet earth in Archadia, I hear the musings of forgotten poetry, of forgotten density and choose the later for myself as to drown with Noah at the pivoting point where truth, friend and existing meet.

You couldn't finish the house, you couldn't love the world, you couldn't fear God. At most histories were told from Tuebingen to Jena as a mad poet cried out the despair over his distance from humankind, from friend, from foe, from love. I only had a story to tell you, but it watered down as it had been written and returned to the beginning to fall back upon itself, to the very moment right before God first spoke.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Germans

"Deutsches Reich"

Deutschland? Aber wo liegt es? Ich weiss das Land
nicht zu finden.
Wo das gelehrte beginnt, hoert das politische auf.

- Schiller

"Deutscher Nationalcharakter"

Zur Nation euch zu bilden, ihr hoffet es, Deutsche,
Bildet, ihr koennt es, dafuer freier zu Menschen euch

- Schiller


Moegen andere von ihrer Schande sprechen,
ich spreche von der meinen

O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter!
Wie sitzest du besudelt
Unter den Voelkern.
Under den Befleckten
Faellst du auf.

Von deinen Soehnen der aermste
Liegt erschlangen.
Als sein Hunger gross war
Haben deine anderen Soehne
Die Hand gegen ihm erhoben.
Das ist ruchbar geworden.

Mit ihren so erhobenen Haenden
Erhoben gegen ihren Bruder
Gehen sie jetzt frech von dir herum
Und lachen in dein Gesicht.
Das weiss man.

In deinem Hause
Wird laut gebruellt, was Luege ist.
Aber die Wahrheit
Muss schweigen.
Ist es so?

Warum preisen dich ringsum die Unterdruecker, aber
Die Unterdruecken beschuldigen dich?
Die Ausgebeuteten
Zeigen mit Fingern auf dich, aber
Die Ausbeuter loben das System
Das in deinem Hause ersonnen wurde!

Und dabei sehen dich alle
Den Zipfel deines Rockes verbergen, der blutig ist
Vom Blut deines
Besten Sohnes.

Hoerend die Reden, die aus deinem Hause dringen, lacht man.
Aber wer dich sieht, der greift nach dem Messer
Wie beim Anblick einer Raeuberin.

O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter!
Wir haben deine Soehne dich zugerichtet
Dass du unter den Voelkern sitzest
Ein Gespoett oder eine Furcht!

- Brecht (copyright)


tomorrow I'll coment on this

'The monster is in handcuffs'

By Haggai Hitron

Several former employees of the Shin Bet security service, including former chief Avraham Shalom, and former employees of national air carrier El Al gathered yesterday to reconstruct the daring capture of Adolf Eichmann. Television personality Dan Margalit convened participants in the complex operation at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak's Massuah Institute for a panel discussion. As a result of his successful capture in Argentina, Eichmann, who managed the logistics of Hitler's Final Solution, was tried and convicted in Jerusalem of war crimes, an event that changed Israeli and global perception of the Holocaust. The display of testimonies at the Massuah Holocaust studies institute was surprisingly efficient considering that the witnesses are no longer young and consider every detail important. Margalit moderated with focused skill, however, participant Baruch Tirosh also attributed the efficiency to recent meetings held by the operatives, during which they filmed their versions of events.

After the discussion, I visited Massuah's permanent exhibit which recounts the genocide of Europe's Jews through witness testimony from Eichmann's trial and illustrates its impact on Holocaust awareness in Israel and on Israeli culture in general. The exhibit includes video and audio clips as well as an exhibit of the headlines in various newspapers announcing Eichmann's capture. Recent additions to the exhibit include the simple ballpoint pen with which the captive Eichmann signed a document "agreeing" to be brought to trial in Israel. Surprisingly, according to yesterday's testimony, the tensest moment in apprehending the architect of the Final Solution was not grabbing him off the street.

Avraham Shalom recounted that the secret service operatives practiced at least 200 times how they would set upon Eichmann on his way from the bus to his home and get him into the back of a rented car in less than twenty second. A second vehicle, in which Shalom himself was riding, was devoted entirely to blinding Eichmann before the ambush. Eichmann was grabbed as planned and forced into the car (there are several versions of what he said at that time) and brought to a planned safehouse - to which the team had a number of alternative locations - where he was held for several days until being flown to Israel. However, according to co-pilot Shaul Shaul yesterday, it was pilot Zvi Tohar who saved the operation with his level-headedness. El Al's Britannia airplane was waiting in a Buenos Aires airport maintenance area with the abductors and their prisoner on board, about to move onto a runway for takeoff. However, the control tower ordered the plane to wait.

The unusual instruction mandated a difficult and dangerous decision: Mossad chief Isser Harel decided to take off on the spot and without permission, fearing Eichmann's wife had notified Argentinian authorities of her husband's disappearance. Tohar decided to wait, sending Shaul to the control tower to clarify the reason for the delay. It was decided that if Shaul did not return within ten minutes, the plane would take off without permission - and without the co-pilot. It became quickly clear the delay was administrative, and the plane soon got clearance to leave for Hangar No. 2 at the Lod airport.

Tirosh recounted yesterday that upon landing, Isser Harel asked where to find a telephone, dialing himself and telling the person on the other end of the line - David Ben-Gurion - the famous words "The monster is in handcuffs". Also outstanding was yesterday's testimony by former Mossad agent Yaakov Meidad, known according to the background material for his ability to change identities and endear himself to people. Meidad rented the car used in the capture, leaving a $5,000 deposit in $20 bills. Meidad's testimony was the most electrifying and graphic. He described the captured Eichmann as a small and fearful man. "You would not believe what a wimp he was, how he signed, how he behaved. This man dealt in the murder of millions. I would hardly appoint him to manage a post office."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kafka & Hoelderlin on "The Good"

It's strange, because even in the middle of the caustic storm which befalls my life, the idea of the good is in my mind again, but in a very snob mood and furthermore I can only grasp the form but not at all the content, at the same time it seems to me the form is some kind of Christian thing, very little universality therein.

The fear of death and the monstrous anxiety have eased up, but it's better not to be too much laid back as surprises might come anytime. This reading about Hoelderlin I find very inspiring, even when in a very naive and remote way. Perhaps there's a possibility for a new beginning without giving up life altogether, but somehow cynicism has taken over in lordship, while keeping some frail sense of humour which becomes a venue for self-critique. I simply don't want to die yet, and the mere idea of going "my way" with "the older brother" without leaving anything written leads me into absurd panick-ridden fear. By writing I mean something other than little queer musings.

Moreorver this isn't the fear that leads me into wanting death (instead of dying and imagining it as a modernist painting with Hegelian and Greek themes); what most terribly destroys my sanity is the fear of anonimity; obviously not in philosophy (we're all anonymous today in a way - it's caused by entropy, the postmodern information theories) but from world-dwelling (in the sense of Lessing). I fear inhumane treatment, statistical heroism accompanied by oblivion and the mere idea that I know with some certainly that this world can make it possible makes me share a certain pathos with others long before me; we all meet at the railways but our end is no longer Auschwitz but a dim landscape painted over its piles of glasses and shoes.

This landscape is very similar to Kafka's "The Trial", and then goes through Kundera's "sempiternal laughter" about Hitler and finds me at the end in the line of a visa section procrastinating[1] for an identity we all lost at the beginning of the railway, only the grand narrative is left. I think about Agnes on that good people are still possible, how's this so? Today? In a way it's a wonder of modern contingency that one can devote his life to reflect on those matters, yet one's not compelled by proxy to act, returning to the grand narrative again.

I have awful tons of personal experience with this (Hegel here would call me slightly less than a dilettante) and such cynical fact is something one can never reconcile with, no one can. At the same time I follow Kant a little in returning to philosophy everytime as one returns to a maid after a quarrel, but in a more Idealist way (here I want to term Kant "critical"). The imaginary flight to bridge once again to the world of beauty and language, of poetry - but eternal but not just, the Greek world. Yet I live up to Modernity and fail, experienced in a rather hammer-punctured everyday life the absolute collapse of metaphysics, which in itself leads to a philosophical embarrassment at "building" a system, whichever it might be; yet one can easily return to aesthetics, where in the critique of literature and works of art I can once again speak of the ethical without the net of other-worldly security, this seems an impossibility indeed!

Because speaking of ethics does by no means insure practical reason proper, but if everyday life can be indeed punctured and endangered by the hammers and the pendulum of Modernity it means it can altogether altered, even if already the teleology of technology isn't only a form of imagination (or a mode) but a whole consciousness, and Modernity can house many. This is no metaphysical rebellion against reason (an absurdity in every respect) but a postmetaphysical reflected process of practical reason proper: Aesthetic judgement, which obviously is in strait needs to objectivize itself by concretizing (and here we're not speaking of hermeneutics) its object: Beauty.

Altogether returning to the very beginning of rational philosophical thinking - a very creative narrative indeed when appraching a broken tradition, by no means overcoming or even philosophizing the problem of history and thought but objectivizing it, whereby then we struggle in between narratives of Wirklichkeit and/or Wahrheit. I find the Wirklichkeit in Kafka and a slippery wounded Wahrheit in Hoelderlin. They differ in that Kafka dreams and Hoelderlin doesn't, by which he only "sees" in awakefulness and his freedom to exist risks even his ability to see, he's already created a "Lebensraum".

Kafka lives on a more limited contigency that denies ontological freedom by deontologizing narratives (this doesn't mean demythologizing) creating dreadful existential choices with no other pivoting point than themselves, his canvas produces a man not homely anywhere, nor can he find himself and therefore remains free, unredemptive, uncreated, unfinished, becoming... Thereby begins the ethical idea but Plato's nowhere to be seen. The bannister has been lifted, but the visible spaces occupied by the tradition remain conceptually empty and dismembered by the unreflected events of the 20th century; at this point Heidegger got it right: These events have indeed no past (or precedent, whichever the argument might be). They're in the Greek historical sense cyclical non-teleological space, changes, not yet iterative.

[1] In the original, I used a different word

"Friedrich Hölderlin's Life, Poetry and Madness" (1830) - Wilhelm Waiblinger

Now if one were to step into this unfortunate man's house, he certainly would not expect to meet a poet who had merrily wandered along the Ilyssus with Plato; but the house is not ugly, it is the dwelling of a prosperous carpenter; a man who has an uncommon degree of culture for a man of his standing, and who speaks about Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Novalis, Tieck and others. One inquires after the room of Herr Librarian - for Hölderlin still enjoys being addressed by title - and then comes to a small door. Talking can already be heard inside, and one assumes that Hölderlin already has company, but is then told by the honest carpenter that H. is completely alone and talks to himself day and night.

One ponders, wondering whether or not to knock, and feels a sense of uneasiness. After finally knocking, a loud and forceful "Come in!" can be heard. Opening the door, one finds a haggard figure standing in the middle of the room, who bows as deeply as possible and will not stop bestowing compliments, and whose mannerisms would be very graceful were there not something convulsive about them. One admires the profile, the high forehead heavy with thought, the friendly, lovable eyes, extinguished but not soulless; one sees the devastating traces of the mental illness in the cheeks, the mouth, the nose, above the eyes where an oppressive and painful wrinkle has been etched. With regret and sadness, one observes the convulsive movement which sometimes spreads throughout the entire face, forcing his shoulders to jerk and his fingers to twitch. He wears a simple jacket and likes to keep his hands in his pockets. One says a few introductory words which are then received with the most courteous obeisance and a deluge of nonsensical words which confuse the visiting stranger. Gracious as he was and, for the sake of appearance, still is, H. now feels obliged to say something friendly to the guest, to ask him a question. One comprehends a few words of his question, but most of these could not possibly be answered. Nor does Hölderlin in the least expect to be answered. On the contrary, he becomes extremely perplexed if the visitor attempts to follow up a train of thought. More about that later, when we discuss our conversations with him. For now, our concern is simply with the fleeting appearance. The visitor finds himself addressed as "Your Majesty", "Your Holiness", and "Merciful Herr Pater". Hölderlin, however, is extremely upset; he receives such visits with the greatest displeasure and is always more disturbed afterwards. For that reason it was always against my own will whenever someone requested me to lead them to Hölderlin. Yet, I would rather do this than let one visit him unaccompanied. The visit would be too upsetting for the lonely man, who is shut off from all associations with people, and the visitor would not know how to treat him. Hölderlin would soon begin to thank the visitor for the visit and would again bow, whereupon it would then be best for one not to tarry any longer.

Nor does anyone stay with him longer than this. Even his earlier acquaintances found such conversation too uncanny, too oppressive, too boring, too senseless, for the Librarian was at his most eccentric in his behavior toward them. Friedrich Haug, the epigrammatist who had known him for a long time, once came to visit. He, too, was addressed as "Your Royal Majesty" and "Herr Baron von Haug". Though the old friend assured H. that he had not been ennobled, H. positively would not cease bestowing him with distinguished titles. Toward complete strangers he speaks absolute nonsense. But first of all, we shall describe the outer appearance he presents of himself, and then we will consider this in greater detail.

He wrote a lot at first and filled every sheet of paper which was handed to him. There were letters in prose or in free Pindaric metrics addressed to his dear Diotima, others more frequently in alcaics. He had adopted a thoroughly peculiar style, the contents of which were: remembrance of the poet, struggle with God and celebration of the Greeks. As for his current train of thought, nothing has appeared yet.

At the beginning of his stay with the carpenter, he still broke out in attacks of madness and rage many times, which forced Zimmer, as a last resort, to strike the frenzied man with his sturdy fists. Hölderlin once chased the man and his whole family out of the house and locked the door.
He instantly became enraged and convulsive whenever he saw anyone from the clinic. Since he often wandered about at liberty, he was naturally exposed to the jeers of the dreadful people who can be found everywhere, and to whose bestial nature such a frightfully spirited unfortunate becomes an object of ignorant viciousness. Now when he realized this, he would become so wild that he would throw stones and dung at them; and one could be certain that he would still be furious the following day. With deepest regret we were forced to acknowledge that even university students were animalistic enough to taunt and enrage him. With regard to this subject, we can only say that of all the wicked traits which laziness engenders in the universities, this is certainly one of the most worthless.

The carpenter's wife or one of his sons or daughters often took the poor man into the garden or vineyard, whereupon Hölderlin would find a rock to sit on, waiting until they would go home. It is notable that persons in his company had to act as if they were with a child, if he were not to be made restless.

If he leaves the house, he must first be reminded to wash and tidy himself, as his hands are usually dirty from having spent half of the day tearing grass from the ground. Then, after he has dressed, he must be led, for he positively will not lead. He wears his hat pulled down to his eyes, and if he is not too deeply withdrawn into himself, he will raise it in greeting to a two-year-old child. It is both praise- and noteworthy that the people in the city who were familiar with him never made fun of him but quietly let him go his own way, while they often said to one another: Ach, how bright and educated this gentleman was, and now he's so crazy. But now he is not allowed to go out alone, except to wander around the bailey in front of the house.

In the beginning, he sometimes came to see the admirable Conz, recently deceased. This industrious and energetic friend of ancient literature had a garden in front of the Hirschauer Gate in Tübingen, whither it had been his daily custom for decades to direct his path one hour before noon. During a quarter of a century, he could be seen at this time propping up his heavy body and stopping right at the gate where the gatekeeper would light his pipe. Then the poet would walk quietly and slowly, stopping after a few hours in the open air or at the garden house. While he was translating Aeschylus, Hölderlin, who had more fire and energy at that time, came to see him. He would amuse himself by picking flowers, and after he had gathered a hearty bouquet, he would tear it apart and stuff it into his pocket. Sometimes Conz would also give him a book. Conz told me that Hölderlin once leaned over him and read aloud a few verses from Aeschylus, whereupon he then shrieked out in convulsive laughter: "I don't understand that. It's kamalatta language," for the coining of new words is one of Hölderlin's eccentricities.

These visits gradually ceased in time as he became weaker and duller-witted. It was sometimes necessary for me to prod him to take a stroll with me in Conz's garden. He had all sorts of excuses. He would say: "I do not have time, Your Holiness" - for I, too, received all kinds of titles - or "I must wait for a visitor," or he would use one of his highly peculiar phrases like "They have dictated they I wait here." Now and then, however, when it was nice and bright outside, I got him to dress and we went out. On one particular spring day, he was greatly overjoyed by the vibrant flowers and the fullness of the blossoms. He praised the garden's beauty in the most pleasing terms. Otherwise, however, he was more unreasonable than when I had him alone with me. Conz took pains to have him recall the past, but without any luck. Conz once said, "Herr Councillor Haug, who you'll still remember well, recently wrote a very beautiful poem." Hölderlin, who as usual was completely inattentive to what was said to him, replied, "Has he written one?" Conz burst out laughing. We then walked toward the house, and as we bid farewell, Hölderlin kissed Conz's hand most elegantly.

His day is extremely simple. In the morning, especially during the summer when he is generally much more disturbed and tormented, he arises either before or at sunrise and leaves the house at once to go for a walk in the bailey. This stroll, usually lasting four or five hours, tires him out. He likes to amuse himself by carrying a handkerchief to either swat against fence-posts or pull up grass with. Whatever he finds, whether it's only a piece of iron or leather, he sticks in the handkerchief and takes it with him. During all this, he continually talks to himself, asks himself questions, and answers himself, soon with yes, then no, frequently with both, for he enjoys saying no.

After that, he returns to the house and paces back and forth. His dinner is brought to his room and he eats with a hearty appetite. He also loves wine and would keep drinking it as long as it were given to him. When he has finished his meal, he cannot tolerate having the dishes and silverware in his room a second longer, and he places them on the floor in front of the door. He positively will have only those things inside his room which belong to him. The remaining part of the day elapses in monologues and pacing back and forth in his little room.
His Hyperion can occupy him all day long. Hundreds of times when I came to visit him, I could already hear him outside declaiming in a loud voice. His pathos is extravagant and Hyperion is almost always lying opened on his table; he often read aloud to me from it. And after he had read a passage, he would begin to exclaim with vigorous gestures, "O beautiful, beautiful Your Majesty!" Then he would read some more, suddenly adding, "You see there, Gracious Sir, a comma!" He also read aloud from other books which I put in his hands, but understood nothing because he's too distracted and can't even follow one of his own thoughts, let alone one foreign to him. Nonetheless, he would consequently praise the book excessively in his usual politeness.
The rest of his books consist of Klopstock's Odes, Gleim, Cronegk, and other older poets of this sort. He reads Klopstock's Odes often and does not hesitate to produce them.

I told him countless times that his Hyperion had been newly reprinted and that Uhland and Schwab had assembled a collection of his poetry, but I never received more of an answer than a deep bow and the words, "They are very gracious, Herr von Waiblinger! I am very indebted to you, Your Holiness!"

Whenever he cut my questions short in this manner, I often tried to forcefully press him for a reasonable answer, and without ceasing turned my words around, rephrasing the question with different expressions and only ceasing when he broke out in violent gesticulation and an incoherent, senseless torrent of words.

The carpenter was soon surprised to see that I could exert so powerful an influence over Hölderin that he would go with me as soon as I so desired, and that he was also so concerned with me in my absense. But it was the pretty little garden house which I lived in on the Österberg which pleased Hölderlin the most. Wieland penned the first fruits of his muse in this same house. Here, one had a view overlooking friendly, fertile valleys, the city spread out on the Schlossberg, the bending of the Neckar, many enchanted little villages, and the chain of the Alps. It is now more than three years since I spent a pleasant summer here in the midst of the green with such a refreshing view, almost entirely in the open air. At that time, unfortunately, there was such an oppressive weight upon my spirit that even the delight of this friendly nature was not enough to strengthen and cheer me up. I was to write a novel here which I would soon consider worthy of being burned, and in which there was precious little which would not now shame me. But later came the "Song of Kalonasora" which at least won acclaim for the author from the most well-known judges and friends of poetry when it was published three years later. But it was to this spot where I led Hölderlin once each week. When he had reached the top and had set foot inside, he would bow each time, commending me for my good will and favor in the most cordial manner possible. He expresses his courtesy in flowery phrases wherever he goes and often it is actually as if he intentionally wished to keep everyone at arm's length from himself. If he has a reason, this is certainly it; but perhaps it is a bit too much to want to attribute to each and every thing a meaning deeper than what is simply eccentric and curious.

Hölderlin would open the window, sit down next to it and begin to praise the view in quite understandable words. I noticed that, in general, it was better for him when he was out in the open air. He spoke to himself less, and in my opinion this is complete proof that he was more lucid, for I have become convinced that that incessant monologue is none other than the restlessness of his thought and his impotence in concentrating on an object. More about that later. I provided him with snuff and smoking tobacco, which he enjoyed quite a bit. I could completely cheer him up with a pinch, and when I filled up the pipe and lit it for him, he praised it and the tobacco most spiritedly and was completely contented. He stopped talking, and since he was then feeling his best, and it would not have been good to disturb him, I left him alone and read something.

Written in large Greek letters on the wall above his desk, the pantheistic One and All (Hen kai pan) had been one of his greatest concerns. He often spoke a long time to himself, always watching this mysterious sign of many meanings, and one time he said, "I have become orthodox now, Your Holiness! No, no! I'm presently studying the third volume of Herr Kant and am greatly involved with the new philosophy." I asked him if he remembered Schelling. He said, "Yes, he studied at the same time I did, Herr Baron!" I told him that Schelling was supposed to be in Erlangen and Hölderlin replied, "He was in Munich earlier." He asked me whether I had ever spoken to him and I said yes. . .

He recalled Matthisson, Schiller, Zollikofer, Lavater, Heinse, and many others, with the exception of Goethe, as I've mentioned earlier. His memory still shows power and endurance. Once, I found it surprising that he had a portrait of Frederick the Great hanging on the wall and therefore asked him about it. He answered, "You have made that remark about it before, Herr Baron." Then I remembered having indeed noticed it many months earlier. He also recognized everything which he had seen before. He has never forgotten that I am a poet and has asked me countless times what I have been working on and whether I have been industrious. But he can immediately add, "I, my dear Sir, no longer bear the same name. Now I'm called Killalusimeno. Oui, Your Majesty, so they say, so they declare! Nothing's wrong with me."

Generally speaking, I heard this last comment from him often. It is as if this were his way of affirming and soothing himself; by keeping in mind, "there's nothing wrong with me."
I also gave him paper for writing. Then he would sit down at the desk and write a few verses, rhymed ones as well, though they were nonsensical, especially the last onces, however metrically correct they were. He would then rise and hand it to me with lavish compliments. He once signed one "Your most humble and obedient Hölderlin".

One day I told him that a concert would be held in the evening. I had been considering whether it would be possible to provide him with such a pleasure. In the end, it could not be risked. Perhaps the music would have been too overpowering for him, and then there was the incivility of the students to consider. Enough, I left the garden house with him. He was completely withdrawn and did not speak a single syllable. When we had reached the city, he suddenly looked at me as if he had just awakened and said, "Concert." No doubt he had been thinking about it the whole way.

For music had not yet abandoned him completely. He still played piano correctly, though in a highly eccentric style. Whenever he plays, he sits at the instrument all day long. He will follow a childishly simple notion, turn it around, and play it back hundreds of times all day until one can endure it no longer. And along with this come quick, spasmodic fits which force him to race like lightning across the keyboard with his long, overgrown fingernails clattering all the way. It is the greatest displeasure for him to have these trimmed, and he has to be tricked like a stubborn and capricious child into having it done. When he has played long enough to stir his soul, he suddenly closes his eyes, lifts his head and begins to sing as if he wanted to pine and waste away. As many times as I heard it, I could never figure out what language it was; but he sang with an excessive pathos, and it sent shivers through every nerve to see and hear him in this way. Melancholy and sorrow were the spirit of his song, and one could tell that he had once been a good tenor.
He loves children very much, but they are afraid of him and run away. He has an uncommon fear of death and is very fearful in general. His terribly weakened nerves make him easily frightened and he is startled by the slightest sound. Whenever he is in motion or in a gloomy mood, his entire face twitches, his gestures are violent, he twists his fingers together in such knots it is as if he had no joints at all, and he shrieks loudly, raving at himself in vehement discourse. Unless he is left alone during such moments, one will be physically escorted to the door. When he becomes completely infuriated, he lies in bed and will not get up for days on end.

One day the idea of going to Frankfurt suddenly entered his mind. His boots were then taken away from him, and this infuriated the Herr Librarian so much that he stayed in bed for five days. In the summer, he is so plagued by restlessness that he paces back and forth in the house all night long.

I wanted to give him other books and thought that he would surely read Homer, who he would certainly remember. I brought him a translation, but he would not accept it. I left it with the carpenter and told him that Hölderlin should keep it, that it now belonged to him. Just the same, he would not accept it. The reason for this is not pride but rather fear of upsetting himself by getting involved with something unfamiliar. Only what was familiar kept him calm: Hyperion and his dusty, old poets. Homer had been a stranger to him for twenty years, and now everything new upset him.

Then I invited him to go with me to a garden where there was a tavern. The view from this place was very lovely and one felt completely unobserved there. Hölderlin drank like a real man. He liked the beer, too, and held his liquor better than one would have expected. I took care, however, that the appropriate limits were never exceeded. He felt completely at ease when he smoked a pipe in such a setting; he stopped talking and kept to himself.

He wrote to his mother, but always had to be reminded. These letters were not senseless; he took pains with thema and they were in fact clear, but only in the same way, including style, that a child writes - one who cannnot yet think or write down a completed thought. One of them was actually pretty good, but then it ended, "I see that I must close." He had become confused at this point, had become conscious of his confusion, and abruptly stopped. One can best compare this state with the disturbance in thought which one experiences in illness, migraine headaches, extreme drowsiness, and hangovers after an evening of intemperate wine consumption.

My garden house became so dear to him that he still asked about it years after I was no longer living there, and whenever he went with the carpenter's wife into the nearby vineyard, he would climb up to the door and positively insist that Herr von Waiblinger lived there.
Nature, a good walk, the open sky always did him good. It is fortunate for him that from his little window he can savor the cheerful view of the Neckar which washes against his house and a lovely patch of meadow and mountain scenery. A multitude of clear, true images flow over from this view into the poems which he writes when the carpenter gives him paper.

It is remarkable that he could not be brought to speak of the things which had concerned him so much in former, better days. He does not say a single word about Frankfurt, Diotima, Greece, his poetry - things which had been so important to him. And if one asks pointblank, "But surely it has been a while since you were last in Frankfurt?", he simply answers with a bow, "Oui, Monsieur, so you maintain," and then comes a flood of half-French.

In the last few years a small sofa was finally put in his room, and this has been an uncommon source of delight to him. He announced it with childlike rapture when I came to visit him by kissing my hand and saying, "Ach, you see, Gracious Herr, now I have a sofa." I, too, was to take a seat right away, and for a long time after that Hölderlin sat on it whenever I came to visit.
During the time when I was his frequent visitor, I made many trips to Italy, Switzerland and the Tyrol. Whenever I would return, he always knew where I had been. He particularly liked reminiscing about Switzerland and praised the beautiful regions of Zürich and St. Gall, and he spoke of Lavater and Zollikofer. I once told him that I was on my way to Rome and soon would no longer be returning, and I jokingly invited him to come along as my traveling companion. He smiled in such a charmingly sensible way, as only a sage can smile, and said, "I must remain at home, I cannot travel anymore, Gracious Herr!"

Sometimes he gave answers which forced one to nearly break out in laughter, especially since he spoke them with a look as if he were really mocking. I once asked him how old he was and he replied smiling, "Seventeen, Herr Baron." But this is not jest, rather complete distraction. He never pays attention to what someone says to him because he is always withdrawn in himself, battling his incomplete and unclear thoughts. If one should suddenly want to roust him from his torpid brooding, one must be contented with the next word which passes his lips.
I was once walking with him across a meadow. I had let him walk next to me withdrawn in himself for a while, when I quickly drew his attention to a newly built house and said, "Herr Librarian, you certainly have not seen this building yet, have you?" Hölderlin suddenly woke up and said, as if the whole world depended on his reply, "Oui, Your Majesty."
In Germany I have amassed a great deal of his written works and the many things which he wrote during his sad life, and would glady impart some of them were it only possible. I remember an ode in an alchaic metre which begins with the following beautiful lines:

An Diotima
Wenn aus der Ferne, da wir geschieden sind,
ich dir noch kennbar bin, dir Vergangenheit,
o du Teilhaber meiner Schmerzen,
einiges Gute bezeichnen dir kann . . . [1]

In the last line one can already see that he could no longer hold on to the thought, like a beginner or bad poet who cannot articulate what he wants to say, and who is not enough of a master to express himself as strongly as he feels.

The content throughout his letters is a struggling and grappling against God or Fate, as likes to call it. A passage in one of them reads, "Heavenly Godhead, what was it like beneath us when I won several battles from you and a few not insignificant victories!"

I found a terrible, mysterious passage among his papers. After many laudatory exclamations - the things he says about Greek heroes and the beauty of the ancient gods - he begins: "Now I only understand man when I am far away from him and living in solitude."

His perceptions of nature [Naturanschauungen] are still completely lucid. Even when the very world of thought has deteriorated into a wretched hodgepodge [Wirrwarr] and it is no longer within his means to follow the thread of something abstract, it is a great and elevating thought that holy, all-living, mother nature, who Hölderlin has celebrated in his healthiest, freshest, most stirring poetry, is still understood by him. His behavior in the open air is proof of that, as is the beneficial and calming influence which nature exerts upon him, especially the lovely images which he delights in plucking from her as he watches the arrival and departure of spring from his window. In a vividly homeric verse he has painted the image of sheep wandering over a footbridge. He often watched this from his window. And he has painted a sublime picture in his description of silver raindrops dripping from his roof.

But it would be pointless to look for coherence here. If he makes an effort to say something abstract, he gets confused, becomes enfeebled, and in the end is forced to express himself in unusual figures of speech.

The greatest mistake made by the passing observers of this confused psychological state is that they believe Hölderlin has the idée fixe that he is in the company of kings, popes and the nobility because he gives everyone, including the carpenter, some kind of noble title. This is false. Hölderlin has no dominating idée fixe. He is more in a state of infirmity than madness, and every one of his senseless utterances is the consequence of his spiritual and physical exhaustion. Let me clarify this point.

Hölderlin has become incapable of concentrating on a thought, clarifying it, following it up, drawing an analogy to it, and of connecting it in a regular sequence via intermediary terms to something seemingly remote. As we have seen, his life is an entirely inner one, and this is certainly one of the reasons why he has sunken into this state of apathy, the extrication from which has been rendered impossible by his physical sluggishness and unbelievably weakened nerves. Something strikes him, be it a recollection or perhaps an observation which draws his attention to an object in the world outside, and he begins to think. But then he lacks all the calm, all the continuity and firmity to grasp what inevitably remains hazy to him. He should develop the thought, but in his condition he lacks the power to analyze even a single concept. He wants to affirm, but since the truth is not a matter of great importance to him, for this can only be the product of healthy, ordered thought, he says no at the moment, for the aggregate world of spirits is appearance and fog to him, and his entire being has become a resolute, though awful, idealism. If, for example, he says to himself, "people are happy," he lacks the stability and clarity to ask himself how and why. He experiences a heavy resistance within himself, he retracts his statement and says, "people are unhappy," without worrying how or why they are this way.

This distressing conflict which destroys his thoughts in their course could be seen any number of times because he usually thought aloud. And if he is actually able to concentrate on a concept, his mind betrays him almost at once, he becomes much more bewildered, a convulsive motion travels through his forehead, he shakes his head and shouts, "Nein! nein!" and to save himself from this inner swindel which distresses him so much, he falls into a delirium and says words without sense or meaning, as if his overly strained spirit were trying to restore itself while the mouth were speaking totally unrelated words. This became clear later from his papers. It is still within his means to write a sentence with what will be a kind of theme which he wants to develop. This sentence is clear and correct, though it is no doubt but a memory most of the time. On his own, when he should think it through, work out the details, develop it, so that it is a point in demonstrating how capable he is of reflecting upon that persisting memory and generating the newly apprehended thoughts again, so to speak, it fails him at once. In place of the thread which should knit the strands together, they become entangled in themselves and lost in the middle of a muddled yarn, like a spider's web. He becomes exhausted at once. Touching upon this and that, in the end he has as much difficulty pronouncing his words as an inexperienced child who must struggle to explain himself in written form. But as we have just mentioned, there are still many sublime metaphysical thoughts in his head, and he still retains a certain sense of poetic elegance and original expressions. He expresses himself in a mysterious, adventurous way, however incapable he may be of holding on to the vaporous bubbles of thought or of expressing his memories in a new idiom. On the other hand, he takes pains to conceal his embarassment with the unusual forms and manners of speech which remain within his control.

The compilation of his poetry contains a few poems which exemplify this. Although they display much of what is beautiful, fresh, clear, indeed with passages bright and sparkling, one still finds shallow spots here and there which look like shadowy flecks upon a smooth, sunny sheet of water. Hölderlin's mind had entangled itself at these points, for his sorrows were beginning at the time he wrote these poems, and he was no longer capable of completely mastering the material. It would have been better, therefore, if the editors Uhland and Schwab, who have otherwise been so painstaking and conscientous in their selection, had either omitted them or had provided notes for the benefit of those unaware of Hölderlin's condition. The sensitive editors hinder consideration of the poet who is still living and who otherwise shows absolutely no interest in the appearance of his poetry.

If he is not in a state of complete apathy, Hölderlin is forever preoccupied with himself. But when he encounters another person, the various reasons which make him unapproachable and incomprehensible appear. First of all, he is usually so withdrawn that he does not pay the least bit of attention to anything outside himself. There is an immeasurable gulf between him and the rest of humanity. He no longer has any connection to them other than through sheer memory, the mere habituation of desires and the never fully extinguished instincts. For example, he became extremely alarmed when he saw a child in a dangerous position by a window, quickly ran over to it and pulled it away. This apparently humane participation in humanity is a remnant of his once so sensitive and openly sympathetic nature; but it was nothing more than instinctual impulse. He would be completely indifferent were one to tell him that the Greeks had been wiped out to the last man or that they had completely triumphed and were now an independent nation; no, he would not absorb any of it because it is too far removed from him, too foreign, and it disturbs him too much. If he were told that I had died, he would exclaim with great affect, "Herr Jesus, did he die?" At first, though, he would have felt and thought nothing about it, and those apparently sympathetic words would have been bare form, which he would have enjoyed observing. Only later, if he had finally found a way through them, would he have spoken of my death. This is as far as it would go, for he is positively unable to tolerate anything more. This incessant distraction, this preoccupation with himself, this total lack of participation or interest in anything that occurs outside of himself, his disinclination and incapability of grasping, acknowledging, and admitting another individuality make any kind of accurate communication with him impossible.

Nor is it to be forgotten that he still retains a considerable vanity and a kind of pride and self-esteem. In his twenty years of solitude, he found only bare subsistence because he lived cut off from the world and grew accustomed to not needing it. Since there was no possibility of a cheerful contact with the world, he consoled and appeased himself with proud delusions. As in former days, when his activity had an impact upon the half-acknowledging world outside, now in his isolated life as well, where he alone is I and Not-I, individual and world, first and second person, he deems himself something noble or the noblest of all. His high opinion of himself, however, is veiled by the lovable grace and unmistakable goodness of his nature. Education, a natural civility and sense for propriety, which due to his present absent-mindedness and distraction are indiscernable every now and then, and acquaintance with excellent men of all kinds, and with people of noble standing prevent this high opinion from manifesting itself, and Hölderlin has adopted a modest behavior which has won him many hearts. He is so accustomed to all these forms of courtesy and kindliness that he still observes them with everyone. And just as he must come up with the absurdest things in a life so spiritually disturbed and isolated, he also exaggerates every custom and ceremony, and soon calls people Your Majesty, then Your Holiness, then Baron and Pater. It should not be forgotten that he was at court when his rage broke out violently and decisively, and that something of his pride could have come into play just like his conspicuous preference for holding everyone at an insurmountable distance. That he really believes himself to be in the company of royalty is out of the question, for as I have mentioned above, he is no fool, he has no idée fixe, but instead is suffering from a mental fatigue which his shattered nerves have turned into an incurable illness.

Just as he avoids whatever distresses him or confuses his mental functioning, he is also less inclined to recall those important objects of his earlier life which occasioned his illness. But when he does come upon them, he becomes horribly upset, he raves, he shouts, he paces through the night, becomes more nonsensical than usual, and he does not let up until his exhausted physical nature exerts its right to restore itself. If he becomes enraged and excited, as in the case of his notion of going to Frankfurt, he seeks out his little room in bitterness. He has reduced the whole world to this little space, as if this would make him more secure and unchallenged, and better equipped to endure the pain. Then he lies in bed.

The many nonsensical things which he says to himself are the consequence of his monologue style of conversation. He is alone, he gets bored, he must speak. He says something reasonable, he cannot develop it any further, something else comes into his head, and then that is repressed and erased by a third and fourth thought, one right after the next. A terrible confusion then ensues, he becomes moody, he talks nonsense and chatters words without meaning as his mind subsides again. When he comes into contact with people, he believes that he must be gracious and sociable, so he asks questions, says something, but without any interest in either the stranger or what the stranger says to him. He becomes so tangled up in himself in the meantime that he annuls the second person and speaks to himself. If he finds himself in the embarassing situation of having to answer, it is unlikely that he would think that he had not understood the question because he does not pay any attention at all, and so he cuts off the visitor with nonsense.

His countless foolish eccentricities are for the most part the easily explainable offspring of his reclusion. If from time to time, things which would barely be appropriate to an out-and-out fool occur to even so-called reasonable people, who withdraw for many years on end, especially when they are unable to have any effect, how much more so for an unfortunate man who, after a youth full of hope and joy, beauty and wealth, is forced by an unlucky combination of circumstances and an all-too-excitable spiritual nature to live whole decades far removed from the world, possessing nothing more with which to pass the time than the shattered clockwork of his own thinking process.

Should we answer a question which irresistibly forces itself upon us when we observe the heartbreaking fate of this once so promising spirit, i.e., whether he will ever recover, whether he will regain consciousness and be able to resume complete use of his mental powers, then we must confess with the most painful regret that such a transformation of his psychic life, while certainly desirable, is not probable. Hölderlin's physical constitution is of such a kind that he would need a whole new set of nerves if he were to free his mind from its fetters. But we hope for and, after serveral experiences, believe in a momentary recovery for the unfortunate man shortly before the tie binding body and soul, which has become so terrible for him, is released. But this would certainly be only a moment, and it would be the last one. When I left Germany, Hölderlin had already declined significantly. He was more fatigued than usual and also quieter. Six years ago, his eyes still had fire and sparkle and his face still had life and warmth. But at last, it too grew lustreless and devoid of life. It has been a long time now since I heard any more news of him. He has lived 57 years now, of which only the first three decades were not lost. No other soul deserves to be parted from the body which has hindered its activity, its beautiful energies, its more daring flights like this one, which was woven so delicately and sensitively. We hope, therefore, that our noble friend who has stepped out of our society will be granted that unique and final moment, and that the melancholy riddle of his past is still clear before his pilgrimage into another life, and that the hope of a future one for him lives anew!

Trans. note: To Diotima: If from the distance, now that we're through/ I am still familiar to you, yesteryear, to you/ O you partner in my sorrow,/ something good I can point out to you...