«Über Gegenwartsliteratur Interpretationen und Interventionen Festschrift für Paul Michael Lützeler zum 65. Geburtstag von ehemaligen StudentInnen ...»
Leslie A. Adelson Experiment Mars: Contemporary German Literature, Imaginative Ethnoscapes, and the New Futurism This essay marks an initial foray into what I am inclined to call the new futurism in contemporary German literature. What this term might mean is at this stage a set of puzzle pieces with which these experimental remarks begin. A focus on futurity in literature written on the cusp of a new century in any event departs from a longstanding emphasis on the past in both German literature penned after 1945 and the transnational migration literature that began to appear in Germany in the 1970s. Even much of the prose fiction signaling “the Turkish turn” in German literature of the 1980s and 1990s arguably entails imaginative re-workings of a German past in the main – as associated with twentieth-century genocide and the cold war, for example – en route to a shared multicultural future in Europe.1 Because literatures of migration and their cultural arenas of engagement are constantly changing in our age of globalization, however, some literary conceits of futurity speak to rather different functions accruing to the literary imagination more broadly today. This may apply in particular where labor migration is at play, but we would be misguided to associate such labor-effects with immigrant populations alone (Turks in Germany, for example).
2005. The focus on futurity here also departs from the often touted celebration of new beginnings since 1989.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s so-called Mars trilogy of the 1990s gives us the planet in red, green, and blue variations. For a detailed analysis of realism and utopia in this science-fiction masterpiece, see Fredric Jameson. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London: Verso,
2005. pp. 393-416.
24 Leslie A. Adelson programming, Alexander Kluge might best be considered a multi-medial conceptual artist of extraordinary imaginative range.3 First published in 1973, his “theory-fiction” titled Lernprozesse mit tödlichem Ausgang was republished in 2000 as part of a two-volume “chronicle of feelings” including both old and new experimental prose, much of it influenced by the rich German tradition of Critical Theory.4 Only the first chapter of these “learning processes with a deadly outcome” will concern me here, since it revolves around the loss of earthly territory on a planetary scale and quirky reflections from Mars on what is “left over” (übrig) in the human wake of Earth’s demise. “The loss of the planet”, as this inaugural chapter is called, will culminate in the year 2103 in what the text comes to call “Die Avantgarde im Sektor Morgenröte” [the avantgarde in sector Rosy Dawn].5 The military connotations of the term avantgarde are hardly coincidental in this work or the oeuvre of an author long concerned with For a brief overview of related accomplishments, see John E. Davidson’s entry on Kluge, “one of the most visible and prolific cultural figures” in postwar Germany, in Encyclopedia of Literature and Politics: Censorship, Revolution, and Writing. Ed. M. Keith Booker. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005. pp. 400-401.
Many of Kluge’s theoretical insights have been co-authored with the sociologist Oskar Negt. See especially Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis
of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere. Trans. Peter Labanyi et al. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1993. (For the German original, see Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung: Zur Organisationsanalyse von bürgerlicher und proletarischer Öffentlichkeit. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1972.) See also Geschichte und Eigensinn:
Geschichtliche Organisation der Arbeitsvermögen, Deutschland als Produktionsöffentlichkeit, Gewalt des Zusammenhangs. Frankfurt/M.: Zweitausendeins, 1981. New German Critique devoted a special issue to Alexander Kluge in 1990 with volume 49. As Miriam Hansen notes in her introduction to it, Kluge’s work was only beginning to be critically debated in the United States at that time (p. 3).
See also Peter Lutze. Alexander Kluge: The Last Modernist. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University, 1998.
The Lernprozesse cited here will be from: Chronik der Gefühle. Vol. II. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 2000. pp. 827-920. Claudia Rosenkranz uses the term “theory-fiction” to characterize Kluge’s Lernprozesse in particular. See Rosenkranz. Ambivalenzen aufklärerischer Literatur am Beispiel einer Text- und Rezeptionsanalyse von Alexander Kluges ‘Lernprozesse mit tödlichem Ausgang’. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Vlg. Trier, 1988. p. 33 et passim. See also Klaus Scherpe. “Die Entdramatisierung der Kritischen Theorie in der Literatur: Hans Magnus Enzensberger und Alexander Kluge”,. Cultura Tedesca 18 (2001): pp. 141-160.
Kluge. Chronik (see note 4). p. 918.
Experiment Mars the production of both war and hope in human history. Mars of course also denotes an ancient god of war.
If Kluge’s imaginative conjurings of a Martian avantgarde prompt us to contemplate learning something new, as the book’s original title and narrative trajectory suggest, so does a little-known “futurist epilogue” co-authored by Berkan Karpat and Zafer Şenocak, whose multi-medial collaborations of the late 1990s may even inaugurate a Turkish-German avantgarde of a different sort.6 Best known in Germany for his incisive journalistic commentary in print, radio, and television media on Turks in relation to European culture and democracy since 1989, Şenocak is also a poet and novelist whose literary production to date has been most enCoined by the authors but not included in their published work, the term “futurist epilogue” is documented in an unpublished conversation conducted with Karpat and Şenocak and recorded by Karin E. Yeşilada in Munich on November 15, 2002 (Werkstattgespräch). In her pioneering study of lyric poetry by second-generation Turkish immigrants in Germany, Yeşilada notes that Karpat and Şenocak’s “futurist epilogue” represents “an entirely new literary topography” in both migration literature and new German poetry. See Karin E. Yeşilada. “Poesie der dritten Sprache: Die deutsch-türkische Migrationslyrik der zweiten Generation”, Diss. Phillips-Universität Marburg, 2005. p. 503.
The three collaborative publications that together comprise the “futurist epilogue” include: Berkan Karpat and Zafer Şenocak. nâzım hikmet: auf dem schiff zum mars. Munich: Babel, 1998; Tanzende der Elektrik: szenisches Poem.
Munich/Berlin/Cambridge [USA]: Verlag im Gleisbau, 1999; and “wie den vater nicht töten: Ein Sprechlabyrinth”, Morgen Land: Neueste deutsche Literatur.
Ed. Jamal Tuschick. Frankfurt/M.: Fischer, 2000. pp. 179-190. To the best of my knowledge, Yeşilada is to date the only scholar to have published textual analyses of the “futurist epilogue”. In addition to her dissertation, see also Karin Emine Yeşilada. “Nâzıms Enkel schreiben weiter”. Hundert Jahre Nâzım
Hikmet, 1902-1963. Ed. Monika Carbe and Wolfgang Riemann. Hildesheim:
Georg Olms, 2002. pp. 180-211. Yeşilada also discusses a compact disc produced in 1998 as a companion piece in sound to the text nâzım hikmet: auf dem schiff zum mars (“Nâzıms Enkel”. pp. 203-206). For the CD, see Berkan Karpat and Peer Quednau. nâzım hikmet: im garten der flüsterpupillen. Munich: BabelBibliothek Intermedia, 1998. If the work advanced by Karpat and Şenocak can be understood as a Turkish-German avantgarde, it cannot be grasped in the same vein as what Feridun Zaimoğlu has termed an “ethno-avantgarde”.
Interviewed on German television on May 13, 2007, he applied this phrase in the spirit of cultural identity politics to characterize young Muslim women in Germany who wear headscarves by choice.
26 Leslie A. Adelson thusiastically received outside Germany, notably in North America, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Turkey.7 By contrast, Karpat’s installation art, which foregrounds performance, sculpture, and sound in public spaces in Munich, does not seem to have found much resonance as yet beyond the Bavarian capital.8 While the “futurist epilogue” on which Karpat and Şenocak collaborated consists of three independently published texts – and may also be said to include several of Karpat’s performative sound sculptures and installations, especially those incorporating coauthored textual material – this essay will focus on the first published installment of the so-called epilogue – nâzım hikmet: auf dem schiff zum mars.
This installment appeared in 1998 with the publishing house of Babel in the form of twelve short poetic segments. The recurring trope of a rocket ship en route to Mars lends itself to juxtaposition with Kluge’s “avantgarde” fiction, though other elements of the “futurist epilogue” more readily recall the actual historical phenomenon of the futurist avantgarde in Europe, especially in the Soviet Union. After all, the second installment of Karpat and Şenocak’s collaborative labors – Tanzende While Şenocak’s language of literary production has long been German in the main, he has recently begun to write poetry and novels in Turkish too. For the latter, see especially Zafer Şenocak. Alman Terbiyesi. Istanbul: Alef, 2007.
On Şenocak more generally, see especially Zafer Şenocak. Ed. Tom Cheesman and Karin E. Yeşilada. Cardiff, UK: University of Wales, 2003. See also Yeşilada’s entry on Şenocak in Kritisches Lexikon zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur, Ed. Heinz Ludwig Arnold. Munich: text + kritik [84. Nachlieferung], 2006. Yeşilada is currently preparing an issue of text + kritik that will be devoted to the author as well.
On Karpat, see: Yeşilada. “Poesie der dritten Sprache”. pp. 479-480 and “Nâzıms Enkel”, pp. 191-194 (see note 6 for both). See also Fabienne Hübener. “Schatzsuche im kunstfreien Raum – Der Installationskünstler Berkan Karpat”. Die Zeit (18 October 2002), reproduced on Karpat’s Web site http://www.karpat.de/pag/1/BerkanKarpat.php; March 20, 2007. A recent publication on avantgarde art in post-Wall Germany includes important installation art by Kutluğ Ataman, a sound-and-sight innovator whose international reputation was first established by his multilingual film production in Germany (Lola und Bilidikid, 1998), but no mention of Berkan Karpat, who actually lives in Germany. See Reality Bites: Making Avant-garde Art in Post-Wall Germany/Kunst nach dem Mauerfall. Ed. Sabine Eckmann. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2007. pp. 34-36. The Ataman piece included here is “It’s a Vicious Circle”, in which sound becomes a key sculptural element. Karpat might be compared with Ataman on this count.
Experiment Mars der Elektrik: szenisches Poem, which followed in 1999 – directly invokes the spirit of Russian Futurism in punning allusions to Velimir Khlebnikov, whom Roman Jakobson once called “‘the greatest world poet of our century’”. As Marjorie Perloff has noted as recently as 2003, however, the Russian Futurist known in the 1920s for his so-called transrational “invention of new words based purely on sound” (as opposed to semantics, syntax, or morphology, for example) remains largely undiscovered in the West despite an English translation of his collected works in
1997.9 Yet, to say that Khlebnikov’s ghost figures in playful bits and pieces in Tanzende der Elektrik – as it does in the coinage sprachchlebtomane or “language khlebtomaniac”, for example – is not to say that Karpat and Şenocak mimic the historical Futurist’s aesthetic theory or practice.
One might say instead that bits and pieces of historical and cultural matter circulate in all parts of the “futurist epilogue” without ever yielding an intelligible whole. One is reminded here of a line in conversation in Kluge’s “loss of the planet” chapter, where legal and medical experts wonder how they should think about humanity’s material leftovers on Mars after human society on Earth has been destroyed and few interplanetary travelers escape attacks on their space ships intact. Uneasy with the situation even though he himself has not been physically harmed,
one of the conversationalists describes the mood that unsettles him:
“Ich fühle mich oft ganz zerstückelt” [I often feel all in pieces].10 The voice of the past is notably “all in pieces” in both texts under examination here.
As I hope to show in reference to nâzım hikmet: auf dem schiff zum mars, however, even the most seemingly nostalgic of the textual components in Karpat and Şenocak’s “futurist epilogue” warrants reading against the obvious grain. Resurrecting the ghost of Nâzım Hikmet (1902-1963), modern Turkey’s best-loved people’s poet, who spent years in Turkish prisons for his communist and pacifist beliefs and then died in Soviet exile not long after the Berlin Wall went up, turns out to be more about Zerstückelung than social alienation (Entfremdung) – more about being all in See Marjorie Perloff. The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture [with a new preface]. Chicago: University of Chicago,
2003. pp. xxix, 121. See also Zbigniew Folejewski. Futurism and Its Place in the Development of Modern Poetry: A Comparative Study and Anthology. Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 1980. Perloff cites Jakobson’s My Futurist Years. Ed. Bengt Jangfeldt. Trans. Stephen Rudy. New York: Marsilio, 1992. p. 20.
Kluge. Chronik (see note 4). pp. 839-840.