Mr. Hacks has a knack for taking me waaaaay back. In the last play of his that I read he took me back to a time that I’d rather forget, and although I was a bit critical of it, I enjoyed reading “Adam and Eve”. But what about Hacks’ ability to make me think of things more directly connected to my/our past? Does this mean that I’m actually starting to like him? Could I like someone that so obviously represented something that I also despise? Or, could this all be a puberty-like love/hate fest? There are moments where I’m pulling my hair (I don’t even have any) out regarding Hacks – despite his political stance. I keep thinking: is he a great writer on the one hand or a mediocre writer who makes bad subject matter choices on the other hand?
I get all these opposing/contradictory thoughts while reading Hacks. I’m sure to a large extent it has to do with my prejudices. I’m especially prejudice against understanding the origin of man. What an unworthy subject – yet Hacks tickled my fancy with Adam and Eve. But then again, Hacks wasn’t (quite) writing about the origin of man. Or?
Based on the last two plays I’ve read, I’m sure Hacks would disagree with almost everything I say. No, he would go further than a simple disagreement. He would probably say that the origin of man is complex and full of mystery and waiting to be tamed – just like man. If I said to Hacks that creation is presupposed by man’s demise, would he even bat an eyelash? Probably not. He would turn away and mumble something condescending as only a Prussian can and then go about his business of writing something where he skillfully hides (his) ideology.
With that in mind, and since I’m not a fan of ideology, I suppose I should say something about the origin of man – simply because Hacks makes me think. I guess. (Here’s the advantage of being an independent, freelance writer.)
Why do some people still think that evolution has something to do with the origin of man? Why not change gears a bit and move beyond what we THINK we KNOW? Has there ever been a paradigm change in humanity since, I don’t know, since some whacked-out tyrant started thinking about what’s best for those who don’t think? I guess, what I’m getting at is, man should finally move beyond being reactionary dunces and try to be something that is a step ahead of the earthly animal kingdom’s most successful predator. And he should do so with the utmost openness and transparency. (So much for Tommi pseudo ideology!)
And it doesn’t stop there. Hacks makes me think of more. Like… how about a paradigm shift regarding human behavior that would require man to be liable for his/her doings? Such a happening would require an awakening of consciousness regarding the ills that surround everything. Right? If the smartest, the richest, the luckiest of society are unable to see through their/our own egocentric ways what’s left for the rest of us? That is, what’s left for those of us who cannot afford our egos?
I’ll tell you what’s left. Fun. Entertainment. Show reels. Naked breasts. Technology. The willingness to subject ones self to the whims of social and political systems that consistently perform contrary to the best interests of … man. Etc., etc.
So why, in the creative thunderstorm that is real/true writing – which Peter Hacks absolutely possesses – would he regurgitate what’s already been done? The GDR didn’t ban all of Shakespeare, did it? And what about other Euro classics from Büchner to Schiller, from Voltaire to Moliere? Was there some personal vendetta Hacks had to prove that he could write with the best of them? I don’t think so. I think… Mr. Hacks saw a niche where he could cheat his way into spreading the/his message.
The thing I’m really starting to like about Peter Hacks is that, after only reading a few of his plays, I feel confident that my presumption, before even having read any of his work – just knowing/hearing about who/what he was – was correct. I could/can see through his facade based on media driven hearsay. Even if he goes down in history as only an interesting (pseudo)communist writer, at the least he deserves to be accredited as one of the greatest propagandists that ever put ideology to paper.
On the one hand, Peter Hacks writes in a kind of classic style that reminds me of other classics. Then, on the other hand, right in the middle of a scene, he throws in all these words and phrases that don’t quite fit that classic style (more on that in a sec) – or they don’t fit into the time that this play is taking place. Talk about being thrown for the proverbial loop. Remember, I’m a failed playwright. If there’s anything that I possess as a failure, it is the ability to see through the intentions of others. Just because one is a failure doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have the same experience as the winners. In fact, failure enables one to see quite a bit further and with much more focus regarding what “winning” is about. Or?
Reading Hacks is not helped by my knowledge of z’ Germans. Hacks, for one, was a Prussian. For those unaware, it was the Prussians that created/enabled the German obsession with Ordnung – a burden that Germans will probably never be rid of. It was the Prussians that enabled/created the/a military the world admired – at least up to the Wiemar experiment. And it was the Prussians that created the sour-puss faces that almost all Germans today wear as they walk down the streets of luxury-misery-ville which is lined with too many state subsidized company cars, high life-style expectations and too much paid vacation. I guess, in a strange kind of way, it is also the legacy of the Prussians that keep unoriginal German industry in business and the third (fourth?) largest economy in the world blind to the realities of what Globalization is really about.
I suppose I should stop reading Hacks. I seem to know what each play is about even before I finish the first act. Yet something motivates me to keep on reading. Perhaps it has more to do with my obsession of hating communists and communism – because ultimately that seems to be where Hacks takes me. (Yes. He takes me to the Hate. And I use the word “hate” rather loosely. Hate should be used for flesh hungry tigers or sharks that try to eat you. Tame and weakly communist don’t quite deserve the word hate. In fact, they deserve as little attention as possible. Still, I apologize for not finding the right word(s).)
What’s becoming more and more obvious about Hacks is that he might have been the former East Germany’s greatest propagandist writer. If Soviet communism would have made it and if it would have had some form of industrialized advertising (like the west currently has), then I’m sure Hacks would have gone down in (that) history as something like a god. In fact, he might have been the entire Soviet block’s greatest propagandist. When I recently heard on the German news about the success of the “Links” party in the West I didn’t cringe like I usually do. Instead I laughed and felt Hacks turning over in his grave. At the same time I was right in the middle of reading Prexaspes, a classic play written in the 20th century that could easily be compared to works from the 15th, 16th or 17th century, but with a slight and heavy twist of all things idealistic.
Yes. A play set in a comfortable time prior to Jesus but with enough connect to justify it as being more than a mystically driven copy of a Greek or renaissance drama. The justifying connect? The Order of The Magi. You remember the Magi, don’t you? Those whacked-out dudes who traveled only by night in search of the one born under a certain star that would lead mankind out of tyranny? In fact, the Magi are so important to our history that it’s no wonder in a world that strives for ever higher forms of intellectual and industrial superficiality that we’ve taken what we are told about them for granted. Or at least we’ve forgotten about them beyond their slight mention in biblical text. I mean, come on, do you really believe that there were only three of them that visited/sought-out the Christ child?
Hacks has the Magi rule Persia in his play. It’s around 522 before the birth of Jesus. There is a faction of Persia that wants to overthrow the Magi. The faction wants to replace the Magi with something more… Well, I’ll just go ahead and say it. The faction wants to replace the Magi (capitalism) with the/a collective (communism). Of course, Hacks doesn’t write that specifically. And, thank goodness, ultimately, at the end of the play, those fucking commies fail. But if you read the text closely, if you don’t pay attention to the drops of Gin or Vodka falling on your chin as you read it, you will see as I did that Hacks pulls out another trick from his bag of ideological- expression. Ironically, in this play, which I think was written before 1970, his ideology doesn’t win. In fact, it clearly loses and I wonder if the timing of this play has anything to do with the “election” of Eric Honecker. This play could be Hacks admitting that, no matter what, when it comes to things idealistic, there is only failure.
The plot of the play Prexaspes is atypical Shakespearean or Greek: kings/rulers maintaining their power via the weaving of family/friend intrigue. Hacks’ classic style of writing is so convincing that at times I even thought about how much I disliked having to read King Lear over a single weekend and then producing a ten thousand word review for Eng 400 before Monday afternoon. You see, that’s another way that hacks takes me waaaay back. At least I don’t HAVE to produce 10k words on this play.
As mentioned above, there was something else that caught my well-trained eye while reading this text. Out of nowhere, suddenly, either right in the middle of a classically written speech or other stimulating dialog, Hacks uses terminology that didn’t quite fit into the time in which this play takes place. But who am I to judge? Hacks is a “writer” and so he writes. Right? But do the examples below really fit into 522 B.C?
1)“Volk von Persien, in diesem Augenblick, da du ohne König bist, bist du selbst König.” (People of Persia, at this moment when you are without a king, you are your own king.)
2)“Vertrauen des Pöbels verwandeln wir unsere Schwäche in Stärke.” (Trust from (underclasses) changes our weaknesses to our strengths.)
3)“Genossenschaftsfelder.” (The fields, as in farming, that are worked by “comrades”.)
Examples like the above are all over this play – and yet one must constantly remember that it takes place prior to Jesus Christ – who was/could have been the first communist. Right? If such writing doesn’t ring of Soviet propaganda… I don’t know what does? I suppose to make it more obvious, Hacks could have put some directions at the beginning of the play besides the minimalist and/or obligatory time setting of when it takes place. He could have put stage and costume direction that included black & white imagery of a hammer and sickle or farmers standing above perfectly manicured lands producing mega tons of grain. My only question is: what would/could Hacks really write if he weren’t obliged to submit his creative talents to a predestined failed ideology?
As brilliant as he writes, in my mind, Peter Hacks is a failed writer. And that is why I will continue to read him. I am beginning to adore him for exactly such failure. I’m not afraid to admit that I adore failure. The world we are forced to live in certainly can use more of it. I’m not talking about the status quo fail-upwards that is rewarded so graciously these days in the form of career or inheritance. Nor am I referring to the compulsive labor force that labels what it does “work”. No. I’m talking about the honest-to-goodness failure from which Man has never been able to rise above and is perpetuated simply because it is more profitable.
I am able to identify with Peter Hacks at this level of failure. And let me reiterate: it’s not his writing, per se, that is a failure. It is his choice of subject matter that is a failure. Obviously, today, we can look back at the results of Marx and Stalin and judge it all. I cannot help but feel that as a writer, as an artist – someone who by the merit of “work” was/is different than the norm – that Hacks should have seen and accepted the coming of the end. But then again maybe he did see it coming – and yet he still wrote on in the affirmative, he stayed in that krapp hole of nothingness known as the GDR, and he wrote for and about the ideology that was its/his substance. I kind of admire that. It’s as though I’ve discovered a new tangent in the/my world of failure.
I suppose for some – you know, like Gregor Gysi, Lafontaine, most of those tree hugging suckers known as The Greens – that what I’m trying to say here about the Soviet’s greatest propagandist is that there is no hiding failure. You can publish “success” just about anywhere and get away with it. As the west is currently doing. But real failure…? You have to create huge amounts of fiction around failure to make it last. And Das Volk loves it. You have to shinny it up and stick fancy car labels on it or make it all seem digitally virtual. At the least, like his beliefs or not, the world needs more of Peter Hacks.
Continuing on the failure theme and also allowing a bit of writing indulgence on my part, I’d like to say a few more things about my beloved topic. The thing that contradicts me with Hacks is how I embrace failure. Obviously Hacks was unable to accept his (ideological) failure. I even read in an article that Hacks thought that “force” should have been used to stop the uproar that lead to the fall of the Berlin wall. Is that just the craziest thing you’ve ever heard? Why would anyone in their right mind wish harm to others. I’ll go even further with that thought. I don’t believe that there is a justification in history for the harming of human life in the name of anything. That’s what animals and nature were put here for. (Take that you Green suckers!) Yeah. Ruin nature and the animals first. Yes! Burn it all to hell…
Anywho. I’m in the early stages of developing something like a theory regarding failure. It goes something like this. (Please, all derogatory comments about this should be emailed to the publisher of this site. As author of this, I’m just a puppet – albeit a relatively free one with too much babble time on my hands.)
Failure is something I like to refer to as a mirror-shadow. As a mirror you can’t use it to blow-dry your hair. As a shadow you can’t use it to hide behind. Instead it is something that enables you to turn away from reality. It’s like an ersatz consciousness. As you progress through the dumbing down of modern education, you become one with your mirror-shadow. In adulthood society becomes the beautiful frame in which you carry your mirror-shadow. The mirror-shadow becomes such the/a perfect version of who you are intended to be that most can never break free of its luster. The mirror-shadow makes Narcissus seem like a silly little toddler who loves the discotheque and too much ecstasy.
Yeah, stick that tomorrow morning in front of you while you shave or do your hair.
In the plays I’ve read so far Mr. Hacks reflects a great deal on his belief in something. Very subtle usage of innuendo and metaphor seem to be his tricks in selling something. In my opinion, only great writers can pull off such trickery. But I’ve yet to read a writer that can pull it off like Hacks.