Before I continue with this post…
Thank you to those taking the time to read my writing/thoughts about Hacks and my German experience here in The Naked Classic Forum. Thanks also for your understanding that I don’t have any proof readers – and so you get the ALL of my poor American education. Although I don’t believe in stats, according to those provided by this forum software, my writing is getting some exposure. With that in mind, I have run into a small problem that may prohibit me from continuing here:
(Don’t worry – I don’t want your money!) I have run out of Hacks materiel to read. As a pseudo-starving artist and as WorstWriter I am on a tight budget with reading material. Is there anyone out there with Hacks material to give away? I don’t mind old and/or beat-up stuff. Keep in mind, if anyone does send me material I will not return it. The main reason for that is when I read I frantically write notes in the books. Sometimes I rip out pages of books and eat them. Some material becomes part of me – and so it will be soiled with sweat, mucus and, in extreme cases, Onan’s seed(s). Oh well, we all pay certain prices for this whacky experience called life, eh.
Feel free to contact me and I’ll provide a postal address. Thank you in advance for your consideration and/or charity. And thanks again for reading my work.
And now on with the (freak) show.
While reading Hacks the other night a simple stage direction popped out of one of his pages and flew across my bedroom ceiling. I have a very high bedroom ceiling and I hate high ceilings. Why so many Germans like really old apartments with high ceilings is a mystery to me. But then again, the older I get the more “romance” becomes a mystery to me, as well. As far as I’m concerned high ceilings suck because they can fall so much further to crush me.
Stage direction from Peter Hacks: A comet appears and flies across the stage/office.
Hacks is a great playwright, although sometimes his stage directions are a bit unrealistic. Why this guy is still ostracized in the German literary and theatrical landscape is beyond me. Is the anger he caused after the wall fell so deep seeded? Can’t Wessi publishers and theatre managers get over their misguided anger? (I know, theatre managers can’t make decisions anyway!) Isn’t it obvious, especially after the recent finance debacle stemming from Wall Street and the various skyscraper bank offices around the world (yes, even Frankfurt/Main), that the differences between Ossi and Wessi has been kind of blurred? At the least, being raised in the Anglo world and now living in the Germanic world – and reading Hacks – I am inspired by a few thoughts of how things are really the same.
Here an interesting quote from “Numa – A Play in Five Acts” by Peter Hacks. (Warning: this is a tommi-translation.)
“We aspire to equality and wealth. But how should wealth get along with equality? And how should equality not fight against wealth? We are forced to produce a vast quantity of goods; the thirst for privilege cannot otherwise be killed except to be drowned in abundance. Equal wealth, rich equality. But on the long road ahead which of the two will remain left behind? Equality or wealth? Or in case we are going in that direction, will both be left behind? If we don’t do something about the situation immediately then they will both turn against us: the wealthy and the equal.”
Perhaps the title of this play should be: Numa – Making Fun of the GDR. Or maybe it could be called: Numa – If Shakespeare Were a Communist. And while I’m on the subject…, after reading this play I got to thinkin’: why is it that the Germans (or the Huns or the Teutons) don’t have a Shakespeare? Could it be because German history was too busy inventing communism? It’s not as though Germans through out history didn’t write anything that is somewhat comparable to The Bard. Who knows – maybe the Germans have actually written so much more that all the sweet, poetic works have been drowned in abundance. No, that can’t be. Maybe it just boils down to the fact that while the Anglos were romanticizing with the written word, z’Germans were trying to figure out how to build their great city upon a hill where everybody is the same and ruled by a singular, authoritarian bureaucracy and blinded by the shine of really fancy cars.
(No! Goethe is not your Shakespeare! But maybe Schiller or Büchner could have been.)
Seriously. We (the world?) can’t blame the Germans for communism. It wasn’t their fault that they invented it. So much can come out of constantly asking the question while standing north or west of the Danube and/or Rhine: what does it all mean? At the least, so many losses over the last two centuries has pretty much put the Germans in their place – hence their Storm & Drang is now equal to well-dressed pot-belly drunks with too many choices of unaffordable cars or old apartments with ceilings that are waaaaay to high.
Yes, indeed, the German place in history is to be a pseudo-annexed, subservient arbitrator bulwark for The West – which is run by rival white Anglo men. (Except for Kissinger!) Certainly this is not an environment to propagate any historic and low-key rivalry, right? Yet even though so much German butt has been kicked it is still not clear if the Anglos have won the century’s long, almost forgotten, rivalry. Oh, I say/ask: where is the scoreboard of the match when the playing field is fogged out?
Peter Hacks invokes in me a desire to rekindle the rivalry – or at least move it beyond sporting events. And the main reason for that is: the Germans are missing their Shakespeare.
Give this a thought. Since the Anglos and Germans compete at almost every level, why isn’t the talk of “rivalry” part of public discourse? At first glance it seems that the rivalry has been set aside. Sixty years after their last major conflict the dynamics that once guided the players has obviously changed. Or has it? Yes, even after z’Germans lost so many nasty wars, I am really curious about what drives them today. I feel as though it’s my duty to put whatever effort I can into understanding my expatriate host country. With that in mind, even if the rivalry today has become stupefying with a Fußball, is it completely out of whack for me to compare it to the days post Marcus Auerilius? You know, when it was easy to tell the difference between a clean-cut Roman legion and a stinky mud-ridden barbarian carrying two wives by the hair in one hand and a crude form of a hammer-weapon in the other.
Yes. I think the rivalry is still alive – and it rests in the long, strong, callous hands of a bunch of hip, good looking, big fuckin’ Germans who have lost their literary booty.
Obviously the rivalry has transcended. Today it’s about things like manufacturing, banking and how much vacation time the worker bees can afford. Didn’t WWI start because the Germans were so much more productive with their smelting plants than the Brits? Basically the Germans threatened Anglo interests around the world with not just the ability to build bigger and better krapp but also acquire all the natural resources to do that building? After the Germans failed at acquiring free access to all the world’s production resources, even today they still make some of the world’s best mass produced cars – and boy can they afford to buy energy.
Of course my previous statement has to be qualified. In Germany cars are unaffordable and can only be bought if tax payers are granted access to them in the form of corporate subsidies. Modern German culture even has a name for this cute little corporate/government feed-the-masses trick. For one, they don’t even call them cars/Auto anymore. Instead they call them “Firmenwagen”. The last I heard something like 60% of all new luxury cars on the road at any given time, that is BMW 3, 5, 7, the Audi Ax series, Mercedes, etc. are all Firmenwagen. (If 60% is presented as an official statistic then the real number can only be higher because “statistics” are not here to inform but instead to misinform). I’ve been living among z’Germans for a long time. I’ve worked for a lot of big-shot companies in this country. The thing that gets me is that I have never met anyone that has actually bought a new luxury car in Germany. Anyway – the rivalry is obviously to be found elsewhere.
Almost a digression…
So z’Germans are good at building things. I guess, in a way, they are also good at inventing things. (The PC, otto-automobiles, Beate Uhse, etc.) What they are not good at is capitalizing on anything. That’s because in order to capitalize on something it would mean that individuality would somehow have to be nurtured. I am aware of no evidence from The West Sector of such nurturing. In fact, it is from The West that the heavy fog proceeds to clutter the view of the rivalry scoreboard. But maybe, just maybe if we turn to The East….
The problem is z’Germans have given up. And I tend to think it has something to do with Shakespeare. But before I get into any banal name-calling, let me mention one more Teuton fuck-up.
Did you know that z’Germans invented Barbie™? It’s true. But the Anglos are the ones that make all the money on her. The turn-little-girls-stupid doll was originally called Bild Lilli. To make this mishap even more interesting, the frickin’ doll has its origin in the infamous yellow newspaper Bild Zeitung. But, as usual, the Germans didn’t know what to make of little girls going “eeeww” and “aaahhh” all day long. And so, there you go: z’Germans lose the wars and they lose the revenue rights to stupid but extremely popular figurines. Oh, yet another point on the scoreboard for independently thinking, industrious Anglos.
Looking to The East… After finally finishing a collection of Hacks’ classic plays, I couldn’t help but think a bit about German and Anglo rivalry. For me, the rivalry has long been decided – thanks to William Shakespeare. Of course, Shakespeare’s work is ultimately about language and it’s also about simple story telling. I suppose Schiller or Büchner is comparable and I won’t be so presumptuous to say that there is no other German or Hun or Teuton that doesn’t at least get some marks for trying to rival The Bard. I’ve simply concluded that the problem with z’Germans is the innate want/desire to be told what to do – instead of nurturing original, independent thought.
Come on! There’s good reason Gunter Grass is not known as a poet but instead as the voice of a broken soul. The man must be weaned from so much moral judgement – or? And Goethe! Don’t even get me started on him! Talk about missed (literary) opportunity. (Even though some of Faust II is pretty cool.)
And so… potentially… z’Germans can finally even-up the scoreboard with their version of z’Shakespeare. (Applause.) And all we have to do is look to what used to be Germany’s… better half? The only problem is in order to get some z’Shakespeare out of Peter Hacks you have to take a really large ideological leap and you will have to test your sympathies. It’s not a hard thing to do. Just keep staring stage left and he eventually will enter like a punch-drunk Macbeth or a mushroom intoxicated King Lear. I’m almost sure of it.
Hacks’ work – at least what I’ve read so far – is overwhelmingly about ideology. Yet it is cloaked in a freaky kind of classicism. In fact, Hacks uses historical figures to create somewhat twisted stories – that are ultimately about (his?) ideology. But there’s something else to Hacks. Something that makes me go back to read more of him. Is it because I think of Shakespeare the more I read him? I mean, I don’t like all of Shakespeare. I only like the so-called tragedies – except for Romeo & Juliet. I hate that play. And I also hate all his Histories.
I would never indulge in any sort of literary comparison between The Bard and The Hacks. In my opinion between language and ideology there is little room for imagination. Which is reason enough to hate Shakespeare’s Histories! Yet idealism doesn’t seem to be that important to William. It is everything to Peter. So why do I think of Shakespeare while reading Numa?
This is all I can come up with on the fly. Did you know that none of Shakespeare’s work (OK, at least very little of his work) is original? (Of course you knew that, you have an Arbitur.) Obviously, of his classic plays (Prexaspes, Seneca’s Death, Numa, etc.) none of them are original either. They are, indeed, regurgitated histories, born of the study of Kommunism 101 at Brezhnev University. You know, in some US universities, entire curriculum are based on researching the sources that Shakespeare steals from. With Hacks – who at times it feels like is trying to copy Shakespeare, albeit with a somewhat commi twist – all you need in understanding him is a copy of Das Capital and maybe access to wikipedia.
Yet I’m getting the feeling that Peter Hacks and his work has a place in history that is at some simple and minimalist level comparable to Shakespeare. Hacks has found a way to combine the nothingness of communist ideology with history. Where The Bard steals to create Hamlet, Hacks dabbles in the confines of the historically obscure – or the historically uninteresting. He takes historic figures and turns them into something anti-romantic and pro-working class. If more of Hacks’ work is like these few “classic” plays that I’ve read, then there must be a literary place in the history books (somewhere) for this dude.
Hacks takes Numa Pompilius out of either history or legend and zaps him into the Politburo of Rome. Characterization takes place, scenery is enabled, dramatic effect is fulfilled and there you have it: communist history is written – or rewritten. Would Stalin have liked Peter Hacks? At the least, Stalin would have had a laugh about the German Democratic Republic that Hacks so cleverly parodies in this play.
Numa was the second king of Rome. He must have been somewhat of an outcast, or, at the least, an unexpected ruler. Legend has it that Egaria, a nymph, not only became Numa’s second wife but also was, along with the teachings/writing of Plutarch, his teacher. Numa is accredited with quite a few achievements during his reign, the foremost being his ability to unite the rival tribes of early Rome.
Peter Hacks doesn’t bother much with the historical aspect of the second Roman King. His idea is to portray Numa as the mediator of domestic conflicts stemming out of an earlier, perhaps a somewhat more child-like form of the ultimate communist state. The conflict Hacks chooses for this story? A farmer fertilizes his farm and part of the fertilizer inevitably lands on a neighbours sunflower land. According to the plaintiff the sunflower farmer profits from this and the other farmer, the one that actually pays for the fertilizer, wants compensation. Yes. z’Shakespeare of The East meets Maschendrahtsound.
As this conflict is graciously, carefully and meticulously knitted through the story-line of the play, the reader (moi) never looses touch with the fact that the former GDR must have been a nightmare for those who believed with all their heart in the true doctrine of Marxism – which, of course, needed to include the principle of counter-revolution (ala Trotsky). Add to that how it must take a special mind to make all that mess funny.
As much as it pains me, the Germans might finally have their Shakespeare. This also means that all rivalries can continue anew.
On a little side-note, I found the following text quite amusing. But be warned. What you are about to read is tommi-translation (as previously mentioned). I make no claim of being a translator. I’m just a guy that landed in Germany one day (around 1989) and this big concrete wall practically fell on me as I got off the plane in Tempelhof. When I realized that the wall that fell on me wasn’t caused by the outrageous party that was taking place next to it, I got over my hangover and fucked a few German chicks. I’ve been caught in this Germanic vagina ever since – only to realize that learning German makes it even easier to fuck more German chicks.
Setup: One guy (Fauno) says that he wants to join the communist party. The party member (Klient) questions him and the following ensues:
Klient: The wish (to join the party) is commendable as long as it follows commendable reasons. Everyone is welcome, but none go unchecked.
Fauno: Sir, ask away. I won’t shy away from any test.
Kleint: No, your birth name.
Fauno: My birth name? These communists. Oh! He wants my birth name. I’m not surprised. A bunch of stand-up collar communists, eh!
Klient: Your name!
Fauno: Waldteufel. (Forest devil)
Klient: Baptismal name?
Klient: What is the driving force comrade Fritz Waldteufel for this grand step in your life?
Fauno: I live freely and I have read Marx.
Klient: We’ll deal with that.
Fauno: Living freely?
Klient: No: Marx. He who systematically faces the day is served much better by simply reading the newspaper. What’s your profession?
Fauno: In the morning I hunt. Evenings I fish. After supper I criticize. You see, I live as Marx prescribes.
Klient: Where did you read that?
Klient: The “criticise” part as well?
Fauno: It’s in the young Marx. I read it myself.
Klient: Young Marx?
Fauno: Right there.
Klient: Well, then, that’s the wrong one. Young Marx was a dissenter.
Fauno: Dissenter? From who?
Klient: From the old Marx.
Fauno: From the old Marx? Aren’t they the same?
Klient: The young one was the son of the old one.
Klient: Dum question. Should the old Marx be the son of the young one?
Fauno: No, of course not. How foolish of me, really, a bad thought. But the young Marx – what happened to him?
Klient: Nothing good, I’m afraid. Nothing good comes from the young. A great man lives a great life for our new class struggle. And what do his children do? They go out and become students – or something. A sad game, indeed.
Rant on, baby. Discover your z’Shakespeare. German-Anglo rivalries rule.