Monday, January 20, 2014

Von Bagdad nach Stambul

The tale of Genji, with its eerily Proustian anatomisation of social protocol and matters of the heart, is approachable [...] but The Tale of the Heike feels much more antique, a military chronicle cobbled together from a mishmash of adventure yarns, religious cautionary tales, folk legends and portraits of heroism. (S. Sacks, "The age is ours!". London Review of Books. 21 November 2013. p.29) || Einfacher gesagt, ist eine Handlung alles, was in und um eine Konfiguration in einem Text 'passiert', und zwar in chronologischer Sukzession. Nehmen wir als Beispiel einen Roman von Karl May, etwa "Von Bagdad nach Stambul". || Stated more simply, a plot is everything that takes place in and around a configuration in a text, and in chronological succession. Let us take as an example a novel by Karl May, for instance "From Bagdad to Istanbul". (J. Link, Literaturwissenschaftliche Grundbegriffe. Munich. W. Fink Verlag. 1974. transl. mine) || Dem Roßhändler schlug das Herz gegen den Wams. Es drängte ihn, den nichtswürdigen Dickwanst in den Kot zu werfen, und den Fuß auf sein kupfernes Antlitz zu setzen. Doch sein Rechtgefühl, das einer Goldwaage glich, wankte noch [...] (H.v. Kleist, Michael Kohlhaas. 1810. Projekt Gutenberg) || The horse-dealer's heart thumped against his doublet. He felt a strong desire to throw the good-for-nothing, pot-bellied scoundrel into the mud and set his foot on his copper-colored face. But his sense of justice, which was as delicate as a gold-balance, still wavered [...] (Frances H. King. Kohlhaas translation. 1914. Full text) || His most ardent supporters were a group of ageing New York radicals led by Constancia Romilly, the daughter of Jessica Mitford [...] (A. Shatz, "The Life and Death of Juliano Mer-Khamis". London Review of Books. 21 November 2013. pp.7-8) || [At the Geological Society of London] there followed long, often spirited debates on matters such as where to fix the borders of the Devonian period. "Though I don't much care for geology," one visitor to the society's early meetings noted, "I do like to see the fellows fight." (E. Kolbert, "The Lost World". The New Yorker. December 23 & 30, 2013. p.48) || Wird das Telefon abgehoert? Und wenn ja: lohnt sich das? Es ist das Beste, diese Frage am Telefon zu besprechen. || Is the telephone being bugged? And if so: is it worth it? It's best to discuss this issue on the telephone. (M. Frisch, Tagebuch 1966-1971. Frankfurt/Main. Suhrkamp. 1972. p.292. Transl. mine.) || As with French Impressionists who cherished Japanese prints that were nothing more than popular graphics back in Japan, its was a classic case of overvaluing the exotic object in ways that made even third-rate masters seem blessed. (A. Gopnik, "Two Bands". The New Yorker. December 23&30, 2013. p.126) || Die Brueder Goncourt haben sich nicht gescheut: wer mit ihnen speiste, geriet durch ihr Tagebuch in die Oeffentlichkeit. (M. Frisch, Tagebuch 1966-1971. Frankfurt/Main. Suhrkamp. 1972. p.311) || What is constant throughout The Tale of the Heike is its nostalgic, often despairing evocation of a dying culture. Its most famous passage concerns the transient nature of worldly renown: 
The Jetavana Temple bells
ring the passing of all things.
Twinned sal trees, white in full flower,
declare the great man's certain fall.
The arrogant do not long endure:
They are like a dream one night in spring.
The bold and brave perish in the end:
They are as dust before the wind.
(S. Sacks, "The age is ours!" Ibid.) 

Monday, January 06, 2014


My favorite game when I was a child was Mummy and Explorer. My father and I would trade off roles: one of us had to lie very still with eyes closed and arms crossed over the chest, and the other had to complain, "I've been searching these pyramids for so many years. When will I ever find the tomb ot Tutankhamun?" [...] At the climax of the game, the explorer stumbles on the embalmed Pharao and - brace yourself - the mummy opens his eyes and comes to life. The explorer has to express shock, and then says, "So, what's new?" to which the mummy replies, "You." (A. Levy, "Thanksgiving in Mongolia". The New Yorker, November 18, 2013) || Dominik Graf [...did...] express his concerns about the alleged formalism of what he describes as "the German new wave" [...] Graf's argument is that this lack of narrative action is related to the personalities of the directors themselves, who, Graf rather patronizingly suggests, have yet to emerge from their "student situation" and engage with the real world. Their academic training has allegedly left them with excellent filmmaking skills, but little experience of reality, so that they "carry form before them like a shield against real life." (D. Clarke, "Capitalism has no more natural enemies". A Companion to German Cinema. (Eds. T. Ginsberg and A. Mensch). Blackwell. 2012). || Why study the hare? The brief answer is that we agree with a Suffolk gamekeeper who said: 'We don't know the hare because we haven't observed it enough.' (G.E. Evans, The Leaping Hare. London. Faber & Faber, 1972.) || Was einmal bei den Buergern und Buergerinnen vieler Staaten seit dem spaeten 18. Jahrhundert als das Hoechste galt, naemlich der Gedanke der Nation, hat in der Medienwelt der meisten hochindustrialisierten Laender im Laufe der letzten Jahrzehnte eine merkliche Bedeutungsverschlechterung erfahren. || What had once been deemed the highest by citizens of many states since the late 18th century, the idea of the nation, over the course of recent decades has undergone a noticeable deterioration in significance in the media of most industrialised countries. (J. Hermand, "Vorwort. Vom altstaendischen Reichsgedanken zum deutsch-nationalen Befreiungskriegspathos". In: Revolutio Germanica. (Eds.) J. Hermand and M. Niedermeier. Frankfurt/Main. Peter Lang. 2002. transl. mine)

Friday, January 03, 2014

a la maison

The Nurse with Child also has a narrative subtext. The plainly dressed woman ofers the sumptuously decked-out central figure standing beside her an apple-a familiar fruit which at the same time reminds one of the world's conflicting nature and the transitoriness of life.
In the seventeenth century, a family of nine would have appeared rather small; it would therefore not have been unusual to add at least four or five more persons [...] the tree background which opens up in the center corresponds to this pastoral motif.
In the dim illumination of the darkened room, the beholder's attention is directed to a few bright, seemingly luminescent objects.
It was nonetheless expected that every artist planning to make a history painting should first read and digest the whole account, as recorded by the best writers. His position differed from that of the poet or historian, for he could depict but one moment of the history, not the whole. He must therefore choose this moment well: it must represent a crisis or turning point. 
Sources: C. Grimm, Frans Hals. New York. Harry N. Abrams. 1990. B. Haak, The Golden Age. New York. Stewart, Tabori & Chang.1996.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

wiederkehr - ritorno

Every mythical conveyance - such as Pegasus, the winged horse of Bellerophon - stood for a real ship. And every mythical object with a point - such as the spears of the Greeks at Troy - represented one of the real lodestones by which Solomon's pilots plotted their courses.

Using this dazzlingly original Key to All Mythologies, Herwart reconfigured the entire history of the ancient world. To refine this new chronology he tried to enlist the help of Johannes Kepler, whom he asked to fix the dates of the Homeric poems on the assumption that the love affairs and tiffs of the gods were actually celestial conjunctions and oppositions [...] (Kepler balked).
A. Grafton, "He had fun", London Review of Books. November 7, 2013. 

Just as the state overestimated the threat of disorder after Grosvenor Square [...] it continued to overplay the dangers of dissent in subsequent decades. [...] From the outset, SDS officers were told not to feel 'bound by their rank' when discussing operations, and were expected to 'approach problems in a creative way, eschewing the obedient, plodding mindset of the bobby'. They were meant to become precisely the sort of people who go rogue [...] 
K. Forrester, "Shag another", London Review of Books. November 7, 2013. 

[...] 'the precint reeked of goats, fish, curds, cheese, tar, brine, sweat and woodsmoke, an abode harmoniously shared by Polyphemus and Sinbad'. [...] 'Their melancholy reminiscences about the decaying palaces in the East, the pre-industrial Arcadias of Europe's Orient, with their Romanticist, more or less openly anti-urban and anti-modernist agenda, are unmistakably British.'
 N. Ascherson, "He is English, after all", London Review of Books. November 7, 2013. 

Der im engeren Sinne literarische epische Diskurs kennt die Bindung des historischen Diskurses an die Pragmatik nicht. Er besitzt weder die Kettung der literarischen Produktion an die Normalzeitrechnung noch eine grobe Isomorphie zwischen Konfiguration, Handlung und Deskription einerseits und wissenschaftlich beschreibaren realen Prozessen anderseits. Als Normaltyp des epischen Diskurses kann derjenige Typ gelten bei dem die literarische Production als absolut abgeschlossen vorausgesetzt und also weder direkt noch indirekt thematisiert wird.
J. Link, Literaturwissenschaftliche Grundbegriffe. UTB 305. Muenchen. Wilhelm Fink Verlag. 1974 

Alle Texte, denen keine Handlung zugrunde liegt, heissen nicht-narrative Texte. Wie die Klasse der narrativen Texte (zur Definition s.o.) ist auch die der nicht-narrativen nicht auf literarische Texte beschraenkt (es gibt z.B. nicht-narrative Filme und nicht-narratives Ballett).
Link, ibid.