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.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Friday, March 01, 2013



Sunday, February 24, 2013

deviation - divination

This historiography of sincere forgers is so strange that it is worth considering for a moment. We will see that if we pursue the problem of the forger, it becomes impossible to distinguish between the imaginary and the real. (P. Veyne, Did the Greeks believe in their Myths?, Chicago, 1988, p.103) || Merton unterscheidet behavioristisch unter sozialen "Abweichlern" folgendermaßen: Kreative (innovation), Aufsässige (rebellion), Überangepaßte (ritualism) und Sonderlinge (retreatism), eine Unterscheidung also, der unsere Typologie von Künstler, Revolutionär, Karrierist und Wahnsinnigem analog ist. (M. Schneider, Die kranke schöne Seele der Revolution, Frankfurt/Main, Syndikat, 1980, fn.9, p.261) || There is a story that the greatest scholar of Antiquity, Didymus, who had written more books than he could remember, became angry one day when someone told him a historical anecdote that in Didymus' opinion had no foundation. He relented when he was shown one of his own works in which the tale was said to be true. (P. Veyne, Did the Greeks believe in their Myths?, p.110) || Merton distinguishes between social "deviants" in the following way: innovative, rebellious, excessively conforming (ritualism), and misfits (retreatism). (M. Schneider, ibid., my transl.) || One of Choueiri's favorite cautionary tales is of an experiment conducted during the First World War, in which a tinny Victrola recording and an operatic soprano were cloaked in darkness at Carnegie Hall: the auditors were unable to tell one from the other. The audience's will to hear perfect sound mattered as much as the perception of the sound heard.(A. Gopnik, "Music to your ears", in The New Yorker, January 28, p34) || Und bringt nicht die "Agentur" der gesellschaftlichen Konformität gerade vier Prototypen bürgerlicher Existenz hervor, die in der Kinderstube eher die Subversion der Gesellschaft durch artistische Regelbeherrschung gelehrt worden sind: den Künstler, den Karrieristen, den Wahnsinngen und den Revolutionär? - And isn't it the "agency" of social conformity that brings forth the very four prototypes of bourgeois identity which during their bringing-up were taught the subversion of society by means of artistic control of the rules: the artist, the careerist, the mad, and the revolutionary? (M. Schneider, p.10, transl. mine) || Trying to decide whether to major in psychology or art history, I had gone to his office to see what he thought. He squinted and lowered his head: "Is this a hard choice for you?" Yes! I cried. "Oh," he said, springing back up cheerfully. "In that case, it doesn't matter. If it's a hard decision, then there's always lots to be said on both sides, so either choice is likely to be good in its way. Hard choices are always unimportant." (A. Gopnik, "Music to your ears", p.35)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

horse, meat, cave

In "The Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through the Ages," there is a startling print of a twelfth-century Irish king who, to prove himself worthy of his crown, is bathing in a vat of horse-meat soup as he chews on a long rope of blood sausage. (M. Sheraton, "Missing Links" in The New Yorker, Dec 3, 2012, p.74) || Combier is the undisputed leading expert on the Palaeolithic cultures and the Ice Age art of the Ardèche region, and Jouve is a physicist specializing in radiocarbon dating. Their article is entitled "Chauvet's cave art is not Aurignacian" (the palaeolithic culture of roughly 35,000 years ago). It is hoped that the research team working at the cave will now deign to answer critiques levelled at its scientific record, after ignoring them for years. (P.G. Bahn, "Rock of Ages" in TLS November 9, 2012, p.29) || Daß Liebe und Obsession etwas miteinander zu tun haben, ist eine Vorstellung, die breiter Zustimmung sicher sein kann. [...] das eigentlich Obsessive liegt nicht im Extrem, im Abgelegenen oder Besonderen des Sexus, sondern in der vermeintlichen Normalität der Liebe. Die kollektive Obsession verbirgt sich in der alltäglichen Zärtlichkeit [...] (C. Berthold and J. Greid, "Endlich lieben - Eine moderne Obsession", in Obsessionen. Beherrschende Gedanken im wissenschaftlichen Zeitalter, (ed.) M. Jeismann, Frankurt, Suhrkamp, 1995, p.199) || In this seventeenth-century Lenten bacchanal [Franz Hals's "Merrymakers at Shrovetide"], the comic character Hans Wurst and other revellers appear woozily besotted with drink and festively bedecked with sausage links. (M. Sheraton, "Missing Links", ibid.) || The town of Göttingen, famous for its sausages and university, belongs to the King of Hannover, and contains 999 hearths, sundry churches, a lying-in hospital, an observatory, a lock-up, a library, and a beer-cellar, where the beer is very good. [...] when I matriculated there five years ago, shortly before being rusticated, it had the same grey look, like an old head on young shoulders, and was already fully equipped with proctors, bulldogs, dissertations, thés dansants, washer-women, reference-books, roast pigeons, Guelph Orders, graduation-day coaches, blockheads, Aulic Counsellors, Judicial Counsellors, disciplinary committees, eccentrics, and many other tricks. (H. Heine, The Harz Journey, Penguin, 2006, p.33-34) || "Is all this the democratization of learning, the new mass scholarship, in which persons of average intelligence but uncommon energy are half-lured, half-driven to collect, compile, and report, without the benefit of reflection, without the incentives of a generalizing purpose, and often without the critical implement of literacy?" (J. Barzun quoted in NB in TLS November 9, 2012, p.32) || [...] und selbst die reflexiven Problembeschreibungen weisen keinen Ausweg aus der fundamentalen Aporie: auf die Liebe angewiesen zu sein und von ihr doch nie mehr als vorübergehend befriedigt zu werden. | [...] and even the reflexive descriptions of the problem do not point to an escape from the fundamental aporia: to be dependent on love, yet to be satisfied by it merely transitorily. (C. Berthold and J. Greid, "Endlich lieben - Eine moderne Obsession", ibid., p.200, transl. mine)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

'tis the season

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Nach Klügels Wörterbuch der Mathematik, fortgesetzt von Mollweide, Bd. 4. 1831, — hat Leibnitz den Ausdruck »Transcendent« in die Mathematik eingeführt und darunter verstanden quod Algebrae vires transcendit, — also alle Operationen welche durch gemeine Arithmetik und Algebra nicht zu vollziehn sind, als z.B. zu einer Zahl den Logarithmus oder umgekehrt, zu einem Bogen, rein arithmetisch, seine trigonometrischen Funktionen oder umgekehrt zu finden; überhaupt alle Probleme[,] die nur durch einen [385] ins Unendliche fortgesetzten Kalkül zu lösen sind: es scheint daß der Ausdruck etwas Unbestimmtes behält, da das Wörterbuch selbst in seinen Erklärungen schwankt. Aber der Gebrauch des Ausdrucks Transcendent im Philosophischen Sinn ist älter als im mathematischen: da er sich in Büchern, die älter sind als Leibnitz, findet: z.B. Gracian spricht von einer singolar transcendental magestad [sic!]: — — ja schon die Scholastiker nannten die allerobersten Begriffe, welche allgemeiner als die 10 Kategorien des Aristoteles sind, transcendental, und eben so Spinoza Ethica p. 112.

Schopenhauer, Handschriftlicher Nachlaß, Cogitata II


"You think I'm pretty dumb, don't you?" he suggested. "Perhaps I am, but I have - almost a second sight, sometimes, that tells me what to do. Maybe you don't believe that, but science -'
He paused. The immediate contingency overtook him, pulled him back from the edge of theoretical abyss.

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 116.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oracle in Oxyrhynchus

She had the child with her, though when I say it was the child I mean it was as always only the notion of a child, hardly even an image, a wavering transparency. Seeming to see me at the window she turned and started toward the house. In her green tunic and thonged sandals she might have been striding out of Arcady to meet me. (John Banville, Eclipse, Vintage, 2000, p.211) || There is no such thing as a sense of the real. Furthermore, there is no reason -quite the contrary- for representing what is past or foreign as analogous to what is current or near. The content of myth was situated in a noble and platonic temporality, as foreign to individual experience and individual interests as are government proclamations or esoteric theories learned at school and accepted at face value. In other respects, myth was information obtained from someone else. This was the primary attitude of the Greeks toward myth; in this modality of belief they were depending on someone else's word.(P. Veyne, Did the Greeks believe in their myths? p.27) ||  "A series of questions posed to an oracle in Oxyrhynchus has been made famous by Rostovtzeff as evidence for the deepening insecurity of the time: Shall I be sold up? Am I to become a beggar? Shall I take to flight?" (Peter Brown, "A debate on the holy", The Making of Late Antiquity, Harvard University Press, 1978, p.6) || In Alexandria, a certain Thompson, from Sunderland, has written his name in letters six feet tall on the Pompey column [...] There is no way of seeing the column without seeing the name of Thompson and consequently without thinking of Thompson. The cretin has incorporated himself into the monument and perpetuates himself with it. (G. Flaubert in J. Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, Chicago, 2009, p.160) ||  Separating the useful and necessary from the beautiful and from enjoyment initiated a development that abandons the field to the materialism of bourgeois practice on the one hand and to the appeasement of happiness and the mind within the preserve of “culture” on the other. (H. Marcuse, Art and Liberation, (ed. D. Kellner), "The affirmative character of culture", (London: Routledge, 2007) p.83) || At times of bereavment, I have discovered, people revert to a primitive kindliness, which is manifest most obviously in the form of offerings of food. (Banville, Eclipse, p.194) || Ich hatte vor, diesen Sommer wieder einige Zeit in Marienbad zuzubringen, doch werde ich nicht eher gehen als bis Sie zurück sind. | My intention was once again to spend some time in Marienbad this summer, but I will not leave before you have returned. (JP Eckermann, Gespräche mit Goethe, Reclam, p.571, trans. mine) || On such days, autumn is already sounding its first horn-calls, yet the summer still blithely believes it will never end. In that dreamy stillness, like the stillness in the azure distances of a stage set, all the summers back to childhood seem present; to childhood, and beyond childhood, to those Arcadian fields where memory and imagination merge. (Banville, Eclipse, p.135)

November, again