Monthly Archives: February 2013



clock london


The beating of your heart inside your chest; the gradual progression of a shadow across a wall. And each moment unique: not an infinity of heartbeats and shadows, but a calculable quantity. The repetition of a thing lulls us to sleep, gives rise to the illusion that it will endure without end, that each instance is identical to the next, like units of measurement. But what about this particular heartbeat, now: not a pedantic exercise, but an understanding of location in time and space, a sudden awareness of one’s coordinates. And already I have lost the thread of what I wanted to say, already I have been led astray by a metaphor, by language itself, distracted by a cat playing with a bit of string, by the creaky-hinge sounds of a bird outside my window. The cat sits on the windowsill, quiet and alert. I watch him make jerky little movements with his head and will myself into his point of view; I speculate on his perception of time, but then again, I haven’t even come close to understanding my own.

What matter that time becomes relative once it leaves the framework of human experience—it has no bearing on my life, or on yours. Just as it seems to slow down to a standstill, just as the coexistence of past and future gels and the moment takes on an auratic glow, minutes and hours have slipped by unnoticed. Ekstasis, the state of being or standing outside oneself, is also a stepping out of time—in other words, ecstasy, the highest state of intense joy, arises out of a suspension of the temporal, a momentary liberation from the tick-tock of the continuum, its slow slippage.

The cat sits on the windowsill, satisfied to observe, to play, to merely be. Is there a way to live without yearning, without the will to change things, impose oneself, create conditions perceived to be more conducive to a better life? If you were here, now, and I no longer felt the vacuum of your absence, would my mind turn to something else that is missing? Would we yearn together, or would we be satisfied to sit on the windowsill, alert to everything around us: the invisible stirrings in brittle branches preparing for spring, the anticipation of change chirped from trees, the quiet comfort of the cyclical. The garbage is collected on Thursdays; the rent is due tomorrow. These too are the cycles of our existence: around and around and around, without respite.

Excerpt from the article in The American Reader:

This year, apocalyptic books seemed to have touched upon a collective nerve. In an introductory clip, festival curators Susan Bernofsky (author, teacher, and acclaimed translator of Robert Walser and numerous other German-language authors) and Claudia Steinberg (author, journalist, and co-star of Rosa von Praunheim’s celebrated films “Survival in New York” (1989) and “New York Memories” (2010)) talk about the various dynamics dystopian and apocalyptic thinking adopt in contemporary literature—ranging from the disturbed relationship between the individual and society and between the individual and the self to the manner in which impending catastrophe creeps into and poisons even the closest and most intimate human relationships.

This is how Bernofsky described Austrian author Clemens J. Setz’s novel Indigo (2012): “You have an illness, and this is what the illness is: you walk around, and everyone around you gets sick. Like, very sick.” As it turns out, children born with a mysterious syndrome are sent off to an Austrian institute, where their “indigo potential” is exploited for shady purposes. When a protagonist with the author’s name, a former tutor to the children, begins researching their disappearance, he stumbles upon a secret subterranean world. Setz’s novel was shortlisted for the German Book Prize; his collection from 2011, Love in Times of the Mahlstadt Child, won the 2011 Leipzig Book Fair Prize and prompted comparisons to Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace. It is a kind of spooky-smart science fiction novel, a post-modern montage of reality and fiction based on existing phenomena and trends in which illness becomes the metaphoric obsidian mirror held up to a society plagued by its own darker forces.




Ulrike Ulrich, author of Staying Gone, 2010



wall shadows london


This must be fiction, you say, because you’ve never grown impatient. But I’ve left out entire episodes: long days spent in a hotel room, hours of lovemaking, of talking, lying together in silence in the dimming light as time seemed to stand still. The moment I arrived and saw you through the plate glass window; the way we sat and held hands and took each other in without a word. The moment I arrived at Gatwick. It’s all mixed up in my mind now, there’s no longer any sequence or story. Only a few weeks later, but already another kind of intimacy, a yearning all the more specific because it knows things now: a certain flavor of toast, the quiet pleasure of drinking Turkish coffee and watching the day go by through the huge windows of your mother’s apartment. It was like living in a time capsule, a curious apartment complex that reminded me of vintage James Bond, a movie set waiting for a movie, an address posh enough to flaunt at the time and still somehow grand, though the cement arches are crumbling and the paint flaking from the balconies. I want to make time stand still; I want to lie on your mother’s couch with my laptop. I want to let days slip by, wondering lazily if we should go to the theater, to the Tate, if we should cook at home or go out, wondering lazily if we should take a nap, or make love. It almost felt as though life could be like that: long stretches of peace and silence, a sun pursuing its gradual course across the sky as shifting clouds give rise to a corona of brilliant rays that light up the wallpaper and knickknacks in an other-worldly glow. A maid, a snoring dog; nothing alarming to intrude from the outside. Is it possible to feel that safe, with you? I am hounded by catastrophe and ruin; it is the poisonous underworld of my imagination, the dungeon of my worst fears. Time should be made to stand still—it moves too quickly for me, I can’t possibly do the things I need to, I want to rest, to be silent, to watch the sky in silence, with you next to me.

coffee cup



And V.? What was it like for V.? You grow impatient with me, want me to leave behind the past, but it’s not the past I’m troubled by, no, it’s some kind of potent distillate which permeated me and charted labyrinthine maps in my neural pathways and lined the slippery, bubble-like walls of my cells with its sticky gook. The past can never be left behind, it’s not even passed, its substance has seeped into mine and commingled with it and here I am, thinking I’m making a fresh start and finally letting go and all the while my own invisible homunculus is trapped a million times over, stuck in the oozing muck of everything that has happened to it, in the condensed slime of experience.

Why this capacity for pain? Take a look at V., he’s built to survive; he forgets, deletes entire episodes, leaves people behind like vagabonds on the side of the road hoping to hitch a ride in his streamlined, gleaming life. It’s equipped with all the latest safety features, but even still: hitchhikers present unknown dangers. They can steal from you, abduct you, they can seduce you and then, touching up their lipstick in the rear-view mirror, ask to be let out on the next corner. They can bring peril and disease into your life; they can blackmail you. This was how V. saw me: not as a promise that might have been, a shooting star in the black of night sent to announce its augured miracle, but as a potential threat to his otherwise perfect life, its possible downfall. But disappointment is not a part of V.’s universe; failure, insecurity, fear, doubt: all words that do not apply. Alarmed, and then industrious as ever, his mind paved over whatever connecting lines our encounter might have momentarily redrawn. No room for renewal—not now. He has done everything right, he strides resolutely forwards, has built a life so enviable that even he is almost convinced he’s happy. But then he cracks open the veneer just enough to offer a peek inside, and he will do this again and again: give in to the temptation, recite his troubles like an air-tight case against himself, ask to be shown the way out of the rigid diagram of his life, and what is there to do but believe him, fall through that crack.

And what about you? The cups of Turkish coffee I turned over in their saucers in your mother’s apartment: you search the lines etched into their hardened grinds, examine the squiggles and trembling, dream-like shapes for signs that presage fortune, presage a life together: something more than the disaster and betrayal and loss of love you’ve known until now. A life between cities, between boxes in storage: is it a type of freedom, or has it become its own settled way? What are our chances for anything more than this: a trip to Berlin, to London, maybe Paris—we’ll see. Like me, I fear you are trapped in your own personal quagmire. The blind leap of faith required to let go of the past, the childlike belief to proclaim: these are my limitations, my scars, I will conquer them now as I’ve always known I could, I will take a chance that my future self has already made this decision somewhere in the space-time continuum, already knows what will come to be—can either of us jump that far? We run and holler in joy. We whoop up a racket, resolute as warriors with cardboard and tinfoil swords in hand; we plant ourselves firmly on the peaks of our own little hills. And each of us hindered by responsibility and the far sturdier binds of habit, by a dizzying oscillation between a belief in the beauty and inevitability of happiness and a fear of failure and self-delusion.

And each day away from him its own unique ordeal. The weeks I waited: one two, buckle my shoe; three four, close the door; five six seven eight before it dawned on me that it might be too late, that he might not be coming. The shock of that; the moment it sank in. Had I been in his place: I would have thought the words we’d said to one another, the promises we’d made were binding, would have felt compelled to explain, to insure that the disappointment was merely a deferral. I will come, V., just not now. But what did V. do? I actually said the words to myself out loud in order to understand them: V. is forcing me to write to him to ask if he’s still coming. How can he do this? How can anyone do something like this, behave in a manner so brusque? The shock. The word “shock.” The words “stun” and “benumb.” The inadequacy of language to convey subjective experience. No matter; I stand outside the memory now, but when I recall it, even a sliver of it, it is like watching an atrocity without the power of intervention. Like gazing at a photograph and into the eyes of someone doomed.

I remember moments in which the pain coalesced and acquired form. I remember tunes, I remember snow. At least a foot of snow, and my own hot breath on the inside of my fur-lined hood as I brought my laptop in for repair. The muffled way things sounded. And each tune I remember associated with a bodily sensation, like an essence preserved in a canopic jar. No words to describe this, no words to describe my longing, my horror—my crazy, exalted, euphoric collusion in my own demise.

What V. also wrote in the mail: he was curious to see what I was up to, found my blog, and read the entire thing from beginning to end. I stared at the computer screen. He used the word “devastating.” My ears felt the way they do when an airplane drops in altitude; there was a fist in my stomach, or the beginnings of an implosion. He wrote that while he knew that V. was fictitious, if he existed he’d surely throw up in his wastepaper basket, he’d fall to his knees with tears streaming down his face. He’d beg for forgiveness. I would have cried if the shock hadn’t rendered me immobile. You read my blog, I thought, my God, you read everything I wrote.

Come join us at the "Polish Failures' Club" in Berlin Mitte! Readings, live music, and drinks to celebrate a love for great literature, translation, and literary criticism. Saturday, Feb. 23 starting at 7:30 p.m. Club der Polnischen Versager, Ackerstrasse 168, Berlin Mitte JOIN US THIS SATURDAY IN BERLIN! At our SOIREE for the ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Contra Mundum Press & the RETURN of HYPERION: ON THE FUTURE OF AESTHETICS — RARE VIDEOS of GHERASIM LUCA — RECITATIONS OF ERIKA BURKART, RAINALD GOETZ, RENE CHAR, SZENTKUTHY & MORE by Lance Olsen, Andrea Scrima, Marc Vincenz and others. — LIVE MUSIC by FUASI & CHRISTIAN VON DER GOLTZ — NEW BOOKS! ... and Andrea Scrima's first issue as senior editor of Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics.

And Z. is in love with the owner of the deli next door, gives him hand jobs every once in a while, has managed to make it clear that she is not after free groceries. He is 47, has a form of Parkinson’s, she thinks; she massaged his feet and he fell asleep, right there in his swivel chair. He looked so peaceful, she says, these are the moments I give my morning away for, I’m in love, what can I say? He’s got five kids. He’s an Aquarius Dragon. They’ve been hugging and flirting and drinking for the two years she’s been living there. She’s always having dreams that he loves her. Just the other day he chased a crackhead away for her; he keeps an eye out for her, acts protectively towards her. And she finds him hot. Really, really, really hot. She says she can smell him. She says they respect each other, that she respects his actions and way of being in the world. She doesn’t know if he’s in love. She thinks he tries not to be. But he’s always hard when she’s around.

I tell Z. about V. I don’t yet know that it will end soon, I still have hopes, but have grown wary, suspicious that V. was mainly after sex: something better than suburban sex, pajama sex, something more exciting, more passionate than toothpaste-breath sex. Whiskey-breath sex? Artist sex, maybe, writer sex? I am a stand-in for an idea, a fantasy, and this unsettles me, makes me question everything else about V. But Z. says we’re all motivated through the filter of our own experience. It’s never about you or me, she says. No one is ever really known by another. Or very rarely. She says she was feeling very sad about this one time as she thought about her current boyfriend. She realized he had no idea who she was; he downplayed her, doubted her ambitions. It wasn’t that he didn’t think she could do it, she says, but he was always offering more sane, stable, ultimately misery-making alternatives to her desires. This is a man who will always have sex the same way, Z. says, and although she loves having sex with him his way, she’d like to try other things sometimes. She’s tried other boys. She still does, if she feels like it. Z. says she grabbed her married deli man’s cock in the back office, and then ran away laughing. Occasionally she’ll open up her black book and call up her 28-year-old Nigerian hottie. The point she is trying to make is that perfect communion, the idea of knowing another perfectly, is a myth. No matter who we are, how close we get, we are alone at birth and at death and throughout most of our lives. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I think we should try, she says. It’s awesome to get that close. But just keep in mind your man may not know you perfectly. He may just want the awesomest sex of his life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Because he has to project his idea of you onto you, there’s no other way. How would he truly know?


— from the essay published January 2013 in Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics


Andrea Scrima

… Because we can’t absorb the waves of information crashing over us, because there is no time to reflect, compare, or develop a critical stance to it, we resort to elimination: we take mental note of things and move on to the next with ever-increasing speed, retaining only very vague impressions of what we believe we’ve understood. Acquiring knowledge is increasingly replaced by developing systems of cataloging it for a further use that, more often than not, never takes place. Goetz himself assumes the stance of the deeply impacted observer, alternating between outrageously oversimplified claims and finely differentiated perception. His métier is the present, together with all its glaring contradictions, described in highly charged works in which both his zeal and his disgust are barely kept under control. Goetz, a seminal figure in the German pop literature movement of the late 1990s along with Christian Kracht and Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, is a kind of modern-day literary ecstatic. Only partially comparable to their American and English counterparts Bret Easton Ellis and Nick Hornby, the movement’s achievement was to cast off the ponderous weight of post-war German literature to capture the mélange of modern-day culture in all its immediacy and brashness: marketing and media, trademarks and labels, bands and deejays, drugs and TV, capitalism and celebrity became some of the new subjects deemed worthy of literary scrutiny. Goetz was one of the very first writers to keep a blog when the Web was still going through birth pains; in 1998, he began work on Abfall für alle (Garbage for Everyone), which was published as an 864-page volume one year later to great acclaim. Although it is anything but obvious today, at the time, the notion that a renowned writer would put unredacted work “out there” for anyone in the world to see, in real time and on a daily basis, was nothing less than sensational. Moreover, the fact that this act of literary innovation was later followed by tens of millions of greater and lesser blogs is only one small example of the galactic changes writing’s status has undergone over the past 15 years.


From the lecture “To Live and to Write: The Existence Mission of Writing”

Rainald Goetz, Freie Universität Berlin. To see the full lecture

(in German):

Excerpts translated by Andrea Scrima



The essence of this ongoing practice of writing is the difference between text and thought: the reading of one’s own words. And that is the fundamental experience of writing: that what’s there on the page doesn’t say what one wanted to say, that the self-will of the scripturality, the act of fixating, the textual verbality constantly impose themselves; very powerfully, the text says what it wants to, not what it’s supposed to according to the will of the writer. To experience this autonomy of writing, the texticity of statements, one needs to experience as a writer, as often as possible, constantly, how great the distance really is between a statement’s intent and what the words actually convey.


It’s often been observed that the everyday practice of writing has undergone a spectacular rebirth over the past years due to electronic communications devices. All this incessant writing everyone’s been doing in mails, text messages, forums, on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook has also, however, had the tremendous effect of promoting standardization, stereotypes, truisms, and empty talk to the degree that there’s practically no thought, experience, or even a second of life anymore for which a hiatus of speechlessness still exists; in every situation, everyone knows perfectly what sentence is supposed to come next.


The right kind of writing is very easy. Anyone who types and texts and presses ‘send’ knows this. When the feeling is right, the words are too. Writing is breathing. It used to be the writer’s life that was constructed this way, a singular existence, privileged, even sick, fantastically engrossed and absorbed in everything etc. And today, everyone lives this way: writing, constantly writing their existence-text, writing away.


Which world. — That’s wonderful, of course, but at the same time, the sensibility for it has decreased along with everybody’s me-empowerment, via their own text among other things, and that’s not wonderful. It’s a very extraneous, very alien world that the self encounters, unknown in a way that should unsettle everyone, arouse their curiosity, incite them to all kinds of everyday world exploration measures, etc. But that is not the case.


The world arrives on each person’s screen in a manner that is highly liquid, continuous, and quick: news, information, dispositions, images, and films, preselected by a collective of friends and acquaintances in a quantity so incomprehensible that self-protection requires erecting the wall of bored composure that used to typify the way the flood of TV information was dealt with. The gesture of composure today is that of the hand sweeping away towards the right, that staves off what one has seen, wipes it away, marks it as read and sends it down into the underworld of dead information that will never again inundate one.


Today it’s easier to know more, in more detail, than ever before, but it’s not this easy access that’s made it harder to profit from the fact. The great rupture in recent years comes from the subscriptions, the alerts, the dispatching automats that have been in use since around the mid-2000s, initially to facilitate things, to not have to concern oneself all the time with all the websites one wants to consult, which have since gone on to prevent any possibility of consulting a site oneself, to specifically seek out a blog that one happens to be interested in; once subscribed to, everything intrudes on the interested person unbidden and in an absolutely overwhelming continuity and number.


This intrusion forestalls appreciation. Even the most valuable messages, highly interesting new thoughts of someone’s on some blog, take on the status of annoying advertisement, become a thing to fend off: gone, gone, gone. I’m aware, I know about it, don’t need it.


Only for friends. — As the old millennium was drawing to an end, in 1999, my God, how long, how absurdly long ago that is, the German pop literature faction was also experimenting with this social media thing early on. Elke Naters and Sven Lager thought up an event and a site called “Am Pool” [Poolside], where maybe twenty or thirty people talked to one another internally, textually. I took part in it back then too, with my day-poems KRANK [SICK], which I uploaded there on a daily basis. It only took a few days to observe the extreme limitation in thought and intellect this social circumscription injected the texts with that were based on and conceived for it: the poison is the pretense, the texts automatically want to brag, the writer to present himself to the others in a braggardly manner. The underlying tone that emerges here is unpleasant, the nonchalance in one-uppance repugnant.


The reason Facebook has commercialized this so successfully is because it’s precisely the real-life loser — in the majority, naturally, in real life exposed as a zero in a matter of seconds, this is an effect of the flesh, to embody a person’s truth and to externalize it visibly for everyone to see — that especially yearns to be a really cool dude in the abstract space of the Internet, in a purely verbal sense. The braggart’s verbality is such a success because there are so many of these tricksters trying to fool one another, which explains why a sensibility for these subtle gradations in tone is not a particularly coveted commodity. Now, in many journalists’ texts, you can hear this sound that emerged in the braggart-contest on Facebook. Not a very nice development in language to come from pop literature and to have since turned into journalism.


Authorship is wrested from a highly specific limitation. If relevant texts arise, it’s not due to some sort of skill, a technique that can be passed on, but because they’ve emerged this way out of one’s response to a defect-complex configured in a highly individual manner, because the defect has brought forth sensoria that have enabled its exploitation for the purposes of text production. Objectively speaking, this is all completely uninteresting.


As a reader, one senses that every author that is somehow of interest is also crazy in some way. But that doesn’t matter, that’s irrelevant. What’s interesting are the results, the work, the books, the output in written form that goes beyond the author’s confines, that sheds, by proxy for everyone, the fear of being an existence-nothing paralyzed by a defect-complex.


Nothing else can be passed along. With writing time, in my case it’s been thirty years now, what becomes strongest of all in an author is the experience: how insanely rare it is that it actually works out. That is the essence of writing: it doesn’t work, I can’t do it, I don’t know why.


The Demon. — The demon inside me that rules me is cruel. I don’t know him, I hunt him with my intellectuality, I probably expend more energy than on anything else to find him, to understand, recognize, and in the end, hopefully, to finally disempower him. The effort fails. I can’t find him, I can only find his tracks, register the way he makes it impossible for me to live the way I want to: productive, steady, open, free.


In any case, the demon is a magnifying glass that enlarges everything that happens to me, brings it into focus. The completely normal behavior of the people around me: gigantic, in excessive detail, the horror. Just like in me, the thoughts and feelings inside me, the confusion: gigantic, oppressively gigantic and overpowering, dictating the moment completely. The next instant: gone. As though it had never existed. A mockery of the insane agitation that just now prevailed, gone. The skittishness of the demon torments me, it’s the self-contradiction of the obsession’s monstrousness a moment before. The demon is the gaze emanating from my eyes, which are extremely close together, every year they grow more closely, obsessively, absurdly together. I hate.


The demon wants to be alone and never write again. Read, lie in bed, sleep, read, and actually, quite honestly, more than anything else: perhaps to be just a little bit dead sometimes, or maybe completely dead, forever? Peace, peace is the longing, a permanence of total panic the reality.


Demon for sale, cheap, gladly. The demon impairs my work because it makes my life so insanely complicated. The work does not profit from a complicated life, actually I’ve always hoped that, hoped it would. But that’s wrong. The complicatedness stultifies me, weakens me, narrows my mind. When the demon is gone, I can see what I mean, think, want to say. When the demon is there, I’m blind. And then I try with a mad energy to concentrate, and this purpose locks my frontal lobe in a brutal torture vise, where it’s pressed together and wrung out, the result of this effort of concentration being an unfathomable depletion of the frontal lobe, the worst state of depletion, without any kind of concentration resulting from the exertion at all. The demon is a life-energy-annihilator of galactic dimensions. A life-annihilating galaxy pulsates inside me.


Then the person next to me says something while the person opposite is still talking: a brainwave short-circuit is the demon-induced result. Other people find it normal when two or three conversations are conducted simultaneously right past them, but when it’s exposed to sound in this manner, my demon emits a maddeningly piercing whistle that grows louder and louder until the short-circuit cuts it off. This is why the demon doesn’t love the sociability that I so revere. Even in the company of other people, the demon has one goal and intention: to drag me down, to make my delight in people impossible. My demon is bile and Saturn. Heavy and mean.


Go away, Demon, the compensatory hyper-focus delivers its ultimate demand, be silent, die, stop talking so that I can finally concentrate better, finally live better. The demon nods, amused. He is not at all funny himself, but the text about him is. This contradiction is called, text-typically: grace, clemency, nonsense, delirium.


Reading. — Constantly, incessantly, of course, everything. Reading as the fundamental vitality-enforcement of the mind, an indefatigable joy in gazing at these tiny black things, letters strung together into type, their beauty over and over again, in all its forms, inscrutable.


One’s feeling for language is always in a state of becoming, is unstable, changes constantly through what one reads and writes. Watch out! A feeling for language is highly vulnerable, it belongs to the sphere remotest from rationality, that of language’s musicality; even the keenest intellectuality fails to bring every dimension of this feeling in all its crucial subtleties under the control of its explicative verbality.


Because the social always inundates the brain with an unworkable profusion of individual data, and not everything can be grasped, much less deliberated during the situation itself, it is once again the reception of text, reading, which makes a retrospective reenactment of personal experience possible through the example of other, comparable social situations evoked by the text; thus, what develops as the reading material presents and makes available to the reader the interference of his own experiences and those of others is this: a knowledge of human nature.

It is the specific interiority of this kind of knowledge of human nature that reading brings forth and that differs strongly from those formed in other arts — particularly the viewing of films calls for and creates a completely different type of identification with the other, one far less contemplative, of course — from the racing stream of time that sweeps events along as though in real life, for the most part even faster, makes them race and hurtle past one, etc. Which, complementarily, gives rise to an especially elaborate discursivity upon which aesthetic theory has always prominently developed, first in music, then film, pop music, and opera, from Adorno to Diederichsen.


Wanting to write begins with being fascinated by other writers only a few years older than oneself whose books can take on an ostensible ultra-plausibility, because an individual text project has already attained a work-generating precision, there’s someone who can actually do that, in all its infinity-dimensionality: write — while at the same time he still lives in the common here and now which one also, as the younger one, has access to and is fascinated by. Which is why, in the arts in general, and especially in literature, the most wonderful masterliness is inherently: young.


Published in issue 7–1 of Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics. 

Senior Editors: Andrea Scrima and Carole Viers-Andronico.

To view the PDF:  Hyperion Goetz 2013