ORBITUARY HEINER MULLER, 9 Jan 1929 - 30 Dec 1995

I.


Brecht, an author without a present, an oeuvre between past and future. I
hate to say this critically. The present is the time of industrialized nations; future
history will not be made by them alone. Kafka's Statue of Liberty carries a
sword rather than a torch. To use Brecht without criticizing him is betrayal.
("Brecht vs. Brecht," 1979)

II.

The confrontation with power, this is history for me as a personal
experience. In my version of Sophocles' Philoctetes, I have Philoctetes
killed by his friend, Neoptolemos. The argument develops as follows:
Philoctetes hates Odysseus. But Odysseus realizes that they need Philoctetes
in order to end the Trojan War. He asks Neoptelemos to convince Philoctetes
to go along with them. Neoptelemos doesn't want to lie so he tells
Philoctetes that he's been commissioned by Odysseus. Philoctetes
misunderstands Neoptelemos' motives and the prospect of an agreement between
Philoctetes and Odysseus vanishes. Philoctetes wants to kill Odysseus, but
Neoptelemos ends up killing Philoctetes. Odysseus tells him then that
Philoctetes' corpse is just as good as the living body. He shows the corpse
to the troops of Philoctetes and he tells them that he was killed by the
Trojans when they realized that they couldn't persuade him to fight with them.
There are three attitudes to history, to politics: Odysseus is the pragmatic
one and Neoptelemos is the innocent. He kills because he is innocent.
Philoctetes is beyond history because he is the victim of politics.
("Walls. A Conversation with Sylvere Lotringer," 1982)

III.

I am not Hamlet. I don't take part any more.
My words have nothing more to say to me.
My thoughts suck the blood out of the images.
My drama doesn't happen anymore.
...
Television The daily nausea Nausea
Of prefabricated babble Of decreed cheer
How do you spell GEMTLICHKEIT
Give us this day our daily murder

Give us this day our daily murder
Since thine is nothingness Nausea
...
My brain is a scar. I want to be a machine.
Arms for grabbing legs for walking, no pain, no thought.
...
Long live hate and contempt, rebellion and death. When it walks through your
bedrooms with butcher knives you'll know the truth.
(from Hamletmachine, 1977)

HOUR OF WHITE HEAT DEAD BUFFALOS FROM THE CANYONS SQUADS OF SHARKS TEETH OF BLACK LIGHT THE ALLIGATORS MY FRIENDS GRAMMAR OF EARTHQUAKES WEDDING OF FIRE AND WATER MEN OF A NEW FLESH LAUTREAMONTMALDOROR PRINCE OF ATLANTIS SON OF
THE DEAD (from Gundling's Life Frederick of Prussia Lessing's Sleep Dream Scream, 1976)

Yesterday I dreamed I was walking through New York. The neighborhood
was dilapidated and uninhabited by whites. On the sidewalk in front of me,
a golden serpent rose up and when I crossed the street or rather the jungle of
seething metal that was the street, another serpent arose on the other
sidewalk. It was a radiant blue. I knew in my dream: the golden serpent is
Asia, the blue serpent, that is Africa. When I woke up I forgot it again. We
are three worlds. Why do I know it now.
(from The Mission, 1979)

IV.

Perhaps his most moving and most important play will be the totality of all
his public statements. There is a second, ultimately important and creative
life for the playwright, even though he does not see the dramatic text
become writing through himself: he performed it, as a speaker. Also, one can
only speak and think in that way if one had been, for many years, in this
absurd self-consuming state of waiting when one keeps listening and hopes
that the text that emerges from the inner self can be understood, all of a
sudden. Word for word.

Therefore it's a damn cheek that Heiner Muller is dead now.
It doesn't matter that Deleuze died. And it is still hard to believe that
Foucault isn't alive anymore. That Jasper Johns is living and Andy Warhol
isn't: a disgusting absurdity. There used to be one so-called Hermann
Burger, so what? And it is still unbearable, every other day, that Thomas
Bernhard isn't around anymore, dead. And for more than eleven years,
Truffaut is dead while Godard is still alive. This is horrible, it can't be
true, absolutely impossible.

And therefore, unfortunately so, it will now be like that: whenever
something important happens in the world, we will have this reflex-like
thought: that it is a damn shame that Heiner Muller can't see this anymore.
And that's so sad and wrong.
(Rainald Goetz, "Where is he, where is he?," 2 Jan 1996)

V.

Parting Heiner Muller

He who kept the dialogue with the dead,
Now he is dead. A Chinese in Prussia,
The master is dead.
The wave rolled over him, the water
Keeps flowing without him. His stony work
Slowly goes down to the ground.
Before he could look out for the next millennium,
His body betrayed him, the enemy.
He who thought he was dying too slowly,
He who was waiting patiently, nothing is waiting for him.

His cynicism was goodness
Since he announced the great falls, the catastrophes
That were silenced by harmony.

The terror he was writing of came from Germany.

(Durs Grunbein, 30 Dec 1995)

compiled by Thomas Irmer, 16 Jan 1996.

(Quot. I and II from Heiner Muller Germania, ed. Sylvere Lotringer, trans.
Bernard and Caroline Schutze, New York: Semiotext(e), 1990; quot. III from
Heiner Muller, Hamletmachine and Other Texts, ed. and trans. Carl Weber, New
York: PAJ Publications, 1984; quot. IV from Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin 2
January 1996, trans. Thomas Irmer; quot. V from Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung, 2 January 1996, trans. Thomas Irmer.)

Copyright Thomas Irmer for Alternative-X, 1996



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