response to http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2367/the-art-of-fiction-no-113-max-frisch INTERVIEWER Does the artist have to have a political conscience? Is it valid for an artist simply to create? FRISCH I don’t believe so. You may not know what can be done politically, but it is important that you do not accept the way it is now, nor accept the lies. At the very minimum, challenge the lie. If you write a story, or a poem, you are in a state of mind of having no good reason to hope; you’re powerless, you have lost a lot of hopes, and it is in this landscape that you write. *** Narrative realism, straightforward storylines, plots, and the rote Faden are all lies. All of my feelings are lies if I attempt to articulate them. My whole life is a lie if I attempt to articulate it. Every story I tell is a retelling of the last time I told it and not a recreation of the event. There are no events; there is only the reporting of events. The reports are greatly exaggerated. My death. *** A few months after our interview, I called Mr. Frisch to see if he had any final corrections or comments to add. “Yes,” he said. “Tell them that for just a brief moment I flew. Only for a moment—to the kitchen and back—but that you saw me fly.”
pp. 131-143 How shall I explain my desire to insert a photo from my wedding day here? I don't suppose I would have to explain; you and I both read the same book. I got married in western Nebraska during the wettest May that part of the world had seen in a very long time. Usually yellow and lip-cracking dry, the Panhandle that spring was multiple shades of green and a deep, rich brown. The skies were gray and low. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere. Old-timers talked about how the last time they saw the waters meet (that is, that the moisture from above would meet the moisture always hidden deep within the earth) was when they were children. It did not feel like the place where I had spent my adolescence. But the landslide was still a long time coming. One writes a sentence like that, and one is ashamed. One feels as though perhaps one should be expelled from the party. And yet, the world is built on sentences like that. Look, there's another. Here's a third: The clouds I stood under the day I got married never really lifted. The landslide was always going to be personal. The landslide was always going to be internal. The landslide is always both. One does not always consciously notice the cracks, but one is aware of them anyway and attempts to cover them with something—perhaps a small piece of paper and some tape, a kiss on a scraped knee. One always thinks one does not want to lose what one has, but one is always losing what one has. Erosion.1 1. My first typed draft of this was exactly 268 words long. That was a coincidence. In my head, the last word was first just a last word, then a whole sentence, but then, finally, just that one typed word. The two-hundred-sixty-eighth word. I have edited in such a way that this section is still exactly 268 words long.
pp. 115-130 Es ist noch viel zu tun— 1. Herr Geiser has a minor stroke. 1.1. The stroke occurs during the pictures of the dinosaurs. 1.2. Previously, Herr Geiser lurched over the mountains in the night, but is not now an amphibian. 1.3. Presumably, Herr Geiser lurched from his chair onto the floor. 2. Herr Geiser locks himself away in his house and refuses to answer the door or the phone. 2.1. Because the Zettelwand makes him look crazy? 2.2. Because his stroke-closed eye makes him look like an amphibian? 2.3. Because he simply doesn't want any visitors? 3. Herr Geiser roasts the cat. 3.1. Herr Geiser roasts the cat in the fireplace. 3.2. But does not eat it. 3.3. Even though that was, ostensibly, the plan. 4. Herr Geiser begins the narration of a memory 4.1. This is the first time in the book a memory has been narrated. 4.2. Unless we count pp66-7: “Einmal im Sommer hatten die Spechte sozusagen eine Idee.” 4.3. Otherwise, memory resides in the Zettel; memory belongs to the culture (the Bible), memory belongs to the earth (the lexicon). —nun ist dieser Text zerstückelt, unbrauchbar.
pp. 100-114 -Meistens denkt man im Gehen gar nichts.1 -Worüber soll man sich Gedanken machen?
heikel: awkward, delicate (precarious), particular (fastidious, choosy), fussy, precarious, sensitive (mission, issue), tricky (situation, problem), thorny (fig.), dodgy (situation), shaky (precarious), picky (esp. about food), touchy (subject), subtle, queasy, fastidious, ticklish, dainty, scabrous, trickily, fussily, queasily, scabrously, touchily
- I'm suddenly so tired again. I haven't done much of anything all day other than worry and attempt not to think. Emotionally exhausted. At some point in the near future, I will also have to metaphorically climb a pass in the Alps to prove to someone that I don't have to go to Basel. Was soll Shawn Huelle in metaphorischer Basel? I think that if Stadt is feminine, then a city (any city) probably also is. I am also probably wrong. I wish someone would bring me soup while I slept. I wouldn't mind if they saw all the bits of paper on the walls. I mean, I have long subscribed to Virginia Woolf's idea, “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” Hell, the wall on which the Zettel can be found is already open to the public in several forms.
pp. 85-99 -Wieder und wieder auf die Armbanduhr zu blicken, um sich zu überzeugen, daß die Zeit vergeht, ist Unsinn.1 -so viel Zeit hat der Mensch nicht.2 -Herr Geiser hat Zeit. (Shawn Huelle (als Mensch—nein, als Bürger) does not.) -Der Plan ist durchführbar. (Yet he still believes this. This is important. He has to believe that this—that these things that appeared not to be working today will work, that he won't have to start his life anew again (or at least not in a bigger way than he's having to do anyway). If he didn't believe this, he might consider hanging himself from the ceiling by his suspenders.3) -wichtig ist nur, daß man ohne Hast geht, Schritt vor Schritt, regelmäßig und ohne Hast, damit man nie außer Atem kommt. (He is taking those steps as quickly as he can, but his attempts to avoid haste seem to have almost blown up in his face today. Regardless, he has been out of breath on more than one occasion today.) -Ein Weg ist ein Weg auch im Nebel. (Shawn Huelle doesn't know where he's going either, but forward.) -Lästig ist das Tragen des Schirms. (So then forward without protection. Hinauf in den Abgrund.) *** None of the above includes (but certainly could): the supposedly fish dinosaur that is so obviously a bird, irgendwas gibt es immer zu tun, das Bildnis von Elsbeth, and that German uses the same word for both rind and bark (and how that's not as crazy as part of my mind would like to think). 1. cf. p48: Was schon gedruckt ist, nochmals abzuchreiben mit eigener Hand (abends bei Kerzenlicht) ist idiotisch. 2. cf. p48: so viel Zeit hat der Mensch nicht. 3. I wrote in the book: “This is insane! Am I supposed to think of suicide and then smile at the absurdity? Or am I supposed to continue to think of suicide (and the absurdity of the image) throughout the next and especially in relation to “Der Plan ist durchführbar”?!?
pp. 68-84 -Das Wetter wechselt von Stunde zu Stunde, die Wüste bleibt, sie wechselt nur ihre Farben und es gibt keine Farbe, die in der Wüste nicht vorkommt im Verlauf der langen Tage.1 -Daß der M ein geschichtl. Wesen ist, bedeutet eine bis ins Innerste gehende Formung durch überlieferte Fertigkeiten, Künste, Wissenschaften, Sitten, Rechtsanschauungen und Werthaltungen, zu denen er sich kritisch verhält, die er ergänzt, anreichert, vereinfacht, kompliziert, umbildet und verändert.2 -Der das berichtet hat, kann nur Francesco gewesen sein. . . . 3 On p74, the repetition of the list from p35.4 -Herr Geiser kommt nicht zum Lesen. -Später am Tag liegt der Feuer-Salamander auf dem Teppich im Wohnzimmer, was ekelhaft ist.5 Herr Geiser nimmt ihn mit der kleinen Schaufel und wirft ihn in den Garten hinaus, aber die Spinnweben über der Treppe sind immer noch da. Es gibt nur eine Möglichkeit, sie herunter zu holen: indem Herr Geiser den langen Handlauf des Treppengeländers abschraubt, dann an dem langen Handlauf einen kleinen Besen befestigt mit Draht.6 -Der Mensch bleibt ein Laie.7 -Ein entsetzlicher Stumpfsinn in allen Gliedern.8 -Urtyp dieses Riesengeschlechts ist der Brontosaurus, die 'Donnerechse'—rund 30 Tonnen schwer und über 20 Meter lang. Sein kleiner Kopf, nicht mehr als eine Anschwellung am Vorderende des Schlangenhalses, barg wenige schwache Zähne von Löffelform und ein kleines, armseliges Gehirn, das wohl wenig mehr zu leisten hatte als die Kiefer zu bewegen und die schwachen Eindrücke zu verarbeiten, die von den sehr begrenzten Sinnen dieses Untiers aufgenommen wurden.9 1. This is a description of the Sandhills of Nebraska. 2. Is this section of clippings what introduces the idea of forgetfulness, Herr Geiser’s sudden inability to remember what he was doing? 3. How can the narrator not know? 4. In particular its as yet unaddressed mention of metamorphoses. 5. I’m really interested in this sort of split narrator. Could the forgetfulness and this split have anything to do with one another? 6. a) Here we begin a slide into absurdity; b) How are we to understand the “aber” in this sentence? 7. There is no such thing as a professional human! 8. A terrible stupidity in every limb! 9. LOL
pp. 55-67 -Alles in allem ein grünes Tal. -Allem in allem kein totes Tal. -Alles in allem ein stilles Tal. -Viele Kastanien haben den Krebs, aber alles in allem ist es ein grünes Tal, waldig wie zur Steinzeit.1 -Viele Kastanien haben den Krebs. -wieder das Gurgeln ums Haus. Der Absatz über den schwarzen Winter hört mit einer roten Fahne auf.2 -Heute Vormittag konnte man Minuten lang meinen, es gebe Schatten unter der großen Tanne.3 I could not find the word verfransen. I found the word verfranzen and the word Fransen. And then (and then!) five words later, he4 uses the word schwinden, which I had to look up, and yes of course it's a word and exactly the right word here, but I would imagine more people are familiar with the word verschwinden (which would have worked in this context as well), and so. That the first one is a wordplay seems to be underlined by the second (and what a wonderful wordplay the first one is!). -Skelette von Bewohnern sind nicht zu finden. -die verblichene Muttergottes hinter einem verrosteten Gitter und eine verrostete Büchse mit verdorrten Blumen davor5 -Der letzte Mord im Tal, nur gerüchteweise bekannt, da er nie vor ein Gericht gekommen ist, liegt schon um Jahrzehnte zurück. Auch die Inzucht ist im Schwinden,6 seit die Burschen ihr Motorrad haben, ebenso die Sodomie. -ausnahmsweise vielleicht vier Mal.7 1. forested like in stone times 2. I love the paragraph about how black the winter is. 3. the utterly provisional nature of this sentence 4. I would really like to spend a whole section of 268 words on this idea alone: that the book reads as though written by Herr Geisel himself until he is mentioned in the third person. In other words, who’s “he”? 5. These words are so beautiful. 6. There it is again. 7. People who might complain about the book’s lack of characterization might want to look at sentences like this. That Herr Geisel is paying this amount of attention to the birds tapping at his window shows that the form the book has taken is doing as much toward characterization than any sort of description or series of “telling details” might.
pp. 40-54 -Unterwegs drei verregnete Schafe. He fixed a blank canvas to every flat surface in a small, ceilinged cubicle. He then soaked the dogs in paint and allowed them to shake themselves dry in the room. The sheep he squeezed out like sponges. -So viel Zeit hat der Mensch nicht. “The Holocene calendar, also known as the Holocene Era (HE) or Human era, is a year numbering system that adds exactly 10,000 years to the currently world-dominant Anno Domini (AD) or Common Era (CE) system, placing its first year near the beginning of the Holocene epoch and the Neolithic revolution. Proponents claim that it makes for easier geological, archaeological, dendrochronological and historical dating, as well as that it bases its epoch on an event more universally relevant than the birth of Jesus."1 [To copy out in one's own hand (in the evening by candlelight) that which has already been printed, is idiotic. Why not clip with a pair of scissors that which is worth knowing and belongs on the wall?]2 -So verkalkt ist man nicht. Here's what you need to know: cleaning the kettle involves breaking down the alkaline scale with an eco-friendly acidic solution. The easiest way is to use lemon juice or some other source of citric acid. Fill the kettle with 500ml of water, then add 30mg of juice/citric acid. Boil the kettle. Finish by rubbing the inside clean with a damp cloth that has been dipped in bicarbonate of soda. Finally, rinse the kettle thoroughly before using it again. -Die Summe der Energie bleibt konstant. Das Summen der Energie bleibt konstant.3 4 1. Wikipedia 2. a) my own translation; b) “and belongs on the wall” feels so close to “and belongs against the wall” 3. What I initially read. 4. On p53, Frisch writes, “und wenn man ein Fenster aufmacht und ein Durchzug entsteht, so flattert und raschelt die ganze Zettelwand.” On p126 of my dissertation, I wrote, "Until the barista closed the door just moments ago, there was a fairly stiff cross-breeze blowing at my back and rustling the variously-sized papers tacked to the coffee shop’s community bulletin board. The sound was reminiscent of something more natural—"
pp. 25-39 Lists In this “section,” I count seven. No, eight. Though there is a question about the first: Since the verses are numbered, is an excerpt from the Bible also a list? I think yes. Look at the books of the law. Every narrative is a list. Every list is a narrative. This happened. And then this.
1. pp25-26: the story of the flood
2. p27: Aussergewöhnliche Hochwasser
3. p29: geological epochs
4. p32: meat in the freezer
5. pp33-34: wenn x 10 = ist es ein malerisches Dorf
6. p34: als als als, fällt es ihm ein
7. pp34-35: bereit sein ist alles (though this list might be stranger than Bible verses as list)
8. pp35-36: 7 weitere Arten von Donner
1. Herr Geiser hat ungefähr verstanden, was Protuberanzen sind, die übrigens nichts mit dem Wetter auf der Erde zu tun haben, und die Gattin des Sonnenforschers hat einen Topf voll Suppe gebracht, Minestrone zum Aufwärmen.1
2. . . . und wenn Herr Geiser an den Knöpfen dreht, plötzlich rutscht das Bild weg, der Ton bleibt . . .2
3. Der Käse schwitzt.
4. . . . irgendetwas gibt es immer zu tun oder zu denken . . .
pp. 9-24 Today is Sunday. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.1
Someone nodded hello to me on the street yesterday. To me, or to him? Someone nodded hello to Reader on the street yesterday. Church bells were already ringing, to announce the Armistice in November 1918, when word reached Wilifred Owen's family that he had been killed in battle one week before. Picasso made Gertrude Stein sit more than eighty times for her portrait. And then painted out the head and redid it three months later without having seen her again. Pablo Casals began each day for more than seventy years by playing Bach. I have come to this place because I had no life back there at all. I have, Reader has? Reader has come to this place because he had no life back there at all.2-Es bleibt nichts als Lesen. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, 514229, 832040, 1346269, 2178309, 3524578, 5702887, 9227465, 14930352, 24157817, 39088169 . . .3 1. Genesis 1:2 (KJV) 2. Markson, David. Reader’s Block. Normal, Illinois: Dalkey Archive, 2001. 9. Print. 3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number