Why are moon phases never inverted
"A carpenter will laugh his head off"
"A few words as an introduction. What is the external worldview in the third century BC? A narrow border of countries around the basin of the Mediterranean. In the south the desert burns almost to the blue water. It is uninhabitable because of the heat. There are none here." Doubt. In the east one wonders through to Babylon, to India. A large sea in the west is known. But the north? People are supposed to live there with goat's feet, who sleep for six moons and no one knows what it looks like there. No one ... "
Nobody ... That was particularly noteworthy for the man who gave a concise overview of the ancient worldview at the beginning of 1956, because there were far too many people for his taste. Arno Schmidt was therefore not easy to get in front of a microphone and certainly not in front of a larger audience. This recording of his reading from the Waldschülerheim Schönberg im Taunus documents the great exception in the life of this shy, even misanthropic author.
But although most of humanity could never come close to him in person, he is closer to his readers than most authors of the post-war period. Schmidt's first-person narrators all have traits of their creator, share life stories, knowledge, preferences and antipathies with him. And their mindset is contagious. Although in his later years he looked like the archetype of the solitary parlor scholar in front of his card boxes, Arno Schmidt designed a picture of his time in his early works whose richness of detail is unparalleled. In changing literary incarnations he was a displaced person, returned from the war, resettled today, he was an ancient geographer, gnostic and the last man on a depopulated earth.
While other thinkers were arguing about the incompatibility of the two cultures of natural sciences and humanities, Arno Schmidt was able to dream about a logarithm table, a statistic, a measuring table as reliably as he could about the books of the romantic Friedrich Heinrich Karl Baron de la Motte Fouqué, the he has dedicated a biography and several quotations in his own works.
As unconditionally as he had devoted himself to art and pure science, in his literary mind games he was also a modern, solid Robinson who built a last house on the earth depopulated by a nuclear war. And as precisely as he provided his stories with details of the place and time, he also described the beam construction of this domicile, the completion of which is honored with a solemn and self-deprecating topping-out ceremony:
"A carpenter would have laughed his head off, but the scaffolding was in place. And firm too; I had done enough gymnastics in it."
The self-irony here probably applies not only to Schmidt's alter ego, who plays around as a craftsman, but also a little to his own high-handed role as a literary demiurge, as a universally educated builder and inhabitant of worlds of words. Between distinctive educational treasures, apodictic judgments and merciless curses against God and his failed world and its inhabitants, Arno Schmidt also shines through - the insecurity of a highly gifted man from a humble background who has never learned to behave properly in "good company".
The insecurity of a manic, self-taught reader who had created his own Olympus, whose residents were not Goethe and Schiller, but Wieland and Fouqué, not Faulkner and Hemingway, but Poe and Cooper. Anyone who turned against the canon and zeitgeist as arrogantly as Schmidt had only had the choice between confrontation and flight. His early work combines both. After he had briefly outlined the ancient worldview in 1956 with the gesture of the comprehensively educated polyhistor, Arno Schmidt read his story "Gadir or Recognize yourself".
In it, the aged Pytheas of Massilia escapes from Gadir's dungeon into an escape dream that saps his last strength. Disguised as a sailor, the ancient geographer had hired on Phoenician ships decades ago to explore the world beyond the pillars of Heracles. Eventually he was discovered and sentenced to life imprisonment in Gadir, today's Cadiz.
Pytheas of Massilia and his voyages of discovery really existed, but the works he wrote are as fragmented as his life testimonies. That the Phoenicians exposed him as a spy and imprisoned him for more than half a century was a conjecture that Schmidt knew how to make plausible in literary terms. He had read Herodotus and much more, but his historical story was less the short version of a professor's novel than the literary imagination of a comprehensive but self-taught former warehouse clerk.
A self-portrait of the poet as a young man also grows out of the dying old man's stream of thoughts. Behind the rather unantiquely named "Gryphius, Massilia, work and sportswear" store, which Pytheas remembers in his cell, are the Greiff factories in Lauban, Silesia, where Schmidt from 1934 until he was called up in 1940 had worked as a commercial clerk. And when Pytheas remembers the dark kitchen of his childhood in Massilia with his parents at the wooden table and his father's soldiers' curses, the unmistakable apartment in which Schmidt spent the first 14 years of his life shines through.
Born on January 18, 1914 in Hamburg-Hamm, Arno Schmidt grew up between the excavation pits of a new building district, in which the flair of the Hanseatic city could not be felt and nothing to be seen of the great outdoors. An eat-in kitchen was the center of his life. And that he was nearsighted was only noticed when he started school in 1920. But by then Arno, together with his sister Luzie, who was almost three years older than him, had long since learned to read.
Literature quickly seemed more real to him than dull reality. What he saw on the bare balcony in view of the wilderness of a neglected flower box, what he had already suspected in the wintry kitchen-cum-living-room when its frosted panes turned into gardens full of ice flowers, was no mere imagination. You could read about it too!
Why did you have to expose yourself to the adult world, rub yourself against it painfully, when it was the worse part of reality? Wasn't the real world full of wonders that one experienced when one could see with the outer and inner eye at the same time? When you heard the voices that spoke from the boiling water, from the crackling fire, from the rustling of the wind?
"So the balcony became the beginning of strange flight dreams, in which you left your muffled screaming and scolding parents behind you. And with waving arms you slid down around the corners of the house close to the deserted, night-gray streets."
With school enrollment, mobility also grew, the view widened over the railway tracks and clumpy fields into the most distant blue, from which the wind blew magical leaves in front of it, rustling and whispering. Wasn't every gust of wind "a being in itself, many of whom had to inhabit this large, noisy suburb"?
But unlike another great dreamer, Ernst Jünger, whom he did not appreciate at all, Arno Schmidt never had a problem with school. Tall and strong, equally gifted in science, mathematics and music, he was always among the best in his class, even if he was only half present in class. Schoolmates later remember a very likeable boy whom they didn't really get close to.
While Arno Schmidt absorbed the school material effortlessly, he was able to let his fantasies run wild. Did his comrades suspect, didn't the adults in their stone dwellings suspect that their world, full of measurable and weighable things, was floating on an ocean of incomprehensibility? Did they feel nothing? Didn't they hear anything? Didn't they see what the child saw when the dull black printed brick of a briquette burned away in the oven?
"Fine red cracks penetrated into it from all sides. And above it on the outer edge was already a leafy, white layer of ash, from which at times tiny, bluish flames with pale yellow tips billowed silently when the gas streams plunged from the dark, unknown interior of the mountain."
The Rumpffsweg in Hamburg-Hamm became the starting point for dream trips that were inspired by the technical fantasies of Jules Verne as well as by the elemental spirits of the Romantics. One last look at the briquette that had grown into a mountain, then the inner eye wandered on:
"For a moment you could stand at the foot of the rock-high wall and look deep into the wild, silent, glowing gaps; also hike in red rocky highlands and sparkling sandy deserts; or carefully put paper boats on a still black piece of coal and wait with a passing heart for that red sea pounded silently against the charring planks, woe to the magic team. "
On the back of a sofa, a finger-length end of thread connected a rope of pins. Gardens of ice flowers grew on the windows of the not yet fully heated kitchen, in which the child's imagination ran wild. Who is it that is surprising that books soon meant the world for this child?
But since the mid-1920s there was also another, by no means mature child of that time who was to accompany Arno Schmidt from then on and which was to help finance his life as a freelance author in the 1950s, thanks mainly to Alfred Andersch: the radio. Two decades later, one of his literary incarnations remembered the first encounter with it:
"Well, and there he had a little technical tangle on the table: wire-wound coil, detector, a copper wire hung from the antenna, headphones. I clumsily put the receiver around my small ears - a grilled violin sang: I can still see the table today and the stupid ceiling on it. The music pelted very softly from the Norag. "
Norag was the Nordische Rundfunkgesellschaft AG founded in Hamburg-Billwerder. When it began broadcasting on May 2, 1924, there were initially only 896 registered listeners. Ten-year-old Arno was certainly not one of them, but a new era began here - with the sound of a grilled violin, fished out of the ether by a reel, a detector and an antenna: the magic of technology.
Arno Schmidt was not only a romantic born in the Hamburg stone desert, but also a mathematically gifted dreamer with a memory that looked like a photograph. In view of the inadequacy of our cognitive apparatus, imagination and precision were not contradictory for him, but for the master of lunar metaphors it was simply natural that the satellite was in the right place at the right time in a novel to emit its silver light.
In general, Arno Schmidt's literary incarnations all have an "insane desire for the exact", for data, surface area, population figures, borders, tables, maps. He has "the gift of being able to get mad about statistics", he lets the heroes of his novel "Das Steinerne Herz" say. And that, of all things, in the face of a dust-dry series of statistical yearbooks that seem to mock the expression "thirst for knowledge".
But no. For Arno Schmidt such collections of facts contained "dream templates"; were "still completely unreacted material". Exact data, ideas, thought fragments and snapshots from nature were the small pieces of the mosaic that Schmidt collected in his memory and later also in card boxes in order to put together his small and large literary worlds. What began in childhood on the balcony continues when Schmidt's alter ego falls into his hands in "From the Life of a Faun" a map from the French era:
"This is mine. (Very cold!) Me! I am the real owner, for whom these things have been lurking for a hundred years! Nobody but me has the mild border colors around me. Nobody, except me, sees this point house here: The two young gooseberry bushes made whispered declarations of love for each other, stretched thin green arms together, in their wrinkled night under the stars. "
Where love blooms from crumbling paper, the linear course of time is suspended. Schmidt saw time not as a line, but as a level on which true dreams were possible. The past and the now are sometimes short-circuited. And not just in the fantasy of the first-person narrator Heinrich Düring, who survived the Third Reich as a minor civil servant. During further research he discovers evidence of a French deserter from that long-gone time and finds his hidden home. From now on, the modern faun leads a hidden second existence in this hut - where even the most exact maps show only a blank spot.
There was no such hut for the young Arno Schmidt. Instead, there were excruciatingly long years as an accountant in the Third Reich and as a soldier, during which his fear of people must have increased to disgust. When he was released from British captivity in Cordingen in Lower Saxony at the end of 1945, he had not only lost the most productive years of his life, but also home and books.
Faced with nothing, he decided on literature. The first publications such as "Leviathan" and "Gadir" were made at the Mühlenhof in Cordingen. "Brand's Haide" reproduced Schmidt's material misery in those years and appeared in 1951 together with a story in which he put an end to all of humanity. "Schwarze Spiegel" goes back to a long mental game in which Arno Schmidt had saved himself when he was penned in a cage with other German prisoners of war in 1945.
A man, alone on his bike, cycling in a lightless night on a crumbling country road through a deserted world. His only companions are the moon over the juniper bushes and the wind, which sometimes blows mockingly through his hair. This is how this one-man story begins. And we have to imagine their heroes as happy people.
"It's good that all of this has been cleaned up! And when I'm gone, the last blot will be gone: The human experiment, the stinky one, has stopped!"
Finally alone, almost at least, he is like Robinson with two shotguns on his back through the depopulated Lower Saxony. The fantasy from Schmidt's captivity has now been given a real topography: Walsrode, Düshorn, Hünzingen colony. But although all palaces are open to his hero and his crowbar, he also builds a hut for himself and regrets once again that he is more of a brainworker than a manual worker:
"Woe to the man who has not regretted at least ten times in his life that he did not become a carpenter! Or who, at the sight of a new nail, can refrain from imagining appetizingly prepared wood and a small-chunky hammer!"
But even if a real craftsman had laughed his head off, in the end it wasn't just the scaffolding that stood, but the whole house. Its builder may not be a perfect carpenter either, but he is the best there is still because he is the only one. The little house on the edge of the forest that Arno Schmidt could only dream of in the early 1950s measures ten by five meters.
But this house has to be here. It has to be built with your own hands to prove that even a brain worker can do something like that - that he doesn't need anyone because he knows how to do everything. And soon this house is also animated, that is, it is provided with books and pictures that his hero has requisitioned from the libraries, second-hand bookshops and museums in Hamburg.
But this hero is a thoroughly righteous man - he only takes what the Third Reich withheld from its author, what the war had taken from Arno Schmidt - his freedom, his books, his home. And to confirm this, the author sends him to an autopsy, during which the poor poet Schmidt is posthumously examined in his meager dwelling:
"A bed with a wooden floor, no pillows and duvets, just five blankets. A tattered desk, on it 20 books in corrugated cardboard boxes that have run together as shelves; a cracked tiny stove ... paper in the drawers, manuscripts;" Massenbach fights for Europe "," The house in the Holetschkagasse "; ergo a literary starving man, Schmidt had scolded himself. However, long bones: Must have had at least his six feet."
So this is what it looked like, the basis on which Arno Schmidt wanted to start building his worlds of words in 1946. And so Arno Schmidt imagined in "Black Mirror" not only a survival, but also his death in the Third World War. And shows himself ironic reverence by having his literary alter ego salute the bones and consider putting the skull of this starving man on him. But he needs the space for the books. So Schmidt remains intact, but unburied, while his incarnation is devoted to building houses and roams through forests, on the bike, with binoculars, in his imagination and entirely in agreement with James Fenimore Cooper's "leather stocking" Natty Bumppo:
"In the glass you could even see the primitive ladder of the high stand.And for a moment I dreamed myself up, where the wind smoothed skin and hair, far around only the gleaming lonely tops; Natty was right: forests are the most beautiful! And I was only in my early forties; if everything went well, I could wander over the deserted earth for a long time: I didn't need anyone! "
But as rabid as Arno Schmidt wanted "the human experiment, the stinky" from the body, so meticulously has he recorded its presence, the gardens and streets, silly hits and banal conversations, the radio reports, food stamps and sausage stalls, street and shop signs, maps and measuring table sheets that even the last person can use for orientation. Schmidt also held on to what repelled him, harshly but thinly. His works are full of descriptions of how foul smelling, tasting, looking and sounding the golden 50s were.
And his literary alter ego never becomes a true Robinson Crusoe. As much as Schmidt loved nature, farm work disgusted him. His hero in "Schwarze Spiegel" had to force himself to set up a potato field, although next to Günter Grass no other German post-war writer praised the potato as much as Arno Schmidt, who was undernourished for years. In "Brand's Haide" a nativity scene in the manner of the old masters grows out of an exceptionally well-filled potato box:
"With a light on the filled box: Grete, unsuccessfully shaded the door with her hand, looked touching: What is a Madonna with the child compared to this picture of the little refugee woman with potatoes! And the lighting effects were striking; like in evening school or at Schalcken. "
It is typical for Schmidt that he names Godfried Schalcken, one of the lesser-known Dutch people of the Golden Age, while copying his painting style with words. The profanization of the religious motif is also typical, in which the Christ Child in his manger is replaced by a few hundredweight of potatoes in a box. But this can also be reversed: the secular scene is transfigured here into a secular altarpiece, because it is part of a work of art, part of a literary work that here quotes works of the fine arts and reproduces their shadows with words.
Man has to eat to survive, but potatoes are not enough to truly live. Like many of Schmidt's stories, "Brand's Haide" also contains a love story. His war returnees met two young refugee women in his emergency quarters. Not to the Madonna-like Grete, but to the elf-like and pragmatic Lore, he then makes a confession that can be understood as Schmidt's personal credo:
"Art in general! - You know, for me this is not an adornment of life, but an end-of-work flourish that is welcomed benevolently when you rest from the solid day-to-day work; I am inverted: For me, the air I breathe is the only thing I need. And everything else Toilet and urgency. As a young person: I was 16, I left your club. "
The war returnees who speaks here not only bears the name Schmidt, but also works, like its author, on a biography of the romantic Fouqué, whose works and life story in particular interweave this story in a wide variety of ways. On the other hand, the polemics against post-war culture are all the more harsh:
"What is boring for you - Schopenhauer, Wieland, the Campanerthal, Orpheus - is natural happiness to me; what interests you madly - swing, film, Hemingway, politics - stinks me."
Today one has to add explanatory notes that Ernest Hemingway was the idol of many celebrated post-war authors of Group 47, which was as highly revered as it was badly copied. But Arno Schmidt even intensified his gesture of disgust against him in "Black Mirror":
"I'm more for the forefront of US development, so Poe and Cooper: What am I supposed to do with the Missing Link?"
One should not, of course, overestimate such polemics. The hard bandages with which Schmidt keeps Hemingway at bay here also speaks of the furor of the self-taught man who defends the very personal educational canon that has grown over him in his not-too-happy life. But even by condemning it and sending it to its ruin, Arno Schmidt captured his world and his time in more detail than many other authors, captured them in his own view - objectifying and subjective at the same time. Just as he spoke into the microphone of a young, inexperienced employee of the Süddeutscher Rundfunk named Martin Walser in August 1952 at the Stuttgart radio station.
"If we want to say at all that a writer should do something, in quotation marks, then, in my opinion, he has at best the one task of giving a picture of his time, which the historian who sympathetically tries to describe a bygone era , can never give. A historian can only give the measuring table of a time, that is, the exact floor plan on which I can transfer distances, i.e. access data. But above these mountain hatches, above these black rectangles of houses, three-dimensional spatial structures rose up, There were forests on the hills, clouds flew over them, that's what the writer is supposed to record, in quotation marks. And not only that, but in my opinion he must also give a portrait of the thought process of a person at that time I try. "
But how can thought processes be portrayed? His life is "not a continuum," says Arno Schmidt's civil servant faun. And in his poetological work "Calculations II" Schmidt gave the explanation:
"On the string of insignificance, of the omnipresent long while, the pearl necklace of small experience units, inner and outer, is strung. From midnight to midnight is not 1 day, but 1440 minutes - and of these, in turn, a maximum of 50 are relevant!"
In order to literarily grasp this existence, which he called "holey" or "musivisch", Schmidt tried to reproduce such units of experience also typographically. Short paragraphs introduced in italics and cascades of punctuation marks seemed rather strange to inexperienced readers.
But some of the findings of modern brain research about the clocked form of our thinking confirm Schmidt's considerations. And the initially hesitant but sustained success of his books has shown that his literary card and modular system, that concentration on a series of meaningful and memorable moments, created reading experiences that had a far more lasting effect than most of the works of his contemporaries.
Precise location and time information, landscape images, moon phases and weather observations form a factual framework. Concealed quotations and allusions provide models that readers can develop according to the specifications of the reasoning first-person narrator, but also according to their own ideas. Schmidt's stories invite you to participate in his knowledge, preferences and antipathies, i.e. in his worldview, by pretending to objectify the subjective and making facts into mind game material. Even if it would be more presumptuous today than ever before to want to capture the whole world, he still managed to pack models of it into the nutshells of his early works.
And hidden instructions for universal and individual expansion are inserted into these scaffolding.
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