This is a novel that definitely benefits from a second reading. Walter Abish asks the question, How German Is It, by presenting a deftly crafted narrative of a modern Germany by brushing the story against the past of Sturm und Drang, the horrors of the world wars, and the recently concluded Nazi infestation.
Abish writes a very provocative question:
Is it possible for anyone in Germany, nowadays, to raise his right hand, for whatever the reason, and not be flooded by the memory of a dream to end all dreams?
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Did Enrique Vila-Matas attend Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany? Was he an invited artist, albeit an unusual selection being a writer? Is his novel The Illogic of Kassel a fictionalized accounting of Vila-Matas experiences at Documenta 13 or is it a complete fiction? Is Documenta a McGuffin?
I did some quick research after finishing this novel and learned that most of the specifics related to Kassel and Documenta were true: characters, places, events. I was unable to verify the actual art exhibits but considering that there were almost two-hundred exhibits, I can accept that those Vila-Matas wrote about were real or at least variations on real exhibits.
But it strikes me that the reality or fictionalization of the author’s presumed experiences at Documenta 13 are irrelevant to the novel.
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From the postumous collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s miscellaneous writing, Armageddon In Retrospect:
Over one hundred thousand non-combatants and a magnificent city destroyed by bombs dropped wide of the stated objectives: the railroads were knocked out for roughly two days. The Germans counted it the greatest loss of life suffered in any single raid. The death of Dresden was a bitter tragedy, needlessly and willfully executed. The killing of children—”Jerry” children or “Jap” children, or whatever enemies the future may hold for us—can never be justified.
Continue reading “An Observation from Kurt Vonnegut”