Vila-Matas At Documenta 13

Article-HeaderDid 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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An Observation from Kurt Vonnegut

From the postumous collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s miscellaneous writing, Armageddon In Retrospect:

Vonnegut 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.

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Going All the Way

What is on the other side?

Julien Gracq’s award winning novel The Opposing Shore is an interesting and mentally stimulating narrative of boundaries and what happens when we hibernate behind those boundaries. It has been suggested that The Opposing Shore is metaphorical for the attitude of France at the beginning of the Second World War: remember the Maginot Line?

imagesThe Maginot Line dominated French military thinking in the inter-war years. The Maginot Line was a vast fortification that spread along the French/German border but became a military liability when the Germans attacked France in the spring of 1940 using blitzkrieg – a tactic that completely emasculated the Maginot Line’s purpose. — The History Learning Site

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Berlin Stories

Berlin StoriesIt is common to hear comparisons made and repudiated between events in this country and in Germany leading to the National Socialist takeover. Perhaps the problem is a misunderstanding that some politician is being equated with the evil of the Nazi Party … but that is missing the point. What I often read and consider is the comparison of the events and emotions in the country with events and emotions that made it possible for the Nazi Party to gain consideration and eventually take over the political and corporate structure of a great European country like Germany.

Reading Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, there were several points where you could apply the experiences Isherwood wrote of before the war to similar events in this country almost eighty years later. Consider this passage from The Last of Mr. Norris:

They smiled approvingly at these youngsters in their big, swaggering boots who were going to upset the Treaty of Versailles. They were pleased because it would soon be summer, because Hitler had promised to protect the small tradesmen, because their newspapers told them that the good times were coming. They were suddenly proud of being blond. And they thrilled with a furtive, sensual pleasure, like school-boys, because the Jews, their business rivals, and the Marxists, a vaguely defined minority of people who didn’t concern them, had been satisfactorily found guilty of the defeat and the inflation, and were going to catch it.

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