she is not the bad girl of Europe –

she is not the bad girl of Europe –


Literary and political confrontation with the German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger who calls into question many negative judgments of the past on his country and on the Community institutions. «Success is an inconvenience, you don’t like it. The EU is a Politburo, but I still praise it My flops? They have a therapeutic effect

We publish the interview with Hans Magnus Enzensberger which appeared on the Culture page of the «Corriere delal Sera» on 11 May 2012, conducted by Paolo Lepri.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger read your poem a few days ago The end of Titank on board a boat sailing in the bay of Belfast. A century later the sinking of the ocean liner which was launched, as he writes in the twenty-first canto, «with a Château Larose of 1888 rotted in the bottle».

He tells it amused and intrigued, as if he had returned from a trip to a bizarre funfair of memory. At eighty-two, nothing scares him. Especially the ideas. In his life he has had so many, even strange ones (like a “fountain of poetry” to give “a third dimension to language”), which has decided to list those that have failed and those that have not been implemented. To do this, he wrote a book, My favorite flops. And other ideas available to future generations (Einaudi), so acute and passionate that it would take a revived Bertolt Brecht to raise before him a bombastic Praise of intelligence. But we wouldn’t know where to look for that other forerunner, buried for some time now in the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin. Here we are in Schwabing, the intellectual-university district of Munich, where Thomas Mann, Giorgio De Chirico, Lenin, among others, lived. And where a police officer smashed Hermann Simon’s guitar, in «Heimat», during the youth unrest of 1962.

Enzensberger’s readers thus have at their disposal almost an “anti-heroic autobiography”, because failures in cinema, opera, theatre, publishing, we read in the introduction, “have a therapeutic effect”, and they treat “professional diseases of the authors such as loss of control or delusions of grandeur”. “An autobiography without the private side – he adds – because I am not an autobiographical writer. I’m more curious about other people’s facts. I look back on these adventures without bitterness, even if there were terrible moments. Especially when you want to stage something, on a stage, and then what you’ve been working on disappears forever. I also wrote this book because many believe that everything is easy. I wanted to show that it is false. It is not true that writers are privileged”.

And therefore Enzensberger recounts, for example, that a film on the great naturalist Alexander von Humboldt remained only “a canvas of about thirty pages”, or that the vaudeville in five squares The Cuban, or a life for art, of which he had prepared the booklet, “ended in disaster”. There are many stages in this somewhat ironic story of the “fiascos”. His first play The turtlewas “buried” after an embarrassing reading in which “the silence of the critics present was only due to the good education that still existed at the time», while the magazine «Gulliver» foundered despite meetings and correspondence with other prestigious German, French and Italian intellectuals.

Books, however, are a different case. Those who live in the shadows only make publishers suffer, because they ruin business. “But whoever writes thinks about the bank account is already lost,” notes Enzensberger in My favorite flops. The real failure, on the other hand, is that invisible sheet where the works he gave up are listed. But there is always the possibility of taking everything back in hand, as it could happen for Children’s money, a novel about young people, the economy and money, of which an excerpt from the first chapter is given. The author of The Short Summer of Anarchy he has not ruled out doing so. Now he is more doubtful, he prefers to think about new projects. “Yes, it can be. But the “hottest” things – he replies – are those we deal with in the present. Like a little book that will come out in the fall. These are texts that have the particularity of being very short, so much so that the subtitle will be Twenty essays of ten minutes each. It will be called Panoptikum, such as the prison invented at the end of the eighteenth century by the English empiricist Jeremy Bentham, where a guardian could observe all the prisoners by himself. But in Germany “Panoptikum” is also called the horror museum in the amusement park».

The Enzersberger Panoptikum has already been built. The second part of My favorite flops. If you want, steal them. Cinema, musical theater, theater. “Why has no one ever thought – she asks – of a drama on the singular friendship between Marx and Engels? One rich industrialist, womanizer and gourmand, the other a brilliant exile, bookworm and penniless, tormented by pimples». «I believe – he explains – that we all have more ideas than we can implement. Each of us does not have the time and energy to carry them out. Why not distribute them? I don’t think there should be a copyright on ideas.”. Some of these are surprising, especially when looking at their date of birth. Let’s think, in the editorial field, of a project called “Il Bollettino”, with journalists who select and verify material arrived confidentially from high-level informants who do not want to turn to the institutional media. Enzensberger is well aware that since he proposed this idea in 1999, sites like Wikileaks have since created something similar and is not surprised that the potential of the network can produce “devastating effects”.

His relationship with the social network revolution is conflicting. «There is always an ambiguity. On the one hand, it is hoped to diminish the control of the great media empires. On the other hand, the new empires feed on the energy that people use and use personal data for commercial interests. And they make billions. I don’t let myself be checked.”

Enzesberger rises, in this apartment on the top floor of a modern house overlooking the Englischer Garten. The street in Schwabing where he works is a kind of kingdom of silence in a noisy, somewhat run-down Munich, traveled day and night by unidentified hordes of English-speaking people. He runs the water to make it cooler, fills two blue glasses, adds an ice cube. Then he lights a cigarette. He is a merry man, who bursts into laughter as soon as the spark of doubt strikes. His reflections on the new monsters of the twenty-first century, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, have caused much discussion. Even more those on the “super-bureaucracy” of Brussels. But he doesn’t want to be on the list of enemies of Europe. Indeed, the institutions of the Union bear some resemblance to a Politburo. With the vote I can send away my government. The European Commission is immovable. The democratic deficit exists, it is a structural fact. But I want to be clear that the praise of the European project comes before my polemic. I try to distinguish the positive from the silly.”

Talking about Europe inevitably leads to thinking about Germany, about its image of “bad” who wants to impose austerity on everyone. Enzensberger as a young man realized that “being German is not a profession” and decided to completely open his horizons. Today he doesn’t feel close to the discontent against his country. «Even success – he observes – can be an inconvenience. Because other people don’t like it. They are transient phenomena, attacks of nervousness. After all, even the era of anti-Americanism is running out”. In this context, his judgment of Angela Merkel is “simple”. “People are happy with her because they see her as a mother. During the Lehman Brothers crisis she went on television to reassure Germans about their money in the bank. No one would ever have thought that you would take on this role, not only in Germany. The bottom line is that you should never underestimate a woman. It is a mistake that many make. All the leading exponents of the parties have done so. Also Helmut Kohl». «Politics – she had stated at the beginning – is not my favorite terrain, however. On the contrary, I have a certain intolerance towards him». On the other hand, it is he who wrote, in Mausoleum, Thirty-seven ballads drawn from the history of progress, that «the lepers under the decrepit veranda along the Amazon River» did not understand what the young Ernesto Guevara de la Serna said, « and they kept dying.” Politics will not be his field, but he has intuited many things in advance.

November 25, 2022 (change November 25, 2022 | 15:09)

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