Dialogue with the Alter Ego on the artistic challenge of contemporary writers
“Well, I said to Gambetti in front of the Hotel Hassler, if we are totally honest, the state of general stupidity is already so advanced that there is no going back on it. Ever since the invention of photography, that is, with the beginning of this brain annihilation process more than a hundred years ago, the intellectual capacity of the world’s population continues to decline. The photographic pictures, I said to Gambetti, have initiated this global process of stultification, and it has taken on a deadly speed for mankind at the moment when these photographic pictures became motion pictures. For decades now mankind is doing nothing else but stupidly watch these deadly photographic images and is paralyzed by them. At the turn of the millennium, mankind will have reached a point where thinking and reflection is effectively no longer possible, Gambetti and the process of disseminating stupidity, which has been set in motion by photography and has become a worldwide habit through the motion pictures, will be at its peak. In such a world, which is then dominated by stupidity, it will be quite impossible to exist, Gambetti, I said to him, standing at the open grave, and it would be good if we kill ourselves before this brain eradication process of the world is complete. (…) My advice to the thinking person can only be to kill yourself before the turn of the millennium, Gambetti, that is truly my conviction, I said to Gambetti, standing at the open grave.”
Excerpt from Thomas Bernhard: Extinction (Text reference: Thomas Bernhard, Auslöschung, Frankfurt/Germany, 1986, page 645f). Translation provided by Noah denkt™; original text in German see footnote*. In the excerpt it is the fictitious narrator Franz-Josef Murau who tells us about a conversation he had with his student Gambetti. You should note that “Extinction” was published before the internet became a household item in Europe. Franz-Josef Murau, the fictitious narrator, by the way died in 1983 at the age of 49. It is unclear whether he died of a natural cause but we think he did.
Question by Noah denkt™ (Nd): Dear Alter Ego, we are wrestling again in with a question that we have already run by you occasionally but that needs reconsideration again. It’s about what we do. The question is this: What sense does it make for an unrecognized artist/poet/philosopher to add his voice to a market place that is already overwhelmed by an information, entertainment and analysis overkill as it is? Is it not true that there is only one way to demonstrate the superiority of your judgment at a time when people are frantically jockeying for attention which is to not participate in that attention game and then not crack up for doing so? Obviously, the latter isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. Jihadists, for instance, don’t manage to achieve this. Neither do Xenophobists, nor Femen activists, nor guerilla marketing practitioners. So isn’t it time to shut up and focus on our practical daily life instead? After all, we can still confide in the irresistible quality of our analysis to evidence itself in the many private interactions we have with members of the public on a regular basis.
Answer by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): Clearly, there is solid reasoning in this. But is it not also true that we need to come up with dialogues like these at least occasionally only to feel good about ourselves? Doesn’t our brain muscle require the regular exercise of concentration and focus that comes with the production of a literary piece? It seems to us that meditation, sports and run-of-the-mill human interaction can only take you so far in the process of sharpening your judgement and awareness. It also takes the precise pinning down that is implicit in the artistic act. And then the question arises: How can you motivate yourself to go through the pinning down process when you already know upfront that your final piece will end up in the trash can anyway?
Nd: Correct. And yet, honest to God, there isn’t that much to say anymore, is there? It’s simply gotten so absurd, so pathetic and so hysteric out there that it seems ridiculous to still validate this with our own bla bla bla. Continue reading