“Then they drink again”
|December 8, 2012|
From Der Spiegel:
“A book like mine, which outs the Germans as anti-Semites,” Tenenbom said with an indulgent smile, as he took a drag from his cigarette, “this sort of a book, as several people I know have assured me, should never have been published in Germany.”
Nevertheless, the book is now available in bookstores as “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room: An American Jew Visits Germany.” The German translation, which comes sans polemical preface, is called “Allein unter Deutschen” (“Alone Among Germans”). This bold, funny and often outrageously absurd travelogue describes a side of Germany that reporters only rarely encounter.
Take, for example, Club 88, a neo-Nazi bar in the northern German town of Neumünster, where Tenenbom tells people that he is the son of Germans who emigrated to the United States. “My name is Tobias, and I’m a perfect Aryan,” he says. Then, as he writes in the book, the bar’s owner buys him a drink and informs him that the Nazis absolutely did not murder 6 million Jews, that symbols of oppression by the Jews can be found on every German identification card, and that all Jews living today ought to be “killed.” The Nazi type, Tenenbom notes, is “friendly, sympathetic, always smiling, and a very welcoming man…. He is cleaner than God.”
Tenenbom also pays a visit to radical leftists in Hamburg’s Sternschanze neighborhood, where he tells people that he is Jordanian. He describes the place as “extremely dirty.” He looks on as a couple of anarchists throw beer bottles at police officers. He attends a concert entitled “HITLER KAPUTT!” Most of all, he is astonished by the locals’ drinking habits, writing: “They drink beer and immediately vomit it out. Then they drink again … Money is no problem, it seems … This is the Radical Left, I’m told.”
Things are even worse in Tübingen, a university town in southwestern Germany, where the author, now identifying himself by his real name, encounters environmentalists obsessed with separating their garbage. “Where else, on this planet, would you find people who care so much about an empty bottle?” he writes incredulously. When he is about to throw away a cigarette pack, a woman informs him that the plastic sleeve and the silver paper need to be placed in a yellow bin reserved for packaging. “She stands next to me to watch me comply,” until, finally, “the Nazi lady is leaving,” Tenenbom writes.
Inherent Vice’s Two Directions
The jokes certainly strike one as sophomoric and the latter one as clichéd, further below Pynchon’s intelligence than one would like to think he would stoop, at least in print. Discounting them and moving on, or throwing the book across the room as Parker half implies we should do, however, would be to lose sight of “that high magic to low puns”.
Auden, Larkin and Love
I was prompted to revisit these ancient questions anew by a long footnote about a single line in the new Complete Poems edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. The footnote refers to “An Arundel Tomb” contains a provocative remark about that the poem’s celebrated, controversial, closing line, the one about the true nature of immortality: “What will survive of us is love.”
Plato, Our Comrade?
Not surprisingly, there have already been critics of Badiou’s translation. The first is that his translation breaks the formal rules of translation to such a degree that the original meaning of the text has lost its significance. But this critique is inadequate at face value because Badiou’s hyper-translation is forthright in its intention of taking Plato’s concepts and modifying them into his own lexicon.
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