Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 7. Nr. Juni 2002

Between Resistance and Remembrance

Robert Schindel, Poet of the Dusk

Manuel Durand-Barthez (Toulouse)


Preliminary Questions of Analysis
Nachgeborener or Übriggebliebener?
An Historical Atlas of Suffering
A Moving Topography of the Skin
Vienna, Depressenburg…
Three Circles Around the ICH
Uncertain Time and Space
Fruitful Anguish
You and I, Second I?…
You, the Other
In the Nest of Words
A Spectrography of Limits

The experience of Buchenwald has nothing to do with it; it does not put it in the shade. Nor in the light either. This is why, as I wrote Adieu vive clarté…, it seemed to me that I was rediscovering a lost freedom, as if rescuing myself from a succession of chances and choices which ended by composing for me a kind of destiny (Semprun, 91-92.)

These words introduce a recent autobiographical text of Jorge Semprun. It shows how hard it is to try to recreate a segment of life (childhood and adolescence) anterior to the disaster, without suffering from its influence. "Repasting a piece of life" implies an effort of memory, allowing the subject to recover a kind of integrity without denying the catastrophe. But in a way, the experience of the disaster will paradoxically make the graft easier than its obsessional and virtual representation.


Preliminary Questions of Analysis

Robert Schindel can be considered as an emblematic figure of the problem of identity in contemporary Austrian literature. Attempting to analyze his poetry is rather awkward, because we feel tempted to link it with events of his biography. This approach may lead to clichés or prejudices. It is often too easy to associate the effect of a poetic picture with a corresponding event in the author's life.

On the other hand, as G. Ulm Sanford suggests (156-157), it is difficult to study contemporary poetry with classical methods. Moreover, Schindel's vocabulary is tinged with numerous idiosyncrasies, which she has analyzed closely. A gap will naturally separate people who are intimate with the poet, who know about the roots of a text, and other readers who have only the text itself and must manage with that. A frustrating and perhaps dishonest method would be to use what we should call a tachist way of operating, that is, to remain on a general level, to note recurrent expressions and reconstitute a scheme which would give a structured landscape of the poet's mind through a sample of texts.

The first method ("biographical") is inductive in a wrong way, the second ("tachist") is hazardous.

We propose to use as a framework two essays by Robert Schindel: Judentum als Erinnerung und Widerstand (1984) and Literatur - Auskunftsbüro der Angst (1992-1995) (included in Gott schützt uns von den guten Menschen) and a recent interview with the poet: Gedächtnis und Erinnern (2001). These writings will help us to find the key to different texts extracted from three compilations of poems: Geier sind pünktliche Tiere (1987), subsequently indicated by "G"; Im Herzen die Krätze (1988), indicated by "H" and Ein Feuerchen im Hintennach (1992), indicated by "F." The title of the first essay seems closely connected with the biographical aspect of the analysis, the second much more with the literary point of view. The aim of this work would be to model a vision of the world not directly induced by an individual story nor by a literary style but, as Schindel has written, between Ideologie and Geschmack (Literatur, 41), or rather, above these two factors.


Nachgeborener or Übriggebliebener?

Fundamentally, Schindel perceives himself as living in a Zwischenposition (dazwischen) rather than as a Nachgeborener (Gedächtnis, 1). The nach is determined by the chronological reference to the Holocaust, which he could not have known personally; he feels like a survivor. In fact, that epithet is not quite right. Schindel will use the word Übriggebliebener, which, in a sense, may create a strong feeling of guilt or distress, as the following verses suggest:

Was haben doch wir Übriggebliebenen a Glück
Denn uns wird
Über das Verübeln
Unseres Weiterlebens
Hinaus keine weitere Vernichtung zugefügt.
Ma lernt. (G95.)

Moreover, the Übriggebliebener is a forgotten being, "den man vergessen hat" (Literatur, 112) A "remainder", then, whose wohin is missing: "Fort sind wir, wie die Wolke, wenns geregnet hat" (Judentum, 31).

The wohin is missing, but its expression cannot be circumvented. So, if the wohin is not defined, let us see what Schindel says about the woher: his first year of life belongs to "Herrn Hitler" (Gedächtnis, 1), a year which is of great significance from a psychoanalytical point of view. He spent it with his mother and was brutally separated from her when the Nazis arrested her: "eine radikale Trennung von einer Stunde auf die andere." He was placed under a false name in an institution for children run by the Nazis and was repeatedly sick in the constantly bombed Vienna. Of course, he could not have an intimate picture of that period, as he was born in April 1944, that is, exactly one year before the end of the war.

The determining influence usually exerted by the problem of the forged name (Robert Soël) has probably been minimized by his inability to remember having been called by this name. The fact of having spent one's first year placed in the Nazis' care is naturally very damaging, but the main topics of Schindel's poetry lie in what precedes and follows the first year, at dusk (Dämmerung), between gloom and light. In the meantime, he lived " in dunklen Räumen einer Kinderkrippe."


An Historical Atlas of Suffering

Present life seems to be built upon the memory of a society, the foundation of which is remembrance ("Gedächtnis einer Erinnerungsgemeinschaft" [Gedächtnis, 1]). This virtual community revolves around the poet's roots: "Mein Vater wurde im KZ Dachau ermordet, mein Stiefvater war 5 Jahre in Dachau, meine Mutter in Auschwitz und in Ravensbrück, mein Onkel in Dachau und in Buchenwald, später in England" (Ibid.).

The picture of his parents is directly linked with events, geographically located, chronologically situated. Schindel is not very forthcoming about these, so we are tempted to set aside this aspect as being irrelevant to the fundamental spirit of the poems. The most expressive text in this respect is Erinnerungen an Prometheus (H 11). We shall go on about the title itself, as memory and the Promethean myth are two other important topics of the author's poetry. Here are the facts:

Um meinen ersten Geburtstag Anfang April fünfundvierzig
Trieb sich meine Mutter zwischen Berlin und Hamburg
In Viehwaggons herum, weshalb weiß der Teufel
…Um meinen ersten Geburtstag Lenz fünfundvierzig
War mein Vater schon angereist gekommen aus Auschwitz
In Dachau Peripherie. Dort
Vergrub man ihn. (H 12,13.)

That is practically the only written expression of the facts in the three analyzed extracts. It had to be written at least once: there it is, evacuated. Other allusions are rather infrequent and rarely so direct. For instance, Der Rindfleischesser may include such place-names as Birkenau, Buchenwald, Lublinerland, Majdanek … (G 90,91). To cite them out of context is nonsense because they are included in a poetic form connected with other topics (Erinnerung, Ich/Du), which is not totally the case in the former poem. Two other short toponymic allusions occur in Ein Feuerchen im Hintennach:

Die Meinigen sind ausgehaust
Schon längst und haben im Rumbulawald nächst Riga
Sich zum Skelett gestreckt (F 41.)

With an echo in Wald bei Riga:

Aus dem Rumbulawald der ruhig ist ruft und ruft
Ein alter Mann… (F 49.)

also invoked as the figure of his grandfather in the Klagenfurter Frühlingsballade:

Traf auch wie immer donnerstags meine alte
Kommunistenmutter noch, fragte
Sie auch nach dem Großvater Salomon, zertretne Baßgeige in Riga. (Alltag, 26 and Ohneland, 104.)

with commentary by Schindel himself: "Salomon Schindel nebst schizophrenem Erstgeborenen wurde fünfundsiebzigjährig quer durch Europa gefahren, damit man ihm und Georg im Rumbulawald zu Riga in der Bauch schießt" (Schweigend ins Gespräch, 5).

The only point of this rapid (though incomplete and out of context) inventory of toponyms associated with the Shoah, is to emphasize that very few citations are concretely bound with facts themselves. We may find this normal, as the aim of poetry is not to depict the facts but to exorcise their substance. That will be the role of the metaphor, a way of " banning the anguish."

Moreover, "exorcise" is not even the appropriate expression. Among the keywords mentioned in our introduction, we outlined the Zwischenposition of Schindel, the difficulty of assuming the effects of a period which has not been really lived. How is it possible to operate a " maieutic of suffering " if no concrete references mark the mind and the body as well? The geography of his poetry is definitely not the geography of the concentration camps. That area is not a country but a negation of space. With respect to time in Schindel's writing, Sibylle Cramer invoked " die lebendige Gegenwart der Vergangenheit " (Kernmayer, 186), in a kind of " no time's land."
So, before analyzing the characteristics of time, let us try to define the geography of the poet.


A Moving Topography of the Skin

The first frontier is the skin, the Grenzhaut (G 45). It generates a "state of being," which is the Häutigkeit:

Unsere Körper
Gefoltert vom Sprechbaum
In dessen Schatten
Wir einander einleuchten
Was wir an Häutigkeit hatten (G 46.)

That state is geometrically defined by the squaring of the body:

Habe nur mich, die Quadraten des Körpers (F 28.)

Spatial limit, but why? Is it a prison or Hölderlin's tower? Or is it delimited by the virtual contact with someone else, with the " other "? In diesem Licht 2 will oppose the "Ich" packed in his skin (Narziß) to a candidate for love:

Das Lächeln der Frauen ich sehs ich spürs
Und bin schon abgewandert in bloßer Haut
Mach ich mir den Spagat im Ichquadrat ein
Labortier und wandere im Schatten (F68.)

Frontier of the skin, of the shade, relative approach of the " other, " who may be abruptly considered as the female reflection of himself. The Übriggebliebener is reduced to his most intimate portion, the skin, the Hautgürtel that girds him (G 23). The attributes of the " Ichtier " are coarsely der Arsch (which allows it to sit in a rather passive attitude) and die Hoden (just for pleasure, as "Surrogat des Lebens" [Literatur, 71]).

These trivial constituents of the ego are emphasized in the Beobachtung der Herbstzeitlose (F 24) as in the Strichlierung eines Kleinbürgers während der Laufzeit (H 38): the skin vibrates under the effect of breath (Atem), which subtends the Word; "Im Schreibakt zieht man sich die Haut ab" (Literatur, 108). So the poem will define a Sprachland:

Die Atmung
Der Haut
Tut weh …
Die Haut gewachsen
In Sprache
Verknorpelt (H 38/39.)

The Sprachland was already depicted in the Nacht der Harlekine: "Pauls Gedichte, das ist eine Reise ins Sprachland. In unser aller Land. In Niemandes Land" (Die Nacht, 19, cited by Yamaguchi, 4). And that confers on the texts the characteristics of a "Wort- und Hautroman" (G 52). In the former citation, Schindel referred to the poetry of Paul Celan,

Jude aus Czernowitz, wohl größter 'österreichischer' Lyriker, brachte diese beiden Leben nicht allzulange in seinem einen Körper unter: sein wirkliches Leben vorher, sein Schattenleben danach, so spricht er sein Ich als Du zwiefach an, er schrieb sich in die eigne Vernichtung zurück (Judentum, 30).

The influence of Celan, here defined by Schindel himself, is highlighted by some topics already indicated: woher/danach, Ich/Du (zwiefach), Schattenleben. Nevertheless, we shall see that the post-Celan generation cannot live "bodily" the duality mentioned by Celan (as by Semprun). That is why the Ich/Du relationship will be handicapped by the fact of being just an Übriggebliebener, not an Überlebender.

But for the moment, let us come back to the above-mentioned Atmung (H38) in Sprachland, where the first Word was born.

The first cry is the "aborigenous" word of the new-born child. But the first year of the poet was a year of darkness. The first cry is also the expression of pain, of the first contact of the skin with the outside world, the delimitation of the frontier with the Fremdheit. To be born, what for? To say "what for?" means that the concept of "projection" is made possible, as "here" and "over there", but:

Das Herz kein Ort
Und ich kein Ort das Herz und ich weshalb (F 72.)

If the ego has no Ort, the dort belongs to the "other", the Du:

Du weit …
Du dort. Und eine andre Dortigkeit
Macht mein Alleinsein lachen. (F 60.)

The Ich's territory is a Niemand's land where "Karawanen von Niemandstieren" (H 60) pass along (the Ichtieren…). Some titles are expressive: Hinter nirgendwo (H 47), Ich wohne nirgends (H 89). Schindel tries "Heimat [zu] produzieren inmitten der Heimatlosigkeit… [eine] Suche nach der inneren Geographie" (Gedächtnis, 4).


Vienna, Depressenburg…

Then, the individual geography is clearly distinguished from the camp's topography, which we mentioned above. Dead people had a Fußboden, their children have none. They do not really wish to join the Israeli camp. Schindel says he would have chosen Sweden, as Peter Weiss did. In his writings of the early 70's, he tried to modify his Jewish identity by an anti-Zionist attitude (e.g. anti-imperialist). Then came the Maoist movement, which declined gradually. After 1979 Schindel joined the IKG (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde) and the Viennese Jewish cultural movement hostile to Waldheim. He then published his first compilation of poems: Ohneland (1986), the title of which draws attention to the spatial topic.

He feels himself Jewish in Vienna, as Kuh, Polgar or Schnitzler. He is not more closely bound with Jews than with others. He lives in a durchmischter Freundeskreis (Gedächtnis, 5).

As Markus Hallensleben suggests, "Wien ist Schindels Hassliebe" (2) (the poet has a predilection for oxymorons, which may be one of the numerous manifestations of the Zerrissenheit). The best definition of Vienna appears in Vineta I:

Ich bin ein Jud aus Wien…
Die schönste Stadt der Welt direkt am Lethefluß…
Einst Welthauptstadt des Antisemitismus ist sie heute
Vergessenshauptstadt worden…
Ach diese Stadt ist nicht fürs Alpenglühen da
Sondern sie lebt, wie ich, längst in Diaspora (F 53.)

Übriggebliebene, forgotten people, forgotten capital… The fight for memory is fundamental for Schindel: Erinnerung und Widerstand. We shall insist further on the contemporary aspects of anti-Semitism in Austria and Germany with regard to the Ich/Du topic.

Vienna, Vineta 2: "In Wien kenn ich dir jeden Stein und jeden Stern" (F 18), but Schindel also remembers what he did not see:

Vom Hörensagen kenne ich den echten Judenscherz
Und mit der Zahnbürste spür ich des echten Wiener Herz (ibid.)

The Nazis had forced Jews to wash the pavements of Leopoldstadt with toothbrushes, that district evoked by Schindel in the Leopoldstädter Tanzlied (G 14) and, as mentioned above, in the Klagenfurter Frühlingsballade (Alltag, 25 and Ohneland, 104).

The Austrian authorities have always pleaded non-guilty; that deeply hypocritical silence (the Schweigen, recurrent in the poems) has generated confusion in the relationship between Jews and non-Jews. Matti Bunzl wrote:

After all, it was the very unwillingness of Austrians to recognize Austrian complicity - and by extension Jewish suffering - that left Jews as the abjectly silenced Other, unable to articulate difference without threatening the social contract upholding the homogeneities of Austrian nationness (167).

Vienna has also a pseudonym: Depressenburg, "Hauptstadt der Melancholie" (F 67), as an echo to the Nestroy's Cypressenburg, cited by Schindel (Literatur, 88) to evoke a Totenkultur.

But Vienna anyway…:

Die entfernte Geliebte verstimmt
Ich fahre zurück nach Wien
Dort der Regen den Stein berinnt
In dem ich zu Hause bin. (G 19.)

Three Circles Around the ICH

We should define Vienna as the center of a galaxy, around which revolve other metropolises,

Paris und Berlin
Deine Juden im Herz
Und Wien oh Wien
Mein Leben mein Scherz (F 38.)

… Munich (Reise nach München [F 78]) and Frankfurt (Die Reise nach Frankfurt [G 83])… in fact "temporary" cities (marked by time in an ephemeral sense, not as Vienna) or places visited. Celan's "Himmel von Paris" is celebrated in the Beobachtung der Herbstzeitlose (F 23); Paris with Notre-Dame but also with "Juliette aus dem Osten von Paris" (F 25). Juliette, another Du.

Habe nur mich, die Quadratur des Körpers
Sogleich ruf an ich Peter in Berlin
Beschimpf noch Marion, weil in meiner Nähe
Hamburger Juden keine Heimstatt finden (F 28.)

The Hanseatic metropolis, why?

In diesem Hamburg stolze Stadt des Regens
Freisinns des Reichtums der aufgewasserten Wut
Traf ich mich… (F 29.)

Rain, clouds, "Fort sind wir, wie die Wolke, wenns geregnet hat" (Judentum, 31).
Around Vienna, hated and beloved, around that empty center, revolve visited and "temporary" cities, in a first circle. Cities, where a transitory relationship with the other can be lived, in which the act of passing looks like the act of loving.

In a second circle we find regions of conflict such as Kuwait or Danzig (Marsfeld, F 32), Bosnien (Alltag im Sinnen [19]), "Moskau, Teruel und Dachau" (Klagenfurter Frühlingsballade [Alltag, 25 and Ohneland, 104]). All these theaters of war are soiled:

Fern hinter jeder Türkei (F 32),

where Turkey may symbolize the whole second circle. One is often, more or less, the Turk or the Jew of an other.

Kein Öl für das Blut Seele ist gut
Vergaster Jid ein Sternenblick (ibid.)

The poet has heard of events, disasters, which happened in the second circle, but he has not lived there, not even visited it.

Chronologically, they belong to a recent past, but the shocking triviality of their inherent suffering make them distant in every sense of the word:

Kuwait ist zu weit
Schon Danzig war ranzig (ibid..)

But the third circle, the farthest removed, is defined by the toponyms associated with places of detention and murder, cited in the introduction. Schindel did not physically "endure" those places. He could have visited them, refusing to see them through the eyes of a tourist.

Ach, sie vergaßen mich. Renn
Ich herum und drück versehentlich
Auf ihre Mägen (H 15.)

The shame of walking inadvertently on the dead bodies, shame of the Übriggebliebener, of the forgotten man.

On the contrary, an Aryan may have played, as a child, on the site of Mauthausen. One character did so in Schindel's novel Gebürtig. Thomas Freeman suggests (120) that, evoking bluntly such a recollection in the presence of his acquaintance Masha Singer, Erich Stiglitz - the non-Jew - feels afterwards an Opferneid, a kind of jealousy towards victims who make of him a victim of the (virtual or alleged) favoritism by which the Jews would profit…
In fact, the third circle is quite metaphoric. As Schindel says, describing the Shoah without any aesthetic distance leads to the problem of the Eins zu eins (Gedächtnis, 3), of the cliché, even of the kitsch. It may also lead to a lie because it does not permit analysis. That explains the textual opacity of the third circle, as opposed to the transparency of the center, Vienna.

Ohneland, "deterritorialization," suggested by Deleuze and Guattari in Mille plateaux (214), split galaxy:

Im gesponnenen Körperplaneten
Sitzt du ruhig sitzt du verkürzt
In der Nachmittagssonne (H 81.)


Uncertain Time and Space

Zenith, no shade, then: out of the Schattenland; we move now to the temporal topics, time is ousted from the place:

Die Zeit ist ausgetrieben

Vom Ort…

Zeitorte bleiben

Sie durchwachsen

Unsre Toten (G 41.)

Zenith of the Zeitlosigkeit. The ego is the one who "remains remaining". "Dort ist mein Ort. Ich bin anders als er, von dem ich bin. Ich bin anders als er, zu dem ich gehe. Ich bin die Mitte" (Literatur, 53).

Straight, upright as the tree which binds heaven and earth, clouds and corpses, vertical as the zenith of the Jetzt.

…Gerissen ist
Dürftig deine Zeit…
Und bist versunken in die scharfe Gegenwart (H 104.)

The "now" is the time of forgetting: no past, no position towards a danach. The poet seems rather skeptical when he asks: "Ist Zukunft heut schon pflückbar?" (G 57).

He escapes from an airport, which is a "non-place," a place of movement, not a place of stability or settlement:

Bin ich im Flugzeug, fliegt es allerorten
Landet zu allen Zeiten, lösend Dann von Da (G 128.)

Immernie is a leitmotiv of Schindel's poems. The act of writing belongs to a "no time's land":

… Ich sollt alle
Texte abwanden zur düstren Nacktheit Immernie
Sind das die Löhne nach der Schreiberei
Ist mir die Atmung selbst schon nullerlei (F 68.)

The poet is breathless and alone but flies over the summits: "…Alleinsein beim Vögeln zwischen Immer und Nie" (F 67).

Immernie stamps a "mediocre" time, the time of repetition, a time mentioned above as vacant, despite its contents, a kind of Musilian Seinesgleichen. It will affect the woman he loves as well as an angel.

The latter "embodies" men at work, machine-men:

In aller Früh lieben die neutralen Häute der Engel
Die Klarheit des industriellen Schlafs, Konzentrat des Schon-Immer
Ward emporgetragen vom Nerv der hellwachen Elektrizität (H 43.)

The former qualifies any available Maria…

leb ich jeden Tag
Sovielgern mit Immerniemarie
Ohne niemand
In beiden Dämmerungen (G 13.)

Automatic, Schon-Immer was not expected. Marie, for ever: never. In both cases, a sparkle, a repeated deflagration generating energy, the aim of which seems simultaneously necessary and useless. Life. Not survive, just remain.

Who remains? ICH, whose spatio-temporal conditions are depicted above. Who is ICH? It may be Ich für ich, or Ich und Du. The former is withdrawn into silence (Schweigen), into the self. The latter lives through a relationship, which has often the aspect of a reflection (Spiegel).


Fruitful Anguish

What makes the Ich live? The tumor which consumes him and binds him to the fight: Angst. Living, fighting the anguish. How? Through the act of writing. What is the cause of anguish? The position of Übriggebliebener and its spatio-temporal conditions. Living…writing.

Literatur: Auskunftsbüro der Angst. Afraid of what? "Die Angst von dem, was kommt, die Kälte, die Dunkelheit, die Einzelheit [emphasized in the Depressenburger Sonett] also sucht ihren Ausdruck" (Literatur, 57).

Fearing the future is in fact fearing the repetition of the past, of History, of disasters. Contemporary genocides prove it, as does the impunity of present Austrian politicians:

In giftger Zeit wachsen die Blumen.
…Ist Zukunft heut schon pflückbar? (G 57.)

The poet has to fight the darkness of anguish by the act of writing, to maintain the future in the light, so that it does not flow away, it remains present:

Daweil ich warte
Schreiben sich solche Gedichte
Und die Zukunft verharrte
In diesem Lichte (F 39.)

The verb verharrte is quite expressive with regard to the "abortion" of the future, as if memory (the duty of memory) could prevent its evolution or crush in the bud a repetition of History. If allusions to the future seem rather exceptional in Schindel's poems, it does not mean that he is afflicted with passivity. The Jetzt is quite important as a permanence, not as an "always" ("always" is a dead time). Now, the poet has to remember and to resist: these are two permanent acts, between past and future, which, both, generate fear.

"Die Angst vor die Kälte," the cold of the gloom, cold of corpses, winter… Four poems are entitled Kältestrom (G 41, 43, 44, 46). They belong to a section called Aschenjuchhe, the first text of which insists on the month of January. Getting out of winter is vital, but one cannot forget the ashes. As Yoko Yamaguchi observed, "das Datum des zwanzigsten Jänner erwähnt der Tag, an dem im Jahr 1942 in der Wannsee-Konferenz die Vernichtung der Juden beschlossen wurde" (4).

Lautlos schleich ich
Aus der Jännerhaft
Meinen Orion im Blick
Erreiche ich beim Frostekuß
Oberhalb der Jammerlappenhütte
Den Februar (G 40.)

January in the heart, as in the ground, where ashes are spread. The ending "-haft" may be interpreted as "prison" or as the mark of a state. The ground is a jail, where corpses are detained, but the anguish, which they provoke, generate a state of "being in January" as well.

Komm in der Jännersonne, da die Schwarten krachen (F 60.)

"Die Angst vor der Dunkelheit." Darkness of the ground, but also darkness of the Kinderkrippe, of that forgotten place and time of "transit," nevertheless still present in mind.

The sun is the full light. It has been stolen by Prometheus:
Da schon das Licht dem Helios gestohlen
Vom berüchtigten P. und sinnelos weggeschenkt wurde
Etwelchen Geschlechtern (H 16.)

The full light belongs to the reign of Immer, of a paralyzed future, of dogmas and prejudices. It burns and kills. It blinds, just as darkness does.
The poet is a "remainder". He remains in the middle. He cannot nor does he want to get down to Hades. But the fire of the sun itself stays out of reach. The clarity of his domain is the twilight (Dämmerung). The twilight is the borderline between night and day. Imperfect, it is human. In the twilight, the shade is so long that it disappears, so short that it remains invisible. The twilight and the skin are closely related. As the Dämmerung, the Haut is a limit.

Twilight of predators and lovers, of life, life of the flesh, of the ego:

Es ist alles wahr auch
Liebst mich und wie
Mein Zigarettenrauch
Bis in die Früh

Wahr meine Liebe
Im Dunklen im Hellen
Ich fühl mich todmüd
Bei Dämmergesellen

Die Dämmerungen haben
Mich stets bezwungen
Alle Niederlagen
Hab ich dort errungen (F 38.)

The ego is repeatedly successful in defeat. He is condemned to renew such an ambiguous enterprise.

As regards relationships, he just has an alternative: ICH für ICH or ICH und DU (G 62-63).

On one side:

Der ICH fällt mit Gegrunz aufs ICH in dem Matratzenland
Und Fallsinn selbstverfertigt hat Gebrauchsniveau
Fürs rituelle Leben hin zum Lebensritual
Gedankenefeu wuchert fern im hintren Jammertal (G 62/63.)

That ICH looks like the standard ego of Brave New World, also defined by Schindel in Bestandsaufnahme (H 108). The first verse of each strophe announces an injunction: "Stand still," "Stand upright," "Do not doubt," "Remain clean," "Do not aim too high," "Have culture, learn," "Go back home carefully," "Be happy," "Stand still " (once more), "Take a walk some more," "Control yourself," "Fall asleep in dignity"… The best comment belongs to Schindel: "Ist das Paradies eine gemütliche Hölle, eine Mediengesellschaft, ein Matratzenland aus Selbstverwirklichung, aber ohne Selbst, ohne Wirklichung? Erkenne mich selbst! Nicht dich, Antlitz im Spiegel, mich, nein, mich!" (Literatur, 52-53).

Who may that man, that automaton be? This is the third strophe:

Zweifle nicht
Vater lachte über Juden und Russen
Sie zeigten ihm den Weg nach Stalingrad
Er erfror dort trotz der tödlichen Schußwunde
Zweifle nicht (H 108.)

That was then, on one side, an aspect of the self-limited man; and now, the other side of the alternative:

Wo aber an den Scheidelinien ICHundDU
Begriffe kletterten, die stets den Fallsinn striegeln
Wo also Traum und Spiel als Fremde kamen zu
Den Sehnsuchtskörpern, daß sie falln ins Fremde, dort
Ruhn die Kopfmaulwürfe bäuchlings unter Hügeln
So daß der Angststurm von der Fremdsucht her direkt zum Körper kann (G 63.)


You and I, Second I?…

Here we can observe, with Schindel, "das Bannen der Ängste und ihren Transponierung in Lust" (Literatur, 95). Love creates another picture of the self; it transposes the Ich in the Du, as a reflection, in the parallel worlds of Traum and Spiel, without killing the ego. Love is also a catalyst of anguish. But the risk of a relapse after the defeat remains, and this creates a tension (Spannung). Thanks to love, the ego may get out of its gangue: Kammer (H 61), Hütte (F 67), Jammerlappenhütte (G 40), Schüttelhütte (F 60), Kreis (G 63), Kreidekreis (F 29), but of course it never lasts:

Denn hinter mir fault mir die Zeit wie Dünger
Vor mir droht Ödnis und die Angst fegt leer
… Bin dennoch selbig und in Lust und Angst gefangen
Die Zeit, das schicke Freudenmädchen, meine zwölfte Fee
Schließt mir die Leibtür auf. Ich hebe mich und geh. (F 73.)

Desert itself (Ödnis, the state of being desert) is split by the reflexive relationship between Einöde and Zweiöde (F 67). That ambiguous state is associated with hybrid time: in the former poem, time shuts the door; in the latter, it remains "zwischen Immer und Nie."

So, in a way, pleasure and humor allow the ego to accept his condition of "remainder," to keep a distance from himself, so that he is less vulnerable. Then, the Ich/Du relationship is vital. Buber and Hegel had emphasized it from the theological and philosophical points of view. The latter has been closely analyzed by Hildegard Kernmayer: to exist through the Other, defining the Other through a relation which may be of the type "master/slave" (174) with oneself , as suggested in a poem, the title of which is quite emblematic: Gefangener…:

Die Gedanken werden länger und
Werfen die Schatten
Nach Ungefähr. Da bist du
Dein Eigner… (H 81.)


You, the Other

The twilight is propitious to this distancing process allowing the projection, the reflexive relationship. Master / Slave, but also conflict of enemies:

Und allein ist der Alleinige und buhlt er vielzüngig
In der Existenz in der Liebe und der Atem geht raus
Ins feindliche Leben der Andern (F 55/56.)

The insidious enemy, who delimits the identity of the Jew, is an anti-Semite. As Freeman says, the conscience of the Jew is the result of an interiorised social model imposed upon him by non-Jews (118). On this subject, Schindel expresses himself in thinly veiled terms: "Ich bin ein Jude und weiß, daß es keine Assimilation gibt. Ein Wir gibt es nicht, nur ich und ihr. Ich bin der andere der anderen" (Gebirtig Bitterkeit, cited. by Freeman, 121).

However, the most expressive assertion of the relationship with oneself presented as a dichotomy appears in Erinnerungen an Prometheus:

Nicht unmöglich ist, daß der Wechselbalg damals
Und Schreiber dieser Zeilen einunddieselbe
Person sind, nicht unmöglich mit dem gleichen ICH
Wohl möglich, sondern aber nicht wahrscheinlich (H 13/14),

where the last verse meets the Ungefähr of the above cited Gefangener (H 81). That relationship is much stronger than love. It brands the ego in this way:

Ich will nicht
Geliebt werden, es erinnert mich zu sehr
An mich.
Wer sein Ich verbrennen will
Braucht kühlere Kontakte. (H 90.)

Cold may be associated here with the gloom of the "underworld." The Du is identified with the roots; it is an impossible but essential relationship.

But what makes this relationship vibrate? Atem, breath, Word… Until now we have analyzed Literatur, Auskunftsbüro der Angst "in der Form der Lust und des Frustes, als Darstellung des Doppelbinders, als Surrogat des Lebens oder als 'Unbehagen in der Kultur', als verfeinertes Mördertum …" (Literatur, 71).

The representation of the double-bind phenomenon is characteristic of the schizophrenic aspect of a certain state of mind. This explains the perpetual scission of the ego, which endlessly pulls to pieces and restores its own mosaic. Words themselves suffer this splitting:

Doch tropfen die Buchstaben mir in die Augen
…Heraus aus
Den Buchstaben mit einem Satz brech ich aus.(G 21.)


In the Nest of Words

Words are volatile, nebulous, dissolve themselves. Just as the smoke of the cremation does:

Ich spreche über die Ermordung etlicher Menschen
Da hat der Rauch aus sich eine Wolke gemacht
… Darüber steht das Wort in seinem Hof
Da hat der Begriff aus sich eine Wolke gemacht
… Ich spreche über die Wörter in ihren Höfen (H 23.)

We know that Schindel likes "playing" with words and altering them. The Hof of the word may suggests its proper space, just as the ICH can live in a Hütte, a Kammer, a circle, and the body has, as we saw, its own surface. But the parallel between Ofen and Höfen is too tempting. Moreover:

Darüber steht die Ermordung etlicher Worte
Da hat der Begriff aus sich einen Rauch gemacht
…Da hat der Mord aus sich eine Wolke gemacht
Ich spreche über die Ermordung etlicher Menschen (H 23.)

The word is murdered, but it may also murder, slowly, through the media:

Ich spreche über die Zeitung, die mich zerlesen (ibid.)

Passivity of the reader who lets the authentic words die, in the "land of mattresses."

Words are manipulated, tortured, carried to extremes, turned into fodder: "Die Wörter im Futter," where the lover throws or shakes Wortwurzelfuzerln (G 69). Thanks to the glossary, we understand: radicles of words… Schindel goes even further, up to the most intimate nucleus of the vocable. First, the syllables. In Atemlied he would like to run off with Silbenkrusten (G 30), as if they had a skin. Then, letters themselves:

Ich mittendrin im Gestöber der Buchstaben
…Doch tropfen die Buchstaben mir in die Augen
…Heraus aus
Den Buchstaben mit einem Satz brech ich aus (G 21.)


A Spectrography of Limits

That deconstruction is defined in this way by Schindel: "Die Wirklichkeit auseinanderzunehmen bis zum Molekül des Wortes und danach nach eigenem Atem wieder zusammenzusetzen, so daß erfunden wird, was vorhanden ist, aber als Eigenes..." (Literatur, 95).

The decomposition of the verbal world operates through the Besprechung des Regenbogens. We have observed the recurrent topics of the rain, of clouds, of the wind. Then comes the rainbow which generates a "filtered reading" of the spiritual world:

…innenseitig gibts den Regenbogen
In meinen außenseitig bunter Lesestoff der Himmel teilt sich schon
Doch gegenüber…
Ich teil mich schon ich nehms vom Regenbogen
Von Phänomenen der Natur lern ich das Umgestalten
Tief eingesessen in den Wunden der Funktionen (H 63.)

Should we not see here a reference to Ernst Mach's theory about the dissolution of causality into function, when the reassuring milestones of the way have vanished, when the ego cannot be saved, when it is taken into the maelstrom of the movement induced by the sensations, which "bilden nur eine zusammenhängende Masse, welche an jedem Element angefaßt ganz in Bewegung gerät" (12):

…der Regenbogen
Ist eingegangen in den Text sowie dann hintennach
Bleibt heilig die Bewegung gleich den anderen Erinnerungen… (H 63.)

"Raum und Zeit aber, proceeds Mach, wenn sie lebendig sind, sind Bewegung. So ist die Bewegung die Brücke zwischen Worten und Dingen" (15).

Finally, the poet is not taken in and admits, perhaps with some bitterness: "So kann man gar nicht sagen, ich hätte mit dem Wort die Angst liquidiert, sondern habe ich synthetisch eine Angst erzeugen wollen" (Literatur, 110). Such an ambiguity is deeply human, source of creation and questioning; so, the poet stays in the twilight. It is another aspect of his Janus's face, the man of January, of Dianus, of dusk…

© Manuel Durand-Barthez (Toulouse)

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