Helmet Heissenbuttel

Three Texts:



Of all the writers I can think of Helmet Heissenbuttel deserves the accolade of being called an experimental writer, not that I would brand him with that absurd label ‘Post-Modern’ or ‘Modernist’ but rather in the true sense of an experimenter with words, meanings and phrases. More than most writers he could almost be called neo-scientific in the rigour that he applies to his media experimentation. In his texts – and I’ve selected the three translated below carefully to demonstrate some of the following – he uses collage, montage, tautology, humour, discontinuity and so on – now all have been used before to often startling effect by Aragon, Breton, the Dadists and a range of 20th and 21st C writers and innovators. However in Heissenbuttel’s work the absurd practice of individualism and innovation for its own sake is left far behind.


Daddy has been ruling for about a thousand years
the Oedipus complex of the German people is called
NSDAP after that we tried it with Grandpa but that
was not a permanent solution now we just don't know
who can advise us quiz masters wanted
who landed us in this stew Bild magazine wants to know
Grandpa has been preserved in a glass coffin Daddy's
representatives have their names erased as time goes by
but have we forgotten Daddy
we're still doing better than in the Third Reich that is not a
a permanent solution
do they have Daddies in Washington or Moscow too our ersatz
Oedipus complex is called Pankow Grandpa o mein Papa or
in Rome
Daddy's reign is extinct but bits of it still hang in the air it
is the air of Berlin still that smell whose name was Josef
what we demand is an end to Daddies and Granddads an end to
Oedipus complexes
enlightened as we now are
enlightened as we now are
enlightened as we now are
enlightened as we now are
grant power to the most rational
why don't you just try that for a change


if I knew Greek I would converse with you in Greek
but I don't know any Greek
Amery's sentence on the drive from Brussels to Waterloo
9-24-1975 rainy street Atlantic low pressure ran a red
light threatening Belgian cops
du machst mich an spoken in Cologne dialect
you turn me on said Amery has purely sexual connotations
telephone voice surprises I'm always on time
rubbed in between thumb and palm
glance across trees in a dream leaning against the hood nipples
erect and hard a long time
look at me look at me look at me
I have no Greek and difficulties with classical education all
those Patmoses Lesboses Apollos Dionysuses
the Greeks' antique nakedness is replete with ideational content
nakedness without content our nakedness simply just naked
to learn that nakedness instead of content
say Greek woman wouldn't you be safer in your Greece
but when pressure mounts there is increased danger of  everything bursting
even though pressure can lead to nice things though maybe a
little weird
who loses steam gnaws bones
losing steam losing sense makes for a wrinkled pouch and a
tiny prick
wrinkly present wrinkly nature
the brown of cut apples
in Greek I would converse with you in Greek but I don't have
any Greek and you can't understand me
sexual union means insight into the matter at hand not into
your rage your grunting does open you but not your psychology
even when I can't stand it I hurl myself into gaping flesh
into flesh which is definitively and in the most extreme sense
facing me and I am not
naked torsos half asleep incessantly interchangeable repeatable
quartered backsides repeatable
the bird quite clearly flown to Idaho railroad embankment Thoreau
crumpled and gummed-up moon
we have lived under this moon
crumpled and gummed-up moon
we have lived under this moon for a long time
crumpled and gummed-up moon
it may well be we have lived under this moon for too long
my language is a noise

Translated by sdv
(from Oedipus Complex 1981)

Lesson 3

and then down into the black soul


to stylize to deny the body can be traced back to rationality in that context also the desirable body it has to be that that too part of the calculation the desirable a kind of lure


and then down into the black soul


what I want to say is I saw it the room naked as a hand I locked up the black princess the sheath of the angel naked I swear it from head to toe from anus to navel what I want to say is my mind rotates in images of beauty and desire my gaze embraces naked what I want to say is fruit of a suit flight of a bird


and then down into the black soul


enjoyably and deeply I lost myself in all the minglings and intertwinings of joy and pain from which emanates the spice of life and the flower of feelings a florid fire flowed through my veins what I dreamed was not just some kiss not just the wish to break the smarting stings of longing it is not for your lips alone that I long or for your eyes or for your body but it was a romantic confusion of all of these things a wondrous tangle of all the various remembrances and longings.


and then down into the black soul


the element wherein desire and its object exist indifferently against each other and autonomously is the alive Dasein the gratification of desire sublates this as far as it concerns its object but this is the element which gives both their separate reality rather a Being that is essentially a representation


and the down into the black soul


gratified lust does indeed carry the positive meaning to have become itself as objective self-consciousness but just as much the negative one namely to have sublated itself and by grasping its realization only in terms of that meaning its experience enters its consciousness as contradiction wherein the achieved reality of its singleness sees itself annihilated by the negative being and yet is the selfsame's devouring power


and then down into the black soul


in the silver moonlight alongside the ships and the large buildings and the canals which cut into and through the city's innermost core the forest of masts the lines of beams and cordage crossing a thousand fold all in moonlight strange and magic at one corner but a glance into a brightly lit room where a hundred diligent hands were sewing sails


and then down into the black soul


actually today everything is like yesterday except for the hallway where yesterday the handbag kept surprising me today I am surprised that the handbag is no longer there thus it would be more accurate to say that today everything is completely different from yesterday but then again not really either

These translations by steve devos