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Transcript: Queen of Hearts on Judgment Day

Running text
Heiner Müller is working on new texts. The conversation takes place in his offices. It is about the mother of the hero Parsifal and the working hero Hercules-\- \- Queen of Hearts on Judgment Day. Conversation with Heiner Müller about patriotism. "A Furious Love of My Country--"
Kluge
You wrote a poem here in the FAZ, "Welcome to Santa Monica." That must have been recently.
Müller
Yes, that was in Santa Monica.
Kluge
It says, "A dying man enters the hotel lobby/ where other dying people are killing time/ slowly or quickly, between birth and death": that applies to everyone. The walls are actually a waiting period, in a sense. You've had this way of looking at things for some time. It is an historical thought process. Can you remember having these thoughts as a child?
Müller
I only know that one of my earliest childhood memories is as follows: I slept in an attic at my grandparents' house. It was quite small and up a flight of steep stairs. There was of course a chamber pot, because there was no toilet up there. And as I was sitting on the chamber pot, I realized for the first time that I eventually was going to die. On the chamber pot, exactly in the Freudian sense. That was my first thought about it.
Kluge
So it wasn't a sentimental thought?
Müller
No, it was simply a realization.
Kluge
How did your mother die?
Müller
It was kind of stupid that I didn't get to see her again. We were in Italy and heard that she was in the hospital, in intensive care attached to an iv. When we returned I \- this is of course a source of guilt for me - I took two days to reacclimatize myself and didn't visit her. And when I wanted to go there on the third day, she was already dead.
Kluge
Was your daughter already born at that time?
Müller
Yes. I am reminded of a sentence by Ernst Jünger that I always liked: "The blindness of will belongs to great politics." And the blindness of the will also belongs to a figure like Hercules.
Kluge
And in that respect he is not just the man of power. Instead he is actually something that can be fed into Act 5 of Faust, as a close colleague of or as a substitute for this crazy Faust. And this doesn't have to mean that it either has to be Prometheus, with all his disadvantages, or that it has to be Stalin or Zeus or Zeus' son, and that fate always has to be eternally the same. The repetition of many new beginnings can sometimes create something very beautiful out of this Hercules. Because this man is conscientious.
Müller
But the precondition for conscientiousness is the blindness of will.
Kluge
The blindness of will. That is an ongoing theme of yours. You began in 1957 with a relatively aggressive, positive play.
Müller
'56
Kluge
'56. Ten Days that Shook the World ([Zehn Tage, die die Welt erschütterten]). It was about the 1917 revolution.
Müller
That was the second play.
Kluge
The second play. But at that time you were, so to speak, not without optimism at the level of the will.
Müller
Yes, true.
Kluge
Blind, but with willpower.
Müller
That's right.
Kluge
And now this must be understood in a larger context?
Müller
You know the expression from Gramsci that I always liked: "Optimism of the will. Pessimism of the intellect." That is actually the expression for such work.
Kluge
And for how such an artist walks on a rope between two poles, and could otherwise not walk at all or practice his art. Is it in a sense a basic condition that one has to oscillate between the two poles?
Müller
That's right.
Kluge
And in that respect Hercules, as a type, has a somewhat less pessimistic side of the intellect: he hardly reflects at all. Theseus manipulates his intellect. He can think, but he only thinks in an instrumental way .
Müller
You mean Perseus, right?
Kluge
Yes, him too.
Müller
Theseus . . .
Kluge
Him too. Theseus makes sure that he errs at the right moment, sets the wrong sail and that his father dies at the moment when he returns home. He is in a sense always ready to err at the right time. Perseus, on the other hand, does something more direct. He reflects, he consciously but indirectly uses the intellect, he does not mistake his advantage. And he does not destroy his opponent by intellect, not even by cunning, but - if you will - rather brutally.
Müller
By arrogance.
Kluge
By arrogance and by showing the Gorgon's head that transfixes all opponents and by not telling the others about the operating instructions. He is simply a step ahead of the others and makes brutal use of his advantageous position, which he has genetically, in the line of development.
Müller
Do you know the sculpture in Florence by Cellini? Perseus who . . .
Kluge
Andromeda . . . who conquered a dream woman with cunning and malice and power. .
Müller
... and kills her.
Kluge
You once wrote a very short poem: you are sitting in an airplane, and you are served a glass of whisky. You have a distinct feeling that was once attributed to you in Der Spiegel and that now has suddenly become subsequently true. A sudden interruption of blindness, so to speak. Would you agree with that?
Müller
Yes, I know what you mean.
Kluge
At one point you talk about France, in one of your plays. Take a look at her, my France. And now this France is interpreted as a woman by your performers: emaciated breasts, a dead ship in the surf of the new century. A living ship in the 18th century, full of hope and setting sail into the revolution. And now in the new century, even Bonaparte is gone. Or he is there, which is even worse. You don't say it is stranded. But it keeps on going like a flying Dutchman. To what would you compare your country, whatever that is? Would you compare it to a woman, like France here?
Müller
That is a question that I am not prepared for at all. But of course I would compare it to a woman, yes. I would by no means compare it to a father or a man. It is definitely a woman.
Kluge
You could also compare it to an object or a machine or a book or a building. . .
Müller
No, it is definitely a woman.
Kluge
And how does this woman look? Like on the five mark bills of the Third Reich during the currency reform, a worker?
Müller
I think it is simply a pretty woman.
Kluge
A waitress? Kitchen, cashier?
Müller
It could be a waitress, yes.
Kluge
But she is of the working population, not a princess or Joan of Arc or something like that. Not an armed woman, like France? In France she wears a cap, a Phrygian cap and usually has either a sword or a flag in her hand.
Müller
No, a waitress is fine. Sometimes when I am enjoying my privileges Such as whisky in the airplane from Frankfurt to (West)Berlin I am overtaken by what the idiots from Der Spiegel call A furious love of my country Wild like the embrace of a queen of hearts - Believed to be dead - on judgment day.
Kluge
When you are working here, in your study, here next door, there is a lectern on one side, then there is the typewriter, the relatively bare window, and you move in between them. Do you work in the morning or at night?
Müller
Preferably in the morning. And sometimes at night now, because there is no alternative. But mornings are better. You know the difference between day and night writers. You can see it in the work of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Tolstoy worked during the day, Dostoyevsky at night. These are the two basic types, I think.
Kluge
As a type, you fit the model of Dostoyevsky better?
Müller
I don't know. In principle ...
Kluge
Shorter, definitely shorter.
Müller
... I prefer to write in the morning rather than at night. But that has changed...
Kluge
... that was your goal: constructive, realistic texts, but instead you do. . .
Müller
the opposite. That's true.
Kluge
You sabotage realism?
Müller
Yes, and myself as well.
Kluge
So there are two souls. The first soul, the constructive one, is in the plays you wrote while you were still working on the work-front here. What was that called - in production? That is a time that means something to you.
Müller
Although the problem was always that I never wrote what I wanted to write, or what I thought I was writing. That became especially clear to me when I was staging The Scab ([Der Lohndrücker]) in the Deutsches Theater. That was in '87, I think. So I was staging the piece about 30, 31 years after I wrote it, and it was suddenly a completely different play. I remembered having an intention when writing the piece, and the intention didn't have anything to do with the text or the text with the intention. It was a diagnosis - a very pessimistic diagnosis \- that I discovered during this staging. But it was conceived as . . .
Kluge
as constructive, optimistic
Müller
a constructive, optimistic contribution to the building of something. But I ended up describing the symptoms of an illness. Müller, at his writing-lectern, reads a text that he wrote while in intensive care. Simultaneously images from the army of Heinrich VI, father of the Stauferkaiser Friedrich II, going to Sicily: "The wild animals in Sicily under the command of Heinrich VI get along as in paradise/ Here you see the partridges, lions, deer, panthers, drinking from the same spring." Dream Forest. A New Text by Heiner Müller Tonight I walked through a forest in a dream It was full of horror According to the alphabet With empty eyes no gaze understands The animals stood between tree and tree Carved into stone by frost Out of the row Of spruces towards me through the snow Came clanging am I dreaming do I see what I see A child in a suit of armor and visor In arm the lance Its tip blinks In spruce-darkness that drinks the sun The last trace of day a golden line Behind the dream forest that beckons death And in the blink of an eye between thrust and stab My face looked at me: I was the child.
Kluge
It is reminiscent of Parsifal.
Müller
Yes, and you know, I didn't know that when I wrote it. I really wrote it in the hospital.
Kluge
You don't write something like that very often. Everything rhymes twice. It is quite a strict poem.
Müller
It is a sonnet. In the hospital I discovered \- I think we spoke about this before - that only strict forms help with pain. Unrhymed poems are not enough. Text: Parsifal, divided into six pieces / Japanese version (Bunraku) Kluge: If you would stage Parsifal according to the rules of Bunraku, let's say the second act, not Klingsor . . . The Kundry story would definitely have to be separated from the Parsifal story.
Kluge
Let's take the Kundry story and disregard the rest of the opera. The castle owners are located in another fragment, and in the next piece there is the story of how the swan is killed. The third, a tableau, describes all of the knights, the final battle in a castle. Wouldn't that be followed by the inner world of the imperial chancellery, in terms of only emotional events? One wouldn't stage the psychological plot, the external plot of the imperial chancellery, but rather the voices, the inner voices of the last three days. That would actually be a powerful, interesting opera.
Müller
The basic problem is this submissiveness to so-called realism; a totally wrong understanding of reality underlies even this concept of realism. And one can only see reality when one divides it into pieces, into segments. If each observer could see the possibility of recombining these segments into their own reality, perhaps in combination with their own dream reality, then that would be the ideal theater. But I don't know whether we will live to see that. That was also a dream of Brecht's, and he never achieved it. But the terrible thing in theater is that you are faced with an apparatus that has an immense pull, an immense power.
Kluge
and that forces a realistically depicted evening performance. It takes part in every aspect of the discussion. But this here will be different, according to your experience in the opera. Because opera is not a realistic depiction anyway.
Müller
No, there is a chance in opera to try it.
Kluge
The only restriction is that the music can't stop.
Müller
You will of course be killed if you are the first one to try it.
Kluge
But you could also fragment the music by separating out the individual people, right? Each person would then be a drama in themselves.
Müller
Yes, but then you would need - pardon me - a communist society because there is the matter of copyright.
Kluge
But you are allowed to do it with dead composers.
Müller
With totally dead composers you can do it, but Wagner is not totally dead because there is still the Wagner Company.
Kluge
But they can't keep you from doing it.
Müller
No, they can't keep me from doing it. But convention forbids it.
Kluge
But if you took out all of Wagner's weather music and said that you were making a weather film beginning with the Valkuries, then it would be allowed.
Müller
Müller reads his text with the title "Opera" (three lines). Text: Onassis, inventor of the ships of the dead Callas, the most beautiful voice of the century, Shared his bed A Good Formula for Patriotism An older alcoholic - a misanthrope or something - was sitting in a bar in Pankow. I think it was at the end of the 80's or the beginning of the 80's. He made his living by always listening to people, who then bought him a drink. As he was sitting at a table, an older bureaucrat who was from some sort of government ministry came by. He desperately wanted to talk about having been in Paris. This was a major sense of achievement, visa to Paris, and business trip and so on. And he told him about Paris, about Montparnasse and Montmartre and everything else. And at some point in the excitement about Montmartre or Montparnasse he knocked over the beer on the table and spilled it. And then the alcoholic said: Fuck Paris\! His beer had been spilled during the travel report. I think that this is a good formula for patriotism.