Were Ayn Rand's views sharply Darwinian

Julius Plenz - Blog


I was recently in Dublin for the first time and that was reason enough to finally get to grips with the modernist epic Ulysses by James Joyce. But instead of writing here: yes, it is quite exhausting to read - yes, without chapter-wise secondary summaries I would hardly have understood anything - yes, it is eloquent and also quite funny - yes, it is a stylistic and formal work of art - yes, that was my second and last attempt to become a Joyce fan and no, I will not tackle the monstrous things he wrote afterwards ––

So instead of repeating what one reads everywhere, here is an attempt to contrast and relate two central works of modernism: Ulysses versus The man without qualities. Both works are quite extensive, but that is not necessarily off-putting: only they are both complicated and bulky. Joyce's work is not so much based on the plot, but rather on the form: the reader is seldom taken by the hand, one always has to guess the context from the dialogue or is only served raw thoughts. Musil, on the other hand, constantly reiterates and gives context, with a linguistic brilliance that is second to none: only the thoughts are of a very difficult philosophical-dialectical nature.

Both works have one interesting thing in common: they are, in a modernist manner, exact constructed in the time span that they cover (- the shape determines the framework): Ulysses is the story of a single day in Dublin during the Man without qualities Spent exactly one year in Vienna (strictly speaking: would live if the book had ever been written to the end). In the latter case, it is very clear when the action takes place, because the book begins with the following first paragraph:

There was a barometric minimum over the Atlantic; it wandered eastward, towards a maximum overlying Russia, and did not yet show any inclination to evade this northward. The isotherms and isotherms did their job. The air temperature was in a proper relationship to the mean annual temperature, to the temperature of the coldest and warmest months and to the aperiodic monthly temperature fluctuation. The rising and setting of the sun, the moon, the change of light of the moon, Venus, the ring of Saturn and many other significant phenomena corresponded to their prediction in the astronomical yearbooks. The water vapor in the air had its greatest resilience, and the humidity in the air was low. In a word that describes the actual fact quite well, even if it is a bit old-fashioned: It was a beautiful August day in 1913.

With Joyce you have to look hard if you want to know on which day the action takes place: You write the date of June 16, 1904, now known and celebrated as Bloomsday - but this is nowhere clearly communicated, apart from shortly before the end. This information can be pieced together, for example, from the following fragments from chapters three and four, buried deep in confused trains of thought:

He took the hilt of his ashplant, lunging with it softly, dallying still. Yes, evening will find itself in me, without me. All days make their end. By the way next when is it Tuesday will be the longest day. Of all the glad new year, mother, the rum tum tiddledy tum. Lawn Tennyson, gentleman poet. ... (Dedalus musing in 3.489)

He listened to her licking lap. Ham and eggs, no. No good eggs with this drouth. Want pure fresh water. Thursday: not a good day either for a mutton kidney at Buckley's. Fried with butter, a shake of pepper. Better a pork kidney at Dlugacz's. While the kettle is boiling. She lapped slower, then licking the saucer clean. Why are their tongues so rough? To lap better, all porous holes. Nothing she can eat? He glanced round him. No. (Bloom in 4.43)

So we are dealing with a Thursday five days before the longest day in the northern hemisphere, June 21st. Which year? Well, there are several possibilities: June 16 fell on a Thursday between the years 1880 and 1920: 1881, 1887, 1892, 1898, 1904, 1910, and 1921. Other references?

He faced about and, standing between the awnings, held out his right hand at arm's length towards the sun. Wanted to try that often. Yes: completely. The tip of his little finger blotted out the sun's disk. Must be the focus where the rays cross. If I had black glasses. Interesting. There was a lot of talk about those sunspots when we were in Lombard street west. Looking up from the back garden. Terrific explosions they are. There will be a total eclipse this year: autumn some time. (Bloom thinking in 8,564)

Interestingly, however, Wikipedia says: “There was no Total Solar Eclipse visible from the United Kingdom between 1724 and 1925.” - Finally, however, in the penultimate chapter (even if the date appears in different places from the middle, but cannot be clearly assigned) it will explicit: "Compile the budget for 16 June 1904." (17.1456)

Both works repeatedly mention Nietzsche as a philosopher or as part of his works: In Ulysses gets off several times Zarathustra cited; Ulrich gives Clarisse a complete edition of Nietzsche for her wedding. A very central moment in Nietzsche’s philosophy is the dialectic that goes back to the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus Apollonian-Dionysian. What does Dionysian mean? The concise dictionary of philosophy explains the word as follows:

From Dionysus, the Greek god of wine: in addition to the Apollonian, the personification of one of Nietzsche's two principles that guide the fate of the world. While the Apollonian stands for the striving for limitation, for measure and shape, the Dionysian embodies the urge for the unbound, the intoxicating and excessive, that which abolishes the boundaries, destroys the form and throws the formative back into the world.

While the Apollonian approach is that of science, that of exact description and classification, ultimately of rationality, the Dionysian approach is one of the drunk, orgiastic: the original state of man speaks from the unconscious and subconscious.

This leads me to the following central thesis: Musil's approach is inherently Apollonian, while Joyce's is a masterful example of the Dionysian. As an example, I would like to cite a scene that occurs incidentally in both books: the male protagonist meets a woman he does not know in public and has a spontaneous sexual desire for her. When read side by side, these excerpts are excellent examples of the idiosyncrasy of the respective narrative techniques.

In Ulysses (4.145) Bloom is currently on the way to get liver from the butcher for his breakfast:

A kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish: the last. He stood by the next door girl at the counter. Would she buy it too, calling the items from a slip in her hand? Chapped: washingsoda. And a pound and a half of Denny's sausages. His eyes rested on her vigorous hips. Woods his name is. Wonder what he does. Wife is oldish. New blood. No followers allowed. Strong pair of arms. Whacking a carpet on the clothesline. She does whack it, by George. The way her crooked skirt swings at each whack.


The porkbutcher snapped two sheets from the pile, wrapped up her prime sausages and made a red grimace.

—Now, my miss, he said.

She tendered a coin, smiling boldly, holding her thick wrist out.

—Thank you, my miss. And one shilling threepence change. For you, please?

Mr Bloom pointed quickly. To catch up and walk behind her if she went slowly, behind her moving hams. Pleasant to see first thing in the morning. Hurry up, damn it. Make hay while the sun shines. She stood outside the shop in sunlight and sauntered lazily to the right. He sighed down his nose: they never understand. Soda tapped hands. Crusted toenails too. Brown scapulars in tatters, defending her both ways. The sting of disregard glowed to weak pleasure within his breast. For another: a constable off duty cuddling her in Eccles lane. They like them sizeable. Prime sausage. O please, Mr Policeman, I'm lost in the wood.

—Threepence, please.

His hand accepted the moist tender gland and slid it into a sidepocket. Then it fetched up three coins from his trousers' pocket and laid them on the rubber prickles. They lay, were read quickly and quickly slid, disc by disc, into the till.

—Thank you, sir. Another time.

A bacon of eager fire from foxeyes thanked him. He withdrew his gaze after an instant. No: better not: another time.

—Good morning, he said, moving away.

—Good morning, sir.

No sign. Gone. What matter?

He walked back along Dorset street, reading gravely. [...]

Joyce simply verbalizes what takes place in the head, with all the volatility, impatience and, above all, unreflection that goes with it: Wouldn't it be interesting to examine how it came from within sting of disregard becomes some kind of desire within moments? Obviously none of that interests, and besides, he has to pay. And already the thoughts are elsewhere again, and he reads when he goes home ...

Musil, on the other hand, uses a very similar chance encounter to - as a distraction, a completely different train of thought is spun beforehand - to reflect how charity is actually a hypocritical concept, and generally: why do you like people at all without actually liking them knows well ?! But that reads, as the saying goes, "as printed" (3rd part, chapter 23):

[...] his thinking already lacked the intention to seek a decision, and he readily allowed himself to be distracted. Two men had just bumped into him near him and were shouting uncomfortable remarks at each other, as if they were trying to get rough, which he participated in with refreshed attention, and when he had barely turned away his gaze collided with that of a fat woman , on the stem was nodding flower. In that pleasant mood mingled in equal amounts of feeling and outward attention, he noted that the ideal requirement to love one's neighbor is obeyed among real people in two parts, the first of which is that one Can't stand his fellow men, while the second makes up for that by getting into sexual relations with one half of them. Without thinking about it, after a few steps he too turned back to follow the woman; it still happened quite mechanically as a result of the contact with her eyes. He saw her figure under the dress like a large white fish that is near the surface of the water. He wished he could see him harpoon and fidget manly, and there was as much aversion in it as desire. Barely noticeable signs also gave him the certainty that this woman knew that he was behind him and approved of it. He tried to find out where she might belong in the social stratification, and advised the upper middle class, where it is difficult to determine the position exactly. »Merchant family? Official family? ”He asked himself. But various images appeared at random, including that of a pharmacy: he felt the sharp-sweet smell on the man coming home; the compact atmosphere of the home, no longer noticeable of the twitching under which she had recently scanned a burglar's lamp. No doubt it was hideous, yet dishonorably alluring.

And while Ulrich continued to follow the woman, really afraid that she would stop in front of a window and force him to either stumble on stupidly or to speak to her, something was still undistracted and wide awake in him. "What can Agathe actually want from me?" [...]

Similar to Proust, Musil is an author who, like a spotlight, illuminates very specific angles for a very wide period of time: The year of the holiday is chronologically chronologically only incidentally, mostly this only serves as a transition to a situation that Musil (in the form of Ulrich, usually thinking alone or in a quasi-monologue) allows you to pause for several dozen pages on a train of thought. Ulysses is the antithesis here, great socio-philosophical theses simply go under because it is at night and everyone in the conversation is drunk:

BLOOM: I stand for the reform of municipal morals and the plain ten commandments. New worlds for old. Union of all, jew, moslem and gentile. Three acres and a cow for all childern of nature. Saloon motor hearses. Compulsory manual labor for all. All parks open to the public day and night. Electric dish scrubbers. Tuberculosis, lunacy, war and mendicancy must now cease. General amnesty, weekly carnival with masked license, bonuses for all, esperanto the universal language with universal brotherhood. No more patriotism of barspongers and dropsical impostors. Free money, free rent, free love and a free lay church in a free lay state.

(Then Bloom starts to sing and someone throws a shoe at him. Although that might only happen in your mind, you don't really know. In any case, nobody really listened to him.) -

Finally, in addition to the Apollonian-Dionysian opposition, another central motif of Nietzsche's philosophy is the unconditional and not always rationalizable affirmation of life, a constant and insistent saying yes to life - an essentially anti-nihilistic attitude. Joyce lets Ulysses deliberately end with the word “Yes” (even if the intention behind it is admittedly not necessarily life-affirming: instead, according to a letter from Joyce to Frank Budgen, the word completes the verbal symbolism for the feminine that pervades the chapter). - In contrast, he creates Man without qualities a great philosophical apparatus to rationalize the affirmation of life - but then does not take the decisive step of realization: the book remains unfinished.

posted 2015-08-15 tagged bookdump


It's been a while since the last article, and while I've mainly been doing math, it has built up a lot.

It is surprisingly informative and easy to read FoucaultsMonitor and punish, and of course more topical than ever.

The collection of essays Arguably of Christopher Hitchens is a nice hodgepodge, with some very impressive contributions. Little did I know, for example, that at the time the practice of waterboarding was being dragged into the public eye, Hitchens himself had subjected himself to this torture method - simply to find out how it felt - and to be able to report on it.

Is considered a very mathematically motivated author J. L. Borges. His short story collection Maze I liked it, even if the mathematical aspects of his literature, at least in this selection, are mostly reduced to processing the inherent paradoxes of recursion and infinity. But he is an author who glorifies dreaming and repeatedly illuminates the limits of knowledge, such as in Avatars of the Tortoise:

‘The greatest magician (Novalis has memorably written) would be the one who would cast over himself a spell so complete that he would take his own phantasmagorias as autonomous appearances. Would not this be our case? ’I cojecture that this is so. We (the undivided divinity operating within us) have dreamed of the world. We have dreamed it as firm, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and durable in time; but in its architecture we have allowed tenuous and eternal crevices of unreason which tell us it is false.

I was impressed by Henry Thoreau, the American naturalist associated with Walden a work has achieved what shaped the "exit thought" even before industrialization, and explains the philosophical and practical aspects of a life far away from society, alone in the forest and self-sufficient:

But I would say to my fellows, once for all, As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.

I am partly sympathetic to his nutritional views (even if not in the justification) -

I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind.

- but I do not share his views on wine and coffee:

I believe water is the only drink for a wise man; wine is not so noble a liquor; and think of dashing the hopes of a morning with a cup of warm coffee, or of an evening with a dish of tea!

Faulkner: As I Lay Dying - Wow, I can't stand such efficient stream narrative at all.

Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead - The book is like a traffic accident: as terrible as it is, you can't look away.I have seldom read a book in which the prose is so bad and the characters are drawn in such woodcut style. Back then there must have been an incredible social climate for a book like this to be successful. Still captivating. And: No illustration of the buildings does justice to the underlying idea. (At this point I would like to link to the blog of a good friend of mine: cncrt abstraction deals with Brutalism architecture, which I think is not too far from the essence of Howard Roark's buildings.)

It is of course highly praised among classic sci-fi writers Philipp K. Dick. To get started VALIS reading was probably not the best decision, as it is more of a late work and very autobiographical. Much better for me then Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich liked, quite hallucinatory-dystopian, all in all, but not concrete and vivid enough for me. Another classic Kurt VonnegutsSlaughterhouse-five, I liked it reasonably well, but nice that it was so short. The fact that the narrator is constantly jumping in time and space reminded me of Hilsenrath's “Fairy Tale of the Last Thought”.

I was very impressed with Jean-Paul SartresNausea (German: Disgust):

... The past is a property owner’s luxury.

Where should I keep mine? You can't put your past in your pocket; you have to have a house in which to store it. I possess nothing but my body; a man on his own, with nothing but his body, can't stop memories; they pass through him. I shouldn't complain: all I have ever wanted was to be free.

I was also motivated by it The Age of Reason read, but was really annoyed halfway through and just skimmed the rest. Of course, one of the French existentialists is also one of them Camus, but, be Myth of Sisyphus is good and nice, but packed literarily I can do more with such a philosophy.

Tom Wolfe writes a bit like Jonathan Franzen. The Bonfire of the Vanities was an impressively multi-layered story, lovingly constructed, but also a momentary panorama epic.

Sometimes you run out of books and then you have to take what you get. On the island of Palawan, for example, I had to stock up on an Australian and a Canadian, who had both retired there and sold used books for one euro each from their verandah: Still a little bit exciting Stephen Leather: Hungry Ghost, but it is only pathetic and bad Morris West: Summer of the Red Wolf. A still unknown to me thriller by Ian Rankin, A Question of Blood, I found there too, as well John le CarrésAbsolute friends, which I could no longer say what it was all about.

Every now and then you have to read books that fit in your pocket. Henry James has with The turn of the screw created a nice horror story that luckily gets to the point quickly. I suspect Andre Gide: The Immoralist bought, and would have expected more immorality.

When crime novels or thrillers appear everywhere around the world, that's an indication that they are at least exciting. Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl it is too, but such a bad ending, it hurt. I didn't like the book adaptation that I saw immediately afterwards.

It has happened to me quite often that I read a book about which critics wrote: "full of ideas ... grand in scope" - and I found a story that was at most impressive because of the expansiveness of the text, in other words: They are often stories that would have been better exposed or short stories. over Zia Haider Rahmans Debut novel In the Light of What We Know I stumbled because of the quote from Alex Preston on the cover: "The novel I'd hoped Jonathan Franzen's› Freedom ‹would be." - Yes, in typical "Grand Scope" fashion, a leitmotif of the book is Gödel's incompleteness theorem (abstract ! Mathematics and logic!), But where other books would have tinkered with real world analogies that inevitably seem ridiculous for anyone who has studied a little mathematics, the protagonist's father, a professor of physics, appears in various situations, Richard Feynman quotes several times and also exhaustively explains that no analogy ever does justice to the facts. - In addition to many other topics that the novel deals with, the central topic is already dealt with in a strikingly exact manner in the title exhaustively: Reality cannot be controlled in the same way as mathematics allows: knowledge acquired afterwards can be considered correct at the time categorized assessment of a situation abstruse - while a mathematical proof is true or not. The book is also very interesting because it gives insights into worlds that remain closed to most people. This review sums it up well:

It is a novel that displays a formidable familiarity with élite knowledge, and takes for granted a capacity for both abstract and worldly thinking.

Daniel Suarez: Influx - Already exciting but also a bit flat and predictable.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby - such a classic. You can, but you don't have to. As I hear, nowadays they (again?) Have "Gatsby parties" ...

If an author manages to create a well-known one Ism then it is usually advisable to have read at least a little bit of the original. (Example: Darwinism. But be careful: Almost all communists have their own ism, and just because Trotskyism has a few followers does not mean that you have to read Trotsky.) - What I'm getting at: If someone can do it, he Coining the term sadism, which is so very much a separate word that hardly anyone knows the author behind it, then it is interesting to research who de Sade was. And so I sat down - not least motivated by Adorno & Horkheimer's treatment of the topic - and two central works by Marquis de Sade read: First Justine, or the sufferings of virtuethat after 500 pages with a downright epic cliff hanger ceases; followed by the continuation of the story, this time from the sister's point of view: Juliette, or the benefits of vice. - The Justine is unfortunately a bit repetitive and would be more interesting if it were half as long. The Juliette but has a good length of almost 300 pages. Both novels are shortly before the transition 18./19. Century emerged, that is, a long time before amorality, egoism, atheism and anti-Christianism, and of course: open talking about sexual acts of any kind and color were socially acceptable topics (if they ever were; let's say: literary, man remember that yourself Lolita couldn't find a publisher in the USA, was then published in “liberal France” by a rather unreliable publisher, but was banned there for two years a short time later - and that was in the nineteen-fifties!). - Well, de Sade creates something that I would not have thought possible: you open any of the two books at random and read 20 pages - and these twenty pages put any hardcore scat BDSM snuff porn in the shade ( - is there anything like that in the combination?). When the older generation says: “But today's youth is so brutal!” (Keywords: killer games, violent videos, porn consumption), then I say: If we are one, then we are - historically speaking - quite civilized in the overall social design of our sexuality -, violence and killing fantasies. Really.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the times of cholera. A little expansive, but good.

I live in Sydney now, and to get a bit of trivia knowledge, I have to Bill Bryson: Down Under read: Funny and informative. - But it is a really incredible book Bruce Chatwins report The Songlines about his journey through the Australian outback on the trail of the oral tradition of the Aborigines. Yes, it is anecdotal and the text is quite idiosyncratic from the middle through excerpts from his notebooks; one should also show a certain skepticism towards his theory about humans as originally nomadic. But interesting and thought provoking is this book in any case.

Roberto Bolaño: Third Reich. More old works are being excavated ...

Cormac McCarthy: The Road. - Keep me up for one night.

posted 2015-07-06 tagged bookdump


It's been a while, and I've probably forgotten a few again ...

With the new release of Noam ChomskysHow the World Works it is a collection of a few old texts and edited interviews from the 1990s. Two excerpts:

Recall that about ten years ago, when David Stockman [director of the Office of Management and Budget in the early Reagan years] was kicked out, he had some interviews with economic journalist William Greider. There Stockman pretty much said that the idea was to try to put a cap on social spending, simply by debt. There would always be plenty to subsidize the rich. But they wouldn't be able to pay aid to mothers with dependent children — only aid to dependent corporate executives.


You still find plenty of poor, uneducated people smoking; In fact, tobacco has become such a lower-class drug that some legal historians are predicting that it will become illegal. Over the centuries, when some substance became associated with "the dangerous class," it’s often been outlawed. Prohibition of alcohol in [the US] was, in part, aimed at working-class people in New York City saloons and the like. The rich kept drinking as much as they wanted.

William S. Burroughs much celebrated Naked lunch - Well, luckily the book was so short. Just bizarre. I actually really like it when a kind of story is told. - I liked it better then Jack KerouacsOn the road, but it didn't really move me either.

Dave Eggers: The Circle - You read that off on a Sunday. Nicely written and the plot well predictable, but it is a contemporary portrait of the zeitgeist and as such will probably have lost its relevance in a few years.

James C. Scott: Seeing Like a State - An agronomist gets lost in a topic that is quite interesting for a couple of years and summarizes his findings in a very accessible non-fiction book. The book is a call to celebrate diversity and to respect, preserve and actively use local knowledge (especially in the context of indigenous peoples). The basic theme of the book is the "legibility of a population", for which social and environmental conditions are usually measured, that is, expressed in comparable numbers (hectares of standard forest, education index, population cross-section, etc.). Scott examines some examples in more detail, and the conclusion can be roughly summarized as follows: "The metric is not only too simple, it is so simple that it actively harms the population and creates new realities adapted to this metric." - Worth reading, if you can get excited about such a topic.

After reading Huxley again, I had to try again to compare Orwells novel 1984 read. I am still of the opinion that Huxley is “more” right in our current development - but Orwell has to be credited with the fact that his invention of “Newspeak” is very forward-looking and still very topical today.

David Benioffs bestseller City of thieves is a fine book about friendship in times of war - but in a way a World War I book that is very reminiscent of other novels on the subject since the 2000s. There is a certain lightness in it that was not possible before, but is by no means new.

Per Petterson:Out stealing horses - A surprisingly beautiful novel. Holiday literature, I think. - For Khaleed Hosseinis novel A Thousand Splendid Suns I think I'm a bit of the wrong target group. In any case, the book didn't touch me that much, and while reading it remains a bland aftertaste similar to when you leave the cruise ship for a few hours as a tourist in "exotic countries" and "get to know a culture" in the most superficial way possible ". -

Glenn Greenwald: No Place to Hide is an important book. If you've followed the revelations a bit, you already know a large part of the image shown (but Microsoft gets off really badly). The first 90 pages about contacting Snowden are pure thriller. The last part is a little too much howling from Greenwald.

Thomas Pynchon: Gravity’s Rainbow - What can you say about the book ...? The first three hundred pages are completely confusing. Towards the middle a coherent plot seems to develop - but that quickly subsides. From page 700 on, I was just furious about what a waste of time the book was. The jokes may make you smile at first ... but at some point it's enough, and “funny situations” like the following: A woman is robbed, but has a speech defect and cannot pronounce umlauts, and instead of “Pretty robber” she calls out - yes, you do guesses it, “helicopter robber”, “helicopter”, haha, which then causes someone a few doors down (it's 1920, nobody knows what a helicopter is ...) who happens to be studying aerodynamics (ah!) to do something - well, I only find such a situation funny because it is so badly enforced.

But one has to admit to Pynchon that he has to have an almost unbelievable general education. The book sometimes drifts in directions that are completely unexpected: One afternoon I am reading in a small park in Neukölln, and suddenly the story takes place in Neukölln too - that's pretty crazy, and I wonder a little whether I did not understand most of the references. And a relatively unknown aspect of German colonial history, the Herero genocide by German colonial rulers in what is now Namibia - for which the German government does not feel responsible to this day - plays a not insignificant role.

Max Frisch: Homo FaberJohn Williams: Stoner, a really impressive and unpretentious book. - Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go, I had already seen it as a film, so it felt familiar all along. Not really recommended ... - Cynan Jones: The Long Dry, one of the "new discoveries", but it didn't bother me. - Ned Vinzinni: It's kind of a funny story, I wasn't exactly the right target group either, but it highlights an important point: the fear of failure that we instill in young adults. - Hubert Selby Jr .: The Room - I couldn't do anything with that. - Hermann Hesse: Siddhartha - Yeah, mythological-romantic ... but not his best work. - Strugatski: Monday starts on Saturday, one can read. But you don't have to.

Inspired by Franzen's essay Mr Difficult, I have William Gaddis ’ novel The Recognitions read ... I liked it a lot, even if it was very confusing in some places - you could say, for example, that the completely passive main character loses his name (forgets?) after about a third of the book, and so does the literal speech that anyway is only indicated with dashes and not indicated who is speaking becomes even more confusing, because the protagonist is either no longer addressed directly or is only addressed as "my dear fellow". Overall, the book reads like a 50s hipster party, interspersed with indissoluble, general world doubt - peppered with a good portion of Christian mysticism.

To educate myself a bit, I also have one of the short story volumes by the Nobel Prize winner for literature Alice Munro read: Runaway I liked it a lot, especially because it wasn't always clear how closely the stories really were related.

Robert Charles Wilson: Spin - That kept me up all night. Very exciting. More science fiction? A friend gave me Richard MorgansAltered carbon, which is also recommended.

It was a new discovery for me Knut Hamsun: I have hunger and then the Mysteries read. Reminds me a bit of Dostoevsky, just not so Russian.

I felt the death of Frank Schirrmacher was a bitter loss. I was able to take new food for thought from each of his features articles. I felt the same way Ego - game of life, definitely worth reading, especially given the historical perspective it offers.

With the best will in the world, I can't remember how I came to write a classic tennis self-help book on my list. But also outside of tennis (or sport in general) W. Timothy Gallweys 100 pages The Inner Game of Tennis good advice: "Too much thought is a hindrance to excellence."

A friend is interested in how one can combine Far Eastern ideas with Western philosophy and he told me Alan Watts given, The Tao of Philosophy. I think the style is too much like a recorded radio speech that Erna (83) from Norderstedt should understand.

On the other hand, I was completely impressed by Adorno / Horkheimers plant Dialectic of Enlightenment. Dialectics is a rather multifaceted term, but reading this text was the first time I saw masterful dialecticians at work. It must be said, however, that the text is not easy to read. I had to look up words all the time, sometimes unnecessarily, because the authors use pompous terms like Fungibility and Usancerather than simply Interchangeability and property. They also tend to nest sentences in a very complicated way and to subject processes so that you often have to think twice about what is meant - but then you will be rewarded. Would you like a taste?

In the reduction of thinking to a mathematical apparatus, the sanction of the world is resolved as its own measure. What appears to be the triumph of subjective rationality, the submission of all beings to logical formalism, is bought with the obedient subordination of reason to what is immediately available. To understand what is there as such, not only to note the abstract spatiotemporal relationships in which one can then grasp them, but, on the contrary, to think of them as the surface, as conveyed conceptual moments that only emerge in the development of their social, historical, Fulfill the human sense - the whole claim of knowledge is abandoned.

I had read the Odyssey shortly before, so I particularly liked the excursus on the dialectics of myth and enlightenment using the example of Odysseus. What I ask myself is: To what extent did Homer see through this dialectic? I couldn't tell from the text whether the authors were reinterpreting Homer's text or just reading something from it whose profundity had not yet been recognized as such.

posted 2014-10-26 tagged bookdump


Once again, a lot has accumulated:

Robert A. Caro: The Power Broker - the monumental biography of a person and the city that he shaped significantly. I had never heard the name before, and I had never been to New York City. It is more than impressive to read how such an extraordinary person, through political influence, intelligence, willpower and the exploitation of seemingly trivial legal loopholes in a non-democratic way in a democratic system, rises to the de-facto sole determiner of building projects and thus the reality of the New Yorker Definitely in everyday life. (Attention: The book has 1300 pages and weighs a good 1.5kg, so it is only conditionally suitable for carrying around ...)

At the urging of a friend, I got one of Hannah Arendts read central theoretical works, Vita Activa (engl. The human condition). I didn't really like her style: she tries too hard to "prove" by examining the etymological origins of words in Greek or analyzing word compositions in other languages ​​and trying to extract intrinsic truth about the terms from the corresponding connotations.

Hermann Hesses novel The Glass Bead Game is one of the gentlest, most intellectually constructed stories I've read. The devotion and sincerity with which Joseph Knecht pursues his job as Glasperlenspielmeister is so impressive and simply "beautiful", the whole world of Castalia is so lovingly and detailed portrayed that I hardly wanted to put the book down - until I got to the appendices, the fictional ones Knecht's résumés came up: which I only half-heartedly skimmed over; The Buddhist, spiritual, recurring-and-holistic-philosophical thoughts come through too strongly, which I always (also with other authors) as evasive, not deep and transfiguratively pissed off. Too bad. (My former roommate Sergei, then a mathematician a dozen semesters above me, always raved about the cohomology theory as a “true glass bead game” - and after reading it I finally know what he always meant and am inclined to agree with him.)

A little later I still have Hesses Demian read. Also a beautiful story.

Michel Houellebecq: Expansion of the combat zone - I didn't like the writing style and the protagonist so much, but reading it is rewarding: here and there pointed, socially critical passages flash up that have it all - and which at least I won't forget anytime soon.

A classic among adventure books, Jon Krakauers Report of a Mount Everest expedition that ended catastrophically in the spring of 1996 with the very appropriate title Into Thin Air, I devoured one evening in snow and -10 ° C outside temperature: extremely exciting. In a meticulous manner and with a trained eye for local conditions, Krakauer explains not only the ascent, but also the planning (mostly away from the paying mountaineers), the background of his fellow mountaineers and, last but not least, shows in a captivating way how much the human body is in icy cold and much too thin air forgets the last remnant of imagined rationality - without even noticing it. He also has the difficult task of being one of the survivors of an expedition to others summit push day A total of 10 people gave their lives to discover mistakes in themselves and in others involved - and to reflect on how it is possible to return to “normal life” after such an incident. Absolute reading recommendation.

The blinding of Elias Canetti I started at the age of 18 and put it down yawning after 100 pages. When I read it again, the book was actually quite good: a weak middle section - too many predictable and exaggerated headbirths from people for me - but strong first and last parts. You can already read.

The new novel by Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetarywas not my cup of tea.

Yevgeny Zamyatins 200 pages We appeared as early as 1920, that is, before Huxleys Brave New World and Orwells 1984 - and I have to agree with the epilogue:

Nevertheless, there are fundamental differences between the three works. Zamyatin's prophetic achievement is far above that of the other two: when he wrote his novel, totalitarianism only existed in the embryonic state - when Huxley wrote, monopoly capitalist rationalization had reached its first climax in America (Ford); when Orwell wrote, Stalinism was in the Zenith of power. In return, the two Englishmen were able to draw the face of the modern world more precisely and more pointedly.

With development aid and policy, there is such a thing: How should one treat the “third world”? Direct help? Helping people help themselves? Leave in silence? What really helps? - In essence, development aid, when it does not consist of arms deliveries, is almost always about countries whose populations are largely extremely poor: the people who live on less than one US dollar a day. The two economics professors Duflo and Banerjee analyze in their book Poor economicshow economy works in “poor”: there are no banks (why not? who lends the money and at what interest rates?); there are no health and social security systems (how to save in an emergency? what if the harvest goes bad?); the risk of total bankruptcy is always imminent (how to deal with it?). - In short: the economy works very differently when you have almost no money. The question that naturally arises is: Are there ways of creating institutions or policies to improve these conditions? Duflo and Banerjee criticize the "monoculture approaches" of J. Sachs ("More money solves the problem") and W. Easterly ("No help allows you to find your own solutions"), and move from case to case through various approaches to solving specific problems and evaluating their effectiveness. This is the aim of the book:

This book is an invitation to think again, again: to turn away from the feeling that the fight against poverty is too overwhelming, and to start to think of the challenge as a set of concrete problems that, once properly identified and understood, can be solved one at a time.

Recommended reading for everyone who wants to deal with development aid.

In the past few months I have Jonathan Franzen discovered for me: First I did Freedom read: relaxed and easy, but enough dilemma so that the panorama doesn't seem too casual. In some places the novel seemed quite autobiographical. Compare the following text fragment Freedom

In a pocket of his khakis was a handful of coins that he took out and began to fling, a few at a time, into the street. He threw them all away, the pennies of his innocence, the dimes and quarters of his self-sufficiency. He needed to rid himself, to rid himself. He had nobody to tell about his pain [...]. He was totally alone and didn't understand how it had happened to him.

With this report (archived) of a trip Franzens in Germany:

Real anger, anger as a way of life, was foreign to me until one particular afternoon in April 1982. I was on a deserted train platform in Hanover. I'd come from Munich and was waiting for a train to Berlin, it was a dark gray German day, and I took a handful of German coins out of my pocket and started throwing them on the platform. There was an element of anti-German hostility in this, because I'd recently had a horrible experience with a penny-pinching old German woman and it did me good to imagine other penny-pinching old German women bending down to pick the coins up As I knew they would, and thereby aggravating their knee and hip pains. The way I hurled the coins, though, was more generally angry. I was angry at the world in a way I'd never been before.

Then I have one of his essay collections, How to be alone, read. We recommend! The man can write really well and is not ashamed to publicly discuss his weaknesses. Out Mr. Difficult (the funniest of the articles, but it's pretty serious):

It's hard to consider literature a medicine, in any case, when reading it serves mainly to deepen your depressing estrangement from the mainstream ...

And then I have to top it off The Corrections read. A panorama similar Freedom, but I'm getting tired of it. I'd rather get another volume of essays ...

There are such classics that I never read because I don't find the topic appealing. So it was with me Harper LeesTo kill a mockingbirdUntil a friend lent me the book and said I had to read it. And yes, this is an impressively beautiful book with an undreamt-of moral complexity.

I wanted to go to the theater because it was Dostoyevsky's The player listed. But the performance was temporarily canceled, and instead the hostess played. Unfortunately, I couldn't go to the performance, and I didn't really like the story either. But since the book was already open, I have The eternal husband read, and that's one of the author's best short stories, I think.

I was in Dubai for a week and had nothing to read with me, so I went shopping there: Roberto Bolaño: Woes of the true Policeman - Interesting especially for people who liked 2666 (for the biography Arc (h) imboldis) - but maybe also not interesting as an independent (fragment) reading. - Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms, not so very impressive. But a nice edition with 47 alternative endings. - Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary, the story starts so quickly: a boy fails to study, then he does, then marriage, then the death of the bad woman, then another marriage - and all of that in the first chapters. But then the plot extends over the next hundred pages to such an extent that at some point I didn't feel like it anymore. I may not be the target audience either.

Italo Calvino: When a traveler on a winter night - could have been made a little shorter, but better. More meta.

I finally got on myself Thomas Mann made. The Buddenbrooks I found it rather lengthy, and in many places too cold and distant, not very empathetic, although personal drama should be deliberately portrayed. As a characterization and description of the decline of a family, of course, it is masterful. (Addendum 2014-05-21: Musil writes in his diary in 1905: "Instead I read the Buddenbrocks [sic]. Very fine and boring; perhaps masterfully al fresco - but boring; sometimes surprisingly confident.")

Travel literature is said to have been redefined Bruce Chatwins Report on an expedition to southern South America, In Patagonia. I wasn't impressed, unfortunately: a series of stories and encounters, but none of them really touched me. Of course, there is also some adventure involved:

‘You could break a leg,’ she said, ‘or get lost and we’d have to send a search party. We used to ride it in a day, but you can’t get a horse through now. ’

And all because of the beavers. A governor of the island brought the beavers from Canada and now their dams choked the valleys where once the going was clear. But still I wanted to walk the track.

On this in the ZEIT: The Beaver War, how the beaver plague in Tierra del Fuego is to be contained.

I have to myself too James Joyce tries: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Well, I couldn't do anything with that. And another piece of world literature that I somehow don't understand: Gabriel García Marquez, A hundred years of solitude. All people have the same name and I don't know what to do with the story.

posted 2014-04-27 tagged bookdump


I have had all of the works published by. In the past three months Robert Musil read, as well as two small books with diary fragments and letters from the author. Somehow I haven't fully processed the reading; but maybe it helps a little to write about it to shed some light on what fascinates me about this author.

With Musil you can't avoid praising him for his style: How mathematically precise, how realistic! A thing is never transfigured in order to explain it - it is better to dispense with an exact characterization in favor of a rigorous, but fragmentary, treatment that sometimes does not come to a clear conclusion.

For Musil, however, style is only a means to an end:

I would be very grateful to the audience if they paid less attention to my aesthetic qualities and more to my will. For me, style is the precise elaboration of a thought.

Musil is generally very strenuous to read, and even months after reading the books, I still have a bulky feeling in my head; I have not yet been able to form a final judgment on the literary work of this author. It must therefore suffice at this point to list a few thoughts and quotes about the books in the order in which I read them.

The man without qualities

Long, almost drowsy in the middle, but an unbelievable book especially in retrospect. The precision with which Musil writes is impressive: Thoughts that I already dared to myself are presented there in such detail and comprehensively that I have read several chapters again and sometimes after days wrote a quote that haunted me in my head. If it wasn't that long, I would read it again in a moment.

The main character of the book, the mathematician and philosopher Ulrich, is a character who seems very similar to myself. The constant it-could-also-be-different, the repetitive search for structural reasons, for original principles, which on closer inspection turn out to be fallacies - this being without properties - but in a positive sense! - also applies to me. Things happen around us and we are formed: not the other way around.

A showpiece of analysis, for example, is this section from Chapter 34, A Hot Ray and Cold Walls:

Basically, in the mid-life years, few people know how they actually came to find themselves, their amusements, their worldview, their wife, their character, their occupation and their successes, but they have the feeling that they have been betrayed because nowhere can one discover a sufficient reason that everything came just as it did; it could have turned out differently; Most of the events originated from themselves, mostly they depended on all sorts of circumstances, on the mood, the life, the death of completely different people, and, as it were, merely rushed towards them at the given point in time. So in their youth life lay ahead of them like an inexhaustible morning, full of possibilities and nothing on all sides, and already at noon something suddenly appears that can now claim to be their life, and that is on the whole as surprising as when one day suddenly someone sits there with whom you have corresponded for twenty years without knowing him, and you have imagined him to be completely different.

Compare also Kafka's fable about the constriction of the mouse, in which the cat says: “You just have to change the direction of travel!” - The section continues with:

But it is even more strange that most people do not even notice it; they adopt the man who has come to them, whose life has settled into them; his experiences now appear to them as the expression of their qualities, and his fate is their merit or their misfortune.

In retrospect, the anticlimactic aspect of the book remains in particular: Musil himself said of the novel: "The story of this novel comes down to the fact that the story that was supposed to be told in it is not told."

Why did nothing happen, why didn't Ulrich start anything with his well-thought-out findings? But this question is also answered yes in conversation with Agathe:

"Why aren't we realists?" Ulrich asked himself. Neither of them, neither he nor she, their thoughts and actions no longer left any doubt; but they were nihilists and activists, and now one now the other, depending on how it came.

God is dead: Nietzsche's thinking permeates the book (explicitly in Clarisse; more practical and structural in Ulrich, who has long been committed to the inadequacies of morality and the indeterminacy of absolute good and bad). There is also a good deal of alienation in it, but of a spiritual kind (i.e. not in the Marxian sense): Rather, a recognition of the non-recognizability of the world, and this recognition is not followed by the construction of new cathedrals of meaning, but rather a fraying, dielectic denial of what “the people” do with no discernible goal other than scientific rigor towards everything that “is”.

It's definitely a philosophical novel - but it feels very different than reading philosophy:

[Ulrich] was not a philosopher. Philosophers are violent criminals who have no army at their disposal and therefore submit the world in such a way that they lock it into a system.

And so everything remains fragmentary, aphoristic, essayistic - but at the same time the book conveys that this is the only way of looking at the world that one is able to justify. (It's interesting that Ulrich doesn't have any cynical features at all.)

Perhaps it is the most important book for me so far that I have read.

Some of the chapters, especially in the first half, can be read and understood almost without context. We recommend, for example:

Diaries and letters

From the diaries (Suhrkamp-Edition 1963): Impressive essay fragment "From the stylized century (The street)" about the 2x2 = 4 world of people, how to transcend this world and yet wake up again without being able to put your finger on it, how you are actually ahead of "these people" (and whether you are at all: but the feeling remains).

And again and again the structural, e.g. in the following self-observation:

I come closest to describing my memory (and also my imagination) with the following: I present in every respect non-illustrative, for example in "facts". I also seldom remember details, just some sense of the matter. The statements are formed in a way that I have not analyzed from the facts that are there quite informally, almost not there.

I think that's why I write so hard.


I don't see why one should communicate in terms rather than in ideas. I would - perhaps - rather - communicate in ideas if I could. One should contradict me.

Another introspection:

I think I have no morals. Reason: Everything becomes fragments of a theoretical system for me. But I have given up philosophy, so the justification no longer applies. All that remains are: ideas. -

The Musil reading book (Rowohlt 1991) you don't have to read it; Fragments of the novels that are better read in full. But a few of the well-known short essays that are missing from the Suhrkamp book.

The confusions of the pupil Törless

In the new edition of Anaconda's MoE there were some OCR scan-related typesetting errors; I sent them to the publisher, who promptly thanked them by choosing a book of my choice from the range: Den Törless. (By the way, a nice edition with a bookmark!)

I had read the book once at school without bothering about it. In fact, it is an impressive portrait of an uncertainty that may not only overtake all people during puberty: the world between knowing and feeling that things are actually much deeper than those bystanders want to admit. Interesting how the imaginary numbers, which - at least for a student - appear so without authorization and yet useful in mathematics, serve as a hook.

Stories and plays

Three women - "Grigia" beautifully Kafkaesque; the other two made no impression on me.

Associations - “The perfection of love”: Is it even possible to describe the genesis of a thought that precisely? The train ride, during which she gets the idea of ​​an affair, is masterful. - The second story is too full of "animal" and deep, wavering thoughts that at some point become small and hard and solid. Generally something that bothers me in the early works because I can't do anything with them.

The enthusiasts (Play) - Difficult. Interesting. Characters that are difficult to identify. I would like to see the effect of the piece on stage. Two quotes:

Everything has a crack if you are smart and don't believe?


The most human secret of music is not that it is music, but that with the help of a dried sheep intestine it is possible to bring us closer to God.

posted 2013-12-02 tagged bookdump and musil


Despite my sci-fi aversion, I have received several recommendations Orson Scott Caros (already quite old) book Ender's game read. Exciting! I also liked the film very much - even if you understand it much better after reading the book: a lot is not so clearly worked out. Here is another interesting interview with the author.

Every now and then I find a novel by in a burial box Ian RankinI don't know yet: Doors Open is a nice book about an art theft, and it's nice to hear Rankin tell it from the perspective of non-cops.

I was in Copenhagen on a weekend in September, and although I had two books with me, I was through them on Saturday. Where can you find an English book on a Sunday afternoon in Copenhagen? The only place I actually had success was in this cafe that doubles as a second-hand bookshop. The same is closed on Sunday, but there are a few bookshelves where visitors can borrow (and then buy) a book. The best book I found was a no longer available book by Richard Cox, The Katanga Run. It's about ex-fellow pilots who harbor an old grudge, but then find themselves on different sides of a conflict in the Congo in the early 1960s. Not a good book, and the story culminates in the UN Secretary-General crashing under mysterious circumstances - but less than a week later I read the message that the UN wants to re-investigate this very 52-year-old case, and reading about this incident occurred to me the book is quite historically accurate despite its Tom Clancy style. There are coincidences.

The 2010 book by Bret Easton Ellis, Imperial Bedrooms, is typical and good. I wrote about the book: “It's scary, how profane and dehumanized life can become.” - While I've been to Ellis, I had to read the German equivalent: Unfortunately, it is Fiber country of Kristian Kracht not really good. The book is worth reading, but I think - as strange as that sounds - the best thing about this book is the title. New insight: Hanuta stands for “hazelnut table” (it is even on Wikipedia!). (As a side note: I think the only better known abbreviation in this area is "Haribo", whose founder recently passed away.)

It is a beautiful book The steppe wolf of Hermann Hesse. A small quote must suffice at this point:

So, Harry, get up, put your book down, put some soap on yourself, scratch your chin with blood, get dressed and please people!

The first book I got from Nassim Taleb read it recently Anti-fragile. Part life philosophy, part business book, it comes across as rather unscientific, but with interesting insights. If you don't look closely, Taleb could almost be called neophobic, and at least he preaches a fair amount of conservatism. I was able to gain some interesting insights from the book, especially with regard to the advantages of optionality over security. A frequent criticism of Taleb is that he argues too selectively and polemically, and he rarely succeeds in arguing rigorously. But as food for thought, the book is very well worth reading, and the suggestion, "anti-fragility" (that is Not Only robustness is) to be anchored as a new word in modern vocabulary is commendable and, in my opinion, also important.

A classic of world literature that is good and surprisingly easy to read: Vladimir NabokovsLolita. Lots of people might refer to this as poorly packaged pornography, but the framework in which the book is enclosed and the second half of the story in particular are, in my opinion, much more interesting and important than the pedophilia of the first part (even if the ease of expression is sometimes very inappropriate and cruel). Especially when I heard the author's afterword I had to laugh a lot, here's a paragraph:

Certain techniques in the first chapters of the Lolita (such as Humbert's diary) misled some of my early readers into the mistaken assumption that the present novel was a slippery book. They expected an increasing series of erotic scenes; when these stopped, the readers stopped too and were bored and disappointed. That is, I suspect, one of the reasons why not all four publishers [mentioned] read the typescript to the end. I didn't care whether they found it pornographic or not. Your refusal to purchase the book was based not on how I treated my subject, but on the subject itself, for there are at least three subjects that are absolutely taboo to most American publishers. The other two are: a marriage between black and white that results in a happy marriage with a myriad of children and grandchildren; and the absolute atheist who leads a happy and beneficial life and gently falls asleep at the age of one hundred and six.

Given by a friend, I have Arno Orzesseks Firstfruit Schattauer's daughter read. Phew, well - the book was exciting, the story interesting, and I don't want to spoil it now, just to make a point of criticism: But all in all, the novel looked about as one would expect the first novel to study Literary scholar - it is known which narrative forms work well, which topics determine the canon of contemporary (processing) literature, there is a little experimentation with formulations and the author knows how to bring an arc of tension to the end anyway. A lot of things were just too predictable for me, the characters were drawn too much according to the necessities of their position in the plot, overall: too much drawing board.

From the two CCC speakers Frank Rieger and Constanze Kurz I have the new book on a non-working Saturday Off work read: Very exciting insights into modern production systems. I'm still trying to find a primary source (or better yet, a video!) For these silos that examine every single grain of wheat for traces of ergot when it arrives, which is really amazing.

At the recommendation of a friend, I have from Edgar Hilsenrath the novel The fairy tale of the last thought read about the genocide of the Armenians during the First World War. A very interesting narrative style; Overall, I also liked the book, but in parts it was too repetitive and lengthy. To be honest, I didn't even know about this genocide before reading it.

The recently published new novel by Robert Harris, To Officer and a Spy, is quite worth reading overall. The Dreyfuss affair also determines the plot in Prousts to a not insignificant extent Research, and I had never really taken the time to read intensively about the French attitudes towards the military and their Jewish fellow citizens at the time - and it is precisely this deficit that the novel fills in well. A bit bumpy at the beginning for my taste, and of course quite short given that it was a conflict that had been smoldering for years.

posted 2013-12-01 tagged bookdump

"La Recherche"

I spent almost the whole summer - 88 days to be precise - reading Marcel Prousts In Search of Lost Time second hand. So three months in which I spend one or two hours a day in the Belle Époque in France at the end of the 19th century. And now, 4,195 pages later, the adventure is over. What an experience!

There is, of course, much to be said about a book like this, which regularly appears as the "novel of novels" in the must-read lists of books. And I also remember well how at the age of 18 - in retrospect, of course, I was still too young for that - after the first few dozen pages (initially) of unsuccessful description of the landscape, I yawned the book and devoted myself to more interesting things (as it is probably many is possible, but more on that below) - and yet because I came across this work again and again in different contexts at the beginning of summer, it occurred to me that I should try again. In view of the sheer volume of the novel, one has to be aware that what makes up a ten-page exposition of a suburb and its inhabitants in a 400-page story, here scaled accordingly, makes up a good 100 pages. Armed with this knowledge, however, one loses the expectation of an action that will hopefully soon emerge, and this step is urgently needed. Because only later - that is, in the second, third, fourth book, and not even then in its entirety - do the reader discover the central themes of the work. But those who hold out for so long will be richly rewarded.

But I only want to single out one central aspect here, namely that of the protagonist's self-pity in the face of his jealousy. The reader realizes early on that the narrator is trying to reconstruct his worldview back then, but at the time of writing is already much further with his feelings about love and jealousy towards his beloved. In particular, it is already clear at this point that all these feelings that make the narrator so incredibly suffering will be forgotten later. But it was precisely this temporal context that struck me: It is as if one relived, in the smallest detail and with knowledge of the future, those sufferings (and mistakes) that shape one, and which later become meaningless as a feeling, but not as an experience are. It is in this part of the book that the narrator learns a great truth about the world, the beings that move in it and, in relation to this, the viewer's point of view:

We have only formless, fragmentary ideas of the world, which we complete with arbitrary associations of ideas, from which dangerous suggestions arise.

But how can you bring these fragmentary ideas together into a larger whole? At the end of the book, during the final matinée, the narrator is already looking ahead at the critics of his novel when he says:

Wherever I was looking for the great laws, they thought they saw me as someone who was digging for details.

It is precisely this constant search for details in order to illustrate the universal that is fascinating. In the eyes of Adorno, one can hope for something saving from the reception of a poet who unites the exemplary with the advanced.

What really irritated me when reading this book was how much my reading experience seems to differ from that of others. If Proust is cited in the feature pages, the paragraph almost inevitably aims at the narrator's memory of enjoying a madeleine or the mother's kiss withheld from him - both scenes that are presented in incredible detail in the first part of the first book (and at the will be looked back many times later) - as if these were the central moments that make up the work. Looking at the entire work, however, these passages in particular do not seem to me to be rich in content. The aspects of the novel that make it great in my eyes are above all the meticulous social dramas of society, which are analyzed back and forth in time, by no means free of self-irony; and of course the pervasive complex of love, passion, betrayal and jealousy. Is the not what allows the reader to participate in existential truths? So why does the reception focus so much on the involuntary memories, which are punctual and highly individual? - Perhaps the reason must be sought in the fact that some of these authors did not advance further than these episodes; or I just read the book with a completely different focus.

While reading this, I was not sure about some of the impressions. At the end of at least the first four books (or the two parts that make up each of them) a feeling of abruptness struck me every time: How, but the story is just getting started? I thought every time. Is that wanted? Or is it the feeling of a marathon runner who thinks when looking at the finish line: Already? - Furthermore, I had to laugh heartily at some passages and at times also shake my head at the self-referentiality, provinciality and immobility of people and societies. It seems as if the proverbial board in front of the head is made visible by the way in which the narrator reports seemingly indifferent from the "scandals" of local social celebrities, in the style of Dostoyevsky. But it is precisely this "light-heartedness" in dealing with Proust - that one can laugh at the social caricatures and the author himself - does not seem to be undisputed, says Proust-Neu translator Michael Kleeberg.

How much do you have to know about Proust in order to read the work profitably? In retrospect, I browsed his biography a little, but didn't find it really informative. Yes, the more you read, the more you think that the novel is actually an autobiographical compendium. But does that change anything? I do not think so. - Incidentally, Roland Barthes of all people - from whom the influential essay »The Death of the Author« originates - was a great Proust supporter who was of the opinion that after this final monument of the novel there was no point in writing another one, and rewrote his experiment in lecture notes.

The writer only uses the phrase "My dear reader" in the language of the prefaces and dedications, quite insincere habitually. In reality, when he reads, every reader is a reader only of himself. The work of the writer is only a kind of optical instrument that the author gives the reader so that he can recognize what he might otherwise not have been able to see in himself. That the reader recognizes what the book says in himself is the proof of the truth of this book, and vice versa the same is true, at least to a certain extent, since the difference between the two texts very often does not belong to the author , but must be blamed on the reader.

Reading is recommended for those who have the time and perseverance.

posted 2013-08-27 tagged proust and bookdump


Dobelli: The art of clear thinking - Quite nice for reading in between on the train. But the referenced works (Kahnemann, Cialdini) are of course much more informative. - Melville: Moby Dick - A classic, even today, the character of Ahab is the prototype of the idea of ​​the crazy and unyielding leader. I probably read a simplified version as a child, because the story goes on forever and is written in absolutely tiresome, slang-interspersed English. I was astonished at how scientific the novel appears and how genealogies of certain elective genres are spread over pages. (The book appeared when Darwin had not yet published his theory of evolution.)

William Gibson: Pattern Recognition - My second attempt at reading Gibson. Quite interesting, but too confused for me. - Hunter S. Thompson: The Rum Diary - First time reading Thompson. Quite funny book, and the desperation of the protagonist comes across much better than in the recently released film of the same name. - Charles Bukowskis first and last novel: Post office and Pulp are as always with Bukowski, good entertainment. - Richard Price: Clockers is kind of elongated, but I finished reading it. I also felt that the English in the book rubbed off a bit on my language. The film accompanying the book is not recommended.

After I Aldous Huxleys classic Brave New World read again and was impressed, I then saw his utopia Iceland read, and then also his treatise on the origins and manifestations of the philosophy of eternity, The Perennial Philosophy, read. I liked the utopia a lot (it's just a bit cheesy), but I couldn't do anything with its fascination with the Far Eastern philosophy of unity and eternity.

Since I got the little book Poststructuralism: A very short introduction I've read, I like art. See, for example, the Fountain controversy.

I read two books that I really enjoyed. First Roberto Bolaños early novel The Savage Detectives. A prime example of the non-linear / circular narrative structure of Spanish literature, the book is fun, exciting and full of characters that will be remembered for a long time. Just the name of the avant-garde young group of poets around which the story revolves: Visceral Realists, that is, realists who relate to deep, inward-looking feelings that are not accessible to the intellect - is an ingenious word construction. - On the recommendation of a friend, I have Theodore Rozsaks novel Flicker read. If you like Umberto Eco, then you are definitely not wrong here. A grandiose story between madness and reality that I certainly couldn't fully enjoy because I missed many of the historical film references. Only the end is a bit poor.

I read two non-fiction books, but they were so full of facts that at some point it got tiring and I saved myself the last 200 pages. Unlike on the spine of Made in Americe you can Bill Bryson also do not describe: "witty, learned, compulsive." - The Compendium The German Genius of Peter Watson is pretty impressive. The Briton takes an approach that I find very important: to show that German history is much more than the time after Hitler came to power; In this respect, instead, he takes care of the aspects of art, philosophy, research, language, military technology and social organization of the last 250 years, which are of German origin and have left lasting traces in Europe and the world to this day.

Is a booklet full of interesting questions Ludwig WittgensteinPhilosophical Investigations. For example something like this:

226 - Suppose someone follows the row 1, 3, 5, 7, ... by writing down the row of 2x + 1. And he asks himself: "But do I always do the same thing, or do I always do something different?" Anyone who promises from one day to the next "Tomorrow I want to visit you" says the same thing every day; or something different every day?

The book pervades a constant dialectic between internal perception and external circumstances: one follows a rule (for example that of arithmetic) when one believesdo you obey them? Can this be verified from the outside? Is it even possible to negotiate about the concept of understanding, i.e. can one admit that someone has understood something only on the basis of random statements that conform to the rule to be checked? - There are, among other things, such questions with which Wittgenstein approaches in an impressively playful way and with many concise examples. And yet I still have the impression that I haven't really “taken something with me” from this book. Is it because I've been living in a world of mathematics for four years now, in which it is almost all about systems of a rather abstract kind, of which one necessarily only has a fragmentary understanding? In any case, many of these questions do not seem to me to really go into depth. -

And then I have In Search of Lost Time of Marcel Proust read. But I'll dedicate my own post to that.

posted 2013-08-27 tagged bookdump


You can find it almost everywhere in the current bestseller lists Jonas JonassonsThe centenarian who climbed out the window and disappeared. With good reason: The book is easy to read and is ideal as a holiday reading. Coming just as easy and anecdotal Charles BukowskysNotes of a dirty old man therefore: Always good for a laugh. The classic Catch-22 of Joseph Heller I read 150 pages, but somehow couldn't do anything with them. Reading again Aldous HuxleysBrave New World was entertaining. (See also this apt webcomic comparing Orwell and Huxley's dystopias.)

In my eyes is extremely important David Graebers book Debt / The First 5000 Years. Highly praised by all, the book has shown me a type of historical analysis that I was previously unfamiliar with. Exciting, entertaining but incredibly rich and detailed at the same time - you have to read the book, just because of the introductory chapter, The Myth of Barter (German: The Myth of Barter). Intellectually, I was shocked by the apparently well-documented fact that can be summed up as:

His [Llewellyn-Jones] study covers the entirety of the ancient Greek world and argues that veiling was routine for women of varying social strata, especially when they appeared in public or before unrelated males.

In the words of Graeber (Debt, p. 188):

As much as it flies in the face of our stereotypes about the origins of “Western” freedoms, women in democratic Athens, unlike those in Persia or Syria, were expected to wear veils when they ventured in public.

I never heard that in Latin and history class. On the contrary, women were always portrayed in the books as progressive, democratic and relatively emancipated. - Definitely a book that I will read again in the near future.

For understanding modern conflict is also A game as old as Empire very helpful. As the "successor" of Economic Hitmen Hiatt presents people who work in very different contexts and with very different motivations in industries that ultimately aim to attack the economies of countries: be it offshore bankers, mercenaries working for American oil companies in Nigeria or consultants and analysts for the World Bank or of the IMF.

I also read a little more SciFi again: starting with the classic Snow crash of Neal Stephensonwhich I found only moderately impressive. I liked a lot more there Fear Index of Robert Harriswhich deals with autonomous stock exchange trading systems that suddenly display hazardous behavior; besides, I have something of the first time Cory Doctorow read: For the win, a book set in China, India (Dharavi), Singapore and the USA, which fits perfectly with Graeber's book, because it deals with virtual toys that have value in the real world (as if that were surprising) - and suddenly the gold farmers organize themselves and form a kind of international union. Entertaining and educational. The highlight at the end: the new one Suarez, Kill decisionis really great. (More background info.)

At first I was enthusiastic about Haruki Murakamis book 1Q84. The edition alone, which apparently is not yet available everywhere, is absolutely successful: the page numbers are always at different levels and are mirrored in half of the cases; And interestingly, the type area on the right-hand side is shifted exactly one line down. (I couldn't figure out why, but I assume it's on purpose.) I read the first part with enthusiasm. After about 500 pages it got boring, and on page 900 I decided not to read the remaining 200 pages, the explanations are so boring, clumsy and unimportant. The blurb promises “A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to George Orwell's rival” - but overall the dystopia that I would have liked to have seen is almost non-existent, and too much plot is lost in mystical explanations. It's a shame, because you could really have made something out of the story.

I'm just now with the new book by Irvin D. Yalom finished: The Spinoza problem uses the recipe for success "historical personality psychoanalytically presented in the form of a novel", but in my opinion it is not as successful as the two predecessors on Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Both Spinoza and Rosenberg are interesting characters and are well portrayed. Overall, however, the dialogues seem too well constructed, not real enough. Maybe it should have been a correspondence novel.

posted 2012-10-06 tagged bookdump


In Sudan I had a lot of time and leisure, and I have the absolute classic, the Illuminatus Trilogy of Rober Shea & Robert Anton Wilson read - for the third time now. In general, I only read novels once, but this book is unlike any other fictional work I know: jumping wildly in space, time, person and narrative style makes you laugh out loud one moment, but lapse into intense thought the next. I still count it to my absolute favorite books. - There was little English literature to buy in Cairo, so a classic was needed: Charles Dickens'Oliver Twist is a very nice story, but after two thirds I didn't really have to read it to the end and therefore left it.

The new 1000-page tome by Neal Stephenson, REAMDE, although it is exciting, it is unfortunately too long at 300 pages. The initial story - the MMORPGT'Rain, which attracts the Chinese, could actually become a reality in a few years - it turned out very well, especially the characters Dodge and Sokolov. But from about the departure from Manila and the moment Olivia Sokolov "saves", the story unfortunately gets out of hand. Too many improbabilities, too many scenes told twice from different perspectives - the showdown could well have taken place in a city and should have only taken 70 pages. - And: Without knowing why, the constant Wikipedia / Twitter / Facebook name dropping feels pretty forced after the third time and doesn't add anything to the story. The interaction with computers and the "hacking" is usually shown quite realistically, which is what you can expect from Stephenson.

Another classic from Bret Easton Ellis I have with American Psycho read. The film is of course very well known, but the book also provides a good template: A sick world in which it is usually only about reservations in fine restaurants, but now and then also about alcohol, business cards or the murder of a homeless person or a homeless person Whore.

I still have en passant Terribly amusing, but in the future without me of David Foster Wallace read, which wasn't terribly amusing, but nice. If you like to observe people and philosophize about their intentions and backgrounds, then you will find like-minded people here.

A total of three of the shorter books by Noam Chomsky I have read. The Piper editionProfit over people / Was against people seems to be a classic among the German Chomsky translations. The two rather short and surprisingly biting books, written in 1999, essentially deal with neoliberalism, which "is the first and immediate enemy of real democracy ... [which] will not change in the foreseeable future" (from the introduction by McChesney ). - The big issues are well known, with Nicaragua and Cuba in the foreground. The overall picture and the cases described can already be found for the most part in Year 501: The Conquest Continues; but in these two books Chomsky chose some really powerful and unintentionally realistic quotes as his hobbyhorse and never tires of repeating them over and over again. And even a decade later, especially with regard to the financial crisis, the final word is absolutely correct:

The socio-economic order now commanded from above is the result of the choice of people working in man-made institutions. The decisions can be revoked, the institutions can be changed. Should it prove necessary, they can be smashed and replaced. Upright and courageous people have done this time and again throughout history. [S. 150, WaP]

Because of as: TINA (there is no alternative) - or, as one says to New German: without alternative.

Making the future is a collection of articles from April 2007 – October 2011 published in the New York Times at the end of February 2012. The book is certainly a good introduction to Chomsky's work, because the articles are clear, self-contained and easy to understand. For me personally, it was once again interesting to see the striking events and decisions of that time (e.g. Obama's appointment as president, his Nobel Peace Prize; the Gaza flotilla; WikiLeaks' CableGate; Somali pirates; the financial crisis; the Arab Spring) to recapitulate and also to see how facts, which as far as I can remember only learned later, were already foreseeable at the respective points in time. - Whole paragraphs or phrases are sometimes repeated. The following paragraph from Chomskys is reprinted at the end of the book Occupy BostonSpeech from the end of October 2011 makes the title of the book seem justified.

Karl Marx famously said that the task is not just to understand the world but to change it. A variant to keep in mind is that if you want to change the world you'd better try to understand it. That doesn't mean just listening to a talk or reading a book, though that's helpful sometimes. You learn from participating. You learn from others. You learn from all the people you're trying to organize. We all have to gain the understanding and the experience to formulate and implement ideas and plans as to how to move forward.

Now I am reading a little again from my Dostoevsky Complete Edition, currently: The idiot.

posted 2012-05-30 tagged bookdump


One book that really shouldn't be missed is Thinking, fast and slow of Nobel Prize Winners Daniel Kahneman. It's certainly not a very engaging book, but neither is it overly dry or complex. The subject of the book is the two actors System I. and System II - the intuition, which works fast but imprecisely and is easy to deceive, and what we call "strenuous thinking".