52 States in 8 Months

Eich’s “Maulwürfe” in Reich-Ranicki’s “Lauter Verisse”

Posted in Europe by Ulf on April 5, 2009

bild5762A few days before I went to the US, Ruth gave me a book from her grandfather’s heritage. It is the 1973 edition of Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s “Lauter Verisse”. This book was first published in 1970, and apparently there is also a 1992 edition which is still sold (for 8.90€ which is 4.5x as much as the 1973 price, 3.80DM). The 1970 book was published by the Piper Verlag, while the 1973 edition is an Ullstein Buch. The 1992 version finally is from dtv. I didn’t know that the German publishing companies are so cooperative…

Anyway, let’s talk about the book. Everybody in Germany knows Marcel Reich-Ranicki although he has just 159.000 Google hits (or 159.001 once this blog post is published). He is the incarnation of literary criticism itself. Actually, due to my superficial knowledge, he is the only literature reviewer I know. “Lauter Verrisse” (“many shredding reviews”) starts with an essay about literature criticism itself. Reich-Ranicki argues why it is necessary and he reveals many flaws of the literature criticism in Germany. He is complaining about authors who acted as reviewers for other authors. This leads to some “Kungelei” among like-minded people instead of serious reviewing. Reich-Ranicki also explaines the necessity of brutal and hard reviews, those “Verrisse”. There is for example the very interesting question of whether a review should aim at the author, giving him feedback, or if a review shall be a help for the (possible?) reader.
I really liked this introductory essay a lot. Even aside from the content, it was Reich-Ranicki’s precise, complex and still understandable use of language. I’m often criticized for writing too long sentences. Their length makes it hard for my readers to follow. I envy Reich-Ranicki’s ability to write sentences which still make sense although they go over 4-5 lines and contain a comma in each of them.

maulwuerfeNow, the main part of “Lauter Verrisse” are those reviews themselves. So far I’ve only read half of them, and there are some which I liked (e.g. the one about Peter Bichsel’s “Die Jahreszeiten”, or “Versteckspiele einer Hauptperson” as Ranicki calls the book). There are also some reviews which I liked less. While reading I often lose Ranicki’s overall argumentation, or maybe I don’t even find it in the first place. This morning I read the review of Günter Eich‘s “Maulwürfe” and “Kulka, Hilpert, Elefanten”. Forget about the second one, I only remember Ranicki’s notes on the “Maulwürfe” (not “moles”, Eich literally means things that your “mouth throws”). I don’t even know why Ranicki mentioned the second book at all.

Then, what is “Maulwürfe” all about? Reich-Ranicki calls it “Vorsichhinblödeln” (“fooling around on its own”), a term which he borrows from another review by Max Frisch. He tries to separate lyrics and poetic prose and I must admit that I’ve no idea what Ranicki is talking about. I do however understand that Ranicki does not like Eich’s word-plays like “Der Mett heiligt die Zwickel” or the “Jüngste Gerücht”. In the first place, some of them looked even strange to me, such as “Kandidierte Chinesen”. But when I realized that Eich doesn’t share my standard German pronunciation of “China”, it was even more funny :-). The more Reich-Ranicki agitated against Eich’s creation, I became curious about it. Maybe Ranicki is right when he says that Eich’s “Lappalien” are no profound poetry. Still, what I liked most about Ranicki’s review were the excerpts from Eich’s book :-).

I guess Ranicki is also right with something he mentiones in his introduction, in the context of Rudolf Hagelstange’s “Altherrensommer”: Those readers that like simple, “easily accessible” books will usually not read literature reviews at all. Or they will not agree with them.

PS/1: Did you know that the Google search is case sensitive? There are 144.000 results for “Günter Eich” while Google offers only 61.100 results for “günter eich“. Has anyone ever noticed this before? EDIT: I should have taken a screenshot, because now both search terms give 144.000 results. Still, the search results are different.

PS/2: When I read Günter Eich’s Wikipedia article, I first heard about an (at least partial) admission freeze of the NSDAP between 1933 and 1939. Does anybody know anything more about this? Up to now I thought that there is nothing seriously wrong about being a party member in a dictatorship (you’re better off if you pretend to comply with the rulers). But if Wikipedia says the truth, then being a NSDAP member in the 1930s really is some proof of being radical.


6 Responses

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  1. Fabi said, on April 5, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Funny that Google sometimes shows different numbers for the total search results.
    Here the screenshots ( http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/3765/ge1.png
    http://img8.imageshack.us/img8/9908/ge2g.png ) Just try refreshing the search result page a few times.
    I know that Google only ”estimates” the total number of hits, it does not calculate them (would be too complex for each search query). Perhaps their servers are not synchronized completely and thus the numbers are different?

  2. Ulf said, on April 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Yes, that seems to be a good explanation!

    In fact, it turned out that the number of search results which Google gives now deviates a lot from those which Google estimated when I wrote this blog post.
    I just googled for “Günter Eich” (with quotes, just as you did in your screenshots). Google claims it has about 91.200 results.

  3. elke said, on April 6, 2009 at 5:47 am

    wow! google likes your page, brother!

  4. elke said, on April 6, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Regarding the “admission freeze”: makes sense, when you read the whole wikipedia article. in the end, it was all policies, as always :) and if you want the party to be an additional instrument of power, you can’t have everybody inside. Than, it’s normality again and you can’t bypass additional power (e.g. positions) to the supposedly especially loyal members, no usage as a filter.

  5. Ulf said, on April 6, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Yes, it does absolutely make, I agree.
    I just did not know about this. My feeling so far was that everybody was encouraged to join the NSDAP. Seems like that is wrong…

  6. elke said, on April 9, 2009 at 7:04 am

    yes, i thought so, too… Strange

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