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The tenor is of an encounter with something real but beyond the full grasp of the mind. Metaphors highlight the movement of the senses which collapse space and distance.

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Sounds surrounding the narrator are allowed inside her body until there is pure movement between her, the house, and the outside world. Towards the end fragmentation and mutating relations with the environment attain a voice. Komm sofort hier raus. However, an alternative reading is possible: given the dominant violent modes of oppositional subject-object relations, re-arrangements that suggest movements beyond this split appear mad and may only be explored in marginal spaces like the avant-garde work of art.

Nature, Bodies and Breakdown 47 Masculinity, Untergang and Death in Regenroman Such moments suggesting openness to changing relations to the natural environment are harder to locate in Regenroman.

Stéphane Hessel - ein glücklicher Rebell (German Edition)

Commonplace violence is embodied in menacing characters, such as Pfitzner, from the seedy Hamburg underworld of strip clubs, pimps and boxing, who has commissioned Leon to write his biography. Cruelty and antagonism seemingly underpin the whole social order, including human treatment of nature. In one episode Leon encounters a truck driver transporting rusty containers, hinting at environmental pollution. Antagonism and violence between man and nature is mirrored by the violence humans inflict on each other.

Later in the penultimate chapter the police show Leon a whole selection of photos of murdered women.

The natural environment appears from early on as contaminated and controlled. Fruit rots before it has had a chance to ripen. Leon reads about widespread crop failures and slug infestations in the newspaper. At several points the narrative suggests that the violent state of human affairs may reflect violence inherent in nature. This idea appears in a typically laconic exchange between Leon and Martina. She does not anthropomorphise, but evokes nature without projecting meaning or ethical concepts upon it. Another more unsettling example of the anthropomorphisation of nature is the depiction of the nature programme about giant lizards that Harry and Leon watch on TV.

The two seem linked; the underbelly of the city appears as having reverted to an older, more natural state, the human reverting to supposedly natural dog-eat-dog behaviour, which civilisation attempts but fails to tame. Regenroman thus implies that society valorises violence as natural and as an excuse for not having to think critically about human behaviour. Thus people are brought to experience nature as having intrinsic meaning — as prefiguring social phenomena. This process of re-enchantment covers over the effects of human reason and control and contradicts the original goal of the demythologising process of the Enlightenment, which was to disenchant nature.

Regenroman conveys a mixture of disenchanted and re-enchanted nature: the weather forecasts that precede every chapter allude to the desire to predict and control nature, but the sense of superiority over nature is undermined by the content of the chapters.


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If the weather forecasts suggest a disenchanted nature ordered through science and no longer through mythology or religion, other aspects of the text, such as the references to the biblical Great Flood, allude to residual enchanted views of nature. Given the centrality of Leon and his gradual demise, the focus is not, however, on modernity or society, but masculinity. Leon is differentiated from the criminal Pfitzner and Harry. However, his behaviour towards women, the moor and bodies implicates him and his sex in the whole spectrum of violence. Moreover, his admiration of macho values combined with his cowardice, his patronising attitude towards Martina and the local people in Prieznitz, and his failure to defend Martina all cause him to appear in a negative light.

This reveals an extreme objectifying attitude of mastery over the body, nature and death. Aber was konnte man schon mit einer Landschaft anfangen. In an early episode he loses his way in the moor and falls into the quickmud. The first of many falls symbolising his gradual demise, it is described as a terrifying, near-death experience. He is submerged in mud and is able to pull himself free only at the last minute.

This experience does not lead to a new awareness of the power of nature. Chapter 4 features the battle with the slugs and what disturbs him most is the constant procreation: the sight of a slug filled with eggs fills him with disgust, suggesting an underlying fear of birth and of nature as the source of its own generation which is not subject to human control. His inability to control the slugs leads him to conclude that nature is fundamentally antagonistic towards the human world. Leon thus has a dual view of nature — as something to be longed for but also a cruel force which undermines all his striving.

Subsequent descriptions reinforce her connection to nature and the maternal, but also to death. Hers is an extremely fat, fleshy body, she has intimate knowledge of the mud and the moor, her bed is made out of a tree, and she eats slugs. Childhood desires are also evoked in the description of climax which is likened to falling off a fairground ride. Es war so … — so weich. So viel. R In the sexual encounter with Isadora Leon experiences a dissolving of self as he imagines mingling with the shitting, procreating animals and with nature as a whole through the suggestion that he feels part of the whole water cycle.

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But fear and disgust are evoked at the same time as pleasure. The whole experience is linked to a loss of a boundary between self and other, where the male ego is positioned as self, and the earth-woman as other. This produces in Leon not an acceptance of the body and nature, but violent rejection. Isadora war besonders schlimm, aber eigentlich waren alle Frauen so, jedenfalls nicht viel besser, nicht einmal Martina. R Duve evokes here the classic horror of castration in this description of female genitalia.

He is unable to move, make love, or work; images of his physical decline suggest that he is turning into a slug. He is 52 Teresa Ludden now pitted against his body as a new kind of enemy.

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This rejection of the corporeal is stressed in a further sexual encounter with Isadora, while he is lying semi-paralysed on the floor. Here he thinks there is a radical separation between himself and his penis. Several experiences lead ineluctably towards death. Leon gets lost in the drowned wood wearing only a dressing gown. Like the forest in fairytales, the wood is a symbol for the unknown, the uncanny, and a loss of self.

Instead he meets his death in the marshy moor. Violence is down-played as the experience contains elements of pleasure, alluding perhaps to a death-drive; giving in to the desire to fill himself with mud and nothingness appears as a final, Schopenhauerian, release. Wie gut es war, Moder unter Moder zu sein.

Hessel, Stéphane

The life-giving properties of nature lose out to the perspective that links nature to death. Thus Leon does not find unity or Being; instead there is a simple loss of consciousness.


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Duve has stated that, while there is no hope for the male sex in Regenroman, there are signs of change on the female side. Martina, we are led to believe, has by the end attained some self-knowledge. But the other side of her bulimia is an extreme selfishness. Her vomiting is linked to an obsessive desire to control her body. In the final chapter she returns home and sets fire to the secondhand car which was the scene of her first disgrace. Her father had caught her with a boy in the back seat when she was a teenager and it has remained in situ outside the house ever since.

The car going up in flames might be meant to symbolise a new beginning for Martina, but the gesture is unconvincing and superficial, reminiscent of the solutions offered by the self-help books that Martina is depicted reading throughout the text. And so Regenroman itself appears trapped in a cycle of repetition: compulsively drawn to representing violence, it diagnoses dominant cultural relations yet repeats the problems associated with that culture. In particular, the repeated association of the female, the feminine and the maternal with nature conceived as inimical and death-like is problematic.

The becoming visible of death and the female body functions as a warning sign that all is not well; the repressed elements in culture are returning to the surface. The trope of the female corpse has come to stand in literature for the otherness which masculinity must reject in order to maintain stability.

Femininity and death are brought together in the figure. Consideration of humour and elements of pastiche might produce a different reading. Fischer Verlag: Frankfurt am Main, , pp. For a Peaceful Revolution, trans. Sketch of a Possible Felicity in History, trans.

Death, femininity and the aesthetic, Manchester University Press: Manchester, , p. This page intentionally left blank Elizabeth Boa Lust or Disgust? Comic travesty of myth is a key weapon in conveying a feminist-inflected green agenda. A decisive intervention by a woman author in the history of male-authored representations of dead female bodies and of violence upon women, Regenroman also offers a provocative reflection upon the pleasure in violence pervading contemporary popular culture.

Halb zog sie ihn, halb sank er hin, 1 Und ward nicht mehr gesehn.

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Goethe was writing in , the meeting point of late Enlightenment and early Romantic stirrings. At such a moment, the water world perhaps symbolises the enchanted realm of poesy in contrast to dry rationalism. It is a metaphor for poetic metaphor which reflects yet transforms the real world and uncovers hidden truths and unacknowledged desires below the prosaic surface. The poem contains the metaphoric other world within a regular metric order, however, and frames the uncanny encounter within folk tradition.

Regenroman too draws us into a metaphorical other world, like the real world, but a bit off the edge and down the muddy track to somewhere else. But at the end of Regenroman, squelchy mud penetrates bodily orifices, glugging down into throat and lungs. Three main techniques feed into the heightened realism which makes Regenroman so intriguing: extended metaphor intertwines with precise detail of contemporary life, while, conversely, metaphoric motifs, slugs for instance, are rendered with naturalistic precision; the ostensibly impersonal narration is full of perspectival shifts so that we see the world at one point or another through the eyes of most of the characters including the dog Noah; mood and mode shift ambiguously between the comic and the horrific, the parodic and the straight, between realism and traces of the fantastic, of fairy tales, of myth, or of comic-book violence.

This kaleidoscopic perceptual field is disorientating, but enlivening, for the blurring of boundaries between the literal and the metaphoric and between literary moods and modes contributes to the import of Regenroman as an intervention in contemporary cultural politics, especially in the fields of gender and aesthetics. These locations have a retro flavour: they reprise the contrast between the city and the countryside in Heimat literature around , but with a contemporary twist in that the city is west German whereas the countryside is east German.

Hans survives the snow, though he may later drown in the mud of the trenches, but Leon gets definitively lost in the east German mud. The Lust or disgust? The hero who strays too far out is often an intellectual, who hopes through contact with nature to stimulate his creative gifts. But nature can crush instead of inspiring and the landscapes generally bear human traces.

The comic-sinister motifs prompt reflection upon what sort of civilisation is leaving its ugly traces in the east German landscape and draw attention self-reflexively to the aesthetics of a novel by a writer who may, like the choleric artist, be angry about something. Inside the story, the would-be writer is Leon.