The 2008 U.S. Presidential election becomes a stage musical in Frankfurt. Pictures here. Odd -- all the actors appear to be fully clothed, nobody's smeared with blood, there are no video projections of Nazi rallies or sex-change operations in the background, and there's not even a single burning flag! Can this really be a German theater?
Based mainly on the poster below, I wanted to see this show in the gohglmohsch cabaret when I was in Leipzig:
But the friend I was with was not German-powered™, so I decided against it. They do tend to get restless after the first 23 incomprehensible minutes, these Deutschverweigerer, especially when everyone around them is laughing.
But now to the serious question. The title of the poster, and the show, is roughly "They released me as cured." But I note that the personal pronoun for "me" is in the dative case, when structurally, is should be in the accusative case. Is this (1) a regional variation; (2) a grammatical mistake that's supposed to show us he's still not cured? (in case the cephalomegaly hadn't already tipped us off); or (3) is 'entlassen' one of those rare German verbs that always takes a dative object?
Enlighten us, grammar nerds!
I came across this interview with Slavoj Zizek last week on Obscene Desserts:
Zizek makes interesting points about the displacement of political conflict over economic interests into anodyne debates about multiculturalism and "tolerance" (Walter Benn Michaels argues along similar lines here). Otherwise, Slavoj is in full-on vieillard terrible mode: advocating the death penalty for rapists, promising to send Peter Sloterdijk to the "gulag," even accusing cuddly, adorable Michael Palin of racism. At one point, Zizek proudly announces that he has "Joseph Goebbels' reaction" when he hears multicultural platitudes: "I draw my guns."
Zizek gets it wrong, but we won't hold him to that, because it's a live interview. The interesting thing is that everyone else gets it wrong, too. The famous quotation that everyone attributes to Goebbels or Goering is "When I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my revolver." It's even been used as the refrain of a pop song by Mission of Burma, later covered by Moby.
But there's no record of those two officials ever saying anything about revolvers. The quote everyone is actually thinking of comes from the first scene of a 1933 play, Schlageter, by the Nazi playwright Hanns Johst. Schlageter tells the story of one of the first National Socialist "martyrs," Albert Leo Schlageter (g), a NSDAP member who was executed by a French military tribunal for acts of sabotage against the occupation of the Ruhr Valley in the early 1920s. Schlageter later became the focus of a Nazi martyr cult. Streets all over Germany were named after him during the Third Reich, and his biography (see photo above) was mandatory reading for students.
In Johst's play, Schlageter talkes with a fellow student, Thiemann, about politics. Thiemann utters a long rant which ends with the phrase: "Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning," which translates as: "Whenever I hear [the word] 'culture'... I release the safety on my Browning!" In the original, Schlageter reacts with shock to his friend's militance. But not the National Socialists: Baldur von Schirach apparently used the quotation in a speech.
But "release the safety on my Browning" isn't half so catchy as "reach for my revolver," which is how the phrase has been received into English. There are two problems here for the translator. First, German actually has one catchy word for release the safety (entsichere="de-safety-ize"), but English doesn't. Second, Browning used to be a generic word for all sorts of pistols, but that's no longer the case.* Whoever first translated the phrase as "reach for my revolver" did a brilliant job, I would say. The translation preserves the original meaning, and makes the references more resistant to the passage of time. And it struck a chord, appearling both to American post-punk bands and Slovenian philosophers.
* These days, people are more likely to associated the word Browning with the English poet, which perhaps led to the ludicrous suggestion on the Wikiquote page that the reference to "my Browning" might actually be a literary pun. I like the idea of "releasing the safety" on a book of poetry, but that level of playful irony seems almost Wildean, and if there was one thing Nazi playwrights weren't, it was Wildean.
Defending the German city of Bielefeld from charges of stuffiness, Max Goldt once remarked: "You can buy T-shirts there with the slogan gloriously disrespectful on them everywhere, and somewhere in the back there's also an outrageous city theater, where masturbating and defecating actors throw warm intestines onto burning American flags; that's what I call an exciting intellectual atmosphere!"
Lest anyone think this is merely a satirical aside, I give you this news story (G) from the FAZ (my translation):
The suspension of performances of the Mozart Opera "Idomeneo" in Berlin out of concern over possible Islamic protests is meeting with criticism, especially from [conservative] CDU politicians. Interior Minister [Wolfgang] Schäuble described this step as "ludicrous and inacceptable."
[Stage Director] Hans Neuenfels, who is known for his tendency to provocation, calls for King Idomeneo to present the hacked-off heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed to the audience. This scene also triggered strong protests from the audience during the the staging's premiere in December 2003.