April 30, 1945, marked an end of sorts in the Third Reich. The last business day before a national holiday and then a series of transfers of power, April 30 was a day filled with contradictions and bewildering events that would forever define global history. It was on this day that while the Red Army occupied Berlin, Hitler committed suicide in his underground bunker, and, in San Francisco, the United Nations was being founded.
Alexander Kluge’s latest book, 30 April 1945, covers this single historic day and unravels its passing hours across the different theaters of the Second World War. Translated by Wieland Hoban, the book delves into the events happening around the world on one fateful day, including the life of a small German town occupied by American forces and the story of two SS officers stranded on the forsaken Kerguelen Islands in the South Indian Sea. Kluge is a master storyteller, and as he unfolds these disparate tales, one unavoidable question surfaces: What is the appropriate reaction to the total upheaval of the status quo?
Presented here with an afterword by Reinhard Jirgl, translated by Iain Galbraith, 30 April 1945 is a riveting collection of lives turned upside down by the deadliest war in history. The collective experiences Kluge paints here are jarring, poignant, and imbued with meaning. Seventy years later, we can still see our own reflections in the upheaval of a single day in 1945.
Praise for Kluge
“More than a few of Kluge’s many books are essential, brilliant achievements. None are without great interest.”—Susan Sontag
Alexander Kluge is best known as a founding member of the New German Cinema movement, but his work has spanned a number of genres and media. This wide-ranging book assembles a diverse selection of texts, from nonfiction writings and short stories by Kluge, to critical essays by renowned international scholars on Kluge’s work, to transcripts of interviews with the artist himself. A valuable collection for students and scholars in the fields of film, television, and media studies, Alexander Kluge: Raw Materials for the Imagination is a perfect introduction to Kluge’s key themes and ideas.
Alexander Kluge’s work has long grappled with the Third Reich and its aftermath, and the extermination of the Jews forms its gravitational center. Kluge is forever reminding us to keep our present catastrophes in perspective—“calibrated”—against this historical monstrosity. Kluge’s newest work is a book about bitter fates, both already known and yet to unfold. Above all, it is about the many kinds of organized machinery built to destroy people. These forty-eight stories of justice and injustice are dedicated to the memory of Fritz Bauer, determined fighter for justice and district attorney of Hesse during the Auschwitz Trials. “The moment they come into existence, monstrous crimes have a unique ability,” Bauer once said, “to ensure their own repetition.” Kluge takes heed, and in these pages reminds us of the importance of keeping our powers of observation and memory razor sharp.
Les chaînes privées allemandes ne sont pas vraiment réputées pour le niveau élevé des débats qu’elles diffusent; la surprise est d’autant plus grande pour le zappeur qui, aux alentours de minuit, tombe sur ce genre de phrases : « La superstition économique est un peu comme l’éventail des vertus bourgeoises » ou « Les solutions se trouvent toujours dans la rue, dans le trafic. » Aucun doute : il s’agit d’une des émissions culturelles les plus remarquables – au sens plein du mot – d’Alexander Kluge. Kluge a trouvé en Joseph Vogl un partenaire idéal pour sa technique d’interview si caractéristique. Le résultat de cette passion commune, ce sont plus de 40 interviews télévisuelles qui renouvellent le genre en profondeur. La digression, maniée avec un talent particulier, n’y est jamais gratuite.
On October 5, 2012, the German national newspaper Die Welt published its daily issue—but things looked . . . different. Quieter. The sensations of the day, forgotten as soon as they’re read, were missing, replaced with an unprecedented calm, extracted with care from the chaos of the contemporary.
That calm was the work of Gerhard Richter, who had been granted control over Die Welt for that single day, taking over and imprinting all thirty pages of the newspaper with his personal stamp: images from quiet moments amid unquiet times, the demotion of politics from its primary position, the privileging of the private and personal over the public, and, above all, artful, moving contrasts between sharpness and softness. He had created an unprecedented work of mass art.
Among the many people to praise the work was writer Alexander Kluge, who instantly began writing stories to accompany Richter’s images. This book, the second collaboration between Kluge and Richter, brings their stories and images together, along with new words and artworks created specifically for this volume. The result, Dispatches from Moments of Calm, is a beautiful, meditative interval in the otherwise unremitting press of everyday life, a masterpiece by two acclaimed artists working at the height of their powers.
Max Weber famously described politics as “a strong, slow drilling through hard boards with both passion and judgment.” Taking this as his inspiration, Alexander Kluge brings readers yet another literary masterpiece. Drilling through Hard Boards is a kaleidoscopic meditation on the tools available to those who struggle for power. Weber’s metaphorical drill certainly embodies intelligent tenacity as a precondition for political change. But what is a hammer in the business of politics, Kluge wonders, and what is a subtle touch? Eventually, we learn that all questions of politics lead to a single one: what is political in the first place?
In the book, Kluge masterfully unspools more than one hundred vignettes, through which it becomes clear that the political is more often than not personal. Politics are everywhere in our everyday lives, so along with the stories of major political figures, we also find here the small, mostly unknown ones: Elfriede Eilers alongside Pericles, Chilean miners next to Napoleon, a three-month-old baby beside Alexander the Great. Drilling through Hard Boards is not just Kluge’s newest fiction, it is a masterpiece of political thought.
Matthew Miller’s The German Epic in the Cold War explores the literary evolution of the modern epic in postwar German literature. Examining works by Peter Weiss, Uwe Johnson, and Alexander Kluge, it illustrates imaginative artistic responses in German fiction to the physical and ideological division of post–World War II Germany.
Miller analyzes three ambitious German-language epics from the second half of the twentieth century: Weiss’s Die Ästhetik des Widerstands (The Aesthetics of Resistance), Johnson’s Jahrestage (Anniversaries), and Kluge’s Chronik der Gefühle (Chronicle of Feelings). In them, he traces the epic’s unlikely reemergence after the catastrophes of World War II and the Shoah and its continuity across the historical watershed of 1989–91, defined by German unification and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Building on Franco Moretti’s codification of the literary form of the modern epic, Miller demonstrates the epic’s ability to understand the past; to come to terms with ethical, social, and political challenges in the second half of the twentieth century in German-speaking Europe and beyond; and to debate and envision possible futures.
In a world full of devils, the giant ape Kong defends what he loves the most. But who and what is this undomesticated animal? Might it reside within us? As we tread confidently, is this where the earth opens up beneath us?
In Kong’s Finest Hour, Alexander Kluge explores anew the accessible spaces where Kong dwells within us and in our million-year-old past. The more than two hundred stories contained in this volume form a chronicle of connections that together survey these spaces using diverse perspectives. These include stories about the folds of Kong’s nose, the voice of the author’s mother, the poet Heinrich von Kleist and Jack the Ripper, the indestructability of the political, and the supercontinent Pangaea that once unified the earth. Dissolving theory into storytelling has been Kluge’s lifelong pursuit, and this magnificent collection tells stories of people as well of things.
First in a series of Kluge’s Chronicles forthcoming from Seagull Books, Kong’s Finest Hour will delight those familiar with his writing as well as introduce readers to the brilliance of one of Germany’s greatest living writers.
Fiction writer, internationally known filmmaker, critical theorist, Alexander Kluge is perhaps postwar Germany’s most prolific and diverse intellectual. With this translation of Learning Processes with a Deadly Outcome, a novella first published in German in 1973, one of Kluge’s most important literary works becomes available to an English-speaking audience for the first time. Written in a quasi-documentary style, this fascinating hybrid work combines science fiction with modernist forms of montage and reportage to describe a future in which Earth has been almost totally destroyed following the catastrophic Black War. The planet’s remaining inhabitants have been driven underground or into space where the struggle to establish a new society rages on. Whether describing the scene in China where the devastated landscape is reconstructed according to old paintings, or in the galactic realm of the Starway where giant, turf-battling, corporate colonizing forces exploit the universe’s resources, Kluge tells his tale by inventing various forms of “evidence” that satirize the discourses of administrative bureaucracy, the law, military security, and the media. He gives us some of his most bizarre and hilarious characters in this peculiar world in which the remains of the past are mixed with the most advanced elements of the future. The cast includes highly specialized women workers who have adapted to the massive gravitational field of their heavy-metal planets, a commander with lethal foot-fungus, and ex-Nazi space pioneers who, in their lonely exile from the conflagrations on earth, spend their time carving enormous facsimiles of operatic sheet music in the forests of uninhabited planets. With parody, and humor, Kluge shows how the survivors of Armageddon attempt to learn the art of civilization, and, despite the disaster they have suffered, how they set out to reproduce at new sites a caricature of a classic and fascistic feudal capitalism.