La Carte d’Après Nature

I’ve been intensely curious about philosopher, poet, novelist and media theorist Günther Anders since seeing Nicolas Rey’s anders, Molussien at the NYFF in October. I ordered the second edition of Anders’ Die Molussische Katakombe (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2012) and a handful of other texts on and by him. I’ll share here and in a second post two amazing anecdotes from Anders’ life that I found poetically ironic and Molussia-worthy. Both are in slightly screwy Dutch-inflected English, from Paul van Dijk’s Anthropology in the Age of Technology: The Philosophical Contribution of Günther Anders (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000) :

The first version of the book [Die Molussische Katakombe] was ready before Hitler came to power. Bertolt Brecht, who had helped him get a job as a magazine editor with the Berliner Börsen-Courier, for which he took on the characteristic pseudonym Günther Anders (anders means “different,” referring to his Jewish self-consciousness), handed the manuscript to Brecht’s publisher Kiepenheuer. But it was too late for publication; the Nazi secret police were a step ahead. The publisher, however, had given it an innocent look by presenting an old map of Indonesia on the cover, showing the mythical island of Molussia. When the Gestapo invaded the publishing plant, the trick turned out to work. The censors took only a cursory look at the manuscript, apparently thinking that it was some South Seas fairy tale, and sent it back. Nonetheless, the book could not be published in Germany, also not in France, and thus lost its function as a warning against the Nazi political system. Not until 1992, sixty years later, did it appear in print, with Beck, Anders’ publisher in Munich[…]

On 28 February 1933, one day after the Reichstag fire, an advance publication of Die Molussische Katakombe appered in the Berliner Tageblatt. From that day onward, Anders belonged to those who were no longer safe in Germany. Via Brecht, he had recovered the manuscript of his novel. Since he knew, however, that his name appeared in Brecht’s address book, which had fallen into the hands of the Gestapo, he fled to Paris. He did not dare to take the manuscript with him. It was hidden by friends, wrapped in parchment paper, in a chimney flue between the smoked sausages and hams. For months, it hung in there, until Hannah Arendt, Anders’ wife at the time, who later was to become famous as a philosopher, emigrated to Paris also. For the time being, it received a different purpose, as Anders tells it. “As we did not have enough to eat at times, I used the manuscript as an aromatic sauce. I smelled it when eating my baguette.” (1987b, p. 31).

Van Dijk 8-9

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One thought on “La Carte d’Après Nature

  1. Pingback: Le décor et son usage | Jennifer Stob

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