Bebuquin

The first single volume english language translation of this seminal German expressionist novel, with an introduction by Patrick Healy.
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Bebuquin
116 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-906527-03-7

"...Bebuquin's body disappeared in the shadows with just the head staring at the sinking cloud, the head the colour of twilight. His head, a cooling star."

An Introduction by Patrick Healy

Carl Einstein and the Dilettantes of the Miracle

For Stephan

Carl Einstein once made a succinct and dramatic claim about the publication of Bebuquin: ‘I was 20 and in literature’. This bald statement, which remains muted enough considering the extravagant precocity of the text, looks back at the salient fact of his debut publication in Berlin, where his engagement in the literary and artistic milieu of the city remains one of the most fascinating and complex of the period, earning him the later sobriquet ‘prophet of the Avant-garde.’

Einstein was born in Neuwied on the 26th of April 1885, the son of Daniel and Sophie Einstein. In a ‘little autobiography’, reminiscent in its matter of fact tone of Hume’s similarly terse report on his life, Einstein remarks on Karlsruhe, the capital of Baden to which the family moved in 1888, that it was very much on the wrong side of the Rhine.

Even in the laconic, slightly melancholic intonation, one senses the profound pall of provincial boredom which made Einstein think of Karlsruhe as a city which seemed to be dying slowly. Schoolteachers with their practised ignorance left a lasting impression, and this was relieved only by his sitting with his uncle in the evening at a round table, reading books borrowed from a ‘stuttering bookbinder’.

What really mattered for him in this time, he says, were the cowboy and Indian stories of Karl May, adding that the death of Winnetou was more important for him than that of Achilles, and still was in 1930, when he wrote the memoir. He left school before taking final exams, shortly after the death of his father in 1899, and tells of spending Sunday evening getting drunk, and reading detective stories, Wedekind, and Rimbaud.

It was a time of quirky meetings and an extravagant cast of characters make a fleeting appearance in his short text; a living poet introduced by a barmaid, a professor of physics who didn’t believe in gravity, and a Messiah who hailed from Bordeaux, probably of Turkish origin, and was a heavy drinker with an impressive knowledge of harbour cities. Abruptly this is followed by the remark: ‘Then I went to Berlin.’ He was still a teenager.

He at first lived as a lodger with Frau Zilinsky in the Borsigstrasse, between the students and the Kokotten. After six months he moved to Potsdamer Platz, and then rapidly and dryly notes how he met Rubiner in the university, and discussed adventure novels in the evening. Einstein had brought 34 volumes of Phantomas from Paris, his favourites being Le pendu de Londres, and Le fiacre de la nuit.

Then I wrote Bebuquin; Blei printed it in the Opale, and so one was twenty and in literature’.

Remarkably it is this fact on which he ends the autobiography, which indicates perhaps the sense of fate he attached to this publication.1

At University he also formed the beginning of a life-long friendship with Gottfried Benn, whose publishers were among the first to create an Einstein edition, and revival, after the Second World War. Benn is quoted as saying in 1951:

I often think of Einstein and read his books. He had it, he really was at the top. Those were the genius years of Germany, 1912-33, maybe the last Germany had.

The Berlin of 1904, where he enrolled for University courses in philosophy, art history, and history included attendance at the lectures of Georg Simmel, the chief conduit for Bergsonism in Germany, and an intellectual once described as being of almost ‘Talmudic coquetterie’.

Simmel’s famous paper delivered around that time on ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, registers in precise detail the sense of the enormous increase in the intensification of the nervous life of city inhabitants, or the ‘Steigerung des Nervenlebens’, with people being forced through the impersonality of the city, the place of punctuality and rational impersonal economic exchange, to behave in a blasé way in order to deal with their new experiences of shock and distraction, which the very functioning of the metropolis creates, whilst in tandem increasing their capacity for discrimination. The city is the place of endless ‘shocks’ and self-protection; the latter often presented itself as paralysis, whilst the former would result in surrealism.2

Simmel clearly has Berlin in mind, the Berlin that for such a long time had been either between a ruin and a building site for most of its existence. In his review of Karl Scheffler’s book of 1910, Max Raphael fastened on the phrase that Berlin had been verdammt immerfort zu werden und niemals zu sein, or ‘dammed always to becoming and never to be’. Raphael then invokes a more complex metaphor: ‘er ist der moderne Ahasver…irrend und ruhelos’ (‘it is the modern Ahasverus, wandering and restless’).3

Bebuquin, the text that established Einstein’s reputation, had started its life in Franz Blei’s publications Die Opale, of 1908, and was published eventually in serial form in Die Aktion from 1911. It also appeared as a separate book publication in 1912. Again, there was a further edition of 1917. However, an established corrected text did not appear until the critical edition of the Universal-Bibliothek of Reclam, in 1985, based on a typescript of probably 1909.4 It is this edition on which my current translation in English is directly based, although some of the older reading and variants have been retained.

The theme of ‘the young man from the provinces’ as a major subject of 19th century fiction is well exemplified in the ferocious energy and achievements of Einstein. From Einstein’s interest and lifestyle one can see the generational revolt ‘against the fathers’ that has been taken as such a mark of this period.

Apart from attending lectures, the erratic and brilliant Einstein was also a regular in the café society of the Café des Westens, where he went every afternoon at 4 p.m. and was usually in the company of, among others, George Grosz, the art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, the sculptor de Fiori and the artist Rudolf Belling; and not far from their habitual seating place was the table of Max Libermann, Max Slevogt, Emil Orlik, Heinrich Zille, and the generation of older painters and artists. This localises the second level of generational conflict, a conflict between the younger and older artists. The younger generation were in open revolt. A wonderful evocation of this café life can be found in the almost contemporary publication of a roman à clef by the poet Else Lasker-Schuler’s Mein Herz, published in 1912.

Einstein also had direct connections with the group involved in the periodical Die Aktion, which had a shop in the Motzstrasse, who described themselves as left of the communists. Today along the street the main plaque is to where Rudolf and Marie Steiner spent almost twenty years, living, together.

When Bebuquin was being published in Die Aktion, the chief editor was Franz Pfemfert, who was later to become Einstein’s brother-in-law. The periodical had been responsible for publishing Franz Mehring, Rosa Luxembourg, and Bakunin. These would remain his life-long political loyalties. During the Spanish Civil War Einstein fought on the side of Durutti against the Fascists.

The list of contributors to Die Aktion reads as a roll call of the most advanced intellectual tendencies of the period, which was to be named by 1911 as the epoch of ‘Der Expressionismus, it included Paul Adler, Kurt Hiller, Alfred Wolfenstein, Franz Jung, Rudolph Leonard, Gottfried Benn, Ferdinand Hardekopf, and Max Raphael.

It was Raphael who wrote the very first article in German using the term ‘Der Expressionismus’, which has come into English as Expressionism. Raphael, in his article entitled ‘Der Expressionismus’, defends the young generation of painters against the attacks of Lovis Corinth, who had described them as imitators of Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin. Raphael names the new tendency from the work of Pechstein, Purmann, Levy, Kirchner, Heckel and Schmidt-Rottluff, among the Germans, and Picasso, Matisse and van Dongen among the foreigners. For these artists the new ideal is the picture, creating a structure independent in itself, free from alien connections. It is the picture and not nature, which dictates the laws of creation: ‘The difference between every expressionism and every naturalism lies in the will to create’.

For the modern artist the absolute is no longer to be sought behind the relative, but rather the relative has to be transformed into clarity and necessity. Nothing objective can constitute the creative point of view, for the artist knows with the surety of subjective experience that there is no objective certainty: ‘He can be led by his personal sensation alone’.

The peculiarity which Raphael notes in this position is that the sensation always emerges anew from the contact with the object, that is, not in a stylisation, but in a will to style. The world of forms does not exist a priori, nor forces objects into shapes; rather it comes into being each time out of the tension between subject and object; it is not a schema but active formation. What occurs is a simultaneity of reception, re-working and representation which leads to greater clarity and simplicity, more expression, more of what is personal.

The expressionists mistrust the impression, so varied in its chance nature, and seek to raise it to an unambiguous, clear, simple and necessary concept. This involves abstraction and against impressionism with its spreading, open continuity, they will and aim at the ‘self-containment of the picture.’ It is, as Raphael says, to be concluded that the imitation of nature is actually not the constituent mark of visual art. It is this anti-mimesis which is also crucial for Einstein’s strategy in his poetics.5

For literature one could almost name the young Berlin University friends Einstein and Benn as the principal source. The significance of Einstein’s Bebuquin for German expressionist prose writing was acknowledged most fully in the 1925 publication in Leipzig of Albert Soergel’s Dichtung und Dichter der Zeit, with special emphasis being placed on his work and that of Franz Jung, Gottfried Benn, and Ferdinand Hardekopf.

This does not square with the earliest reception which is exemplified in Kurt Hiller’s review in Pan, a rival journal to Die Aktion, which appeared in 1912. Hiller commented on the ‘decadent’ figure of Bebuquin, since the early version of the text had been supported in a publication of Franz Blei, who had a specialist interest in French erotic literature, and in his independent publication Rokoko included essays on Restif de la Bretonne and Sade. Blei's magazine Hyperion carried Beardsley erotica, and was produced on Japanese paper and issued as a deluxe publication.6

At the time of the appearance of Einstein’s text, Blei had just published his monograph on Félicien Rops, the most modish evocation of symbolism in painting. It is easy to see the ‘decadent’ atmosphere of Bebuquin makes for easy comparison with Hofmannsthal’s Letter of Lord Chandos, the unproductive narcissus, and indeed, Huysman’s A Rebours, the aristocrat aesthete finally absorbed by his own akrasia. As in the domain of painting, German art was becoming increasingly open to French influences, and this is well charted by Einstein in his later publication on 20th century art for the Propyläen Kunstgeschichte in 1926.

Again, one can see the texts of Einstein as situated in another tension, that between symbolist art and expressionism. However, in the first and very influential anthology of expressionist prose after World War II, published by Karl Otten in Darmstadt in 1957, Bebuquin is taken as the crucial expressionist piece of writing. Einstein’s reported conversations confirm the designation.

In his modest and immensely readable memoirs, Eugene Jolas leaves a captivating pen-picture of Einstein; indeed the contributions to transition are of enormous retrospective interest in relation to Bebuquin. One section of the work, chapter six, appeared in transition translated into English by Jolas.7

Einstein had often encouraged Jolas to visit Berlin, to collect ‘the last echoes of the Expressionist era’, that is before they became buried in ‘nationalistic realism’. He had informed Jolas of the new and dangerous jingoism emerging in Germany, remarking that the Prussian spirit was not dead, and adding: ‘Expressionism was the last form of the human equation in Germany’. In the work of another younger generation Einstein saw nothing but the drift towards Teutonic megalomania, the sterile echo of the creative mind, epigones who might become dangerous to European peace.

Noting the dangerous mixture of sentimentalism and power-lust in the German, Einstein, as reported in Jolas, was still convinced that there were a few humanists left who would prevent the Teuton beserk spirit from gaining the upper hand, suggesting that Thomas Mann, whom he did not like, might have enough influence to be the brake on young writers evolving towards military nationalism.

For some time Jolas, Hans Arp and Einstein met in Einstein’s book-cluttered apartment near the Boulevard de Grenelle, talking about poetry in the German language and indulging in ‘grandiose plans for a collection of poetry plaquettes to be issued’. Einstein in true combative mode and with his fine anarchic intelligence wanted to launch a cry of revolt against what he called the spirit of Fichte among the German poets, ‘Let’s hurl something in their faces’, he said, ‘The two or three poets left there will thank us’.

Most of Einstein’s indignation focused on Goethe, his true bête noire among the German writers, against whom he would launch a furious broadside. Vitriolic remarks included describing Goethe as ‘the greatest bore on the European continent, that ruined antiquarian of letters’, and, ‘the little burgher who worked to preserve his fame after his death’. Jolas took this passionate man at his word, and asked him to prepare an article for the hundredth anniversary of Goethe’s death, which he went at, according to Jolas ‘hammer and tongs’.8

Something of his distrust of the new generation was also sourced in his attack on Goethe, Jolas thought:‘I don’t trust those fellows’, he used to say, ‘they like too well to march in goose-step … and then they usually go mad. You should go and see Döblin or my friend Grosz’ .

Jolas also surmised, as they read together the poems of Gottfried Benn, Georg Heym, Georg Trakl, Alfred Mombert, Ernst Stadler, and others who had been the first to launch the Expressionist revolt in poetry and prose, that there was a ‘desperate attempt to save the human being from technological enslavement’. Most of this conversation and collaboration took place during 1928, when Einstein settled in Paris and met with his partner Lyda Guevrekian earlier in that year. Einstein had published the Propyläen History of 20th Century Art in 1926, and he was simultaneously on the board of transition. Furthermore, in Paris he was a co-founder of Documents with Leiris and Bataille, as recently studied by Conor Joyce in great detail.

It is in the contribution on Goethe that one finds Einstein’s sustained literary position. Analysing the text also helps to understand the strange eruption of the work of Bebuquin, as clearly exemplifying Einstein’s deepest creative convictions.

Briefly one can say that the plot of Bebuquin, even in the scenario-like chapter treatment, is that Giorgio Bebuquin, the snobbish young poet, although akrasic wants to create something specific, something out of himself without any influences. He meets the director of the Museum of Cheap Thrills, during the annual fair, and Böhm, the Thinker with the silver engraved skull, who reappears as a ghost after his sudden death. Bebuquin tries to achieve his goal, one drink at a time, where he meets up with the actress Fredegonde Perlenblick, the painter Heinrich Lippenknabe, and the ‘Platonist’ Ehmke Laurenz. Bebuquin ‘gets’ religion and goes to a cloister where he self-induces a form of destruction through a created sickness, that leads to madness, which also spreads to a whole group of people to whom he is a mirror reflection, ‘for still the glimmering terror of the mirror hung over the city’.

All of this is entwined through a rapid hallucination, without characters in any traditional sense, but more as expressive modes of a fragmenting artefactual figure. One needs to look at the later writing of Einstein to grasp what happened in this hypothetical action, erupting event, called Bebuquin.

One could say that in Bebuquin, which effectively appeared over a period of six years, Einstein creates a literary text that achieves the focus imaginarius, where everything in the text is a becoming, and in which the process of dissolution and metamorphosis breaks with the novelistic tradition of realist and narrative bound works.

It is possible to argue that there is an analogy with cubist technique in the work, which implies the dissolution and regrouping of the space/time sense for the personality, in other words the creation of a phenomenal time and space would devastate a linear-time continuum and static notions of space.

The idea of qualitative time implied for Einstein a multitude of multiple qualitative dis-continuums; past, present and future dissolve into a complex time experience which is the decisive metaphoric character of the work. As in cubism, there is a spatial and temporal simultaneity of diverging views and a simultaneous complex of transitory figuration and transformation. This culminates in the destruction of discrete determined objects, and Einstein abandons the notion of a substantial I, and the synthetic centre of all the transformations and figurations of Bebuquin is the made up, artefactual performance of the work itself. The tension between the artifical and the phantastic, even phantasmic, in the thematic of the work is played out around the hypothetical action of a funeral wake, concluding, if it concludes, in the brief report on the laying out of the corpse of the chief protagonist.

Bebuquin deploys a fictive I, there is no stable self to distribute into second-order fictions, for the fictive subject is one in the process of unfolding, within the folds of the text itself, and can break out and implore within the text: ‘Herr, gib mir ein Wunder, wir suchen es seit Kapitel eins’. The request for the miracle which has been sought since chapter one, is our own situation, the desire for the ‘event’, and our asking ‘will it happen’?

But it is not just reversals and reflective distortions that are at play. That would not deroute the substantive and controlling discourse under attack; if anything it would merely serve to strengthen it. The strategy of the writer is not that he simply smashes the isomorphisms that are meant to be constitutive of meaning everywhere in the world. Rather, he is involved in a process that depends on a complex interplay between simulacrum, deception and the permanent un-reality of the image, its ceaseless struggle to refer, where it is real only on the basis of its non-reality. It is this disjunction that implies the philosophical grotesque throughout. The magic dramaturgy of meaning morphs into a melodic madness. Joyce too had a brilliant metaphor for the condition of loss and absurdity – the cracked mirror.

The swingeing polemic against Goethe turns on a central point: Goethe has avoided contact with the dangerously immediate present. He was a ridiculous optimist, exhibiting an offensive serenity, inane moderation, and displaying all the insouciant values of a rococo aristocrat.

Goethe refuses to confront death and decay, preferring to wallow in a lazy and conflict-free notion of unity, espouse an idiotic hedonism. He feared the real. Insanity and death were for him offensive odours. Likewise eroticism was degenerated into respectability, and his ideal of cheerful Hellenism, never suspected for a moment the hallucinative root of early antiquity, what Einstein calls the ‘sacred dementia’. Faust, after all, ends up as a property developer.

What Goethe never sensed, was the problematic and murderous nature of art, preferring, like Shaw, to go whore-mongering among a few false optimistic ideas. The fundamental position of Einstein is then shown when he accuses Goethe of overlooking the hypothetical element of all creation, the element which alone allows cognition to gain independence and power. Here the argument of Einstein is that the artist insists on the hallucinative process of his own subjectivity. It was in this sense for Einstein that freedom could be gained, and that the work was a hypothetical action.

The subjective could be quickened into form, through the process of hallucinative seeing, where the elements of vertiginous subjectivity, free fantasy, the grotesque of a logic of sensation, would free the writer or artist from the tyranny of the mimetic. Einstein registered viscerally the overbearing demands that the stabilising of the world into subject and object created, and out of writing wanted to create a meta-object, away from the static and unrelieved character of the ontological which resulted in a double making both subject and object a thing. The full engagement of lived experience was ultimately pre-theoretical, and involved a necessary destruction of previous epistemological commitments.

The grotesque in the psychological realm opened the real, the domain of succession and simultaneity. It could even generate figures, through the transpersonal that resulted from the creation of the meta-object, a prose work; thus, the dilettante, the narcissus, the snob, in their sterility generate the search for the creative in the text itself. The grotesque contains, as Ruskin once observed, the ludicrous and the fearful. Bebuquin is grotesque even in the name, invented, childish, absurd.

Indeed one can see that what Goethe cannot accomplish could be read as Einstein’s achievement. There is a hypothetical element in all creation, and Goethe never dares the mad leap, as Einstein calls it, the leap into the symbol, which at least characterises the conflict between man and being. Goethe remains possessed of the regnant delusion of the Enlightenment, that all existence develops according to law.

Because cognition, of which hypothesis is the marked characteristic, develops a-logically and unconsciously, it takes on a fatal appearance, and thus seems necessary to us. It is the fatal automatism of the unconscious which casts its shadow over the event, the irruption of being as presence, its understanding as event, what emerges in a living, non-theoretical way, and indeed cognition is feared because its origins remain unknown to us, and all faith in logic is rooted in the fear of our own automatism.

Every continuity is woven out of a fear of death, and against the harmonic Hellenism of Goethe, Einstein invokes a new quantum where the unity of the real is displaced by the dialectical pluralism of reality. For Einstein the words of power were the primitive, metamorphosis, the ecstatic. In his absurd optimism Goethe failed to understand that every act is ecstatic and can only come about through the destruction of the ‘I’.

Cognition is a form of destruction. In the substraction of perception, which is always less and more than what it feels, the contraction of energy is the form itself, a diminution of living contacts, an elimination of conventional reality, and paradoxically the creation of a new mythos.

It cannot be enough, as at the end of Faust, to conjure a fraudulent jouissance, an artificial hallucination, instead of taking the courage of a position to creative dying. Instead, Goethe launches rockets of dead allegories, remaining a stranger for ever to the fatal necessity of Hölderlin. The only myth Goethe created was of his own well-organised fame.

*

One can see, and very much from the urban situation, how the modern problematic of the city necessarily resulted in fragmentary allegory. Baudelaire had seen clearer than anyone the tension and often explosive conflict between the shock of city living and the effort of the poet to create from things a unity, to achieve for the poetic intelligence its highest ability, namely the conception of correspondences. Joyce echoes it seductively on Sandymount Strand, across the soft wrinkles of the Dublin baybed:

"Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read: seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snot green, blue silver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane."

(James Joyce, Ulysses, ed. Danis Rose, London: Picador, 1997, p.37)

For Einstein all philosophical idealism was a kind of madness, a phobia towards the concrete, and aesthetic theory a kind of defence against the ‘provisorium’ of the artwork. The grotesque as the booth of distorting mirrors was the consequence of the limit of the human experience.

What lay at the ground of this critique was the understanding that the conventional philosophical rendering of the concept of subject/object was simply a fiction to provide the possibility of repeating experience. This splitting of subject and object secured the world as a tautology, and the creative flux from chaos had its reality diverted into an ontological forgery.

Throughout, Einstein is targeting rational metaphysics, Descartes, Leibniz, Wolff, Kant, and advocating the primacy of lived experience before any theoretical claim, in its constant metamorphosis.

The movement of life was better understood as a flux within flux. Living, speaking beings could not be confined to the static, property-laden concept of the I; experience was as much a skin of fiction as a search for meaning through a relation between subject and object that could then be given some kind of representation. A fundamental experience, without presuppositions, was labial, multiple, active, constitutive, and hallucinative, in which reality is the very metamorphosis itself.

Whilst the polyvalent multiple of the grotesque renders the indirect mythology of a labyrinth, Einstein sees the role of the creator as the propulsion of the miracle, a wonder which acts as an energy of irruption into the environing world, and then closes itself off into a self-containment.

The difference that makes a difference is the difference between man and the real. This too is constituted by difference. In this claim Einstein sees the conception of art as protest, subversion, revolt, as only forms coming from non-determined zones could be an event that was open for wonder, the miracle.

The mythos that is engendered from within this event is situated by Einstein in the mantic, indeed in the sacred dementia, a point his co-editor of Documents, George Bataille, took as a given. For the expressionist theory the very temporal precariousness of the immediacy of creation led to a dialectic tension with the archaic, and this entailed a magical transformation of reality; it was the event without continuity.

Perhaps it is incorrect to refer to Bebuquin as a novella; maybe it would be better to call it a meta-novel. What is asserted is a difficult freedom, in other words an autonomous work resulting from hallucinative processes, which could be viewed as the freedom of creation against the imposition of the given.

Where previously the energies of man had been concentrated in a religious epoch in God, now it was concentrated in the autonomous work of art. Einstein’s arguments become almost pizzicato, a rapid stopping and starting that remains in a real sense completely performative; thinking plays with ideas and that is the foundation of a new poetry, however thinking has nothing to do with epistemology or a theory of knowledge, rather, it is the act of creation in an intimate, immanent gesture, something singular.

In this singular event, which is the very multiple sensorium of the body, something is launched, namely, the body as movement. This self-causing activity cannot be accounted for by cognition, nor however can it escape the consequences of its own fatality. It is actually impotent to produce the real, and always destined to overcome and destroy itself, the fundamental event of experience, a creative dying, which eliminates conventional reality. It is in this Destruktion a new myth is created. By the time of his writing of a monograph on George Braque, Einstein has become programmatic with respect to what the creation of a new myth entails.9

Protesting against the immunisation of art, Einstein asserts that the passionate sensation of the real is destroyed, and that danger and its real psychological conflicts engendered in creation, which comes from a sense of the fatal and a primitivism, is completely drained by the aesthetic idolatry of art. The European is so lost in the innumerable possible interpretations that he is no longer capable of genuine spiritual production. The very overload of choices and information robs man of a sense of the fatidic, and a capacity to act directly to create new facts, deeds.

Art always constitutes a threat to the rationalist myth of order. Liberalism and positivism denied the tensions and dialectics of such irrationalism, in the hope of creating a unified philosophical system. In such a situation man is nothing more than a symptom in society, which deprives the individual of the capacity to create a new fact, which is not susceptible to analysis. The pseudo-liberation of such a society is that it apparently offers the individual an inexhaustible measure of choice and robs him of any reality other than the one which serves society.

Therefore the program for art in light of these transformations in the current epoch is as follows: a regression to primitivism, to violent states of hallucination which can be formulated as ‘image-destiny’. In this the artist becomes the medium of a fatal psychological automatism, determined by mythic and fatal forces. Through obsession and vision, art must re-conquer the power of necessity. The image becomes a magic means destined to destroy and transform man and reality.

In concrete terms then, for Einstein Picasso is the signal of liberty. His work is the most powerful argument against the mechanical normalisation of experience. What one can constantly observe in his work is the self-dissolution into the irreal, through the process of the hallucinative interval, which permits him to continually create anew; his art is the technique of doubt and continuous creation.

Being, death and nothing are not metaphors of each other; rather, there is a concrete wresting with the unconscious, the irreal, in which creation is always renewing itself. Picasso’s refusal, as it were, to seek a bridge between immediate and conventional reality, takes place in isolation and through the destruction of the real. Picasso then creates anxiety, distinction and negation, in order to produce concrete and autonomous visions. The abrupt totality of his creations are the dialectical destruction of reality, and emerge from the multiple of his self-transformations, being indifferent to nature as the site of alienation; these hallucinations are protected by the gestus of his obsession, and forms. They have a mantic origin which re-enforces and compensates for the isolated subject by construction and tectonic analogies, giving his discoveries the forms of laws, and a constant inner dialectic at various levels.

Above all the work of Picasso demonstrates that reality is constantly invented by man, and needs to be always re-made. Because reality continually dies in the person of Picasso, one can speak of an artist who, following his mantic obsession, has attained a truly mythic state. Picasso has answered the question in Bebuquin: ‘How can I go directly to things without detours?’.

The guiding perspective in Picasso’s is to ask: ‘what is that the possibility to really rupture the traditional philosophical imposture, when the energy needed was already being sapped and undermined by the hegemony of the liberal bourgeois epoch?’ How could thinkers and artists win back an image-destiny where transformations would mean an escape from the dehumanising barbarisms of lifeless and mechanical forces of production? In a direct way it would only be possible to attain this image-destiny through the technique, one might say, of the ‘hallucinative interval’.

The generation to which he belonged, and in which he had played such a vital role, was still, he thought, caught up in the failure of revolt, in the old dream of artistic neutrality. Liberal intellectuals had believed themselves to be original and were merely eclectic. The fact was that the parvenu and the snob were the real bearers of private capitalist anarchy; for the domain of things, the mode of intellectual ressentiment was the aesthetic.

Subjective symptoms and the explosion of signs followed on the collapse of religion, and only metaphors and ornamental psychogrammes were relevant for the aesthetic distancing of an intelligentsia with a bad conscience. The liberal dream of culture ended in the destruction of the person. A fable of unlimited freedom led to fanatic metaphysics. The effort to create a mythology of an isolated subject was doomed. The belief that subjective experience and nuance could create a decisive power over being, with the imagination as an ersatz, allowed the romantic flight from community.

By creating formal phantoms, intellectuals lost a relation to the real, and constructed a new archaic, possessed by a need to create a myth which relegated reality to being merely a symptom; a generation too weak to revolt could fulfil their shameless dream: street citizens and house anarchists.

The reactionary implications attendant on the truth of this critique were obvious, exhibiting themselves as homesickness for the classical, pretentious science, and a flight into kitsch and the exotic, and tellingly religious regression without religion. As the horror of social powers increased, the individual took comfort in the fiction of an ideal freedom.

In the dream-works of creation there was an empty, spurious negative theology, manipulated as enchantment; a deadly atavism of sexual psychology became the dream market of Freud, where the hypostasis of capitalist competition entered into every kind of pleasure, and wallowed in the anarchy of objects.

In Bebuquin one finds the dislodging of the liberal conception of the subject/object relation. Indeed it is worth noting that much of the critique made by Einstein before the First World War is being advanced directly by Heidegger in his introductory lectures in philosophy of 1919. That is to say, how can one go to a pre-science of experience, and avoid that this account be simply an analysis of the relations of the subject/object relation?

For Einstein, as for Heidegger, a real Destruktion was required, and for both it is in the everyday that the wonder is found. By dislodging such a powerful conceptual figure, and destroying the notion of the ego-subject, Einstein posits another category of the objective, namely that of metamorphosis. As mentioned earlier, the movement to this process was via what he designated as the ‘halluzinatives Interval’. In one sense it sounds like a familiar stoic version of askesis, a kind of cathartic training, a self-sacrifice, except that unlike with the Stoics it does not result in the imperturbable, but rather in the elimination of a fundus which stabilises the world; grounds do not depend on the principle of individuation, nor on the regulatives of logic, instead it celebrated multitudes of spaces and times, all qualitatively different. It would be in the ‘halluzinatives Interval’ that perception theories could be radically re-structured by the overcoming of the object and its conventional characterisation. In this interval the latent undisclosed object would be created.

This break with causality was the only offer of some possibility of freedom. The creation of that latent object in the pure act of hallucination was what Einstein thought of as the achievement of cubism, the creation of a meta-object. A pure act of functional subjectivity was hypostatised as form, and this resulted in the creation of a higher second object, the poetic as the mask, or the metamorphosis of the nothing.

That too is the astonishing achievement of Bebuquin: ‘Splinters of a glass yellow lamp clattered from the voice of the slattern’.

1 All these details can be found in Carl Einstein. Prophet der Avantgarde, ed. Klaus Siebenhaar, Berlin: Fannei & Walz Verlag, 1991; especially the ‘Kleine Autobiographie’, of 1930, at pages 12-15. Also Conor Joyce, Carl Einstein in Documents, And his collaboration with George Bataille, Xlibris, 2003.

2 I have discussed this in more detail in my Beauty and the Sublime, Amsterdam: Sun, 2005. See the separate chapter on Simmel.

3 For this review text in German see: Healy, Heinrichs, Max Raphael, Die Geburt der Expressionismus, Vienna, 1993, pp. 37-42.

4 For a list of Einstein’s publications, see the bibliography in Text + Kritik, no. 95, pp. 90-94.

5 For the original German text by Max Raphael, Der Expressionismus, see: Healy, Heinrichs, op.cit., pp .75-82. The text first appeared in the journal Nord und Süd, vol. 138, 1911, pp. 360-365.

6 A collection of contemporary reviews and comments on Bebuquin can be found in: Carl Einstein, Materialien, Band 1, Zwischen Bebuquin und Negerplastik, ed. Rolf-Peter Baacke, Berlin: Silver & Goldstein, 1990, pp. 49-79.

7For bibliographical indications and details of Jolas, see: Transition 1927-38, by Dougald McMillan, London: Calder and Boyars, 1975.Joyce’s influence on Jolas was marked but he was not always able to arrange things in the magazine as he wished. transition 21, the first issue after the two year suspension, was particularly troublesome to him in this respect. 1932 was the hundredth anniversary of the death of Goethe and also the year of Joyce’s fiftieth birthday and the tenth anniversary of the publication of Ulysses. Groups were making plans to celebrate both dates. Carl Einstein thought Goethe a bad influence on German literature and could not bear to let the predictable flow of platitudes about Goethe go unquestioned, so he conceived the idea of an issue of transition in which Joyce would be praised at Goethe’s expense. Jolas agreed, though he did not dislike Goethe as Einstein did and later read Goethe’s Farben Lehre to Joyce. Einstein organised the attack on Goethe in a piece entitled ‘Obituary 1832:1932’, and Jolas assembled the Joyce material’.

Joyce wanted to soften the contrast by having his own deflationary caricature included in the issue along with a picture of Goethe. He directed Abin’s caricature, which visualises the parodic self-portrait in Finnegans Wake of Shem the Penman. There is a reference in the Wake to the entire episode: ‘Worse nor herman dororrhea’, Finnegans Wake, p.283.

8 I have drawn directly from Eugene Jolas, Man from Babel, edited, annotated and introduced by Andreas Kramer and Rainer Rumold, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1998.

9 Much of this can be followed in: Heidemarie Oehm, Die Kunsttheorie Carl Einsteins, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1976.

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Bebuquin


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Frist translation??
Malcolm Green - 28 March 2012
Not the first ever English one-volume translation at all, because there was a version done at Kent State in 1984 by one Angela Mailänder Elston, but maybe only available on dissertation services. Title: Bebuquin or the Dilettantes of Wonder.

And Bruno Schulz!
Brian R.Banks - 20 November 2009
This is an astounding piece of writing! Deep but clear, vivid and catherine-wheel in its idea-provoking. It is the ethos behind my Muse & Messiah: The Life, Imagination and Legacy of Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) who I believed took more from German Expressionism than Poland would ever care to admit! Profound material which I want to thank you for, all best wishes BRB

prof
Prof - 14 August 2008
Great Stuff! Well done on publishing an English translation at last! It's impossible to get this stuff in the bookshops- even the college libraries have to order them! About time someone made this important novel accessible!

Linda
Linda - 15 July 2008
This is completely off the wall! I can't believe I didn't read it for my expressionist paper last year- would have helped a lot! it's so interesting to read this early modernist stuff from before it all became a cliche- it seems so naive- but all these ideas were new then. I love the bit where he practically screams at the reader 'I don't want to be a copy!' and is just searching for originality on purely theoretical terms!- it feel slike nothing real ever happens. This poor guy was bonkers. A great read! The misogyny is hilarious!


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