I – Devons L’Ancre

Hubert Fichte knew of his early death.

When he found himself on his deathbed in the port hospital of Hamburg, he had a dressing gown of red silk made and ordered a bunch of violets to his bed every day.

The flowers astonished me because of the importance that I attach to them in serious cases and even more so than otherwise when in pain over a dead person. I believe that they do not symbolize anything. If I wanted to cover Jean’s coffin with flowers, maybe just to make a gesture of worship, and because flowers are still something that can be offered dead people safely. – Jean Genet, Pompes Funèbres

Baudelaire concludes Les Fleurs du Mal with the poem “Le Voyage” and the lines “O Mort, virus capitaine, il est temps! Devons l’ancre!” The flaneur’s last journey, death, has the new as its goal, notes Walter Benjamin.

Sartre writes about Jean Genet: His works are full of meditations on death; the peculiarity of these spiritual exercises is that they never anticipate his future death, his being-to-die; but being dead; his death as a past event.

 

II – Wreckage upon wreckage

Hubert Fichte, living as a half-orphaned child through WWII, always writes on the assumption of wreckage.

In his novel Detlevs Imitationen “Grünspan” (translated into English as Detlevs Imitations), he repeats a scene from the night of the bombing of Hamburg that Manfred Weinberg called the expulsion from Paradise in Fichte’s work:

Now the word “Christmas” is broken too.

A Christmas tree is something that’s dropped and flares up, in order to light up bomb targets.

[…]

— The home for cripples was here.

— A mine fell on it.

— Cripples and then to be killed by a parachute mine as well.

Over the Christmuss in his mouth lies the taste, which the air around the decaying cripple limbs leaves behind. The combination of this taste and the syllables of the festival and the smell of the cripples’ limbs means that for Detlev it’s finished, that there will never be anything again.

The destruction of the world is a destruction of language – the word Christmas is broken. The birth of the messiah and thus the premise of redemption is replaced with the wreckage of history. This is the premise of Fichte’s work. His writing that takes on the form of lyrical compositions does so not as much for poetological reasons as it does for reasons of urgency. These broken lines are left in a poise but are delivered in the form of paratactical claims: the provocation of juxtapositioning, or to speak with Walter Benjamin: he keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage.

Death, for the flaneur, precedes every journey.

The world of the living is never far enough from me. I push it away from me as far as possible, by all means available to me. The world retreats, until it is only a golden dot in a sky of such darkness, that the abyss between our world and the other opens enormously and of the whole reality remains only our grave. Now I begin to lead the existence of a real dead man. – Jean Genet

 

III – Meticulousness of silence

In his work Forschungsbericht (Research Report) Fichte writes:

– Travel is the obliteration of the world, Jäcki thought: to be everywhere

– nowhere

In his travels to South and Central America that the success of his early novels allowed, Fichte sees a shamanic, preconscious element: In the syncretic religions, he finds a structure that reflects his own structure of thought and literary method (which Hartmut Böhme identified as the collage). Here, the musical elements of language – rhythm and harmony – and the language as the structure in which the world appears to us – logos – can’t be thought separated from one another. (Fichte later finds similar syncretic elements in the Ancient Greek language and in Baroque literature.) Subject and object thus can’t be separated from each other and speaking with Heidegger this existential being-in-the-world is what in Fichte’s work appears as Empfindlichkeit (Sensibility).

Jacki thought he recognized that the greed with which he forced this language was the greed of surviving through speaking.

But, to speak with Perec, he never attempts at exhausting a place

(everywhere)

More so the blank space

(nowhere)

between the takes is what preserves the complexity of the layers.

His meticulousness is a meticulousness of emptiness,

of silence.

 

IV – The observer as suspect

 And as the eyes slowly get used to the darkness, Jäcki got used to the swarming of policemen, workers, military men, underage hookers, fat little black men with shorts, chemically smoothed hair, countless milk shakes with papaya, passion fruit, abacate, pineapple, goiaba.

 […]

 Softly, the gun of the private cop knocks on the wood.

– Oh, the murderous feeling, thinks Jäcki

– I have no sense for Querelle de Brest [A Genet novel] in bed.

– But it is hot.

– His pipe in his hand.

– And the metal tube on the wide belt.

– Nobody looks as sweet as the private cop when he cums

– Hubert Fichte – Explosion

In order to observe, the flaneur must become suspicious. If the flaneur is situated at the threshold of the city, as Benjamin claims, he must constantly transgress that threshold, repeating the ritual of becoming expelled from the city in order to explore its urgent capacity and reveal its neglected, unvoiced layers. Both, the outcast’s and the citizen’s desires are mirrored on that threshold – thus to the flaneur the city opens as a space where no one belongs.

We have to think of the flaneur as a thief that is the object of desire at the same time – we have to think of the flaneur as a cruiser.

The flaneur is relinquished to the crowd. He then shares the situation of the goods. He is unaware of this peculiarity. But it does not affect him any less. It pervades him like a drug that can compensate him for many humiliations. The intoxication to which the flaneur leaves himself is the commodity roughened by the flow of customers, writes Benjamin.

 

V – Rites of passage

 The only time that Hubert Fichte and Jean Genet met, was in 1975 when, over the cause of four days, Genet agreed to give an interview to Fichte for the German newspaper DIE ZEIT. Genet authorizes the interview under the condition that it won’t be translated into French.

Hubert Fichte: “I would like to cite a special example of ritualizations: in certain initiation rites of the African secret sects one often finds a similar ensemble – flagellation, betrayal, killing relatives, urine, excrement, animal skins, iron, etc.; in the Miracle de la rose the same components appear, albeit not so close together. Do you think that through your experience you have achieved a quasi-ritual ground/reason (fond), an archaic ground/reason?”

Jean Genet: “Yes. I have no anthropological knowledge, what you are describing are rites of passage, rites de passage, the transition from puberty to manhood. It’s about betraying the tribe, but actually being taken in, drinking urine to actually stop drinking it. It is possible that I have tried all alone in Miracle de la rose – unconsciously of course – to discover rites of passage. I did not get this idea yet – but it might explain why I did not write a book after leaving prison – except The Thief’s Journal. I had no more to write. The transition was done.”

In Saint Genet, Sartre uses Genet’s example to support his theses on existentialism according to which the existence precedes the essence, and that by virtue of this original thrownness, by the freedom of choice, one becomes what one is. This implies a transition: The society of his youth tells Genet to be a thief, so he decides, expelled as he finds himself, to be that thief in order to regain himself.

Fichte writes in Versuch über die Pubertät (An Essay on Puberty): Suddenly – but perhaps prepared by material slowly spilled to the surface – I discovered that all my attempts so far revealed only one movement: to return to earlier layers.

 

VI – Explosion

Jäcki wanted to endanger the beginning.

He said:

– I started to write. I do not change anything. The events and thoughts will occur in the same order as in reality. That’s the composition principle. That’s the risk. Life writes the most beautiful stories, says Klaus Ewaldt. Only the repetitions I will leave out.

 Under great time pressure, because of his approaching death, Hubert Fichte compiles Explosion – Roman der Ethnologie (A Novel of Ethnology). The novel is – referencing Proust – part of a nineteen-part romain fleuve entitled Die Geschichte der Empfindlichkeit (The History of Sensibility).

 Fichte always conceptualized history (Geschichte) with its German etymological parallel for layers (Schichten) as Ge-Schichte. In Petersilie, he gives a short description of that concept: History (Geschichte) – Layers (Schichten) of decay.

 Now he had decided to be an ethnologist.

That was all.

Now he had to depict everything.

Fichte’s ethno-poetological program is not meant to be comparative (based on the idea of the ethnological foreign) nor analytic (based on the Western canonical idea of logos). His antagonistic program asks for two movements, that of the observed and that of the observer. It is only in that dynamic mode in which the hidden layers become visible while their complexity remains. Embracing this logic of fragmentation, he calls his Opus Magnum a Roman delta (Novel Delta).

 He dies before finishing it.

 Fichte: How should one describe it all?

A Vaudou ceremony is everything.

Acute. History. Structure.

And everything reflected once again, broken in imagination; ideas that come to an end, that are structured and that are taken back into history.

Genet: Every object of your world has a different meaning to me than to you. I relate everything to my system, in which all things have a hellish meaning, and even when I read a novel, the facts are not falsified, but they lose the meaning that the author has attached to them and that they have for you; they take on a different meaning, to resist without resistance in these. To enter the sublime world in which I live.

 

VII – Bodies of ghosts

“It was only in fragments that I learned of that wonderful blossoming of dark and lovely flowers; […] At the end of the phrases, it breaks, and that break makes it so sweet that it seems borne up by the music of angels, of which I feel the horror, for angels fill me with horror, being, as I imagine, neither mind nor matter, white, filmy, and frightening, like the translucent bodies of ghosts.” Jean Genet – Notre Dame des Fleurs

 Jean Genet: The truth is only possible when I’m all alone. The truth has nothing to do with a confession. The truth has nothing to do with dialogue. I’m talking about my truth. I’ve tried to answer your questions as accurately as possible. In fact, I was very inaccurate. I cannot tell anyone anything. I can only lie.

Hubert Fichte: Lies express a double truth.

Jean Genet: Yes, discover the truth that is in it. Discover what I wanted to hide.