Mesocosm

"A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us." – Franz Kafka

Heiner Müller’s “Hamlet Machine”

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Ophelia

Ophelia, by John Everett Millais
Image (C) Barnaby Thieme

Over at the Modern Mythology blog, I posted an article on the great German dramatist Heiner Müller, focusing on his masterpiece Hamlet Machine. You can read my article here.

Müller was a genius who deserves a much wider audience in the English-speaking world than he has currently found, and I hope this article will interest some of you.

Here’s an excerpt:

Born in Eppendorf in 1929, Müller spent his childhood under the shadow of the Nazi regime. In “The Father,” an early autobiographical prose-poem, he describes being woken from sleep when he was three years old:

In 1933, January 31 at 4 a. m., my father, a functionary of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, was arrested from his bed. I woke up, the sky outside the window black, noise of voices and footsteps. In the next room, books were thrown to the floor. I heard my father’s voice, higher than the other voices. I climbed out of bed and went to the door. Through a crack I saw how a man was hitting my father in the face. (1)

Two officers of the Nazi SA, the predecessor to the notorious SS, took his father to a concentration camp, where he was held for over a year for his socialist activities. Müller was shunned as the son of a criminal, and other boys in his village were not allowed to play with him.

After he visited the camp with his mother, he was haunted by the image of his father diminished behind the wire mesh fence, and later, by memories of walking for hours in bitter cold to meet his father upon his release.

I wish my father were a shark
Who tore to pieces forty whalers
(And in their blood I had learned to swim)….
(2)

Read the rest

Heiner Müller’s play Hamlet Machine is available here (English, PDF), und hier (auf Deutsch).

References
1) Müller H. A Heiner Müller Reader. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2001. p. 14
2) ibid., p. 15

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Written by Mesocosm

January 20, 2012 at 9:51 am

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