Thursday, April 30, 2009
Viel mehr als der Inhalt hat mich an diesem Roman die Sprache gefesselt. Ransmayr schafft es, sehr detailgetreu zu schreiben, und dabei wunderschöne Bilder zu evozieren:
“Die Lufttemperatur meiner Todesstunde
betrug minus 30 Grad Celsius,
und ich sah, wie die Feuchtigkeit
meiner letzten Atemzüge kristallisierte
und als Rauch in der Morgendämmerung zerstob.” (9)
“Und die Sterne erloschen auch nicht,
als über den Eisfahnen die Sonne aufging
und mir die Augen schloss,
sondern erschienen in meiner Blendung
und noch im Rot meiner geschlossenen Lider
als weiss pulsierende Funken.” (10)
Viele Kritiker scheinen allerdings gar nicht meiner Meinung zu sein, für sie ist Ransmayr “ziemlich kitschig” (Peter Mohr, Titel Magazin), im Tonfall “einer esoterischen Kunst” geschrieben (Ijoma Mangold, Süddeutsche), und die NZZ Online schreibt: “Der hohe Ton, den Ransmayr wie kaum einer beherrscht, läuft Gefahr, sich abzunutzen, und er stösst da an seine Grenzen, wo es Banales zu erklären gibt (wie etwa ein Mousepad)”. Auch Rachel Vogt von der WOZ findet, dass Ransmayr sich in Platitüden verheddert, wenn er von der Liebe spricht.
Es mag sein, dass Ransmayrs gehobener Stil tatsächlich nicht für alle Beschreibungen von Alltäglichkeiten angemessen ist, und zuweilen etwas seltsam anmutet. Man darf aber nicht vergessen, dass dieses Buch eigentlich dazu bestimmt ist, vorgelesen zu werden, und daher der Klang der Sprache, die Wortwahl und die Zeilenumbrüche besonders wichtig sind. Mit diesen Werkzeugen schafft es Ransmayr, wunderschöne, eindrückliche Passagen zu erschaffen:
“Ich war gestorben.
Er hatte mich gefunden.” (11)
“Ich war müde, unsagbar müde.
“Sie beugten sich über mein Elend,
über einen von der Sonne und vom Frost
der mit blutenden Händen zu ihren Füssen lag
und der nach den Erzählungen des Sängers
vom fliegenden Berg gefallen war,
aus dem Himmel
in den Schnee.” (23)
So stimme ich mit Ludger Lütkehaus von der Zeit überein, der schreibt: “Aber Ransmayrs Fliegender Berg erinnert auch daran, dass gerade große Literatur öfters dort entsteht, wo die Kitschgrenze nur haarscharf vermieden wird.“
Thursday, April 23, 2009
This notion of sex as something you do for the sake of someone else stays with him in his relationship with Herakles. At first he does not want to have sex with Herakles, but he knows that he will lose him if he does not. In the chapter right after their conversation about sex we get the sentence: “SPIRIT RULES SECRETLY ALONE THE BODY ACHIEVES NOTHING” (46), that Geryon and Herakles paint on a wall two years later. But if we keep in mind what has happened in the chapter before, we can connect this sentence to Geryon’s sexual experience. For sex to be enjoyable, you need body and mind, and probably Geryon is not yet able to engage mentally in sex. He just “lends” his body to Herakles because he feels it is something he owes him.
This is emphasized in the next chapter, “Lava”, where Geryon has this strange vision of being a woman waiting for her rapist to come up the stairs. In “Somnambula”, the following chapter, Geryon watches two butterflies procreating, and he observes: “How nice, (…) he’s helping him” (49).
A change takes place in “Grooming”, when Geryon finally satisfies Herakles orally:
“Geryon felt clear and powerful – not some wounded angel after all
but a magnetic person like Matisse
or Charlie Parker!” (54)
In this instance, Geryon is finally able to take an active part in their relationship, and by doing so he starts feeling more powerful and in charge of his own sexuality.
But right in the next chapter Geryon paints a “red-winged LOVESLAVE on the garage of the priest’s house” (55), showing that overcoming his abuse will need a lot more time. But Herakles cannot understand that:
“All your designs are about captivity, it depresses me.
Geryon watched the top of Herakles’ head
and felt his limits returning. Nothing to say. Nothing. He looked at this fact
in mild surprise.” (55)
Apparently Herakles is not the right person to help him overcome his negative feelings about his sexuality. Herakles seems to understand that, too, and soon breaks up with Geryon to move on to someone with whom he can enjoy sex more freely.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Colours are very important to Geryon; he cannot only see them, but he even hears them: “Roses came / roaring across the garden at him. / He lay on his bed at night listening to the silver light of stars crashing against / the window screen.” (84)
Often Geryon uses colours to describe things we wouldn’t usually see coloured: He describes the “dark pink air” (36), “red breezes” (38) the “hot white wind” (49), and a “white Saturday morning” (120) .
All about Geryon himself is red, even his shadow and his dog. When I read the novel for the first time, I was misled to think that Geryon saw most of the world in red, but besides “the intolerable red assault of grass” (23) right at the beginning, I found no other example of Geryon describing something as red when it objectively is not (besides the examples mentioned above, where we would usually see no colour at all). So I thought that maybe Geryon does not describe the grass as red here, but rather the assault of grass. Geryon does not see the world in red, but he sees colours where others do not, and he can even hear and feel them.
Right at the beginning of the novel, in “Red Meat”, we learn that adjectives “are in charge of attaching everything in the world to its place in particularity. They are the latches of being.” (4).
Colours are adjectives, too, of course, and I would argue that the colour red attaches Geryon to his place in the world, signifying his specialty and difference from the rest of the world.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Today's seminar was "one of those moments/ that was the opposite of blindness" (29) to me. Our discussion opened my eyes and heart for Geryon's autobiography and I can - despite my denying it in my last blog post - identify with him and his experiences after all. I thus read his redness as being different and individual and his red world, as living in his own world, as everybody does. We should all try to understand each other's redness, but we always fail (and a "between" people "a dangerous cloud" (132) develops), as this quote indicates:
"I will never know how you see red and you will never know how I see it./ But this separation of consciousness/ is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is/ to believe in an undivided being between us." (105)
At the very beginning of the romance, Geryon is a boy - innocent, pure - and has no notion of selfhood and no concept of distinction between outside and inside world. If I was him, I would have taken his brother very seriously, when he called me/him "stupid". As a small girl, I thought we are all part of one world and we can read each others thoughts and be together, helping each other out, being one unit, basically. Bad experiences like Geryon makes with his brother, made us (me and him) realise that we were wrong. Every individual lives in his/her own world - be it red, yellow or whatever - and is wandering around in a sometimes shared space being caght in his/her inner world. We come across other people in life with other worlds and try to give each other a glimpse into one's world. Experiences Geryon makes with Heracles enhance and strenghten the sensibility and sensitivity, and consequently the awareness of being different.
We are all unique and individual, but what we all share is an original and major fear of being misunderstood. We seek for understanding the outside and our inside, but more than that we seek to satisfy our biggest need which is to be understood by others. What motivates us to make distinctions and differences, in my opinion, is to prevent misunderstandings and to improve others' understanding of ourselves. This is my humble and probably oversimplified interpretation of next week's topic "distinctions and differences" and I look forward to our fruitful discussions. To sump up, I think life is all about understanding oneself and being understood by others and love is the feeling that we understand another person's inside world and are understood by that other person (outside). When love fades due to a lack of understanding or being understood, we feel like Geryon and think:
"I once loved you, now I don't know you at all. He does not say this./ I was thinking about time - he gropes - / you know how apart people are in time together and apart at the same time - stops." (141)
I hope you understand me in one way or another.
and left him.
Geryon had no doubt stupid was correct. But when justice is done
the world drops away.“ (p. 24)
I am going to demonstrate the logical form of Appendix C to the „Fragments of Stesichoros“ which precede Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. Why would someone want to analyse literature for it’s logical form? First, I am very fond of logic and literature. Second, I have never tried to mix them. But third, and this is the only point that actually seeks to provide this project with a scientific value, I am doing this in preparation for a claim about the text, namely the claim that the seesaw between logic / form and content / language use is itself a very central subject – in the text, and for Geryon.
Appendix C to the Fragments of Stesichoros consist of written fiction by Anne Carson and differs insofar from Appendixes A and B, which contain excerpts from several authors of Greek mythology. This third addendum consists of twenty-one consecutively numbered sentences. In the terminology of logic, all of them but the first one are material implications (those correspond to grammatical conditionals, or ‚if‘-clauses). The first sentence, however, is a disjunction (Either.. or..) of a proposition and its negation, and so are all the consequents of the following implications! The antecedent of the implications is each time one of the disjuncts of the former sentence’s consequent. In formal notation, then, the outlook is the following:
I. (1.) ....... A v !A ........ „A or not A“ (simplified!)
II. (2.-21.) .. A -> (B v !B) . „If A then B or not B.“ (simplified!)
III. (x(II.+1)) B* -> (C v !C). „If B then C or not C.“ (simplified!)
, whereas (Definitions:)
A -> B . is the sentential connective of the material implication (If A then B);
A v B .. is the sentential connective of the disjunction (A or B);
! A .... is the sign for negation (Not A);
A, B, C, [...] Z are simple propositional sentences (like „Stesichoros was a blind man“).
Now a disjunction (like 1.) claims that one of the propositions it takes is true. More precisely, it claims that at least one is, but this is exactly the simplification I marked above (see II., III.). I think it is possible for our purposes to simplify in this way, because all the disjunctions we are facing in (I. - III.) are of the kind that one of the disjuncts is the negation of the other disjunct. This is a special case, because it is a logical contradiction to claim that both propositions are true. In other terms, it is impossible for a proposition to be true while its negation is true. In logic, this is shown with a truth table, where each result shows F (for false):
A || A ^ !A
T || T F F
F || F F T
(Def.: A ^ B is the sentential connective of the conjunction (A and B).)
(In the case where A is true the conjunction of A and !A is false.)
(In the case where A is false the conjunction of A and !A is false.)
What this means, then, is that the first sentence does not make a claim about anything! It simply asks, says that A („Stesichoros was a blind man“) is true, or that it is not true, and that both cannot be true. Since all following sentences are logical conditionals, with the If-clause being filled with a proposition, which comes from this kind of disjunction, none of the antecedences are ever claimed. And this means, that also the consequences, whose truth in a conditional fully depends on the truth of the respective antecedents, are no claims. What we learn is, that, in Appendix C, not a single simple proposition is actually claimed to be true!
If you have followed this so far you must be thinking: what is all this discussion of logical form good for when there are no claims? This, however, is exactly the notion this Appendix C in my view is there for to provoke. The reader is provoked to ask „What is the use of such a beautifully engineered thought, when eventually it does not refer back to the world and make claims about it?“ This question, however, is one which the world of Autobiography of Red and its characters keep asking our tragic hero Geryon.
Maybe I will post another entry discussing the resulting dialogue in Autobiography of Red.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Die Königin resümiert: „Das heisst, auf Eis gelegt lebt, wer sich selbst nur liebt.“ (126). Daraufhin erwidert Descartes, Liebe sei „ein Grund, warum / die Welt ist, wie sie ist – zerrissen, böse, unregiert“.
Weshalb Descartes hier für die Königin ein so negatives Bild der Liebe zeichnet, ohne die positiven Aspekte ganz ausblenden zu können, wird im nächsten Kapitel, „Was Liebe war“, klarer.
Hier werden zunächst die positiven körperlichen Wirkungen der Liebe beschrieben, sie hält kerngesund und warm, sorgt für eine gute Verdauung und einen ruhigen Puls. Dies kontrastiert er mit den negativen körperlichen Auswirkungen von Hass.
Nach diesen Erläuterungen versinkt Descartes in Gedanken und erinnert sich an die Vergangenheit, an seinen „Winterflirt“ mit Marie. Er erinnert sich, wie „ihm die Welt zu Füssen lag“. Sein Tagtraum wird unterbrochen durch einen Anfall, aber später beschreibt er die Liebe als einen Embryo und auch eine Larve, die beim Schlüpfen stirbt: „Den Falter, / Wer sah ihn je, zerdrückt im Lustgewühl der Leiber?“
Descartes hatte wohl in seinem Leben die Liebe wegen ihrer Körperlichkeit abgelehnt, hatte dadurch aber die Chance verpasst, geistige Liebe (den Schmetterling) zu erleben. Dies bereut er nun auf seinem Todesbett, wo er allgemein seine Körperlichkeit zu akzeptieren beginnt:
„Kann sein, er hat den Gürtel allzu eng geschnallt –
Dass es sie gab, die Liebe, unerkannt: das macht ihn bang.“ (129)
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Anne Carson succeeds in being totally unconventional. She takes up conventional topics such as time, passion and identity, but she also turns conventions upside down. The Canadian classicist and poet was probably the first writer in history ever to retell the episode of Herakles and Geryon from Geryon’s own experience. Hercules becomes an inhumane monster through his personality and behaviour, while “Geryon turned all attention to his inside world.” (30) and thus rises to immortality. In the myth, Geryon was killed by Hercules, but Carson re-imagines a destructive love affair which ends by Hercules breaking Geryon’s heart – “Your heart of my death!” (100). “He forgot for a moment that he was a brokenheart/ then he remembered.” (70). They have a good time together, but Geryon knows that Hercules will never know him back.
“What Geryon was thinking Herakles never asked. In the space between them/ developed a dangerous cloud.” (132)
“... I will never know how you see red and you will never know how I see it. / But this separation of consciousness / is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is/ to believe in an undivided being between us. ...” (105).
Geryon’s redness and wings stand for his creativity. His redness is his inmost being, his selfhood, but Hercules dreams of him in yellow. Geryon survives through art. Carson turns the myth into the recording and surviving of pain through the viewfinder of poetry. Wings are portrayed as the Platonic image and the creative aspect of love. The beloved might not be worth the pain, but wings lift the true lover’s soul into immortality. While Geryon records all the details of life through the lens of his camera thereby keeping the only secret which is immortality. Pictures are the language which helps Geryon to express himself, since “Raising a camera to one’s face has effects/ no one can calculate in advance.” (135). As a child he feels alienated by language and prefers photography as a means of expression, since “Photography is a way of playing with perceptual relationships.” (65). Exemplary for that is the fly which is floating in a pail of water looks drowned but with a strange agitation of light around the wings. The picture portrayed the fly as being almost alive and somehow immortal. Producing a self-portrait and autobiography, Geryon secures his own immortality.
Besides all that Carson also wrote a profound love story – “a reverie on the mystery of one person’s power over another, seen through the double lens of scholarship and verse” as Ruth Padel put it in her review “seeing red”. Carson writes a sweet and extravagant tale and gives lyric poetry an epic grandeur. Hence she ends up producing a hybrid work of poetry and prose – a verse novel.
In the aforementioned review Ruth Padel describes Carsons’ language as the “language any poet would kill for: sensuous and funny, poignant, musical and tender, brilliantly lighted”. I could not agree more. At times I had difficulties identifying myself with Geryon. Of course I see myself in him when he is seeking for love and his true selfhood, but the events that occur and experiences he makes are sometimes very unfamiliar – cases of defamiliarization, I would say – and I felt even awkward at times. But what I truly and ardently loved was the language Carson uses to describe feelings and thoughts. Here I share my favourite examples with you: “[...]there it was one of those moments/ that was the opposite of blindness. / The world poured back and forth between their eyes once or twice.” (39), “She listens / to the blank space where / his consciousness is, moving towards her.” (48), “but such a cloud of agony poured up his soul he couldn’t remember / what he was saying.” (68), “He lay on his bed at night listening to the silver light of stars crashing against/ the window screen.” (84), “And for a moment the frailest leaves of life contained him ain a widening happiness.” (97), “We would think ourselves continuous with the world if we did not have moods.” (98), “habit blurs perception and language” (107), “There was neither excitement nor the absence of excitement.” (125), and “I once loved you, now I don’t know you at all. He does not say this. / I was thinking about time – he gropes - / you know how apart people are in time together and apart at the same time – stops.” (141). Alice Munro spoke for me when she claimed that: “This book is amazing – I haven’t discovered any writing in years so marvellously disturbing.”
We learn in Autobiography of Red that things must be viewed from different angles in order for us to grasp their worth and meaning. The title suggests that the text is an exploration of particularity and that there are several different ways to be. This is also true for Geryon’s identity construction. Geryon, the only winged red creature, finds himself in total disorientation time and again. On the one hand, his red surrounding symbolises his personal Hell since he spends so much time alone, humiliated, and without a clear sense of being. He is shy, sensitive and senses his difference to others. He is fixed with the inner. But on the other hand, Geryon is a “philosopher of sandwiches” and makes readers sympathise with him during his seek for love and identity. Hence, he is never alone as we side with him. Nevertheless he is a subjective character in a world of subjective reality. He enters a world of ambiguity, where all objects are challenged and made into subjects. He is unique, removed from the world and not subject to its reality. He is unlike other human beings and challenges the convention of the typical human character. He refuses objective routes and finds his own way, creating his own subjective reality, as we see in the example where he refuses to enter the classroom conventionally. Because of all that Geryon is unable to exist in the world of objectivity. Carson depicts a world that lacks convention which is mirrored in her writing style, which constitutes its own patterns not following any conventions of writing or pervious examples. She uses line spacing in random places, neglects punctuation and reworks the original myth. The following passage outlines Carson’s writing process - mediating between subject and object - quite well:
“What if you took a fifteen-minute exposure of a man in jail, let’s say the lava / has just reached his window? / he asked. I think you are confusing subject and object, she said. / Very likely, said Geryon.” (52).
Hence, Geryon has become the subject of his own myth and autobiography. Instead of losing his identity in death, Geryon finds his identity when he flies. His flight can be seen as his final release from all outside objective realities. By flying he achieves true subjectivity. The story is about Geryon’s transposition from object to subject in various ways. In conclusion, everything depends on the experiences and beholder in whose eye reality exists.
“The eye empties.” (140)
That was also the dayHowever, later on his mother mentions on the phone that, at this stage in Geryon's life, his autobiography is a sculpture:
he began his autobiography. In this work Geryon set down all inside things
particularly his own heroism
and early death much to the despair of the community. He coolly omitted
all outside things. (28)
Geryon? fine he's right here working on his autobiographyApparently, it is a tomato to which a ten-dollar bill has been attached to represent hair (35). Considering Geryon's own colour, his sculpture can be read as a self-portrait. This is the first stage of his autobiographical endeavour.
. . . .
No it's a sculpture he doesn't know how to write yet (35, emphasis in the original)
The next stage is reached once Geryon knows how to write. It is described in chapter "VI. Ideas," the subheader of which reads "Eventually Geryon learned to write" (37):
His mother's friend Maria gave him a beautiful notebook from JapanThough it is not quite clear whether his teacher and his mother are talking about this text, it seems that Geryon's writing is not characterized by happy endings (38). This prompts Geryon to write a new ending:
with a fluorescent cover.
On the cover Geryon wrote Autobiography. Inside he set down the facts.
Total Facts Known About Geryon.
Geryon was a monster everything about him was red. Geryon lived
on an island in the Atlantic called the Red Place. Geryon's mother
was a river that runs to the sea the Red Joy River Geryon's father
was gold. Some say Geryon had six hands six feet some say wings.
Geryon was red so were his strange red cattle. Herakles came one
day killed Geryon got the cattle.
He followed Facts with Questions and Answers.
Questions Why did Herakles kill Geryon?
1. Just violent.
2. Had to it was one of His Labors (10th).
3. Got the idea that Geryon was Death otherwise he could live forever.
Geryon had a little red dog Herakles killed that too. (37, emphasis in the original; words that were set in capitals are now bold.)
New Ending.Among the fragments of Stesichoros' writings, there is a highly similar piece entitled "XV. Total Things Known About Geryon," and the new ending corresponds to "XVI. Geryon's End" (14). This insinuates that somehow Geryon's "Autobiography" fell into the hands of Stesichoros (or it might have happened the other way around).
All over the world the beautiful red breezes went on blowing hand
in hand. (38, emphasis in the original)
As the third and final stage is reached, we read about how Geryon plans his project and how long he has been (or: will have been?) pursuing it:
This was when Geryon liked to planFrom that point onwards, mainly individual photographs that are presumably integrated into Geryon's autobiography are described (see 62, 71 [inspired by "Red Patience," a photograph by Herakles' grandmother, 51-52], 72-73, 97, 115, 131, 136, 137, 138, 139-140, 141, 142-144). Additionally, there is one photograph, # 1748, "he never took, no one here took it" (145).
his autobiography, in that blurred state
between awake and asleep when too many intake valves are open in the soul.
which Geryon worked on from the age of five to the age of forty-four,
had recently taken the form of a photographic essay. (60)
There is only one more explicit mention of Geryon's autobiography. Imagining the end of the world, Geryon muses with what seems like regret that "no one will see my autobiography" (70, emphasis in the original).
Based on the passages quoted here and the implications of Geryon's autobiographical venture, I now want to problematize the use of the term 'autobiography' and to spell out the consequences for our reading of Autobiography of Red. First, with regard to the title, considering the mutations of Geryon's actual (that is, intradiegetical) autobiography, his "photographical essay" cannot be identified with the novel we hold in our hands. This claim is further supported by how many other texts are attached to the main narrative. If we apply a strict understanding of 'autobiography,' it is a logical impossibility that the real, physical death of the autobiographer--who is at the same time, of course, the autobiographee--be part of any autobiography. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that the novel ends without Geryon dying.
When we consider that Geryon wrote of his death at Herakles' hands (and of later events, one might add) when he was about seven, it becomes crystal-clear that Herakles never actually kills Geryon in Carson's rewriting of their myth. Only a naïve reading of the novel would take the Stesichoros fragments and Geryon's own writing to imply that he was eventually killed by Herakles, even though this would add a considerable sense of closure to Autobiography of Red. But for all we know, Geryon might have become even older than forty-four, at which age he then would abolish his autobiography for reasons unknown. The question that remains is how the 'Herakles kills Geryon' story relates to the one that is told throughout the novel, featuring prominently Geryon's tragic love for Herakles.
- Carson, Anne. Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse. New York: Vintage, 1998.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
In Durs Grünbeins Roman Vom Schnee trifft der Leser den Menschen Descartes, der mit seinem Diener Gillot 1619 in einem süddeutschen Städtchen den Winter verbringt. Grünbein stellt uns den Menschen Descartes vor, der immer wieder den Konflikt von Körper und Geist erlebt. Im ersten Teil des Buches verkörpert der Diener Gillot das Körperliche, während Descartes als geistiger Lehrer auftritt. Grünbein versteht es mit feinem Witz diese getrennt gelebte Form des Dualismus und des Rationalismus auflaufen zu lassen. Fast schon grotesk wirkt die Situation als Descartes seinem Diener ‚Trost’ spendet, als dieser von einem erfrorenen Bauernkind im Dorf erzählt. Er habe geweint, erwähnt Gillot, den die tragische Geschichte berührt. Descartes erwidert darauf:
„Was lehrt uns das?“ „Monsieur ich habe geweint.“
„ Ein edler Zug – und ein Reflex. Schau, ein Kanal
Führt von den Tränendrüsen in den Sack der Bindehaut.
Dort staut es sich das salzige Sekret. Wir blinzeln,
Und mit dem Lidschlag wird es angesaugt uns schiesst –
Ein Dammbruch, in den Tränensack und bricht hervor:
Und schon verschwimmt die Welt vor unsern Augen.
Du schnappst nach Luft, dann spült der Tränenfluss dich fort.
Der Anlass? Findet sich. Das Herz wird leicht durchzuckt.
Was zählt, ist das Prinzip. Hydraulik. Wasserdruck.“
Gillot ist daraufhin verwirrt und versucht dann doch noch einmal seine Gefühlslage auszudrücken, verstummt schlussendlich aber.
Grünbein gelingt es einen grossen Denker und seine Theorie in die gelebte Welt zu setzen, und ihn dabei straucheln zu lassen, wie jeder andere Mensch auch - ohne respektlos, moralisch, oder sarkastisch zu werden.
Grünbein Durs, Vom Schnee 2003
Friday, April 3, 2009
Im Seminar diskutierten wir zwei Arten, Vom Schnee zu lesen: Wir nannten die eine die 'naive Lesart', nach welcher Teil I vom jungen Denker Descartes in Deutschland, seinem die sinnliche Sphäre repräsentierenden Diener Gillot und dessen Geliebten Marie handelt. Eine komplexere Lesart ist dann diejenige, welche Gillot als sinnlichen Teil und inneren Monologpartner von Descartes ansieht, der sich damit selbst als reinen Geist versteht. Wie üblich ist die komplexere Lesart erst nach einer ersten, naiven Lektüre zugänglich. Dieser Beitrag versucht, herauszufinden, auf welche Art das Verhältnis eigen ist gegenüber anderen Texten, in welchen zwei Figuren sich als Teile einer 'wahren' (immer noch fiktiven) Figur herausstellen (Chuck Pahlaniuks Fight Club könnte als Gegenbeispiel der jüngeren Vergangenheit dienen, wird aber nicht diskutiert).
In beiden Lesearten kommt der kartesische Dualismus vor. In der naiven Lesart ist er aber nicht reflektiert: Die Figuren vertreten dort Eigenschaften auf eine ähnliche Art, wie es Figuren in der klassischen Literatur oft tun (man denke an die antiken Epen und Mythen): Sie inkorporieren diese Eigenschaften, sind nicht nach Eigenschaften strukturiert: Descartes ist Körper, Gillot ist Geist, der Geist erkennt (im Teil II), dass er nicht körperlos sein kann.
Die Pointe des kartesischen Dualismus aber ist gerade diese innere Struktur: der Geist erhält im Normalfall die Informationen über die Welt von den Sinnen, welche körperlich sind und beide, Körper und Geist, ergeben zusammen ein Individuum (erst dieses ist das ego). Das Projekt der Meditationes ist aber, dass der Geist aus sich selber so viel wie möglich erschliessen will. Dazu muss er zunächst einmal alles anzweifeln, was er über de Sinne weiss.
Dass diese innere Struktur in der naiven Lesart nicht vorkommt, macht es seltsam, den Text auf diese Weise zu lesen, wenn man die Meditationes kennt. Man kann die literarische Figur Grünbeins deswegen nicht mit den Theorien des Denkers verbinden. Diese Probleme löst die komplexe Lesart, da durch sie aus der philosophischen Idee des literarischen Descartes, er sei nur Geist, eine psychologisch-historische Interpretation der Biografie des historischen Descartes wird. Grünbein provoziert dann auf eine andere Weise, nämlich indem er in Descartes Theorien und in seiner Biografie Argumente dafür zu finden behauptet, dass Descartes persönliches Projekt war, möglichst nur Geist zu sein.
Der naive Leser, das ist üblicherweise ein Leser, welcher einen Text zum ersten Mal liest. Seine Naivität besteht in diesem angenommenen Normalfall darin, dass ihm Informationen fehlen, welche der Text erst zu seinem Ende offenbart. Speziell an Vom Schnee ist, dass der Teil II nur die grundlegende Irritation liefert: Die Figur Descartes scheint einen Wandel durchgemacht zu haben (übrigens ist dieser innere Wandel ein guter Grund, dafür zu argumentieren, dass wir es mit einer Romanfigur zu tun haben). Um zur komplexen Lesart zu gelangen, sind Kenntnisse von Theorie und Biografie Descartes notwendig, nicht, weil die literarische Situation und die literarische Figur offensichtlich diesen Theorien und Biografien entnommen ist, sondern weil die biographisch-historische Interpretation Grünbeins eine neue ist und der Leser dies gerade daraus erfährt, dass sich die Figur eben nicht überall so verhält und nicht immer dasselbe erlebt wie die historische Person und der Geist, wie wir ihn schlecht aus seinen Büchern kennen.
Der naive Leser von Vom Schnee ist also auf eine doppelte Weise naiv: Weder kennt er, den ersten Teil lesend, den Wandel, welchen die Figur durchmachen wird, noch kennt er notwendigerweise die Hintergründe, die er benötigen wird, um den Wandel zu verstehen.