Book Discussion Group: Kleinzeit, 3

Normally I don’t talk about novels in public. Compared to the work of others, like Robert’s like past post or Brad’s ruminations, my reflections rarely say much. Novels are, for me, an intensely reflective experience. They resonate with me rather than how I understand myself socially. Reading novels for me might even be a very narcissistic activity. Even when I suggest novels to friends I do so furtively, perhaps hoping to make a connection that I normally cannot make. All of this, cloyingly earnest as it likely sounds, seems apt with regard to Kleinzeit. While I agree with Brad that this is not really a psychological novel it is, in a sense, a secular Kierkegaardian novel.For Kiekergaard the individual stands alone before God. This isn’t so much a thesis of individualism, I take it that is more of a rationalist systematizing of this sort of idea which covers over more than it reveals, but rather that one really is an individual before God. One is. Kleinzeit is a novel about such individuals, or so I take it, but not so much before God, though God plays his part, but before a number of seemingly inhuman structures and objects that do have a certain animating energy to them. One that is, to call to mind Philip’s response in another thread, a dominating energy. These “gifts” are all quite cruel, but they are the sickness of life.

Obviously the portrayal of sexual difference in the book is questionable. It isn’t at all clear that we can say of women, as God does, “Who could be healthier?” and I’m not entirely sure that all men are sick. Though, there was something positively beautiful about Sister’s clarification of her statement “I’m talking about men. One way and another they’re all sick” with “What I mean is, it isn’t a matter of finding a well man, it’s a matter of finding one who makes the right use of his sickness.” It reminded me of the same theme that runs through Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. But, how can one make the right use of his sickness when the words doctors give us, and who are doctors if not those who have made some kind of pact with dominating energies like Hospital, make no fucking sense at all.

This resonated with me for, though I’m not a sick man, I feel like I’m a sick man. Well, the truth is, I am sick. Not sick in the way that gets you sympathy, just sick in the way that lots of people in the world are sick. My doctor told me, “Your genes are just badly made.” Thanks doc. She then went on to explain that this particular genetic trait entered into the history of human beings, some of them being my family, for good evolutionary reasons. I’d outlast the lot of you if we entered a famine, but fat lot of good that does me. I’m an American, I don’t need to worry about that sort of thing. Though if I have children maybe the gene will get to do its good work again, but for now it just means I’ll probably die of either a heart attack of liver failure. Kleinzeit’s right about our organs, no loyalty at all. Though I wonder if my genes think I’ve just got too short a view on this. Fuck em.

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3 Responses to “Book Discussion Group: Kleinzeit, 3”

  1. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I like this post. I also like the kinds of reflections Robert and Brad offer, but I think this is an utterly appropriate kind of reaction to have to a novel.

  2. Dan Says:

    I also enjoyed this post. Glad I’m not alone in reading in a more “narcissistic” manner.

  3. Brad Johnson Says:

    Anthony, I also like this post a lot. Between my own sickness and that of my computer, though, I didn’t get a chance to tell you so in a timely fashion. (I’m rather curious if Hospital has consumed Robert. Haven’t heard from him in a bit.)

    While I agree about your take on the individual here, I will keep w/ my general line that we shouldn’t take that too strictly. Which is to say, the relationship between the individual and objects contributes to the dissolution of the singularity of the individual — or at least the significance of that singularity. Actually, as I think about it, the most “individual” character in the novel is Sister, wouldn’t you say — that is, the most “together”– and she is also the one w/ the most intense relationship w/ God. It is when that relationship is downplayed, or at least spread out in such a way that God becomes one of a myriad objects animating life, that individual known as Kleinzeit becomes significant (i.e., as “hero”) only in the sense that he loses “himself” (that he gives in to his sickness, in a way). This doesn’t happen to Sister, though. I dunno. Is this worth thinking about more? (Note: I suspect I’m wildly over-reading, particularly due to the constraints of the Orpheus story being played with, as well as the general absence of women in the story itself. )


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