The Third International after Lenin

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"No one knows what"

Ernst Bloch The Utopian Functon of Art and Literature
Fourth printng, 1996
© 1988 Massachusets Insttute of Technology.

A Philosophical View of the Detectve Novel

    1. Something is uncanny – that is how it begins. But at the same time one must search for that remoter "something," which is already close at hand. The hidden "who" is in demand, but when it is told as a story, it is not highly regarded. It is seldom praised and often read, even by those who despise it – what do we have here? There must be something to this case after all.
    2. What is remarkable in this case is that it has not surprised us more often. Who, indeed, is moved by such a thing more than superficially and fleetingly? The setting in which detective stories are enjoyed the most is just too cozy. In a comfortable chair, under the nocturnal floor lamp with tea, rum, and tobacco, personally secure and peacefully immersed in dangerous things, which are shallow. But it does not always have to be love at first sight, especially when it appears that thrills, even when unrequited, are hardly ever one and the same. There are more than enough bad examples, but they could not be termed "bad" unless clever and shrewd ones also existed. The latter – an example of which is the work or E. A. Poecan function as a divining rod amidst the superficial. And not only E. A. Poe, but also the form he used, which is recognizable in the genre's worst mass-produced merchandise, endures longer, expresses more, has remarkably more recent ancestors and more profundity than many of the standardized products of which literary history is full. Why is it that the detective novel produces so many trashy bestsellers? The romance and so-called social novel produce these as well, probably to a greater degree, without this generally being held against these genres. And if there are people who do not want to come into

contact with the detective novel in public, they are only die-hard intellectuals, who do not even go to variety shows. Here, in contrast, Lichtenberg's adage is to be taken seriously: It is not uncommon that random hunting expeditions flush out the game which methodological philosophy can use in its neatly ordered household. This applies even more to detective expeditions, which are not so random after all. They search, observe, and follow nothing but clues along the way. Indeed, all they are is a hunt for sufficient evidence in narrative form. However, the question here focuses not on criminological evidence, but evidence of its literary representation. Its form is highly unusual, that of a "ferreting out," and presupposes many determinants according to the way it has become.
3. Why, then, is the narrator who fishes in murky waters such a recent phenomenon? Above all, why does the detailed hunt for evidence appear at such a late date? The reason is that earlier legal procedures did not depend on it. Justice was dealt out in cash, so to speak, whether or not extorted. Because the trial by evidence demanded that evidence be sufficient for both the initial arrest warrant and the trial, criminal investigation arose with the detective in the foreground. Signs of all kinds, footprints, false alibis and the inferences arising therefrom, have now become as important as the old, often too-sweeping, cui bono. Prior to the middle of the eighteenth century there were absolutely no evidentiary trials, at least none that were deliberate. Only several eyewitnesses and above all the confession, which was called the regina probationis, could sustain a conviction – nothing else. Since it was seldom that enough witnesses were available, torture was instituted to elicit the reginaprobationis, and its painful question was the only refined one in Charles V's gallows justice. The result was that the accused was put off his guard through pain and made to say things
– a torn web of lies at the cost of equally torn limbs – that no one but the perpetrator and the judge could know. The effect was unthinkable atrocity, the worthless extortion of guilt, against which the Enlightenment rebelled for both humane and logical reasons. Since then, evidence is necessary and must be produced; it is the basis for proof before judge and jury in most cases. (This applies at least outside the colonies and to non-fascist jurisprudence at home.) Even a confession does not replace or detract from the taking of evidence in a given case, since it could be a false self­
accusation aimed at protecting another or deterring the investigation of further crimes as yet unknown. To
this extent, the depiction of the evidence gathering work of the detective is no older than the evidentiary hearing itself. No doubt, evidence can also mislead, culminating in judicial murders of a new narrow-minded variety, especially where it appears to fit together smoothly and without gaps. However, evidence is more civilized than torture and suspenseful in a different way.
Yet, the ferreting out of the necessary clues was not always narrated in a suspenseful fashion. Or vice versa, stories of this kind that appeared many decades later still preserved the thrills and chills of old. Thus, the old curiosity remained, to see what's cooking in the neighbor's pot, to eavesdrop whenever possible with an avid eye to gossip. A primitive interest remained in the portraits of great criminals, extending down to their ballads, pictures, and songs at country fairs. With poison and dagger as props, bloodcurdling Baroque plays in the tradition of Seneca had a lasting effect, coupled with the new-found delight in the Gothic novel, which Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1764 signaled as the other side of Pietism. There were raging storms instead of silver moons, horror instead of elegies, with Ossianic trappings at a bargain price, but also with the rainy nights and English weather scenery that still suits the detective novel extremely well. The ghost has fallen by the wayside never to be seen again, but the horror novel lends its colors to the desolate houses and trapdoors, even to docks, the East End, and flickering lamps. Indeed, a genuine criminal literature had already constituted itself a little earlier. However, characteristically, it was purely narrative and repetitive and without detectivistic snags. It blossomed in the famous collection of the lawyer Pitaval in 1734, in Anselm Feuerbach's psychologically rich Darstellung merkwurdinger Verbrechen (Portrayal of Remarkable Crimes) in 1828, in the graphically narrated New Pitaval by Alexis in 1842 and more. Not the least is Schiller's Geisterseher (Ghostseer), that marvelous dime novel of mystery, revelation, and new enigma. It gained broad appeal with Dumas' restoration of the recesses of the newly discovered old quarters and its underworld and especially with the crossings of Grand Guignol and French Romanticism. Here scenery is everywhere, and intrigues abound that only the skill of the detective could penetrate. But the suspense in all this was provided by the criminal and not primarily
by the detective, absent as he was. Therefore, the story that includes him is entirely different from the traditional ingredients of the past; it follows the entrusted pursuit of evidence and the narrated understanding of its meaning.
The beginning of the clever end appears to have been difficult, but unfortunately became all the more easy later on. Hoffmann's Frdulein von Scudery paves the way in 1819 with the noble old lady unmasking the goldsmith and saving his apprentice in an almost detective-like manner. As is well-known, the genre was rigorously developed with all of its appurtenances by E. A. Poe; the model is The Murders in the Rue Morgue of 1841 with Mr. Dupin as an unmistakable detective with a particularly elusive perpetrator, an orangutan. Since the end of the last century, however, the erstwhile genre of Hoffmann and Poe (rivaled nowadays only by science fiction) has been subjected to an increasing opening of the floodgates of pleasure and suspense, not to speak of the hundred thousand blanks drawn in this criminal lottery. Among the older diversions of this type, A. K. Green looms large, continually enveloping and unwrapping as with Japanese boxes of progressively diminishing size the clue buried in the last. Conan Doyle, however, became a veritable folk song, which is attributable not only to the most popular of detective heroes, but also to an almost archetypical collection of precarious situations and the surprising twist in the concluding lines of the first chapter of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which defies imitation. Next on the agenda was the entertainment to be had with authors like Gaborieau, Frank Heller, Oppenheim, and, of course, Agatha Christie, which is always repeatable because quickly forgotten; thrillers with and without sagacity effortlessly follow suit. Unfortunately with Wallace it is easily possible, despite a good thing like The Sixth Sense of Mr. Reeder, not to be captivated. Yet, despite the duds in the lottery business, despite the diehard intellectuals, and despite the modesty of this literature, its relaxed suspense is, more than ever, part and parcel of the intelligentsia. This poses a problem, as will be seen, with significantly more than just psychological or sociological roots. And literary caliber, an earmark of the genre since Hoffmann and Poe, recurs consistently, emerging most recently in Chesterton's dreamy, unsavory Father Brown, whose
intuition is rooted in his Christian charity. Chesterton's paradox in this area is paid off in small change and lessons taught. In
So we are now prepared for the style itself, knitting and knotting, for its characteristics, which are threefold, closely intertwined and full of intention. First comes the suspense associated with guessing, pointing itself, in detective-like manner, to the second characteristic, that of unmasking and discovering, with special emphasis on what is remote, often the most important source of information. And the act of discovery leads, in the third instance, to events that must first be wrested from their pre-narrative, un­narrated state. The third aspect is the most characteristic of the detective story, rendering it unmistakably independent of the detective figure. Before the first word of the first chapter something happened, but no one knows what, apparently not even the narrator. A dim focal point exists, as yet unrecognized, whither and thither the entire truckload of ensuing events is mobilized – a crime, usually murder, precedes the beginning. In all other narrative forms both deeds and misdeeds develop before the omnipresent reader. Here, on the contrary, the reader is absent when the misdeed occurs, a misdeed that, though conveniently home-delivered, shuns the light of day and lingers in the background of the story. It must be brought to light and this process itself is the exclusive theme. The obscure deed is not even presented in a prelude, for it is as yet unpresentable, except through a process of reconstruction from investigation and evidence.
Suspense, initially for its own sake, is characteristic of the genre. It can be crudely realized and bloody, which, however, is of no concern here. Though built on blood and bodies, no good detective story achieves its fame with such attractions: they are merely the pretense for a purely intellectual exercise with a narrative picture puzzle aimed solely at the discovery of the perpetrator. This is what draws one in and affords relaxation through its apparent opposite, namely, the reader's competition with the detective in the quest of the probable right clue. The search itself is depicted in isolation, and that is why many of the best readers read the last pages first to participate with cooler heads. Once the "who" is already known, however, the "how" of its discovery emerges more emphatically in well-made stories. "Oh, you're a non­smoker," exclaims one gentleman at a social gathering to another with whom he is supposedly unacquainted, offering him a cigarette: the reader with knowledge of the ending more easily recognizes how a slip of the tongue ruins the gentleman. A suspense that is more subtle than that aimed exclusively at the final resolution is at work here. The process reveals its quality more accurately. Only in that kind of water does one catch that kind offish: a sporting mode of inquiry for everyone.
A second characteristic is the act of discovery and its evidence. Amidst the haste and frenzy it is important not to be rash, but to reconnoiter carefully. It is often the smallest, purely incidental signs from which the detective gleans the most salient information. This was the case, before the advent of such conscious detective stories, with Abner the Jew who saw nothing, in Wilhelm Hauff 's story, which has the same title as the name. As dreamy as Father Brown, though for more depressed reasons, Abner insists he has seen nothing but a small gold line on the wall and otherwise trivial matters. Yet, these are sufficient for him to put others on the track of the stolen horse. In this connection it is interesting how much the position and image of the detective are unprofessionally enhanced by virtue of his knack for incidentals. And the position is always that of a private, virtuous person, independent of the routinized police; this was true at its inception with Poe's unemployed Mr. Dupin. The criminologist as outsider tends to be a Bohemian, an inveterate flaneur in his spare time, who, like Abner, only notices that which eludes others in their habits and routines. The Bohemian Holmes evinces a clearly artistic

air, with his careless division of the day, much l'art pour l'art in the muddle of his bachelor flat on Baker Street, his tobacco stored in Persian slippers held to the wall by an even more exotic dagger, with his playing of the violin and his love of Chopin. Not only is imagination played off against the policemen, but the new type of detective with his more refined manner of gathering evidence also offers protection for the rashly accused, the possible victims of crude routine. Thus, in almost all of these stories, this figure
embodies the characteristic that, according to Radbruch, should distinguish the jurist above all: deliberation. Another interesting aspect, unrelated to the status of outsider, is the change of method determined in general by society that the respective model detectives employ in gathering and interpreting unconventional clues. This becomes fictitiously clear in the case of two of the more prominent among these sportsmen, especially adept in tracking and putting others on the track. Holmes, fin de siècle, utilizes the scientific-inductive method; he can tell from the mud on the soles of his visitors from which part of London they hail; he differentiates between all kinds of tobacco ashes, and chemistry is his favorite science. Agatha Christie's character Hercule Poirot, on the other hand, a product of less rational times, no longer stakes his "grey little cells" on the inductive card, but instead intuits the totality of the case in accordance with the increasingly irrational modes of thinking characteristic of late bourgeois society. Thus Bergson and totality theory have triumphed over J. S. Mill and the mere aggregation of particulars in the realm of the detective novel as well. Be that as it may, whether inductively or intuitively: the pathos of minute evidence, those inconspicuous details so often overlooked by the constables – this micrological perspective, as it were, remains intact and fills the valleys of this kind of literature with almost Chinese fastidiousness. How important it can be to have seen whether the letter opener on the desk was placed with the handle or the blade toward the visitor; how absolutely nothing escapes the eye of Abner the Jew except Hecuba; how decisive, on the other hand, is Hecuba's realm when in Agatha Christie's Thirteen at Dinner the double destroys the original's alibi by saying Paris (the city) instead of Paris (the Trojan hero). Numerous examples come to mind for this – literally murderous – meticulousness. Yet when these tricks become known to the police, there is a resistance to letting them become routine, let alone a pattern. Thus, when Her­
cule Poirot busies himself with a piece of lead pipe so thick that it went unnoticed by the police, and his companion is amazed at his sudden interest in it as if it were trivia, no one less than Agatha Christie has her hero say, "Mon ami, a focal point two feet long is just as valuable as one measuring only two millimeters. But it is impossible to eliminate the romantic view that all important ciphers have to be infinitely small." And, as the precursor Poe already forewarned, every clue ex machina is an error similarly "nourished by the massive reading of detective stories," especially when used at the end so all works out for the best. The result is, as Thackeray says so humorously in The Snob Book, "the remedy is at hand like in the pantomime, where as soon as the clown needs something – a hotwater-bottle, a pump handle, a goose or a woman's cape – a bloke saunters in from backstage with the very item desired." To be sure, all detective novels include trivia (to the status of which the thick lead pipe has graduated) and hints, and this micrological realm is most powerful in isolation, away from the standardized perspective. It also encompasses Father Brown's sudden amazement at the "sickly appearance of the marzipan figures," including the light that emanates from them. And another thing, finally, which explicitly pertains to the micrological dimension, is characteristic of the hunting ground of the detective: sidelights fill the surroundings and become increasingly inscrutable. It is the man in disguise the inauthentic environment, veritable talmi gold, typical of this kind of colportage for over a hundred years. Benjamin mentioned it in Einbahnstrasse (One-Way Street) under the "royally furnished ten-room-dwelling;" a Grunderzeit not exclusively German with aftereffects hearkening back to the "disinterred corpse of the ancestors." This is a theater more commensurate with the detective pursuit than the slums or the East End in former times: "The only adequate depiction and, at the same time, analysis of the style of furniture of the second half of the nineteenth century is afforded by a certain type of criminal novel, in the dynamic center of which is found the horror of the dwelling. . . . This sofa is the only place on which the aunt can be murdered." In those days lace, doilies, etuis, and draperies still belonged openly, so to speak, to the bourgeois codes of behavior, decorum, and decor, to the world of cant and its crooked or easily corruptible ways. Apart from the realm of the detective in the narrow sense, it was, after all, the heyday of the pillars of society. Benjamin cites Gaston Leroux, the
writer of detective stories, in this connection and praises his Phantom of the Opera as "one of the great
novels of the nineteenth century"; Leroux had "brought about the apotheosis of this genre." And if this is exaggerated, if the "khanate of humbug" is at least to some degree passe, the fundamental characteristic of everyday duplicity that produced it, however, is not. If anything, alienation itself has increased, an alienation that holds people in opposition to themselves, their fellow humans, and the world they have created, and the concomitant chaotic insecurity of life (compared with the relative security of the nineteenth century) has added general mistrust to the duplicity. Anything can now be expected from anybody, consistent with the economy of exchange that now applies to faces as well and that, as in an Alfred Hichcock horror film, does not even know the direction from which the blow will come. As a consequence, the ultimate clue in the detective novel can and usually will consist in the unmasking of the most unexpected, least suspected person as the perpetrator. No doubt there were formerly periods of much speedier suspicion, but they were confined to a much smaller circle. This was the case in the days of Brinvillier the poisoner and of the fear of becoming her victim as well as that of the court (Hoffmann's Fraulein von Scudery takes place at precisely this time). This was especially the case during the witch trials, the Inquisition, and the much shorter Reign of Terror. Yet, the relations between people were not a widely and diffusely affected as in the calmer, more normal, yet more anonymous times after Nazism when cunning in a double sense holds sway. Certainly, a genre such as the detective novel expresses this condition of alienation, despite the professional thoroughness and breadth of its suspicion, only through sensationally exaggerated emphasis on crime in the form of entertainment. Without this universal epoch of hypocrisy, however, this type of literature could not have, in the words of Benjamin, "revealed a slice of bourgeois pandemonium" (and not just with an obvious bourgeois label). An ancient manuscript by Aulus Gellius entitled Nodes atticae, an anthology from the second century A.D. – and, as will shortly be explained, not only from that century – contains the following line: "Treat your friends as if they were your future enemies." Thoroughly un-Christian, this sentence reveals a part of the detective novel's time and space that, commensurate with the circumstances, has remained unchanged. Brecht, for good reasons a student of this type of litera­
ture, closely approximated the interchangeability of all people who have become faceless; and it is not always the bad guys who wear masks. This increasingly alienated world of masks spells good times for the detective pursuit as such, as well as for a micrology that smacks of criminalistic provenance.
Therefore, even better literature deals more than ever with the process of unmasking. The heights of this better literature have scarcely been measured against their detective content, yet, here in particular, masks drop from faces. In other words, there exist genuine literature and science that closely approximate this process of uncovering as such. This is not surprising in any other kind of clarification. The works of Ibsen and Freud, for instance, can obviously not be classified in the detective genre, and to do so would be blasphemy even with due respect for Poe's chase story. Nevertheless, they are structures of detection sui generis of the dramatic and analytical variety. They present a characteristic "fresh breeze," "a day of reckoning" for lies and stuffiness that strips off disguises. Ibsen's Doll's House, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, and even his last drama are trying to bring to light what is improper for the pillars of society. In the case of Ibsen, an unsolved darkness always precedes the rise of the curtain, a flash of the past is there reminiscent of the narrative form of the detective novel. Significantly, this is no longer satire, but is effectuated through morality in the manner of Scotland Yard, as is also the case on entirely different terrain in the field of psychology. Here Freud comes to mind, his analytical research that is no longer informed by cool dissection but by a vigilance typical of the detective. The conviction that the more neatly the mask conceals, the less salutary that which goes on behind it, gives rise to a deep suspicion of draperies and facades directed at all that ideal and upright superficiality that is too beautiful or comfortable to be true. It is not necessary, nor is this the place, to deal with psychoanalysis, other than to stress the fact that the interpretations of dreams and neuroses are not the only features thereof that read like a detective story. As inadequate as it is to dig for true instincts and repressions predominantly in the private sphere and the unconscious solely as no-longer-conscious, at close inspection a reconstruction very close to the detective
form emerges, of that which in Freud's words has led in the "Acherontic" of earlier times to the existing complex and resolves it as soon as it is made conscious. This is an attempted
uncovering of subjectively false consciousness, primarily of a socially isolated, private-neurotic variety. Objectively false consciousness is descriptive of the normal state of affairs in any society that is oblivious to its infrastructure and whose unenlightened sectors allow themselves to be deluded by grandiose phrases (on a par with the sanctity of parental love). The mode of detection appropriate to this type of consciousness (saying "Bible" and meaning "calico," for example, and not only in the colonies), as well as to the great non-detective ideologies, is called the economic interpretation of history. Thus for Marx, the true secret history of Rome is that of private property, and a radical detective inclination claims that all ideologies are reflections of their respective relations of production – indeed (and that would certainly be the test of the hypothesis), that the ideologies develop entirely genetically from them. The illuminating power of this uncovering, discovering view of history is evident even if every superstructure cannot actually be derived from the infrastructure; a reciprocity exists, rather, with the ideologies contributing, nay, producing their own surplus. It is precisely for this reason that such detection techniques, when correctly understood and applied, have the effect of nitric acid in the testing sense: they dissolve false gold, rendering that which remains of the genuine element in formerly progressive times unmistakably recognizable – indeed, in substantial surplus transcending ideologies.
6. The third characteristic, finally, is that most decisive criterion, which separates the detective novel from all other narrative forms and makes the un-narrated factor and its reconstruction especially interesting. In the detective novel the crime has already occurred, outside the narrative; the story arrives on the scene with the corpse. It does not develop its cause during the narrative or alongside it, but its sole theme is the discovery of something that happened ante rem. Everywhere else the narrative was genetically present: the Alberichs rob the gold before our eyes and Raskolnikov kills the pawnbroker just as epically and visibly as he conceals everything that follows. If, however, new murders occur in the course of the detective story, they constitute yet another black mark, connected with and augmenting the darkness before the beginning, often hampering the resolution of the case. The main point is always the same: the alpha, which none of the characters appearing one after another admits to
have witnessed, least of all the reader, happens outside of the story like the fall from grace or even the fall of the angels (this in order not to shun all-too-mythical coloration). This is also alien to those narrative forms that use flashback and recoup in order to interpolate undisclosed but by no means hidden incidents at the opportune time: it is used informationally, when Isolde recounts for Tristan a part of her pre-history, or, in the grandest example, when Odysseus supplements Homer, so to speak, at the feast in the palace of Alcinous. Nevertheless, the "fresh breeze" of a mightier order attributable to the detective ethos inures to the benefit of the "ante rem" way beyond its pseudo-morphosis in the detective novel. Thus, this principal earmark of the detective story, the darkness at the beginning, is similar in an especially striking manner to some early great works of literature. Due to the fact that evidentiary techniques were either absent or not a topic of discussion, their method of uncovering understandably lacks or only sporadically avails itself of the special craft of the detective. The art of detection, of unearthing and reconstructing, on the other hand, is not lacking in the least. It has been said that colportage preserves meanings that have been lost or are no longer officially condoned; this is particularly true of Poe's genre, which through its establishment in classical literature is able to exchange new codes and breathing space. If Brecht's "Pirate Jenny Song," when carefully listened to, touches on very remote, even Manichaean realms, Poe's detective-form, on the other hand, touches time and again on the related realm of Oedipus. This holds particularly true with respect to that "X" that precedes the beginning, waiting in the wings, which leads from the dark prelude, the unknown pre-history, into the narrative.
And it does not always have to be a corpse that arrives on the scene. Other things suffice, for great
literature does not depend on hoodlums and gangsters. Now, finally, their diametrical opposite, Oedipus, should be mentioned, unknowing murderer of his father, unknowing husband of his mother. One recalls the resulting plague inflicted upon Thebes and the interpretation of the misdeed after it occurred by the Oracle at Delphi. One recalls as well Oedipus' increasingly pressing and urgent investigations carried out in the interest of his people and his own security from the murderer, yet thwarted by the most confounded obstacle. The hunter who is himself the prey and fails in this quest of self plies his monstrous
trade until he belatedly recognizes the truth and does penitence for the perpetration of crimes in which he participates, neither consciously nor morally, but with a highly classical and a highly modern ego-identity. Multifariously disguised, the theme of Oedipus, this primordial detective theme per se, continued to have an effect, always criminalistic to be sure, and with the hidden antecedent. A peculiar reverberation of this theme thus appeared in the Middle Ages in Hartmann von Aue's Gregor aufdem Stein (Gregory on the Stone), transmitted by a Latin legend (the story was retold by Thomas Mann in The Holy Sinner). In this story the reader knows what happened behind the back of the hero in the way of incestuous birth and incestuous love, but the hero finds out, quite in accordance with the rules of detection, only in the plot and as plot itself. And then, with an even greater leap in time, society, and subject matter, an Oedipal element reappears in Fielding's Tom Jones, that voluminous masterpiece of reconstruction, constantly reinterpreted by its author. Here the reader discovers, simultaneously with the foundling Jones and despite many vagaries, what his dark birth was all about. And the revelation comes at the end, when, with the darkness lifted, the foundling finally sees not only who his father was, but also that which he had never questioned because he erroneously believed he knew the answer, the identity of his mother. This last discovery concerning a most unexpected lady lends a special reconstructive glamour to this detective novel without a detective. And finally, with another great leap, one recalls Kleist's strangely reduced Oedipus of Der Zerbrochene Krug (The Broken Jug), reduced to and done out of an amorous rendezvous, a comical shadow cast by the great tragic theme. Here the cryptic prelude is totally minimized, yet, for the first time since Sophocles, the judge and the perpetrator are one. In addition, the judge must exercise finesse off the top of his head to protect himself from the growing evidence, such as the lost wig – and this at the occasion of an inspection testing his judicial capabilities. Satire aimed at the patriarchal discretion of the provincial judicial system as well as the military press and its arbitrary corruptness is at work. Yet the story line itself, entirely sustained by evocations of the "ante rem" incest, is reduced to an attempted rendezvous and homicide to the breaking of a jug. In short, Thebes is everywhere, shimmering threateningly through even the most distant transformations; Tom Jones, or the circumstances of one's own birth, lend
an anticipated probing Kaspar-Hauser flavor to the process of detection. This is in accordance with the foundling's condition in which not only the exiled Oedipus finds himself, but everyone on earth whose world is not of his or her own choosing. And without exception, as if not only the Oedipus myth but Poe as well were the guiding inspirations. In order to develop, all plots of this type are preceded by a crime or at least a mysterious mistake that needs to be uncovered. This is the criminological knot that constitutes the Oedipal theme, the archetype for all later occurrences.
7. So much for literature: it is paralleled by even more remarkable ruminations of the speculative variety. And once again, the common denominator for everything is the process of uncovering, whereby in this case the presupposition is that a veiled misdeed precedes the creation of the world itself. The aforementioned phrase "fall from grace," stemming from mythology, first a dense shadow, had an effect on later concepts. Every loyalty relationship to the ancestral lord deems revolt a crime and associates chaos with it as well. However, this reactionary attitude toward retrospection is precisely what initially mobilized sensibilities for the problem of the uncanny: more so, in any case, then the carefree gaze averted from all hullabaloo, trusting, not only that God is in heaven, but that everything is well with the whole history of the world. Thus the suspicion of an accursed secret ante rem, ante lucem, ante historiam, of a casus ante mundum appeared in philosophy as well, in a particularly conspicuous and penetrating form: that is to say, in those
passages and indeed quite partisan images of a primevally conceived revolt, outlined by Franz Baader and the late Schelling. It is important here to refer back to a dreadful primordial event, "an un-origin" as abyss with reactionary production costs but, on the other hand, curious Oedipal touches of a metaphysical nature. This ab ovo theme, undoubtedly in the detective category, was "immemorial," before the beginning of the world, and according to Baader and Schelling the repercussions of this immemorial element portend nothing good. Thus Baader maintains, after positing causal nexus and finiteness as the principal determinants of our world, that finiteness suggests a prisoner, the latter, however, a crime committed before the world existed for him. This world is continually linked to an original sin, spreading repercussions of misfortune, which the fall from grace only hints at with­
out exhausting it: "Through all the beauty of Nature, man hears her melancholy lament, sometimes softer, sometimes louder, about the widow's veil (!) which she must wear as a result of mankind's sins" (Baader, Werke [Works], II, 1851, p. 120). And above all: "Only a monstrous crime (!) less an apostasy than an insurrection, could cause this material revelation" (i.e., the world) "to be an institution of crisis, restraints and rehabilitation, and the persistence of this crime explains the perpetuation or regeneration of this matter" (ibid., p. 490). Naturally, this sort of thing is kindled by a reactionary ideology of calumny against the French mystagogue Saint Martin and his drawing of a parallel between revolution and revoke des anges. However, it is remarkable that a theory of primordial darkness void of any counter-revolutionary reference can already be found in Jakob Bohme, who, along with his introduction of the term "un-origin" (Ungrund) and its participation in Creation, became so important for Baader in later times. And further in the past, having influenced Bohme himself, the Cabala teaches just like Baader that the world is a retrospective prison. This is emphasized especially by Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century. According to him, "bereshith," the beginning (the first word in the Bible), does not mean the beginning of a creation but points to a capture (tsimsum = contraction) of God Himself. Of course the crime here is attributed to the captor and not to an "un-origin," "abyss" in the God of this atypical criminal mythology or metaphysics. Instead, the beginning in the Cabala resembles a type of dark, primeval Egypt that has repercussions in the world as exile, a world that demands Exodus in order to break out and dissolve the beginning. After all this, let us cite Schelling and his culminating problem of a "rupture" with God at the beginning, without which finite entities would not exist. Evil ante rera precisely this represents the confluence of the detective form and what is certainly the most eccentric metaphysics. Schelling's Philosophy of Religion, 1804, reads as follows: "Whoever thinks he can recognize the principle of good without that of evil is making the greatest of all mistakes, for just as in Dante's poem, the path to heaven leads through the abyss in philosophy as well" (Schelling, Werke [Works], VI, p. 43). And more in the grand style, hardly inspired by Dante this time, yet again full of Oedipus and the dark antecedents of the plague in the otherwise well-constructed Thebes: "After the eternal act of self-revelation, everything in the world as
we now see it is law, order and form; yet lawlessness always lurks at its foundations, as if it could once again break through, and nowhere does it appear as if order and form were at the origin but rather, that an original chaos was brought to order. . . . Without this antecedent darkness, there is no creational reality; gloom is its necessary heritage" (Philosophische Untersuchungen titer das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit [Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom], 1809, Werke, VII, pp. 359ff). In this context, the Ahriman of the Manichaean doctrine, who robbed the sparks of light or made them fall in love with his base world, has also had a visible influence on the notion of the criminal beginning. Thus, the den of gangsters erupts into the world of the righteous; it must be redressed and rendered harmless. It was therefore placed at the very beginning by the archeologists of gloom, Baader and Schelling, as if ensuing history were nothing but pure anti-crime and had no other plans, nothing else to do. All this is far removed from Hegel's totally un-criminalistic theory of origins, which, though certainly much too panlogistic, nevertheless disturbs the Alpha of every Parz-Pitaval: "The beginning is what is in itself, the immediate, abstract, the universal, that which has not yet progressed. The concrete, the rich comes later; that which
comes first is the poorest in determinations." Once again, and here there is no escape: "Thus the original realm of immediacy is inadequate per se and must be endowed with the drive to develop itself further" (Hegel, Logik [Logic], II, Meiner, p. 489). And it must be added: the sorry end cannot, per definitionem, stand at the beginning, but comes later, is incurred in the storygetting into trouble, brewing. Beyond their mythologems, however, it is true that in all of the aforementioned examples of Oedipal metaphysics, an original darkness or incognito is reflected, if not a fantastically contrived crime. In this respect, every last investigation of origins is related to the Oedipal form, which treats the incognito basically not just as an unknown of the logical variety, but also as something uncanny, unknown even to itself. And no Oedipus has yet answered, let alone solved the only worthwhile riddle of the Sphinx: the incognito that explains why anything at all appears, why the world exists. It is also trueyet this relates least of all to a so-called primordial beginning, but solely to what is incurred along the wayit is also true that a certain clearing exists in the forest of history, and this is why both Schiller and Hegel call world history a last judgment; and
what is even more certain is that there would be no process, searching, changing, and possibly healing, if there were not something that ought to be different. Obvious as well is the fact that a characteristic, homogeneous archetype runs through the entire highly multifarious hunting ethos from the Oedipal kind to the recollection of origins. It is and remains the investigation of a darkness ante rem, of the way it is obliged to shun the light or at least is in need of knowing the path of illumination; this principal characteristic of detection has been modified both epically and metaphysically.
So much for signs in places where they are not expected. They are all instances, they have insufficiently, nay, barely, been given their due. They extend from the stupidest of the clever detective stories up to the trial comedy, to strange mythologies of abduction, to high seriousness, which also has a place. For most people, the detective stories, the poor relatives, are the first to reveal this heuristically; this is how they were thought out. The omitted beginning in Tom Jones and in Oedipus rex is here, above all, a higher sphere because it is the lowest. And in order not to shun the strongest Oedipal transparency: is the reader of these mysteries not caught in the darkness of his undisclosed momentary being continually renewing itself? And even if the world into which the reader has chanced does not, following Schopenhauer's denunciation, look like a cabinet of monstrosities, an inn of scoundrels, or an insane asylum depending on one's viewpoint, it nevertheless looks like a precarious as well as difficult detection phenomenon, whose catchword has not yet been found. Certainly, this is an inquiry for which even the Oedipal model lacks jurisdiction. However that may be, rebus sic imperfectis, a principal concern of philosophy is not incorrectly characterized by its form, even if from a different perspective. Theodor Fontane concludes his semi-detective novel Unterm Birnbaum (Under the Pear Tree) with the following words: "And once again bore witness to the wisdom of the proverb: Nothing is spun so tight, eventually everything comes to light." This is in any case better than nihilistic songs of loneliness, which desire to know absolutely nothing, of schematic victory chants, which already know everything anyhow. The Greeks, however, called Dich the Just, the wisest as well, for she brought everything in time, through time, to light. This sounds very mystical, yet also has its rational aspect: light shining into a crime.
8. Item: something is uncanny, that is how it begins. Investigative uncovering is indeed only one aspect, aimed at the origin. Investigative edification is the other, aimed at the destination. There, the finding of something that has been, here, the creation of something new: this tense process is often no less labyrinth-like. And strangely enough: even edification appears in its own form of novel, in a form once again frequently sinister, then again significantly elevated, namely, in the so-called novel of the artist. It would be tempting to demonstrate this right here without digression by way of their contents. How rightful it is that the author of Frdulein von Scudery marks this newer beginning here as well, this time dealing with the craft of genius. E. T. A. Hoffmann, a judge in Berlin, with his detective knack, actually had no problem switching over to the "Serapion principle" of the painter, musician, or poet. This is revealed openly in the music conductor Kreisler and indirectly in the student Anselmus of the The Golden Pot through the tiger lily and
the salamandrian features of his master. After that it goes downhill: novels of manners dealing with the loose morals of artist types and their models, naked ones of course, in great detail, bacchanalian for most, in Paul Heyse's case anyway (and down below gushed the Isar). The middle range covers a broad spectrum, likewise replete with the so-called glimpse into the artist's studio, yet occasionally occupied with the ebb and flow of a real creative process. Wassermann's mediocre Gdnsemdnnchen (The Little Goose Man) but also Rolland's Jean Christophe, not to speak of Werfel's Verdi, Roman der Oper, belong to this group. Surpassing these is the most highly successful portrait so far, Keller's Der Grilne Heinrich (Green Henry), in which the artist is left to fail in a "cypress-shaded finale" in the first version, but in reminiscent resignation in the second. Thomas Mann entered this suspicious sanctuary totally without protection, in bold counterpoint, with Doctor Faustus late German style, therefore as musician. The theme of this genre continues to be dawning, setting, and breakthrough, also effected by eccentrically central catalysts. A quite stirring example of the latter, despite its mediocre quality, is Werfel's Verdi, with the singer and her "well-balanced fragrance," with the surging melos of revenge from Othello after Wagner's death. To be sure, the breakthrough itself, this garish principle characteristic of the matter, is either avoided in this form of the novel or merely circumscribed in declaratory style. This presumably relates to a self­
signaling though also signal aspect of the breakthrough, which is usually only represented in music. This is the reason why this type of oceanic calm and blissful journey is more easily accommodated in an opera than a novel (this even applies to insignificant ones, such as the first act of Pfitzner's Palestrina). The unmistakable form evinced throughout in the novels of detectives and detection is completely absent in the novel of the artist: unless a significant way of omitting the ending, of unproffered fruit can be seen as characteristic of them. According to the portrayed status nascendi, this ending would have to be the artist's work itself, imaginary as it is (with the exception of artist's biographies in novel form). Only Doctor Faustus is able to master these difficulties to a degree by means of suggestive velleities. There the omitted ending, which is nevertheless latent in coruscating flashes of aurora, could have a similar meaning and correspond to the obscure beginning in the detective genre. The reason for the absence of an unmistakable form in the novel of the artist is surely the lack of great old masterpieces of this type. There are none from which the novel of the artist could develop in a secularized form, from which it could gain sustenance, regardless of their remoteness. For even Goethe's plot in Tasso suffers, hopes, and fails because of love and not the creativity of the artist; there is no Oedipus rex in this realm, illuminating and substantiating. And that, in spite of the fact that creativity and its representation are the furthest from lacking an old archetypal figure: its name is Prometheus. Yet, he was never constituted as the archetype of the artist in any classical work. This much as finale and no more here about the novel of the artist, and only to use its investigative-edification to stress and contrast the investigative-uncovering of the Oedipus genre. Though the novel of the artist finds itself in the same book as the detective or detection novel, it is written on another page, which in both literature and philosophy is not even half as comprehensive – indeed, its Promethean form is presumably a thing of the future. In contrast, the detective novel has given rise to more imitation, to such a degree that its mass-produced commodities are vulgar, whereas those of the novel of the artist, numerically fewer anyway, are not petit bourgeois. After this side-glance at a related genre, as its foil, let us conclude, reaching back with a much tighter, arresting grasp at the detective novel. The expedition so far has revealed something not-too-trivial in what has become trivial
literature – here, too, the suspense is not stupid. And what was observed at the beginning has been confirmed: there must be something to this case after all. The problem of the omitted beginning affects the entire detective genre, gives it its form: the form of a picture puzzle, the hidden part of which predates the picture and only gradually enters into it.

No comments:

Post a Comment