Leverkühn as Witness: The Holocaust in Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus

by Paul Eisenstein
Leverkühn as Witness: The Holocaust in Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus
Paul Eisenstein
The German Quarterly
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Otterbein College

Leverkiihn as Witness:
The Holocaust in Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus

Nearly everyone who reflects on the Holocaust agrees on the need to remember so as not to repeat. This consensus, of course, has not made the enterprise of memory any less vexing. When we remem- ber, when we seek to mark some aspect of the event, we might be saving history from oblivion, but as events of recent decades indicate, there is no automatic link be- tween our efforts and the prevention of fu- ture catastr0phes.l The question still re- mains as to what kind of remembering is implied here. The persistence of this ques- tion is perhaps explainable enough: Given the inability of thought to comprehend the enormity of the horror, there is no way for our attempt to bear witness to be adequate to the experience itself, to the "way it really was." Immediately after (and even during) the Holocaust, people felt that their words could not be adequate to the horror of the event itself. Today, after poststructuralist theorizing, we know this theoretically; this felt sense of inadequacy informs our very inquiry into history. Condemned to par- ticularity by the unsymbolizable dimen- sion of history, every historical narrative becomes, in Hayden White's now familiar term, an emplotment, and every artistic representation must be regarded not as the product of an essential, transhistorical vi- sion, but rather as the product of a limited, discursive, subject position. History has be- come memory.

If this transformation has had the effect of lending a sense of insufficiency or failure

to each and every historical or artistic rep- resentation, for poststructuralism, this is precisely the progressive kernel that con- stitutes its contribution to an ethics of his- torical memory. In other words, it is this inadequacy, this limit, that prevents any total account and that necessitates the pro- liferation and dissemination of more and more narratives of the Holocaust-all of which are asked to demonstrate a measure of self-reflexivity, some sign that such nar- ratives are aware of the particularity of their construction. For thinkers from Adorno to Derrida to Lyotard, the fore- grounding of the particularity of subject position, the refusal (or endless deferral) of identity between Particular and Universal, forms the very basis for an ethics that would make another Auschwitz impossi- ble. The refusal or endless deferral of the point of nondifference is, for such thinkers, part and parcel of an antifascist ethos. In his Negative Dialektik, for instance, Ador- no claims that any representation of the Holocaust that does not admit its particu- larity, that does not measure itself by what eludes it, is "vorweg vom Schlag der Be- gleitmusik, mit welcher die SS die Schreie ihrer Opfer zu iibertonen liebte" (358). The progressive possibilities of this theoretical stance for a genuine engagement with the Holocaust are not difficult to detect. For if every approach is to be measured by what eludes it, then there is something in the very relation between thought and history that is forever ongoing. There is, in other words, no way to be over and done with an event like the Holocaust, no final meaning

The German Quarterly 70.4 (Fall 1997) 325

ever to be recouped from it. On the con- trary, the Holocaust becomes, as Dominick LaCapra argues, the site of perpetual "working-through" (64)-an effort which he claims depends fundamentally on an ac- knowledgement of the multiple subject po- sitions involved in transferential relations with it. In Representing the Holocaust: His- tory, Theory, Trauma, LaCapra writes, "working-through requires the recognition that we are involved in transferential rela- tions to the past in ways that vary according to the subject-positions we find ourselves in, rework, and invent" (64).The role of the historian-witness, LaCapra says, "is not a full identity but at most a subject-position that should be complemented, supplemented, and even contested by other sub- ject-positions" (10).Staking memory upon the particularity of subject-positions, La- Capra perhaps best exemplifies the ad- vance represented by postmodernism's challenge to the stability of history and his- torical inquiry. Dispensing with the unified subject who was once the knower of a ra- tional and transparent history, Lacaprare- places the closure and sense of community gained by unself-conscious historical rep- resentations with a notion of trauma as the repressed dimension of redemptive narra-

tives of the Holocaust.

The very theoretical insight that was supposed to ensure a more genuine con- frontation with the Holocaust-the incommensurability between word and what happened-has not, however, made the ter- rain any less contested. If in theory, the turn to the particular was supposed to in- fuse the act of memory with a dose of trauma, it has in fact created another set of problems entirely-opening the way (in- advertently or not) for particular historici- zations (what some would call mythologi- zations) of the event driven by apologetic or ideological ends. It is, I think, fair to say that this problem is perhaps more vexing than any other in Holocaust studies: To what extent does an insistence on particu- larity and context begin to grant a license

Fall 1997

for relativization and apology? When, in other words, does the insistence on particu- larity become a vehicle to recoup "mean- ing" and to guarantee the consistency of identity? This is precisely the question re- cently raised by Omer Bartov, who notes the manner in which proponents ofparticu- larity are "paradoxically forced together and-mostly very much against their will and better judgment-found sharing their scholarly abodes with very strange bedfel- lows indeed" (118). For Bartov, particular- izers and relativists, "though without any visible direct ties, are part of the same in- tellectual discourse" (132). In his introduc- tion to Probing the Limits of Represen- tation: Nazism and the "Final Solution"

-the most comprehensive attempt to think through the dilemmas occasioned by this discourse--Saul Friedlander frames the decisive challenge for Holocaust stud- ies: Once you turn history into the product ofmultiple, particular interpretations, how do you stop these interpretations from crossing certain political and ethical lines? Friedlander writes:

The challenge has become more percepti- ble during the last two decades, as the re- sult of ongoing shaping and reshaping of the image of the Nazi epoch. During the seventies, film and literature opened the way to some sort of new discourse. Histori- ography followed and the mid-eighties witnessed heated debates about new in- terpretations of the "Final Solution" in history (the best known of these debates being the German "historians"' controversy) and, in more general terms, about the proper historicization of National So- cialism, that is, of "Auschwitz." In these various domains new narratives about Nazism came to the fore, new forms of representation appeared. In many cases they seemed to test implicit boundaries and to raise not only aesthetic and intel- lectual problems, but moral issues too. (2)

The crux of the complication is this: When, in the name of antifascism, we do away

with a traditional belief in historical truth and representation, when we disavow the possibility of some totalizing master nar- rati~e,~

how are we to ensure that our ac- counts are not being put to ideological or apologetic ends? How, in other words, are we to ensure the place of trauma in the act of bearing witness to the Holocaust?

It is my claim, in the following essay, that one way out of this impasse is to re- cover the very totalizing impulse repudi- ated by postmodern historiography and postmodern aesthetics. My claim is simply this: That memory work in fact depends upon our willingness to occupy a totalizing position-not as a means for replicating to- talitarian violence against particularity, but rather as the point at which we, as human subjects, fully engage the unsym- bolizable trauma of the Holocaust. To re- cover this position for progressive memory work is to recover the name synonymous with it: Hegel. Rather than see Hegel in the way dominant poststructuralist thinkers have-as wanton totalizer who eliminates all difference-we must see Hegel's insis- tence on totality as, in fact, an insistence that we bear witness to the unsymbolizable dimension of history. When Hegel insists again and again in his philosophy that we must retain what is finite and begin to re- gard it as Absolute, he is arguing not for the superior, self-satisfied position of the Absolute Spirit, but, on the contrary, for that experience in which we recognize that the Universal, the order of thought itself, is incomplete. Thus, when we occupy a totalizing position, we do not achieve a static, transcendental position of substan- tial knowledge; on the contrary, we bear witness to the unsymbolizable trauma of the real. A modern exemplar of this kind of witness resides in a place we perhaps would not think first of looking-in Thomas Mann's early postwar novel Doktor Fau- stus, and in the artist that is that novel's principle subject-Adrian Leverkuhn. Though Leverkuhn dies before the geno- cide even begins, his art, and specifically

the absolute form of his final masterpiece, anticipates and addresses the most sensi- tive and long-standing moral and philo- sophical tension concerning artistic repre- sentation and its relation to horror. Lever- kuhn's art bears witness to the real of historical suffering-not by holding back within symbolization, by gesturing toward a limit, or by acknowledging the limitation of individual perspective, but rather by ex- ercising thought so absolutely that syrn- bolization itself is pushed to the brink of horror. To read the novel in this manner is not only to provide a corrective to long- standing opinions in Thomas Mann schol- arship regarding the moral and aesthetic nature and function of Mann's fictitious composer, and thus of the novel itself, but also to provide an example of how we might profitably address the question of how to bear witness to--to represent-the Holocaust.

Zeitblom's introduction of the cremato- ria in Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus comes in a paradigmatic way: to further the analogy between the subject of his biogra- phy, Adrian Leverkuhn, and the country that did the cremating, Germany. It is 25 April 1945, and "ein transatlantischer General," Zeitblom reports, has forced the population of Weimar to march past the ovens at Buchenwald. For Zeitblom, the day-or better, "die Zeiten . . . diejenige, in der ich schreiben-is linked irrevocably with the period that his biography has now reached: Adrian's final composition, Dr Fausti Weheklage. Those years, he says,

gehorten ja schon dem Heraufsteigen und

Umsichgreifen dessen an, was sich dann

des Landes bemschtigte und nun in Blut

und Flammen untergeht,

Es waren fiir Adrian Leverkiihn Jahre

,ine, ungeheueren Und hocherregten,

man ist versucht, zu sagen: monstrdsen,

den teilnehmenden Anwohner selbst in

einer Art von Taumel dahinreiljenden schopferischen Aktivitat. (732)

The suggestion of fascism in this parallel is not difficult to detect: the "monstrose schopferische Aktivitat" of the composer Adrian Leverkuhn dizzies a sympathetic onlooker such as Zeitblom in the same way the "monstrose schopferische Aktivitat" of National Socialism dizzied, say, the population of Weimar. Zeitblom's analo- gy-and this is not the only instance of it-directs our reading of the novel in two critical ways: It fundamentally implicates Leverkuhn's art in German fascism and it turns Mann's novel into an inquiry into the relation, apropos of the criminal, be- tween guilt and grace. Leverkuhn's art, in other words, as part and parcel of the domi- nation and extermination, is such that its creator-like the population of Weimar -has reached the point where he must take up the Faustian predicament of a choice between eternal damnation and mercy.

There is, for Zeitblom of course, a great deal at stake in having Adrian take up this question, for it is in fact the one he is con- cerned to take up apropos of Germany. Now that the torture chambers have been bro- ken open and foreign commissions inspect the incredible photographs, is Germany, like Adrian Leverkuhn, eternally damned?

Denn ist es blol3e Hypochondrie, sich zu sagen, da13 alles Deutschtum, auch der deutsche Geist, der deutsche Gedanke, das deutsche Wort von dieser entehren- den BloSstellung mitbetroffen und in tie- fe Fragwiirdigkeit gestiirzt worden ist? 1st es krankhafte Zerknirschung, die Fra- ge sich vorzulegen, wie iiberhaupt noch in Zukunft "Deutschland" in irgend einer seiner Erscheinungen es sich sol1 heraus- nehmen diirfen, in menschlichen Angele- genheiten den Mund aufzutun? . . . [Ulnd was nur immer auf deutsch gelebt hat, steht da als ein Abscheu und als Beispiel des Bosen. (730)

Of crucial importance in this response is the way it typifies a certain engagement with history. Zeitblom, it would appear, is less concerned with the pictured victims of Nazism than he is with the question, or possibility, of German redemption or dam- nation. This is by no means an innocent facet of his personality, and it explains the underlying motivation for the correspon- dence he sets up between the career of Adrian and the trajectory of Germany. That correspondence enables Zeitblom to displace the actual source of his con-flict-Germany's embracing of fascism and its execution of genocideto a realm once removed from it, to the biography of a bedeviled artist. Adrian's final works, along with the Holocaust itself, here oc- cupy identical positions: Those who com- mitted them must pray for their souls, once pure, now defiled. This is the para- digmatic Zeitblomian response to the events which appear to defile. They do not suggest a defilement to which we have al- ways been subject; rather, they become oc- casions for the romantic reaffirmation of a soul which exists free from any pact with the Devil. For Zeitblom, the events that defile must be referred to the Faustian situation-i.e., must be made the subject of a drama about guilt and grace. For the narrator of Doktor Faustus, history be- comes this drama, and those who lie ut- terly outside of it-the murdered Jews, for instanceare the casualties of a crucial elision.

Zeitblom's move from the death camps to the theological problem of Faust is for this reason troubling, and yet the proper response to it cannot be to relegate the vic- tims as well to the drama of Faust. Egon Schwarz, for instance, is correct to note the problem in Zeitblom commending Lever- kuhn and his worshippers to divine mercy while glossing over Jewish victims, and yet his critique, too, transfers the question raised by the places of extermination to the terrain of a positivist religious problematic. "Are the Jewish outsiders," Schwartz asks,

"included in the plea for mercy or must they stay outside once more? That is the question" (138). Schwartz suggests here that Zeitblom's exclusion is the anti-Se- mitic act par excellence; in true German fashion, according to this reasoning, Mann's novel once more relegates Jews to the status of outsiders. Schwartz's critique, however, rests on a key misunderstanding of anti-Semitism as that which designates and maintains the Jew as outsider. At the most obvious level of anti-Semitic ideol- ogy-the level of its slogans- this is clearly the case: The Jew is regarded as "the eter- nal blood-sucker," the "parasite" attached to an otherwise pure and sound social or- ganism (Hitler 310,304). At a deeper level, however, these slogans serve an opposite function that is in fact the deeper ground of anti-Semitism: the Jew is made the out- sider so that the place outside the social order can be known and given a body, so that the real outside not be traumatically encountered as the place of a void. If this second level is, in fact, the level of the real anti-Semitic act, then to include Jewish vic- tims in a larger petition for grace would be to perform a gesture analogous to it, be- cause both have their source in the need to mitigate the encounter with the place of that which is utterly outside the symbolic order and the body that happens to occupy it-the emaciated and inscrutable Jewish corpse, for instance. To return to Zeit- blom's failure to memorialize the Holo- caust, the point is not that his plea for mercy is not comprehensive enough. It is instead that the very discussion of mercy- or damnation, for that matter-in the con- text of theHolocaust represents an attempt to save an ordering system in the face of the catastrophe that shatters it, to bring inside that which is outside. At stake for Zeitblom is precisely this system, the very category of grace-and the Being who might bestow it-and one way of preserv- ing it is to keep it alive in the form of a problem. Herein perhaps lies the enduring appeal of the Faust legend, or of the very attempt to allegorize German history along Faustian lines: Regardless of its variations with respect to o~tcome,~

in raising the question of grace (divine or otherwise), the legend tacitly maintains the existence of a force which deals in damnation and mercy, and which, in so dealing, links us all. Mann himself experienced this appeal-he responded sharply to those who did not see the novel's "Christian characterv4-and that experience points to the deep formal need the Faustian drama meets. This same need drives Zeitblom to turn "Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Lever- kiihn" into an examination of a soul sold to the Devil. In this turn, Zeitblom is able tac- itly to maintain the existence of an angelic soul (Adrian's/Germany7s) prior to its cor- ruption, and to incorporate more easily into his (and Mann's) symbolic universe, then, the unspeakable dimensions that consti- tute that corruption-i.e., one can, if only for a moment, feel connected to Adrian Leverkiihn; one can, at least, pray for his soul.

To incorporate the victims of the Holo- caust into the Faustian drama-to speak of including them, too, in a plea for mercy- would be to grant ourselves as well the com- forts of such prayer. For Zeitblom, these fruits are not insignificant. As the novel's ultimate line of prayer makes clear- "Gott sei euerer armen Seele gnadig, mein Freund, mein Vaterland" (773)-the petition for grace enables Zeitblom to salvage a felt connection to his country as much as to Adrian. This feeling is one of the payoffs of the Faustian application, and even the Holocaust is caught up in it, enfolded within a rationalism that must maintain, it would appear, a "we" at all costs: If "we" were once the land of poets and thinkers, now "we" are the penitent who must pray. Zeitblom's predicament is the one Mann felt in exile-how to retain a kind of hu- manistic feeling in the face of the terrifjmg German atrocity?-and what becomes clear in it is the way a humanism charged with delivering this feeling slips into a form of nationalism. In this feeling of commu- nity lies the shared basis of Zeitblom's humanism and German nationalism. Zeit- blom must incorporate the two most por- tentous threats to this feeling-Adrian Leverkuhn and the murdered Jews-into the decidedly German drama of Faust be- cause his feeling of connection can survive only within this more nationalistic focus. It is precisely the nation qua "natural" en- tity that is at stake in the Faustian appli- cation.

Such an entity yields a feeling of belong- ing that is its raison d'etre. The guarantor of this feeling is, of course, the imagined auditor of Zeitblom's prayers, the Big Other which grants consistency to his life, his teaching, and his understanding of his- tory. Zeitblom here reveals in an exemplary way the hidden underside ofprayer, namely that we never pray for those we say we are praying for. We pray, instead, for the Third Party without whom we cannot imagine our lives, and without whom consistent identities (like "teacher," "German," "schol- ar," or "father") are impossible. Zeitblom's prayer for friend and Fatherland is pre- ciselyfor this Third Party, and it fulfills two critical functions. It brings the deeds of both Leverkuhn and the Nazis into a framework that maintains positive notions of a transcendent essence, and more impor- tantly, it maintains Zeitblom's fidelity to theinjunction inherent in that essence-to obey. In this light, the entire project ofDok- tor Faustus might be seen as Zeitblom's steadfast attempt to remain loyal to the dic- tates of this essence, to reap the enjoyment, the consistency of identity, of doing one's duty. The self-doubt he evinces with respect to competency, the fear and dread and hor- ror he invokes to explain his "'Fehlerhaf- ten' Vortragstechnik" (440), is nothing but Zeitblom's feeling that he may not be able to write Leverkuhn's biography and be obe- dient at the same time. The conflict be- tween the demonic, which Zeitblom says he has "jederzeit als entschieden wesensfremd empfunden" (101, and Zeitblom's core disposition (rooted in moderation of mind and body, in the piety of culture, and in the tenets of classical humanism) is in fact the conflict between duty and desire. To the end, Zeitblom refuses the risk en- tailed in the latter.

Despite his public act of disobedience then-Zeitblom has resigned his post in a German university-and despite the de- struction of his country and the destruction of European Jewry, Mann's narrator still carries on his life for the cosmic force that he imagines links us all. Throughout Doktor Faustus, dutifulness delivers what it always does-a way to sustain the real exist- ence of some unifying principle before which we experience essential solidarity. Although his humanism may not entail tra- ditional belief in God per se, the unifylng principle to which Zeitblom clings serves the same (GodiFather) function; were it not there, there would be no one to obey. This is precisely why obedience must be made universal: No one should see that it is not there, that this transcendent, unihingprin- ciple does not exist. And more importantly, God himself should not see it. One critical way of maintaining the illusion lies in guilt itself Simply put, guilt unifies, and in so doing, preserves the essential identity of a unifying principle. The feeling of guilt is, to use one of Zeitblom's phrases, "religios produktiv" (420); it provides a core consis- tency upon which community depends. All the more reason, then, to emplot Lever- kuhn and Nazi Germany within a long nar- rative of original German sin. As Etienne Balibar points out, in the historical produc- tion of the people, or of national individu- ality, the constitution of a new unity de- pends upon a model of unity that must be seen to "anticipate" that constitution-the Faustian personality for instance in which "we" Germans have always been "at home" (94). This is the source which, Zeitblom would have us believe, supposedly illumi- nates the link between the Leverkuhnian and Nazi catastrophe: Both are derived from some Faustian urge, some originary guilt for having made a pact with the Devil. Zeitblom reflects upon just this source when he says that one would be hard- pressed to see the "Blutstaat" of the Nazis as something forced, or as "etwas unserer Volksnatur durchaus Fremdes":

War diese Herrschaft nicht nach Worten und Taten nur die verzerrte, verpobelte, verscheuI3lichte Wahrwerdung einer Ge- sinnung und Weltbeurteilung, der man charakterliche Echtheit zuerkennen muI3, und die der christlich-humane Mensch nicht ohne Scheu in den Zugen unserer GroBen, der an Figur gewaltig- sten Verkorperungen des Deutschtums ausgepragt findet? (731)

The notion of a kind of "national" original sin which establishes essential guilt here carries out a clandestine mission. Far from destroying the notion of a Big Other who has chosen Germany for some solidifying task, the Faustian urge as essential (or original) German sin keeps it alive. It is one way of refusing to permit history to put one at risk. The connection not to be missed here pertains to "original sin" more generally, and the way it serves to mask the Big Other's nonexistence. As Sla- voj Zi2ek, in Enjoy Your Symptom!, writes:

The sense of man's "original sin" is pre- cisely to spare Him [God] the existence of his "inexistence" (inconsistency, impo- tence) by assuming guilt. The logic of "ori- ginal sin" is therefore again: better for me to be throughout guilty than for Him to learn about His death. (41)

Several questions here follow. Is not this the logic that describes Zeitblom'sresponse to Nazi barbarism? Are not all ofzeitblom's explanations concerning his "naturev-his open embracing of what he calls the "wiirdigen Reiche der Humaniora" where one is "sicher vor solchem Spuk" (35)-the explanations of a man who quite simply wants to spare this unifying force, this Big Other, the news of its nonexistence? Is it not here that his engagement with the Holocaust is most suspect? If at first glance Zeitblom's humanism-his belief in the le- gitimacy of man's self-reverence-seems to waver in his indictment of Germany for its fascist crimes, it does not do so in another, more critical sense. Zeitblom may indeed feel guilt and shame upon hearing news of the atrocities-he ratifies Eisenhower's declaration that the people of Weimar were as guilty for Buchenwald as those who ac- tually administered the camp-but it is still guilt and shame of a dutiful nature. It is guilt and shame for the Big Other still ca- pable of conferring a patriotic feeling, how- ever perverse, and a consistent postwar German identity. It is, we might say, guilt and shame for Eisenhower (and for the Allies), thus Zeitblom's esteem for the latter and for the "community" the latter unwittingly creates in which Zeitblom is able to participate.5 In other words, Zeit- blom doesn't think Eisenhower's action is unjust because the performance that fol- lows from it gives Zeitblom a chance to join with his countrymen: "Mijgen sie schauen -ich schaue mit ihnen, ich lasse mich schieben im Geiste von ihren stumpfen oder auch schaudernden Reihen" (72930).His humanism, in other words, has be- come the inverse of itself: Only the content of his conception of obedience has changed; formally, it remains the same. If, before, the Big Other was one before whom we revered ourselves, it is now one before whom we feel disgraced and di~honored.~

It is precisely here in the context of this inversion that a connection emerges which crystallizes Doktor Faustus's incisive in- sight into fascism and into a way of orient- ing ourselves as rememberers of the Holo- caust and history. I am speaking here about the crucial feature which Zeitblom and Na- tional Socialism have in common: the need to continue to act obediently for the Big Other, and the need to organize and/or eliminate those in their midst who suggest an ontological void in the very place of that Other. It is aneed to turn every contingency

into ameaningful sign. Both the perpetra- tion of the horror and the attempt to bear witness to it thus have in common the dis- avowal of the traumatic kernel of non-meaning at the heart of the human world. The odd man out in this equation, of course, is the artist who forces himself toward an encounter with-who bears witness to- this traumatic kernel: Adrian Leverkuhn. It is Adrian who understands the silliness -recall here his laughter at would-be meaningful orders--of believing in a Big Other who possesses the truth of our de- sire, and for this reason, he must be seen as not of the fascist's party, but rather as anticipating a manner of bearing witness to that party's victims. By orienting him- self toward the place of trauma, by bearing witness to the unsymbolizable dimension of murder and human suffering, Adrian appears to be the one who truly under- stands perhaps the most significant cause of the genocide-the desire to identify and to eliminate abody responsible for the sym- bolic order's constitutive instability. But his encounter with this place is not-as it is for fascism-a way to guarantee the so- cio-symbolic order, and this is why it exem- plifies an ethics of historical memory. In short, Adrian "goes all the way" in the at- tempt to bear witness to what is unsym- bolizable; rather than remaining within the confines of a subject position constructed by language, Adrian risks his very place within lang~age.~

Despite the obvious import of his statement of intent then,8 what Mann has given us-unwittingly or otherwise-is a character who, prior to the Holocaust, already exemplifies amanner of bearing witness to it.

That is to say, Leverkiihn qua artist risks his very place in the symbolic order in order to testify to the place of the real-a place soon to be occupied by the extermi- nated Jews-which lies outside of it. He already knows what a number of contem- porary representations of the Holocaust, on both the left and the right, continue to disavow: that we live in the world at the mercy of a kind of senseless chaos, and that any attempt to order and to make meaning of our relation to that chaos which does not acknowledge its utter contingency, or "stu- pidity," is already affiliated with the fan- tasy of fasci~m.~

This recognition of Adrian as a kind of anticipatory, exemplary witness to the trauma of the Holocaust reverses radically the critical doxa on the mythical composer. That doxa, following Mann's own state- ments and Zeitblom's analogizing, almost religiously links Leverkuhn's career with fascist Germany in order to establish the artist's guilt. Patrick Carnegy sees Adrian, for instance, as "errant Germany" (29). Gunilla Bergsten says that "Germany be- comes Adrian Leverkuhn" (128). Erich Heller argues that Leverkuhn is Mann's way of showing how artistic freedom "so easily deteriorates into . . . an alliance with the very powers of evil" (24). And Herbert Lehnert, more recently, in claiming that Leverkiihn's "anti-conventional pride translates into removal of his art from hu- man concerns" (13) contends that Adrian's "imposition of artistic order is represented as an analogy to totalitarian power" (8).l0 (For Lehnert, Zeitblom is not in the novel to be distrusted; he is there to balance a "radical cultural pessimism" [15l.) The mistake in these obvious readings of Mann's novel lies in their inability to note Adrian's fundamental recognition of what both Zeitblom and Nazism never recognize, ofwhat I am arguing is crucial to our efforts to bear witness to the Holocaust, namely, that there is always something arbitrary and utterly senseless about our ways of ex- periencing and ordering our existence in the world, that the nonexistence of the Big Other is a truth of our human condi- tion which leaves us frail and constitu- tionally incapable of completion. The point to be made apropos of Adrian's "imposi- tion of artistic orderv-Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone system of composition to be discussed shortly--concerns precisely this: the impossibility of completion, and conse-


Leverkiihn as Witness

quently, the stupidity or silliness of those forms which promise or perform the deliv- erance. By exaggerating the very act of or- dering, Adrian's art demonstrates itself to be utterly antithetical to the workings of totalitarianism. His response to the horror of the human situation-i.e., that we live at the mercy of an imbecilic order or else we do not live at all-could not be more different than that of German fascism. He furthers the imbecility of order, and laughs; Nazism posits a pure, natural (Aryan) or- der, and sets out to exterminate those be- lieved to be in the way of its achievement. The recognition of order's "stupidity" sig- nifies not a removal from human concerns, but an approach to them at their deepest level. Far from animating a project of ex- termination, this recognition confronts Adrian with a kind of constitutional impo- tence that no activity, artistic or otherwise, can cure. This is an impotence which the genuine artist embraces; as the Devil says to Adrian, "du und ich ziehen die achtbare Ohnmacht derer vor, die es verschmahen, die allgemeine Erkrankung unter wiirdigem Mumschanz zu hehlen" (369).Adrian's com- positional activity for this reason escapes the obsessional economy that so often guides the work of technical invention: He does not act in order to maintain the mean- ing and the sense of the Big Other. The works which Adrian sees as frauds-the self-sufficient forms of traditional art which Adrian can see only as the result of game- playing-are those of an obsessional econ- omy; they are the result of so many little acts which hold out the possibility of an essential meaning for its constructions, sacrificing themselves to the project of concealing an abyss. This sacrifice is part and parcel of Zeitblom's ethic of obedience;ll and it is this ethic-in refusing to permit the place of the void to interrupt, or render senseless, our experience of harmony in the world- and not Adrian's, which partakes, at the level of fantasy, of fascist ideology. Leverkuhn himself, it would appear, must be invoked to save himself from his interpreters.

In refusing this sacrifice, Leverkiihn's art points beneath itself to the abyss for which it stands. It is, of course, Adrian's art that again and again exposes the stupidity of those systems that attempt to fill out the void marking our relation to nature, to his- tory, and to ourselves. Thevery progression of the forms he develops and employs is determined by the desire to expose, at the level of technique, the arbitrariness of one's choice of technique. This dynamic, of course, is what gives the lie to the self-suf- ficient work of art, and to the entirety of the symbolic universe, which is why the artist who would expose it is akin-as the Devil puts it-to the criminal and the mad- man. "Meinst du," the Devil asks Adrian, "dd je ein irgend belustigendes Werk zu- standegekommen, ohne dd sein Macher sich dabei auf das Dasein des Verbrechers und des Tollen verstehen lernte?" (366). About composers more generally, the Devil says, '3eder Bessere tragt in sich einen Kanon des Verbotenen" (370).Before tak- ing up directly the formal shifts that mark the telos of Adrian's musical compositions, we can see this criminality or madness in an exemplary way in Adrian's astronomical and oceanographical investigations, and in the reaction they elicit from Zeitblom. Adrian has been reading the work of a cer- tain Professor Akercocke, and Zeitblom sees nothing in the ocean deeps or in the perpetual explosion of our galaxy capable of stirring one to the feeling of God or moral elevation. "Gib zu, sagte ich ihm,--dd die Horrendheiten der physikalischen Scho- pfung auf keine Weise religios produktiv sind. Welche Ehrfurcht und welche der Ehrfurcht entstammende Sittigung des Gemutes kann ausgehen von der Vorstel- lung eines unermel3lichen Unfugs, wie des explodierenden Weltalls?" (420). Horrendous for Zeitblom are those statistics--e.g., a light-year the equivalent of six trillion miles-which defy human understanding, statistics before which we stand utterly al- ienated, that speak the terrifying otherness of the object world. Adrian's trespasses in

this extra-human realm, in the brute facts of the universe's vastness, threaten Zeit- blom's pleasure in the face of the ungraspa- ble. The real source of the pleasure Zeit- blom gets from doing his duty here becomes unmistakable; it lies not just in performing some sort of tribute to an actually existing God, but in the possibility-if everyone does his duty, too--of experiencing the pleasure of belonging in a meaningful way to the family of living species:

Frommigkeit, Ehrfurcht, seelischer An-stand, Religiositat sind nur iiber den Menschen und durch den Menschen, in der Beschrankung auf das Irdisch-Menschliche moglich. Ihre Frucht sollte, kann und wird ein religos tingierter Hu- manismus sein, bestimmt von dem Ge- fuhl fur das transzendente Geheimnis des Menschen, von dem stolzen Bewufitsein, daB er kein blofi biologisches Wesen einer geistigen Welt angehort; dafi ihm das Ab- solute gegeben ist, die Gedanken der Wahrheit, der Freiheit, der Gerechtigkeit, dafi ihm die Verpflichtung auferlegt ist zur Annaherung an das Vollkommene. In diesem Pathos, dieser Verpflichtung, die- ser Ehrfurcht des Menschen vor sich selbst ist Gott. (420)

It is only under the aegis of this higher principle, this Father-in Zeitblom-ese the "transzendente Geheimnis des Men-when"-that Zeitblom can achieve the im- possible: that Wordsworthian bliss of a sublime sense of something far more deep- ly interfused, that feeling of connection to every other thing in the universe, that rev- erence of man for himself. His belief in this unifying ideal signifier, and more specifi- cally its incarnation in the nation, is evi- dent in Zeitblom's final appeal with its in- vocation-still!-of a Fatherland.

Herein lies Zeitblom's real objection to Adrian's scientific inquiries. It is not just that the objects of Adrian's investigations do not, as Kant said they should, increase our estimation of both ourselves and our minds in our relations with Nature.12 It is

Fall 1997

not just that Adrian's examinations do not work to inspire romantic-humanistic feel- ings of reverence (for his own "Bewunderung der GroBe, Enthusiasmus fiir sie" [417], Zeitblom is here the exemplar of Kantian judgment, mentioning three other more traditional sites of encounters with the immense: the Pyramids, Mont Blanc, and the dome inside St. Peter's); it is in- stead that they expose for what it is the formal principle which organizes that ex- perience-a principle that is stupid, arbi- trary, and nonsensical:

Er [Adrian] sturzte sich allerdings in das Unermefiliche, das die astrophysische Wissenschaft zu messen sucht, nur um dabei zu Mafien, Zahlen, GroBenordnun- gen zu gelangen, zu denen der Menschen- geist gar kein Verhaltnis mehr hat, und die sich im Theoretischen und Abstrak- ten, im vollig Unsinnlichen, um nicht zu sagen: Unsinnigen verlieren. (409)

This is, though not for Zeitblom, in fact Adrian's achievement: He makes the de- scent to that deep place where we most experience the utter non-sensory, nonsen- sical nature of the nothingness at whose whim we live. It is Adrian who unmasks every single conceptual framework that seeks to pass itself off as something other than a fraud, every single conceptual framework believed to actually possess the goods to fill out the terrifying abyss and lack of connection that marks our relation to the universe. And thus, it is Adrian who exemplifies a way of bearing witness to the real of history without recouping some- thing symbolic from such an act.

Zeitblom refers to this as his friend's "Erkenntniskitzel": "Adrian sprach von dem Erkenntniskitzel, den es bereitete, das Unerschaute, nicht zu Erschauende, des Geschautwerdens nicht sich Versehende dem Blicke blol3zustellen" (412). What Adrian discovers in looking at the thing not-expecting-to-be-looked-at is that the thing is actually the place of a void, an emp

tiness that one attempts to fill out with ar- tificial notions of the transcendental mys- tery of man and of duty. (Adrian's journey with Akercocke 3600 hundred feet beneath the sea in a two-ton hollow ball-essen- tially a trip into the void-is another in- stance of this project.) For Zeitblom, there is a feeling of indiscretion bound up with such investigations. What disturbs him is Adrian's coldness and indifference, "als habe er seine Kenntnisse nicht unter der Hand, durch Lektiire, sondern durch per- sonliche i_Tberlieferung, Belehrung, Dem- onstration, Erfahrung gewonnen" (418). This is, in fact, the case in a way Zeitblom cannot imagine, because Adrian is one whose actual experiences-his reading, his visit to the brothel, his meeting with the Devil-only make explicit what has been experienced implicitly all along-one's being at the mercy of the nothingness just named. His experiences, in other words, do not have him trying to maintain the exist- ence of some different, discrete identity or value prior to the experience. On the con- trary, they have him understanding all the ways that very prior identity was always, all along, already marked by the experience now being encountered directly. This is why the Devil tells Adrian not to pretend that he has not been expecting him, and it is also why it makes little sense to locate the precise point of Adrian's perdition. Such an effort appears always to be a nostalgic one, hearkening back to an imag- inedlimaginary time not marked by lack or loss-i.e., by damnation. Marguerite De Huszar Allen is right to note that Adrian "is damned long before he officially encoun- ters the Devil," but this insight becomes merely the occasion to propose an earlier encounter as the actual point ofdamnation. "Adrian's true pact," Allen writes, "occurs in the form of an amorous union with a diseased whore called Esmeralda" (97). This reading, however, merely participates in the long misogynist narrative of the Judeo-Christian world- the proud spokes- person of which is Zeitblom himself-in its

positing of Adrian's "health" against the backdrop of Esmeralda's disease.13 Zeit- blom's report, in typical fashion, lays the castration/contamination at the doorstep of Woman: "Der Hochmut des Geistes," he writes, ''[hat] das Trauma der Begegnung mit dem seelenlosen Triebe erlitten" (230-3 1).

Such a report makes plain Zeitblom's investment in Adrian as the exemplar of innocence who underwent a Fall. The point to be made here, of course, is that the kind of innocence Zeitblom relies on is always retroactive. This realization, were Zeitblom capable of it, would collapse his entire investment in the Faustian drama. If man is never, strictly speaking, innocent, then there is no actual moment of perdition, no true pact, no classical Faustian situation, only moments that indicate to Adrian that he never enjoyed the kind of innocence he, or Zeitblom, might have thought he had. That is to say, he has been without this innocence from the beginning. Each true pact, then, only makes explicit a truth that Adrian has felt implicitly all along-the ontological experience of his own loss or dam- nation. Damnation, in other words, does not come afterward, because, asHegel once argued, the mind capable of conceptualiz- ing damnation is staked on the very divi- sion damnation expresses. In the Enzyklo- padie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I (i.e., the lesser Logik), Hegel makes just this point:

Dabei ist jedoch die aul3erliche Vorstel- lungaufzugeben, dal3 die Erbsiinde nur in einem zufalligen Tun der ersten Men- schen ihren Grund habe. In der Tat liegt es im Begriff des Geistes, daS der Mensch von Natur bose ist, und man hat sich nicht vorzustellen, daS dies auch anders sein konnte. (90)

The state of health that Zeitblom would have us believe Adrian lives in prior to the contaminating contact with soulless in- stinct is, thus, entirely Zeitblom's fantasy, and it is this fantasy which stands in the way of a more genuine recognition of the constitutive inadequacy that pertains to the relation between subject and history. The division of which Hegel writes, and upon which damnation is based, is, in other words, both essential for all symbolic representation-and thus for the repre- sentation of history-at the same time that it damns such representations to in- completion. In disavowing Hegel's truth concerning the primordial aspect of this division, Zeitblom is thus able to continue to believe that the symbolic order was once, in fact, complete, that language was once (and might once again become) one with the real.

The original five-tone series Adrian em- ploys-"B, E,A, E, E-flat," spelling (in Ger- man) the code name for Esmeralda-must be seen in the light of a pursuit to become explicitly what one has been implicitly all along: as the attempt, on the level of tech- nique, to embrace the stupid force acciden- tally encountered. For Adrian, this ideal signifier is contingent--or stupid-in a way Zeitblom's Fatherland is not. If, for Zeitblom, the organizing principle signifies a destined, meaningful community, for Adrian, the five-tone series is derived from the accidental consequence of a prank. We should, therefore, not be tempted to see any actual, positive meaning in the series: It is but the clasp of arbitrariness. That is, while Zeitblom sees a necessary totality looming behind its signification, Adrian recognizes the relationship between sign and signified as not logically dictated (to evoke Hegel once again), but as arbitrary. Adrian's un- derstanding of the fundamentally arbi- trary nature of this relationship is appar- ent in his letter to Kretschmar detailing his decision to become a composer. Adrian's disgust-he declaims the "robuste Naive- tat" (206) he sees everywhere in the art- ist-is precisely for those works that appar- ently testify to the adequacy of their own artistic mediation through the beautiful, "die 'Ah!'-Wirkung, die Gefuhlsschwellung" (2081, at which the order of a musical composition naturally arrives. The stuff of art, for Adrian, lies beneath what these compositions so decorously sing of. Adrian says that art "uber das Schema, die Uber- einkunft, die Uberlieferung, daruber, was Einer vom Andern lernt, uber den Trick, iiber das 'Wie es gemacht wird' weit hinausgeht" (207). This is why Adrian re- fers to it as his own "Scheu und Sorge" (207).

What Adrian here understands is the utter necessity of a pattern-he says later that "Organisation ist alles. Ohne sie gibt es uberhaupt nichts, am wenigsten Kunst" (295)-and yet what he despairs of is the insipidity with which the pattern produces works marked by beautiful, unequivocal, harmonic triumphs. And given the "vollige Unsicherheit, Problematik und Harmonie- losigkeit unserer gesellschaftlichen Zustkde" (2801, these works, for Adrian, have no legitimate relation to the world: They are, he says, a lie. The despair which follows from this gets its first expression in Meerleuchten, which Zeitblom sees correctly as the work of an artist giving his best to the conventions in which he no longer believes. Meerleuchten is but the demonstration of conventions for the pur- poses of parodying them. (This is why it has seemed to Adrian as if the methods and conventions of art "heute nur noch zur Parodie taugten" [209, emphasis in origi- nall.) Carrying with it what Zeitblom calls traits of the "intellektuell[eI Ironisierung der Kunst" (2351, it signifies the initial point of the Leverkiihnian trajectory-an understanding of the ironic.

Adrian's genius, however, lies in his next step-in his recognition of the formal implications of this understanding, of the need to eschew ironic distance. The beau- tiful, self-sufficient work may be a fraud, but it is not enough that one merely content oneself with the task of ironizing it. The reason for this is clarified by Zeitblom him- self, for whom the ironic becomes a way to maintain allegiance to the Big Other.l4 (Irony serves just this function in Zeit-

blom's response to another of Adrian's ironic works-the 13 Bretano songs.) Irony is the out Adrian will soon make increas- ingly difficult to draw upon. He will not merely continue to fill up forms in which he no longer believes. He will expose, in- stead, in the form of the work itself, the nonsensical meaninglessness of the impo- sition of form at all.15 We have now arrived at the twelve-tone method of composing whose origins are to be detected in the sub- ject of one of Kretschmar's lectures: Jo- hann Conrad Beissel. Responding to the ar- tificiality of the chorals coming over from Europe, Beissel does something novel: He develops a theory of composition that is even more artificial: "Eine sinnvolle und nutzbare Melodie-Lehre war mit kuhner Raschheit beschlossen. Er dekretierte, dalj 'Herren' und 'Diener' sein sollten in jeder Tonleiter" (107). The result of this arbi- trary system is, surprisingly, the democra- tization of musical composition. Adrian's description of Beissel makes this clear: "Er stellte Akkord-Tabellen fur alle moglichen Tonarten her, an deren Hand jedermann seine Weisen bequem genug vier- oder fiinfstimmig ausschreiben konnte, und rief damit eine wahre Woge von Komponierwut in der Gemeinde hervor" (107). Fueling this democratization, however, is the dem- onstration of the utter contingency under- lying one's symbolic identity as artist or composer. We have here a key reversal of the more romantic, New Age encourage- ment to discover the artist within all of us, for what we discover when we recognize ourselves as artists are simply the stupid, daily acts of ordering which maintain the ontological consistency of our being in the world. Beissel's theory reveals this existen- tial insight by foregrounding the very arbi- trariness of musical form, by refusing to allow us to recoup something meaningful from the activity of artistic production. This is why, Kretschmar says, it sank into oblivion when the sect of German Seventh- Day Baptists ceased to flourish (it was "zu ungewijhnlich, zu wunderlich-eigenwillig

gewesen, um von der AuBenwelt ubernom- men werden zu konnen" [108]), and it is also why at this point Zeitblom's and Adrian's respective aesthetics part ways. Zeitblom cannot defend "ein so absurdes Ordnungsdiktat," whereas Adrian insists "ich habe was fur ihn [Beissell ubrig. Wenigstens hatte er Ordnungssinn, und sogar eine alberne Ordnung ist immer noch besser, als gar keine" (111).Adrian's claim here evokes Hegel's line concerning Spirit in Phanomenologie des Geistes, of which Hegel writes that "Traumereien selbst noch besser sind, als seine Leerheit" (103). No line, however, has been more invoked to prove Adrian's proto-fascism and the proto-fascism of his absolute form-the twelve-tone method of composing.16 Mann's novel has, in fact, been read as un- covering the close connection between the twelve-tone method and Nazi suppression of irrationality. According to Fred Chappel, Zeitblom is correct to note the way Adrian's maniacal rationality threatens to trans- form that rationality into its opposite. Like the Nazis, this thorough-going rationalism has its source and origin in the most irra- tional of impulses. Chappel writes: "Mann is careful to show over and over again in his novel that Leverkuhn's coldly rational and highly mathematical means of expres- sion has been constructed upon a basis thoroughly romantic and primitive" (l2).17

I would like here to insist on the error

of this reading. Adrian's recourse to the primitive is not for the purpose of achieving a self healed of fragmentation, a self in total control. It is one motivated instead by a desire to take up the self absolutely in order to bear witness to the real source of the sub- ject's fragmentation-i.e., the real ofhistory that is outside all symbolization. Adrian acts on the fundamental phenomenological insight of Hegel that everything thought is already universal, and that only in the ges- ture of unapologetic universalizing is thought itself opened up to what it is not possible to think.18 By taking thought itself to its extreme, Adrian thereby sets the

stage for the ultimate opposition of some- thing and nothing.lg For Adrian-and for those trying to bear witness to the unsym- bolizable dimension of history-this is the only opposition that matters. This is per- haps the light in which to regard the im- portant distinction between Zeitblom's and Leverkuhn's respective conceptions of the arts: Zeitblom opposes words and mu- sic, culture and barbarism-an opposition between something and something-while Adrian repudiates this hierarchy by accept- ing and including the barbaric. The impor- tance of this distinction for Mann, as Marc Weiner points out, lies in the direction of democratic politics: Mann wants to replace "Zeitblom's cherished aesthetic polariza- tion and the elitist sociocultural hierarchy it suggests" with an art which-by virtue of its inclusion of the barbaric-will "function within a community in such a way that all of its members have familiar and inti- mate access to aesthetic enjoyment" (219). Leverkiihn's art, Weiner suggests, func- tions in Doktor Faustus asan emancipatory tool, but it can only do this by "recover[ing] from its status as culture, that is, from its alienation in the modern age, and by impli- cation from its use as an aesthetic mask hiding the reality of social inequality and political domination" (232). Mann's desire may indeed have been to try to forge away toward what Weiner calls a "postcultural community" (2361, but we must be clear, even if Mann is not, about the extent to which the democratic possibilities of this "postcultural community" depend on that community's refusal to regard its inclu- sionary ethos as redress for its fundamen- tal estrangement or incompletion. Staked upon the opposition between something and nothing (which is where Leverkiihn's art insists that we stake it), the achieve- ment ofthis postcultural community would mean, simply, the achievement of a sort of togetherness in the face of a more consti- tutive instability and anxiety. (Given the fact that for most people the raison d'6tre of community is precisely the resolution of such instability and anxiety, I can only sec- ond Weiner's lack of optimism concerning the sort of collective Mann might be trying to forge by way of Leverkuhn's art; the most inclusive community, in other words, would in some sense be the most precarious yet.)20 Leverkuhn's return to the primi- tive, then, must be seen as a return to this estrangement-where the failure of omnipotence is perhaps most marked. His use of the absolute is for the purpose of expos- ing its defects, a purpose that must not be confused with Hitlerism, because the com- munity promised by fascism never con-

sisted of a return to some constitutive es- trangement.21 Contra fascism, the primi- tive is for Adrian not the realization of imaginary relations, of harmony and bal- ance and perfect unions. Whereas the Na- zis posit such relations as a desired goal-even as they invent obstacles to it (i.e., the more the Jews disappeared, the more potency they were imagined to have)-Adrian is nothing if not honest about just how horrible its achievement would actually be. How else is one to ex- plain, at the onset of his madness, Adrian's suicide attempt after hearing of his mother's imminent arrival? How else to ex- plain the "einmalige[s] Vorkomnis" Zeit- blom mentions after Adrian's breakdown, the "Zornesausbruch des Sohnes gegen die Mutter, [einl von niemandem erwartete[r] Wutanfall" (770) on the train ride north into central Germany? What is this if not the expression of a certain horror at being trapped within the Imaginary, at suffering the loss of the ability to speak and desire? The true horror lies not in the Symbolic Law to which we are subject, but in life without this law at all-i.e., life without the ability to speak.22

And yet its achievement is precisely what the artist must risk in order to com- municate our fundamental estrangement. In a certain sense, the radicality of Mann's artist for historical memory lies in his tak- ing at its word-his overidentification with-fascism's desired goal of a society not beset by unsymbolizable forces. He risks what they never would-its actual re- alization. This risk, admittedly, entails an asocial act, but this is far from a sign of that risk's barbarity. Far from being an example of the totalitarian impulse, Adrian's rigid or strict creations expose the fundamental antagonism that discussions of personal or national unity would conceal, the un-sym- bolizable dimension in relation to which we live-utterly estranged. Promises of a mes- sianic Reich are part of a different sort of strictness. Herein lies the unsurpassable accomplishment of the dodecaphonic prin- ciple that Adorno, in Philosophie der neuen Musik notices: "Die Stimmigkeit von Zwolftonmusik 1at sich nicht unmittelbar

'hijren'-das ist der einfachste Name fiir jenes Moment des Sinnlosen an ihr" (113). This "Stimmigkeit," for Adorno, is part of a necessary change in the function of mu- sical expression. The communication of a series of disjointed blotches, designed to challenge music's facade of self-sufficiency, is not a matter of content but of form: "Die Faktur als solche sol1 richtig sein anstatt sinnvoll. Die Frage, welche dann die Zwolftonmusik an den Komponisten richtet, ist nicht: wie kann musikalischer Sinn organisiert, sondern vielmehr: wie kann Organisation sinnvoll werden" (67- 68).Adorno would follow Beissel here: The problem of organization is to be addressed by even more organization, so much so that subjective expression itself is resisted. In this denied expression, however, something is, if only on the level of form, ex- pressed after all, for, as Adorno puts it: "So gebannt ist es [das Subjektl vom Entsetzen, dalj es nichts mehr sagen kann, was zu sagen sich lohnte" (108).

What is heard instead is precisely a nothingness, the sound that cannot be made to mean, the note that cannot be played. The artist who would memorialize the dead can do so only on the level of tech- nique, and only in such a manner that tech- nique itself dramatizes the impossibility of transmitting the hell of their suffering, the

"real" time of their death. The Devil says to Adrian that art must make its recipients attend to precisely this impossibility: "Zulassig ist allein noch der nicht fiktive, der nicht verspielte, der unverstellte und unverkliirte Ausdruck des Leides in seinem realen Augenblick" (372). It is the (non-) communication of this moment, this terri- ble suffering of the negative, that marks Adrian's two expressionistic masterpieces: the Apocalipsis cum figuris and Dr.Fausti Weheklag.

In both works, form itself is organized so as to point beneath itself to a harrowing absence. The first, according to Zeitblom, covers the entire field of the apocalyptic; it works out the most complex of technical and intellectual problems by subjecting such problems to the strictest law. More significantly, Adrian himself, qua artist, subjects himself to this strictest of laws, risking in the process his very contact with reality and the consistency of symbolic identity. Zeitblom can only shudder at these literal risks, can only shrink from "der Legitimitat seines Tuns, seinem zeit- lichen Anrecht auf die Sphare, in die er sich versenkte" (569). The Apocalipsis intimidates Zeitblom not just for the terrifying juxtapositions of its parodies, the horror of its loudspeaker effects, the pandemonic laughter of the Pit which sweeps through 50 bars; it intimidates for what it suggests about the actual state toward which his friend leans in order to produce artistic truth. A clear parallel exists between Adrian's conception of the oratorio's end and the toll it takes on his emotional well- being:

Denn er lebte in der Furcht, der Erleuch- tungszustand, mit dem er gesegnet oder von dem er heimgesucht war, mochte ihm vorzeitig entzogen werden, und tatsach- lich erlitt er kurz vor AbschluB des Wer- kes, diesem furchtbaren SchluB, der sei- nen ganzen Mut erforderte und der, weit entfernt von romantischer Erlosungsmu- sik, den theologisch negativen und gna- denlosen Charakter des Ganzen so uner- bittlich bestat@,-tatsachlich, sage ich, erlitt er gerade vor der Festlegung dieser ubermarjig vielstimmigen, in weitester Lage sich heranwalzenden Klange des Blechkorpers, die den Eindruck eines of- fenen Schlundes zu hoffnungslosem Ver- sinken machen, einen uber drei Wochen sich erstreckenden Ruckfall in den Schmerzens- und belkeitszustand von vorher, eine Verfassung, in der ihm nach seinen eigenen Worten sogar die Errinne- rung daran, was das sei: Komponieren, und wie man das mache, entschwunden war. (552)

This is here the condition of the artist that is to be unequivocally articulated in the context of Dr. Fausti Weheklag-the artist who risks his own annihilation, his own symbolic identity as composer, in the act of creation, in the act of testifying to the hell of memory. The genius of the Apocalipsis lies in just this risk, and in the way it remembers what had not even occurred yet-the hellish laugh that, in Zeitblom's description, slips indistinguishably into, and then back out of, the sounds of human slaughter. This laughter-analogous to, and soon to be superseded by, the screams of the Nazis' victims-is then perfectly juxtaposed with the sounds of children singing. This strict correspondence-which Zeitblom contains by turning it into a sort of Leverkiihnian aesthetic signa- ture-is not to the work's discredit. As aes- thetic signature, Zeitblom is able to praise the work's essence: "berall ist Adrian Leverkiihn grolj in der Verungleichungdes Gleichen" (578). And yet he does not want to go further than this, though he does say that in the chorus of children one can dis- cern "das Teufelsgelachter noch einmal":

Das zuvor vernommene Schrecknis ist zwar in dem unbeschreiblichen Kinder- chor in eine ganzlich andere Lage iiber- tragen, zwar vollig uminstrumentiert und umrhythmisiert; aber in dem sirrenden, sehrenden Spharen-und Engelsgeton ist keine Note, die nicht, streng korrespon- Fall 1997

dierend, auch in dem Hollengelachter vor- kame. (578)

This formal correspondence is, Zeitblom says, Adrian Leverkiihn's "Tiefsinn," though his gloss is a paradigmatic mysti- fication: "die zum Geheimnis erhobene Berechnung" (578).

This is characteristic Zeitblomian mis- reading. It is not Adrian's calculation that is mysterious as much as what Lacan (after German idealism) would call das Ding, which all calculation seeks to flee, and which finally might take from one the abil- ity to calculate at all. This is the effect that Adrian's final composition, the symphonic cantata Dr Fausti Weheklag, has on its creator-it should be the effect on us as well-and with it, Mann's novel reaches its culminating insight: Artistic creation tes- tifies to the hell of history only in its own drive toward symbolic death, in its utter renunciation of its very symbolic function, in the senselessness of its form. In his overi- dentification with the arbitrariness of life and death-Adrian sees his life continuing at the expense of little Nepomuk's-Adrian culminates the symbolic suicide first mani- fested in the encounter with Esmeralda: a taking back of Beethoven's Ninth Sym- phony We move here directly back into the domain of the Holocaust, for what Adrian risks, in his revocation, is precisely his place in the symbolic circuit of meaning.

The radicalness of this act lies in the way he bears witness to a place soon to be occu- pied by the Jews and Gypsies of Eastern Europe. Before the fact, he is already the one most committed to their memory, to the place outside the symbolic circuit of mean- ing in which they exist. Only those of Zeit- blom's camp would speak here ofAdrian as having, in retrospect, gone too far. The radi- cality of the artist's risk resides precisely in his rejection of a future vantage point from which he might gauge his present un- dertaking. What is rejected is, in fact, the very guarantee of symbolization, because symbolization oversees all the ways we have of dealing with the trauma of the Holocaust and our historical situatedness.

It is for this reason that the most authentic work of art that would have the Holocaust as its subject be one which re- fuses the inherent affirmation of symboli- zation. And more radically, it is for this rea- son that the most authentic act of bearing witness to the Holocaust be one that places in question the very ability to symbolize. Adrian's Dr. Fausti Weheklag lands authentically on both of these scores. Tech- nique has here become even stricter; there is, Zeitblom reports, "keine freie Note mehr" (738). Submitting every note to the most arbitrary of laws, Adrian has perfectly revealed the fugitive disposition of all sym- bolization. Thus, the identity between the angelic choir and the hellish laughter en- countered already in the Apocalipsis cum figuris is carried to its furthest extreme-that identity, Zeitblom tells us, has now become "allumfassend" (740). In this way Adrian achieves freedom: "vermoge der Restlosigkeit der Form eben wird die Musik als Sprache befreit" (740). At its end, the chorus of lament passes into a move- ment purely orchestral: "es ist gleichsam der umgekehrte Weg des Liedes an die Freude, das kongeniale Negativ jenes therganges der Symphonie in den Vokal- Jubel, es ist die Zuriicknahme" (742-43). The horror to which Adrian must testify is that which cannot be spoken. For this Faust (Adrian), the thought of being saved has become the bait held out by the Tempter. This is crucial, of course, because it turns Zeitblom-and more generally, Thomas Mann-into the figure of the Tempter. At least this was the implicit judgment of Adorno, for whom any hint of consolation, or redemption, or regeneration smacked of a wished-for affirmation that art could not, in good conscience, deliver.23 The cello's high G, given as the last word, as it were, of Adrian's Dr. Fausti Weheklag, must be seen in the light of this context-not, as Zeitblom would have it, as asign ofAdrian's conversion, and not, as Hans Rudolf Vaget would have it, as "Leverkuhn's most des- perate plea" (184). It must be seen, instead, as Mann's own last-minute flight from Adorno's insistence on unequivocal nega- tivity-the echo of the high G, for Zeitblom, "steht als ein Licht in der Nacht" (745). What Mann apparently could not give up was precisely this symbolic, light-giving function of art. Against it, we must set Adrian himself, who despises the tradition that might save him, and who insists on exposing the consolation that symbolic identities and symbolization itself afford.24 The experience Adrian wants us to have is that of being outside symbolization, even though the risk is that-like Adrian-we might remain there.

This is, of course, the path of a properly traumatic memory. What we must undergo is our own disappearance, the risk of losing everything, for it is only then that the act of memory is allowed truly to change us. We have perhaps now reached the point where we can understand the novel's epi- graph from Dante: "0Muse, o alto ingegno, or m'aiutate, /o mente che scrivesti cibch'io vidi, I qui si parra la tua nobilitate" (''0 Memory who wrote down what I did see 1 Here thy nobility will be made plain"). For Adrian, memory lies somewhere beyond the human world; its "nobility" lies in the lesson it teaches us about time and the way our finitude divides us in two, into the di- vision of which Hegel wrote. There is not a time for us-in the world of our relations with others-in which we are not damned. With this recognition, there is no imagi- nary left to motivate our violence and cru- elty, no scenario in which what plagues the consistency of the social order is given a name and a body, no fantasy which prom- ises the possibility of wholeness. If we have risked our very being within the symbolic order, if we have peered into the void, if we have occupied without reserve a totalizing position, we have, then, borne witness to the real.And though, in so doing, we reveal the arbitrary, the stupid nature of the form that that testimony takes, we nonetheless

thereby bespeak the trauma of history which is the irrecuperable trauma of our selves and of our world. ~tis a traumawe can do nothing about, a trauma for which there is no redress. Conceived of in these terms, the act Of remembering the Holocaust does after all work to combat those occurrences which partake of its repetition.


'Michael Geyer's recent essay "The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Germany" makes this plain. One of Geyer's principle concerns is to uncover the link between a belief in mem- ory's automatic role in progressive politics and the fantasy of Enlightenment. As Geyer puts it: "It was and is the firm belief of the politics of memory that the past will not be repeated, if only people remember. But as a politics and culture of memory grew in the 1970s and 1980s, so did a politics and culture of anti- Semitism and racism, as well as a desparate [sic] and terrorist identity politics. These were the first indications that there was something wrong with the original argument" (194-95).

2The three sections of Friedlander's book engage three related spheres in which these complications have become significant: first, the seeming licence for historical relativism that is the off-shoot of Hayden White's rejec- tion of "objective historical methodology" as a way to settle truth-claims made by competing historical accounts; second, the problem of us- ing the Holocaust as a sort of capital to affirm Western rationality and ideas about Enlighten- ment; third, the problem of "postmodern mul- tiplicities" in contemporary aesthetic repre- sentations, and whether or not they "convey a complex and multiple message [or] cover a bla- tantly ideological message" (16).

3The primary historical line on German soil runs from Johann SpieS's chapbook Historia uon D. Johann Fausten (1587)-in which Faust is denied redemption-to Goethe's Faust I1 (1832)-in which Faust achieves grace and re- demption. For an overview, see Berghahn.

4Mann: "Ihre ~ul3erun~

iiber die religidsen christlichen Charakter des 'Faustus' frap- pierte mich und erfiillte mich mit der Genug- tuung, die einem die Wahrheit gewahrt. Es ist ja wahr und fast selsbtverstandlich: wie sollte denn auch ein so radikales Buch nicht irgend- wie ins Religiose reichen. Dennoch hat man es 'gottlos' genannt. Das ist die Intelligenz von Leuten, die gewohnheitsmaflig uber 'Schone Literatur' schreiben, Daher mein Ausruf: 'Sic sollten dariiber schreiben!fl (Thomas Mann and ~~~l K ~167).~ c ~ ~ ~

5This is not an argument against Eisen- hower's act-recorded by Zeitblom in the novel-of forcing the citizens of Weimer to walk through Buchenwald after the Allies had liberated the camp. (Eisenhower wanted those who had lived in proximity to the camp to see with their own eyes the crematoria that had been operating in their midst.) It is to note in- stead the way that act can so quickly become another exercise of a mode of conduct that ne- cessitated it in the first place.

6Nietzsche's critique of Christianity-"der Muth eines Christen, eines Gottglaubigen uberhaupt kann niemals Muth ohne Zeugen sein,-er ist damit allein schon degradirt" (Nietzsche 19: 239)-is perhaps the clearest expression of the manner in which belonging to a community is not the fruit of particular decisions, but rather their underlying cause. Is this not the consistent feature of Zeitblom's personality-the need to be among a commu- nity necessarily selected by History? The pleas- ure he experiences here by feeling himself part of a (German) collective appears to be analo- gous to the pleasure he experienced in fighting in World War I: "Und doch ist es fur das hohere Individuum auch wieder ein grorjer Genurj, einmal-und wo hatte dies Einmal zu finden sein sollen, wenn nicht hier und jetzt-mit Haut und Haar im Allgemeinen unterzuge- hen" (464).

7I have in mind here Ziiek's insistence, con- tra LaCapra, that "transference is not a kind of 'theater of shadows,' where we settle past traumas in efigia, it is repetition in the full meaning of the term, i.e., in it, the past trauma is literally repeated, 'actualized"' (Enjoy Your Symptom 102). In risking his place within the social order, Leverkiihn follows a path which, in my view, we must follow in our attempt to bear witness to the Holocaust: we must repeat the trauma, and in so doing, recognize some- thing fundamental about the impasse between symbolic and real. In my view, this recognition would be an important step toward eliminating further barbarisms-most of which are driven by fantasies of guaranteeing the consistency of social relations. For a dissentingview-that repeating trauma in the full sense of the term is without "constructive ethicopolitical possibili- ties," appearing only as a "lucidly theorized" option-see LaCapra 205-24.

8Mann-intentionally or otherwise--is ambiguous in Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus when he recalls the task he set for himself in Doktor Faustus as to write "nichts Geringeres als den Roman meiner Epoche, verkleidet in die Geschichte eines hoch-prekaren und siindi- gen Kunstlerlebens" (33). In Zeitblom's at- tempt to know the desire of the Other (i.e., Adrian)-his consistent efforts to invest the latter and his art with a sensible meaning and purpose-Mann has indeed written the novel of his era.

91t is at the level of fantasy, then-where nothing is meaningless-that an apparently progressive work like Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, and a more reactionary trea- tise like Andreas Hillgruber's Zweierlei Unter- gang: Die Zerschlagung des Deutschen Reiches und das Ende des europaischen Judentums

might be aligned. Spielberg's shift to present- day Israel in the culminating frames of the film--concomitant with a shift from black and white to color-retroactively confers meaning on the events just depicted in its implicit em- brace of the Zionist postwar account of history which elevated the Jewish state to the status of redemptive "sign." (For a discussion of this elevation, see Young 172-89). Hillgruber's ac- count of the Wehrmacht forces fighting in the Eastern provinces at the end of the War also gives, retroactively, a larger "meaning" to their efforts. In both Spielberg and Hillgruber, a cer- tain fantasy is at work as history is given back to a people and to a nation who have con- structed narratives of self-possession.

1°These views are representative. Virtually every essay in a recent collection argues, or tac- itly assumes, Adrian as the figure of evil in the novel (see Lehnert and Pfeiffer). Even those who see Mann intending a kind of ambiguity and unequivocality apropos our judgment of Adrian still implicitly assume Adrian's "dam- nation." The ambiguity, in this view, pertains solely to the fate of Adrian's music apropos a future German cultural tradition (see, for ex- ample, Ryan). The exception to this tradition of approaching Leverkuhn as representative of fascism may be found in Weiner 213-45. For an important examination critical of Zeitblom, see also Rieckrnann.

llOn the refusal of this sacrifice, see Kretschmar's lecture on Beethoven's final pi- ano sonata (Op. 111)(79-87). There, Kretsch- mar identifies Beethoven's excessive reflection and inwardness-a sign of his degeneracy in the eyes of critics and friends-and links it pre- cisely with the task of the genuine artist to expose the abyss that the sonata form, for ex- ample, stands in for. In the incredible changes that mark the encounter with this abyss-in the long second movement-are the kind of ex- plorations after which there can be no return. Thus, no third movement.

12For Kant, the mathematical sublime of nature-i.e., the stuff of Adrian's investiga- tions-resides not so much in a large numeri- cal concept (a content), but rather in its offer- ingof a unit for the measure of the imagination (a form)-i.e., a way of approaching these phe- nomena at all: "Nun liegt das Erhabene bei der asthetischen Beurteilung eines so unermeo- lichen Ganzen nicht sowohl in der GroSe der Zahl, als darin, daS wir im Fortschritte immer auf desto grofiere Einheiten gelangen; wozu die systematische Abteilung des Weltgebaudes beitragt" (Kritik der Urteilskraft 96). This is clearly a "Fortschritt" Adrian is out to throw into question.

13Zeitblom would appear to be retelling yet another story of paradise lost: Adrian's (Adam's) downfall is traced in the manner of Milton to Esmeralda (Eve).

140n ironic distance as a form of ideology, see Slavoj eiiek, The Sublime Object of Ideolo- R-Y,Chap. 1.

15We might here mention Lukacs's paradig- matic misreading of Doktor Faustus in "The Tragedy of Modern Art." Leverkuhn's realiza- tion of the stupidity or silliness of the social order is for Lukacs evidence of a consciousness which needs only to mature. What Lukacs would have Adrian and Mann see (he says, in fact, that they do eventually see it) is that there exists another, more intelligent order out there-the order of the socialist revolution. Adrian's pact with the Devil, for Lukacs, points to Marx. Unable to see order in its very consti- tution as stupid or silly, LukAcs here appears in the company of Zeitblom.

16Even Arnold Schoenberg might have made this equation. In his famous letter to the editor in the Saturday Review of Literature, Schoenberg objected strenuously not only to Mann's use of his "literary property" (22) he., the twelve-tone method of musical composi- tion), but also to the character of the fictional composer into which Mann placed his property. For Schoenberg, Adrian Leverkuhn was to be regarded "from beginning to end, as a lunatic" (22).Noting this deeper source of Schoenberg's disaffection, Michael Mann suggests that Schoenberg made the equation between Adrian and Nazi Germany. What Schoenberg was principally upset with, Mann suggests, was that his invention seemed to be "involved with a sick-minded fictional character or even with German National Socialism" (318).

171n support of this position is Brigitte Prutti, who, in a similar vein, sees Adrian's turn to the twelve-tone system as part of an "'archaic' regression ... into an order of his own making over which he has total control" (104). Manfred Dierks goes so far as to see in


this regression the narcissist's fantasy of om- nipotence. Adrian's principle of composition is for Dierks the "constant defense of a self threatened by fragmentation": "Leverkiihn's continuous creations of ever new and ulti- mately 'rigid' formations can be understood to follow the pattern of identification with mirror images, which produce the imaginary ego" (53).

lsFor this, see "Die sinnliche GewilJheit" of the Phanomenologie (69-78). Though we speak all the time from the position of the ab- solute, it is significant whether or not we take this position up absolutely: To do so is to expose the manner in which even the universal Law that structures the order of language lacks sta- bility and substance; not to do so is to maintain the natural, essential universality of that Law-to keep that Law from encountering the real.

lgWalter Davis has rightly claimed that this forms the basis of Mann's insight into the na- ture of dialectical thought, his recognition, if you will, of Absolute Knowledge as the recog- nition of what Davis calls "'the true or ultimate dichotomy': that single comprehensive opposi- tion which generates and sustains the progres- sively more inclusive oppositions which make up the dialectical process" (330). Adrian's twelve-tone method of composition would seem to dramatize this "single comprehensive opposition" in its most developed form.

2%Veiner is less than optimistic about the efficacy of modernist aesthetic strategies, given the extent to which they rely on the reader's capacity to interact with demanding aesthetic structures (243).

"The stupidity of attempting to solve this estrangement is made unequivocal by none other than Adrian. In the Christian Society Winifried gathering, Adrian responds to the notion that Youth is some positive German metaphysical endowment with a short laugh and with this line: "Und seine [des Deutschen] ... sind der Budenzauber der Weltgeschichte" (185).

"This is also why we must be clear about the diction that Mann has given to Adrian's discussion with the Devil. The point is not that Mann has Gven to Adrian a "corrupt diction" in order to bear witness to a corruption of lan- guage, to the abuse of rhetorical techniques, and to a "wit" that leads to nihilism (Fullen- wider 581). Adrian's archaisms, instead, indi- cate that there is no non-corrupt speech, and that the "virtuosity of technique in language in the service of the preservation ofthe human- ist tradition" (Fullenwider 5891, the supposed healthiness of a rhetoric that evokes "a Classi- cal humanitas characterized by urbanity and lenity" (Fullenwider 590) is itself nihilistic.

23When Adorno read Mann's rendering of the Dr: Fausti Weheklag, he could not abide the redemptive quality the latter had given it. "Er fand im Musikalischen nichts zu erinnern, zeigte sich aber gramlich des Schlusses wegen, der letzten vierzig Zeilen, in denen es nach all der Finsternis um die Hoffnung, die Gnade geht und die nicht dastanden, wie sie jetzt dastehen, sondern einfach mifiraten waren. Ich war zu optimistisch, zu gutmiitig und di- rekt gewesen, hatte zu vie1 Licht angezundet, den Trost zu dick aufgetragen" (Die Entste- hung des Doktor Faustus 158). Mann's modifi- cations, one suspects-given the "high G" given to Adrian's last work--didn't exactly ad- dress Adorno's critique.

"Consider, here, Zeitblom's pleasure at Adrian's seeming assumption of symbolic iden- tities-e.g., "suitor" of Marie Godeau, "father" to Nepomuk Schneidenwein, composer, etc.

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