Hans Henny Jahnn
with inkblots by Justin Kase
From the translator's afterword
“Coprolalia.” “Perversion.” So Jahnn’s critics. Jahnn’s own telos: the absolute, not entropy but putrefaction.
So Jahnn. A black hole at the heart of 20th-century German literature — such a numbingly awful term. Even to place the adjectives — temporal or geographic, linguistic, ethnic — before this “literature” is to kill it.
Some black hole at the heart of the 20th century then, its works, its obsessions — we lazily look for comparisons and find the French inaccrochables: Artaud, yes, and Bataille.
But Jahnn, devoid of the French bent for theory...de-void, the void itself, nightmare black and claustrophobic and endless. Say, Bataille’s L’expérience intérieure, stripped of its Descartes, and staged by Gregor Schneider — less anus solaire than du vide. The Jahnniverse. Actual coordinates in space: 55°41’57.8”N, 12°34’38.5”E.
So what is being read? Matthieu and Gari, a Gilgamesh and Enkidu for our time, youthful lovers and adventurers, who worship and defile each other. Vivisection, sodomy, murder, assault, the beauty and terror of the natural world, the facts of a meat body.
It catches up with you, the Komplex the text is drawn from. The roughest trade.
About the Author, Translator & Artist:
Hans Henny Jahnn (1894-1959) was the author of the novels Perrudja, Fluss ohne Ufer, and the unfinished Jeden ereilt es, from which BATH HOUSE is taken. “As a writer,” Jahnn said, “I am preoccupied with the primordial tragedy of how the individual is overwhelmed by his environment.”
Adam Siegel is a writer and translator in Northern California. He is a current NEA fellow. His prose and verse translations from the German, Russian, Czech, Serbian, and Polish have been published widely. His translations of Ibsen, Strindberg, Pirandello, and Chekhov have been produced for the stage.
Justin Kase was one of Bruce Conner's anonymous assistants shortly before Bruce's death.