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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sounds of Silence: Heinrich Boll's story

Heinrich Boll's short story Murke's Collected Silences is a terrific post-war story by a German writer - he later won the Nobel Prize in literature; not sure if I've ever read any of his novels, think I started one once? - who takes on the postwr themes in subtle and imaginative ways. The story creeps up on you - beginning w/ a description of Murke, a 20-something man with a good job with a what appears to be the state-operated radio station. He arrives every day at work and intentionally takes the elevator the top floor then down to his 2nd-floor office - because the ride at its apex terrorizes him - whether this is a fear he is trying to overcome or whether he enjoys the fear or thinks he deserves the punishment is not clear - perhaps all 3 are true. His assignment entails working with a famous and somewhat fatuous German intellectual who has just recorded two lectures on art, but he has had a change of view and wants to go back and excise each references to "God" and replace it w/ something like "the supreme being whom we all revere." It's a tedious and difficult assignment - recording voice-overs, literally splicing these into the segmented tape (this was the age of actual tape recordings, nothing digital). Murke also, as we learn, has begun recording silences - actually bringing speakers into the studio and recording while they are silent - and saving these little stretches of blank record, in a box for safekeeping. We can see what Boll is getting at: the rewriting of the past by German intellectuals, and the insertion of silence into past "versions" of history - and the guilty and confusion of the new generation, complicit in this act of obliteration. A mysterious and powerful story, probably not read very often today.

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