Radetzky March

If you were to ask me what topic preoccupies me most, the answer would be: speechlessness. Or, to put it better, the apparent inability of modern people to get close to others through language and to really make contact with words.

It touches my heart every time I see people talking past each other, how they don’t want to or can’t understand each other, and I would like to jump up and push them together so that they, as the saying goes, speak to each other in fiery tongues.

That’s one of the reasons I love our literature so much. Over the centuries, we have created such a rich language, developed such a sophisticated use of language, that we are able to put almost anything into words. Even the seemingly unspeakable.

Thus, we are not forced to lose ourselves in simple myths or fairy tales or to fall into the nebulous, but can use language in such a way that anyone who approaches it with devotion and passion is able to express and understand almost everything in it.

When I walk through the streets, when I stand on train platforms or sit in a coffee house, I have always listened to people’s voices. I try to grasp the meaning of their words and to guess what they want to say.

But today I find myself increasingly at a loss. Not because the subjects are foreign to me, but because they literally lack words. I am appalled by the impoverishment of their language, the loss of colors, of nuances, of everything that makes a language alive and that points beyond the unspeakable.

This neglect, this speechlessness, seems to be everywhere today, not only on the streets. It seems to me that it has become the defining moment of our time, eating into our hearts.

Or, as Allen Ginsberg once called it: “Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch whose heart is a cannibal dynamo!”

But let’s get back to the books. Because maybe none of this is true. Maybe these are just gloomy thoughts of an old reader dreaming up an ideal world, and what we see today are the normal changes that language is subject to.

For speechlessness existed in the past as well. Joseph Roth, for example, described it so wonderfully in his novel “Radetzky March.

There is more about this in my book “Literature Stories”.

A book that shows an alternative way to literature, a way of direct contact through texts and the very personal reaction to them.

A book full of stories that will carry them away into another world, that will touch them, make them think, show them a life away from the ordinary and thereby enrich their lives.

This is a story about three generations of men who are cut off from their own life stories and therefore walk through their lives speechless. Unable to communicate with each other, unable to find a way to each other, they stand alone in their world and all three die a lonely death, as a sad end to a life that is both meaningless and speechless.

Even Trotta’s grandfather was torn from his orderly world by chance.

Knighted as the emperor’s lifesaver and promoted to lieutenant, he finds no way back to his comrades and loses both the connection to his new homeland and to the world of his fathers.

His son lives at the side of this deeply embittered man. Heavily scarred and mentally crippled, he too fails to establish a relationship with his own child. What carries him through life is only the scaffolding of his position and a last part of the inherited strength.

Only in old age does he manage, at least for a few moments, to break through this armor and tentatively reach out to his child.

But it is too late.

For his son is completely lost in his own speechlessness. The last offspring of the Trottas lacks everything that would make a fulfilled life possible. He no longer has any roots; like a fallen leaf, he drifts senselessly through his life and can no longer make contact with other people.

And thus remains lonely and alone all his life.

The book vividly shows how much speechlessness separates people. How much it prevents them from establishing contact, growing up and surviving in the truest sense of the word.

And thus it also shows how important a differentiated language is for us humans.

Above all, it shows the true loneliness of the speechless, their longing, their alienation and their pain.

And the impossibility of escaping all that.

the italicized lines are taken from: Allen Ginsberg, Gedichte, Rowohlt Taschenbuch 2004, Translation: Heiner Bastian / Michael Kellner / Bernd Samland / Jürgen Schmidt / Peter Waterhouse / Carl Weissner
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