Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
According to a recent Times
story (“Himmler Papers Shed Light On Personal Life of a Nazi,” NYT, 1/26/14), Mr. and
Mrs. Himmler lived a life that was no different than the average American
couple then or now. Evan S. Connell wrote the Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridgenovels. Here we have Herr und Frau Himmler. The Times quotes
Mrs. Himmler as writing, “There is a can of caviar in the ice box. Take it.”
Okay for most of us it’s Spam, but here we have Hannah Arendt’s “banality of
evil” all over again. The Times
quotes another letter from Heinrich to his wife Margarete, “I am off to
Auschwitz. Kisses. Your Heim.” Of course, the syntax of this last note to
Margarete, or Marga, who the Times
describes as previously divorced and seven years older gives pause. If one were to do a
computerized analysis of all the times that the word kisses has appeared next
to the word Auschwitz, the examples would undoubtedly be scarce and yet there
isn’t an inkling from Herr Himmler that this little phrase, “Auschwitz. Kisses”
may be one of the most outrageously horrific oxymorons in the history of language.
What’s particularly interesting is that the German language is full of compound
words. For instance, Vergangenheitbewaltegung means “the burden of the past.”
Kisses may have skidded into Auschwitz, like a car on a slippery road, but one
would think that even a murderer might have somehow moved one out of the way of
the other before sending off a missive to his beloved wife. In her filmic portrait of Hannah Arendt, Margarethe von Trotta portrayed the controversial philosopher as arguing that Adolf Eichmann's pathology resulted from a failure of thinking. There’s
something purgative about screaming at a killer, provided he or she is not in a
position to strike back, but as a form of preventative medicine, it’s always
useful to get an insight into the killer’s thought process—or in these cases, failure thereof. Which is
something that these love letters enable us to do.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.