Botho Strauss

By: Barbara Bogaev
December 2, 2011

If Heidegger had tried writing fiction on a dark winter’s day when burghers only leave the house to walk their dogs and window-shop for smartphones and sensible furniture, then the world would have had no need for the anti-bourgeois German writer BOTHO STRAUSS (born 1944). But Heidegger stuck to philosophy, which would eventually give Kirkus Reviews the opportunity to bastardize this Dorothy Parker quip: “I’d sooner clean and paint the house/Than read a book by Botho Strauss.” Disdain for Strauss’s oeuvre has been provoked by the obscurity of his language, his non-linear and ambivalent narratives, the alienation and fatalism of his characters, and the mid-career revelation of the author’s ideological alignment with the New German Right. These criticisms are less valid if you read Strauss in German; to read him in translation is to miss the Rubik’s Cube of interwoven references to Heidegger and the Frankfurt School, the relationship of language to time, mankind’s homelessness in meaning, and more. Also, it’s helpful to ask questions like: “How obscure is too obscure,” “To what degree does the politics of an artist define the quality of their art,” and “What happens when an entire nation is deprived of the right to express anything about their past or their national character.” Strauss’s plays, essays, and novels grimly assault the black hole of alienation in the core of modern society, while always alluding to the possibility of redemption through the relentless coiling of imagery, bleak and politically incorrect as that imagery may be.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Britney Spears.

READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).

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