ATTENDANCE LIST FOR A FUNERAL by Alexander Kluge

ATTENDANCE LIST FOR A FUNERAL

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Kluge joins the growing number of present-day German writers who are not only primarily interested in socio-political concerns which are to a great degree the hangover of the war (Manfred Bieler, Uwe Johnson, and of course Gunter Grass) but also in finding a more experimental medium through which to express them. Some of Mr. Kluge's auxiliary devices are sheer gadgetry: time is not chronological; names are often initials; and there are all kinds of obfuscating techniques. Once accepted, the general intention becomes straightforward--he has assembled a number of characters whose experiences before, during and after the Hitler regime become symptomatic of this whole period in Germany--the original title of the book Lebenslaufe (lifespans) seems truer. The narratives, some ten, deal with various projects--the attempt to induce insemination in a concentration camp to determine whether mass sterilization was permanently effective; the preservation of the heads of certain ""Jewish Bolshevist commissars"" for further research; or with various types--Manfred Schmidt, a feckless opportunist who returns to a ""resuscitated"" Germany in 1951; Schwebkowski, a teacher, in a ""society which actually does not desire education""; Peickert, from private to sergeant major in Hitler's Army, executed for procuring to become a posthumous hero; etc. etc. All these lives are annotated so impersonally that they seem to be no more than the data in a dossier. Sometimes quotations from Kant or Nietzsche are appended; from the former, ""the last murderer still being held in prison would have first to be executed, in order for each person to receive his just deserts and for the blood-guilt not to attach to the people."" Obviously for Mr. Kluge the ""blood guilt"" is still unabsolved and most of his characters survive the war through a waiting game of accommodation or expedience. It is a work, however limited in its appeal, of chilling cynicism and consummate irony.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill