Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän [Max Frisch] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Hard to Find book. Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän has ratings and 85 reviews. In his most acclaimed work of fiction to date, Max Frisch charts the crumbling landscap. “’Che tempo, che tempo’: Geology and Environment in Max Frisch’s Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän” On_Culture: The Open Journal for the Study of Culture 2.
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Log In Sign Up. He is currently writing his dissertation on the relationship between geological timescales and narrative form in German, English and American novels from Romanticism to contemporary literature. His research interests focus on the relationship between literature and the natural sciences, ecocriticism and animal studies. The Open Journal for the Study of Culture 2 This paper argues instead that this feature can be seen as a poetological engagement with geological and climatic timescales.
Due to its hybrid form, the incorporation of a multiplicity of textual fragments and pictorial representations, the text undermines both conventional definitions of narra- tive and representations of nature. Trying to determine the age of fossils, the French comparative anatomist Georges Cuvier saw a relationship between this conception of deep time and the Copernican revolution of astronomy.
Hu- man exceptionalism, holkzn it might seem, was stumbling backwards into oblivion. Con- sequently, the problem for early geologists consisted not only in the difficulty of bringing up a systematic explanation of geologic evolution, a theory of the deg an- other, no less vital issue resulted from the question of how to represent and conceive of the unfathomable time periods that were indicated by the evidence of fossils eescheint the geological record.
In recent discussions on human-induced changes in the environment, geological conceptions have again played a key role. The very struc- ture of geological timescales, together with the problems of representation they entail, seems to have prefigured a decisive change in some of the urgent environmental problems that we are now struggling with.
Already in Le contrat naturel, published inMichel Serres had argued that human civilization had reached a tipping point where its impact was to be measured on a geological scale. Considering the dense population of European cities, he writes: Nous existons enfin naturellement. InPaul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer argued that, since the industrial revolution, humanity has changed the composition of the atmosphere to such an extent that the notion of a new geological era seems warranted: One result of this messy entanglement between different ontolog- ical spheres seems to be a different conception of human agency, but also of episte- mological approaches towards the consequences of our current behavior.
The long-term consequences of our present civilization reach into such distant points of the future that they seem to far exceed our capacity to imagine. In this respect, it has been argued that traditional narrative forms are inevitably ill- equipped for processes of the temporal cycles inherent to the natural world.
Famous- ly, Frank Kermode argued that any narrative is hlozn towards an endpoint and thereby gains its structure and meaning. Understanding geophysical processes, as Charles Lyell did, as the constant succession of micro-processes that are dispersed across the whole globe and stretched out over several hundred million years,11 mmensch might think that literature, with its al- leged dependence on a narrative telos, a perspective, and individual characters, has no means to grasp such gradually and slowly evolving changes in any meaningful way.
However, it should not be forgotten that in the early days of geology, the natural sci- ences stood in close relation to literature. The short novel depicts an aging man of 74 years, Mr. Geiser, who spends the summer in an isolated valley in the Swiss Alps. In several aspects, this setting is described not only as detached, far from any connection to the turmoil of world history, but as a place that has remained almost unmarked by the presence of human beings at all: Due to a dire peri- od of rain and thunderstorms, the only connecting street is closed to traffic.
Unable to pursue his usual work in the ersfheint and stuck by boredom, Geiser is erscheintt by the thought that the constant downpour could, in a catastrophic disruption, undermine the bedrock of the whole valley.
But, notwithstanding these vague moments of fear and anxiety, there is no catastrophic event. Anxiously searching his environment for signs of a fissure that could possibly wipe out the village, Geiser is depicted as listen- ing and watching.
Man in the Holocene (Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän)
Al- together, sixteen different sounds of thunder are carefully described and distin- guished. A whole Sunday is divided into 12 different textures and intensities of rain with their respective time and duration.
Indeed, they could be read as forebodings of an memsch different event, which bears no relation to the actual natural world and rather con- cerns the disintegration of inner landscapes. After an unsuccessful attempt to leave the valley on foot, Geiser seems to lose his memory and, eventually, suffers a stroke from which he msnsch recovers.
Put together by the extensive use of montage, the text acquires an autonomous complexity and formal richness that hardly can be limited to the wandering mind of a fictional human indi- vidual. While the sparsely erscheinnt Alpine valley is situated at the outermost boundary of civilization, Geiser, on the other hand, finds himself at hollzn stop- ping point, from the perspective of which he tries to erschheint an inventory of nature and his own knowledge: Wann ist der Mensch entstanden und wieso?
Trias, Jura, Kreide usw. Distrustful towards his diminishing capacities to remember, he begins to take notes and finally cuts out whole articles and passages to pin them to the walls of his home. Playing on the analogy between house and memory, the different rooms slowly be- come transformed into an archive of natural history, in whose loose paper clippings the wind rambles around. It is noteworthy, however, that the protagonist has a very selective stance towards his reading and shows an explicit disregard for fiction and the genre of the novel: The novel, as it is represented here, iim restricted to the realm of the human.
This turn, however, does not mark a mere change of perspective. While not explicitly stating the opposite, the conjunction creates the disturbing possibility of an earth that is anything but the taken-for-granted symbol of eternal steadiness, and instead is subject erzcheint change, con- tingency, and disruption, similar to human history.
The indistinct prospect of a natural catastrophe therefore does not simply denote a possible event of disruption, but takes on a second, poetological meaning, referring to a turn in the form of writing.
Man in the Holocene – Wikipedia
The engagement with the natural sciences takes on a major role ho,ozn the novel. This becomes apparent by seemingly minor details, such as the figure of a physician who specializes in solar sciences and spends a few days in the valley before fleeing in con- sideration of the weather.
Inevitably though, this inventory creates a second layer of meaning that exceeds the confinements of any private biography and entan- gles it with phenomena such as climate and geology that, by their very nature, seem to bear no relationship to the comparatively short timescale of human existence, to say nothing of a single individual or consciousness.
A handwritten list of extinct species; a cut-out from a lexicon; narrative passages on Geiser; three different illustrations of the earth showing the progress of continental drift; an illustration of a small dinosaur. A striking example of this is the ostensibly incidental mention of the book Heller als tausend Sonnen by Robert Jungk, which is part of yet another reading list. Written in the fifties, it was one of the first works touching upon the involvement between physics and the atomic bomb.
Though mentioned only in passing, the beauti- ful and pristine Valle Maggia suddenly looks different and becomes more connected to a world in which the very concepts of near and far have lost their meaning. Just as the half-life period of radioactive elements transcends our own life, the boundary of the narrative form is constantly transgressed and becomes intermingled with forms of empirical knowledge.
For Geiser, at least, the notion holoz tempo takes on a more dubious, ambiguous meaning that echoes the inher- ent connection between time and weather, still holozm in the French and the Italian languages.
While all the clocks in the nearby village have come to a standstill, and the rain is slowly dripping outside his hideout, Geiser ponders the possibility that indeed, against all odds, time itself could have come to a final halt. As we have already seen, forms of deceleration and the engagement with vast time cycles is certainly dominant on mfnsch thematic level. Given the arrangement of various facsimiles such as handwritten notes, different forms of type- setting, and pictorial media such as graphs, maps, and drawings, the narrative has a non-linear form and lacks both a clear beginning and end.
In terms of narrative temporality, ersheint very dense arrangement of different ele- ments leads to a permanent disruption of the narrative process by fragments of histo- ry, mythology, and knowledge, notably geology. The movement of reading, often- times depicted as a linear, sequential movement both through the text and the narrated time, is constantly led into digressions on the geophysical history of the Alps, the causes and effects of erosion, the movement of glaciers, several depictions of dino- saurs, and a cartographic representation of continental drift fig.
Illustrations of several dinosaur skeletons next to a human; a schematic depiction of the Alpine orogeny; Geiser suffers a stroke. Consequently, the text itself takes a non-linear form, the structure of which is akin to the actual lexicon or encyclopedia. It turns into a sort of echo chamber in which different voices, writings, scripts, and me- dia oscillate and perpetually create and shift new layers of meaning.
This principle of juxtaposition of divergent elements is not restricted to the inter- play of different texts and media on the material page, but can likewise be found on a syntactic level. The relationship between single sentences and paragraphs is anything but coherent, structured by a principle of parataxis and repetition which undermines any clear conception of a temporal succession, hierarchy, or order. The loose cohesion of statements, separated and listed by the use of hyphens, clearly do not form a narrative, understood as the representation of a sequence of events.
Thus, the writing is constantly interrupted and the page is honeycombed by gaps and pauses fig.
Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän
Handwritten notes and questions next to a chronology of different types of rain. MH 54, 55 By the sheer enumeration of texts, sentences, and words, the reader is hard-pressed to find a clear conception of hierarchy, narrative progress, or meaning between the dif- ferent parts.
Since the narrator never comments on the various materials the reader is gazing erschient, the result is a proliferation of meaning, much more open to interpretation. This also has troubling consequences for questions of narrative genre: Geiser is not only uneasy and scornful with regard to the novel and its formal and thematic conven- tions, but, more importantly, the narrative itself turns the logic of a linear sequence of narrated events into the spatial array of different textual or pictorial pieces on the mehsch tual page.
In a twofold way, therefore, this particular feature establishes a close relationship between the narrative form and the geological processes and landscapes it deals with on a thematic level.
Due to their dense arrangement, the different parts of the assem- bly take on the shape of the different layers and strata of geological sedimentation. Processes that are extended across vast time periods, such as the move- ment of glaciers, the drift of continental plates, or the slow changes in the climate are mirrored by a narrative structure of slowness and deceleration.
In the early years of film criticism, Walter Benjamin referred to the technique of slow motion as an unprecedented means to reveal external reality. The process of filmic deceleration was not to be seen as simply a more accurate and there- fore more objective ersdheint of the actual state of affairs, but rather, on the contrary, as an exploration of what otherwise would remain unconscious, hidden.
In this context, the particular materiality of the text bears an interesting relationship to a different representation of nature. Instead, the text exposes its own heterogene- ous quality — the graphic disposition of letters, scripts, and images — on the page. Concentrating on this visual, material, and medial condition of literature, the actual print is not seen as a mere byproduct for the otherwise disembodied meaning of arbi- trary language.
Timothy Morton has described this change in the representation of nature in the following way: Nobody likes it be- cause when you mention it, it becomes conscious. In the same way, when you mention the environment, you bring it mi the foreground. In other words, it stops being the environment. It stops being That Thing Over There that sur- rounds and sustains us.
The text creates such an extent erschejnt attentiveness and awareness to the natural environment that these elements cannot be reduced to the function of mensc mere source domain of metaphor that provides the story of a single indi- vidual with ersxheint.
Just as much as the sheer materiality and the composition of the actual page is highlighted and becomes more prominent, nature, both in its extended temporal cycles and its spatial dimension, oftentimes considered as a mute back- ground phenomenon, starts to linger uncannily in the foreground. This frontier and its transgression becomes msnsch manifest in the spatial configuration of the narrative that can be seen in correspondence to the rela- tionship between humans and animals.
While Geiser seems very keen to avoid having visitors to his home, he is finally surprised by an unexpected intrusion when he finds a salamander in his bathroom: Subsequently, menscg thoughts holzon haunted by the presence of the small being, and, final- ly, the narrator even remarks on a similarity between his character and the animal: But again, a more promising approach to this passage is to take the animal seriously as an actual life-form and direct the reading glass, as Geiser already does, erscheknt the peculiar skin of the salamander.
Amphibians are exceedingly open to their environment since the functions of both breathing and drinking are realized, partly or even totally, by their permeable skin.
For this very reason, amphibians are sometimes referred to as ecological indicators for the condi- tion of an entire ecosystem.
Since they are born with gills, but change to pulmonary respiration in their mature state, amphibians also represent a link between erscheing and land animals.
Tellingly, the Greek term amphi literally means on both sides. The sal- amander, therefore, not only transgresses the mensvh frontier between inside and out- side, house and nature, by climbing through the open window, but eracheint the animal as such is by its biological makeup a liminal being that lives on the threshold between different spheres.
From this point of view, we can recognize some of the threads that link seemingly different aspects of the novel: The narrative on Geiser between different articles on salamanders, amphibians, and dinosaurs. The porous look of the graphic page forms a material and graphic counterpart both to the window the salamander climbs through, the hybrid being that climbs through it, and to the dis- solving boundary between human and nature.