Matthias Göritz, German writer

Photo: Matthias Göritz
Matthias Göritz: question your ideals

Striving onward - Faust, first and second part!

Which book should every young European read? Faust. Not „have read", but „read." Why? Faust is the true hero of modern Europe. He despairs over the world of books, over the vaults of paper, the stale smell of his own learnedness, which leads him to nothing but the endless repetition of the same thing. He wants to know „what holds the world together in its essence" - and he gives everything for it. He makes a pact with the devil - and thanks to Mephisto, this leads to some of the most insane dialogues in literature. What Goethe presents us with is a more extreme version of the Don Quixote/Sancho Panza pair. Servant and master can no longer be separated from one another as easily as the knight who forgets himself and is lifted up in illusions, and his pragmatic companion. Between Faust and Mephisto, a battle rages. A battle for the soul, for happiness, for understanding. Mephisto promises Faust that with his help, he will come to know and rule the kingdoms of the world and their splendours, from the beautiful Margarethe, his first victim, to the worldly imperial court, right up to the misty illusions of the ancient world. Everything is reflected glory, all values are called into question. Only the energy of search remains for Faust, this wonderful, obstinate, dangerous striving onwards: further, ever further, the maxim which, in the last decade, even drove the goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn.

Matthias GÖritz

born in Hamburg, 1969, author of "The Short Dream of Jakob Voss" and two poem anthologies: "Loops" (2001) and "Pools" (2006).

And isn't that what we need? To go further and ever further? To question all our ideals, to try out every kind of life, to ask questions, set our own aims, refusing to let them simply be dictated to us by books, by staid authorities, by rules?

Faust is a living encyclopedia. With Mephisto leading him, he can do almost anything - it's just a shame that the witty one, the clever, erotic one is, of course, the devil. „Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast." And when you read Faust, you see that even more ouls are housed there. The European house is a full house, a self-contradictory house. And Mephisto is „the spirit which denies" - not a Cicero, not a good Virgil who leads Dante into the underworld, so that he can be saved in the end by his ascension into Heaven in elegant Terza Rima - he is the kick which we all need. In Faust, redemption comes... read it yourself! It comes! Perhaps earlier than one expects. Because it's all drama, too: the prologue, the Job-like wager in heaven between God and Mephisto, the debauched carneval interludes of the Walpurgis Night. And in Goethe's language, you see it all: the turbulent, the unfathomable, the hazardous.

There is no Wikipedia short-cut for reading Faust.

The reading itself becomes a quest - and the whole story is elusive. Is it a tragedy? A horror-thriller? A bad trip? An episodic epic? A joke? A religious-idealistic delirium? Faust - and in this the book is closer to us at the start of the 21st century than any other - is a hymn to the search, to the strivings of the individual, but also a warning against their consequences. Because he who never stops - like Faust, whose exclamation, „stay a while! You are so fair!" with which he would lose the bet, is only spoken once in the subjunctive mood - falls into the trap. His search becomes a hurtling standstill through the centuries. The more he uses his means of power, Mephisto, the more he becomes the manipulated manipulator, even when he believes he's using it for a good cause, as he does at the very end of Part 2 in order to colonise the sea, in a modern land reclamation project which has in no way been outstripped by the gigantomania of the Chinese Three Gorges Dam, the styling of the coast of Dubai or Nasa's plans for the colonisation of Mars.

Faust can only continue his mission if he forgets. Continually forgets. Lethe, not Mnemosyne. Constant remembering would mean death. The work is about the balance which we have to find: between action, remembering and forgetting. And it shows us, without any kind of trite moralising, what it's like to be the one who strives onward, hungry and always in danger of becoming a hero or a mass-murderer along the way. Very European!

NEXT ISSUE 01.04.2018