Friday, 12 February 2010

Harald Schmidt vs. Helene Hegemann, Rüther vs. Airen

I've never cared for Harald Schmidt. He's a talkshow guy not unlike a German Jonathan Ross, only he was never remotely attractive. I find him verging on the racist and well into smug territory - and he makes jokes I don't understand about football. But last night I sat through his show to catch Helene Hegemann's appearance, hoping for a little insight into the whole Axolotl Roadkill collage/sampling/plagiarism issue.

More fool me. What we got was Harald and Helene chatting about their good buddy "René" - presumably Pollesch - and how Helene has lost all faith in the media. And although the whole world has been mouthing off about how she can't possibly have been to techno club Berghain at her age, she explained the phenomenon adequately enough for the old fogies in front of their TV sets.

A brief aside: Since when have underage girls not been able to get into clubs? Bouncers aren't actually there to keep pretty girls out. Their job is stopping large groups of unattractive men and other uncool undesirables from getting in. Not that I've been anywhere with a bouncer in the past ten years, but I'm guessing this hasn't changed since my day.

I digress. Basically Schmidt kidded around a bit with Hegemann but skirted the issue everyone's talking about. At one point she couldn't remember a particular passage he referred to, and commented, "It's probably not by me, that's why." Sweet. Schmidt left that comment hanging like a worm on a hook and changed the subject to talk about her hair. There's nothing like taking the yoof seriously, eh?

Luckily, we have Tobias Rüther, my favourite intellectual heavyweight. He managed to get an interview with the "damaged party", blogger Airen, which is coupled with a decent list of the bits Hegemann lifted from his book. There are quite a number of them, although few of them are word for word and if you ask me, Hegemann has improved on his prose. Airen talks about authenticity in a rather pathos-laden manner and tells us he thinks Hegemann's book is cool.

Meanwhile, the chattering classes are fixating on her nomination for the Leipzig prize. She's not going to win, they say, and the jury couldn't back out on its choice. But chairwoman Verena Auffermann told Deutschlandradio Kultur they'd discussed the matter at length and taken a majority decision - and went on to defend the book for a lot of good reasons.

Otherwise, the discussion seems to have split into two camps: people who've read the book and can now appreciate it for what it is, a work of imagination drawing on other people's experiences at points; and people who haven't read the book and think it's all appalling. Now that Hegemann's apologised we've entered the reflective stage: what have the big bad media done to the poor wee lass, first hyping her like there was no tomorrow and then cussing her for providing them with all-too-easy opportunities for puff pieces. Nicholas Kulish sums it up nicely in the New York Times, in fact.

What's getting lost is the book. I'm more than relieved it was still nominated - because that gives me official sanction not to eat my words.

Axolotl Roadkill, people, is good.


carlos alcala said...

Very interested in what you have to say. I haven't read the book, but based on what I have read, and based on the little I know of club culture in Berlin - my son DJs at Bar 25 and Luzia, among others - I'm inclined to credit the idea that this youngster is doing things that the techno musicians are doing, in a literary form. I think there should be some acknowledgement from the beginning. I'm a writer and think a writer should not be ripped off. But I don't think that means what she appears to have done is unoriginal, any more than Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil's appropriation of earlier stories. It depends on how she did it.

kjd said...

Thanks, Carlos, for your measured and considered comment.

オテモヤン said...


kjd said...

Oooh, that's my favourite comment ever.

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