mardi 2 février 2010


Walter SERNER (1889-1942)

by Walter SERNER

Dedicated to Anton can Hoboken

1. Racing around a fireball is a blob of filth on which ladies’ silk stocking are sold and Gaugins prized. Truly a most deplorable business, yet one that nevertheless permits certain distinctions: silk stockings can be grasped, but not Gaugains. (Try to imagine Bernheim as a prestigious biologist). The thousand pea-brained rastas of the most emebetant persuasion—who serve up columns of reviews to bourgeois index fingers in states of erections (O pastose toffs !) in order to unleash rivers of money—have to this end been responsible for such negligence that many a lady still ends up going short. (Here one should reflect for three minutes on the psychosis of poorly treated eyesight : clinical symptom. Primary : underestimating silk stockings; secondary : digestive orders.)

2. What did the first brain to find itself on this planet do ? Presumably it was astonished at being here and hadn’t a clue what to make of itself and the filthy vehicle beneath its feet. In the meantime people have come to terms with their brains by regarding them as so unimportant as to be not even worth ignoring, by making rastas of themselves (bottommost : blackish pole ; uppermos t: the president of the senate, say) and by turning the so-unjustly beloved nature into the backdrop for a right face. Although this doubtless not especially heroic way of avoiding a dilemma that still receives insufficient appreciation has become quite coid of any charm now that it is so utterly predictable (how infantile bathroom scales are !), for this self-same reason it is, however, highly suitable for conducting certain procedures.

3. Even an engine driver realizes at least once a year that his relations with the locomotive are anything but binding and that he knows little more now about his spouse than he did after tht balmy night in the Bois. (If I had said La Villette or Theresienwiese, the two relationships would have been quite illusory. A tip for the budding professors: “On the topographical anatomy, psychic changes or air and related matters.”) In the Roceroy Hotel or in the Piccadilly, on the other hand, you may already find that it becomes damned unclear why now, of all times, you are gaping at your hand and caroling, hear yourself scratching and love your own spittle. This ever so peaceful example, or so it might appear, is the biggest opportunity for that important feeling of boredom to somersault its way up and become a thought considering its own cause. Lovely moments of this kind set up the desperado (my what a sweety !), who creates all sorts of mischief as a prophet, artist, anarchist, statesman etc., in short, as a rasta.

4. Napoleon, who really was a sterling fellow, maintained quite irresponsibly that mankind’s real calling is to till the soil. Why? Did the plough fall from heaven? But homo sapiens did manage to get a clue about SOMETHING, the voice of a lady undernourished by love I presume. Well, certainly not the soil; and when all is said and done, herbs and fruits existed already in those days. (Please consult the German biogeneticists here to discover why I am incorrect. But it will prove very boring. Consequently I am correct.) So in the end even Napoleon, who otherwise expressed himself with a delightfully refreshing lack of constraint, was from time to time an athlete in the field of emotions. A shame. A real shame.

5. You see EVERYTHING is rastaquoueresque, my dear friends. Everyone is a (more or less)) very flighty entity, dieu merci. (By the way : all credit to the industrious fellow who proves to me that there is anything that does NOT in the end rush about arbitrarily as a norm !) Otherwise, it should be added, death would become epidemic. Diagnosis: rampant boredom; or: panicky resignation; or: transcendental resentment, etc. (Continued ad libitum, this can be elevated to the register of all ungifted states.) The current state budget on the inhabited surface of the earth is thus merely the consequential result of boredom that hass grown unbearable. Boredom : just to give its most inoffensive name! May each seek the most palatable word for his inferiority ! (A dear little subject for a fierce game of forfeits !)

6. It is generally known that a dog is not a hammock; less so that failing to accept this tender hypothesis would cause the painters’ daubing fists to slump at their sides; and completely unknown that interjections are fare more apt: world views are word mixtures…Sapristi, the procedure must be slightly expanded here. (Small image : a gentle craniotomy !) So : all stylists are not even donkeys. Because style is merely a gesture of embarrassment with the wildest structure. And since embarrassment (after sleeping on it briefly) revels itself as the most perfect self-regret, it is evident that stylists, fearing they will be mistaken for donkeys, behave far worse than them, (Donkeys you see have two quite oustanding characteristics: they are stubborn, and lazy.) Thus the difference between Paul Oskar Hocker, Dostoyevsky, Roda-Roda and Wedekind reveals itself solely in the restraint shown with regard to the aforementioned gesture of embarrassment. Whether someone purrs to me in perfectly functioning trochees or otherwise in a manner bristling with images (all images are plausible !) or in a naturalistic fashion, as it were, saying that he had felt sick, but that after he had seen it in black and white he felt better, or that he had in fact felt fine all along (hullo hullo !), but then became sick when he no longer understood it all (teremtete !) : it’s all just the same sub-donkey-like effort, the desire to escape one’s embarrassment by giving it (stylistic, ogodogodo) form. Dreadful word ! Which is to say : to make something that is probable out of life, which is improbable to the tips of its toes ! To clap a redeeming heaven over this chaos of filth and enigma! To perfume and order this pile of human excrement ! Thank’s a lot !…Is there a more idiotic picture than an (ugh !) ingenious stylizing mind playing the coquette with itself during this activity ? (By the way: tuppence to the plucky fellow who proves to me that this coquettishness is NOT present among all the ethico-blusterers !) O, that frightfully cheerful embarrassment that ends with a bow before one’s own self ! THAT’S the reason (on account of the stylized curvature) why philosophies and novels are sweated out of people’s pores, pictures are daubed, sculptures hewn, symphonies groaned out and religions founded. What appalling ambition, especially because these vain asinine games (i.e. especially in the German regions) have come to a complete nought. Nothing but horseplay !

7. The most beautiful landscape I know is the Café Barratte in Les Halles. For two reasons. It was there that I became aquainted with Germaine, who whispered, among other things: “C’est possible que je serais bonne, si je saurais pourquoi.” I admit maliciously that I paled with pleasure. And secondly because in this friendly bar Jean Kartopaites, who otherwise only consorted with men without stiff collars, broke off relations with me brusquely because I was careless enough to drop the name Picasso.

8. Oh the darling white porcelain plates ! Because… Well because: previously people wanted to convey what they claimed to be inexpressible, or in reality did not have, through painting. (Yipee ! AS if one could only make a neat and tidy portrait of a vice-queen if one didn’t know that she was not an armchair ! See: hammock !) Consequently one could smirk long in advance at the fix these smearers would end up in once they ceased jerking off oil-photos. (Behind their ears : more girls, please, more girls !) But the impressions ! So : WHAT is achieved when, after blinking furiously, one manages to arrange things so that potato gobbler also beholds only a cow, but was first able to puff himself up like THAT in the opinion it was HIS cow, a highly special cow, in short : THE one and only AND redeeming cow? (teremtete!) But the expressions! Ho ho: WHAT is achieved when one looks fixedly at what an adjective can accomplish because, having also failed now to act as any sort of guide, it would already be a failure before it came to be painted? But the Cubists, the Futurists! Whoops: although the champions of these thoroughly ultra-violet failures of paint-brush-charges heralded that they would descend—like the liberatio (ugh !)—from the high swing of style (Charge of the trapeze ! Charge of the trapeze ! Roughly as follows : “We’ll manage to get the swing of this embarrassment !”), all that they achieved was that not even a chignon began to swing, and worse still that the wildest donkeys arrived in the world at a steady trot. (O Sagot, mounted by his brood! etc. etc.) Horseplay ! Horseplay !

9. Basically a repetition of what has already been said in section 8 for those who have been brought up badly : an abecedarian matter, perfectly abecedarian! But to be noted anyway out of caution, my dearest :

a) Sculpture : highly unwieldy playthings, heightened by a metaphysical upward gaze

b) Music : ersatz for Pantopon or Eros. (Long since sub-abecedarian !).

c) Poetry : a young lad finds himself in a jam. Recipe : as him who he dreams of and you can tell him with whom he has not slept. (Naturally one is ALWAYS in a jam; but then one should no longer find oneself in the ‘c’ jam)

d) Novels and so on: the goodly gentlemen talk as if they were being roasted on a spit, or more recently not at all. Just a bit more sweat and it will turn out well: belle-lettres! (One finds oneself content on the spit rather often. But a volume fro Samuel Fischer’s is much too time consuming method of creating the Syracuse-Sandwich-Central Heating airline.)

All in all, my dearest : art was a teething problem.

10. one never has a thought. At best the thought acts as if. (But there are always those who quibble about it !) Every word is a disgrace, mark you! People simply keep trumpeting out sentences with the most circus-like verve across a chain bridge (or even: ravines plants, beds). Helpful suggestion: before falling asleep imagine with the greatest clarity the terminal mental state of a suicide who at last wishes to plumb the depths of self-awareness with a bullet. But you will only succeed if you have first made yourself ridiculous. Highly ridiculous. Terribly ridiculous. Ridiculous beyond all measure. So appallingly ridiculous that everything becomes equally ridiculous. That everybody falls metaphorically on his backside. And sneezes.

11. Interjections are the most fitting. (Oh the darling white porcelain plates !)… These are amphibians and newts, who consider themselves too good to be donkeys, must be brought to reason by driving it out of them ! Whipping it out of them! This ghastly, larger-than-life postcard0blue, which these dismal rastas have lied to high ha – ho- hi- hu- (pardon me ?) heaven, must be torn down! One must tap one’s head, carefully but firmly, on one’s neighbour’s as if on a rotten egg (good, good). One must bellow the utterly indescribable, the totally inexpressible, so unbearably close up that no dog would wish to continue leading its life so smartly—but rather for more stupidly ! So that everyone loses their wits and gets their head back again! The pancakes, the Bible sayings, the girls’ bosoms, the percentages, the Gaugins, the snot-rags, the stocking garters, the spirits, the lavatory seats, the waistcoats, the bugs—all the stuff that simultaneously they do, think of and pore over—must be shoved, one after another, so sharply in front of the curve of their chins until finally their feeling of well-being is as great as the mere feeling of woosiness they had experienced until then. One must. One simply must. Teremtete !

12. Silk stockings are priceless. A vice-queen IS n armchair. Worl views are word mixtures. A god IS a hammock. L’art est mort. Viva Dada !

–Walter SERNER
(Translator unknown.)

Walter SERNER. Letzte Lockerung: Manifest Dada. Hannover: Paul Steegemann, 1920. :

Walter SERNER (15 January 1889 – August 1942) was a German-language writer and essayist. His manifesto Letzte Lockerung was an important text of Dadaism.

Walter Serner was born Walter Eduard Seligmann in Carlsbad, Bohemia (then Austria-Hungary, now Czech Republic). In 1913 he studied Promotion law in the Austro-Hungarian capital of Vienna and completed his doctorate in the University of Greifswald.[1]

With the outbreak of World War I he escaped to Switzerland in 1914 and participated in Dada activities in Zürich, Geneva, and Paris until 1920. During World War I he was the editor of the magazines Sirius and Der Zeltweg and a writer for Die Aktion.

In 1921 Serner stayed in Italy with the artist Christian Schad. Beginning in 1923 he began living in various European cities, including Barcelona, Bern, Vienna, Carlsbad, and Prague. From 1925 Serner became the target of anti-semitics (Serner had been born Jewish and had converted to Catholicism in 1913). His play Posada premiered in Berlin in 1927, but his other planned shows were forbidden. In 1933 Serner's books were banned by the government of Nazi Germany.[2]

In 1938 Serner married his partner Dorothea Herz in Prague, where he was working as a private teacher. When war broke out they had no chance to escape from the occupied country. In 1942 he and his wife were interned in Concentration camp Theresienstadt and three weeks later were moved in the direction of "the East", where they perished somewhere near Minsk.[3]

Walter Serner's most successful novel Die Tigerin ("The Tigress") was made into an English-language feature film and released in 1992 (Director/Writer: Karin Howard). At this time the novel was re-published in Germany where Serner's books enjoy a cult following. The film was shot in Berlin and Carlsbad.

(1) Joerg Drews, "Sprich nicht zu oft zynisch, sei wie immer! Zum 100. Geburtstag Walter Serners", Süddeutsche Zeitung, (14 January 1989), 11

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

Textes de SERNER en français :

"Cinéma et désir de voir" (1913), in D. Banda & J. Moure, Le cinéma : naissance d'un art. 1895-1920, Paris, Flammarion, Champs, 2008.

Dernier Relâchement : Manifeste dada, Paris, Coup d'encre, 2006.

La Tigresse. Une singulière histoire d'amour (1925), Paris, Allia, 1998.

Au singe bleu. Trente-trois histoires criminelles, Paris, Allia, 1995

Le Onzieme Doigt. Vingt-cinq histoires criminelles, Paris, Allia, 1998

Christian SCHAD. Portrait de Walter Serner, 1916


by Walter SERNER

1 It’s a long way to Tipperary. For sure. Because properly considered : psychology is a handicap. Every rule has its exception, without a doubt. In fact as a rule. Therefore take extra care: every rule is to be applied as an exception, for the rule is the exception. (An important rule, that !)

… You can only relatively establish relative interrelations. And not even that. Psychiatrists and examining magistrates are, at bottom, ticketsellers manqué (wandering circuses), as every (oh well!) – psychological judgment is an exercise directed by the one who is judged, the results of which so seldom please merely for the reason that the exercise is inaccurately commissioned owing to the deficient self-knowledge of the one who is judged. As has been proven, the best judgments are posed in the worst way, the worst ones in the best way. (The seedless fruits are the sweetest. oh the dear idle physogs!) As has been proven: the quite terrific variety of judgments about (ha !) – bad people. (The ones about good people are always right.) Sub-proof : judgments only interest the lads, when they hear them; but the toffs already care even before anything’s been – (down boy !) given in … Every piece of advice is a downright lethal affair ; but just in passing: administering bad judgments about yourself is nonetheless the most honest way of avoiding good judgments that are also false. Tant de bruit pour une – occasion perdue ? … But sometimes nothing helps: neither grinning for nor grinning against. They trust you anyway. Oh, where is the audience for really heavy fellows? I have become so narrow and sprattish…

2 The ultimate disappointment ? When the illusion that one is free of illusion reveals itself as such. (The most oppressive manoeuver of vanity : making oneself out to be more stupid and bad than one would like to be in order to indulge the vanity of not being vain. Fails miserably.) … The height of naivete ? When someone wants all at once to find out the (ogodogodo) – truth. (A clout on the ear is after all only a desperate approximation. Also, false tears often seem more genuine than – false ones.) … Two joke questions ? Not at all. Two bracelets.

9 In the final track … one becomes malicious out of boredom. Then it becomes boring to be malicious. And finally one begins collecting little pictures made of chocolate. Idealism still is criminal realism. A braggart who has remained gentle is a little less gruesome (as he is an Idealist) than an Imagist gone wild (as he is a Realist). Whoever invented the ampulla ‘soul’! Perhaps the somewhat disappointing sight of the naked man … But this disappointment: one should take oneself by the ear, build up one’s courage and admit to oneself, that one has, as opportunities no longer earn, what others used to get off danger – a secret admiration for one’s own legs … Yes, one goes so far as ALMOST to feign one’s tabula rasta to the totality, in order to deliver one’s most devastating blow with the apparently unapparent remains of the ‘almost’. A blow which admittedly strikes one’s own flesh : … last little pleasure … last little rage…

11 There are days when everyone makes a stupid face. And nights when the most stupid still looks too significant. And there are weeks and months and years and … The most blown-through vocabulary, the slackest pauses, the tongue stuck out, the long nose, etc. are therefore communicative gestures that afford great relief ; the more so, the more every situation is actually intolerable in every respect. One should let these dear gestures become tenderly tinged with madness (THIS the high idiom !), and one will be amazed how excellently everything turns out … And as one can, by merely passionately (so to speak) talking away, demolish ALL relations between people (they are ALWAYS constructions !), it offers moreover a healthy palliative. Speaking of which: one lives together, as is known (as long as one doesn’t) … always in a mostly self-spun and often very finely spun net (conjugal paranoia : Juan Suvarin and his Marva) ; only in a yet far more finely (as long as one doesn’t) … One should begin at long last to speak out against oneself ! One should begin !! One !! (For a long time now I have, in quiet hours, been spitting on myh own head … Oh, I don’t give a damn about … Yes, about what? …)

12 The swig about the axis: not giving a damn about anything.

Der Zeltweg (Zurich), Novembre 1919
translated by Caitriona Ni Dhubhgaill