What cures postmodern cynicism

Dramaturgy of a postmodern realism

On the resurrection of Peter Hack's "Money God"

From Jens Liebich

Discussed books / references

Postmodernism and realism are sometimes mentioned in the same breath, but usually as contradicting and even mutually exclusive ideological currents. Certainly there are clear differences between realist and postmodern literature in terms of content and formal representations, but at the same time postmodern and poststructuralist theories, ideas and catchphrases influence contemporary literature today - and that which claims to be "reality" map.

Peter Hacks, who died in 2003, would not have enjoyed being mentioned in connection with the idea of ​​postmodern realism, but he seems to be an instructive example of such a thing in many ways. The fact that Hacks is well suited as an (unwanted) representative of postmodern realism is briefly illustrated here using the example of his play The god of money and to be sketched against the background of his reflections on the theater.

Hacks has been dealing with realism since the 1950s. Reflections take place not only in his plays, but also on a purely theoretical level, for example in his article written in 1957 The realistic play and the three academy discussions On the conception of socialist realism 1934, On Georg Lukács' theory of realism and About socialist realism today from 1978. In addition to his interest in realism, he is concerned with questions of dramaturgical staging, which he addresses in his doctoral thesis Biedermeier play pursues. The pivotal point of Hacks' theater is the question of what dramaturgical and aesthetic means can be used to represent reality for the audience in an entertaining way on stage. The audience plays an essential role in hacks - in the truest sense of the word, like The god of money shows - because the theater is seen by hacks as a medium for exerting effects.

But the effect is also Hack's Achilles heel. He is, quite rightly, one of the most important playwrights in the GDR and the “socialist classic” he founded influenced numerous artists - not just east of the Elbe. However, after Biermann's expatriation in 1976, which Hacks clearly endorsed and defended, his influence waned. The beginning of the West German boycott of his plays continues well beyond the 1990s and is unspokenly refreshed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as Hacks continues to publicly stand by his socialist convictions and a socialist, one might interpret it, was already at the beginning of the 90s Years nobody wanted to admit a criticism of capitalism. This may also be one of the reasons why TheMoney god was only premiered two years after its completion - the residents of the beautiful Hanseatic city may forgive it - in the provinces at the Greifswald City Theater, because the stages of the reunified Berlin were no longer interested in the author. The fact that the piece was tailor-made for his time contributed to his oblivion. With the edition now published by Aurora Verlag and edited by Jürgen Pelzer and with revealing commentary, the first important step for a resurrection of the Money god has been done.

The play is based on the comedy Plutos by the Greek poet Aristophanes, admired by Hacks. In Greek mythology, Plutus is the personification of wealth and mineral resources. Based on this, Hacks chooses ancient Greece as the setting for his three-act comedy. In terms of content, he clearly refers to his role model and takes up the idea that was widespread in Aristophane's time that Pluto was blind and did not even know how indiscriminately he distributed his gifts. The parallels to the “redistribution of gifts” in the post-reunification period with the switch from planned to free market economy, in which profit-oriented action takes no account of grown social structures and needs and many East Germans experience the new era as a “revaluation of values” appear Obviously despite the Greek costumes. And if you think of the causes of the financial crisis in 2007 and its consequences for Greece with today's experience, the scene chosen by Hacks seems surprisingly up-to-date, even in its setting.

However, the commonalities that emerge between the pieces are limited to the main motifs, the most obvious being the motif of blind Pluto. He meets the poor potter Chremylos, who sees himself not sufficiently paid for his hard work and therefore visits the oracle of Delphi. This advises him to hold onto the first person he meets after leaving the temple, as this person would shower him with wealth. Chremylos meets the blind Puto and hopes for the promised wealth from him - because if he can see again, according to Chremylos' calculation, he must recognize the unjust distribution of wealth and redistribute it fairly. But the poor potter is wrong about this and has to learn that in a world where appearances are above being and credit above wealth, hard work, honesty and privation are worthless. In the end he loses all his belongings and has to sell his slave and lover Fifine and prostitute himself.

Also noteworthy are the deviations from the original, which Jürgen Pelzer concisely points out in his commentary, because it is precisely these that show the postmodernism in Hacks' theater: The author and dramaturge has replaced the Greek choir, which was common in antiquity and also with Aristophanes, with a Mr. Kohr who has several functions at the same time. On the one hand, he is the only real visitor to the play that has just been staged The god of money, which thus breaks the illusion in the sense of a “theater within the theater” and at the same time is used for satirical criticism of the increasingly commercial theater. The opportunistic Mr. Kohr sits alone in the big theater, but waves to the actors on the stage with the 400 tickets sold when they want to stop the performance due to the lack of a visible audience. Mr. Kohr is a member of the works council of an industrial group and the event turns out to be a sponsored one - the fact that the other 399 places are not occupied is due to the football game taking place at the same time.

The figure of the god of money is also updated after the initial parallels to the original in the context of capitalism. She claims that Zeus punished him out of envy with blindness because he made too many people rich, but the slave Fifine, who is the most intelligent but at the same time the weakest figure in the play due to her social position, sees through the god of money, who is the Distributed wealth "to a few favored ones and loved ones", but not to "those who are empowered and worthy". It fits that the money god no longer wants to recognize poor Chremylos after his healing (because after all he was blind and could not see him) and speaks and acts like a cynical-authoritarian manager. Unadorned, he expresses his preference for rich "parasites", which Hacks have the descriptive names "Lüsterblick" and "Beutelrock". The distribution of wealth has not become fairer with the healing of the money god; on the contrary, capitalism in its ruthless brutality and moral depravity appears more unleashed than ever.

Hacks is also introducing the goddess of luck Fortuna, who, contrary to Greek mythology, is presented as the mother of Pluto and his sister Paupertas, poverty. Significantly, Paupertas, like her counterpart Penia in Aristophanes, stands for the close connection between work and performance as the purpose of life. The figure of Fortuna or her cornucopia is particularly important for the final scene, which attracts Fifine's attention due to the rich decorations that show images of idyllic nature with working, dancing and loving people. These idyllic, divine scenes, however, are broken banally and grotesquely when Fifine climbs into the horn and finds beer cans, chocolates, condoms and all sorts of civilization rubbish, which she ignorantly considers to be things "that are beyond imagination". Stuck in the Glückshorn and thus unable to go back or forth, Chremylos also seems to have blocked the way to happiness - unless "through it". With this sexually interpreted announcement, the curtain falls on the last act.

Despite all the catastrophes of this piece and the grotesque ending, the never-given-up search for happiness of the person remains as a red thread, who, however, is easily blinded by supposed happiness and led astray in his search. However, the search for happiness not only harbors the risk of plunging into misery from false ideas and promises of happiness, but also shows the driving force that arises from the desire for a better life - however this is defined. Just a look at the evening news shows us the topicality of this far too little noticed piece. The Money god belongs on the stage again, the time is ripe.