Alexander Kluge Criticism - Essay

Joseph Bauke (review date 8 October 1966)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Bauke, Joseph. “Inferno Revisited.” Saturday Review 49, no. 41 (8 October 1966): 106-07.

[In the following review, Bauke describes reading Attendance List for a Funeral as a sobering and enlightening experience.]

In the last five or six years German literature has made the comeback for which readers in and outside Germany had been waiting since the fall of the Third Reich. Günter Grass and Jakov Lind, above all, have revived a language that seemed all but dead and unfit for any artistic purposes, after the uses to which it was put under Hitler. In their work these authors descend into the hell of the past and reflect their vision of it in a profusion of surrealistic images that has compelled the attention of audiences in many countries. In his collection of short stories, Attendance List for a Funeral, Alexander Kluge demonstrates that there are other ways of exorcising the evil spirits of an era.

Kluge, born in 1932, was too young to experience the Nazi years consciously; but, like many of his generation, he is profoundly concerned with the sins committed by the fathers. A lawyer by profession, he writes with a precision and a detachment rather rare in the German tradition. In these stories about the paths of people under Nazism there are no verbal cascades, no intellectual fireworks, no expressionist flights into the absolute. Instead, we have a prose as reasoned and as dispassionate as a lawyer's brief. In one of the stories, a superb piece about the career of an academic, Kluge resorts to lengthy footnotes to underscore his quest for the factual.

Sometimes the tendency to documentation is mannered and...

(The entire section is 708 words.)

Stanley Kauffmann (review date 10 December 1966)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Kauffmann, Stanley. “Almost-English.” The New Republic 155, no. 24 (10 December 1966): 26, 38.

[In the following review, Kauffmann faults the translation of Attendance List for a Funeral.]

The subject of translation is worth continual discussion, and I am especially qualified to discuss it because I cannot read any foreign language.

I had just written the above when the November 18 New Statesman arrived with an article on translation by the always stimulating Hans Keller. Says Keller: “So far as my views on translation are concerned, I only accept criticism from bilingual people: nobody else...

(The entire section is 1294 words.)

J. P. Bauke (review date 30 September 1967)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Bauke, J. P. “Defeat on the Volga.” Saturday Review 50 (30 September 1967): 43-57.

[In the following review of The Battle, Bauke maintains that Kluge's documentary style of fiction functions to demystify the Battle of Stalingrad and lay “bare the absurdity of that and every other battle.”]

No battle in modern times has agitated the Germans more than the one they lost at Stalingrad in 1943. The annihilation of the Sixth Army jolted the German masses into the realization that the tables were about to be turned, and for the first time during the war even fanatic Nazis had their optimism put to the test. Goebbels's ministry of propaganda, while...

(The entire section is 965 words.)

Times Literary Supplement (review date 12 September 1968)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: “Legal Fiction.” Times Literary Supplement (12 September 1968): 977.

[In the following review, the critic provides a negative assessment of The Battle.]

This is a reedited version of a book that created a great stir in 1964 when it was published by Walter in Olten. Since the new version has been prepared for paperback publication by the author himself, it is worth reviewing it in perspective.

Alexander Kluge, whose great-uncle Kurt (1886-1940) wrote some charming pieces of entertainment fiction (Der Herr Kortüm, Die Zaubergeige), turned away from entertainment with a vengeance when he decided to study law. Born in 1932, he...

(The entire section is 887 words.)

Peter Labanyi (review date 9 July 1976)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Labanyi, Peter. “Programmed for Disaster.” Times Literary Supplement (9 July 1976): 854-55.

[In the following review, Labanyi considers the defining characteristics of Kluge's short fiction.]

A wholly quixotic bid for Lebensraum by white Africa has failed, unleashing a major crisis. The world waits, trying to piece together fragmentary reports and scattered communiques—while there is still time. Confusion and despair prevail. Meanwhile, the sociologist H., “a sensitive seismograph,” is in a basement room in the hotel where he is attending a conference, hastily trying to compose his thoughts “in case there will be time for the publication of a...

(The entire section is 3848 words.)

Rainer Stollman (essay date 1983)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Stollman, Rainer. “Reading Kluge's Mass Death in Venice.” New German Critique, no. 30 (fall 1983): 65-95.

[In the following parodic essay, Stollman uses the fictional character of Professor Noodlekopf to provide an interpretation of Mass Death in Venice.]


Having just read the story Mass Death in Venice by Alexander Kluge, Noodlekopf, Professor of German in the university town of B, wrinkled his brow in astonishment. Since he knew that his present condition might presage some new insight, he did not give up on the dry report of horror which, although its literary allusion was certainly...

(The entire section is 13761 words.)

Hans-Bernhard Moeller (essay date 1988)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Introduction to Case Histories, by Alexander Kluge, translated by Leila Vennewitz, pp. ix-xix. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1988.

[In the following essay, Moeller offers a thematic and stylistic analysis of the stories comprising Case Histories, which has also been published under the title Attendance List for a Funeral.]

Radically experimental, Alexander Kluge's writings, films, and other creative activities have contributed greatly to the development of contemporary Central European intellectual life. Although recognition of his achievements has been slow in coming, he is now recognized as one of the leading lights of the German cultural scene....

(The entire section is 3234 words.)

Miriam Hansen (essay date 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hansen, Miriam. “Introduction.” New German Critique, no. 49 (winter 1990): 3-10.

[In the following essay, Hansen discusses Kluge's treatment of sexuality and sexual politics in his short fiction and novels.]

In the United States, the critical debate on Alexander Kluge's work has only just begun, thanks to a comprehensive retrospective of his films organized by Stuart Liebman and sponsored by the Goethe Institute and Anthology Film Archives. A retrospective, Kluge might say, is a bit like an inventory of boxes left behind in the basement after one has moved to another city—the boxes still contain some useful things, though one's current life is elsewhere....

(The entire section is 3079 words.)

Christopher Pavsek (essay date 1996)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Pavsek, Christopher. Introduction to Learning Processes with a Deadly Outcome, by Alexander Kluge, pp. vii-x. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

[In the following essay, Pavsek elucidates the challenges of translating Kluge's short fiction.]

Alexander Kluge's novella Lernprozesse mit tödlichem Ausgang was originally published by Suhrkamp in 1973 as part of a larger collection of stories by the same title, the remainder of which Duke University Press hopes to publish at a future date. The translation of this fascinating story comes at a moment of increasing interest in Kluge's extremely diverse body of work, as marked by the dedication of two...

(The entire section is 3112 words.)