The first part of this book is a kind of essay on a "fictional history of
ideas": That an initial, prehistoric life of mind, or spirituality,
which had been esoteric and outside the scope of linguistic
expression, was since then corrupted twice: First by transferring the
main role of intellectuality to language and scripture, then by
degrading intellect to an instrumental role in struggle for power and
money. In this essay portion, mathematician Grigori Perelman is described as representing a mind connecting with
the initial way of thought, alien to the contemporary world. His work
and its context have obviously been well looked at by Berkéwicz, one
has the impression that she interviewed some very good mathematicians.
Surely she had the opportunities, as she is the head of a leading
publisher in Germany which has a core position in the intellectual
history of post-war Germany.
That makes her final remarks in that essay-like part very interesting:
She states matter of factly that the well known antisemitism issues in
russian mathematics (e.g. "Jewish Problems", the experiences described
in Edward Frenkel's book) had been cold bloodedly designed and
performed on the unhappy teenagers for creating a work suitably smart
and manipulated intellectual work force for military and secret
services in USSR. So far, everyone denied that idea, even after the
massive disruptions of emerging discussions in Russia of "jewish
problem" themes by internet trolls had made people here wonder. (Are
some in Russia's military-industrial complex getting nerveous on the
idea that some of their researchers may find out to have been terribly
manipulated all the time?)
The second part of the book is a fictional story: Perelman visits the
Austrian poet Friederike Mayröcker in a café in Vienna, at carnival.
Out of the photos on the wall step Ann Cotten, Maria Callas,
Nijinsky, Ingeborg Bachmann, Marilyn Monroe, and the Tzar. The text is
completely opaque to me, I guess it plays with allusions to
celebrity guests in Viennese Cafés. That Perelman's
comments there are uninteresting may result from a lack of public
available texts or remarks by him. Whether Berkéwicz' foundational concept in this
part of her book (that Mayröcker's and Perelman's mindsets intersect
in an interesting way and that it would be good to let them combine to
something even more interesting, works) is entirely unclear to me, too.
To have been stimulated to look after Mayröcker's writings (actually,
I knew the name, never looked up what she wrote) was for me the most
interesting point of the whole book.
Although I have not read this book, Thomas Riepe's review makes it clear that it should be included in this database due to the major role played by mathematician Grigori Perelman. However, I am also finding it very difficult to classify it. Thomas says that he thinks it might have been intended to have been read aloud, with the first portion being a monologue and the story part performed by actors and so I have labeled it as a "play". But, it does not seem to fit neatly into any of the usual genres that I have chosen for my classification scheme. It seems to be a philosophical treatise on the nature of the intellect, and so I've opted for "didactic". Moreover, because celebrities pop out of their photos on the wall I've also gone with "fantasy".
This unusual book was published by Suhrkamp Verlag AG in May 2018.