The pitiful attempt of a diary about my collaboration with Michel Houellebecq
Tuesday, 13 June 2006, Saas-Fee
In the morning, when Michel Houellebecq called me, I was on my way to the breakfast buffet. I was in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, actually a noble ski resort for the well-heeled, but also the campus for the European Graduate School. Slavoi Zizek, who actually likes to teach there, claimed in an interview that business people with money make a quick degree there, their Doctor of Philosophy or Masters of Arts. Well, I found exactly one business person there, the rest consisted of artists and philosophers, who were able to raise the tuition fees with effort and misery.
The concept of the school is in principle an interdisciplinary meeting place between philosophers and artists – a kind of congress – with the aim of questioning the reasons and aspirations of life and artistic creation and, at best, radicalizing thinking as a result. The pleasant byproduct of this annual three-week marathon is that you also get a university degree.
This year, Houellebecq was announced as one of the invited artists, which was one of the main reasons why I decided to study. After I bought his last novel “The Possibility of an Island” exactly one day after it was published, one can confidently assume that I am a fan. The prospect of getting to know the people behind the books was tempting, but also scary. All of us, including Professor and host Martin Hielscher, were nervous about how he would behave. We had already read far too many journalist reports about him and were therefore prepared to take a smoking break every five minutes (smoking ban on campus), to talk alone if necessary because he fell asleep and doesn’t really want to answer any questions anyway or to endure a penetrating red wine breath.
None of that. He started the day well rested and was ready to answer any questions we asked him. He was a total of one or two gears slower than us, but we could adjust well to his rhythm. I remember statements like “Sexual questions are not moral, the logic of desire is stronger than morality” or “My books are considered so provocative because I use sociological perspectives in moments where tradition prescribes psychological ones”.
In short, I had a great day with him, which extended to the communal meals, but passed far too quickly.
During the seminar, I learned that Houellebecq would film his novel “The Possibility of an Island” himself, but only for a brief moment I gave myself up to the hope of composing the music for it. He seemed too satisfied with the musical network that he had already built up around himself through his musical readings. I had rather the hope to be able to take over any assistance. I would also have been a cable carrier, just to spend a little more time with him and get more insight into his thinking and working. Nevertheless I gave him one of my CDs.
Two days later I wrote him a long thank-you mail in which I offered him my services in addition to an enthusiastic description of my impressions of the day with him. I also talked about music, but I noticed in advance that he made a quite satisfied impression with his friends. What I really believed.
I was all the more surprised when he called me a week later on my mobile phone. As I said, it was in the morning before the first coffee and after he said that he wanted to propose me for the music, my already barely existing sovereignty had finally vanished. This seemed to amuse him, but I became more and more embarrassed. I realized that I should please visit him soon in Paris (we agreed on the following week), before the end of the conversation saved me.
The last three days of the EGS marathon unfortunately couldn’t reach my thinking anymore.
* * *
Wednesday, 14 June 2006, Saas-Fee
No, I’m not. Sandy Stone is a brilliant storyteller, especially on her own behalf. As we all stick lips to her, she tells us that we have to be careful, we are too close to her. We are in her reality distortion zone. Everything she says is true. Somehow. Something like that.
I feel understood.
* * *
Monday, June 19, 2006, Munich
I have already been back home for a few days, in the Funkkaserne on Domagkstraße, where I moved in shortly before, so as not to let my artistic work be eaten up by high running costs. It is like a culture shock to return from three weeks of Swiss full board to the lap of a bunch of bums. By the way, they call themselves that. At least the self-ironic ones.
In any case, it does not promote the surreality of these last events. I don’t really feel the call of Michael. It’s all far away.
All the more the large envelope from which I draw the script hits me hard. So it’s true after all.
* * *
Tuesday, 15 June 2006, Saas-Fee
I’m on a plane to Paris. I’m allowed to pay for this trip myself, I’m “not yet in production”. Well, I guess I won’t be after that either, but at least I can meet Michel again. And my mountain of debt is so high anyway, the few hundred euros don’t matter any more.
* * *
Friday, July 7, 2006, Munich, Germany
My family, which was actually burst into elementary particles, sat together in my father’s garden when the sun fell down the horizon at breakneck speed. She pulled a tail behind her. Shortly afterwards there was a glistening silent flash of light, followed by comparatively small after-flashes which, despite their intensity, were slowly swallowed by a mighty growing grey cloud. From this cloud larger particles hissed into the sky again and again, painting long traces of smoke into the sky. Just like in the Challenger disaster.
We tried to get some information out of the big screens that were all over the place because of the World Cup, but it was just the usual fabric softener entertainment. At this moment it was a marriage drama. Even before the slowly rolling cloud of dust – which looked curiously like it was studded with pimples of a massage toy – could swallow us and the marriage drama, I woke up. Probably that was the third and last step in the extermination of mankind.
Check out the result of the colaboration here >>>