Goebbels on memory (not that one)

The perspective of the Sampler Suite is the vertical section of the city: we are offered a look underground, at the sewers, the inner workings of the city, at urban history, at what lies buried beneath the surface, at ruins that reveal glimpses of history – like the Scarlatti quotation in the Allemande or a chorale evocative of the Baroque in the Gigue. As digital memory, the sampler is an ideal vehicle for human memory. It brings us the sounds of cities such as Berlin, New York, Tokyo or St. Petersburg: industrial noise (or what might be taken for it – the sounds produced when music is electronically transformed), subcultural “noise” and the sounds of history – like the scratchy recordings from the 1920s and ’30s in the Chaconne, which preserve the memory of the Jewish cantorial tradition, a vocal culture that has long ceased to be accessible in this form.

– liner notes, Heiner Goebbels‘ “Surrogate Cities” (ECM New Series 1688, 2000)

5 responses to “Goebbels on memory (not that one)”

  1. Enrique Ramirez says :

    Consider this description of Gert Ledig’s Payback (195x), a novel about aerial bombardment that is known for it’s “vertical” narrative:

    The subject of the novel is the bombing of an unnamed German city in July 1944. Instead of telling a single story from beginning to end, however, the book is composed of vignettes. The reader is offered glimpses into a whole series of lives, a whole series of experiences of bombardment. It is as if one were looking at a collection of very vivid segments of film, retrieved from a cutting-room floor. Each belongs with the others, but the exact order is unclear, and there is little continuity from one to the next. The novel ostensibly takes place over sixty-nine minutes, but in fact, time seems to slow down and speed up at will. One moment, we are underground, with the families huddled in a cellar. The next, we are up in a bomber with an attacking crew of Americans. Then, Ledig leaves us hanging somewhere in between, watching a group of young boys on a high-rise bunker, literally strapped to the Flak guns they are aiming at the enemy above. The novel creates, in effect, a vertical cross-section of the city at a particular point in time. As it skips randomly from one stratum to the next, the only constants are chaos and destruction.

  2. AG says :

    Wow. Whose description is that…and is the book available in English?

  3. Enrique Ramirez says :

    I forgot to cite (my bad). It is a review from H-Net/H-German (an academic listserve). The book is available in English. It is a really interesting book, a terrifying read. I don’t think it did not get any real attention until W.G. Sebald’s Luftkrieg und Literatur (translated in Engilsh as On The Natural History of Destruction) and Hans Erich Nossack’s Der Untergang were published in the United States only a couple of years ago. The link to the review is here:


    Payback, in my opinion, is not as good as Ledig’s earlier novel, The Stalin Organ, which is about the Eastern Front.

  4. Dan Hill says :

    That Heiner Goebbels piece is fantastic. Haven’t heard it for years, so ta for the reminder. Made me google out a reference I made to it on an old zorn-list post I did in 2001. That was a fun project:

  5. Rod McLaren says :

    If I might briefly fire along a different trajectory, Sven Lindqvist’s A History of Bombing 1999 is also in this area: content like Sebald’s Natural History, format that sounds like Ledig’s Payback.

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