Legal Law

Death is death: Franz Schuh’s new book “Lachen und Dieben”

“Laugh and Die” is the name of the new book by Franz Schuh. The title has “nothing to do with the coronavirus”, the author asserts, “and it is even true that the virus does not fit my concept at all”. It is also true that Schuh, who celebrated his 74th birthday a few days ago, almost never saw it. When he was admitted to the hospital last year (not with Covid-19), the doctor on duty gave him little chance of survival, according to Schuh.

“He told the friend that my death was likely and he added: ‘He was always interested in death.’ Yes, that’s true, and death was also interested in me, “writes Schuh in the opening essay of his book, the content of which is dealing with fate. One could try to accept it and love it, or seize the chance “to laugh at the same fate and go down with a correspondingly dramatic laugh”. Schuh did not go under. Of course, his book laughs more in theory than in practice.

“Death in the house / leaves nothing out. / On stairs two / it breaks my heart in two.” This is how his poem “Death in the House” begins, the rejection of which by a literature editor Schuh reports because it alludes to the corona virus “suddenly, without the artistically required indirectness”. “The virus didn’t even exist when I wrote the poem,” and actually it’s at least as much about the death that a house has suffered, namely the house next door that was suddenly demolished.

In the texts, some of which have already been printed elsewhere, Franz Schuh deals with Heinz Conrads and Harald Schmidt, Helmut Qualtinger and Georg Kreisler, Karl Kraus and Elias Canetti, Georg Ringsgwandl and Lukas Resetarits, among others. “I wanted to form a clear term for myself about laughter – a task that cannot be completed,” writes Schuh. On the other hand, “Laugh and Die” is a “homage to the year 2020. I will stop where I started in 2020.”

The band closes with a veritable drama. “Angel of Death. A Reading Theater” takes place in a hospital and gathers patients, doctors and nursing staff in a kind of clinical limbo, the absurd form of which one inevitably thinks of Wolfgang Bauer’s “mini dramas” when, for example, “the sextet of the Vienna Health Association” “four performers of the Burgtheaters “, two judokas,” a huge chicken with dark brown plumage “and in the finale also the” head of the institute for lie advice “have their appearances.

“A poem, a poem” is urgently required in this finale, before chaos breaks out and the curtain falls. Franz Schuh does indeed present a lot of poems in “Lachen und Dieben”, and that is perhaps the greatest surprise. Some are in Viennese dialect and deal with first love, suicide or drowning in the Old Danube, others successfully try a wide variety of forms from blues to chansons. Sometimes people are allowed to laugh, and not infrequently they die. For example the father, who only believed in cardiac death and yet died of pneumonia. “Death is death, / I say today, you can’t be / picky about that.”

(SERVICE – Franz Schuh: “Lachen und Dieben”, Zsolnay Verlag, 336 pages, 26.80 euros)

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