Tuesday, June 09, 2009

happy doppelganger 2

In brief, the story of Little Zaches, aka Zinnobar (Klein Zaches, sogenannte Zinnobar) concerns the fate of a dwarf (knirps), who is found one day lying on the ground next to his exhausted mother by an abbess, Rosengrünschön, who has magical powers. Her magical powers have led to her persecution – she is a fairy – and hence to her taking refuge in a vaguely described religious “house”. Zaches is described as a mute, misbegotten child, a changeling. In fact, when we first come upon him, lying in the sack of sticks that his mother has collected from the forest, the author notes that he could be mistaken for a log. Physically and mentally subpar, Zaches, in this story, rises to be the minister of the country, under the name Zinnobar. It is, then, a political fairy tale – but it is also a bit of twisted universal history.

It is under the guise of universal history that logs, sticks and trees play their part. Freud, as we have pointed out, claimed that the psychic process of projection was the source of animism. Hoffmann’s story inverses that insight: projection is, it turns out, the central force in the politics of Enlightenment. In this way, Hoffmann carries through on the kind of project that Angela Carter took up: to understand the kind of politics that takes hold in a war of projections and counterprojections in the midst of a fairy tale landscape.

The key to the little dwarf’s power is his golden hairs. Combed a certain way by Rosengrünschön, he becomes a magnet of projection – any noble, beautiful or elegant act performed by someone in his physical proximity is attributed to him. This is, in a sense, animism squared, or “potentiated”, as Schelling might put it.

Rosengrünschön herself holds “loud conversations with wonderful voices that seem to come out of the trees, out of the bushes, out of the springs and streams.” Hoffmann gives the small duchy in which the story is set a history that satirically encodes the history of Europe: Rosengrünschön and others of her type – fairies – were protected in the land by Count Demetrius. The little principality is very much a paradise: “Surrounded by a high chain of mountains, the little country with its green, smoky forests, with its blooming pastures, with its foaming steams and pleasantly bubbling springs, at the same time that it contained no cities, but only friendly villages and here and there a single castles, was like a wonderfully glorious garden, in which the inhabitants wandered at their pleasure, free from any of the pressing burdens of life.”

When Demetrius dies, the principality undergoes a sort of revolution, instituted by his son and successor, Paphnutius. Paphnutius sees the wandering free inhabitants as, in fact, horribly neglected. Hoffmann remarks that the people scarcely knew they were governed under Demetrius. This, in Paphnutius’s view, is pure misgovernment. And the symbol of that misgovernment is the failure to use the resources of the land. Thus, Paphnutius first thought is to make up big posters and placard the village streets with the announcement that, from now on, the Enlightenment would be breaking out in his lands. But Andres, an advisor, warns him that this would not do – rather, the stage had to be set by banning the fairies. After that, Enlightenment would find no resistance. And what is Enlightenment? Andres’ answer is much more down to earth than Kant’s: “chopping down the woods, making the stream navigable, cultivating potatoes, improving the village schools, planting acacias and poplars, making the youth recite their doubletoned morning and evening song, laying down sidewalks, and inoculating the cowpox.”

A catalog that could be taken from the history of Prussia under Frederick the Great and Austria under Joseph II.

Andres program was initiated. The fairies fled, or became vagabonds. Only Demetrius’ favorite, Rosengrünschön, was allowed to stay, in an abbey. Given this history, the irresistible rise of Zaches could be seen as a revenge; the return of the repressed.

1 comment:

P.M.Lawrence said...

If I recall correctly, Zweig can be translated as either twig or dwarf.

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