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  • Undoing—Creation—Anew:On Else Lasker-Schüler's Der Siebente Tag and the Neue Gemeinschaft
  • Kristina Mendicino (bio)

Before the avant-garde movements with which Else Lasker-Schüler would be associated during and after her collaboration with Herwarth Walden on Der Sturm, she participated in the Neue Gemeinschaft, a collective that should have been, as its members repeatedly proclaimed, at the vanguard of a new life, and at a nigh-immeasurable distance from the political and physical spaces of contemporary Wilhelmine Germany.1 Gustav Landauer begins his speech "Durch Absonderung [End Page 658] zur Gemeinschaft": "Ungeheuerlich und fast unaussprechbar groß ist der Abstand geworden, der uns, die wir uns selbst als die Vorhut fühlen, von der übrigen Menschheit trennt" (8). Martin Buber seconds this sentiment before the group approximately one year later, stating that "[die Neue Gemeinschaft] neue Formen des Zusammenlebens der Menschheit vorleben will." It is therefore, he continues, "eine postsociale zu nennen; denn sie geht über die Gesellschaft und ihre Normen hinaus, sie stellt sich auf einen ganz anderen Boden" (2.1: 65). From the announcement of a "Vorhut" that is separate from the humanity it should advance to the declaration of a will to live in advance of a society that has been utterly left behind, these writers not only emphasize that the avant-garde commune—where artistic production and communal life were to intersect and eventually lead to a thoroughgoing renewal of God's creation2—cannot yet be but can always only announce itself in utterances that at once proclaim and defer it.3 Their remarks also testify to a more specific disorientation [End Page 659] that arises with (or follows from) their premises, including, foremost, an emphatic sundering of creative activity from any economy of means and ends.4

To this end (of ends), Buber calls for an unrestrained dispensation of force—"[w]ir aber wollen lieber noch wie ein wilder wunderschöner Felsbach zu Thale stürzen und unsre Kraft verschwenden, als uns mittreiben lassen und unsere Kraft verbrauchen" (62)—before asserting that the preferred catastrophe is no last will, but an act that might release and realize creative potential or, at the very least, be conceived by virtue of creation: "Und wir haben erkannt, daß alles Starke und Umgestaltende, und alles, was bisher neue Saaten weckte [End Page 660] und Sonnenfeuer aus dem Steine schlug, nicht nützen sondern schaffen wollte" (62). With this rhetoric, Buber echoes the death sentence from Landauer's earlier speech—"Wie ein Selbstmörder sich ins Wasser stürzt, so stürze ich mich senkrecht in die Welt hinab, aber ich finde in ihr nicht den Tod, sondern das Leben. Das Ich tötet sich, damit Weltich leben kann" (11)—and diverges from his precursor's conversion of a suicidal plunge into resurrection.5 Instead, the cascade that should illustrate the preferable alternative to going with the flow, both of which are drawn from Nietzsche, may just as well nourish as destroy the valley it inundates, and it certainly liquidates any further claim on our part to the force that we would thus expend. Thus uncertain of its effects—and dispersed along with the dispensation—the avant-garde collective whom Buber speaks for and to could never be one, precisely in taking the very plunge he calls for. The movement he declares will have no direction or purpose but diversion from precisely these things, as well as from any ideology of progress that, say, talk of a "Vorhut" might advance. And the dispensation that Buber calls for provides no guarantee that anything will be found or achieved through it but the dispensation itself. Conversely, since the will "not to be of use but rather to create" cannot intend to create anything in particular—for that would mean a purpose and make creation useful—the sole object of creation would have to be an utterly indeterminate, aimless novum—lest creation arrive at an end that it will have ultimately served from the beginning. This [End Page 661] implication of his thought and rhetoric is what renders the new that emerges in Buber's address to the Neue Gemeinschaft ineffable and unthinkable, and what would...


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