Book Club: Politics and Literature: Novels for the New Century - „Manaraga. Tagebuch eines Meisterkochs“

Caponeu event

10.06.2024 - 10.06.2024

We opened the discussion by addressing Sorokin’s stereotypical, even caricaturing use of identities (women, Romanians, Jews, Russians etc.). We talked about whether this representation has a claim to reality and presents these identities as more or less unproblematic - or whether it casts them in a critical light. We concluded that the key to Sorokin’s writing is the grotesque, the exaggeration and ultimately the provocation (in this context, the term "overidentification" comes to mind, which is sometimes used to describe the provocative aesthetics of the Slovenian avant-garde band Laibach).

The highlights of the conversation were parts about the invisibility of political structures in the novel: a political order of the new post-war period already exists, but it is not brought to the fore; the economic system underlying the narrative: secret machinations, criminal business, the value of the mysterious and inaccessible; finally, the economic turnaround heralded by the character Henri (from gastronomy for the chosen few to profit-oriented mass consumption and the apparent 'democratisation' of gastronomic offerings).

The aspect of book burning itself - in the context of the Nazi era - was not considered essential to the reading of the book. We mentioned that Sorokin's books were burned by a youth organization loyal to Putin’s regime. (In the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is worth noting that Sorokin, an outspoken critic of the regime, has been living in Berlin-Charlottenburg since 2022.) The more important point seems to be that in the rituals of ‘book’n’grill’ (the name of the exceptional ‘gastronomic’ offer to prepare meals on burning books) books are burned without their content being discussed. The fetish lies in the title, the edition and, above all, the contact with the book - not in the knowledge of its content or meaning. In this context, the participants mentioned the system of social differences (Bourdieu): it is not the 'true knowledge' that is important, but the contact with it.

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Book Club: Politics and Literature: Novels for the New Century