Christopfer

In this sense i have been in love with every collaborator I worked with, deeply in love

Thomas, the French film maker & German novelist was the translator of my poems but we became more than that, much more than that. Without him & people like Chris Marker, Jean Pierre Faye & Marcelle Fontfroide, I would not be living in France today. They made it possible – my epic poem, ‘bateau bleu’ which was dedicated to those who kept my spirit alive in Australia, Nicolas Lathouris & Margaret Cameron, became, in France, my laissez passer

We worked on almost everything in those last 23 years either in the flesh or through daily phone calls from the bed in the clinic

To my mind, Thomas was an exceptional film maker who changed the ways films were made & he was perhaps the greatest German novelist of the post war era, with W. G. Sebald. It is not odd that people who knew them both well like Hans Magnus Enzensberger were quick to identify that, the difference was that like Paul Celan he took high German & turned it inside out he beat the living fuck out of it

Thomas was history, in person. Thomas was revolutionary communist, admittedly not within the orthodoxies, like Maiakovski, he went further, much further. He possessed so much history that he felt quite comfortable to be in combat with it. In the same way that Australia can never be whole until it accepts aboriginal sovereignty, it is impossible for Germany top pass over what he wrote because he wrote of the fathers of murderers, of murderers themselves, the murderer’s children, & the children of those children. As much as any nation can become it, Germany was a nation of murderers. Everyone knew. Everybody knew that just as today in North America, they are murderers, who in fact reproduced the Germany Thomas fought against his whole life, as Jan Harlan, his cousin & producer of Stanley Kubrick says, ‘at the cost of his life, physically’ while retaining our specific trajectories we were on the same path & we would sit on the rocks & examine & interrogate what we were doing, over & over & over again. In this we were not kind to each other but we knew the breath between breaths of our work, so only fruit could become of those exchanges in 23 years we only had two differences. He wanted me to publish more often & he often was trying to have some Bulgarian publisher, print my entire work. Thomas thought of me, as his, ‘Christopher Marlowe’ & he believed that & it was not something for which i would readily mock him ; Thomas was an aristocrat, he spoke nearly a dozen languages, fluently & was familiar, as if on personal terms, with the world’s literature. Our other argument was intense, Thomas the son of a violent & murdering anti–Semite, had fought with Klaus Kinskiin the war which created the state of Israel & I the mischling Jew was since we knew each other, a defender of the Palestinian people. I had known Al Hakim, Dr George Habash & many many Palestinian activists who were studying in Paris or who were representing the Palestinian people, officially. There was a quantitative change in Thomas towards the end but it was only that, it was too much a part of the fulcrum of his being

We had multiple & polyphonic interrogations & with Thomas this last word took on new meaning just as it had with my mother, Dorothy but we never argued on anything else. Thomas was my brother, a deep brother & for me he still is, he is here in the studio when i am writing, he is in the hospital making me turn the chambre into a factory, he is with me walking the streets, he is always there & i know he will be there at the end. That is a certitude

We were escaping his clinic & going on a search for the family of the war criminal & head of ‘operation Reinhardt’, Brigadeführer-SS, Odilo Globočnik – we were in search of material that would become central in his landmark novel, ‘heldenfriedhof’


We went on this journey with two young people, the novelist Rochelle Fackl & the film maker, Cedric Venail, people who have remained close to me. We went in Thomas’s old volvo that i imagined he saw as a Russian tank & it is the moment to say, contrary to most mythology, his experience of the red army & its cadre as a boy was one of deep respect, but then as a child he knew what the Germans had done in the east, he understood, revenge. For Thomas, much later he said to me, that relative to wht the germans had done, what the red army did was of little consequence & this is important, in being one of the most deeply political artists i have ever met, he did not have a hint of an ideologue about him, no, not one ounce, he as empowered by his own interrogations for that to ever be the case. He knew the Soviet Union & the eastern bloc inside out, he had taught film for a while in Moscow but a reading of the city of ys – gives a full account of what he felt & it is a beautiful book that will never be able to be repeated by anyone. Mimicked perhaps, but then that is the fate of literature of late capitalism, the vast majority of it is mimicry & not much else

So we escaped the clinic with a whole bag of medicaments, much as i am obliged to do when I leave Nantes. The young ones were in the front & i was in the back with Thomas lying his head on my knees, a hospital of substitution listening from anything from Schubert’s lieder, to Theodorakis or Jimi Hendrix & Albert Ayler

We sped through Austria until we came to the town where Globoknik's son lived. I have never felt as ill at ease in a country as i have felt in Austria, it is washed with blood & the absence of memory, or memory transformed into great perversion. Very great perversion. My brother, Robert Thorpe speaks of Australia as a crime scene, then Austria was a crime scene you could literally smell

Thomas wanted to see the son alone, because he said, « you have the face of assassin, my dear » so i & the young ones, stayed in an Austrian bar - it was awful, the music was the music of marches, grotesque & creating very jagged nerves & they knew why we were here – it was like a little European version of the film deliverance & we were just waiting for dueling accordions with men in lederhosen with swastika bands around their arm. I am mocking myself but the environment was so without taste & place it bordered on torture & looking at the old men’s faces it was easy to imagine them torturing people. Historically, it needs to be remembered over 90% of the death machine of the Germans was Austrian, at the highest level, in the SS, the SD, Kripo, the einsatzgruppen, the bureaucrats of murder, were Austrian. In murder, they were the principal initiators, the first day of the Anschluss, the Austrians had their Jews cleaning the pavements with toothbrushes. Then they threw those Jews from the 7th floor of the metropole hotel


I hated being there, but was doing what i always did for Thomas, I made notes of almost everything. He came back from the sons who had lied & lied, so we went on a visiting tout of SS & SD graveyards, whole graveyards dedicated to murderers with a landscape of almost complete silence, except if you stayed still long enough, all you could hear was screaming, a screaming that would never end, ever

All of us, except Thomas wanted to leave. Rapidly & then hugging him we took off for Italy at a speed i am surprised the old tank could manage

You breathed in Italy, even though at this point Thomas’s breathing was always labored, always difficult but he always shared his knowledge & we talked into the night in Udine We would go to Trieste, the scene of many of Globocniks crimes where my horse's hours began

Christopher Barnet

Christopher Barnet

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