Karl Heinz Bohrer

Speaking with Daggers - The Literary Hate Effect

(German title: Mit Dolchen sprechen)
ca. 493 pages
Karl Heinz Bohrer
Foto: Karl Heinz Bohrer
© Isolde Ohlbaum

Karl Heinz Bohrer, born in Cologne in 1932, literary critic, publisher, scientist, creator of many works revolving around the central ideas of Momentanism and “suddenness”. Long experience in France and in England, where he lives, consciously aware of being one face of the »other«. Secondary school teacher in Germany, England and the USA. He was awarded the Heinrich-Mann-Prize in 2007 and received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2014.


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Hate as the pivotal literary medium of expression

Twelve analyses of world literature’s great creators of hate-characters: From the Renaissance to the present


Particularly in recent times, the term »hate« has made a career in public importance. In the journalistic and socio-historical critique of the reaction to the refugee crisis prevalent in Germany and Europe it moved to the forefront of the discourse alongside terms like »identity« and »racism«.

But Karl Heinz Bohrer’s study in twelve chapters searches for something entirely different in the literary hate effect. It’s not about hate as the emotion accompanying a political-ideological programme, but about the role of hate as a medium of excessively heightened poetry. This shows a privileged role of characters of hate and their expressive powers within literature used as a model along which the expressivity of literary language itself develops.

Bohrer’s studies take us from the beginning of the early modern periods, from Shakespeare, Kyd and Marlowe, to Milton, Swift, Kleist, Baudelaire, Strindberg and Céline to the present: to Sartre, Bernhard, Handke, Jelinek as well as Brinkmann and Goetz. And to Houellebecq, in whose works the malicious affirmation of the hateful, a contemporaneity without hope, culminate.

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