by James Glazebrook
Jörg Fauser is one of Germany’s most overlooked countercultural icons. He “drank more beer than Bukowski and shot more heroin than William Burroughs”, yet still found time to write Raw Material, a savage satire about the decay of the dreams of the sixties. Originally published in German as Rohstoff, this semi-autobiographical masterpiece was translated into English last year. Find out how to win one of 5 copies we’re giving away, after this excerpt in which our protagonist takes to the Berlin streets for a radical protest, with a pocket full of LSD trips:
The auditorium maximum of the Technical University was packed. That evening’s topic for debate was the forthcoming vote for federal president, which was taking place in Berlin. As ever the list of speakers was endless. Practically no-one was thinking of Heinemann as a candidate. I was standing right at the back of the room amongst the rank and file, taking care not to become separated from Sarah. Sarah was nineteen and reminded me of the Song of Songs: “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.” Last summer she’d sent me a photo of herself to Istanbul; she was leaning against a tree in the Englischer Garten in Munich, and when Ede saw it he said, “If there’s anyone who’s going to pull you out of the shit, it’ll be her.” Now she was in Berlin too, and I was determined not to be parted from her again.
The crowd jeered and shouted down a young socialist. It was all part of a ritual in which the leaders of the radicals played at being the Bolshevik bosses, and the students and dropouts in the auditorium the riotous masses of St Petersburg. In truth it was much simpler: the leaders were enthroned on the podium and engaged in high politics, while the rank and file stood below, believing in the historical moment. Skilful direction brought the room to boiling point and at the decisive moment the slogan was uttered: “Onto the streets!”
We were still a tight mass in Hardenbergstrasse, but when we got to America House, where the police lay in wait, the crowd soon dissipated. It struck me that I had twenty LSD trips in my pocket, which I’d swapped for a few of the blocks I’d got off the Turk. As I hurried away I looked around for Sarah. She was behind me, being shoved along rather than moving of her own accord. In the police floodlights and nocturnal glow of Hardenbergstrasse Sarah looked far too beautiful and fragile. I tried to grab her and battle my way out to the side, but those advancing from behind dragged me along with them. Stones were being hurled at America House, but word got around that we were to take the Kurfürstendamm, and so we charged onwards, past Zoo station. Stones were everywhere on the ground; I picked up a couple myself – smooth, grey cobbles. I’d soon forgotten the LSD, and Sarah too. I charged with the crowd. There was the Ku’damm, the colourful façades, the onlookers, the massive vehicles with their water cannons, we were coming from all sides, we were storming. There was Café Kranzler, temple of the bourgeoisie, there were the police, chains of uniformed men that entangled us. No sooner had the echoes of our war cries died down than the first screams of those being beaten by truncheons resounded in the street. I threw a stone, then turned around and saw a policeman charging towards me at full pelt. I dropped the other stone and ducked. The truncheon only hit me as I bent down, a second blow found my arm, and another policeman hauled me off to a patrol car, but let me go when a new troop of assailants broke through and made for Kranzler. Cautiously I stood up again. No one appeared to be watching me. I slipped through a kind of no man’s land to the corner of Joachimsthaler. There were stones everywhere, protesters bent over injured bodies, those arrested held temporarily in wrist locks by the police. I felt cold and thought that our attempt to take the Ku’damm had been a complete farce and would be far better without me. I looked for Sarah and found her at a metro station. I took her in my arms. She was wearing a fur coat and I an old, thick cloth jacket, but through all our winter clothes I could still feel her breasts which bore the promise of springtime.
Via a circuitous route we arrived at the flat near Savignyplatz, where Boleslaw and his girlfriend, Sylvia, were waiting. They’d been living in a commune in Potsdamer Strasse and had now moved into this grand, nine-room apartment belonging to two scientists who worked at Siemens and were trying to find a synthesis between computer science and anarchism. As far as I was concerned, their flat was paradise: an enormous kitchen where everything functioned, a refrigerator filled to the brim, tiled stoves, comfortable sofas and leather armchairs everywhere, pictures hanging from the panelled walls, two bathrooms, two cats, books. I offered them all a trip. Sarah was still together with a friend of Boleslaw’s, an ascetic philosophy student in his seventeenth semester, who lived in a tiny hovel without any hot water in Steglitz. I wanted, of course, to prise her away from him. That night we all took a trip, and in such surroundings I sensed I was coming closer to the world of literature.
I sat with Sarah in Bolesaw and Sylvia’s room. To my mind these were the nicest people I’d come into contact with in Berlin. They were good-looking, they were educated without trumpeting it, they’d travelled widely, and they had artistic leanings without pretending to be artists. Their anarchism was an intellectual provocation, but they, too, had picked up stones in the street, and told the state precisely what they thought of it in court. And one day there was no doubt that this society would give them the space they were asking for. I looked down at myself. I felt like a filthy little drug-dealer from Tophane. I could sense the dirt oozing from my every pore. “2,000 light years from home.” That’s how I perceived myself too. Sarah lit an incense stick. She was so breathtakingly beautiful; how could I imagine that she’d be the one to save me from all this shit? The beauty of the Orient flowed in waves from her face and transformed the wall into the Taj Mahal. Sylvia snuggled up to Boleslaw, who smiled at me. I was sweating. I rolled a joint. That was one thing I could do. Although it was good to be able to do at least something, I felt I’d have to demonstrate a little more if I was going to win over Sarah, Boleslaw and Sylvia. The three of them seemed to be fusing into one, together with the candlelight, the music, the smell of the incense. I was sitting beside them like a lump of frozen spaghetti. I was sitting beside them like a heap of unsellable copies of The Function of the Orgasm. I was back in Istanbul, sitting on the roof, the snow seeping through the walls, the foghorns wailing, the pigeons scrabbling at the holes in the plaster, the schoolchildren below filing into the playground and singing the national anthem. Were I sitting there I could write again. Although I didn’t have my notebooks or a radiograph, this biro would do, this sheet of paper with computer formulae on the back. I started writing.
The following morning Sarah went to fetch her things from Steglitz, and we moved into the maid’s room beside the kitchen. Heinemann was elected president.
HOW TO WIN A COPY OF JÖRG FAUSER’S RAW MATERIAL:
If you were going to take to the streets, what would you protest against?
Our 5 favourite answers will win a copy of Raw Material.
You have until 6pm on Sunday 29th March to enter. Good luck!
The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):
1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
2. ONE ENTRY PER PERSON!
3. Our favourite comment wins. Simple as.
4. If you win, we’ll let you know by email and get your postal address.