Fiction writer, internationally known filmmaker, critical theorist, Alexander Kluge is perhaps postwar Germany’s most prolific and diverse intellectual. With this translation of Learning Processes with a Deadly Outcome, a novella first published in German in 1973, one of Kluge’s most important literary works becomes available to an English-speaking audience for the first time. Written in a quasi-documentary style, this fascinating hybrid work combines science fiction with modernist forms of montage and reportage to describe a future in which Earth has been almost totally destroyed following the catastrophic Black War. The planet’s remaining inhabitants have been driven underground or into space where the struggle to establish a new society rages on.
Whether describing the scene in China where the devastated landscape is reconstructed according to old paintings, or in the galactic realm of the Starway where giant, turf-battling, corporate colonizing forces exploit the universe’s resources, Kluge tells his tale by inventing various forms of “evidence” that satirize the discourses of administrative bureaucracy, the law, military security, and the media. He gives us some of his most bizarre and hilarious characters in this peculiar world in which the remains of the past are mixed with the most advanced elements of the future. The cast includes highly specialized women workers who have adapted to the massive gravitational field of their heavy-metal planets, a commander with lethal foot-fungus, and ex-Nazi space pioneers who, in their lonely exile from the conflagrations on earth, spend their time carving enormous facsimiles of operatic sheet music in the forests of uninhabited planets.
With parody, and humor, Kluge shows how the survivors of Armageddon attempt to learn the art of civilization, and, despite the disaster they have suffered, how they set out to reproduce at new sites a caricature of a classic and fascistic feudal capitalism.