Hearings: A Reader
|Daniel Birnbaum, Anders OlssonAs a Weasel Sucks Eggs
An Essay on Melancholy and Cannibalism
As is so often the case, it is the poets, and to a certain extent the philosophers, who lead us deeper into the labyrinth of hunger. They have the right distance from the requirements with which the community-engendering meal is connected, either because they are outside the community, or because they have an appetite and a hunger that constantly exceed the boundaries of culture’s sacrosanct regulatory scheme. As a matter of custom, they have adopted a melancholic position, unable to forget the Golden Age of Saturn, an era associated with images of an infinitely rich, flowing abundance—a memory, so easily projected onto the future qua utopia, before which the world in its present form can easily fade into a pale backdrop.
Originally published in Swedish in 1992, As a Weasel Sucks Eggs examines the enigmatic relation of melancholia to an early kind of cannibalism, which psychoanalysis, in particular, stressed. It contains reading of, amongst others, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard, Sigmund Freud, G. W. F. Hegel, and the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf. The authors also quote Goethe and Rabelais, for whom food is a cosmic principle, the soil of fertility, on which all creation is based. In a transferred sense, food also plays that same role for the melancholiac—he who questions the normal order of things, who creates an other “unknown food,” with a variety of meanings. The authors “trace the desire for this other food through the ages, and scrutinize its relationship to both primitive sacrificial rites as well as contemporary anthropology, philosophy, and linguistic theory.”
Daniel Birnbaum is Director of the Städelschule and its Portikus gallery and Director of the Venice Biennale 2009. He is the author of several books on art and philosophy. Anders Olsson is a Swedish writer, professor of literature at Stockholm University, and member of the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature. Olsson has written some fifteen books on poetry and the history of literature.
Translated from the Swedish by Brian Manning Delaney