One infection caused pathological sensitivity to ordinary spring rain. There are few things that harbor the bittersweet imprint of human lust to a greater extent than the sound of silvery drops of water in the dying night. But spring doesn’t kill the night completely – and the effects of this particular infection were awful. No one managed to figure out what caused it and how it spread. It seemed to emerge randomly and instantly, causing the rain to burn the skin like acid. Before long, governments imposed curfews when the skies were heavy in May.
Günter called them “Infections”. They were not, strictly speaking, part of the work. They emerged as he engaged the text. In fact, he alone could perceive them. They were there, but they weren’t waiting to be uncovered. They happened.
He sat beneath a large oak tree, wearing nothing but an orange bathrobe. Heaps of manuscript pages laid in the grass around him.
– I am struggling with this one, he said. It makes people blind to a specific color, but I can’t make out which one.
– Let me see.
I crouched beside him and read over his shoulder, a few lines about a woman who loathed all things yellow. She didn’t simply avoid this particular color, she actively opposed the existence of it by applying, for instance, blue spray paint on bananas in supermarkets.
The part of the work that Günter transformed into “infections” concerns basic concepts of lust, guilt, shame, desire and sadism – or rather, the existence of these concepts as literary tropes with no connection to the real world whatsoever. Literary truth does not consist of factual statements, but is rather the clarification of the intersubjective formation and transmission of literary concepts. In order to represent this the work cannot be literature. Rather, it must open up a realm of possibilities where the reader and the text conjunctively reimagine the established order.
– Is this it? I asked Günter.
– Is this what?
I gestured towards the papers laying in the grass.
– Is this the work?
– That depends on what you mean by “the work”. Every word has been written by me. I produced that specific combination of signs. But every concept, event, thought and description is anticipated by the work, albeit not as complete sentences forming series of events constituting short stories, plays, novels or poems. The only way to “read” it is to tentatively transform it into some recognizable form. I call my method for doing this “Infections”, but countless others are imaginable.
I placed my finger next to the following sentence:
The woman had strong feelings of disgust and hatred towards the color yellow.
– Why, it’s yellow, right? The infected become blind to the color yellow. Isn’t that what it says right here?
– No, my friend. Don’t be ridiculous. Wait! Here’s something!
He went silent, seemingly lost in text and thought.
Infections are chance and past combined. They are physical mirror images of concepts relating to transformation. Günter could use them to move ever closer to the glassy endpoint that signals a radically new beginning.
After an hour or so he brought me a piece of paper on which the following text was written:
An infection caused blindness to the color blue, paired with an intense desire for this color, a powerful longing to see blue again. Those infected resigned from their jobs, left their loved ones and roamed the earth hoping to find nuances of blue that they could still perceive. To no avail. The disease spread through transactions of covered bonds and consequently those affected represented a very resourceful segment of the population. They formed strong interest groups and pressured governments and scientists to find a cure. But with little success. How it ended: All the infected boarded a giant, purpose-built submarine docked in Nagoya, Japan, and set off for the Mariana Trench.
–Spray painting bananas out of resentment doesn’t really cut it, he said. Blue is the color I was looking for. I’m getting closer!
– Closer to what?
– We are concerned here with literary tropes. Their utter meaninglessness and lack of connection to what’s real. We need to make them go away. But we must be extremely careful not to brutalize them lest we end up hating existence. We need to proceed by baby steps, peeling layer of layer, until we get a literary composition akin to razor thin glass, reflecting the potentiality of the work without disturbance, a piece of literature void of everything literary. A piece of writing finally looking onto the world.
– You know this is impossible, right? A literary representation of humankind’s existence void of everything literary is a contradiction in terms. And even if it were possible you’d end up with a creation that is extremely hollow in the most uninteresting way. You need friction to walk!
– Ha ha ha! I know, he said. I’m just fucking with you.
While still seated in his chair, he pulled his cock out from under his bathrobe and peed up in the air, a yellow fountain of piss reaching for the blue summer sky.
One infection was labeled “Apathy” because it led to a slight, unarticulated discomfort which at a later stage evolved into a strong sense of detachment. In the end, the infected seemed to care about nothing at all. People around them insisted that everything should continue as normal. A great divide emerged between those who still did things with some degree of passion and those who had lost all sense of commitment. In the end the infected had no choice but to keep pretending . But that was okay. They didn’t really mind, actually. This really pissed everyone off. The infected were declared mindless brutes and rounded up in huge camps. The non-infected sought to intimidate, torture, maim and eventually kill the infected in order to force them to start caring about something – anything – at all. Instead all wars ended and the world experienced unprecedented economic growth, zero unemployment and a golden age for the arts and sciences while every possible indicator of happiness shot through the roof. Heaven on earth simply requires a state of constant and non-consequential genocide.