Laurence A. Rickels

[intro] [first] [second] [third] [shaft] [notes]


Shakespeare's Hamlet coincides with the opening of Sweden's last or lost century of world power. The Baltic belonged to Sweden. The salient imagery in Hamlet ultimately aims (while overshooting, overflowing the mark) at dissolution and the contaminating spread of its no longer containable poison in ears within ears. But first, right at the opening "porches" of the haunting that introduces the drama and trauma, the imagery splits: one double goes underground to dig mourning and the other goes over ground, up to the blemish marking the spot we're in when face must be saved or kept. The ghost who drops over every witness his cone of secrecy is also an "old mole," an underworld creature. The grave digger, hailed as the master builder, puns around Hamlet's question about the current dig's intended content. The grave digger says the grave is "mine" because he's digging it. The trouble with the corpse (Polonius's body for example) is the trouble with this grave. Someone is always left over, missing, in the one-to-one correspondences between dead bodies and their proper interment.

The rejoinder or reply in Hamlet is called by Hamlet, in the series of his cagey dealings with the spies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, "replication." One such rejoinder, in the context of what's mine, is elaborated by Hamlet as he plots the demise of the two spies who would assassinate him: "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/ Hoist with his own petar; and it shall go hard/ But I will delve one yard below their mines,/ And blow them at the moon." And Hamlet closes the parenthesis by exiting with Polonius's corpse. The proper burial of Polonius secures an honor for the family's name given in the military image of firing a salute into "the woundless air." The woundless heir, Hamlet, will be granted, together with all the other corpses piled up by the end, the military honor of shooting. Hamlet could not be an heir because of wounds or moles he couldn't carry or overcome precisely because the blemish was right in his mother's face, right in his relations with her body, that is with his own body. The narcissistic wounding is woundless, without remainder, without that work on what's left which cannot but admit the future, the other, the time to come. The future belongs to another family line: Hamlet, the living end of the former line, went the one way of all replication, of the merger with technology that cannot yet go through. All that's left to do, for Hamlet or for you, is self destruction.

Swedish tourism to this day recognizes the story of Fet Matts only as oddity or anecdote, a side show in the natural history of science, in a prehistory that belongs in the home Swede home. Sentimentality, even in its German-theoretical setting, must find its balance over against acts of violence it in every sense contains. Thus German Romanticism was there when Mercedes test drove models for safety measure using dead children as the dummy drivers. Indeed the kid corpses probably did give a better indication than just another dummy of what a driver might be expected to suffer or survive in a crash. To make the long story short, the Swedish history of the Falun reunion didn't stop dead in the tracks of Romance. It was always all about this body which the authorities kept above ground to display as a "curiosity." And the ex marking the spot of witness, who figures so identificatorily in the German reception, was a quite forgettable participant in the line of her ex's relic production: she didn't have any wait problems, but was quite remarried and remuneratable when the trouble began with a corpse primal tourism just couldn't bury. She glady made the fast change from mourner to beneficiary when she took money for the claimed body's unburial and display. The mummy miner was a good sideshow to supplement what was left of the attraction, by 1719 for example, of what had been mines. In the case of Sweden, tourism (and in the first place tourism of the Falun mines) was introduced to pick up the slack or slag where mining had started to go unproductive.

The mines became the big part of the grand tour of Sweden. A saying from the seventeenth century is still recycled on brochures published by the Dalarna County Tourist Office: "He who has not seen Stora Kopparberget has not seen Sweden." [11] When Matts Israelsson disappeared, the mines were still on a peak: the mining company today known simply as Stora, which was founded in 1288 as the first stockholding company in world history (the undertaking of mining is of course considerably older), was still in the seventeenth century, the century of Sweden's successful bids for world power, the largest supplier of copper on the planet. But the supplies started bottoming out around the time the preserved body was found. The history of these copper mines runs the same course as that of Sweden's imperial aspirations. By 1719 Sweden had been forced to withdraw from the running for world power. The retrenchment of these aspirations within the new industries of culture belonged equally, say, to the exploits of the Actor King and to the ongoing exploitation of the mines for tour appeal.

Linne visited the mines in Falun in 1734. As a whole he characterized the attraction as "'Sweden's greatest wonder, but as terrible as Hell itself.'" [12] Linne also attended the viewing of the preserved corpse which he saw as not so much "petrified" as "encrusted or transformed into a stalactite." When it was first found it was completely supple still, like the body of miracles belonging to some saint. Five years before Linne took the tour, the body, which had started to harden and decay around the edges, was restored and wired in place. By 1749 it was determined that the corpse, being no longer presentable, should finally be burned. But the trouble with Matts was that several exhumations followed. In 1860 the remains were up in the church attic. 1930 was, to date, the date of his last burial. Follow the bouncing corpse: a certain history of Sweden gets inscribed with each advance or placement of the eternally decaying body now inside, now outside a place of proper burial.

In 1992 the mines ceased copper production and became the exclusive preserve of tourism. Stora does, however, continue to supply the pigment used in the blood-red paint, the local color, Faln Rodfarg, which is still applied with the age-old guarantee of its preservative effect on the wood it stains.

When H. M. Enzensberger joined the tour in 1982 he visited an 18th century iron work center, which he could call (even though shut down in the 30s) the source of Sweden today. Enzensberger imagined encountering there a "democratic, primal founding stone or prehistoric rock." [13] Yes. But. What's mine in this connection is already over. There's no room for history in Sweden: just social studies for days. [14] Certainly Sweden served as a kind of model for Europe by the proven ability to get the most out of next to nothing. Some call Sweden the first modern state. But history had to be history before the mythic best of possible societies could be Swedish. The disconnection that is there, however, belongs to a certain disowning or un-mining of the continuity shot in the foot Sweden gave itself by association with Nazi Germany. Barter relations with the Third Reich -- Swedish iron and steel for German coal -- just didn't break off, not until 1944, by which time it must have been evident which side was going to win. Poul Bjerre, a Swedish psychotherapist who early on had hitched his negative transference onto new Jungian directions in analysis, agreed to represent Sweden in the international outfit designed to give the Nazi German aryanization of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis cover or credibility. In 1947 he published a study entitled "SpÉkerier" (that's right: hauntings). From 1933 onward he had been given to consider Hitler as psychotherapist. And then it was all over. Except for the hauntings.

In the postwar period, Friedrich Jurgenson, an artist displaced by the events of World War Two, from Russia to Sweden, discovered the Voice Phenomenon: the dead can rearrange white noise, the static between radio stations, even the sounds of regular recordings into communications from the beyond that only the tape recorder can register. Just let the tape recorder run, then play it back, over and over again: the record that speaks for itself makes contact with the deceased. For Jurgenson his first contacts were all with the World War Two dead, who were now all in it together, Churchill, Hitler, Goring, a Russian Jewess. "I followed attentively the tape recording, to the point where the woman's voice with a Jewish accent announced Hitler's presence. . . . 'Heil! [...] that was Hitler, he isn't ashamed of himself!' And then followed those strange words, which were added by the woman with a changed and disconcerted voice: 'That was Hitler -- he sees you! I tell you, Hitler -- he loves me!'" Death is the great healer. Jurgenson in Sweden became the talk show host with the most ghosts from World War Two. "Wasn't it remarkable that Hitler and GÉring, these two fundamentally different figures, to whom fate granted the leading roles in apocalypse number two, should be making themselves known to me on the tapes. Hitler conducted strange monologues, and GÉring sang happily on my tapes." [15]

The tapes go on and on. But what they turn around is the inadmissable fact that the Third Reich represented Sweden's last bid, even if only by proxy or by no default of its own, for world domination. After that, Sweden's splitting image as neutral state provided coverage of ghostly communion and cover for transformation of a Sweden of iron, steel, dynamite, and rockets, among many other military-techno inventions and identifications, into everything that's today artificially Swede. Postwar German-born actresses in Hollywood learned to pass as Swedish. German porno industries passed themselves off as Swedish. German sentimentality went on a diet and took up the sing song of sexy neutralization or castration.

The Marquis de Sade also took the tour through the "model of the North," but in 1775:

After I had spent some three months in Stockholm, my curiosity was directed toward those famous mines about which I had read so much and wherein I imagined I might encounter some adventures similar to those related by the AbbÜ PrÜvost in the first volume of his anecdotes. [16]
De Sade visits the Taperg mine which he contemplates as emptied out by just about everyone's indebtedness to the English. This "subterranean" monument to the "avarice of a handful of men ... capable of dominating so many others," must resemble the Catacombs, which he recently toured in Rome and Naples. But: "I was mistaken. Though situated far deeper in the bowels of the earth, I was to discover there a solitude less terrifying." In the bowels there is a less terrifying solitude. What's more, the bowels are habitable, containing in the case of this mine a "veritable subterranean city: streets, houses, churches, inns, much hustle and bustle, work being performed, police, judges: in short, everything the most civilized city of Europe might offer." [17] In the spot of civilization he is in, deep in the bowels, de Sade dines on "a kind of Swedish bread commonly used in rural areas made of the bark of pine and birch trees, mixed with straw, some wild roots, and kneaded together with oatmeal. Does one need any more to satisfy one's veritable needs?" The tour of the mine is set up as preamble to the story of lovers betrayed, to the story's living ending in the punishment of the guilty party inside these mines, an ending overtaken by a still unassuaged avenger penetrating even "the bowels of the earth" to pursue the prisoner. But the filler or background that's on tour has already gone the full circuit of de Sade's discourse within a communion feast in the bowels of the earth, one that will surely make him feel his own bowels. It's the feeling, the satisfaction of one's veritable needs, that proves to be for him always a less terrifying sensation than all the many others that must have terrorized him.

Seattle, the West Coast outpost of Swedenicity, is built up upon its original city, which remains beneath the streets as an underworld surrendered to rats and tour groups. The original city proved uninhabitable with the introduction of the toilet. The pressure of the water around and under the low-lying town was such that the toilets couldn't be flushed and even gushed like geysers when the pressure was on. Then they tried building their toilets on top of large pedestals. But that didn't stop them gushing. So a higher city was built on top of the city that couldn't flush, and wasn't flushed. Before the rats and the diseases they carried drove the entire population up inside the city above, the subterranean city served as red light district, as the wrong side of the tracks turned around on the vertical axis of multiple bowels.

The labyrinthine underworlds we go down or out represent, Freud advised in his 1932 lecture on the "Revision of the Theory of Dreams," "anal birth." [18] A few years later, the Disney revision made Snow White work like a cleanser. By the time of its release, World War Two had shut down the international circulation of all Hollywood productions, even when they were associated with Disney, whose good German name, according to Nazi propaganda, was really Distler. It was an agonizing time of transition for Nazi Germany. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so long awaited by the other mass culture of Mickey Mouse, was the first Disney production to be held up at the border, because now the war was on. German newspapers gave long reviews of the Disney masterpiece being shown in London. Only the leadership could watch the film in the archives in Berlin. Hitler had his own copy. It was his fave. Only the neutrality of Sweden, once reviews of London screenings were blacked-out by the war's escalation, provided Central Europe with some kind of access to the world of Disney.

Both Snow White's sanctuary with the dwarfs and her home with stepmother bear deep down relations with mines, crypts, dungeons, tight spots of anality. While the dwarf miners dig the excremental underworld for shiny diamonds, Snow White, first thing, cleans up their filthy bachelor cottage. It takes her loss to recognize their loss: they must not have a mother she concludes. Back in the castle, following another mirror brief, the stepmother descends into her crypt lab and dungeon space which bears all the filth Snow White is trying to wash away in another place. The original plans for the film, carried out to the drawing and cel stage, included, inside the dungeon, the stepmother Queen's capture and chaining up of Prince Charming placed or splayed agonizingly on S/M display. The shiny apple offered by the Queen in her dirty guise is toxic, an excremental bit that gets stuck in Snow White's throat. There's a catch to her happy ending, a catch in her throat: it's the unmournable loss of her mother, which can only go down undigestible in anal unbirth. On the outside there's Snow White, all shiny in her glass coffin. On the inside, within the anal underworld, a loss remains hidden and preserved.

[intro] [first] [second] [third] [shaft] [notes]