When the truth is armed with lies

“I too am the truth”, “the truth sets you free”, these are the two lies that all resistance must concede. In his novel written against My Kampfunpublished until 1992 and just translated into French, Anders depicts the limiting conditions of the struggle and teaches its complexity.

Die Molussische Katakombe (MK), after My Kampf (MK), presents itself as the second manual of lies (p. 52), aiming to lie to the truth to be able to fight against the empire of lies. Genther Anders had tried, in 1932 Berlin, to organize a clandestine seminar on Hitler's work, identifying in the act of assuming the enormity of his lie Hitler's only contribution to the development of the human spirit (Bruno Franck), but he only aroused indifference from the intellectual community. He then turned towards the writing of fables, a mode of communicating inaudible truths, and wrote a novel depicting the resistance of outcasts in a Molussia dominated by the regime of a certain Burru. The work thus constitutes one of the first critiques of Nazism. It differs in its strategy from that adopted in The Third Night of Walpurgis (1933), where Karl Kraus, by simply copying the newspapers of his time, is content to hold up the mirror of the blatant truth, and comes closer to that followed by the epic literature and theater of Déblin and Brecht, notably by the choice of a fictional form encouraging action.

Thrown into a dark dungeon, an outcast named Kuru discovers the presence of Olo who preceded him by a generation and who, upon his arrival, sets himself the task of bringing his knowledge to the world. truth disguised as a lie (p. 49) of which he is the seventeenth transmission agent. Renamed Yegussa, the new prisoner takes on the role of disciple responsible for keeping these uplifting stories alive. The work thus includes a dimension of an educational novel in which Olo trains his successor in the long tradition of knowledge that must be learned, appropriated and modified without restraint. This framework narrative provides the opportunity to tell many fables and songs denouncing the economic and political condition of the outcasts. They are alternately the work of Olo or Yegussa, each developing a different art: where Olo is the committed writer who always recalls the socio-economic cause of human misery in order to guide action, Yegussa maintains an indeterminacy of meaning, an absence of clear morality.

A true literary theory is developed by Anders: a fable is a story reduced to its simplest narrative elements, which relates to a situation, of which it is the explanation by a principle of exaggeration, in the sense of the optical exaggeration that a microscope operates: it focuses on a point invisible reality, naked eye. This revelation is then an indication which makes action possible. In short, the fable is no longer a mirror that we hold up to the prince to produce a willingness to listen, but a microscope that we hold up to the activist to reveal to him the circumstances in which he must act. Note that the exagration will become in The obsolescence of man (1956) the principle of the Andersian method in the face of nuclear danger.

Making the truth lie. The imperatives of resistance in a fascist environment

The reader is quickly overcome with doubt as to the very authenticity of these stories. First, Olo asks Yegussa to add his own stories which he modifies as he wishes before attributing them to previous agents of transmission. Furthermore, it is a jailer and therefore an enemy who collects not only these stories, but also, a necessarily apocryphal act, the dreams of the prisoners. Finally, the whole thing forms a novel prefaced by a fictitious publisher and accompanied by an improbable press kit. What then remains of the truth when it has been so impregnated with lies? It is paradoxically the very form of the fable, a story which, through its fiction assumed as such, can never serve power nor become an instrument of regimentation, which ensures the effect of truth. written in the 1930s, The Catacomb of Molussie only seems to refer to its fascist context, Mussolini and Nazi, as the game of equivalence between the characters and countries of the novel and those of great history might lead one to believe: Burru = Hitler, Prem = Marx, Regedi = Heidegger, Ursie = USSR, Glorilie = France, etc. This disguise would only be a way of relating to reality in a distanced mode, removing the empire of lies, through this taking of freedom, from its very reality.

Because the central question of the work is indeed: how to give truth to political power in a world governed by lies where the language distorted by power becomes incapable of welcoming the truth? As Gnther Anders writes, trust in the power of truth is the first lie of truth. () The talk about the power of truth is the lie of lies. Because, in truth, the power of the lie rests on the power of the liar (p. 265). Lying is the form that language takes when invested by power; its content matters little, only its effectiveness matters; it belongs to a rhetoric of effects and not a discourse oriented towards what is. For Anders, the only possibility for the truth to produce effects is to accept its disguise in lies: the courage of the truth (parrhsia) turns into courage to lie out of passion for the truth (parrhsia reverse). The first lie of truth is to proclaim: I too am true (p. 49), consenting to be taken as one opinion among others, and concealing the true I of his speech.

The history of every society is the story of the victory of the tycoons over the pariahs

The Catacomb of Molussia Does she then only speak of this empire of lies that is fascism?? Certain chronological indications given throughout the story confront us with a problem. Olo in fact claims to be Yamyam, who was tortured by Burru. And a certain Banti, who was imprisoned after trying to decipher a saying of Burru, must be contemporary or later. However, Banti is an agent of transmission at least two prior Olo ranks. Around thirty years separate each transmission agent from the next. From then on, we arrive at the following alternative: either Olo lies, either minimally by affirming that he is Yamyam, or maximally by affirming that there are agents of transmission; or the imprisonment in the catacomb dates back to a period prior to the Burru coup d'état, and then The Catacomb of Molussia does not deal exclusively with fascism. Numerous episodes on the tricks of industrialists and worker mobilizations date back to the monarchy of Prince Gey. The theme is then that of this eternal struggle between tycoons and pariahs, in which any revolutionary movement is constantly threatened by the treachery of its own and the recuperation of power. Fascism, stripped of its singularity, would be just another collusion between industrialists and populists. In the novel, the struggle of the outcasts against the Molussian power has lasted for around five hundred and ten years and the fables should therefore make sense for all this duration.

Thus, the figure of the industrialist Bamba is the exaggeration which manifests the existential meaning of the relations of production with regard to their piecemeal work: At most (his machines) it took a touch of the finger here and a stroke of the pedal there. But nowhere did they need a whole man (p. 328). Bamba then negotiates the purchase not of his slaves, but a hundred hands and a hundred feet (p. 333). We can already see here the outlines of what Anders will call the shame promthenneashamed before the machine of not having been, we too, manufactured, and that it will develop in The obsolescence of man.

The Marxist orientation of The Catacomb of Molussia is also indicated by the criticism of bourgeois aesthetics. It is similar to that of Georgy Lukcs in Tell or describe? (1937). The latter criticizes Flaubert for offering only a static description of society, from the point of view of a passive observer, devoid of a clear ideological position. Anders says the same thing about modern writers: they leave the works where they were born. halfway. And they are proud of not going all the way, but only pointing in the direction (p. 140). the opposite of modern aesthetics, elitist, abstract and disconnected from the reality of social life, The Catacomb of Molussia promotes and implements literature that is accessible, political, and oriented towards the liberation of outcasts.

Towards a desperate enthusiasm

But why did Anders only publish this resolutely committed work the day before his death in 1992?? Did he only surrender his manuscript (which he had tried to rework in 1973 to update it, without success) to the curiosity of historians of thought?? This would make it difficult to explain the fact that Anders sprinkled his philosophical essays with wisdoms molussians (The obsolescence of man, I p. 18, p. 26). Should we then suppose that he retained the work all his life in order to put it to the test of time, he who considered that fables are stories transportable? As the novel’s epitaph somberly announces, you're still only in the first shift of the night (p. 381). The empire of lies is set to last. There Catacomb of Molussia is then a manual on how to keep the flame of truth alive in the heart of darkness.

By plunging us into the despair of a powerless struggle and into the relativity of stories, each more distorted than the last, Anders puts his reader to the test, and prepares him to resist in situations where any action seems impossible. The minimum resistance lies in the practice of imagination, an act of denying, of ignoring the conditions of life in the catacomb, and thereby of exercising freedom. Instructively, the first imprisoned outcast was alone and helpless, but she carried a child in her womb, and she shouted her tales to the jailer, who too locked up by (his) confinement (p. 88). It therefore had the double condition of resistance: openness to the future and the other.

In his novel, Anders, a great admirer of Nietzsche dThus spoke Zarathustra, always forces its reader to read carefully and suspiciously, as in this fable about a diamond mine whose owner is called not Pem like a magnate in the novel, but Prem, named after the ideologist of the revolutionary movement, discreet and terrible symbol of reversal of the emancipator into the oppressor. Anders teaches living in the ambiguity of lies and the ambivalence of men.

It is from such an educational perspective that we must understand the end of the plot. We learn in the appendix that the resistance published a press release in which Kuru (alias Yegussa) called from his dungeon for a general strike. This lie of the resistance involves the execution of Kuru, but provides the impetus for the popular movement. Through this epilogue, does Anders give revolutionary hope at the risk of falling into the totalitarian bias of negating the individual for the benefit of the cause?? The addition of this appendix by Anders in 1938 in the United States, five years after the other texts, poses a problem of interpretation. Indeed, the last chapter of the main text is entitled Yegussa is dead too (p. 378). But the body of the text is more ambiguous, since it soberly says: Then the silence fell again (p. 379). Or else it is only the role of Yegussa, transmitter of the stories of the resistance, who died, which is consistent with the sacrifice by the revolution thirty years later of the one who became Kuru again. Or Yegussa actually died at the end of the last day, as the title indicates; and the government's press release on the execution of Kuru is yet another state lie, aimed at denigrating the revolution as a totalitarian movement.

The addition of this appendix further demonstrates the complexity of Anders' thinking regarding hope: this is the second lie to which the truth indulges: it must be affirmed that the truth sets you free (p. 49) even though this hope is fallacious. Because this is the only way to make it possible. This is what the songs of the work embody, whose melody makes what is sad sweet, and provides a desperate enthusiasm (p. 81).