William H. Gass: The Tunnel

William H. Gass: The Tunnel | © Michael Wertmüller

Can you hear me?

Diiii-digigigigdiiiiii-öililööööööö-Wääää-liuwääääh!Uiuiuiuirääääägh!

Can you hear me now?

Woiawoiawia! Wuuuuw——ääääiääiä! Öhöhöhuoahööööö! U! Ääääääääh!

It’s me – I and my electric guitar. Deep inside the tunnel.

Art is defined by the improbability and uncompromising attitude of its emergence – not by daily routines. I feel as if I have been in the tunnel for an eternity. William H. Gass began his work on The Tunnel in 1965. In 1995, the book, which had been written patiently and boisterously, was published in the United States. Hence, it was a work that went on infinitely, which may be the reason why the book is so ludicrously extreme. The novel’s narrator attempts to write an introduction to his study ›Guilt and Innocence in Hitler’s Germany,‹ but he is blocked. While he writes and writes incessantly, he doesn’t cover his subject but launches into tirades of hate targeting his wife, his family, his childhood, his university, etc. At the same time, he begins to dig a tunnel in his basement. It works.

puff!puff!puff!puff!puff!puff!

Without making sense and having a purpose. He probably only does this to blow out his sullen thoughts. However, most importantly, he is a metaphor for drilling into the soul. In this case, for the pandemic.

This narrator has a brilliant intellect. He writes the most beautiful sentences and stands for the silliest arguments :

›When will the fury I hold within me find its expression?  Ha. Will these pages evolve into MEIN KAMPF‘ Ha, ha, in fact they will. Nurturing a grudge! The grudge I am harboring has brought me to my knees. I have so much resentment left that it will be plenty for a flood. This hatred has given my life force and a purpose. I have studied it. It has studied me.‹

And:

›A nun and a cardinal,

They did it quite simply, yes normally,

His other staff

Jolted her into action,

And his fervor was phenomenal.‹

He also executes the art of dirty language on objects that allow him to send off particularly gaudy and hurtful sparks: Hitler, the Nazis, the Third Reich and the Holocaust.

He maintains a lustrous fetishistic relationship with his Nazi theme driven by his physical deficits (too fat, penis too small; also fat: the novel spanning 1094 pages). He founds a party of the disappointed. As a consequence of self-assertion and misanthropy.  

This nihilistic book, these tirades of quick-witted maliciousness that are morally and politically provocative to disgusting, allows me to view this weird time more positively. There are, in fact, even more gloomy points of view and characters than one may represent when one is inside of tunnels. There are situations that are even blacker. The fascism of the heart. That’s a comforting thought. This, Gass’ orgiastic, bleak linguistic ecstasy inspires me.

Now listen. I am currently singing deep inside of it. At full volume. Wagner.

Heiaho! Haha! Haheiaha!
Wallalalala leialalai! Wallalalala leiajahei! 

Heiaho! Heiaho! Heiahohoho! Hahei!
Heiaho, haha, haheiaha!
Hoiho! Hoihohoho!
Lichte! Lichte!
Wallala! Lalaleia! Leialalei!
Weia! Waga!
He da! He da! He do!
Wagalaweia!
Heia! Haha! 

Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Heiaha!
Wallala, weiala weia!
Heiaha! Heiaha! Hojotoho!
He da! He da! He do!
Heiaha weia! 

Wallala! Lalaleia! Leialalei!
Heiaha! Heiaha! Heiohotojo! Hotojoha!
Jaheia! Heiajaheia!
Wallalalalala leiajahei!
He da! He da! He do!
Heiajaheia! Wallalalalala leiajahei!
Hojotoho! Hojotoho!
Heiaha! Heiaha!
Heiahaha!
Hojotoho! Hojotoho!
Heiaha!
Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Heiaha! Heiaha!

Hei!
Heiaha!
Hei!
Heiaha!
Hei!

Beautiful. Isn't it?

M.W. March 2021