Dante's “Divine Comedy”, as the Cologne novelist Andreas Kablitz just said on Deutschlandfunk, differs from other classics of world literature in that the text is difficult to understand without explanations. Kurt Flasch, who translated the hundred chants ten years ago into emphatically simple German prose in order to free the poet from the care of the philologists, also felt compelled to add an "invitation to read Dante" to his translation, a second volume, who wanted to be read first. "Empire of Death", the play by Rainald Goetz, which premiered on September 11th last year in Hamburg, is set, as its title suggests, in hell. It quotes President Bush and his ministers, security and legal advisers, who came after the terrorist attack of Sept.September 2001 turned the American republic into a shadow state, which granted itself the right to torture outside the territory of the United States, before a judge of the dead.

Patrick Bahners

Features correspondent in Cologne and responsible for “humanities”.

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Goetz follows the tradition of Peter Weiss, who in 1965 brought excerpts from the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial to the stage under the title “The Investigation”, compiled into an “Oratorio in 11 Songs”, which was originally designed as the beginning of a trilogy. which should have progressed to the topoi of purgatory and paradise. But where Weiss merged the drama and the court record by creating the transcript in condensed form, which is not provided for in the German Code of Criminal Procedure, Goetz tears the hellish drama to pieces again with a later ruling. For five classic acts there is an uncanny unity of place, time and plot. As the pious presidentthe diabolical vice-president and her academically highly educated clerks decide to take a precautionary strike against everyone at the moment of the attack, they are already in the inferno; they do not have to be taken there like the victims of their orders to Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib. In the play they have names from German war history, because theology does not have a ban on comparing crimes.

The courtroom is a duplicate of the camp

According to the headlines of the fifth act, “The Trial” will then take place in a “Camp Justice”. The courtroom is a duplicate of the camp, the establishment and maintenance of which is the subject of the trial, as the corporal punishments of Dante's condemned replicate in Carneval inversions the body movements characteristic of their vices. But then a sentence is uttered that makes this artfully produced poetic justice obsolete: "DECISION is issued without an oral hearing." This is a quote from any file in an indifferent case, a rule for branching off from German procedural law: a court can make two types of decisions make a judgment based on a main hearing and a decision based on the files. The piece interprets this empty principle poetologically,as a criticism of the documentary drama in the manner of Weiss. “Keeping the rooms apart correctly. The theater is not a court, and when the sentence is said on the stage that the trial is hereby opened, the outcry must come from the audience: LIE. "

Shouldn't the outcry “Lie!” Come from the audience at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus now at the latest, where “Realm of Death” is staged by Stefan Bachmann, the artistic director of the Kölner Schauspiel, a co-production with his house, two weeks after the columnist celebrations celebrates its premiere for the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the kingdom of the dead?

The status of the disposition of the resolution is dubious.

With this sentence, the text refers to itself. It is part of a text section that is itself a decision in the sense of the second meaning of the word in the Grimm dictionary, German for Conclusio or Finis.

As the dictionary notes, old theater slips said: “to the decision”.