My Dinner with Noel

I finally got Noel Sanssouci into my living room with a Dunhill cigarette in one hand and a glass of Irish whiskey in the other, but still he wouldn't speak. Finally I told him: "Noel, I'm waiting for something witty, intelligent, scholarly and insightful, but I'm not getting anything." He stuck to platitudes, truisms and vicious literary gossip.

I have a great deal of respect for Noel Sanssouci for many reasons, the latest being that he had the guts to rewrite – without a publisher, just for the hell of it – Voltaire's "Candide" into a funny, weird and devastating modern version, in which young Vox bounces back and forth between Neo-Nazi paramilitaries, Balkan butchers and Al Quaida bombers, bumbling FBI agents, quasi-retro-modern slavegirls and African mass murderers until he – and the reader – has an undiluted picture of the world we read about every day in the newspaper but never in this intense, ugly-only form. In the end you are exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. If you think we have made progress in the direction of reason over the last 250 years, read this online book ("The Optimist"). Compared to the rest of the lukewarm, overformulated navel-gazing that is coming out of Germany today, an absurd/true rewrite of Candide is something special, and it makes you expect something special from Noel Sanssouci once you get him on your couch. (Even if he kept slipping off it the whole evening and had to prop himself back up again regularly.)

But nothing came. So finally I said, "That's it, no more whiskey until you give me something memorable. And no more Bush bashing either."

He thought about it a while, cigarette and glass in hand, and finally said:

"Der Würger und die Würgerin
gingen in den Burger King,
würgten Rind und Hahn und Henne,
doch Zuhause gab es Penne."


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