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Cosmopolis: Roman (2003)

von Don DeLillo

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
2,238425,327 (3.09)48
Cosmopolis ist die Geschichte eines Tages - grotesk, witzig, böse, klug.
  1. 00
    Unterwelt von Don DeLillo (Fmancheno)
    Fmancheno: If you like the masterful way in which DeLillo makes his characters interact in a world of distances, common-day ephiphanies and alienation, Underworld proves a worthy predecessor.
  2. 00
    Dirty Little Angels von Chris Tusa (WSB7)
    WSB7: A better vision of soul-sucking modernity's effects.
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Englisch (37)  Spanisch (2)  Deutsch (1)  Katalanisch (1)  Italienisch (1)  Alle Sprachen (42)
Der digitale Imperativ: Cosmopolis - Metropolis in Potenz. Die neue Dimension einer in Fritz Langs Film aus dem Jahr 1927 zum Kult kristallisierten Zukunftsvision. Der düstere Ausblick auf eine von Macht und Technik dominierte entmenschlichte Gesellschaft. Gesteigert schon durch die systematische Relativierung von Raum und Zeit. Die Zukunft, sie spielt im Jahr 2000, ist bereits Vergangenheit. Räume werden durch fernsteuerbare Technik nivelliert. Cosmopolis, Metropolis im Millenium, alias New York, vielleicht auch Gotham City, ist das mobile Herz des globalen Wirtschaftsorganismus. Es sitzt überall dort, wo die weltweiten Märkte manipulierbar sind. Jedes Menschliche ist in der allumfassenden Digitalisierung und wirtschaftlichen Vernetzung eliminiert. Alles gehorcht der Null-Einsheit der Welt, dem digitalen Imperativ. Zahlenströme jagen in Bits und Bytes durch Glasfaserkabel, die Adern des digitalen Blutkreislaufs. Angetrieben vom Pulsieren der Weltmärkte, steigt und fällt die Amplitude im hektischen Rhythmus der steigenden und fallenden Währungen. Hysterie in Hochgeschwindigkeit, Tag für Tag, Minute für Minute. Das Zauberwort ist: Der Markt. Die größte Herausforderung: Einfluss auf die Interaktion zwischen Technik und Kapital.
Eric Packer ist Finanzimperator im intergalaktischen Krieg der Märkte und Währungen. Der fitnessgestählte Wirtschafts-Samurai bewohnt die achtundvierzig Zimmer auf mehreren Etagen eines neunundachtzig Stockwerken hohen gläsernen Wohnturms allein. Aus seiner „stretched Limo", einer kugelsicheren, extralangen Limousine, lenkt er seine gesamten Aktivitäten. Dort, in der abgeschirmten Welt seiner versenkbaren Flat-Screens, alles überwachender Spy-Cams und über Sprache und Handgesten gesteuerten mobilen Computer arbeitet er. In der unablässig fließenden Harmonie der Zahlenströme und Wirtschaftsdaten agiert Eric Packer als absoluter unangreifbarer Herrscher seines Imperiums. Packers Reich ist virus-checked und voll automatisiert. Die Menschen sind reduziert auf Funktionen, dafür haben die Daten selbst eine Seele. In Packers hypermanischem Bewusstsein und Egozentrismus, in dem er „Ich über alles" setzt, ist Reichtum zum Selbstzweck geworden: „Das Cyberkapital erschafft die Zukunft."
Aber es gibt Irritationsfaktoren. Zum einen Packers Körper. Mit der Feststellung „Meine Prostata ist asymmetrisch" bricht alles herein, was in Cosmopolis eliminiert zu sein schien: Zweifel, Zeit-Wahrnehmung, Bewusstsein vom täglichen Sterben und drohenden Tod, Ängste und Emotionalität, Identität und chverlust. Und noch etwas: Packer wird von anonymen Morddrohungen getrieben. Schließlich wird sogar die Vision seiner wirtschaftlichen Allmacht und technischen Omnipotenz in einer immer dringlicher werdenden kurzen Nachricht Lügen gestraft: „Der Yen steigt." Überzogene Währungsspekulationen führen am Ende innerhalb von Minuten zu seinem totalen Bankrott. Der Ausgangspunkt für einen radikalen Befreiungsschlag: Packer ermordet seinen Sicherheitschef. Der Zusammenbruch seines Wirtschaftsimperiums hinterlässt eine beängstigende Orientierungslosigkeit und Leere. Nach einem initialen Ausflug in seine Kindheitsumgebung verlässt Packer seine Limousine, und macht sich, in Umkehrung des klassischen Topos, auf die Suche nach seinem Mörder. Im Dialog mit seinem Alter ego, wird ihm der Spiegel vorgehalten: „Wie wichtig das Schiefe ist, etwas, das leicht schräg hängt. Sie haben das Gleichgewicht gesucht (...). Aber Sie hätten dem Yen in seinen Ticks und Schrullen nachspüren sollen. (...). Dem Baufehler. (...) Da lag die Antwort, in Ihrem Körper, in Ihrer Prostata." In einem surrealen finalen Showdown zeigt Packers Uhr ihm nicht die Zeit an, sondern seinen eigenen vorweggenommenen Tod. Eine banale Leiche, weit weg von seinem Ziel „außerhalb der vorgegebenen Grenzen zu leben, in einem Chip, auf einer Diskette, als Daten, strudelnd, in strahlendem Wirbel, ein Bewusstsein, vor der Leere gerettet."
DeLillo beschreibt mit Cosmopolis die Zukunft in einem skurrilen Science-Fiction, der bereits heute Wirklichkeit geworden ist. Im systematischem „Auf die Spitze treiben" des schon Realen läuft DeLillo allerdings Gefahr, den Übertreibungs-Effekt überzustrapazieren. Das stilistische Sich-Einlassen und Überziehen der Techno-Sprache und Global-Finance-Terminologie droht auf Dauer leerzulaufen. Auch die künstliche Handlungskonstruktion mit zahlreichen pseudo-originellen und krampfhaft skurrilen Szenen und die absurden Kombinationen von Hochphilosophischem und Banalem überzeugen selten. Die Lektüre von Cosmopolis ist daher nur passagenweise interessant und nur selten amüsant, da dem Roman jede Spur von Humor und Ironie fehlt, wie sie der angestrebten Absurdität und Skurrilität angemessen wäre.
  r1hard | Nov 22, 2009 |
Don DeLillo's new novel has bewildered most of its reviewers, both here and in the US.
Though he's grand and tough enough for that not to matter, he'd be entitled to feel some
bewilderment himself. It's not as if Cosmopolis is a departure for him. Its themes -
power, technology, violence, terrorism, crowds, the movements and counter-movements
of contemporary culture - are those of White Noise, Libra and Mao II. The setting, a
contemporary yet futuristic New York, is familiar terrain. Stylistically, too, it's business
as usual. So what's the problem?

In a word, Underworld, DeLillo's masterwork of six years ago, an alternative history of
postwar America and an homage to the ordinary and overlooked. Underworld opened
with one of the great set-pieces of modern literature, a New York baseball game that
coincides with the beginning of the cold war. It gestured towards something we had not
seen before in DeLillo, something generous, populist and, well, not unlike Jonathan
Franzen's The Corrections, which when it appeared in 2001 was called "DeLillo Lite".
But DeLillo, when he's being DeLillo, is never easy. And Cosmopolis, which has hard
things to say about the direction postmodern society is taking, is an awkward,
rebarbative book.

"He speaks in your voice, American," runs the first sentence of Underworld , "and
there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful." Eric Packer, the main protagonist in
Cosmopolis , speaks in a different voice, one you'd never hear on the street. He's a multibillionaire
riding round New York in a stretch limo, and the shine in his eye is otherwordly. We follow him during the course of a long day in April 2000, as he goes
looking for a haircut, an ambition which is endlessly frustrated - partly by traffic jams,
partly by visitors to his stretch limo (his head of finance, his currency analyst, his
doctor, his philosophical adviser, his bodyguard), but mostly by his own willful
deviations. He's a hubristic visionary, a mix of Icarus and Faust. Before the night is out,
so DeLillo makes clear almost from the start, he will crack up, burn out and lose
everything - not just his wealth but his life.

In a world where, as the epigraph from Zbigniew Herbert puts it, a rat has become the
unit of currency, Packer is King Rat, a solipsistic trader in futures, master of an amoral universe. "Rich, famous, brainy, powerful and feared," with a casual expertise in
ornithology, botany, poetry, astronomy and old English etymology, he has forgotten how
ordinary humanity looks and sounds. "This is good," he says to his rich young wife of 22
days when they find themselves having a conversation about pain and sexual jealousy.
"We're like people talking. Isn't this how they talk?" "How would I know?" she replies.

The heroes of novels don't have to be likeable, and as the epitome of disengagement, cut
off from common pursuits and recognisable feelings, Packer isn't someone we're meant
to engage with. A running motif is his contempt for last week's big thing, especially
technology. Skyscrapers, airports, phones, walkie-talkies, personal computers,
vestibules, automated teller machines, assassination attempts on presidents: he finds
them all comically outdated. His own gadgetry, with its flashing monitors and flowing
numbers, works in another time-frame, bringing events before they happen and giving
them a sharpness they lack in "real life". Doubt and ambiguity aren't concepts he
understands. He sees himself as the future - and thinks that when he dies the world will
end, not him.

Packer is less a character than a cypher, a symbol of dystopian triumphalism. If he
doesn't seem "believable" or "realistic", so be it: the words have no meaning in the world
he inhabits. The problem for the reader is deciding what authority to accord his
observations: do we care what he thinks, given where he's coming from (a 48-room
apartment, with lap pool, card parlour, gymnasium, shark tank, screening room, borzoi
pen and annexe)? Brett Easton Ellis in American Psycho and Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of
the Vanities satirically distanced themselves from their sharkish heroes. DeLillo is more
ambivalent. Not that he approves of Packer. But he shares his enthralment with new
technologies. And he lets him think bright, dangerous thoughts and speak good lines.

The lack of narrative momentum is another difficulty. Dramatic events take place in the
street, beyond the windscreen (an anti-capitalist demo, the funeral of a rap artist). A few
even take place inside the limo: Packer is given a rectal examination while holding a
conversation with a female business associate, which proves orgasmically exciting to
them both. There are surreal episodes with rats and a pastry assassin, and the spice of
implausible coincidence: four times during his meanderings through the city Packer
runs into his wife. Sex happens, death happens, yet nothing moves forward. Even the
climactic meeting of Packer and his stalker is preordained, as the stalker clunkily spells
out: "everything in our lives, yours and mine, has brought us to this moment". Overall,
there's a sense of gridlock. Which is apt thematically, but tough on the reader.

Perhaps the best way to read Cosmopolis isn't as a novel (not even a "novel of ideas")
but as a prose-poem about New York - less Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four than Hart
Crane's The Bridge. There are brilliant descriptions of passing pedestrians, "the others
of the street, end less, anonymous, twenty-one lives per second ... where a quarter
second of a shared glance was a violation"; of the "apparitional" beauty of steam venting
through a manhole; of the swell and ache of car-horns, "a lament so old it sounded
aboriginal"; and of the sound of a gunshot, "one of the routine ephemera of the night, no
different from cats at sex or a backfiring car ... with the dead-ass drift of your personal
urban anomie, you can't be expected to react to an isolated bang". Sentiments such as
the last remind us of the values that 21st-century urban anonymity has supplanted - a
sense of belonging, or concern for other people.

There's a similar moment when Packer finally gets his haircut from a man called
Anthony, who goes way back and takes pride in old-style stuff like work, neighbourhood
and family. To discover through Anthony that Packer has parents is almost shocking. He
likes to pretend he's godlike and self-made, above all lowly kinship. But part of the
journey he makes (and there is character development, of a kind) is to recognise the
failure of his great dream - "to live outside the given limits, in a chip, on a disk, as data, in whirl, in radiant spin, a consciousness saved from the void" - and accept his
mortality.

Is Cosmopolis a post-September 11 novel? Yes and no. When the planes hit the twin
towers 20 months ago, it looked like something from DeLillo, and having got there
before it happened he's surely right not to revisit the scene. But the omens are present,
both in images of New York highrises - "the last tall things, made empty, designed to
hasten the future" - and in an aside on American parochialism (the only geopolitics New
Yorkers know, it's suggested, they pick up from foreign taxi drivers). More would be
indecent. Nothing clamorous is required.

DeLillo has always been good at telling us where we're heading. What he describes here
is an enslavement to money markets, scrolling screens and virtual realities. The
heaviness of the message squeezes the life out his novel. But we ignore him at our peril.
hinzugefügt von browner56 | bearbeitenThe Guardian, Blake Morrison (May 16, 2003)
 
In a land of chunky, garish, anxiousto-please books, Don DeLillo’s thirteenth novel, “Cosmopolis” (Scribner; $25), is physically cool, as sleek and silver-touched and palely pure as a white stretch limo, which is in fact the action’s main venue. On the front of the book jacket we see the limo from the front, and on the back from the back, and in between stretch a tad more than two hundred tall, generous-margined pages of metafiction. Eric Packer, a twenty-eight-year-old billionaire manager of other people’s money, rises after a sleepless night in April of the year 2000, in his forty-eight-room, one-hundred-and-four-million-dollar triplex (with shark tank, borzoi pen, lap pool, gym) at the top of an eighty-nine-story apartment building on First Avenue, and tells his chief of security, “bald and no-necked” Torval, that he wants to get a haircut at the other end of forty-seventh Street. Their exchange illustrates the terse, deflective, somewhat lobotomized quality of the novel’s dialogue:

“I want a haircut.”
“The president’s in town.”
“We don’t care. We need a haircut. We need to go crosstown.”
“You will hit traffic that speaks in quarter inches.”
“Just so I know. Which president are we talking about?”
“United States. Barriers will be set up,” he said. “Entire streets deleted from the map.”
“Show me my car,” he told the man.

The crosstown epic begins. In its oft-interrupted course, Packer follows, via his limo’s bank of electronic screens—“all the flowing symbols and alpine charts, the polychrome numbers
pulsing”—the stubborn rise of the yen, on whose fall he has bet heavily. He takes in details of city life (“A man in women’s clothing walked seven elegant dogs”) and notices that on the limo’s spycam his image makes a gesture a second or two before he makes it in reality. This temporal dislocation recurs, indicating an underlying shift in the past-future paradigm. Packer’s “chief of theory,” Vija Kinski, explains it thus:

“Computer power eliminates doubt. All doubt rises from past experience. But the past is disappearing. We used to know the past but not the future. This is changing.”

DeLillo’s post-Christian search for “an order at some deep level” has brought him to global computerization: “the zero-oneness of the world, the digital imperative that defined every breath of the planet’s living billions.”

The limo, floored in Carrara marble, in its stop-and-go progress admits a coming and going of other passengers, including two advisers who advise Packer to bail out of the yen before he is ruined. Instead, the financier bails out of the limo for a number of quick trysts. he has an impromptu breakfast with “his wife of twenty-two days, Elise Shifrin, a poet who had right of blood to the fabulous Shifrin banking fortune of Europe”; soon thereafter, he copulates with an old acquaintance, an art dealer, and a newer one, a bodyguard, who pop up along his route. On the West Side, where Broadway and Seventh Avenue intersect, Packer runs into a violent demonstration against world capitalism, inspired, it seems, by the line from Zbigniew Herbert, “a rat became the unit of currency,” that DeLillo uses as an epigraph for “Cosmopolis.” The demonstrators rock the limo, spray-paint it, urinate on it, and hurl a trash can at the rear window. Nevertheless, Packer aloofly reflects within the tormented vehicle that there was something theatrical about the protest, ingratiating even. . . . There was a shadow of transaction between the demonstrators and the state. The protest was a form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating. It attested again, for the ten thousandth time, to the market culture’s innovative brilliance, its ability to shape itself to its own flexible ends, absorbing everything around it.

Kinski, the third expert adviser the limo takes aboard—“a small woman in a button-down business shirt, an old embroidered vest and a long pleated skirt of a thousand launderings”—tends to agree, and says of the yen, “To pull back now would not be authentic.”

This farce of extravagant wealth and electronic mysticism might feel more authentic from the pen of Kurt Vonnegut or that of Paul Auster, to whom “Cosmopolis” is dedicated. Nouveau roman meets Manhattan geography, under sci-fi moonlight. Vonnegut and Auster, however, keep on their fantastic plane undeviatingly, as if there were no other, whereas DeLillo gives signs of wanting to drop us down into the quotidian mundane, where we can be wounded. Though always a concept-driven writer, whose characters spout smart, swift essays at one another, he has shown himself—in large parts of “Underworld,” in almost all of “White Noise”—capable of realism’s patient surfaces and saturation in personally verified detail. His visionary side, fed by the bleak implausibilities of modern technology and tabloidized popular culture, has often enough enjoyed a counterweight of domestic emotion and common decency. In “White Noise,” the surreal supermarkets are the real thing, hilariously familiar, and Jack Gladney’s paeans to family life, from within his nest of impudently precocious children and spooky ex-wives, are not ironic. In “Cosmopolis,” implausibility reigns unchecked, mounting to a phantasmagoric funeral parade down Ninth Avenue for the Sufi rapper Brutha Fez; on parade are “the mayor and police commissioner in sober profile,” a dozen congressmen, “faces from film and TV,” foreign
dignitaries, “figures of world religion in their robes, cowls, kimonos, sandals and soutanes,” break-dancers, nuns in full habit, and whirling dervishes.

Now, a reader undertaking a novel grants the writer a generous initial draft of suspended disbelief. DeLillo spends this advance payment as recklessly as his hero overinvests in loans against the yen. Falling in love, in life and in novels, is an unpredictable business, but what about while you’re hunched over having a digital prostate examination in a limo parked in front of the Mercantile Library and at your other end consulting with your chief of finance, lean Jane Melman, sweaty from a jog on her day off? As never before, she and her boss are closely face to face:

Her mouth was open, showing large gapped teeth. Something passed between them, deeply, a sympathy beyond the standard meanings that also encompassed these meanings, pity, affinity, tenderness, the whole physiology of neural maneuver, of heartbeat and secretion, some vast sexus of arousal drawing him toward her, complicatedly, with [Dr.] Ingram’s finger up his ass.

DeLillo’s fervent intelligence and his fastidious, edgy prose, buzzing with expressions like “wave arrays of information,” weave halos of import around every event, however far-fetched and random. But the trouble with a tale where anything can happen is that somehow nothing happens. How much should we care about the threatened assassination of a hero as unsympathetic and bizarre as Eric Packer? DeLillo has a fearless reach of empathy; in “Mao II” he tells us just what it’s like to be a Moonie, and how the homeless talk. But for what it’s like to be a young Master of the Universe read Tom Wolfe instead. DeLillo’s sympathies are so much with the poor that his rich man seems a madman. In one of Packer’s most outrageous acts of diffident destruction, the money manipulator, responding to his wife’s generous offer to help him out of his difficulties with her own fortune, contrives, on a wristwatch computer, to break into her assets and lose them all for her. He even sneers at the amount: “The total in U.S. dollars was seven hundred and thirty-five million. The number seemed puny, a lottery jackpot shared by seventeen postal workers. . . . He tried to be ashamed on her behalf.” When he later confesses to her what he has done, she playfully laughs and makes love. She evidently doesn’t care, and the reader feels foolish for having cared on her behalf.

Packer, I suppose we should keep in mind, is working through a crisis in self-confidence. His first sexual partner of this busy April day, the art dealer Didi Fancher, tells him, “You’re beginning to think it’s more interesting to doubt than to act.” His would-be murderer, in a conversation so companionable and mutually attuned that murder seems a form of suicide, likens him to “Icarus falling” and tells him, “You did it to yourself.” On reflection, Packer has to wonder, “What did he want that was not posthumous?” Death has become his métier.

His pharaonic limo ride to an underground garage on the far West Side does, however, have a few stops in the world of the living, of the substantially felt. The very notion of a daylong push along Forty-seventh Street is funny and metaphoric—a soul’s slow-motion hurtle from the U.N.’s posh environs to the desolation of Hell’s Kitchen, with the diamond block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues providing a splash of noontide sparkle. And the notion of a wife wears some shred of the sacred for Packer and DeLillo both; Elise and Eric, though they were estranged from the start, keep meeting, in a series of coincidences that must be fated, and maximize their rapport while lying naked, as movie extras, on the tar surface of Eleventh Avenue. Eric “felt the textural variation of slubs of chewing gum compressed by decades of traffic. He smelled the ground fumes, the oil leaks and rubbery skids, summers of hot tar”: the billionaire, “his body . . . a pearly froth of animal fat in some industrial waste,” comes home to basic materials.

And he comes home to, it is tempting to reveal, the barbershop of his childhood, where clipped, elliptical DeLillo-diction sounds just right:
“But how come you’re such a stranger lately?”
“Hello, Anthony.”
“Long time.”
“Long time. I need a haircut.”
“You look like what. Get in here so I can look at you. . . . I never seen such ratty hair on a human.”

Lulled by the barbershop, its archaic scents and voices, Packer, whose father grew up in a tenement across the street, relaxes his day’s work of frenetic self-assertion and falls, for a few blessed moments, asleep. The novel, relaxing likewise, gives us a venue in which we can repose belief.
hinzugefügt von browner56 | bearbeitenThe New Yorker, John Updike (Mar 31, 2003)
 
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