XIII Jerusalem, Germany 2011
For ten years, Käbi and I talked about whether the right attitude towards the oppressed nations that committed crimes among themselves in support of the occupying force should be as cold-hearted and critical or compassionate. Compassion as understanding is the opposite of pity.
After the first act, surprisingly, I can’t start the second. I am polishing one of Aliide’s three main scenes. Its music tries to render some beauty, but its text expresses the whole tragedy of her nation.
I am working in a manor house of a farm situated in a village named Jerusalem about eighty miles from Hamburg and Hannover. There’s a piano and no one is home except for the heavy images of the household’s forefathers and the Labrador who sleeps at the top of the stairs. She does not move at all during the day, just drifts from one spot in the sun to the next. The piano room is separated by curtains. I try to wizard out heavy chains of seconds and thirds, in between them the Labrador and my terrier growl at each other. Every now and then all this grows to Wagnerian proportions.
The children have left; their rooms remain the same. When my ears become dull to harmonies, I walk from one room to another; high, dark doors, behind them alcoves scented with the furnishings. The rooms are filled with toy cars, fans, posters of stars: the whole history of West Germany, in a couple of dozen years since the downfall to wealth.
In the evening the heat grows. I take a bike and cycle around the Lüneburg Heathland. Everything is blossoming, the wind turbines whisk the clouds, the earth has turned mourning purple.
The most central theme in ”Purge” is that to purge is to understand.
When one has left the trauma behind, as happened in the countries of Warsaw pact, there are two options going forward: either to recognise the past and comprehend it, and through that overcome it; or leave it untouched – in which case time takes care of the purge by discontinuing future generations.
I think the question of compassion and judgement is not a question of state or culture—it is a private question in an obligatory way towards reconciliation.
The fractured cultures of the former Soviet countries have answered the question in many different ways – Germany and Poland in one way, Ukraine in another, the Baltic countries in a third way and Byelorussia has its own backward ways. But there’s a clear logic in this: both the Nazis and the Soviets were the most bestial in Byelorussia.
I have the whole second act still ahead of me.