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One way of encountering Joyce without the bias of expectation, is to preempt a preconceived intellectualist reading (that might result from the (overwrought) theorizing that one inevitably encounters over the years in form of insurmountable mountains of secondary literature) by simply savouring / struggling with Ulysses at fifteen, while mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps, without having the vaguest contextual notion of what it is you have gotten yourself into (that goes for both the climbing experience and the novel).

Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz is the standard candidate for the ‘German Ulysses’ (adapted as a 15 hour film by Fassbinder). But yesterday, watching Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin: die symphonie der grossstadt (a day in the life of Berlin) reminded me of Joyce’s detailed epic account of Dublin in the form of one day of Leopold Bloom’s meanderings (June 16, ‘Bloomsday’: the day, also, that Kenneth Goldsmith recorded all of his body movements for his poem Fidget). I found the film unexpectedly neatly linear. I always somehow thought it would be more about radical experimentation with the medium film than about telling a story. Still, interesting, if only for the rare portrait it offers of Berlin in 1927.

Now to watch the remake of Berlin: symphonie, filmed in 2002 (and apparently quite closely following the sequences of the original). But more eager is my anticipation about getting my hands on another epic collage of the city: Alexander Kluge’s Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike, a 570-minute (9.5 hour!) adaptation of Marx’s Das Capital. A stunning achievement and one that, coincidentally, realizes the original plan for that project dreamed up by Joyce and Eisenstein 80 years ago

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