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Søren R. Fauth POEM ABOUT THE DEAD (2018)

For all the teachers out there crumpling under the weekend marking-load, Søren R. Fauth feels (the futility of) your pain.

Who is Fauth? If Fauth didn’t exist, Michel Houellebecq would have to invent him. A Scandinavian Germanist with the bitter vim of some of Houellebecq’s best loser characters, but driven by the pettiness of the will as much as any of us, Fauth observes and articulates its emergence with what might be a defence of what Sianne Ngai terms ‘ugly feelings’.

In reality, Fauth is a poet and tenured philosopher specialising in that arch-grandee of philosophical pessimism, Schopenhauer, and is the Danish translator of Thomas Bernhard. He has four collections of poetry, the most recent being ‘Moloch’, an autofictional outpouring of powerful feelings, which takes its origin in a marriage betrayal recollected in the smooth tranquility of rage.

The passage below comes from ‘Digt om døden’ (Poem on the death), which charts the decline of his ailing father’s last years as an opportunity to reflect on all the deaths that make up a life: highly readable, rough translation below.


Reading exam papers

Reading Sloterdijk's* monstrous book “You must change your life”**

bored to death over the exam papers

panic at the thought of all that

I will not accomplish

before I die because I have to read the exam papers

because I have to go shopping

because I have to teach

because I have to go to meetings

because I have to talk to other people

the panic is

that I read the exam papers so unfocused

that I am losing several precious hours

before I die

it is intolerable

I should change this practice

change my life on a number of points

change it radically

have done with seeing others

have done with going to meetings

have done with teaching

have done with eating

have done with sleeping waking

practicing ascetic striving

always ascetic


that is my life

completely on board with Sloterdijk's points

should have all the prerequisites to prepare me for death

I have passed all other tests by practicing

just don’t know how

suicide is hardly an option

have use for near-death experiences

decide to postpone for the time being the definitive death

I promise to practice every day

that my father is going to die.

* Peter Sloterdijk : perhaps the most successful living conservative continental philosopher reacting against a post-Frankfurt school worldview

**’You must change your life’ is the essence of Rilke’s advice to a young poet, and the title of one of Sloterdijk’s more recent works. Søren L Fauth’s ‘Digt om døden’ retains the German title; google translate has it as ‘You must end your life’, surely a more bold advice for would-be poets.

Læser eksamensopgaver

læser Sloterdijks monstrøse bog >Du musst dein Leben änden<

keder mig til døde over eksamensopgaverne

går i panik ved tanken om alt det

jeg ikke når

inden jeg skal dø

fordi jeg skal læse eksamensopgaver

fordi jeg skal købe ind

fordi jeg skal undervise

fordi jeg skal gå til møder

fordi jeg skal taler med andre mennesker

panikken gør

at jeg læser eksamensopgaverne så ukoncentreret

at jeg mister flere dyrebare timer

inden jeg skal dø

det er uholdbart

jeg burde ændre denne praksis

ændre mit liv på en række punkter

ændre det radikalt

holde op med at se andre

holde op med at gå til møder

hold op med at undervise

holde op med at spise

holde op med at sove vågne

øvende asket stræbende

altid asket


det er mit liv

er helt med på Sloterdijks pointer

burde have alle forudsætninger for at øve mig i døden

jeg har bestået alle andre prøver ved at øve mig

ved blot ikke hvordan

selvmord er næppe en mulighed

har brug for nærdødsoplevelser

beslutter mig for indtil videre at udsætte den definitive død

jeg løver at øve mig hver dag på

at min far skal dø.


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