Heiner Müller's dramatic poem Mommsen's Block (1993) presents an image of the great classical historian stymied, as Müller reports, by the “depravity of the later Caesars,” unable to finish the projected fourth volume of his Roman History. This case of an author unable to write becomes a palimpsest for Müller's own situation in the newly reunited Germany. The playwright celebrated as “Müller-Deutschland,” with one foot planted on either side of the Berlin Wall, could not find a comfortable stance once that wall was torn down. Drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben and Carl Schmitt (and on Müller's own appropriations of Walter Benjamin and Antonin Artaud), however, this article argues that for Müller the state of exception had become the norm. The emergency is the everyday. Mommsen's Block therefore narrates the author's dilemma, faced with a subject he finds all but unbearable (Müller's displacement in a relaunched, rebranded Germany), and an audience already turning away from him.
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Thomas Freeland; Writing into the Void: Heiner Müller's Mommsen's Block as a State of Exception. New German Critique 1 August 2013; 40 (2 (119)): 167–184. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2077753
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