Second Through Brain begins with the stuccoist Jörg Schuh, distracted by “the huge bosom of maid Hanne from the skyscraper opposite,” losing his footing and falling forty stories to the “sundripped concrete” below where, forty-seven pages later, his brain “radiantly spattered.” As Jörg falls episodes from his life—both “made-up & true”—pass by in thirty-five vivid flashbacks, some no more than a few lines long.
Bawdy, rollicking, profoundly comic, and sometimes deeply disturbing, Melchior Vischer’s “Dada novel” continually astonishes with its formal inventiveness and dazzles with its verbal pyrotechnics, which are ably captured in David Vichnar and Tim König’s excellent translation. Second Through Brain also reveals much about the neuroses of its times, testifying not only to the crisis of (white, Western) civilization that gave birth to Dada (“We want to smash culture into pieces, also the bourgeois madness, which is so often nicely lacquered and bound in Moroccan leather,” Vischer raves), but also to its repressed fantasies of racialized and sexualized others, whether black, Jewish, or “Eskimo.”
It does not come as a surprise to learn from David Vichnar’s highly informative and superbly researched introduction that among many other later metamorphoses Melchior Vischer went on to become an active member of the Nazi party and a pseudonymous literary activist for the Sudeten German cause.
Second Through Brain is both a pioneering literary work and a very revealing historical document, and Equus Press are to be congratulated for publishing a fine first English edition of this long-forgotten Dada text.
Derek Sayer, author of Prague: Capital of the Twentieth Century, A Surrealist History