a novel, by Melchior Vischer
translated by David Vichnar & Tim König
ISBN 978-0-9931955-1-8. Paperback. 120pp. Publication date: November 2015. Equus Press: London.
Proclaimed as the “first Dada novel” & the “literary equivalent of Cézanne,” Melchior Vischer’s Sekunde durch Hirn (Second Through Brain, 1920) is composed as a series of disconnected vignettes that flash through the mind of one Jörg Schuh as he falls from the scaffolding of a 40-storey construction site. With its boldly idiosyncratic technique, Vischer’s novel is a major document of the Zürich-Prague-Berlin Dada axis. Largely forgotten after World War II, Sekunde durch Hirn is an important rediscovered landmark of the inter-war European avant-garde, here translated into English for the first time.
“As a foundational text – the first novel of dada – there are a panoply of techniques on display here that it is tempting to call firsts: The use of non-sequiturs throughout is reminiscent of automatic writing, although the animals and vegetables of the surrealists are not in as regular attendance here as are soldiers, sex, acts of violence, and language itself. […] Second Through Brain is nowhere near as elaborately conceived or beautifully executed as, say, Joyce’s Ulysses or Woolf’s The Waves, but it reads as far more contemporary. Time hasn’t dulled the blades on the meat grinder of its language. It is still every bit as curious and mocking as it was back in 1920, and now that English readers can get their hands on it I highly recommend that they do so.”—Joe Darlington, Manchester Review of Books
“Second through Brain is a real Dada(ist ) adventure which stands as a pillar of Modernist sensibility in the huge building of the zaniest Avangarde art and creativity. It’s more than a single vertebrum in the Dadaïst spine which supports the unknown , that subconscious and rather cinematographic expression of the Dada bodies of Vicher’s pals such as Schwitters, Arp and Ball. All done in the excellent “translators’ Cabaret” of David Vichnar and Tim Koenig. Long live The Dada horse!”—Nina Zivancevic
“Second Through Brain is both a pioneering literary work and a very revealing historical document, and Equus Press are to be congratulated for publishing a fine first English edition of this long-forgotten Dada text.”—Derek Sayer, author of Prague: Capital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
“Großartig! Wahrlich schnelldrehend, komplett bescheuert und am Schluß doch einen Sinn enthüllend, und dabei ein Hochvergnügen im konsequent respektlos-kreativen Umgang mit der Deutschen Sprache.”—Goodreads
“There is a sense of potential lethality about this work. A prevailing sense of doom hangs over its subjects maybe because the author himself felt sensitive to the apocalyptic mood of an age that was rapidly modernising and increasingly unforgiving. And in this Vischer displays his greatest sense of affinity with the Dadaist movement that he claimed membership of […]. Vischer is also weaving a cautionary tale for us one in which we should not be wary of machinery but humanity itself and the evils and injustices that it is capable of as seen in this novel.”—Mark O’Leary, Přítomnost
“Apart from using some of the typical dadaist stylistic techniques as visual typography, non-lexical onomatopoeia, meta-narration, and textual montage, Second through Brain also seeks to programmatically align itself with the Zürich/Berlin dada group. There is, famously, the ‘intertelluric greeting to Serner and Tzara,’ with the prospect of ‘a boat ride over the Niagara.’ […] Vischer’s attempt at aligning himself with international avant-garde can be seen as a logical step toward overcoming his WWI traumas by creating an international network (stretching out from Prague via Berlin, Hannover and Zürich to Paris) of creative brains within which to weather whichever future storm may be in store. Second through Brain, and the sinuous fate of its author, stand as useful reminders of how important are internationalism & cosmopolitanism to any radically innovative art – especially now, as we’re celebrating the centenary of Dadaism (Feb 1916), and the times seem once again strangely ‘molluscan.'”—David Vichnar, Equus Press
“In every line of this extraordinary work there’s the effortless gift of grace: poetry […]. A second through brain, a dream-second through the brain of a man deliriously falling, the metamorphoses of Venus, the thousand faces of the earth spirit, heads and their contraries experienced at a thousand-mile tempo, sucked away by an overpowering drive for being […]. Dada is a form, Dada itself is a form for a poet.”—Ernst Weiß, 1920