Disruption: On the Rhythm of Radical Politics in Uwe Timm’s Rot (Red)

David D. Kim


Politics proper follows the rhythm of disruption, which recalibrates common expectations, takes issue with linear temporal trajectories, and sets in motion many different forms of communication between variously affiliated members of community. This article examines Uwe Timm’s 2001 novel Rot, first, as a polyphonic composition closely related to bebop and, second, as a literary attempt to disrupt the status quo in contemporary German political culture. As I argue, this multivocal novel illustrates how disruption, as a paradoxically rhythmic concept, touches upon individual action and communal coordination, flow and repetition, as well as structure and mobility. As an aesthetic, historical, and political legacy of 1968, it works as a matter of intergenerational communication and in opposition to the neoliberal oracles about efficiency, predictability, regularity, synchronicity, and uniformity. This simultaneously critical and creative inquiry offers important cultural and political insights into the relationship between rhythm and memory vis-à-vis the ’68 generation to which both the protagonist and the author belong. While consulting with the latest research in cultural criticism and political theory, I explain to what extent radical politics, as it is represented in the novel, is unimaginable without the disruption of rhythm in interpersonal relationships and in more abstract social contracts between citizen and state. (DK)

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