Aryan (1992), Jonathan Bowden

Aryan (1992), Jonathan Bowden

Shultz, an assumed member of the Nazi party, contemplates his existence, while a second narrative appears from the author himself, Jonathan Bowden, blurring the lines between philosophical commentary and fiction.

“‘Work makes you free,’ yet this enslaved Shultz of his liberation.” (Page 24)

His liberation? I cannot tell if it’s a parody of Bob Black’s The Abolition of Work, or his plea for The Primal Scream for fascism.

Aryan was a self-published work released by Bowden himself in 1992. Many of his early works are intellectual rantings about the human instinct and anti-liberal sentiments. Much of the Aryan narrative, I believe, is influenced by Bowden’s interest in film director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, as he spends quite some time talking about Syberberg’s sympathy for Nazi Germany while pointing out the suppression among its people. It echos one of Syberberg’s film, The Confessions of Winifred Wagner, where Winifred talks for hours about her love for Adolf Hitler’s regime. Bowden is doing much of the same here, except his love is for his interest in some kind of cruel nationalism, the subconscious and animal behavior.

As he writes about his subject,

“To understand Shultz we must know something about the mind because psychoanalysis is a disease which people pay money to have cured.” (p 14)

See the run-on sentence? Bowden in this text often will make leaping, very dense, run-on sentences explaining this inward “fascinating fascism.” These kind of diatribes often appear out of nowhere (and in most of his writings, you just have to get use to it).

And especially,

“The whole country was crying out for a leader and even today the Neo-Nazis have a slogan which says: things were better under Hitler. You see the whole culture was psychologically disturbed and Nazism was the national psychosis.” (p 45)

Bowden will often make these sweeping assumptions, and again, blurs his imagination within actual commentary. Maybe much of his diatribe takes interest in Freudian (maybe Lacanian) analysis, yet never drops the name in the text. Why is that? I’m not sure. It has likely to do with Bowden trying to recreate an anti-liberal semantics of psychoanalysis.

For example,

“The majority of people in a society are considerably depressed. Yet their minds don’t admit it.” (p 17)

And my favorite,

“One thing the mind represses is its knowledge of death. Yet the mind avoids the possibility of its absence by deluding itself.” (p 16)

I can’t tell if Bowden is enjoying this pristine sense of nihilism, dwelling into dread, or trying to argue that nationalism can be violent. Aryan may represent an early personal development of Bowden’s own philosophy before he became openly nationalist.

He certainly knew of far-right dissenters and anti-liberal commentary of that kind. His interest in attacking the system shares sympathy with the Left’s will of anarchy. According to Bowden, English painter and writer Wyndham Lewis, “considered fascism to be a movement of the left which exploded onto the right but in this he was mistaken.” (p 37)

Again, Bowden assumes fascism always had its inward violent urges. That anyone who is politically right-wing, “scratch a conservative and you will find a National Socialist.” (p 38) That ultimately all right-wing causes lead to fascism and extreme violence.

As a Darwinian example of this,

“fascism is a form of active masculinity because life is not the fight for life but the fight for the right to life.” (p 51)

Bowden later in the text digresses into the English far-right, Sir Oswald Mosley, the British National Party, and an odd-placed review of Syberberg’s Hitler: A Film from Germany.

Creative energy is something that must be manifested into a medium, and often, emotions are suppressed in everyday public. For the writer, one can truly express their intentions in a safe bubble, or echo chamber of critics. Bowden’s interest in fascism can be summed up as “the whole culture was psychologically disturbed and Nazism was the national psychosis.” (p 45)

That’s not to say that the right’s totalitarianism is guilty for this too, as the left has it’s fault as well.

“Stalin’s regime has always embarrassed the Left and it lost the Left its moral legitimacy. As a result it hasn’t been able to hold up its head in public and Stalin’s regime was a genocide waiting to happen.” (p 88)

And that,

“Shultz knew this as he knelt at the camp and he also knew that communist and fascists are indistinguishable.” (p 91)

My guess is Bowden was trying to appeal to both ends of the political spectrum. He had a deep fascination of the holocaust, that, in a gruesome way, offends the reader as transgressive art, but as well citing back to the meaning behind the subconscious, the Freudian ID, that can manifest violence.

Ultimately, ”Shultz was loyal to the better part of himself and he knew his own mind; he celebrated its destruction.” (p 119)

And,

“He knew that existence had no meaning whatsoever, but the essence that lay behind meaning gave existence a purpose.” (p 124)

And ending with the last passage,

“Shultz, however, survived the camps; and he knew how to live because he knew had to die.” (p 128)

I have to admit, Bowden’s writing style in 1992, and later works, come off as pretentious and constantly contradicts itself with witty puns without explanation. That is, if you actually enjoy his clever word selection and strange stream of consciousness, it can come off as positive poetry.

As for Shultz, maybe he is a larger metaphor about the will to survive, compete, and exist while “riding the tiger,” during turbulence and struggle. My criticism is with Bowden’s obsession with death, and his odd irony that death can lean towards greatness. It can come off as a cliche. I’m actually not sure what he is actually trying to say in all honesty. Bowden’s fantastic view of the world could be describe as an immature nihilism, yet this in turn, was his courageous “pagan” ethic that Bowden pursued in life. That there may be something great to die for. In that case, Bowden is espousing that it was nationalism and its will to attack the system. Nationalism, according to Aryan, may be that exact subconscious urge that Sylvia Plath once said, “Every woman adores a fascist.”

For anyone new to Bowden’s avant-garde work, I recommend this one. It reads more like a zeen than anything.

The 2021 edition can be bought at Nine Banded Books.

 

-F.F.

4/2021

 

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