Christoph Höhtker\’s Schlachthof und Ordnung is a very recent novel. Garish. Vulgar. Misanthropic. A story stuffed with freaks. With Ossi hunters, doomsday devices, nihilists, sadists, cop killers and prostitutes. All high. All on a drug that parts of the Western world have succumbed to. Marazepam. A drug that, as if equipped with artificial intelligence, “understands” the patient, serves his desires and provides him with hormonal almost maternal care. Gives him courage, stimulates him, but also lets him sleep when he needs sleep. Whoever yearns for truthfulness or political change receives confirmation and strength. But not many people want change. Most consumers work with the drug and are unaware of its side effects. Fatally. Because in combination with alcohol, taking the drug can be fatal, and if you stop taking the drug, you start to mutilate yourself. So there is a life before marazepam, one with it, but none after. So far, so Netflix.
By shifting to the years 2022/23, Schlachthof und Ordnung is pro forma a vision of the future, through which the protagonist, Marc Toirsier, an investigative journalist, crawls or cheers, depending on the level of supply. He has decided to stop taking the drug, while around him terror groups more akin to an apocalyptic sect than a political fighting force are planning an attack on the headquarters of the pharmaceutical company, hoping that this attack will disrupt supply lines and thus take an important step towards chaos and the end of the world.
Christoph Höhtker, born in Bielefeld in 1967, presents his fourth book here. Committed to the genre of dystopia, he stages a world whose edges erode into moral nothingness, an ego-shooter world of violence in which ethics has dissolved into action. A world of human coldness, which Höhtker tries to warm up with the blood and excrements of his characters. It is also a Houellebecq world of contempt and mental death, against which Höhtker\’s characters run amok like in a B-movie by Robert Rodriguez, whereby aesthetically, Russ Meyer\’s soft pornography (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) could have served as a model. The sexist and racist monologues do not allow any misunderstandings to arise about Höhtker\’s position on political correctness. However, with expressions such as “little Bulgarian cadastral dove”, “old camel driver” or “my little cinnamon bun” he rarely abandons the habitual racism of old gentlemen who insist on gypsy schnitzel and negro kiss.
The one hundred year old Eastern Front doctor Dr. Bunnemann, of all people, who still took part in the Russian campaign, appears as the moral father and only voice of reason. He wants to bring order to the abattoir by no longer prescribing the pill, which, however, turns the environment of his practice into an actual abattoir, into a withdrawal zombie armageddon.
Why doesn\’t anyone ever just call the police? Plausibility and traceability are not provided for in Höhtker\’s concept of the violent and overdose. All discrepancies are blamed on the unreliable narrator under the influence of drugs, because somehow we are also reading the work of the novel character Gerke, who, struggling with withdrawal symptoms, claims to have written the present book. Thus Schlachthof und Ordnung seems like a novel about farsightedness written in tiny letters: “One of my books always means several books. Book in book to book next to book. Multipolar thought-provoking impulses, you understand? Can you get that through your pretty black market head?” Yes. It does. Sucks, too.
Unlike the Houellebecq world, which in its perversion still concedes a wound, a search for humanity, almost martyrdom as a counterbalance to its emptiness, Höhtker does not allow his figures any inwardness. Like his terrorists, he relies in his smoke grenade and blank inferno on the power of shrill images and powerful symbols. Is this already social criticism or is it just smug posturing that hopes to frighten off some cardboard comrade of bourgeois readers with its politically incorrect daring? Especially since he himself remains committed to this bourgeois order, insofar as he dismissed his terrorists as chaotic instead of listening to them. You might have interesting things to say to him.
Christoph Höhtker: “Slaughterhouse and Order”. weissbooks.w, Zurich 2020; 416 p., €24, e-book €19.99
Image source: https://bit.ly/2X1fqZo