Saturday, 25 January 2020
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Lift stories: Inspiring fantasy

The contrast could not have been greater: Arnim Töpel sang and read serious, light-hearted, eerie and thoughtful texts about lifts between a nineteenth century mill lift, a 1960s Lochbühler lift drive and a 1924 paternoster.


The satirist and musician provided an impressive demonstration in the Lift Museum in the Water Tower in Mannheim-Seckenheim of how much this small mode of transport has inspired poets and thinkers.

Interpretation of dreams and children’s imaginations

The artist transported his audience to the worlds of Heinrich Böll, Franz Kafka, the interpretation of dreams and children’s imaginations with a self-composed song about conveying, lifting and being beautiful. For example, the protagonist in Boll’s story "Murke’s collected silences” needs to use a paternoster as a daily ritual. "He needed this fear like others their coffee, porridge or fruit juice,” Boll wrote.

Handwerk"When he jumped off the lift on the second floor, he was happy and relaxed.” By contrast, in Kafka the lift in the novel "America” became a nightmare. After promising the 16-year old Karl Roßmann, who had emigrated to the new world, "the chance to get somewhere better every day” upon his appointment as lift boy, he is immediately dismissed once again following a tiny mistake - with the Kafkaesque inhumane severity of the mighty. In the novel on which the film "Lift to the Gallows” was based, the lift even becomes a prison, practically hell.

Rules on how to behave in lifts

Quite unlike the book "The Fountains of Paradise” of the English author Arthur C Clarke. In his science fiction novel the technical miracle of a space elevator serves in the twenty-second century to explore foreign worlds and meet aliens. In Roald Dahl’s children’s book "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” all of these forward-looking, eerie, threatening and fantastic ideas are combined into a child’s fantasy - naturally with a happy ending.

Apart from the texts presented expressively and without any pathos, Arnim Töpel enriched the evening with his entertaining songs on the piano as well as with amusing everyday observations: rules on how to behave in lifts, included in books of etiquette, and banal dream interpretation ideas (which in all seriousness interpret a lift travelling upwards as a gestation process, whereas one falling is interpreted as an indication that something in life has got out of control). The otherwise attentively listening audience acknowledged such jokes too - and laughed.

Bettina Heimsoeth

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