A Modest Proposal for the Saponification of Fats: On the Role of Satire in Vilém Flusser’s Work
The starting point of this essay is an interview with Andreas Müller-Pohle and Volker Rapsch (August 1988), in which Flusser defined his writing style as satirical and Vampyroteuthis infernalis as a satirical text. In the interview, Flusser also speaks of academic seriousness as a role to be played, questioning simple notions of authorial objectivity. Flusser’s comment has far reaching consequences for the interpretation of his other writings and raises a series of questions: Was he trying to influence the reception of his new book Angenommen that would be published only one year later, or did he want to reorient the way his books were being read in Germany at the time? Is there an ironical, fabulatory undertone in all his writings even those considered to be straightforward comments on communication and media theory? The first part of the essay discusses some elements of Flusser’s use of satire and compares his short satirical text “Verseifung” (Saponification) with Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal”. The second part deals with Flusser’s satirical use of animal characters (ants, unicorns, the taenia solium, and the imaginary hybrid creature Bibliophagus convictus) in his philosophical fables and their relationship to the Vampyroteuthis infernalis.