[ excerpt ]
Blixa Bargeld performing Letzte Lockerung here
A Handbook for the Con Artist
& Those Aspiring to Become One
by Walter Serner
translated from the German by Mark Kanak
frontispiece by Leo Haas
A cofounder of Dada and its enfant terrible, Walter Serner was a brilliant observer of society — his activities in the 1920s have been called "a dance on the rim of a volcano."
His Last Loosening: Dada Manifesto was written in 1918 and published in 1920. Slightly revised later as Serner became disgusted with Dada, it forms
the first part of this volume, its philosophical foundation. A playful "moral codex" to subvert the illusions and stereotypes underpinning society's
views on morality and decency, it attacks the contradictions between appearance and reality: "The world wants to be
deceived, and is enraged when you do not oblige." Serner's publisher, Paul Steegemann, in a fit of promotional zeal, sensationally claimed that it had been "compiled across
the entire continent by the notorious international con man Dr. Walter Serner."
The volume's second part, "The Handbook of Practices," was written in Geneva in 1927 and offers a practical guide in gnomic prose for the modern amoralist, the con man.
A cynical vision to be sure, Serner has set out a list of precepts to arm us in a world where boredom prevails and nothing but self-interest is a motivator, a shameless,
bigoted world wallowing in an orgy of narcissism, where it is either fool or be fooled. His smugness and indifference, his "Jesuit snobbery" as one
critic called it, gave his work an explosive force that was unsurpassed by his contemporaries. In today's world, which has witnessed an unabated proliferation of swindlers
from business to politics to the media to academia to the arts, Serner's Handbook might prove very useful indeed.
What others say:
No one brings the intellectual perspective of Serner's ... he is at once nihilistic and utterly tranquil and serene,
encountering nothingness with cold, dispassionate, playful lines. Not to be forgotten: "Whoever speaks a word of comfort is a traitor."
— Jörg Drews, Süddeutsche Zeitung
The practical part of the Handbrevier für Hochstapler appeared in 1927. In it are blended the dada cult of indifference and Nietzsche's theory
of masks with an ironic reference to the new objectivity imperative of action. The form is borrowed from Gracián's Art of Worldly Wisdom, as contemporary critics were already
aware. [...] The maxims are delivered deadpan, in a manner reminiscent of Buster Keaton; the book offers guidance to those who are already ruined.
— Helmut Lethen, Cool Conduct
... a human curse incarnate.
— Jed Rasula, Destruction Was My Beatrice
[Serner] loved people that made their way through life on unstable paths, smiling dandies, modern misfits.
He loved trapezes, mirages, echoes, synthetic mushrooms, and manicured and pedicured Sterne, or, stars. [...] He had the gait of an artiste,
who is proudly hopping across the safety net to the thunderous applause of the audience, dancing off lightly.
— Hans Arp
[W]hile other German Dadaists were becoming champions of the proletariat, Walter Serner was forging his own path, and the result was conmanship, rasta. So in this second version
of his Dada Manifesto, “Letzte Lockerung” (published by P. Steegemann in Berlin), “Vive Dada!” is replaced by “Vive le rasta!” And the theoretical, intellectual being of the con man found in the first part is
augmented by a second part offering practical guidance to con men and those who aspire to be one. It is a rather personal solution, but one not without interest. The blistering paradoxes railing against
warring Europe’s insanity are followed by practical wisdom that sees this same Europe continuing to live its life of idiocy. “The world wants to be deceived, and is enraged when you do not oblige.” In other words:
What is left but the wisdom of the con man?
— Bedřich Václavek, ReD (1928)
Serner's manifesto is written in a provocative, new, highly suggestive style that has been quickly imitated.
With its appearance Dada, which before this manifesto was a rather amorphous grouping of modern artists having an original name, has
been given a mode and way of speaking.
— Hamburger Correspondent (September 1920)
13.5 x 19 cm
prose : dada
RRP: $21 • £15
UK: July 15, 2020
US: Sept. 8, 2020
Will ship early June.
or order from: