Mynona, “Idea for a Telehaptor” (1913)

So, then, we have telegraphy, telephony, the television is as good as ready-to-go. All that’s left to wait for is telehaptics, the telehaptor, the teletoucher. What use is the entire oeuvre of H.G. Wells, if he shrinks back from this idea? But the matter is much more miserable than one might suspect: We are lost if we do not learn how to telehapt. As long as our sense of touch remains frozen as if in stone, and only its refinements, the senses of sight, smell, and hearing, are free to roam around in the world, we will remain pitiful prisoners. But there’s no need to cry yet! We need some words of encouragement. Some things are not found only because nobody ever has the idea to look for them. The thought of telehapting the sense of touch, once grasped, will have to be realized!

I am not now in Bessarabia, I am here in the place where some people with a healthy digestive system always ask: What is the German’s fatherland? Take them…

Yes, the cuckoo sometimes sings too prettily, Frau Werner—What I wanted to say just now: I am here! But I am not everywhere…apart from…apart from…apart from my little—sense of touch?

Well, there lies the rub! My vision reaches as far as the Milky Way, my hearing potentially for miles, my smell unfortunately into the toilet of the lyrical poet Expresber. I hear the little prostitute Kleptomanopatra here, whenever she speaks during sexual intercourse in Cairo. I sense the elegant novelist Paul Juchheyse (with the sense of intuition, of course), whenever I, so far away from him, think of nothing. But I can only taste and touch my dears when I have them right next to me (which, by the way, heaven forbid!). Nevertheless! What is clear from all of this is that whenever somebody asks, “Where are you?” he actually means, “Where can you be touched?” For you could also be seen, heard, smelled somewhere else. Yes, this heavy and clumsy sense of touch! We have to pry it out, thaw it out, pull it through wires, and finally send it wirelessly into every distance. How easy!

You see, dear Frau Scholz, before you go to the trouble of putting on your stockings and shoes, powdering your nose, going to the train station, getting into a coupe, and still needing fourteen days until you’re not even in Japan yet, where Prince Ten-tsim-po will take you into his frail arms—simply stand naked, as, if we are not mistaken, God made you, on some kind of scale, whose counterpart at the target of your destination will react accordingly: With a flick of the wrist, everything about you that can be touched or weighed will be transferred over there telehaptically! Soon, we’ll be able to send along clothing too; for the time being, the teletoucher resists…shamefully!…anyone who is not stark naked. This is probably the reason why it does yet function properly.

Be that as it may, the teletoucher—which, of course, as Professor Abnossah Pschorr had the kindness to inform me, includes the telesmeller, teletaster, teleheater/cooler, etc.—is the ideal mode of all transportation…and so healthy, so amusing, so modern, that it promises to have a directly refreshing effect, especially in the field of erotics, which up to now has been somewhat…awkward? Yes, Mother Kobelke, have you heard that a teletictor, a telegestural apparatus is definitely envisaged for the future?

All the things that are true! Having oneself telehapted costs a little will power, giving away a little of oneself for a moment. Oh, my dear colonial grocer Schwach from Halle, rid yourself of the delusion that you’re not in Burma: You are everywhere. But without the telehaptor, you’ll hardly experience it! What’s Halle to you? How beautiful Burma is!

Simply have yourself telehapted, on account of your blessed memory in Halle! So that people lament your passing!

And what would be really delightful is the (still to be realized) forced telehaptation! In a single go, we could shoot off an entire regiment of deplorable people to Timbuktu, and destroy the device for them to get back. Good heavens, wouldn’t that be cathartic!…

What do you mean, you sheep nose? You take the thought to be fantastic, you uninvited fool?! Won’t you be silent, you boar! Did you make the festival celebrating 1813 on my behalf, you old party-animal! Did you think perhaps you might be among companions here? You vulture! Do you take these kinds of ideas for hollow eggs full of gas? What? Light waves and such rubbish are supposed to propagate rapidly—and haptic vibrations are not? Are you crazy? Or are you perhaps only the dumb goose who only goes with officers? You disaster!

Source: Mynona (Salomo Friedlaender), “Idee vom Ferntaster,” Der Sturm 4, no. 170–71 (July 1913): 66–67.

 

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Erik Born

I’m an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of German Studies at Cornell University. My research and teaching focuses broadly speaking on relations between old media and new media, and particularly on questions of mobility.

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