Why should I read Ayn Rand

Welcome to the "John Galt Saga" at the Schauspielhaus Zurich! But who is John Galt? Very few people are interested in this in Europe; in the USA, very many people ask themselves this question. The reason for this is the book "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. For some years now it has also been available in German again because Munich's Kai John fell in love with the monster and self-published the 1,300 pages in a new translation. No sooner had "Der Strike" appeared than Stefan Bachmann brought it to the stage in Cologne. That was in 2013. The original was published in 1957 and would be ridiculed if it weren't for immense importance in the USA. Only when one is clear about this can one understand what Stemann's radically ironicized directing approach means. He turns one of the most bizarre books into a musical in the 20th century.

Ayn Rand was born as Alissa Sinowjewna Rosenbaum in 1905 in Russia, emigrated to the USA at the age of 21 after the Red Guards had robbed his father of his pharmacy, and many years later wrote the novel "Fountainhead" about a brilliant architect who worked with Gary Cooper was made into a film, and a little later the book that quickly became the bible of turbo-capitalism. When the Washington Library of Congress asked about the book that "Changed Your Life Most" in 1991, "Atlas Shrugged" came in second. Behind the Bible.

Basically, "The Strike" is a gossip novel in which many ideas are spread, in which all the characters hardly seem to be made of flesh and blood, but only of ideas. The basic tenor: the state has to stay out of everything, taxes are plunder, the pursuit of one's own happiness and wealth are the highest moral purpose of life. This position is represented by the steel magnate Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart, heiress and vice-president of the Taggart railway line. In the magazine new Yorker Rand was once referred to as the "Crazy Madonna of Selfishness". That's true, but only in part.

In the novel, a few other hardcore entrepreneurs disappear in a mysterious way, found an Atlantis far away from the world under the guidance of the ominous John Galt, because they no longer want to pay money for the poor, stupid, hopeless. That is the real strike, and it ultimately leads to the devastation of the no longer productive world. How the super-entrepreneurs in the secluded valley want to celebrate their capitalism without buyers remains a mystery. And here at the latest one wonders whether most of the more than 25 million Americans who had bought the book up to 2010 alone did not tend to read it wrong. Yes, Rand celebrates, pseudo-philosophically, radically the right of the fittest and the genius. But she also talks about other entrepreneurs, about the brothers Hank and Dagny, who plead for responsibility, also tells about family: Dagny's mother once said in the novel that the relationship between her daughter and Hank is not a liaison, but a corporate trust. Ultimately, it can only be said that Hank and Dagny find their happiness in the satisfaction of their greed.

The super egoists shoot everyone else and thus appropriate the future in which this whole gala takes place

The completely different reception of the book on both sides of the Atlantic tells more than the book itself. In the past ten years, sales have skyrocketed when, for example, Barack Obama wanted to push through his health care reform, and the conservative tea party movement demonstrated with " Who Is John Galt "signs.

At the end of Stemann, the protagonists sing "This symbol creates our new time, creates a whole world". What is meant is the dollar sign.

When Nicolas Stemann started the preliminary rehearsals in the summer, he still had a normal performance in mind. Only: "The Strike" is not a normal book. And so he decided to write music together with Burkhard Niggemeier, Thomas Kürstner and Sebastian Vogel, to shake up the text satirically, to commission the puppet makers of Das Helmi with bizarre figures of poor people, to put a live combo on the stage and off to make the "John Galt Saga" his evening. It is not always quick, takes more than three hours and, to put it straight away, could be mean, harder, hotter. But Stemann achieved one thing: a big shake of the head about a country in which some presidents had Rand's book on the bedside table, probably even Obama, if he wanted to know what makes his enemies tick.

Stemann takes splinters from the book and enlarges them, guides his sometimes wonderful performers to courageous play. Matthias Neukirch plays this John Galt as the entertainer of the evening, carefree and wonderfully smooth, and dares a few hot dances with Sebastian Rudolph (Hank). Alicia Aumüller is the ice-cold Dagny, wonderful, even dangerously sexy - she also sings impressively. Even if not quite as impressive as Thelma Buabeng, Hank's wife Lilian, who first organized the resistance against egoism and finally became President of the USA, a great, black, soul-touching lady. Daniel Lommatzsch plays Hank's brother as a theater director, so as a "complete failure", but he plays great, and Stemann can make the best jokes about himself with him: To do his theater critical of capitalism, this Philip pumps his brother on.

Rand's book is also esoteric science fiction, which is depicted here in this fragile show in a future that nobody wants. Which is still funny, including an outrageous western showdown, which is already in the novel. The super-egoists shoot everyone else and thus appropriate the future in which this whole gala takes place. The music to go with it - a bit of soul, workers' songs, Weill, Eisler, Schlager - could, no should, be decidedly more insane. So the book's madness is well preserved, but what is missing is the tangible realization that 2020 will be even more insane than 1957.