What is death? What is the past?
What was written in a blue room?
I read in those lyrical pages no psychiatric report
only the melancholy collision of worlds
Sometimes you heard a choir of gravediggers
in Manchester’s slums
the background of a charity child’s geography
but nothing of the social war depicted by Engels in The Condition of the Working Class
though something of the physical and moral atmosphere
drawn up in a frail notebook entry
‘no bright prospects for future’
no ‘new emergent forces or policies likely to change’.
With misery circulating everywhere
your handwriting follows the swallow’s flight
around the reed and over the black streets
where the homeless sit by the gates.
Reflecting on the deeper ontological problem of time and history
He foresaw an inevitable ‘return to dark ages’ and increasing social control
accompanied by sensations of solitude and paranoia.
So it is not class war that is the primary theme of his lyric poetry
rather the uniform failure of the modern
with its turn to authoritarianism and fascism
in the 20th century
a nihilistic epoch where the promises of the past were never realized
with its ‘Ideals turning to dust’.
I see you as an anti-authoritarian song poet
whose lyrics manifest an immersion
in the iconography, organization and system
of the Nazi state
in the atrocity of the holocaust
and its double the napalm war
a preoccupation with violence and power
as you contemplate the Nuremberg trials
and state terror
you invite the listener to remember
on an industrial scale
‘mass murder on a scale you’ve never seen’.
Overhead, German Gothic characters across the center of an arc-shaped sign:
Women’s Camp. Alongside, a postscript chalked in German hand: Labor via
Joy…. Joy Division.
The very name of his group indicates a fascination
with the workings of the Nazi state.
The name was derived from a book entitled House of Dolls
written by a holocaust survivor
inmate number 135633.
Joy Division referred to the section in concentration camps
in which women were forced into sexual slavery
serving as prostitutes for German soldiers
and subjected to various surgical experiments
various methods of castration and sterilization.
‘Female organs were removed from their bodies and replaced with artificial
On them were tried all sorts of poison tablets
which German pharmaceutical concerns sent to the chief physician
to be tested on humans.’
Taking this name was a political act through which you identified yourself
with the victims of fascism.
The complete lyrics of the song No Love Lost includes
a revised passage from House of Dolls
‘Through the wire screen, the eyes of those standing outside looked in at her as into the cage of some rare creature in a zoo. In the hand of one of the assistants she saw the same instrument which they had that morning inserted deep into her body. She shuddered instinctively. No life at all in the house of dolls’.
The original reads
‘Through the wire screen, the eyes of those standing outside looked in at her as into the cage of some rare creature in a zoo. She was lying naked, her parted knees still strapped to the iron rods at both sides of the table. In the hand of one of the assistants she saw the same instrument which they had that morning inserted deep into her vagina. Her body shuddered instinctively’.
Don Dombowsky is an Associate Professor in the departments of Politics and International Studies and Philosophy at Bishop’s University in Canada. He is the author of Nietzsche and Napoleon: The Dionysian Conspiracy (University of Wales Press, 2014), Nietzsche’s Machiavellian Politics (2004) and co-editor of Political Writings of Friedrich Nietzsche: An Edited Anthology (2008).