Feedback for Éric Vuillard – Sadness of the Earth

With 133 short pages, this work by the French is definitely one from the “out of the box” category. Éric Vuillard has become known for taking great moments in history and retelling them. In Sadness of the Earth, he first dives deep into the wild west.
A guy who went by many names, such as Billy Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, seemingly casually invents the cornerstones of Hollywood in the late 1800s. In the end, his Wild West show had over 70 million visitors. At a time roughly 100 years before the internet, it has to be said that the Wild West show went viral physically. But no matter how remarkable the entrepreneurial achievement may seem, the background to the success is all the more horrible.

They mainly recruited Native Americans, the original inhabitants of America, and let them act out their own downfall over and over again. The white man, of course, appeared as “good personified.” You played deeply with the emotions of the audience. Imagine a big theatre, more like a mini coliseum, that could hold 10 to 20 thousand people. In this arena, 100 meters long and 50 meters wide, the “redskins” were hunted down and slaughtered. The crowd went wild every single time. Although there were short speeches before and after the scenes for cultural backgrounds and details, nobody seemed to care. Everyone wanted to see gunpowder, brave American soldiers fighting off the Indian storm. How easy it is to twist facts. At the show’s peak, Buffalo Bill even managed to recruit a former Indian chief who fled to Canada and was imprisoned there for a few years to play the lead. You may have heard the name Sitting Bull before. As the leader of the Sioux Indians, he was best known for leading the resistance against the Americans and their land grabs. He was made to portray his own disgrace in every performance…

He died in the massacre at “Wounded Knee” in December 1890. The Hollywood pioneer knew how to use that for himself and his show. The belongings of the last survivors were sold as souvenirs. In general, Indian belongings were sold en masse as merchandising items. The origin or previous owners were not questioned.

What was also interesting and new to me was that the howling of the Indians was a pure invention by Buffalo Bill in order to give his Indian actors more “character”. All of us probably imitated this as a child. Howling with one hand over mouth to jump a tent and make weird noises…pure Hollywood fake obviously.

But feel free to read it yourself over the weekend. The coming to terms with most nations with their bad past hardly takes place or does not take place at all. To put it in the words of Horst Köhler: “friendly disinterest”. Even though many would like to point to Germany and want to stamp us, one cannot say that we have not worked through our history and are still at it. Each country should first take a good look at its own nose.

A lot of emotion for so little text, but I would have liked more of it and more background stories