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Burkhard Bilger „The Long Dig

Irgendwer, es könnte Wilhelm Genazino gewesen sein, hat einmal geschrieben: Eine einzige Metapher kann einen Text retten. Das stimmt. Das zeigt die Reportage von Burkhard Bilger über den Bau des Gotthard-Basistunnels. Ein klassisches Reportagethema: ein Jahrhundertbauwerk, eine 57 Kilometer lange Röhre durch die Alpen, der längste Verkehrstunnel der Welt, wohl bis 2016 fertig. Viele haben sich an diesem Thema versucht. Viele sind gescheitert. Bilger aber hat es geschafft, die Magie, die Dimension dieses Projektes einzufangen.

Etwa dadurch, dass er sich dem Thema langsam nähert. Indem er nicht, wie die meisten, anfängt mit dem Geschehen am Bohrkopf - sondern den infernalischen Lärm, die Hitze die Tunnelvortriebs zu einem Höhepunkt stilisiert.

"The roar of the machinery, muffled inside the cabin, now seemed to redouble. As we shuffled down the catwalk, it began to tremble underfoot, then lurch and shake as if trying to buck us off. An acrid taste of burning oil rilled my mouth, and the walls seemed to flex and heave around us."

Sein entscheidender Kniff aber: Er tauft die Bohrmaschinen "Würmer". Gleich im ersten Absatz. Und nutzt die Chancen dieser zentralen Metapher höchst geschickt aus. Immer, immer wieder ist die Rede von den Würmern. Ein sprechendes, ein einleuchtendes Bild, das dem Text Rückgrat und Kraft gibt. Die kalte Arbeit der Maschine erhält etwas Animalisches... Infernalisches:

"In the near distance, we could hear the low grumble of the worm at work in the mountain."

Und Bilger schafft es, über den Bau dieses einen Tunnels hinauszudenken. Zieht eine zweite Ebene in seinen Text. Was bedeutet es, wenn überall auf der Welt immer mehr Tunnel gebohrt werden?

"It was hard not to think that something was being lost. ... City dwellers will spend more and more time underground. Rooms with a view will give way to rooms with no view at all. ... In nine years, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel is finished, it will cut an hour off the trip between Zurich and Milan. It will streamline European trade and shield a dozen Swiss villages from the roar of passing trains, and many more from the noise and exhaust of congested highways. But for those sitting on the trains it will also turn a singularly breathtaking ride-up and over snow-dusted peaks and plummeting gorges-into a dim and desolate, one. The world, as Helmut Stalder said, is becoming flat."

Ariel Hauptmeier

The people of Allmannsweier, Germany, have never really grown used to the giant mechanical worms outside their village. You might say that the worms crept up on them. When the worms first appeared, almost thirty years ago, they were just little machines, a few yards long, built by a local engineer named Martin Herrenknecht. Now they`re among the largest land vehicles on earth. Their hangars loom above the tobacco fields south of Allmannsweier like vast white cocoons. "If we had known how much room they would need, we might not have let them come," the owner of the town`s upholstery shop told me. (He happened to be Herrenknecht`s older brother.) "But they are here. What can we do?"

Allmannsweier lies along the southern Rhine, in the rich bottomland between the Black Forest and the Vosges Mountains. It was founded more than a thousand years ago, by a tribe of Germanic farmers called the Allemanni, and could still pass for a medieval village. Its half-timbered houses are huddled around an onion-domed church, their haylofts now suspended over BMWs. The only other hint that the local economy has changed - that the town is full of engineers-is a tidiness that verges on the obsessive, even by the standards of southern Germany. Every window seems to have a flower box, every traffic circle its freshly painted lines and sans-serif signs. The streams are flanked by neat rows of beeches and poplars, their branches dotted with crows. The birds were protected after the Second World War, one villager told me: "Now we have to shoot them. There are too many."



Burkhard Bilger

Burkhard Bilger ist Reporter beim New Yorker. Davor war er Redakteur bei "Discover and the Sciences". Er hat für viele bedeutende amerikanische Zeitschriften geschrieben; sein Buch "Katfisch, Bourbon, Hahnenkämpfe. Und andere Südstaatengeheimnisse" war in der Endauswahl für den Pen-Faulkner Award for First Nonfiction.
Burkhard Bilger: The Long Dig (pdf)

erschienen in:
New Yorker,
am 15.09.2008



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