„Irgendwann mal würde ich gern mit ein paar Freunden auf einer kleinen Insel leben, sie müßte ja nicht zu den Bahamas gehören. Vielleicht eine Bar betreiben, nichts Mondänes, ein kühles Plätzchen am Hafen, durchs Fenster kann man die Boote sehen. Vielleicht ein paar Stühle draußen unter der Markise, für die Touristen. Ein Tagesgericht, sonst nur Sandwiches und Drinks, aber die besten der Gegend. Man könnte fischen gehen, ab und zu auf die Nachbarinsel, wo es ein Spielkasino gibt. Jeder macht in aller Ruhe das, was er will. Einmal in der Woche ginge ich mit dem Vizekonsul und dem englischen Romanschriftsteller und dem Schnapsschmuggler ins Bordell, der Geschichten wegen. Ich weiß, du magst keine Geschichten, aber vielleicht brauchst du keine. Erinnerungen sind ja Scheiße, aber Geschichten halten das Leben zusammen. Manchmal, wenn du den großen Horror hast, ist eine gute Geschichte das einzige, was noch hilft.“
Let’s start with the title. Raw Material is a correct translation of the German word Rohstoff. But Stoff means in German not only material, it is also a slang word for illegal drugs (dope) such as heroin or in this case raw opium.The story of Jörg Fauser’s novel starts in Istanbul in the second half of the 1960s. The narrator – although it is a novel we may assume that the book is Fauser’s own life story – is living in the (then) run-down Cağaloğlu district, a bit north of the Blue Mosque.During the 1960s, Istanbul and here more specifically the neighborhoods of Tophane and Cağaloğlu, were favorite hang-out places for all kind of Western young people: would-be writers and painters, drug addicts, petty criminals, political radicals plotting for a somehow diffuse revolution to come, hippies, beatniks. Together with Ede, a painter friend from Stuttgart, the protagonist, a young man with the strong ambition to become a writer, is sharing a tin structure on the roof of a dubious hotel. Life is cheap and so are the drugs. In an odd way a kind of idyll, even during the cold Istanbul winter:
“One poured some gasoline on the stone floor and lit it, and as long as the flames were giving off some warmth, the other looked for a vein. We took everything we could get, primarily it was raw opium, which we cooked, Nembutal for dozing off and all sorts of uppers to get going. When we were going, we had to get more dope and everything else we needed – we lived predominantly on tea and sweets – and then we lay there, wrapped in our blankets, played with the cat and worked. Ede painted, and I wrote.”
The reader is a bit concerned about the fate of this hero. Chances seem to be rather small that he will not end like so many drug addicts. But his genuine passion for writing and not so much the drugs (which he is replacing mainly by alcohol during the course of the story) keep him going and after his return and the start of a relationship with a girl, his life takes a turn, kind of.In order to support himself, he is writing articles for a number of mostly short-lived magazines that are popular among young people in Germany. He has an opportunity to travel, even to conduct an interview with the famous beat poet William S. Burroughs. The story of the Burroughs interview is hilarious. After some friendly small talk at the beginning, Burroughs comes out with the one subject that really interests him: dope.
“What kind of stuff did you take?” “Oh, Opium mainly.” “What – raw opium? You didn’t mainline, intravenously?” ”Yup.” “Young man”, Burroughs said with the hint of a smile. “You must have been completely off your rocker.”
The literary cut-up technique for which Burroughs was famous is only a minor topic of this conversation. Burroughs comes again back to the subject of drug addiction, and how he was cured from it with the help of a new, but very strange method called the Apomorphine Formula.
“He disappeared into the next room, came back a second later and handed me a magazine-sized brochure wrapped in brown paper: William S. Burroughs: APO-33 Bulletin. The subtitle read: A Report on the Synthesis of the Apomorphine Formula.“You can keep it”, he said. “My small contribution to healthcare,” and laughed; his choppy ha-ha-ha came from rather shadowy regions. “The apomorphine formula,” he said and sat down, “is a contribution to the cleansing and detoxification of the planet. Detoxification from what? From illness, addiction, ignorance, prejudice and stupidity. The question is: Are the people now in power interested in this detoxification? You know, young man, what the answer is to that.”