What attracts absurd literature
About the absurdity in everyday life
"Yes, the publisher is convinced it is a crime thriller. But even before he even gets a manuscript from me, he is convinced that I will write crime novels. No matter what actually comes out."
Gerlach has actually made a name for himself with numerous thrillers, especially with the allergy trilogy "Cortisone", "Cat Hair and Pollen" and "Neurodermitis", but also with his absurdly weird figure of the writer Jakob Vogelwart, who does not hear about his books can live and therefore get by as a petty criminal. Most recently, the novel "I am not" appeared - a rapid story of confusion that takes the reader to New Orleans and Arizona.
"I know," Gunter Gerlach's publisher seems to be thinking in view of a new manuscript, "I know, who should surprise me?" Just like Benk, the main character in the new book that the author, who was born in 1941, calls a "novel of development". Benk suffers from the constant repetition of the same thing, from the boredom and predictability of life, from what gives others a certain comfort. At first he still used his clairvoyant powers, he made good money as a journalist by predicting the future of politicians in his articles. In the meantime, he has published the wording of conversations conducted confidentially among celebrities with such accuracy that those affected look for leaks. "I know" is the title of the novel, and this knowledge of what is coming, what everyone knows in everyday life, what everyone sometimes fears, sometimes takes advantage of, takes on extreme features in Benk. Benk knows what is coming in every moment, so encounters with people dull him, he is unable to get involved with others.
"Well, the point of literature is after all to open eyes, with the help of an author who gives a few keywords, and the reader opens his eyes to his own memories. But literature is of course much more than that. Literature is also art, literature is also enjoying the will to create, literature also means enjoying sentences, words and stories. "
This is the credo of the author, who, at 65 years of age, is sometimes referred to as the senior of young Hamburg literature. Gerlach belongs to the fathers of the Hamburg dogma, with which a group of young authors from the poetry slam and club scene, freely based on Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, established eight rules for good literature.
"When I think of a story, the first thing that comes to mind is the person with very specific characteristics. And these characteristics require a specific story. Of course, I am interested in the absurdity of everyday life, in normal everyday life. And then there is a story like Benk's Of course, it is excellently suited to staging a special aspect of the absurdity of everyday life, namely the repetition or the predictability of events, in a book. "
Like the Danish film dogma, the rules of the Hamburg dogma mean a radial restriction of artistic means - not because the budget is limited, but rather to counter an excessive arbitrariness. So: The story is told in the presence and in the first person, in short sentences, without descriptive adjectives and without worn-out metaphors. The taxi drives "on sticky soles" through the night, which is "a cold, damp towel". "The darkness groans and bricks bend in front of the many people who believe in their individuality". There is something special about the way in which Gerlach presses against the words, which appear as if by themselves. And that also applies to the refined and very sophisticated constructed stories.
Gerlach exhausts the restriction to only one perspective by equipping his characters with something like tunnel vision. They consider the perceived section to be the whole of reality. Here, too, he is only exaggerating a little, because the ideas of reality in one's own head are often more powerful than they are - almost everyone knows that too. Vogelwart, Gerlach's hero in numerous crime novels, gets stuck on a little thing. From it he draws his conclusions that take on a life of their own in his head. He interprets, reacts, acts in a completely real situation for him, which in reality does not exist. Until he notices it and starts the game all over again. Benk, the hero of the new book, is different from him:
"Vogelwart stumbles in there. But there is also something inherent in him that makes him wear these things. From the outset, Benk is trapped in a very specific world that he considers real - superreal. He has an image of reality, that The conflict that arises is inherent in his character traits, in his ability to foresee everything. He has to be fooled with that. He almost believes himself to be a kind of God. Something has to happen to stop him the train throws. "
For Benk, only what he foresees is real: "Sometimes I think that knowing everything is blind." That is exactly what happened a long time ago. Until something throws him off his feet. Again he meets someone whom he could predict his whole life. He doesn't, but through him he becomes aware of "Privat Life GmbH". This institute gives the life of its clients a new direction by staging surprising events for them. However, the client never learns whether such an event did not come naturally to him or whether the "private life" is actually behind it. That challenges Benk. On the one hand he believes in the institute, on the other hand he believes in himself. Like a pact of the devil, he concludes a contract with the institute and bets the boss that he will recognize every action by the institute in advance, that there will be no surprises for him.
"Benk thinks this institute or the director of the institute with whom he has made a bet is directing. He leaves the institute and immediately his view of his environment is different."
: Everything that "Privat Life" could have in store for him in terms of surprises, he has to subvert from the start. For example, Privat Life could organize an encounter with a woman, so he organizes one himself. Suddenly he constructs lies about his identity, invents a father who owns a vineyard, claims to run a fish shop himself, all lies that are intended to mislead others, but which become part of his reality. A great confusion arises, a slapstick-like comedy, the breathtaking fight against a phantom.
"He thinks he has everything in his hand, he could manage every situation, shape everything. As you then know, that is exactly not the case, but he actually creates into emptiness. He wants to stage something ahead of time so that nothing can be done with him can stage, and of course that leads to completely absurd scenes, because no one is staging anything for him. That is an aerial act. "
Benk fell for it. There is no such thing as "private life". His omniscient, contingency-taking plans are built on sand. How does this story, which is told quickly and authentically without distance, through the writing school of the Hamburg dogma, the presence, the first-person perspective and the short sentences, ends in the end? How does Benk recover and what new perspectives are opening up in his life? We can't reveal that here. But one thing is certain: Gunter Gerlach turns the reader's head and rides a rollercoaster with him, and the more thoroughly he mixes up his mind, the more clearly you can feel how much this Benk, not quite as extreme, has to do with your own life . The author succeeds with noticeable enthusiasm in spinning the most absurd stories from everyday experiences and in the process to write an intelligent, enigmatic and perhaps even comforting didactic piece.
"It all only takes place in the head. This view of the apparent wasteland of human life, too - it only takes place in his head. He is, and he suspects that from time to time, possibly the only one that looks like this. "
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