Campus - 06.04.2017 - 00:00 

All about relationships: Doris Knecht reads in the University Library

To mark the 15th anniversary of the series "The other book at the Uni", the Austrian writer and columnist Doris Knecht read from her new novel "Alles über Beziehungen" on 5 April 2017. An amusing, but no less malicious story about a sex-addicted man who does not want to grow up. Dana Sindermann reports.

7 April 2017. The author Doris Knecht entered the reading stage under the cupola of the library full of verve. Under her wavy page-boy haircut she wore dark-blue thick-rimmed glasses, over which the author cast a glance at the audience only rarely and cautiously – at least at the start of the reading. "I’ve had readings in Switzerland quite often, and the Swiss public don’t laugh all that much," Knecht would later explain her initial reticence.

But then Viktor entered the stage, the protagonist of Knecht’s new novel "Alles über Beziehungen". Vikor is, as the audience learnt, an "average, normal man", who was divorced twice, is married for the third time and the father of five daughters, and has just become the artistic director of a theatre festival at the age of fifty. Above all, however, Viktor is interested in women. He has an unquenchable interest in them. And he has this medically certified, because like this he is off the hook, he just can’t do anything about it. He is simply diagnosed as hypersexual. And the women play along, some more, some less.

Modern people’s relationship models

Modern people’s relationship with themselves and their relationship models are the focus of the novel. In a nimble and amusing way, the novel asks the following questions: What is fidelity and what is deceit in a relationship? What does it mean to assume responsibility, for oneself and for others? Is there such a thing at all as a perfect relationship? And what would it look like?

The unembarrassed tone of voice with which Knecht raises these issues, also her laid-back way of reading, went down well with the St.Gallen audience. This, in turn, inspired the author. She started to look over the thick rims of her glasses more often now, was pleased with the amusement on people’s faces, joined in the laughter, surrendered even more strongly to the rhythm of the language and played even more with her reading voice. "I like a concentrated audience who join in," said Knecht. At any rate, she liked the unusual room with the glass cupola.

After the reading, the public had an opportunity to ask the author questions. "The protagonist is male. How do you manage to empathise with the character?" asked one listener. As a writer and columnist, she had long been around in the culture scene, answered Knecht, so she could let herself be inspired by the characters. Incidentally, many men were taken aback and recognised themselves in the protagonist. Women, too, recognised themselves. Doris Knecht is a clever observer who writes things down without fear and does not moralise.

Dana Sindermann is a research assistant at the Institute for Business Ethics.

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