Campus - 27.11.2016 - 00:00 

High diving on paper: Judith Hermann reads short stories

The series "The other book at the Uni" was host to a celebrity of contemporary German literature in the University Library: the writer Judith Hermann. Hermann read from her new book, Lettipark, and chatted with the audience besides. Dana Sindermann reports on the interactive reading.

28 November 2016. This report starts with a personal anecdote. It was a short time before the turn of the millennium, and I was at secondary school. Up to that point, I had found reading only moderately exciting, but fortunately I had a great German teacher. We did not just read ancient tomes but also more modern things. One day the teacher came into the classroom with a slim volume on which it said "Judith Hermann, Sommerhaus, später" – a volume of short stories. We read the first story in class. "The language, pay attention to the language," said the teacher. And I merely thought, what on earth does she mean?! What I then experienced was a revelation.

Beauty and elegance of the language

Andreas Härter, Professor of German Language and Literature at the HSG, introduced the author as a "stringency artist" that evening. I find that this hits the nail on the head. With a minimum of words, Judith Hermann generates dense, whirling pictures. Her stories are often about love or friendship, about relationships, as Andreas Härter describes them, "of latently inconstant figures without a guaranteed presence or a right to stay on". These stories, her first book, made Judith Hermann famous in one fell swoop.

After another three mostly very successful volumes of short stories and a novel, her latest collection of stories has appeared under the title Lettipark, from which Judith Hermann read three stories that evening in an interactive format. The writer invited the audience to talk to her between stories. She answered questions about writing and about her experiences as a writer, for instance what relationships she has with her protagonists or how a reading trip changes her relationship with the texts. Mostly, however, discussions were about the genesis of her stories.

High diving on paper

For example, Judith Hermann told the audience that she sleeps a great deal when she thinks about what a story should look like. She said that she was very reluctant and anxious until she started to write, and the writing itself was a process requiring a high degree of concentration. In a nutshell, it’s something like this: muster your courage, concentrate and then move through space in fancy twirls and compact, dynamic motions – basically like high diving on paper. Only that the writer’s tracks are not so fleeting. Fortunately.

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

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