Selfportrait – New York and you
Perhaps you’re fond of reading, you’re looking for something in books you don’t find elsewhere, something, that keeps you alive, literally. But it is hard to find – no Vonnegut or Gaddis or even Meier in the school library, and you can’t read Hesse anymore, Hesse’s Scientology for the pathological shy.
It was the cheerless 80’s, Reagan took office and Swiss writers couldn’t publish one sentence without being concerned that his shaky finger would press The Button. Nuclear dread. You try to talk to girls in the Mokka and keep thinking of World War III. People were dedicated to smash apartheid in South Africa while faking their orgasms like Meg Ryan. At least, Rage Against the Machine brought you smoothly into the Nineties, and eventually you go to New York – why not, you say, following a weirdo friend of yours, the only friend you have, he’s also in Helnwein and Edward Hopper. He learned precision engineering and never did it for a living because the only jobs were in the military industry. Integrity. So there you are, 25 years old, standing on the Top of the World Trade Center, desperate and lost, and you realize you came here to press your own button. And somehow dazed and benumbed and overwhelmed by choosing a suicide method out of a thousand in New York (jumping, provoke a cop, strapping a bomb to the chest – or the easiest method: running across Brooklyn Bridge without looking left or right) you strand in Barnes & Noble Book Store, there’s a reading of Kurt Vonnegut going on, you sit by the escalator and get enlightened, and – during the reading? afterwards? – in trance you grab Paul Auster’s „Hand to Mouth“ from the pile, you read the book sitting on the floor in the bookstore, and it blows your mind. You read and you think, it’s great, and I can do that, too! Call it birth or whatever. The back door. A last chance. You fly back, enthusiastic and passionate and petrified the plane won’t make it. You quit university and change town and give yourself three years to come up with something of your own for somebody else than yourself. Something beautiful and Golightly, a gift for humanity.
Of course, when you start writing, you start as a kind of cover band of punks like Daniil Charms or Jane Bowles. Your output is breaking strings and playing out of tune, but instead of getting frustrated or angry, you listen deeper and deeper and create a little work site, a little fiefdom with your sound and line-up. It’s rarely tears of joy, but it’s healthy.
I don’t have a leader in my head – no leader, no bureaucracy. Art is for multiple personalities. If I ever come up with a novel every year, shoot me.
And all the geniuses you meet on the road! They throw in all they have to find their own voice – that, to me, is literature. I worship the mothers who gave birth to Raphael, Matto, Franz, Pedro, Marie-Jeanne, Katharina, Gabriel, Lara, Renato, Elias, Antonio, Nora, King Pepe, Markus, Ursula Timea, José, Heinz, Melinda, Hazel, Franzobel, Peter, Erica, Mr. Werner, Mr. Stadler, Mr. Šalamun, Lorenz, Urs, Gert – I admire them, I really do. Pure inspiration.