What a wonderful English concept: life writing! So much more captivating than the German ‘Biographie’, which likewise means ‘to write life’ but hides behind ancient Greek curtains.
The literal English approach of ‘writing life’ gripped me as soon as I heard it. The term made it clearer to me what I have been doing since my first novel, Lichtpause (now out of print and unavailable for reprint for legal reasons). At first I was embarrassed by the biographical moments in my writing. I had been taught not trust them, not to enquire about the life of an author and to hide one’s own when writing. I don’t think that this is wrong, nor have I renounced this policy altogether. It is ‘simply’ far too one-sided. It is exciting and entertaining for both writer and reader when the opposite approach is taken, when imagination and life experiences, hide-and-seek and disclosure, recourse to the past and anticipation of the future feed the writing.
In my experience, I can only write when I feel an essential emotional and intimate, burning and double-edged connection to the themes of the text.
When memories and feelings that I am experiencing or have experienced enter into the space of writing, into me. It is in this way, I believe, that books differ in their atmospheres and their internal tensions. This relationship to life may be well hidden; at times, however, it shines through in the themes of the text such that, more or less clearly, the writing also bears testimony to the life and circumstances of the writer.
Life writing. I’m not interested in where the biographical, the lived or authentic elements lie. The answer to that question would be: everywhere and nowhere. Everything is narrated, everything is (nothing but) language.
My question is: how can one narrate a life?
The book Schöne Frauen lesen considers the answers proposed by the biographies and works of female authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
How, then, to write about the conditions and possibilities of life? It is for this reason that I am interested in sciences for and in my writing.
I take them to be life sciences – not just genetics or biology, but also physics and maths. And I am attracted by their ways of using and re-inventing language(s) in order to bring to life concepts as abstract a ‘the atom’, ‘black matter’ or ‘quarks’ solely through language (codes, formulae).
Und unter diesem Aspekt bin ich angezogen von Sprache: Wie erweckt man etwas zum Leben – sprachlich –, indem man nichts als Sprache und sprachliche Bilder in Kopf und „Gemüt“ eines unbekannten Menschen schickt?
Life writing deals with our connectedness. .
The myriad meanings of a word give that word an intelligence. Life writing considers what binds us together, in what ways we commute, battle and mingle, shaping each other’s destinies. It strives to work itself towards our blind spots – these parts in our heads and hearts where we neither feel nor perceive. It is here that literary space opens up: many-layered, rich in imagery and intelligent invention, in humour and knowledge of humans. Life writing is able to reach through our blindness and speak to us.