Literature as a European mother tongue: In our series “One is a CROWD”, we introduce you to authors from all over Europe who will be involved in the CROWD omnibus reading tour, taking place from May to July 2016, featuring 100 authors who will be travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them questions about text production, reception and mediation. In case you were wondering what a literary activist from Switzerland looks like, meet Judith Keller!
“To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing” ( Roland Barthes) – Do you see yourself as an author and do you agree with this?
I think, it is true that having a quite narrow-minded idea of authorship can limit the perception of a language that is shared by a lot of people, a language that, naturally, no one can truly possess. Also a text can only exist tied to a particular reader, thus, a text is only ‚out there’ as often as it is actually read. In this sense, the readers are part of the text’s authorship because they read meanings into it that the author did not include originally, but nevertheless they exist. So, a work of literature lives beyond the immediate ideas of the author, it has something rebellious to it and it defies each one-dimensional interpretation. Nevertheless I see myself as an author as I find myself responsible for what I write. (Automatically I take a stand on this world. ) I choose this particular diction and I don’t choose another one – this doesn’t happen to me, it is a very deliberate act. Therefore, it is also a deliberate decision to have female characters in literature remain silent or die or solely be seen through the eyes of a man, or the opposite of it. The problem with critiquing authorship in general is a notion that one cannot criticize authors anymore but we should be absolutely be able to do that, for one, because it is so much fun, and also because they take part in an ongoing public dialogue, are able to influence opinions or open up about injustices.
Reading is writing is reading is writing … – why, and if, how?
Yes, I absolutely agree on this, reading is a part of writing. Although I have to say that some fiction does not influence my writing at all whereas other works of literature have a huge impact on me. Nevertheless, everything that I read consequently broadens my horizon and my view of the world, which again leads me to writing. Particular voices that I experience while reading can lead me to another audience to write for in return. Then, all of a sudden, I know that right now I observe something that I have in common with writers such as Robert Walser, Virginia Woolf or Ilse Aichinger or someone completely different, this happens to me especially when I am not writing and just walking down the street while observing things that Virginia Woolf would have written about that I am not able to write about but through her work it is made possible for me to notice those things to begin with. The result being that boring spent time in waiting lines or genuinely annoying situations can be very funny when you see that as for example Virginia Woolf would have. Recently I was very sad because ‚Der grüne Heinrich’ (the famous hero of a Gottfried Keller novel) died in just one sentence after about 800 pages of a confusing life. Ever since I am thinking about him while strolling through Zurich, although he was often quite nerve-racking in those 800 pages.
Which literary event did fascinate you most and why? (Please give a link to the website of the event)
In general I am fascinated by literary events that are about very profound and basic notions in writing. Recently I took part in a meeting in Leipzig. There were a lot of my friends and the meeting was called: “Das untergehende Schiff”, which translates into “The sinking ship.” We tried to figure out in what sense literature has a political meaning and how literature can try to take action. But we were also asking ourselves whether the notion that literature can be political is a mere illusion and if so, should we get rid of it? It was a very intense meeting, not easy-going at all and at the end all of us were exhausted, we did not always agree with each other, but at the same time we were filled with the importance of even asking those questions. I want to recommend a blog concerning this event, unfortunately the questions we discussed are not in here, but you can read texts from several participants of ‘The sinking ship’.
Another event I enjoyed very much was a congress in Bern last year, put together by Babelsprech. Different Poets from Austria, Germany and Switzerland came together and as a result a lot of very interesting discussions arose. We also interchanged our texts and tried to create new texts out of them. Working with a completely different material than you are used was a very enriching experience. Feeling a resistance against some words or sentences may access the visibility of so many different writers that are out there.
Photo by Lukas Keller