taz article


Die Gegenstände werden das Ich überdauern, „nichts ist so ephemer wie ich selbst“, weiß die Erzählerin, die ihre Ambivalenzen, ihre „Schwierigkeit mit dem Präsens“ zum Ausgangspunkt ihrer Suche macht und sich im Schreiben mit ihrem Leben verbündet. Sie muss in Gedanken nur eine Schublade des alten Küchenschranks auf Staten Island öffnen oder die italienischen Lesefibeln vor sich sehen, oder sich daran erinnern, wie sie „in diesem riesigen Königreich unserer Kindheit“ für den Bruder „wissenschaftliche Tatsachen“ über das Universum erfand, und es ist, als würden die Figuren sich in Bewegung setzen, als könnten sie der Erzählerin sogar ins Wort fallen, so lebendig werden sie im Bild dieser Sprache.

Das ist hohe Kunst und beweist den Reichtum dieses Buchs, dem es gelingt, sich von allen Belangen der Selbstbehauptung zu lösen und einen Raum zu schaffen, in dem man als Leser tatsächlich den Eindruck hat, genauer denken, deutlicher sehen zu können. Empfindsamer zu sein.

— Elisabeth Wagner in der taz, Wochenendausgabe, 10. Februar 2018


“Everything I see around me, everything I touch: the chair I am sitting in, the paper I am writing this on, none of it is as ephemeral as I.” The narrator of Wie viele Tage takes her ambivalence, her “difficulty with the present tense” as the departure point of a quest in which writing becomes a means of merging with life. In her mind, she need only open a drawer in the old kitchen cabinet on Staten Island or imagine the Italian language primers from school or remember how, “in this vast empire of our childhood,” she invented “scientific facts” about the universe for her brother, and already the figures are set into motion, and it’s as though they could interrupt the narrator at any moment—that’s how alive they become in this writing’s imagery. This is a high art, and it testifies to the richness of a book that succeeds in freeing itself from any concerns of self-assertion to create a space in which the reader indeed begins to think more precisely, see more clearly—and become more receptive and sentient.”

Elisabeth Wagner in the taz, weekend issue, February 10–11, 2018

Berliners: I’ll be reading in the series “Literally Speaking” at BuchHafen in Neukölln on January 24. Along with Chris Chinchilla, Wlada Kolosowa, Rhea Ramjohn, and Isabelle Ståhl.

Come early, because Träci A. Kim’s series is usually packed! Looking forward to seeing you all. I’m beginning my reading with an excerpt from Marie-Luise Kaschnitz’s story The Fat Child (Das dicke Kind). 


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Literally Speaking


My mind snapped shut like a box. I turn, perplexed: but wasn’t something there a moment ago? Waiting, waiting, looking on as though at a mute child, hoping to pry out a word, or a smile: patience is the essence. The child stands dumbly before me, and I kneel down with a friendly mien. What was that just now, what do you have in your hand, I ask gently. The child’s eyelashes veil its downcast eyes. I saw you putting something in your pocket a moment ago, wouldn’t you like to show me what you have in your pocket? But the child stares at its toes, suspended in a glistening bubble of impunity. Say something, I blurt out, growing agitated, and the child raises a grimy fist to brush the hair out of its eyes, gazing at me in sullen apathy. I hear the sharp edge in my voice, I know this tactic will lead me nowhere, yet I’m vexed, I want to drill the child with questions: what are you hiding, what have you stolen? And hardly an answer, a feeble shrug, and I, growing desperate, give it back, give it back, feeling the hand itching to slap the face of this stupid, torpid mind: will you come to your senses, will you give me back what’s mine?

Translated by Andrea Scrima from the original German edition Am Fenster, wo die Nacht einbricht: Aufzeichnungen (At the window, where night breaks: Notations), Limmat Verlag, Zurich, Switzerland 2013


Read the full selection on Statorec.


What one lives from. The brief moments of happiness when one encounters something, a person, a plant, an animal, a phenomenon that touches one in the most profound way, speaks to one, captures, delights one, like chemical elements that attract one another, do not wish to separate. A moment of this kind can be triggered by a musical modulation (Mozart, Chopin, Wagner…) that “strikes” like lightning, pierces the heart so deeply that one never forgets this moment, brief as it might be.—Leafing through an encyclopedia, we are taken by the portrait photo of someone long since deceased, as fierce as love at first sight; the gesticulation of a tree branch catches our eye and, it seems to the viewer, is directed at him; the particular hue of a pond in a watercolor is perceived as a “soul color,” a butterfly as messenger, a lonely cloud as a being that was waiting for one to finally see it; the sudden comprehension of another being; an elective affinity, entered into in a trice with creatures or things of an entirely different provenance. These magical connections between things ordinarily foreign to one another can be induced by works of art, in moments when we are completely open to the point of endangerment, or physically weakened by an ailment; the nerves are raw, the mind is wide awake, perceives, draws connections it would not have in a stronger state.—Spoke to Jannis Zinniker yesterday about these redemptive moments.

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“Teaching writing is a virtual impossibility. Faced with the prospect of mentoring students intent on becoming writers themselves, Goetz arrives at the conclusion that the university is not there to promote, but to hinder the results of independent thought, to discourage and intimidate them. He goes so far as to say that the aim of the professorship he is in the process of accepting is to prevent texts from being written in the first place: ‘In certain cases one could even, perhaps, find reasons for this. But even these reasons are essentially uninteresting. What is interesting is that most texts are bullshit. First and foremost, of course, those that arise in front of one’s own eyes, one’s own texts: nearly always bullshit. Bad, weak, useless. Why? I don’t know.’”

Read the full essay and excerpts from Goetz’s lecture in The Brooklyn Rail. 


Now online: an entire issue of The Scofield dedicated to Kobo Abe and the subject of home.


From my contribution to issue 3.1 of The Scofield: the essay The Problem of Home:

“Are we really as brave as we think we are, are we as honest, as enterprising, as free as we think we are? In America, national identity is a narrative drawn from a largely commercialized shared cultural experience and an interpretation of history that merges with legend—it’s a construct based not in fact, but on belief, and as such it has far more in common with religion than with reason. And while intellectual culture is currently undergoing a period of profound disillusion, in large parts of the country, anything that calls what makes America American into question is met not with impartial analysis or self-scrutiny, but indignant and often hostile repudiation.”


Dramatis Personae: 

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The new edition of manuskripte is in the bookstores—with an excerpt of the German translation of my novel A Lesser Day, alongside writings by Günther Freitag, Thomas Stangl, Friederike Mayröcker, Franz Josef Czernin, Verena Stauffer, and many more.

Order a copy at



Cover image: Hartmut Urban, “Aus der Erde wächst eine organische Skulptur” (1973)


Wie viele Male hat sich mein Denken in einer Schleife verfangen; wie viele Male hat es sich im Kreis gedreht um ein bestimmtes Wort, einen Ausdruck, der über ein Gesicht huschte und verschwand, wieder und wieder in dem Versuch, näher heranzukommen, aber an was. Jenes Gefühl, dass etwas da ist, wieder und wieder im Kreise; aber was. Jenes beunruhigende Gefühl einer bevorstehenden Enthüllung, die leise Panik. Und dann der Moment des Erkennens, dessen betäubende Wirkung. Ich sehe es, verstehe es, und doch sehe ich nicht, verstehe ich nicht. Die anschließende Amnesie, wenn das Bewusstsein seine neue Entdeckung sorgsam vergräbt, sie einige Zeit später wieder hervorholt, wenn es sich allein weiß, unbeobachtet, sie dreht und wendet, an ihr schnuppert, als sei sie ein ausgetrockneter Knochen.