Saturday, 5 July 2014


You know what's really odd? By simply not watching the Bachmann Prize live, I have lost all interest in it. It's kind of liberating.

I mean, there are several people actually in Klagenfurt who I really, really like, genuine people who fall under "good" in my personal categorization. You know who you are. And I'm happy for them that they're having a nice time there and I'm not even envious – which is unusual, normally I envy pretty much everyone for one reason or another, I'm a big ugly puddle of envy sometimes – that they're over in Klagenfurt hanging out and chatting and swimming and eating and tweeting and whatever they do there. And there are lots of people watching the competition at home and commenting via social media – although they could be less rude about it, but I suppose that's the whole thing about the format. You read a text on live TV and critics talk about it afterwards, you're bound to get bitchy comments.

But for me, this year, it's lost its magnetism. A friend had arranged to come round today, now that I finally have time for TV, and we were going to sit on the sofa and watch together. And then she called this morning and said, well, do you really want to watch it? And I said, well, not really, I haven't watched any of the other days. And we both breathed a sigh of relief and just had a lovely long chat and a walk instead.

Maybe it was because there's been so much going on in the world at large and on my doorstep, but maybe the fate of refugees in Germany, to name one thing, actually is more important than the fate of a particular writer in Klagenfurt. And I just couldn't face spending my evenings catching up on texts when there was so much other stuff out there in real life. And I certainly didn't want to watch a circle of critics chewing the pieces over for, what, about five or six hours of my life in total. I mean, I understand that the Bachmann Prize is a great opportunity for writers to get a lot of public attention. That's made itself particularly clear this year, with one of the writers unable to attend due to illness, and her publisher arranging a "solidarity reading" on the fringe of the competition itself. I do feel for her. But still, it's hardly earth-moving.

But if that's what I think, why am I reading in the first place? Have I become a cynic? Or a self-righteous bore? Or both?

I'll read the texts that win prizes tomorrow. But that's enough for me right now. I hope I haven't become a cynic. I think I still get sweaty palms and emotional palpitations when I read a book I love and admire. Maybe I don't need the overload of over a dozen readings and pickings-apart over three days. Maybe I just need a holiday.

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