Saturday, 15 May 2010

Goetz at Suhrkamp: Still Loved By His Fan Base

According to Wikipedia, Rainald Goetz is a German author, playwright and essayist. "Goetz won numerous literary awards. He is still loved by his fan base, but he hasn't written anything which captivated the larger audience for some years."

That same source also tells us: "Suhrkamp Verlag is a German publishing house, established in 1950 and generally acknowledged as one of the leading European publishers of fine literature. In January 2010 the headquarters of the company moved from Frankfurt to Berlin."

Having done so, they've just opened a temporary store in Berlin-Mitte, the edition suhrkamp laden, run by hard-core booksellers from the Autorenbuchhandlung in Charlottenburg. The place is gorgeous, tastefully done with a rainbow wall of books and slightly silly chairs, a bar, espresso machine, etc. And of course there are events. Lots of classy events you'd really want to go to. Film screenings, readings, discussions.

Unfortunately I chose to go and see Rainald Goetz. As did what looked like his entire adoring fan base. And all 200 of them squashed into the relatively modest-sized store and started breathing in each others' vapours. Because it's raining outside and they're presumably all still steaming away in there. Although possibly not - I left after 32 minutes.

The thing about Rainald Goetz' adoring fan base is that they all seem to know each other. Or perhaps they all work for Suhrkamp. Certainly there was a huge amount of air kissing going on in the 15 minutes before Rainald Goetz deigned to arrive. I, on the other hand, am not part of the adoring fan base and knew one and a half people. Neither of whom appeared to recognise me. My feeble attempt to get chatting to two men behind me resulted in a look as if I had killed their mutual grandmother and gone on to ask the world's most stupid question.

I wouldn't usually attempt to talk to strangers at a reading. But this was a Rainald Goetz reading, so it was special. The special thing about it was this: Rainald Goetz stood on a chair near the front of the room. From there he announced that he'd be giving short readings at quarter past every hour. On the hour, he told us, he would do some kind of action. Then we stood around steaming and waiting for the next 15 minutes to be up, during which time I asked said stupid question. Then Rainald Goetz read very quickly and breathlessly from his latest book - about talking to drunk publishing people at the Frankfurt book fair in 2008 - for what felt like two minutes. Then he squeezed his way outside. The adoring fanbase applauded. I left.

I don't know what happened after that, except that by the time I made my way to the door I had had more physical contact with strangers than I cared for and Rainald Goetz was attempting to get back in. Reminded of rush hour in Tokyo, I rebuked him that one has to let people out before one can get in. But seeing as I was incredibly annoyed at the downright cheek of the thing, it may have come out too quiet to hear.

He may be good, for all I know.

Update: I'm told Goetz performed for four hours and everybody loved it. I'm mystified. My only suspicion is that Rainald Goetz is like Marmite - you either love him or you hate him, and in order to love him you have to have been fed him at a formative age.

Update II: See what I missed on youtube. I still don't get it.


Jan Groh said...

Well, at the start of his career Goetz unquestionable tended to a very physical literature that really cut to the blood. I mean REALLY to the blood (he spoiled his manuscript during his reading at the Bachmann-Preis in Klagenfurt with his blood when he helped to open his brain for new attitudes with a scalpel. (Um, wait, he only cut his frontal skin but stopped way before reaching the skull or his grey matter - which is a very impressive method of hurting oneself without doing much harm to the tissue as a lot of blood flows through this part of the body as Goetz perfectly knew being a medical doctor. But, well: real blood in a reading broadcasted live on TV - it was his way to start his career in the 1980s.)
Now he seems to turn on his audience... ;-)
(Just kidding.)

kjd said...

I know, maybe I ought to have stayed for the more performative bits. It was just the assumption that all those people had nothing better to do than hang around an overcrowded shop for an entire Saturday afternoon that got me.

Paco said...

Katy, is this the adoring fanbase? To me they seem all nice and friendly although the grouping in the right upper corner of the picture conveys very much what you were talking about.

kjd said...

Paco, it is, and that's just where I was standing. Damn, if only I'd have got there sooner I could have sat next to nice friendly people and felt less like the little boy shouting that the emperor's naked.

Which is of course a horribly arrogant thing to do. And very possibly wrong, too (objectively, not morally).

sepoy said...

I absolutely loved this post.