Landscapes, streets, houses, birdsong, a face glimpsed in a window, a certain smell, a lost toy in a garden. My stories originate from places and atmosphere. If I´m lucky the story seed that comes flying falls on fertile ground and begins to grow.
I think I ́m a writer who depends very much on visual impressions and methods: I do use notebooks to jot down words or expressions that I want to keep in mind, but most of the time I use my camera instead. There is no plan or plot when I start writing, just a sequence of images. My characters appear when their stage is prepared.
Getting lost in a story is the part of my work I enjoy the most. For me storytelling means slipping into different roles, changing sex and age, juggling with time and the intrusion of the uncanny and fantastic into everyday life. Working it out, I try to find the “dark glowing core” of the story.
As a storyteller I focus on short stories and novels, but I love and admire the work of poets. I try to use the best language I can possibly think of, so I do a lot of rewriting and polishing. This takes up a great deal of time: I am a slow writer, and sometimes find it hard to let my texts go.
Klauber and the Vixen (excerpt)
My toes wriggle inside my slippers. They are leading a secret life under grey felt caps. Grey is the colour of time and time’s wardrobe here knows very few changes.
Name: Eberhard Klauber. Resident at: Dammweg 17.
In an attempt to build trust, I offered the two uniformed men the chairs at my kitchen table, on which lies a tape recorder. Its tiny red light blinks frantically. I would describe the older man’s expression as openly contemptuous. The younger one seems more gracious; he is making handwritten notes as they go.
They make another attempt: loaded questions, pit traps.
“One more time: you say she approached from the edge of the woods. And she was barefoot and wearing a summer dress?”
“No, none of that’s right,” I say. Was I really so imprecise in what I said before? Unlikely. She didn’t come from the woods. She came from where the snare of the approach road is strangling a miniature wood of ash, birch and blackthorn trees. “She was running across the road, towards the fields. And she wasn’t wearing a summer dress, it was a skirt. Muslin, I assume.” A wasted effort, the word won’t stick.
Her skirt flickered, gorse yellow, over the brown clods with their sugar-dusting of frost. It was the colours that caught my window-wandering eye that afternoon.
“And not barefoot; she was wearing white socks,” I add, hoping that the two of them will see that this is much more alarming. Barefoot means healthy and hardy. But someone running across February fields in little white socks is a sign of distress and desperation.
As I approached the tip of the land, I became aware of movement. Without realising it, I’d been driving a group of deer in front of me and had cornered them here against the water. They breathed heavily, steam rising from their enlarged nostrils. They stood taut and motionless, scrutinising me, until one of them turned its slender head towards the river and walked away from the herd. I was gripped by a sudden fear as one after another they pushed off from the steep bank, launching themselves into the roaring, peaty water. I was convinced the river would pull them along in its current and kill them. Yet their powerful bodies produced waves which broke behind them as they swam across the river. Their strength, their innate confidence, seemed inexhaustible. I watched as one after another they clambered up onto the far bank and disappeared into the darkness between the trees.
I was alone again. The wind was whispering through the ferns and the yellowing waist-high grass. I roamed around for a while and discovered the foundations of a hut which had perhaps once belonged to a gamekeeper. Despite its dilapidated state, it still seemed grand. But I couldn’t sleep for all my tiredness, so I climbed around amongst the remains of the walls. Even though, strictly speaking, it wasn’t a real island, it would be possible to eke out an existence there like Robinson Crusoe with the forest animals and a friend met one Friday. With their help I’d rebuild the hut. That thought kept me warm. I must have slept though.
Early in the morning a black dog came running through the bushes, sniffing. It was followed by a man who stared straight at me. He stuck two fingers in his mouth, giving a piercing whistle. The dog began to bark, others after him, off in the distance. The grating of their barking ricocheted across the glen.
Schallmeyer’s foresight (excerpt)
I saw Schallmeyer yesterday morning, outside in the car park. He had probably been close by for some time: I’d had this river smell in my nostrils for a while. I saw him standing there, a black column on the bare, snow-dusted asphalt, just for a moment, out of the corner of my eye. When I turned my head, he dissolved.
He was there again at midday, in one of the corridors that lead to the large factory floor. His shadow formed a long shaft across the floor, and grew up the opposite wall.
The same evening, I was sitting in my favourite seat in the canteen, scooping tinned peaches out of the can with my fingers. The winter sun was shining through the glass front, and it had grown so warm that I’d taken off my padded jacket and hung it over the back of the chair. In the distance, through the soundproofed window, you could hear the roar of the river water, but otherwise everything seemed quite still and peaceful.
Then I saw the cat. It was sitting on the goods-in ramp. It looked as if it was staring over at the weir, but maybe I was just imagining that. After a few minutes, it leapt into the air and disappeared from view.
That night I lay awake. At first I tried to convince myself that the animal sitting on the ramp had been a marten, not the cat. After all, they’re everywhere now, crashing about and chewing through the cables in the open plan offices. It’s difficult to do anything about the martens.
But pretending to myself doesn’t help. Yesterday, on the ramp, it wasn’t a marten. It was Schallmeyer’s cat.
On the cliff edge (excerpt)
The wind flings sand over the edge of the cliff. The sea down below is grey and choppy, the spume building up along the water line to form dirty mountains of foam. I don’t go down into the bay any more. But I’m still driven here again and again, to the cliff and the taped-off playground. Shit, yes, I’m sitting on your swing again, smoking my third cigarette, playing with the penknife in my jacket pocket and thinking about where I should carve my tag into the rocks today. Yeo was here. Fuck off.
I’m not swinging. And at some point the noise of the surf hurling itself onto the beach, the seagulls’ cries, all the other sounds, aren’t there any more, either. They stop getting through to me. Instead, there you are.
Hold on tight, I said to you, and I made you fly higher and higher with every push. I saw you way up there, kicking your bare feet, and heard your happy little squeals.
The barrier tape snaps back and forth in the wind like far-off gun shots. When I open my eyes, I see a little girl coming along the path that the joggers used to use. She looks as if she’s just been smacked; she keeps her eyes glued to the ground, as she scampers carefully along in her wellies. She seems to have no intention of turning around. At once there is a nasty taste in my mouth. Children from the new-build estate don’t usually dare to come out to the crumbling cliffs any more, those days are gone. They’re Yeo’s cliffs, people say, they belong to him alone now.
I throw the butt into the sand and slide off the swing.