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Jörg Albrecht

11 October 10 words: James Walker
If you like video art, live performance...and Nazi werewolves, then you'll like our Jörg
"I love to combine text and music or video images, marking the text as something which is not closed in itself, rather as something which can be performed in very different ways."

Jörg Albrecht is one of the most exciting young writers to emerge from Germany, offering unique multi-media performances and audio dramas. His latest novel Sternstaub, Goldfunk, Silberstreif (Stardust, Flash of Gold, Silver Lining, 2008) tells a fictitious history of space travel, mixing numerous allusions to popular culture with authentic details of the history of German aeronautics. In addition to this he’s written a libretto for Hanover State Opera, is currently working on a novel about the German Werewolf and runs his own theatre company, copy and waste. We caught up with Jörg to discuss his work and his appearance at the Birmingham Book Festival (5-21 October)  

Tell us something about yourself…
I hate to do this, a three-sentence-version of myself. Sorry, but I really can’t do it. I am just working on this connection between creative jobs and capitalism, and this whole CV-thing is to me one of the more obvious dimensions of it: You always have to be able to tell something about yourself. Probably, people around me could do that much better. So could my texts.

Is it true you have your roots in Slam poetry…
Not really. Perhaps my style of performing reminds of some poetry slam artists, but I’ve only read at a slam once. And that was only because the people organizing it thought I had my roots in slam poetry. So this connection, although it doesn’t exist, seems to have a life of its own … I’m really more inspired by video art and live performance, by modern forms of drama.

Given your use of multi-media in your work, how important is technology to writing?
Very. I guess I could never write in that way without using a computer and the internet. I just need to open different tabs in my browser, making research on different aspects of the topics I work on, in order to then combine the results from the tabs. Combining things that seem to be very far apart, finding out how they are linked, that’s one of the biggest parts of the working process. And also, I love to combine text and music or video images, marking the text as something which is not closed in itself, rather as something which can be performed in very different ways. With regard to that, technology is necessary for both – producing a text and liberating it from a life just in printed form.

Stephen Fry is just one of many authors who utilises technology to enhance the reading experience...

Stephen Fry has recently written an updated autobiography for Penguin (The Fry Chronicles) which utilises various electronic applications to enhance the reading experience. Do you think this or similar forms are the future of the book?
I am not sure. I thought a lot about this and also tried to enhance my second novel by using the web and radio, but right now I am not sure if it is always an enrichment to what you want to tell. Sometimes, it’s just an addition, not a multiplication of perspectives.

You’ve written a libretto for Hanover State Opera. Was this more difficult or enjoyable than writing for other mediums?
That was in 2004, so it was one of my first experiences in not writing just prose. It was then more a dramatic text, laying much emphasis on the musical quality of the language, making the characters speak with different forms of repetition etc. From this version of the text, the composer distilled some passages she could use in her composition. It was quite interesting to see, and I guess I learned to even more work on the basis of how a text sounds when read aloud. That kind of shaped my works from then on.

What can you tell us about the current German literary scene, does it have particular characteristics or themes? 
Well, I’m not such a big expert myself, since I read a lot of theoretical works and can’t always keep up with the latest publications. But I guess what one can say is that after a long time where stories revolved around people’s boring private lives (and I don’t only say boring because I was bored by the stories, but the boredom was a part of the stories), you now have some more writers who also deal with social and political issues. And those are mainly also the ones who write in a more interesting language and don’t just use the Raymond Carver-style everybody used five years ago.

What can we expect from your talk at the Birmingham Book Festival?
I will present a kind of love story, including reflections on dubbing in films and vampires.

Any festival highlights you recommend?
Unfortunately, I’ll only be there in the last days. What sounds interesting is the 7 inch cinema-thing. (animated shorts of poems and short stories). Probably will be there.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse...

What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished a play about artificial replacement in different forms. It is based on a silent movie by Robert Wiene who also made Dr Caligari and is called The hands of Orlac. In the movie, a piano player loses his hands, and he is engrafted the hands of a murderer, whereupon he goes mad. I have written the text for my theatre company, copy & waste, we will produce it in Germany and in Graz, Austria, where I will be writer-in-residence during the following year. And also, I try to prepare a third novel, about the Creative Industries and werewolves.

I’m intrigued. Tell me more about the werewolves?
It's that aspect of being forced to forget everything you did last night. And this is interesting with regard to my new novel on different levels: There is one part which is set in the Third Reich, in the UFA film studios where a werewolf movie is shot. (The nazis were extremely obsessed with wolves, also calling their last guerilla groups The Werewolves.) To me, it might describe what happened after the war: People had woken up, but nobody could remember what they had done for twelve years. And then, on a different level, concerning the Creative Industries, I try to use the werewolf as a positive entity: Can we act out at night our aggressions resulting from the fact that even if we try to make it in our capitalist economy, we will somehow always lead a precarious life? Perhaps we can. Perhaps we can't. The text doesn't know it yet.

For information on the Birmingham Book Festival 
James Walker's website 



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