Wolf Won­dratschek was an expert at this years SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM „Where does free­dom start and where does it end?” in Gmunden.

The Interview with Wolf Wondtratschek:

When you think about free­dom and writ­ing, you might think it would be pure fun to be a writer. The oppo­site is true. It is the hard­est job: To find the right sen­tence. To find the right word. To find the music in what you write. Ulti­mate­ly to find the truth, to find the point. In one of his let­ters Gus­tav Flaubert says, “For one month I’ve been search­ing for one word.” Does this sound like fun?

„Writ­ing is a monolog with your­self and a fight with the impos­si­ble. You do it in favor of some­thing that we call art.”

Don’t aim to possess, be possessed

The oth­er night when I fell asleep think­ing about free­dom, here are the thoughts that occurred to me: Nobody is free to decide, “Bet­ter not to be born.” Nobody is free to choose his mama and papa and the social cir­cum­stances he is born into. Nobody is free about what we call “des­tiny.” Nobody is free to decide what makes him run or what makes him stop run­ning. Nobody is free of the fear to fail or to fall. Nobody is free in a world that is ruled by mon­ey. So nobody is free. And to be a “nobody” is the per­fect exis­tence for a writer.

To write, I have to be alone and be a lon­er. It takes two and a half years to write a nov­el. No TV, no news­pa­per, you don’t need to know what’s going on in the world of pol­i­tics. I have to pre­serve the trance that I’m in. That means not being addict­ed to a wife or to a social life. You are sim­ply not a social being.

To be free as a writer means not hav­ing ambi­tion. No going for suc­cess or mon­ey or to see your name in the paper. Leave the deci­sion of the val­ue of what you write to the future – to 100 years from now.

On the oth­er hand, when I was young I was lucky. I pub­lished my first book when I was 27 and it became an instant suc­cess. The most famous Ger­man crit­ic, Mar­cel Reich-Ran­ic­ki wrote a full-page review in the news­pa­per. But then I had a prob­lem: The pub­lish­ing house want­ed the next nov­el very fast.

I decid­ed not to do this. Instead I start­ed writ­ing poet­ry. Poems were eas­i­er for me. They didn’t take a year to fin­ish; in a good night I could write a poem. But I didn’t dare show them to my pub­lish­er because they were expect­ing my next nov­el. I pub­lished this lit­tle tiny book of poems by myself. I paid for it, 800 copies that I car­ried to the book fair in my lit­tle suit­case.

It was a kind of “anti-career” move, because I knew what peo­ple would say: “Oh my God, he was a big star two years ago and now he’s on drugs and he’s sell­ing this lit­tle tiny book of poems? Poor boy!” What hap­pened? I final­ly gave the book of poet­ry to a pub­lish­er, it went into dis­tri­b­u­tion and with­in a year I sold 200,000 copies. Then peo­ple said, “Won­dratschek is very smart!”

That’s a les­son in free­dom as well. No mat­ter what you do, there’s always a jour­nal­ist who wants to kill you or put a cliché on you that stran­gles you. In the end, even under a dic­ta­tor­ship there will always be a pen­cil and paper and an emp­ty room, and a can­dle to write some­thing down. That’s enough. You don’t need the indus­try. You don’t need the fame. You don’t need the slice of “being some­body.” There you have free­dom.

Personal data:

The native Ger­man was raised in Karl­sruhe und stud­ied lit­er­a­ture, phi­los­o­phy and soci­ol­o­gy under Hans Georg Gadamer and Theodor W. Adorno among oth­ers.

Wolf Won­dratschek is con­sid­ered an absolute free spir­it. Par­tic­u­lar­ly his lit­er­ary begin­nings were char­ac­ter­ized by a socio-crit­i­cal atti­tude. The author start­ed his career with the books “The day used to begin with a bul­let wound” and “A farmer and a farm­woman have a farm­boy who wants to be a farm ser­vant”. Won­draschek wrote sev­er­al dif­fer­ent text types. After mov­ing to Vien­na in 1996 he focussed specif­i­cal­ly on nar­ra­tives and nov­els.

Many of his works were trans­lat­ed into sev­er­al lan­guages, the cycle of poems “The girl and the knife-throw­er” debuted as a bal­let in 2014 at the Bavar­i­an State Opera.

Won­draschek is a prizewin­ning author and received three major awards such as the lit­er­ary prize of the Wil­helm and Chris­tine Hirschmann-Foun­da­tion in 2012.