SZ column: What are you reading, Christian Baron? – Culture


Christian Baron’s literary themes are social background, class society and the working-class milieu. In the novel “A Man in His Class”, which won the Klaus Michael Kühne Prize, he tells of the life of his own father. straight is “Schön ist die Nacht”, his second novel, appeared.

SZ: What are you reading right now?

Christian Baron: I read “The Gift Horse” by Hildegard Knefbecause Michael Maar in his great book “The Snake in Wolf’s Clothing” recommends. I’m still unsure whether the obvious whitewashing in some places annoys me more than the laconic language of the text inspires me. But I’m not done yet either. As a big friend of the “Naturkunden” series from Verlag Matthes & Seitz, the volumes about donkeys (by Jutta Person) and pigeons (by Karin Schneider) are also lying on my bedside table, which I read alternately at night before falling asleep and with great benefit .

What was the last book that made you cry?

This happens to me quite often while reading. Most recently with “The Seventh Cross” by Anna Seghers and “A Fateless Man” by Imre Kertész: two thematically related books with completely different literary approaches. And they both pulled the plug on me.

Which book would you like to have written yourself?

All novels by Irmgard Keun. I am so enthusiastic about the language of this author that I always waver between fascination and envy when reading. She has described people and times that are at the same time far away and to whom I still feel strangely close. Yes, I would like to be able to write as well as she does.

Have you ever stolen a book, if so which one?

I’ve never stolen books. As a child, I lacked interest, later I was in awe that still persists today, like the mother in “A Woman” by Annie Ernaux, who always washes her hands before touching a book.

What character from a novel or book do you keep coming back to?

Franz Biberkopf from “Berlin Alexanderplatz” by Alfred Döblin. Not only because the novel is one of my life books. This beaverhead is also a guy who makes it difficult to develop sympathy. And yet I’m rooting for it. In his ambivalence, his disorientation, his oscillation between intuitive longing for a philanthropic world and irrational misanthropy, I perceive him as an amazingly timeless figure.

If you could wish for a book that doesn’t exist yet, what would it be?

I have been dealing with the issues of animal welfare and animal rights for a number of years. I’d like to read a really good novel from the perspective of a factory pig – without humanizing it. Of course it’s difficult to find a language. last it has TC Boyle in “Talk to Me” from a chimpanzee’s point of view tries. I thought that was pretty good, but it wasn’t as radical as I would have liked.

Which book explains the whole world best for you?

Leaving aside non-fiction books, I have yet to read a book that describes the people of capitalism better than John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”. What is known somewhat exaggeratedly under the catchphrase “conditio humana” is told here from the perspective “from below” without glossing over or moralizing, which I found in the literature still far too rare.

For many years there was hardly any mention of social “classes”. How is it that the word is now experiencing a renaissance?

Because the introduction of Hartz IV only brought disadvantages for those affected, but an advantage for the discourse: since then, poverty in this rich country can no longer be made invisible. This is all the more true since the social consequences of the corona pandemic have become apparent. It can no longer be denied that the contradiction between capital and labor persists despite all differentiation. Of course, so does the book “Return to Reims” by Didier Eribon put the topic back on the agenda in Germany when it finally appeared here in 2016.

Literature and politics – how would you describe this relationship in one sentence?

Literature must never be burdened with political claims or agitation, but a literary text can become politically effective on its own.

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