For the past week Göttingen was host to a series of cultural events which went under the name of Experiment Geschwindigkeit. I missed a couple of potentially interesting events there, including a performance of John Cage’s Il Treno, because of our party and its aftermath. Today there was the very last event, Sten Nadolny reading from his famous book Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit in the theatre.
I haven’t been to the (non-student) theatre in Göttingen for years. Mostly because it was quite bad the times I went there – and because I found the people at the ticket office unfriendly. But this time the theatre only provided the rooms, so it was OK. It must have been equally many years since I read the book. A friend gave it to me as a present back then. Because I am quite slow as well – as anybody who had a meal with me should be able to confirm.
The book centres around the British navigator John Franklin who – that’s the story’s point – is made to be very slow. So slow in fact that he can’t cope with fast movements or changes of the situation he is in. Throughout the span of his life as described in the book, though, he makes the most of this peculiarity, turning it from a handicap into a strength. He does this by capitalising on the different view on the world he has, which gives him a more detailed and in depth picture.
While the book’s title is often read as an apology for being slow or it is abused it brochures for esoteric holidays, the book doesn’t live up to this (thankfully, I’d say). Nadolny was even at pains to stress this fact – probably he has been confronted with questions marking him as anti-progress quite a few times. In the interview after the reading which was conducted by some guy who wrote a book about computer games, Nadolny was quite sympathetic and funny. It was interesting to hear how he – being a PhD in history – could take a historical figure and make it the protagonist in a work of fiction.
It’s also funny to hear an author say
you know, I just made these things up and having enough distance to his own work to confess that
I was trying to be clever there – as a young author you think your story isn’t enough and you have to add clever details here and there.
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