Academic journal article Hecate

An Interview with Karin Struck in Australia

Academic journal article Hecate

An Interview with Karin Struck in Australia

Article excerpt

The West German writer Karin Struck was born in Schlagtow/Mecklenburg in 1947. Six years later and for political reasons her father, a farmer, chose to take his family away from the German Democratic Republic and to settle in the Federal Republic of Germany, where he worked in industry. Karin pursued an education to tertiary level in the Federal Republic, ultimately studying German, French and Psychology at the Universities of Bochum, Bonn and Düsseldorf.

Literary fame was achieved almost instantly in 1973 with the publication of her first novel Klassenliebe (Class Love). Written in diary form, it records the difficulties faced by a woman of proletarian background who strives to be accepted as an intellectual. "A book is a letter, it is a cry for help," she writes. It is a sentence which succinctly expresses Karin's attitude to literature, not only in this first novel, but in the ten books she has written since then. Although elements of her own life are evident in her work, to label it as autobiographical or even as realist is inaccurate. In all of her writing, the task of knowing oneself is inextricably linked with the task of knowing the world. Again and again the reader encounters the symbolic and the surrealistic; two of the novels are based on fairytales. These and other books have been translated into several languages. Curiously though, none of Karin Struck's works has yet been translated into English.

Karin now lives in Hamburg with her four children. She is one of the few contemporary German writers who manage to live from the profits of their work. In August and September 1988, Karin was offered the opportunity to be writer-in-residence in the German Department of the University of Queensland. A few days before their return to Hamburg, she and her eight-month-old baby Immanuel paid a visit to Griffith University as guests of Griffith's Unit for Modern German Studies. At Griffith she spoke with Dieter Freundlieb and Peter Monteath about Australia, Goethe, Steinbeck, Immanuel, her work and many other topics. Karin hopes to return to Australia in two years time.

P.M. Firstly a quite general question. You've been in Australia for two months. What sort of impression do you have?

K.S. Strongest of all is the impression of the sun. My whole life I have wanted to experience such strong light. I have even dreamed of it, and without being prepared for it and without knowing that there would be so much light, I suddenly found it here. But that was primarily sunlight -- I don't mean that metaphorically, and not applied to the society, but simply the sunlight.

Apart from that the strongest impression I've had has been the effect of this tyrannical distance between Germany and Australia. There is a book which someone lent me (but I haven't read it yet) called The Tyranny of Distance. And I have thought a lot about this idea of the tyranny of distance and I have noticed here that there really is something to it, and for me not just in a negative sense, but in a positive sense, namely in that I can distance myself from things, really achieve distance from them. I want to distance myself from my problems, which doesn't necessarily mean escape. I find that these incredible distances within the continent are very beneficial for me and that they affect my consciousness in a manner similar to that described by drug-takers who have been on a trip -- it seems to silently creep up on you. Despite strange experiences here with some people, it has been a positive effect. I don't want to carry the idea too far at the moment, because that might be too much all at once. We'll have to wait and see what finally comes of it.

P.M. At the moment you're reading Goethe's Italian Journey. Are there any similarities between Goethe's Italian experience and your Australian experience?

K.S. Yes, there are indeed similarities. By reading the Italian Journey it is becoming clear to me that, although naturally I am in search of Australia, I am also in search of myself, just as Goethe was. …

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