The poet Daniela Elza has generously invited me to continue a conversation about books, called “The Next Big Thing.” Her opener is here. This is the Fourth of six projects in response, and the one I’ve been working on the longest.
What is the working title of your next book?
Barbarossa Monument, Kaiserslautern
Out front of just one of the Holy Roman Emperors camelots that were on the pilgrimage path.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was in Germany in 2003 and visited the former East Germany for the same time. A young man walked past me on the street, with a lot of body piercings, the German imperial eagle tattooed on his chest, with flaming pink hair and army boots. I wanted to know what he was doing in the town in which Luther translated the Bible.
What genre does your book fall under?
Non-fiction, literary nonfiction, innovative fiction, drama, script for the book, history.
Be Brave! Don’t Look the Other Way!
Anti-nazi street art, Jena, Germany
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This IS the movie rendition, just screened within the pages of a book.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Deep in East Germany, the third section of the play Faust takes place during the demonstrations that led to the reunification of Germany in 1990 and the growing neo-Nazi movement of the present.
Anarchist Street Art, Jena
No God, No State, No Partriarchy!
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
4 years and counting. I am rewriting the manuscript as a pilgrimage, on the ancient pilgrimage path, to see whether it’s really two manuscripts, with different purposes.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Faust, parts 1 and II, by Goethe; Danube, by Claudio Magris.
Harold and Goethe, Ilmenau
The poor guy looked like he needed some cheering up.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It struck me that much of German history happened along one ancient road, now called the B4, but previously called the via regia, or the King’s Way, which is the northern part of the Camino that is so well known in Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. I wanted to know why Germany happened along this main road to Minsk, and so I went to find out. It changed my life. Nothing was ever the same again. When I lost my photographs due to a computer failure, I went back, and did the route in the reverse, not from France to Poland but from Poland to France. Outside of Dresden in 2003, I had visited the town of Pirna — a visit interrupted by the unexplained panic of my guide, who bolted. I went back to finish the exploration…and discovered why he had bolted.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s funny, and full of beautiful and surprising things.
Two East German North American Indian Children (Whew!)
From the Karl May Indian Museum in Radebeul. During the East German period, half a million Germans dressed up like this and took to the woods every summer. It was one of the few ways of escaping the totalitarian state.
Next, a book about Iceland.