The Horses Came Later

James Joyce writes A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and means himself.
But is a writer/translator also an »artist?«
Writers, perhaps. Translators – never! Many deem them »technicians.«
However, I don’t consider myself an artist despite being an author.

  • Why not?
  • Perhaps because »literature« is far too real for me.
  • And the unreal is »art?«
  • No, not the unreal. I’m well aware of the difference! In addition to writing (and perhaps because of it) I pursue photography and paint.
  • In other words …
  • The perceptions and responses I experience during the writing process are decisive. When I write, something real develops (for me and within me), not perceptions per se, but the sensations experienced during painting and photography find expression. They help. Also in retrospect.
  • In other words …

»The world is utterly fictionalized. An author’s task can no longer be to write fiction,« says Karl Ove Knausgaard. In a broader sense, he is correct. And in my view, what matters, what is important, is how one fictionalizes reality.

When I bear a story within »me,« very obliquely, when I am dabbling in it, both consciously and unconsciously, then images, passages, scenes and sentences … emerge in my thoughts. I subsequently attempt to discover and capture moments, individuals, and places in my actual surroundings, which I sense, even very vaguely, could fit my concept; sequences I am otherwise unable to perceive with the naked eye.
I take photographs.
Of the many I produce, a few stand out which will enrich my ideas and notions later on, and which will be transformed into words and sentences in my narrative.
However, when I paint, this process occurs retrospectively. An element of my unconscious finds conscious expression on the canvas.
In both cases, these are perceptions I do not experience when I write.
Photography and painting augment my literature. Before and after.

But I »saw« the horses later.

I arrived at Solitude with no intention of writing a novel there.
When I set eyes on the castle, the park, the surrounding villas, and the meadows, I was immediately fascinated, and this fascination deepens the more one becomes acquainted with the atmosphere and the people there. A sense of intimacy is quick to arise!
Long walks. Observations. And photography.
But not for a specific concept.
Houses, halls, forest paths, landscapes.
Not forgetting the horses, the horses above all, how nobly they stood there, the sheer grace of their movements.
Mournful-looking horses, on two horse meadows.
As we passed the horses, the taxi driver who picked me up from Stuttgart airport told me that they were former police horses whose »days are numbered.«
I took photographs.

Later on, I occasionally looked through the photos and sorted them.

I had no intention of writing a »Solitude« novel, but this time the camera took the decision out of my hands.
The unconscious became sentient by means of the camera.

One afternoon, I’d been photographing horses.
Just taking photos as I usually did.
I hadn’t noticed that one horse had apparently had a brush with death, and that death hadn’t been in a hurry to carry off the beautiful beast after all – but the camera captured everything!
When I sorted through the images later on, the uncanny sense of goose bumps remained with me for a long time. It continues to linger.

The »camera« had done its job for my literary endeavors.

This time, the camera inspired the idea of a »Solitude novel.«
The photos I had taken gradually, during the course of my stay, now revealed »their« significance.
I browsed through the images and saw what the camera had seen for me:

The entrance avenue

The castle

The staircase

The hall window and door

The roof

The chapel

The benches and walkers

and, in this »world« the horses

»The horses came later«
will be the first sentence of the Solitude novel I still carry within me.
Now it’s my turn.
The camera has served its purpose.

Tehran, early September 2017

Translated by Harriet Rössger