Hubert Achleitner auf Lesereise - Flüchtig

"Writing requires a great deal of diligence"

OÖN 1 October 2021 | Text: Lukas Luger

On Wednesday evening, Hubert Achleitner alias Hubert von Goisern read from his novel "Flüchtig" at the Oberbank Forum in Linz

Hubert Achleitner alias Hubert von Goisern is not just powerfully eloquent in his songs, but in his literary work too. The 68-year-old doesn't mince his words in interviews either and reveals why he admires Hemingway, what Gilbert Bécaud has to do with the state parliament election and what he has planned for the Capital of Culture 2024.

Songs are given a new lease of life when they are played live and the audience reacts to them. Is it the same for the written word?

Yes. The readings add new perspectives and depth. You write a book for a reader, not for a listener. So I adapt the text at readings. I leave out a word, add some in. The spoken word is more casual than the written. Writing requires a great deal of diligence. I didn't want to waste words with Flüchtig.

What was the best, perhaps most surprising reaction?

The goodwill of women, who asked me how I'd been able to put myself in the position of the female characters so well. Just recently someone said that there's a bit of Hemingway in the novel. He's a role model of mine in terms of his concise sentences. When working on the manuscript, I often made two or three sentences out of one meandering one, so as to mimic his style a bit. It's more the style than the machismo that attracts me. Even if I'm no stranger to his masculinity.

You've been carrying around the idea for Flüchtig for a long time. Will its successor also need such an extensive creative incubation time?

I expect so (laughs)! I've no idea when I'll sit down and write again. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write a book. So that's ticked off the list. I'm not doing anything creative before I've brought my new album to the stage. Playing music has a great deal to do with communication. When you're writing, you disappear into a tunnel. It needs time, at least a year. I'm not ready for that yet.

Culture played a marginalised role in the state election campaign. Does this make you angry?

More sad than anything. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of the Austrian People's Party (black), nor of their new incarnation as the New People's Party (turquoise) in particular. When I look at the map and see how black the country is politically, my heart sinks. There's a great song by Gilbert Bécaud called Schwarzer Sonntag (Black Sunday), which suits the situation perfectly. But one shouldn't complain. If culture is not deemed very worthy of people's attention, you have to accept that. I've never received any funding as an artist. I'm not someone who says: "the state must pay for culture." The people must want to have culture – and then they go to a concert or theatre too.

As a Salzkammergut native, how did the upheaval around the removal of Stephan Rabl, manager of Capital of Culture 2024, strike you?

We wanted to meet up to discuss a project. It's said that he didn't properly listen to the local culture organisations. On the other hand, it's really not easy to keep the needs and desires of 23 communities happy on a very moderate budget. The whole thing was a bit of a political issue too.

In what way?

There was discontent about party politics and various insider relationships. The greed of gaining access to culture via politics was there and played a role in the election campaign. What happened in Ischl was beneath contempt. The Austrian People's Party's mudslinging campaign beggars belief.

What would your planned project for 2024 have looked like in concrete terms?

There's an idea, nothing more. But I want to discuss it with the new manager, Elisabeth Schweeger, first. My project would cost little if anything at all. I want to put intercultural exchange within the Salzkammergut front and centre. There are such initiatives, but they need to be put on a bigger stage and also be done transparently for the people from outside.

Hubert Achleitner at the Oberbank Literature Forum

Oberbank 30 September 2021

[...] Hubert Achleitner, better known as Hubert von Goisern, gave insight into how his debut novel developed. He'd had the idea back in 2003, but for a long time musical projects kept getting in the way, such as the multicultural journey along the Danube 2007-2009. The Goiserer documented this tour in a non-fiction book, but its noncommital and prim and proper style finally allowed the wish for a novel to come to fruition. He wanted to "put a spoke in the wheels, knock people down and poison events". In notebooks he developed the characters, who gradually gained flesh and blood. The story took shape more and more too. Where the words couldn't keep up with the emotions, he incorporated lyrics from his repertoire.

The artist's will is what counts 14 August 2021 | Text: Jan Stephan

Weißenburg – A reading where the reader declares right at the start that he doesn't understand people who go to readings. What kind of evening does that foreshadow? One filled with great excitement and entertainment, that is if the reader is called Hubert von Goisern and he clearly feels at home in the BergwaldGarten in Weissenburg, speaking candidly and without inhibition.

Hubert Achleitner, as Hubert von Goisern is really called, had an explanation for why he has a problem with readings, of course: you still have to read the book yourself, simply reading aloud is not particularly exciting, and he doesn't like doing it. "But don't worry, you won't notice", he added with a smile. And that's exactly what happened.

The start of the evening was somewhat unusual, but indicative of Hubert Achleitner as a person. He is a thoughtful, headstrong, clever guy, who says what he thinks. Whether it goes down well or not, is not his problem.  

Calm and humorous

He describes, for example, how he's given up playing concerts in picturesque locations out in the country. The reason: "At the end I was always disappointed by my fans, who turned every place into a pigsty."

In Weißenburg presenter Achim Bogdahn succeeds in winning over the author with the setting of the BergwaldGarten (mountain forest garden) and an attentive audience. All of a sudden, he's talking about himself and the world in his calm and unflappable manner, full of gentle humour.

About the 7000-strong town of Goisern, for example, in a valley in the mountains, where he grew up. As a well-adjusted and well-behaved child. "There were seven brass bands and three choirs, music was all around me, so it's no wonder that I became a musician." But it wasn't effortless.

What are you, an idiot?

His family was against it. Music is a hobby and not something that will earn you money. Everyone tried to get him to forget the crazy idea; parents, his aunt, his wife. "And then I didn't make music for four years, until I had an epiphany and thought: what are you, an idiot?" He had to go for his dream one more time, he told his wife at the time. "Otherwise I won't be able to look at myself in the mirror in old age."

Three months later Achleitner was divorced. His wife had evidently judged the necessity of making great dreams a reality somewhat differently.

And you can't really blame her. In the mid-1980s, Goisern lived on 10,000 Austrian Shillings per year. A sum on which you can only get by if you sleep on the couches of friends, acquaintances and organisers and eat at their tables. "But when you burn for something, you don't need anything but that thing and a little to eat", he told his Weißenburg audience.

Struggling with the world

"My wife says that I shouldn't romanticise this period in hindsight, because I struggled with the world a great deal too," he conceded. But the will is almost more important than talent. "Many people who were better than me didn't make it. Mostly because they didn't have the will to give up everything for it."

At the two-hour event in the Bergwaldgarten, Achleitner himself offers proof that he was very wrong. Readings can be wonderfully enriching experiences. Particularly when the author is truly revealed, as presenter Bogdahn beautifully achieves.

Passage readings are integrated with the conversation. And Goisern does indeed read well. Just like he promised at the start.

Sentences full of power

With a deep voice, he lends his text weight, and the Austrian accent adds its own note to this literary road movie. His novel Flüchtig, which spent several weeks at number one on the Austrian bestseller list, is about a woman who leaves the house one night and simply doesn't come back. She leaves her husband on his own. An accident, an outburst, an end or perhaps a new beginning?

Her husband tries to find her, and the story is set in motion. It gives Achleitner the room to tell very different stories in very different places. He does so with crisp, clear sentences, which gain poetic power in their simplicity. Particularly since they have substance. Many beautifully formulated meditations wait within them and there is very clearly a bit of Hemingway in this Achleitner. A wonderful evening and a book that you do indeed need to read in peace and alone at home.

Achleitner on book tour, von Goisern on concert tour

Onetz 12. August 2021 | Text: Helga Kamm

Multi-talent Hubert is often on the road

The audience in the castle courtyard came for Hubert von Goisern, the musician, and after an hour and a half, they had also become acquainted with Hubert Achleitner, the author. He read from his novel Flüchtig, in which music also plays a role.

Religion, spirituality and philosophy

[…] Music is often spoken of in his novel – from Mozart and André Heller to Queen and Nina Hagen. "Music is a language for what you can't say with words", Achleitner explained. But the casual conversation with Ralf Volkert also extended to the religion, spirituality, and philosophy in the book. "It was clear from the beginning that I would write about those subjects. I just needed a story for it", the author said of his basic premise.

He read from a few chapters of his book, without giving away too much of the plot. The story is that of Maria and Herwig, a couple married for thirty years, in which there have been conflicts, secrets, adultery and estrangement. Then Maria disappears without a trace. Herwig and his father set off to find her.

The rebel decides on Mount Athos

[…] The process of writing his novel dragged on for years, said Hubert Achleitner, "something or other kept getting in the way". In response to Volkert's question, the author explained: "I only knew that the woman would leave. Where she was going only developed in the course of writing." That it would be Athos in Greece was down to the fact that women are not allowed to set foot on this holy mountain. "So I'll take my Maria there", said the rebel within him. Achleitner said of the title of his book: "Fleeting describes the transience of bliss, and misfortune too." The birth of Maria in an icy gondola in the mountains, meeting the young monk Nikolas on Athos, the description of the mountain village on the lake, the comparison of the thronging tourists with colourful butterflies – the two hundred people listening in the castle courtyard that evening were riveted. Silence reigned as Hubert Achleitner read from his book and talked about his life in his pleasant voice and light Austrian accent.

No second book planned for now

He's delighted that there is a long line of people waiting to buy his book at the end of the evening. There won't be another for now, he assures us. For the musician of retirement age, the tour planned to begin in March next year with 80 concerts has priority: "Only then will I have another think about what could come next."

Hubert von Goisern in St. Martin 30 July 2021

Hubert von Goisern was in St. Martin for the Austrian premiere of the book tour for his debut novel flüchtig and talked to Elisabeth Keplinger-Radler about his life, homeland, music and literature, as well as social subjects and what gives him a feeling of security.

A woman on the run from herself

Passauer Neue Presse 22 July 2021 | Text: Wolfgang Schweiger

Hubert von Goisern presents his novel "Flüchtig" at the Kulturforum Klosterkirche

Traunstein. "A good story needs drama. Best of all: a relationship drama," said Hubert von Goisern at his reading at the Kulturforum Klosterkirche in Traunstein, where the co-founder of "new folk music" and inventor of "alpine rock" presented his debut novel flüchtig. That's an aspiration, which he easily lived up to with flüchtig, as the novel published under his real name Hubert Achleitner is a top class relationship drama, told in a sensitive and multi-faceted way, with strong characters and an exciting, multi-layered plot, enriched with many interesting subplots and cross-references to music, politics, history, philosophy and religion.

The woman on the run from herself in this case is Maria, who after 30 years of (joyless) marriage, discovers by chance that her husband Wig's mistress is expecting a baby. She quits her job at a bank, empties their joint account and sets off in Herwig's Volvo. It's the start of an adventurous journey that takes her from the Austrian Alps to Greece, meeting a young woman along the way, who spends a few months with her. Meanwhile, Herwig doesn't know what is happening to him until the police let him know that his Volvo has been found in Saloniki. Together with his father, Lothar, who has escaped from his old people's home, he too sets off south.

In conversation with the journalist Luca-Emilia Dingl (rfo), who moderated the reading, Hubert von Goisern revealed that he'd been carrying around the idea of writing a novel for 20 years. Perhaps, as he added with irony, because he had read so many bad novels and said to himself: "I could do better than that." His admission that the novel contained a lot of himself and he had integrated his own ways of thinking and acting into each character was of no surprise. When asked whether he had experienced writer's block, he replied: "Not so much", but he had been amazed at how some of his characters had developed a life of their own to which he ultimately had to acquiesce.

It was also very interesting to discover whether a singer as tied to dialect as he is had any trouble with the High German. "Not at all," he said, and referred to his most recent album Zeiten & Zeichen, on which he also sings in High German. He also described how difficult it had been to find an ending for the novel. Until, after long consideration, he decided on a radical solution: "The characters would stay where they were."

Hubert von Goisern chose to begin his reading with the dramatic scene in which Maria is born, not like other children, but in a cable car high above the valley, in the middle of a snow storm and with an appeal for help from the Holy Mother. In gratitude she was named Eva Maria Magdalena. With great interest, the audience also followed the description of the lunch the couple shared after Maria had decided to leave Herwig: a mushroom dish prepared by Maria.

In another very amusing passage, it became clear which part of Hubert von Goisern may lie within the character of Herwig. Together with a plea for vinyl records, the Nina Hagen song Heiß is deconstructed with such relish that you can feel the author's joy in writing the text. It's no wonder that Hubert von Goisern was approached by many people after the reading, asking him to sign their newly purchased books.

Hubert Achleitner at Kultur im Park in Baden

Niederösterreich Fernsehen 21 July 2021

Hubert von Goisern in Wels

WT1 14 July 2021

Maria has disappeared. Herwig, to whom she has been married for nearly 30 years, hasn't heard from her in months. It's the beginning of both an exciting adventure and the first novel by Hubert Achleitner. And yes, you heard correctly. Hubert von Goisern isn't just good with music, he can write too ...

Hubert Achleitner reads from his first novel in Kirchdorf

Tips 13th July 2021 | Text: Susanne Winter

Kirchdorf an der Krems. At the invitation of the Literarischer Nahversorger in Schlierbach, Hubert Achleitner (alias "Hubert von Goisern") will be reading from his debut novel Flüchtig at Castle Neupernstein in Kirchdorf on Saturday 17th July. The story is about Maria, who leaves the house after almost 30 years of marriage and doesn't return. More than 57,000 copies of the book have been sold since it was published.


What significance does music have in the novel?

There are people who can't get on with music, it means nothing to them and triggers nothing within them. I can't imagine what it's like not to be musical and so all my characters are musical and have a soundtrack to their lives. Songs or pieces of music are very often linked to memories. There's also a Spotify playlist that contains all the pieces of music that are mentioned in the book.

What music is that?

Music I hear within me when I think about certain landscapes or situations.

Your lyrics are known to be quite meaningful. What message do you want to convey with your book?

I can't and don't want to explain that because everyone must discover it for themselves. There are many different levels, such as the relationship between Maria and Herwig, which leaves a lot of room for the reader's own feelings. There's a level of spirituality that can trigger something within the reader if that's something they're interested in. When you engage with a subject you can take something from it that doesn't necessarily have to be a confirmation of what you believe; the process can also happen through resistance. It prompts a process of reflection and a certain emotion and that leads somewhere interesting, but not necessarily because you've found validation.

Is that something you want to provoke with your readers – reflection and emotion?

Yes, or else I wouldn't need to make music, write a novel or even open my mouth if I didn't want any dialogue or people's attention. You always need two people – one to talk or write and one to listen or read. I'm an enthusiastic reader and I'm delighted that there are so many people who have read and appreciate this book.

Why are you coming to Kirchdorf for a reading?

I'm happy to go wherever people want to listen to me. In the 80s I visited a friend in Kirchdorf from time to time.

Hubert von Goisern becomes a writer

LT1 14th July 2021

Reading at VOI Culture Centre, St. Martin

9th July 2021 | Photos: © Martina Gahleitner

Hubert Achleitner alias von Goisern presents his first novel

Die Rheinpfalz 5th July 2021 | Text: Birgit Möthrath

The Austrian alpine rocker Hubert von Goisern has a new album waiting in the wings: "Zeiten & Zeichen". But he's currently on tour with his first novel "Flüchtig", under his real name Hubert Achleitner. He presented it to the public at an enjoyable Sunday matinee at the Tollhaus in Karlsruhe.

The usual high proportion of women in the audience at a reading may well have pleased Achleitner. "To be eloquent", is his tactic with women, he revealed in an entertaining conversation with SWR1 presenter Barbara Scherrer about himself and his ambitions as an author. "You can't start with a kiss and end with a hashtag."

Striving for linguistic finesse seems to have put him under a fair amount of pressure while writing. Achleitner talks about how for a long time he couldn't let go of his book, - and how, although it wasn't as good as he wanted it to be, finally finished it at his third self-imposed deadline: 28 February 2019 at 23:58.

People on the run from midlife crisis

His first and perhaps most important reader was his own wife. Achleitner speaks of anxious anticipation as to how she would get on with the book. "I'm so happy that I didn't need a foreign language dictionary", was her first reaction, when after "ten days, which felt like an eternity" in which she'd only made it to page 40, he couldn't take it any more and asked her about it. She had expected awfully convoluted language. And Achleitner admits: "When I write, it has to make an impression."

Indeed, he misses no opportunity in his novel for a bit of Austrian humour, such as the sideswipe at the opera: it is like a High Mass with the same claim to enlightenment – just as long as you don't listen to the lyrics. But Flüchtig doesn't come across as at all convoluted. But rather plagued with all the people who are constantly running away from their midlife crises. It is in fact the 68-year-old's linguistic polish and word play that make his book so entertaining.

The roadtrip gets into gear

His linguistic capers permeate even the smallest expressions though – as with the streams of tourists "from all over and around the world" - and sometimes seem a little strained. You need a proper plot, so that such things don't sound hollow. And Achleitner's roadtrip about the search for happiness quickly gets into gear. After 30 years of marriage to Wig, Maria quits her job and makes off with the family Volvo – just like that, without a word, like the proverbial husband who disappears when he goes to get cigarettes.

Some moments in Achleitner's story are shaped by his biography, such as Maria's birth in a stalled cable car cabin, which is one of several episodes he reads in Karlsruhe. In an interview with Spiegel magazine, the author recalled that as a young man he once spent two uneasy hours hanging in a cable car. And he too set off into the world at the age of 20 because life was too claustrophobic in Austria – though back then it was with his first wife. There may be a great deal of his own experiences in his protagonist Eva Maria Magdalena (the female trinity) or the narrator Lisa. But Achleitner does not accept them as an alter ego.

A book like a mix tape

However, Barbara Scherrer does not ask her guest about his years in South Africa, Tibet and Canada. As a radio presenter who's happy to incorporate promotion for her own format, she focuses on the music. Achleitner's novel comes across like one of those mix tapes that the baby boomer generation liked to give each other in their youth. His publisher even made a Spotify playlist of all the songs that are to be heard in the story.

His memories are all tied to a soundtrack, says Achleitner. "When I wrote myself into a particular situation, a song was there." He gives Maria and Wig Du, Du, Du by André Heller on their way home after they met by chance at the opera in Salzburg and fell in love. Heller – that was the "time of awakening" for him.

Concert tour in March

With so much soundtrack, Flüchtig is a real gift for a film. A production company has already expressed an interest, Achleitner reveals. But he's picky: he doesn't want a TV film with actors you see all the time. A trashy low budget production would be better than that. Achleitner won't be touring with music under his stage name, derived from his hometown of Bad Goisern until March: 100 concerts are planned for 2022. In spite of the success of his first novel, he can't imagine cutting himself off from everything again to write a second: "I've proved to myself that I can do it." First of all, he wants to publicise his album, which was released during the Corona lockdown. "I can't overtake myself on the hard shoulder."

Reading at the Tollhaus

Tollhaus Karlsruhe 5th July 2021 | Photo: © Bernadette Fink

O-Töne Literaturfestival in Vienna

O-Töne Literaturfestival 14th August 2020 | Photo: © Yavuz Odabas