Barbara Karlich Buchklub with Hubert von Goisern
Keep your composure, be patient
O-Töne Literaturfestival in Vienna
In conversation with Hubert von Goisern
Hubert Achleitner, better known as Hubert von Goisern, should be promoting his first novel.
But he didn't want to talk about his own work. A conversation about everything else.
Mr Achleitner, would you record your hit Koa Hiatamadl again today?
Of course, it's still a great tune. I still notice now when I hear it, what oomph it has.
The lyrics are sexist.
It's about men in the mountains longing for women who have a bit more flesh on their calves. Who aren't as wiry as the ones they know from their villages. It's more of a plea against anorexia.
Such a song would cause you a shitstorm today.
People get upset about every negligibility nowadays. In an interview with the Standard recently, I was asked what I thought of Sebastian Kurz's corona crisis policies. I said he was doing fairly well. That ended up being the headline – and produced a shitstorm against me.
It seems to us as though you enjoy standing against the mainstream.
Anything else would be too boring for me. When you swim against the current, from the shore it looks like you're at a standstill. But in reality, it trains the muscles.
You don't make friends that way. In Austria a state secretary was brought down because the cultural sector felt let down by her in the corona crisis. Whereas you said that you had enjoyed that peaceful time: "Perhaps the eternal kiss-kiss greeting will come to an end".
Yes, that moment in time was very convenient for me. In the past few months I've mixed and cut the music that we recorded between November and January. It's best to be alone for that. And this time there weren't the constant visits from people wanting to hear something early.
What is great about people withdrawing back to themselves and their immediate environment?
At first, people were friendlier. Even those who are usually quite grouchy were suddenly nicer. But now everyone's gradually getting somewhat stressed again, because they need to find their way in the new normal. I always had something to do, first of all I finished off the music and the recent weeks were all PR dates and interviews. Today's the last day and I'm pretty happy about that.
I don't like talking about my work. A book or an album should speak for itself. If you have to explain something, then something's wrong.
Do we ask such dumb questions?
When we're talking about things that are current, that affect us all, I like that.
Do you like your fans?
Yes, sure. But when I had my first shows, I kept having people thrown out.
Because they were causing a disturbance. I was standing there on stage in beer tents. Some people in the audience just wanted to have a party, but I wanted to give a concert – and it's my event, so I determine how it goes. There were evenings when I broke off the concert for 20 minutes and didn't come back on stage until a certain part of the audience had gone.
Did you simply drive them out with your music, or have them thrown out by security?
Exactly that. (laughs) But they always got their ticket money back.
Do the right people come to your concerts nowadays?
How do you mean?
Do you tolerate, for example, fans of the homeland-loving, Austrian folk music star Andreas Gabalier at your concerts?
How would I recognise them?
Is there an overlap between your audience and that of Andreas Gabalier?
I can imagine that there are people who go to concerts by us both.
Can you explain his success?
Do I have to?
Let's put it differently: nowadays there's a boom in rural escapism magazines, hand-kneaded bread from the Waldviertel is sold in hip Viennese districts, and Swiss wrestling festivals are broadcast live on TV. Where does this rural retro cult stem from?
I'm not surprised that there's a growing countermovement to globalisation, with people refocusing more on the regional. How can it be that transport costs almost nothing, so that a Mohrenbräu from Vorarlberg costs the same in Vienna as a locally-brewed Ottakringer? Everything, including the ecological price of the transport, needs to be included in the costs. There needs to be a financial transaction tax too, and I can even imagine having customs duties again.
In the EU too?
Why should that be a taboo?
The retro cult is predominantly an urban phenomenon though. Isn't country life terribly romanticised?
Of course it is. Living in the countryside can be really hard. I know a lot of farmers who work constantly, seven days a week. Or there's the debate now about wolves in Austria. City people have this idyllic concept of wild animals running through the forest. But it's not so simple for those who are affected by them.
Where do you stand in the debate about wolves? Are you Team Sheep or Team Predator?
I lived in Goisern with my children, in the last house at the edge of the forest. Back then the bear who lived there was the issue. It was an uneasy feeling. And as far as the wolves are concerned, I don't think it's so simple: you can't fence off sheep and people just to give the wolf its freedom. I think that if the wolf becomes a problem, you should be allowed to shoot it.
You combine urban and rural worlds in your work. You mix folk music with pop music, homeland and the world. How do you manage that without tipping over into patriotic kitsch?
When I started with my music, I was already in my late thirties, had already seen a lot and had travelled the world a great deal. That was certainly an advantage.
There's a scene from a TV programme from the 1990s where you go to a tavern in Goisern, the local music group is sitting there and is quite hostile towards you for your music and stage appearances. You were allegedly jumping around, stealing elements from folk music and packaging them in a way that appealed to a wide audience. Did you like that confrontation?
No, not at all. I hated it and suffered as a result. Bayerischer Rundfunk wanted me to go, they almost forced me. If I'd said no, it would have seemed as though I was skiving. I fell ill the evening before, I'm sure that was psychosomatic. But perhaps it was an advantage that I wasn't firing on all cylinders, because otherwise it would have degenerated into a fistfight. Well, that guy was an idiot anyway! But these guys have all died since, so the problem solved itself.
How much strength did you need to stand against these conventions?
I've actually always found it easy. Goisern spat me out, just as Vienna later did. It wasn't that I felt that I needed to fight my way free.
The late FPÖ chairman Jörg Haider comes from the same town as you. You railed against him at concert in the nineties. Meanwhile, the FPÖ has been in government twice. Can artists move anything politically?
I don't know. But it has always been important to me that people know where I stand. I can't stop the FPÖ playing my music at events …
... so you wrote a letter to then FPÖ boss and later Vice Chancellor H. C. Strache.
Yes, I wrote to him so that he would know what I thought of his politics.
Would you have had no problem with your songs being played by the liberal Neos?
No, but surely you're asking me where I draw the line?
I can't take any action against the FPÖ playing my songs. But if they do, they should know where I stand politically, then perhaps that'll also go through the heads of people when they listen to my music.
Mr Achleitner, you've been successful in music for thirty years, have been in the charts, played concerts all over the world, modernised a whole genre, now another new album is being released: Zeiten und Zeichen, your fifteenth album. Why, at nearly 70, did you also have to write a book?
Because I'd long been of the opinion that I could.
There's this Monty Python sketch from the film The Meaning of Life. The Catholics live on one side of the street and have one child after another. On the other side lives a childless Protestant couple and the man says to his wife: It's enough to know that we could. There came a point when that wasn't enough for me with my novel.
Why did it take so long before you dared to turn to writing?
My teachers in school told me I would never be able to handle language successfully. I believed them. That's why I didn't start reading books until later, when I was already 27 years old; and I did it because I wanted to, not because I had to. But then I read more and more books that made me think: I could have done it better. There are too many authors who write beautifully, but don't have anything to say, or they have something to say, but can't write.
Do you read your reviews?
I try to avoid it, though I get sent them a lot. But when I think about it: they're just the good ones. The people around me want to spare me.
Would you not be able to take bad reviews?
Good reviews make you vain, bad reviews hurt.
Which scathing review hurt the most?
The first that was published in the Salzburger Nachrichten at the end of the eighties, beginning of the nineties. The author wrote that I had taken away the last thing that people in the countryside had: their music. And at the same time, he wrote that the audience who had come to my concert in Salzburg had no taste.
How did you react?
I stormed into the department head meeting at the Salzburger Nachrichten, had a go at the author, whose name I've forgotten, accused him of bigotry and left before he could fight back.
(laughs) Don't worry, I wouldn't do that any more.
Hubert von Goisern on literaTOUR
Hubert Achleitner: flüchtig
Who'd have thought it? Hubert Achleitner, primarily known as Hubert von Goisern, presents his prosaic firstling and tells a story in a furious manner from the point of view of a woman, a journey lost in thought, through moods, times and places, as stylistically and literarily mature as author writing his umpteenth novel. Flüchtig is grippingly written and the novice author manages to captivate his readers from the first page. The melancholy and humour, the passion and disappointment, the predictability of life and unpredictable stages (and vice versa) are hit by Achleitner with pointed language - a High German and strictly formulated language, which has thus far found little place in his life in music. The musician is only recognisable in this novel when he allows his protagonists to talk about music, mostly only fleetingly. "What makes you think he died?" "It says on the cassette: "That was André Heller", and the picture looks kind of like a tombstone." "No, no, he's still alive. He just lives in Vienna; death is part of surviving there. He released a new record recently. But this is the best one, at least I think so." Or when he talks about the immeasurability, the magic of music. "Vinyl is the orthodoxy of recording media and in contrast the MP3 is atheism." To then play Nina Hagen Band's first album to a school class. "It was punk music. She was called the mother of German punk".
flüchtig is about a woman who leaves her husband. Without explanation, she goes out of the door and doesn't come back. The reason behind her mysterious disappearance and the search for her are the focus of the novel, through travel, immersion in foreign worlds and different perspectives. His writing style is easy to read and well-worn phrases are avoided. flüchtig is never dull, for Hubert Achleitner compactly packs a vast amount of knowledge into real-life dialogues. Everything flows and stays in motion - the characters and thus the story. A novel that rummages through memories and lives in the present. Time is fleeting, but not this wonderful narrative style by novelist Hubert Achleitner.
On the mountain of men, as a woman
The world musician has written his first novel under his civil name Hubert von Goisern. In the character of Lisa, he explores the "compulsion to monogamy".
He's sitting, says Hubert Achleitner, on his terrace in his Austrian hometown of Bad Goisern, with coffee and a view of the mountains. He apologises for the late phone call, wrong number, these things happen. Then the 67-year-old, who found fame as one of the most important representatives of sophisticated alpine sounds, explains what drove him to make his debut as an author. His novel Flüchtig is about a relationship and the reason that it ends after 30 years with an escape. A conversation about the materialisation of a debut novel.
Mr Achleitner, how did you write? With a pen, typewriter, or laptop?
Not on a typewriter, but with everything else. I even wrote some with a fountain pen. But that often makes such blotches. But ultimately it was the laptop.
How did you feel before the first empty page, the first sentence? Was that sentence already in your head?
I started work on the book in my head nearly twenty years ago. So a considerable amount was already there.
"Maria and I picked each other up on the street", is the first sentence. How often did you change it in the course of the writing process?
Well, let's say: it looks good how it is now.
As an author you're a beginner. What was it like to work your way into writing?
The big story emerges so slowly. I'm no artist with words. It was like that at school. In the end, I left school partly because of German classes. That is, I would have had to repeat a year. So I didn't grow up with the awareness of being linguistically talented. A fail in German, that says it all. Basically, my vocabulary grew by speaking English during my years in Canada and I came to writing too, initially in English. And via English, to writing in German. So then my vocabulary expanded. I grew up with dialect, so the vocabulary is innately reduced. But because I travelled a lot, I have always liked writing letters. So as life went on, I grew into writing. By hand too.
There are three main characters about whom you write here, the teacher Herwig, his wife Maria, and Lisa, who is actually meant to be you. This Lisa, you, holds the smallest of the three roles. Knowing you, you could just as well be every other character. There's the teacher Herwig, charming, good-looking and a little older, beloved by the students, cultured, but very introverted and averse to conflict.
Yes, of course. But Maria isn't dissimilar to you either. She's up for almost anything, curious, fun-loving, hates boredom and routine, especially when it comes to life and love, which ultimately leads to catastrophe. And then there's Lisa, the woman who tells a great deal of the story, at first directly and then indirectly, and who is you. She seems to be somewhat undiscerning, independent, with a curiosity for life, with a keen sense for difficult situations. But she's actually unimportant for the story.
I could also be Lothar (a somewhat unpleasant character). But actually I'm just the creator of this story.
Without giving away the content, this story is basically about the big question: do people fail when faced with the pressure of monogamy? And following that, who in the relationship becomes the guilty party?
I don't think that this relationship fails in the face of monogamy. But each of them fail because of themselves. You have to keep fighting for a relationship. And clearly the pair overlooked that. If there's a weak point to the novel, then it's that I didn't write about the process of how the relationship slowly failed. So, it's everyday life until you realise: something's missing. I delved into it when things were already on fire.
Seen like that, could it be that your book is also a kind of written apology for your own life, for your own relationships?
No, no, not at all. Quite the opposite. My wife was the first one to whom I gave the book to read. I was really afraid that she'd accuse me of having such fantasies, or having experienced something like that and just written it down. But it wasn't the case. No, she thought it was all completely fine.
Herwig is well-versed in music. You even have him mention a real-life music colleague of yours, Georg Ringsgwandl with his old cover of The Wind Cries Mary from the eighties, where the story begins. I can imagine you singing this Jimi Hendrix song well too. How did you come up with this idea?
It's not Herwig, but Maria who mentions him. As far as Georg Ringsgwandl is concerned, I've heard that he's writing a book. And The Wind Cries Mary is simply one of his coolest songs. We share a manager, Hage Hein, and I told him: "Give Georg my regards, I expect to make an appearance in his book."
Maria's escape leads her and Lisa to northern Greece, to the island of Chalidiki. Your descriptions are extremely precise. You probably became well acquainted with this peninsula. What is the balance of reality and fiction?
I was down there a couple of times in the eighties. I love the attitude towards life. I've been to Athos too, where no woman may enter. So it occurred to me to make Athos part of the novel and send a woman its way in literary form.
Sailing past this mountain on the ship is really impressive.
And even more so to climb it and stand at the top.
You have so far written all the lyrics for your compositions. With this experience in mind, what's the difference between such verses and the prose that became the novel?
There's a thorough handling of every rhythm found in language, a symbiosis to the music has to develop in the lyrics. I almost always compose the music first and then look for words to go with it that can be sung. There are vowels that don't suit deep notes for example, "i" for instance (sings a deep "i", which doesn't sound good). So, some words don't work, even though they'd fit well in terms of content. It's like a difficult Sudoku puzzle. Writing a novel is a long flow, but there has to be a flow in the language too.
Years ago you made an excursion into the world of acting, directed by Jo Baier in Hölleisengretl for example. What drives you, a successful musician, to want to keep proving yourself in new genres? Is painting next?
I've been painting and drawing for an eternity. But there have to be a few obsessions that remain private. But you never know what's still to come. At the moment I'm in the final throes of producing a new album. I'm someone who lives very much in the here and now, which is why I can be particularly pleased in this here and now that this is the best album I've ever made. And I'm looking forward to the tour with the musicians next year, if everything works out. In comparison, writing is very lonely work. But you don't have to come to any agreements about it with anyone.
It's not simple for a debutant to find a publisher. How was it for you? Was there a "Goisern bonus"?
I wrote the book in order to get it written. I didn't intend to send it to a publisher, or if I did, to do so under a pseudonym. I wanted to avoid a publisher saying: "The author is Hubert von Goisern? Done and dusted." Then I thought Hubert Achleitner would work, it's a little threshold that you have to cross. I met a friend from the literary scene on the anniversary of the book burning in Salzburg, who asked me: "So, Hubert, what are you up to at the moment?" I hemmed and hawed until he said outright: "You're writing something, right?" Then I told him. He asked me for a reading sample, was very enthusiastic and took me to Zsolnay in Vienna. It was an entirely new world for me, one that I think is very conservative. That is, in contrast to music.
Was the editing work stressful for you?
No, not at all, my editor was really super. She pointed out a couple of inconsistencies and discarded one character. That was it.
The book is called Flüchtig and is about an escape. When you start reading you could think that the work on this book was an escape too. But it seems that Flüchtig was a fulfilment for you.
Yes, exactly. Flüchtig was initially just a working title. But the more I thought about it, the feeling grew: that works.
For 30 years Eva Maria Magdalena and Herwig have lived alongside each other as dispassionately as they have incommunicatively. Now the bank employee has been passed over for promotion and has found an unambiguous text message from another woman on Herwig's mobile. At the age of 55 she decides to leave her dull life behind her. Where she wants go, she has no idea. When Herwig comes home from work one day, she has gone. She's in the car, heading south.
In his first novel, Hubert Achleitner tells, with psychological sensitivity, the story of a young love that falls apart with a miscarriage. So little happens in the numb acquiescence of the the following decades that it doesn't take up much space in the narrative: she immerses herself in the mountains, he turns to alcohol.
The fact that the woman is the focus here contributes to the successful tone and prevents the novel from becoming the navel gazing of aging man. Things have certainly been happening again in Herwig's life recently - hence the text message. But the word "screw", which often comes up, is undeservedly coarse for the relationship with a younger woman, which Achleitner draws very lovingly and reflectively.
After a few pages with unnecessarily bulky phrases ("Despite the promising nesting site and hopeful circumstances, the ball of good fortune rolled off the table", about the miscarriage) Achleitner surprisingly recovers and develops an elegant narrative in clear words. The cleverly intertwined plot lines between Austria and Greece make the novel a worldy-wise pageturner.
"I feared a crash"
He invented alpine rock with his Alpine Cats, now Hubert von Goisern is publishing his first novel, Flüchtig. And the new Goisern album is also finished.
Hubert Achleitner, 67 years old, and known as the alpine musician Hubert von Goisern, sits in his studio, a converted study room, in Salzburg and seems to have barely aged. In the past few years he hasn't been on one of his musical expeditions as usual, but in self-imposed isolation. He spent nearly two years writing his recently published, first novel Flüchtig. When he talks about the fictitious journey from the province of Salzburg to the monastic republic of Athos, which he undertook with his novel's characters, his eyes sparkle and from time to time a happy smile spreads across his face. With the 304-page hardcover book, he has fulfilled a dream, which has given him new strength and desire for his musical passion. The novel had not yet been printed when the new album Zeiten & Zeichen - which, corona permitting, will be released this summer - was already in its final stages.
[In your novel Flüchtig] you slip into many roles, including that of the narrator Lisa. Is it precisely that which constitutes the special appeal of a novel?
Being able to slip into a fictitious character, who doesn't think the same way as you do, is very exciting. Of course, there is also something of me in each character. You can never completely separate those things. But I felt my way into them in a way that permitted me to treat them respectfully. For example, I didn't manage to create a really bad character. I didn't want to put something really evil into the world, even in fictitious form.
To what extent were you driven by your characters?
It's a little like with the Golem. You battle for a long time to finally make your characters move. Then, when they're filled with life and animated, they of course have their own mind and don't always do what you would like them to do. But that's really wonderful too. You have to accept that they can get out of control and you're just an observer sometimes. Thoughts transform during the writing process, since words have their own energy and involve themselves in the action.
What role does music play for the characterisation of individual characters?
I am naturally very shaped by music, and there's a soundtrack for everything in my head. Music describes in a very condensed form. So that's probably why nearly all of my characters turned out to be musical.
How much pressure was there to be a success?
I had no submission deadline from a publisher. Only my family and best friends knew that I was writing. I deliberately didn't talk about it at that time and instead completely withdrew into myself. In the last six months of the development process, I just wrote, ate and slept.
Were there points in the writing process where you had doubts?
There were often times where I didn't know how things should go on. In the first year I would always pick up an instrument during writer's block and play myself loose. A load of ideas developed during this time, which I have now turned into songs for the new album. In the second year, I was focused solely on writing and locked away all the instruments. I kept panicking that I wouldn't manage it and I had bitten off more than I could chew. It was important in these moments to always write, in spite of all the doubts.
The novel tells the story of a turning point, and for you it was also a leap from the very successful routine you live.
I was in mid-air for a long time. I told myself: enjoy the view from above and just don't think about what the landing will be like. Mind you, when I came up against the end of the book and so many threads were coming together, I was afraid of the landing, or the possible crash. Thank God I managed to land the novel safely.
A great deal of the novel is set not just in your Austrian homeland, but in Greece as well. Was some research necessary?
Of course I did a deep dive into all the subjects that take place in the book and I read a great deal. Be it about the milieu in Salzburg after the war or the occupation in Athos. I spent a lot of time there in the eighties, as well as in recent years and I know the autonomous monastic republic very well.
Should a novel be a historical document too?
Not necessarily, this one is of course, since it lays out three generations from the Second World War to today. Different zeitgeists wander through. But of course as an author you always have the aspiration of creating something that will last, far from any fashionable tendencies.
Does making music for the new album feel different after writing the novel?
Writing is a very introverted and lonely occupation, which I really enjoyed. But then I really looked forward to the time afterwards. To the communication and to playing music together.
Is that why the output for the album is so varied?
There was a lot pent up. I had hitherto always started writing songs specifically for a new album. I would never have thought of capturing ideas. Yet that's what I had done over the past four years. When I was able to see that a creative gift had just been given to me, I sketched out the idea or recorded it on my smartphone. So, I had a lot of material at my disposal. My first task was to sort out 40 good ideas. 17 songs remained and we completed all of them for the new album Zeiten & Zeichen.
"I like my feminine side"
28 years ago, he made a name for himself in the Austrian music business with Koa Hiatamadl. The last time Hubert von Goisern, 67, was on stage was four years ago. Now he's back – as an author. The artist spoke to us about egotism, self-actualisation and good fortune that goes astray if you invest nothing in it.
"I've always refused telephone interviews", is one of the first sentences uttered in our Zoom meeting with Hubert von Goisern, 67. "I think that if you're going to talk to each other, you should be sat opposite each other in person." Postscript: "But it is how it is." The distance by no means detracts from the depth of the conversation, however. It deals with loss, leaving, reinventing oneself. Subjects that define the artist's personal life. Time and again he is drawn to distant climes, preferably to the less-frequented areas, such as Greenland. The plot of his first novel, Flüchtig, which he has published under his real name Hubert Achleitner, is about journeys, travelling, arriving. The protagonist leaves her environment without a word, quits her job and leaves her husband, to whom she has been married for thirty years, to experience something else in Greece, something other than the routine that has long smothered her and made her feel hemmed in.
You write about a couple who lose themselves over the course of time. Why did you choose this subject?
I've often observed couples who made me wonder: why do they stay together? They don't make each other look good. I don't mean in terms of an external characteristic; I mean one that goes through and through. When that's missing, you have to consider whether it wouldn't be smarter just to give up. Ask yourself whether you're still together because it's comfortable, or if it has to do with public expectations. A divorce or separation is often associated with untrustworthiness. I found the most exciting thing was putting myself in a woman's shoes.
And how was it?
Great. During puberty I always wanted to be one. I felt that everything depended on us men. We have to approach women. If I were a girl, I thought, I could sit down and wait for someone to come over. (laughs) I now know that that's not true. But each of us carries both parts within us, and I like my feminine side.
What is it?
The romantic one. And I like being caring, offering other people a nest that gives them security. Someone can say: lots of men want that! - Sure, but that's the feminine side within us. Just as there are male elements in women, if they neglect everything I have mentioned, and act in a targeted, self-centred and success-oriented manner.
How egotistical can one be when it comes to self-actualisation?
It's not a question of can, but rather must. Many things you want to do for yourself in life depend on the environment. And it's a kind of egotism to want others to help you put your own ideas into action. There are many who like to do that. There were phases in my life too, where I enjoyed helping other people, until one day I realised: I'm at my best when I pursue my projects.
How egotistical do you feel you are?
I think I'm egocentric. An egotist doesn't care what is happening to his left or right. But I'm very much someone who needs harmony. I only feel good when everyone around me is fine too.
How have you made other people unhappy previously?
With my second to last album, a couple of years ago, a guy wrote to me and told me that he was completely disappointed by me, because hadn't composed the album to his taste. Two years later, he wrote to me again – this time in a conciliatory tone. He said that he had spent so long with it that he now understood what my point was. (laughs) Those are the funny disappointments. But I've quite certainly made people sad because I wasn't the person I had perhaps pretended to be, or because I simply couldn't fulfil certain expectations. I've disappointed others, because I didn't fight for them. It takes a lot of strength to say: I don't want to stay any more. I take that seriously and my first reflex is: okay, then go …
And some of those people were waiting for you not to simply let them go ...
Yes, they told me that afterwards, often years later. Since I'm very egocentric, I respect that quality in others. You can talk about it, but I'm not looking to convince anyone of anything. Perhaps because I know all about the process of reinventing myself from my own experience. It only works if you leave. Otherwise you are always exposed to everything your environment projects upon you.
But don't you carry that everywhere you go, because it's in your head?
You can, but you don't have to. If you stay and you want to free yourself from these projections, you're tilting at windmills. You'll barely escape from what people ascribe to you. When you leave, you really only take what makes you unique. You can try to be a different person and see if it works, or whether you are indeed the way everyone says you are.
You write about something of which many people have dreamed: quitting the rat race. Are the concerns that usually prevent us from doing this just excuses, or are they justified?
There are fantasies I've carried around with me for 30 years. Writing an opera, for example. Or a mass. I left the Catholic church, but I always liked going to mass. Choir, incense, organ music – I think it's just so cool. Unfortunately, by the time you get to the sermon, I'm out of strength. In Latin it was best, because that way the questionable nature of some of the texts and prayers doesn't catch up with you so quickly. Even just the "Our Father" – that's a pretty castrated god, if he only embodies the male principle. For me, religion is not about the story of creation, morals, ethics. First and foremost, religion is the feeling of belonging. Atheism is part of that, just as much as music and the traditions we cultivate. Being Austrian is probably a religion too.
Is it in the nature of some relationships that they wear away, or does it always actively have something to do with us?
There are encounters that are great for a long time and then the time comes when you don't need each other anymore. There's no use holding onto it. But in relationships that last a long time, you have to keep making the effort to renew it and remember the reason you're together. You have to constantly work for your happiness. Your mutual happiness too. You can't take it for granted, you have to invest something in it too. And you should take action, even if it perhaps turns out to be a mistake. What's dumb is when you don't do anything and live for years with the feeling that it's actually turned to nothing.
What's important in a partnership?
That each person has their own life. There are people who are happy when they grow into an inseparable unit with their partner. But I think that shouldn't be the fundamental requirement. The red I see is different from the red you see and we only imagine that it is the same colour. We are all different and we should be able to live this fact. We should be conscious of the fact that we are each an island and what unbelievable good fortune we have to be able to enter one another's. I think that the corona period was a great opportunity for many to consider what unites us. That's more significant that the fact that we weren't allowed out.
Your forthcoming album once again sounds very different from its predecessor. How do you manage to keep reinventing yourself after such a long time?
I take long breaks. The last time I was on stage was 26th October 2016. Afterwards I withdrew for a year. I didn't even think about what I wanted to do. I don't play instruments during such phases either.
What do you do then?
I go swimming, skiing, or work in the workshop and repair things. I like handiwork very much. When I'm really busy I have to delegate and it always gives me a guilty conscience.
When else do you get a guilty conscience?
When I'm not doing anything. I long for laziness. I perhaps get that from my father. He's 92 and really has a hard time with the fact that at his age he can't work like he used to. It's a gain for us all when he sits down and tells stories. But he misses doing things. I hope that I'll come to grips with it earlier than him.
You travel a great deal. Which was your finest journey?
It's usually the most recent one, so the one to Greenland. It was my fourth or fifth time there. I like the majesty of the natural world, this emptiness and barrenness, where you can feel yourself. You see how little you need to have a wonderful feeling of being alive. What drives me is curiosity. I want to know how life works elsewhere. What I recognised along the way is that people are the same everywhere. We all have the same dreams, needs and fears. If you want to push forward into the core, you don't need to go anywhere – you just need to look inside yourself.
Hubert Achleitner: Flüchtig
Maria and Herwig's marriage is worn to threads by years of equanimity, by Maria's miscarriage and the knowledge that she can never have children again. In these circumstances, Maria finds under the pseudonym "Northern Light" on her husband's mobile phone that a certain Nora is pregnant (by him?). She decides not to stand in the way of her husband's happiness and embarks on a new path, by taking flight.
This escape leads first and foremost to herself - and to people who show her the way to the elemental "inner self". The author, known by many for his insightful music, has a masterful ability to play with words. With a great deal of empathy, he takes on a female role in this novel and describes the world from her point of view. People who line Maria's path are presented with brief life histories and are thus plucked from anonymity. Those who engage with this style of writing will barely manage to put the book down before they've finished it.