A year ago, the complete work of Iris Wolff was awarded the Marie Luise Kaschnitz prize. Also in the past year, his novel “The Uncertainty of the World” was nominated for several awards and received, among others, the Eichendorff Prize for Literature. As if that weren’t enough, the author took a trip to northwestern Lower Saxony in the fall of 2021. Now the 44-year-old is returning and starting her literary tour on May 15 (Sunday) in the museum village of Cloppenburg. Beforehand, she answered questions about Low German, foreignness and integration by e-mail.
Mrs. Wolff, you were traveling in the Oldenburger Land in October 2021. The reason for this was the Landgang scholarship – a travel scholarship from the Literaturhaus Oldenburg. You are now back with the leave ashore text in which you have dealt with your travel impressions. What particularly impressed you – you live in Freiburg – during your trip to the north-west of Lower Saxony?
The vastness of the sky, clear of hills and mountains – which gives you a feeling of inner space and generosity even after a while.
You begin your literary holiday ashore on May 15 in the museum village of Cloppenburg. How did you experience the people you were able to meet in this city in 2021?
I am very happy to be able to review all the places. I found the people welcoming and helpful, but I didn’t have much contact because I didn’t follow Erich Kästner’s advice to visit taverns rather than museums when I travel 😉
His job is language. One of his is Low German. Does it take up part of your shore permission text?
Yes! Language marks affiliations; and my text is about belonging and being a stranger, going out and arriving.
You yourself have a very fine and at the same time expressive language. Your novel L’Incertitude du monde emphasizes this. You came to Germany with your parents from Transylvania (Romania) when you were 8 years old. Could it be that being bilingual or multilingual makes language use more sensitive or complex?
Words have memories. To change language and cultural area is to learn that language is always an interpretative means of accessing the world. Each language has different perspectives and images of reality. It makes a difference whether the sun and the rose are masculine or feminine, whether the wind blows, as in English, beats, as in Romanian, or blows, as in German – languages appear and with them a certain light, taste, a specific melody.
In your novel L’Incertitude du monde, it is said at one point: “You said Banat. And they could have said Atlantis, Wonderland, Middle-earth. You said Romania. And we took them for Romanians, as if there was a correspondence between a country and the nationalities that inhabit it. It’s not just nations that draw borders, but also people in their minds. Will “Wonderland” become an idealized place of desire and refuge? Does such an inner raft facilitate or make integration difficult?
Everyone needs their refuge and their home, which can be memories, ideas, books, hopes and religion. But it is important not to idealize the past, or the future, whatever it may be. In Eastern Europe, with its mix of linguistic and cultural affiliations as well as faiths, there is a different picture of integration – living together is more like friendly and distanced coexistence.
As an author, you are completely free in the choice of your words. However, what do you think of sex?
In my speeches I use both the feminine and the masculine, in literature the generic masculine. However, I don’t believe in gender colons or inner selves. I cannot use them in my literature, so they are not part of my everyday language.
Her novel “Le flou du monde” received numerous literary awards and was voted one of the five favorite books of the German-speaking and German-speaking Swiss bookseller. What does this mean to you?
I’ve been writing for 18 years, and during that time I’ve had my ups and downs, writing books that have been successful and others that have gone unnoticed. It’s wonderful when a novel receives such a good response, it makes me grateful and also humbled.
- Information: Literary leave with Iris Wolff begins May 15 (Sunday) at 5 p.m. The venue is the Münchhausenscheune in the museum village of Cloppenburg. Price: normal admission to the museum (adults: 9.50 euros, children (6 to 16 years old): 3.50 euros). Further information can be found online at www.literaturhaus-oldenburg.de in the “Literary Shore Leave” section.