- “Whenever a Living Human Being Approaches Me, I Forget Everything I’ve Ever Learned”: Interview with Angela Krauß
Angela Krauß, born May 2, 1950, in Chemnitz, is a freelance writer living in Leipzig. She was guest author at the 2008 Women in German Conference at Snowbird, Utah, October 23–26, where she read from a recent text, Wie Weiter (Where Do We Go From Here?, 2006). In the discussion that followed, Krauß answered questions about topics ranging from her writing techniques to the role of literature in the post-Wall world and her most recent impressions of the United States. I conducted the following interview with Krauß in person and by email over several weeks in January 2009, with the intention of recreating as well as expanding upon some of her remarks at the conference. The original conversation was conducted in German; I have provided the English translation, including German titles and quotations.
For Krauß, the appearance at Snowbird was actually the second time she had attended a WiG conference as guest author. Influenced by the turbulent events underway in fall of 1989, the Women in German conference had voted that October to invite Angela Krauß as one of the GDR guests for the 1990 conference, along with authors Helga Königsdorf and Waltraud Lewin, as well as the Humboldt University Germanist Eva Kaufmann. Of course, history very quickly outran the intention of providing these women moral support and an opportunity to travel outside the GDR. Their visit in October 1990 became instead the opportunity for conference participants to hear firsthand what was by then almost a year’s worth of experiences in the post-Wall world.
In 1990, Angela Krauß turned forty. By then, she had already published a number of texts and had received the 1988 Ingeborg [End Page 223] Bachmann Prize. Yet writing was actually her second career. Initially, Krauß studied graphic art at the College of Advertising and Design in East Berlin from 1969–72 and then worked in communications and advertising. Deciding to become a writer, she studied in Leipzig at the “Dichterschule,” the Johannes R. Becher Institut für Literatur, from 1976–79. Her first published novella, Das Vergnügen (The Entertainment, 1984), is based on her observations during her practicum at a briquette factory south of Leipzig; it received the Hans Marchwitza Prize in 1986. Other texts published in the GDR in the 1980s include Glashaus (House of Glass, 1988).
The decisive event in her career, however, was the 1988 Bachmann Prize, awarded for Der Dienst (In the Line of Duty). This story tells of her father, a GDR border police officer who, in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, had taken his own life in October 1968. Krauß attributes her urge to write to the attempt to comprehend this loss, although it took her twenty years to deal with the meaning of this event in a literary text. Its publication by Suhrkamp Verlag in the same year established Krauß as a gesamtdeutsche author, that is, a writer recognized in both Germanys, and began her ongoing association with that publisher even before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
As the following interview indicates, the post-1989 era brought new opportunities but also new challenges for Krauß as a writer, since reality often outstripped the fantasies of fiction. Her 1995 text, Die Überfliegerin (The High-Flyer), takes stock of the end of one era and chronicles the resolve to experience the new one on her own terms, including her first trip to the USA and a visit to post-Soviet Russia. Since then, Krauß has published a steady stream of texts (see the list following the interview) and has received a number of important prizes. In March 2009 she published her first volume of poetry, Ich muß mein Herz üben (I Have to Exercise My Heart, 2009), and will have also completed a new prose text in 2009. She has traveled extensively in several European countries, the United States, Canada, and India, where she has given readings, enjoyed several writing grants, and held posts as writer in residence (Graz, Austria, 1990, and Queen Mary, University of London, 2009...