Marina di Cecina in winter. A seaside resort without visitors, the houses by the beach locked and barricaded, in mothballs until the next season. Everything cold and damp, poorly heated or shut. The beach empty, on the jetty wall an evil anti-Semitic slogan five metres long: a dismantled idyll in the November weather, but despite everything a contemplative place. A place to walk, think, see and write.
Christoph Wilhelm Aigner’s prose text Eigenleben oder wie schriebt man eine Novelle (A Life of Its Own Or How Does One Write a Novella) revolves around the senses, the process of perceiving, of turning and twisting in one’s head what has been taken in, around the process of pondering, of letting what the head releases – or also what the Polaroid camera has captured – turn into language or image. And that is not always what the first-person narrator thinks he has seen. The images develop a life of their own: ‘Strange happenings in Italy’.
Again and again Aigner plays with linguistic awareness: he turns and twists formulations until they appear strange, some of them even a little new. Even though he is always aware that everything has already existed sometime, somewhere. Even the avant-garde has tradition, as it leads the way in territory that has long been known. But perhaps the rearguard can still discover something new in a traditional genre: after all, what a novella is about is not something traditional, and that is in the meaning of the word itself: something new.
If the problematic aspects of this claim find expression in Aigner’s work, then it seems to be quite consistent for his approach to the novella also to include, in line with tradition, a turning-point in the story – and this is done in a strange but attractive way.
In this case the turning-point is to be found in the images and the way in which they lead lives of their own.
On the other hand the images are nothing other than language presented in a different medium. At times they are stubborn and high-handed: the muse kisses or does not kiss: an expression of homage to the Romantic belief in inspiration? To the Romantic period as the heyday of the novella?
How does the writer arrive at his text, the thinker arrive at his language? Why does what occurs to us occur to us? Is not an idea just as incredible as a never photographed, surprising motive on a Polaroid film?
Abridged version of the review by Sabine Dengscherz, March 2011.
Full German text: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=8818