Anton, a 13-year-old boy from Pripyat who arrives in the Franconian province in 1987, a year after Chernobyl, where his talent for chess is discovered; Igor, his friend of the same age, both inseparable like Siamese twins; Simon, the son of the host family, who thirty years later is looking for the then child prodigy Anton who has disappeared again after Igor surprisingly turned up as a chess grandmaster – these are the actors in the debut novel by director and visual artist Benjamin Heisenberg. In “Lukusch”, the 48-year-old collages text types and combines genres, he works with numerous photos, and organizes a smart narrative game of deception that makes reading a great pleasure.
You make it complicated. The book says “Roman” and your name, and then in the foreword you become part of the fiction as the editor of a bundle of texts and pictures.
It’s a first novel written by the author as a series of short stories. The perspectives of the characters also change, from the desire to tell the story from the point of view of another character the next day and to develop their own narrative attitude for each character. The framework for this is my editorship, also because the first-person narrator is Simon Ritter and not myself, although there are autobiographical parts in the text from me as the editor. This confusion is part of the concept.
And then you also made a video for the novel!
The video came after that. It is part of a work for an exhibition that is currently being created. At the end of the day, it should look like the wall of one of those commissariats you see in crime novels. A visual search for clues with images of people, crime scenes and events. The video works like cinematic evidence. At the same time, it tells the genesis of the pictures in the book, which were put together and edited from very interesting parts.
What was the initial spark for the novel?
The project is very old. It started with a short story that I wrote around 1997 when I was studying film. With a few changes, you can read them in the novel, in the chapter “That was the 1980s”. Then, while I was still studying, I worked on it with Christoph Hochhäusler and now 25 years later with Peer Klehmet. So it’s a film project that finally became a book thanks to Peer’s suggestion.
Was it a special attraction to try something in a different medium that would have been very complicated in the cinema?
Absolutely. It also follows a line in my artistic work in which the connection between text and image was elementary from the beginning. Basically, that’s how I got into film. During my studies I dealt with Umberto Eco and semiotics and then made my first video that combined symbols and text. There are texts that react to images and vice versa, and in this way I create a fiction in the book that at the same time has a lot to do with my origins in Franconia and other experiences and people in my life.
The big picture or theme behind the novel is Chernobyl. You were born in 1974, like the protagonists. You were twelve years old when the reactor catastrophe happened. What do you remember?