What do we do with literature

"We want to make reading cool (again)"

Of course, such a collaboration is always a coincidence - and then again not. Because Daniela Emminger and Judith Nika Pfeifer both wanted to do the same thing for a long time, namely a book show. It was of course also lucky that the two authors met in New York of all places (Pfeifer had a visiting professorship in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and Emminger had a residency in NY) and in March of all places, i.e. shortly before the corona shutdown.

They told all of this a few days ago at Café Engländer in downtown Vienna, and both authors feel a pleasant excitement that their project baby is about to see the light of day.

ABOVE: it will be called this contemporary literature online format, because it will actually be about everything, about writers, about books - and not necessarily about those of the writers who are currently featured, but about their favorite books, favorite authors and authors. "We don't criticize," says Emminger, "we recommend!"

And there we are right at the heart of why this new program will differ significantly from conventional literary formats in the German-speaking area. Think of read or The literary quartet or Hot off the press: "Discreetly conservative, antiquated and represented by old men," says Emminger with a laugh. "Lax, pseudo serious and far too good," adds colleague Pfeifer.

We don't want to tear up books

Both authors agree that in view of the huge number of permanent new publications it simply makes no sense to pretend to be a critic and to tear up books. The broadcasters are more concerned with discovering exciting literature.

You want to be in the future broadcasts - every two months there will be an issue of ABOVE: go online - focus on recommending interesting new as well as old reading material. Of course, both of them know blogs who are enthusiastic about reading or reading clubs who are literate.

But: "The former are often too much in love with myself and the latter sometimes too lengthy!" Says Emminger. "We want a weird mix of hip, but also, often for incomprehensible reasons, unknown authors", Pfeifer explains the program concept of ABOVE:.

And then comes the sentence that probably best sums up the intention of the two neo-literature show makers: "We just want to make the desire to read and books cool again."

Beyond the mainstream

In view of the overwhelming competition from social media and streaming portals, it is no news that literature and reading are no longer at the top of the popularity scale for contemporary forms of employment with younger audiences.

Books are not that hip, especially with the boys. That should too ABOVE: change as an independent online book format and appeal to a young, cosmopolitan, multi-interested target group that no longer watches TV, but gets their information and entertainment from the Internet. So it's also about recommendations beyond the mainstream, beyond book market and book marketing laws. It's about "a kind of reading exchange!" Says Judith Nika Pfeifer.

Who should be part of "ABOUT"?

Given who is at ABOVE: should occur in the future, a whole list of names gushes out of both authors: Haruki Murakami, Alexander Kluge, Marjana Gaponenko, Monika Rinck, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Gerhard Rühm, Miranda July, Gianna Molinari, Peter Handke - and and and.

Gottfried Helnwein, who looks like a great caricature of himself, has taken a seat at the next table in Café Engländer, while Daniela Emminger and Judith Nika Pfeifer are currently regretting that dead writers can no longer make recommendations and are negotiating a list of deceased writers with whom they would have liked to knock on the door for an interview: "With the US enfant terrible David Foster Wallace, of course," says Pfeifer, "or with the black, feminist science fiction author Octavia Estelle Butler." And Emminger: "With Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz." Stanisław Ignacy who? Exactly, it's about discovering. The Polish writer, who died in 1939, was also a painter, photographer and philosopher.

It's also about openness

This new literary show is also about openness. Each of the 15-minute episodes should have a specific main theme. That can be "speed" or "flying", "cotton candy" or "ecstasy", just to give a little insight into the current list of desired topics.

Seen in this way, those responsible for the broadcast have little fear of contact; it can also be about non-fiction books, about biographies, "by Jörg Haider or Karl Moik," says Emminger, "or illustrated books like André Hellers Thomas Bernhard - belongings, photographed by the fabulous Hertha Hurnaus. "

It is no coincidence that there are four women doing this show. Emminger and Pfeifer are responsible for the content, the two camerawomen Angela Christlieb and Nina Keinrath film the contributions. ABOVE: is also a feminist project, precisely because the makers realize that the word "women's literature" or the literary phenomenon "fräuleinwunder" means a social backlash. You know all too well: "The canon that is taught is still western-centered, white and male-dominated." That is only changing slowly, hopefully also through an online literature project like ABOVE:.

In the beginning it's about getting started

Actually, it is completely incomprehensible that such a format or a similar one does not yet exist, at least that was the general feedback to Emminger and Pfeifer during the production of their first program, which was not always easy due to the corona pandemic.

But when it comes to the financing of such a project, Emminger and Pfeifer had to remark that neither public broadcasters or ministries, nor the book trade or publishers want to afford such a format. Education job or not. They do it anyway.

The first broadcast is about "getting started". That is very logical and a positive sign even in times of corona. The beginning at ABOVE: among other authors, the 40-year-old Serbian author Barbi Marković, who lives in Vienna, who recommends books that have not yet been translated into German, or the 95-year-old Friederike Mayröcker, Daniela Emminger's favorite author, do her new one book since I am moss and moss green. Go to the window just released.

"Writing is half of life," says the great Mayröcker, "reading is all of life!" More will not be revealed. Just one more thing: The STANDARD ALBUM is on board as a cooperation partner of this new, cool online literature format. And now? Enough about ABOVE:. Take a look for yourself! (Mia Eidlhuber, September 19, 2020)