Gerald Hartwig

     Performative Reading, Goethe Institut, Toronto, May 2, 2015

The German Section Special Event at the NeMLA 2015 convention

Hartwig (l) and Kutch at the Goethe Institut Toronto

Hartwig (l) and Kutch at the Goethe Institut Toronto

Associate Professor of German at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania Lynn M. Kutch recently organized an event as part of the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) convention held in Toronto from April 30-May 4. In her capacity as the NeMLA German Language and Literatures area director, and in cooperation with the Goethe Institut Toronto, Kutch arranged a multi-media reading by Austrian graphic novelist Gerald Hartwig.
Accompanied by his brother on guitar, Hartwig provided the audience with a “performative reading” of excerpts from his largely autobiographical Chamäleon.

Below: Goethe Institut, Toronto, May 2, 2015

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Performative Lesung by Gerald Hartwig, Berliner Volksbühne

“Mit geborgter Zeit im Gepäck überquerte ich den Atlantik, treffe auf halbem Weg ein anderes Ich und verschmelze zu jemandem, der weder hier noch da ist” (149).

Hartwig, Gerald. Chamäleon. Wien: Luftschacht Verlag, 2013. ISBN 13: 978-3-902844-20-0

From the back cover: Als sein Vater plötzlich stirbt, erinnert sich ein 37-jähriger Künstler an seine Ankunft in den USA Anfang der 90er-Jahre. Als junger Mann voller Träume will er im Filmgeschäft Fuß fassen. Er durchläuft jedes Schlagloch, das eine Megacity wie Los Angeles zu bieten hat. Als Jerry erkennt, dass aus seinen Träumen Jahre geworden sind, droht er sich in einem Strudel aus ehrgeizigen Plänen und bitteren Niederlagen zu verlieren.

Preisträger des BMUKK Outstanding Artist Award 2012 für Karikatur und Comic.

Overview: When you read Chämeleon, the largely biographical graphic novel by Graz-born Gerald Hartwig, you could easily imagine “seeing” this book in the form of an art house movie. That could be because Hartwig spent many years in Los Angeles trying to break into the movie industry; but the feeling also derives from the sepia-toned and black and white graphic pages that create a subdued visual setting for the story of an aspiring, ambitious, but often frustrated artist and filmmaker.

Gerald Interview

 Gerald English

Powerfully Combining Word and Image: Of course, the major difference between a conventional coming of age novel or even Bildungsroman and a graphic novel is the latter’s ability to present information using two different media: the written word and the graphic image.  The different media do not, however, operate on different planes. Instead, they effectively cooperate to enrich meaning and enhance the reader’s experience.

Hartwig consistently and with great variety of form takes advantage of the visual medium to move beyond the written word in order to evoke diverse interpretations.   Here are some examples that also have literary elements:

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A type of Dinggedicht.

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Illustriertes Thema: The mathematical complexity of life.

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Thema: Verbundenheit des Ortes und der Gefühle

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Die Verwandlung: Illustrating the moment he feels transformed after hearing his father’s words of advice:

,,Du musst irgendwas in dir ändern, von innen” (121).

Chronicling a Journey: The reader can easily see the progression of Hartwig’s physical and mental journey through the illustrations, but he also offers many verbal markers along the way that act as additional signposts.

Describing his relationship with girlfriend Irene:

,,Wie verheiratet sein, oder? Und wie fühlt es sich an?”

,,Wie Altersheim.”

,,Mit oder ohne Demenz?”(102)

His feelings when embarking on a new phase of his career:

,,Die Idee einer neuen Reise beflügelt mich immer. Sich woandershin zu bewegen, heisst weiterkommen” (157).

These words about being an artist accompany an MC Escher-like picture:

,,Und wie durchlebt man seine eigene Projektion des Künstlerseins? Indem man den Weg der Angst geht oder der Angst entgeht?” (187).

Summary: This graphic novel, though not suitable for most American classrooms with its graphic depictions of sexuality and drug use, offers a fine example of graphic art in the German-speaking world today. It would make a fine addition to illustration classes or college-level German classes with an emphasis on culture or literary analysis.

The book offers many fascinating instances of graphic art as it cooperates with literature.

Review in Augustin

Purchase Information: Available in Print or as an Ebook

Publishing House Information: Current Catalog

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