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Martin Suter / Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre
​Everyone’s Gotten So Serious

Martin Suter and Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre like each other and sometimes have funny, interesting and rousing conversations, which they’ve now put down on paper and published.

By Swantje Schütz

Suter/von Stuckrad-Barre: Alle sind so ernst geworden © Diogenes Two writers meet. One of them says, “You were thrown off a ship?” Says the other, “Yes.” It sounds like a bad joke, but is part of one of the most amusing books of the past few months. In Alle sind so ernst geworden (Everyone’s Gotten So Serious), Martin Suter and Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre discuss neon-coloured swimming trunks, latex cooking gloves and cruises, they tell each other anecdotes about shopping for glitter and LSD, they come up with improbable hypotheses about love and being in love and tear them apart again in the next breath. In short, they enjoy themselves and thanks to their book, we can join them.

Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre’s books have always thrived on his powers of observation; his dissection of everyday situations. This is also the case in this book, for example when he’s a guest of the Suter family:

“Martin, let’s go back to your kitchen. To be honest, I’ve only seen them in rubbish German prime time TV, these kinds of kitchens. That’s not only because the so-called knife block could be used as a weapon. They’re also often the backdrop for an icy cold marriage spent in total silence.”

Fortunately, that’s not the case for the Suter’s marriage. In another chapter, Stuckrad-Barre notes:

“Yesterday we had dinner with your wife, your daughter and my girlfriend. And the way my girlfriend and I left after saying goodbye and the way that your wife, your daughter and you left, I think very well illustrates the difference between love and being in love.”

Which Martin Suter confirms in a nutshell:
“Yes, that may be: You’re practically skipping.”

Quite a pair

Martin Suter, from Switzerland, also has a keen eye for the present-day in his books; he often writes about Zurich society and the wealthy. Over the years, he has acquired a serenity that culminates in his Allmen series, in which an impoverished snob retrieves stolen art objects. Casual, confident, not easily distressed – just as we imagine Johann Friedrich von Allmen – is Martin Suter in Alle sind so ernst geworden.

For Stuckrad-Barre, born in 1975, it’s the third time that he has dealt intensively with an older artist. After the entertainer Harald Schmidt and the rock musician Udo Lindenberg, it’s now the writer Martin Suter, born in 1948. Stuckrad-Barre worked closely with Schmidt on the Harald Schmidt Show and he was part of the tour entourage, the Halligalli circus, with Udo Lindenberg.

Schmidt, Lindenberg, Suter – sounds like a stereotype, but maybe it isn’t. Because at least in this book there are two wordsmiths, two authors on equal footing; Stuckrad-Barre is no fan here and Martin Suter is no idol. Both of them have far too much fun stimulating and outdoing one another.

Stuckrad-Barre: “Are you good at Scrabble?”
Suter: “I never play it. I don’t like games.”
Stuckrad-Barre: “I really like that about you, too. Just imagine if we were locked in for a so-called game night. That’s really always the end of it all.”
Suter: “Oh, no games, please.”
Stuckrad-Barre: “But you do play virtual poetry ping-pong with your readers.”
Suter: “Yes, that’s true. Poetry ping pong. But it’s not a game, it’s actually work: writing.”
Stuckrad-Barre: “But poetry is, it has to be, a game. Otherwise, it’s just a crossword puzzle.”
Suter: “Aha.” 

Good response

The publisher gathered all sorts of voices of contemporaries who were happy to sing the praises of the two protagonists. Stand-up comedian Hazel Brugger, for example, feels very entertained, saying, “When they talk to each other, I can hardly wait to see what rabbit hole they’ll go down next. Those two have got a knack for it.”

Of course, the 256 pages is not just full of fireworks, especially in the chapters LSD, Love and Banknotes it’s about their own experiences, about the way they can look back today on situations experienced in the past. For example, the possible consequences of ignoring the smoking ban on a cruise ship. Because then one has to answer the question, “You were thrown off a ship?” with a simple “Yes.” But then can quickly add that they were fortunately in port at the time.

Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank Martin Suter / Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre: Alle sind so ernst geworden
Zürich: Diogenes, 2020. 256 S.
ISBN: 978-3-257-07154-2
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.