Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre
With Speed and Good Timing
Many people think Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre is a good writer. And so he is. But first and foremost he is a good observer. Because before one can write stories down, one must observe carefully. Stuckrad-Barre can do that like no other.
By Jakob Rondthaler
Stuckrad Barre's gift for observation has led to novels such as his debut Soloalbum, in which a music journalist self-pityingly works through his lovesickness. But this also has resulted in large-format features and portraits, which Stuckrad-Barre publishes in newspapers and magazines. Some of them are included in this anthology with the wonderful title: Ich glaub, mir geht’s nicht so gut, ich muss mich mal irgendwo hinlegen. (I don't think I'm feeling all that well. I need to lie down somewhere.) A number of the texts are already several years old.
Men and MadonnaFor these stories Stuckrad-Barre met people, and strictly speaking one must say: met men. For among the personalities he portrays – including writers, actors and sportsmen – there is in fact only one woman, and Stuckrad-Barre has only seen her from afar: Madonna, at one of her concerts. Of course, Stuckrad-Barre's selection could be defended on the grounds that the book takes a look back and is caught up in the ‘Nineties and ‘Noughties - but pop culture wasn’t all that male-dominated even in those decades.
Stuckrad-Barre is at his best when he's close-up. When he dissects the embarrassments that happen when people meet. Once he describes how awkwardly he and actor Christian Ulmen - actually long-time friends - behave when they meet: "Even the greeting was, as always, unsuccessful. We got caught up in strangely indecisive ways, talking past each other." Or when he tells us that Christian Ulmen wasn't speaking at his own production company's Christmas party because he was simply unable to do so. In the car after the party – Ulmen is "angry about his own materiality" – Stuckrad-Barre observes: "He turned the radio up loud, much too loud, and pretended to recognise the song playing at that moment". These are moments, awkwardnesses that everyone has experienced one way or another – and that almost hurt when reading about them, because one remembers the feeling so well.
“Being intentionally stupid”The texts in which Stuckrad-Barre openly writes about himself, as in his biography Panikherz (A heart in panic), published in 2016, are also terrific. For example about how he once got a tattoo together with his girlfriend at the time. Tattoos are actually un-cool: "subcutaneous post-its", "cheat sheets for the insecure". But such style codes – which are otherwise important to pop-litterateur Stuck-Barre – no longer count because he is in love: “The sky didn't matter a bit, because it was suddenly like this down here with us – well, how really? I don't have a single word for it. But lately – and for all eternity, yes, yes! – a short-cut."
Stuckrad-Barre is most convincing whenever things get personal in his texts. He formulates with speed, good timing and an often-ironic undertone, which is occasionally demonstratively reinforced by capital letters. This is easy to read and never comes off arrogant – among other things because Stuckrad-Barre does not elevate himself above others, but writes as a fan. And if he makes gentle fun of one of his idols, the mockery also reverts back to him, the author, who is unconditionally addicted to his idol: “Because being a fan means "being intentionally stupid, and it's such fun!” You can tell from his texts!
Stuckrad-Barre, Benjamin von: Ich glaub,
mir geht’s nicht so gut, ich muss mich mal
(I don't think I'm feeling all that well.
I need to lie down somewhere.)
Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2018. 305 pages