17 March 2010: Günter Kunert: Mission Reading

Popular writer visits Remigianum high-school

Borken (stb). How does it feel when a known author whose works are inherent part of your German classes suddenly sits right in front of you? To learn about his philosophy of life face-to-face instead of trying to figure it out while reading between the lines? The students of the Remigianum high-school know how it feels. Günter Kunert, the author of many popular works, such as of the short story “Zentralbahnhof” (= central station), dropped by for a two-hour reading yesterday.

It was Dr. Christoph Schwemmlein, managing director of Klöcker and a friend of Kunert, who made this contact. “This is an exclusive reading” principal Dorothea Meerkötter proudly underlines.

Kunert, born in East Berlin, didn’t ask for money for his guest performance. He asked for attention. After all, he had a message. Those who listened carefully quickly understood that his essay “Warum noch lesen? Wer liest kommt leicht auf dumme Gedanken’” (~ Why should I read? Anyone who reads gets up to mischief.) is more than just a collection of pleasing wise phrases of an 81 year old literate man. His essay is full of criticism, warnings and, above all, a demand.

This demand was addressed to 30 upper school students who had gathered in the school’s lecture hall. They should read. A lot. “Literature helps to understand, to conceive ourselves and to create self assurance” Kunert says. More than any other media, literature enables us to share our mental state with others. “Just have a look at the younger generations who were left alone in front of the TV.” They can not communicate their emotional lostness. They neither know who they are nor what they want or what they are supposed to do.

Both students and teachers agreed within the course of the subsequent discussion and had nothing to oppose. Kunerts words gave reason to some critics on German classes though. Many students complained that “the constant obligation to interpret” and “imposed ideas” take away the pleasure of reading. The “Zentralabitur” (~ general qualification for university entrance) additionally constrict the choice of books. Meerkötter agreed with this objection: “Unfortunately, there is no alternative.”

According to Kunert, reading should be a free time activity anyway. Only those who discover and read a book with plenty of time and leisure really will get into it. It doesn’t need to be a book written by Kunert, the author says cheerfully. “You may have gods beside me.”

Source: Daily newspaper “Borkener Zeitung”, March 17th, 2010