Visit Uwe Telkamp’s office
3Sat on Wednesday is showing a movie about the “Tellkamp Affair” that’s worth watching, even if it’s partially unsuccessful.
Only in the photo for a moment, blurry in the background, but if you want to sum up the work and the author in one object after the hour and a half that 3Sat broadcaster dedicated to writer Uwe Tellkamp, then be the right choice – crank sharpener: old-fashioned, bulky, not averse to escalation .
The movie is only worth watching because of photos like these from Tellkamp’s office. The manuscript lies among stacks of books and paper, and the author uses pencil, ink, or a typewriter as needed. Once – look – he also writes on a laptop.
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Various typewriters are used, sometimes a flat travel model, sometimes a rotten desk variant in the fin de siecle style. This is how it has turned out over the years, 900 pages of his new novel, Sleeping in the Hours.
The Tellkamp Affair – Freedom of Expression Dispute with Extraordinary Affinity
One of the strengths of Andreas Gräfenstein’s film is that it is unusually close to Uwe Tellkamp. In this movie he will laugh and cry, curse hard and remain silent. More importantly, he talks about the source of the anger. This is the title of the documentary: “The Tillkamp Affair – A Dispute Over Freedom of Expression”.
Since his public criticism of the role of politics and the media in the refugee crisis, he has been treated as a “pariah” and a “criminal,” says Tillkamp. In Dresden in particular, he was no longer invited, and there was an “absolute silence”. This is part truth of Tellkamp. True, the establishment avoids it here, which is not good.
But it’s also true that Tellkamp distanced himself after his argument with Durs Grünbein in 2018 at the Dresden Palace of Culture. He did not accept invitations for talks, interviews or responses. It is not true that he then presents himself as a gagged victim.
This is a drawback of the 3Sat movie: proximity to Tellkamp is bought at the cost of a lack of distance. Without questioning or critical verification, the protagonist can confirm things that often only agree with his own point of view. Contrasting voices have their say in the film: Dresden writer Ingo Schulze, former GDR civil rights activist Frank Richter, cultural scientist Paul Kaiser and others.
But there is another narrowing: East Germans speak in particular of the East. That would be good in itself, after all that happens in Dresden. However, the film initially poses the question as a catchphrase as to whether what is being discussed in Dresden is not about ‘the whole country’. There is no doubt that it does, because the issue of freedom of expression is not considered only in Dresden.
However, the film mainly follows Tellcamp’s account of the humiliated East as an explanation for the disappointment with democracy. That is, in this narrowing, a regional perspective. Right-wing publisher Gotze Kubitschek from Schwaben, heist Austrian Martin Sellner (both briefly mentioned in the film), and AfD politician Alice Fidel come from East Westphalia — not to mention Marine Le Pen or Donald Trump.
This is where the film’s claim is misleading: is it about democracy and free speech – or about Loschwitz, Tellkamp, and the East? The title promises something else.