When gunter grass brought kronach into the literary spotlight

On the brown wooden table, one black-and-white picture follows another. Preparing for the interview with has ingo cesaro once again rummaged deep in the photo box. He doesn’t even have to search his memory: as soon as the 76-year-old writer picks up a picture, the right anecdote pops out of him – and black and white suddenly turns to color.

The 70s were the birth of numerous movements. Be it for the environment, peace or women’s rights. With what memory did the decade begin for you??

Ingo cesaro: when i think back to the 70s, i actually think first of an event that didn’t happen in the 70s at all, but in january 1969: when the czech student jan palach burned himself to death on wenzelsplatz in prague. It moves me to this day that a young man of 20 years sacrificed his life for the democracy of his people.

You were only seven years older than palach. To what extent has it influenced his work??

It was something i simply could not grasp at the time. I wrote poems about it well into the 90’s, wrote a horror play and a theater play. But the editors of neither the radio nor the theater could do anything with it.

What was the first movement you noticed??

Those were the 68ers. That’s where the revelation began, where all the discussions started. That set the direction that the 70s would eventually take. This is what has influenced me. In 1975, I was already living in kronach again, but I still had an apartment near frankfurt. Although i had already built here, i kept thinking about moving back to frankfurt. Because it was also a center for me as an author. I met all kinds of people at the club voltaire. No matter where you went, there were always two or three with whom you could discuss after hours.

Was that the gross difference to the 60s? That people were now talking, breaking taboos?

That was the main advantage of open discussion and politicization. Now all these topics were once on the table. The whole thing was questioned, the uprising, everything that concerned the bundeswehr and the question of the role played by the parents in the nazi era. About it in the 60s was not even talked about. I am naturally left-wing from this time in frankfurt. My role models became the social democrat fritz erler and the free democrat thomas dehler. But the language and discussions with the authors became just as important to me as the political discussions. Whether it was reiner kunze, gunter grass or many, many others.

That sounds like an exciting time. Why did you nevertheless move back to your hometown of kronach??

For me, the move out of frankfurt had a literary reason. After the discussions, I wanted to get back to my literary work. In 1978 the poetry collection "kurzer prozess" was published, "amortization" and three bands of poets.

How different was the art scene in frankfurt and in the kronach district at that time??

I only had to go to a cafe in frankfurt and always met two or three people from the art scene. In kronach this was simply not there. There were already different people, with whom one talked a lot, but unfortunately there were no literati here. So I brought in those who were important to me – and organized readings with them.

One was her friend gunter grass.

When in 1977 his novel "der butt" was published I had been able to sell 2000 tickets for his reading in kronach. Actually, we had agreed that he would read from his manuscript here, but then the book came out a week earlier. When it was decided, organizers from big cities like stuttgart or munich pressed me and wanted me to change our date. But grass wanted it to remain at the date and he read from it for the first time here. With only 550 seats in kronach, it was naturally tight, but we still managed to accommodate 650 listeners.

They had already started a year earlier with the organization of exhibitions in the town hall gallery.

That was the easiest. In 1976, i started with visual artists, because i already knew a lot of them. I had close contact with the artist friends heinrich schreiber and horst bohm.

Were they by the politics in the time stones in the way put?

Naturally. For example, we did a reading in bamberg called "nipples and pope’s fins" made. Everything was canceled at short notice. Only the english ladies, today’s maria-ward-gymnasium, have made the auditorium available to us.

What made the 70s for you artistically??

Still the confrontation between the representational and the abstract in the visual arts. Of course, all the musical stories that played into the 70s, like amon duul, which emerged from an artists’ commune. There, people simply made music and played loudly. That was the complete opposite of the whole schlager with heintje and co. The fact that there was more movement in music, and that other genres of music besides schlager at least got a chance to be played on the radio, was certainly also a merit of the 68ers.