Klaus Kastberger works auto inductively. Giving him a short introductory question is sufficient for an interview; Kastberger could easily cover the rest himself. The new director of Literaturhaus Graz is almost unstoppable – not only when he talks.
Klaus Kastberger’s motto seems to be to step out of the comfort zone of the literary ivory tower and leave behind the conventional literary scene. Due to his possibly unique dual role as director of the Franz-Nabl-Institut for Literary Research at Graz University and director of Literaturhaus Graz he has enough tokens at hand.
Casual Klaus Kastberger seems like the exact counterbalance to his more reserved predecessor Gerhard Melzer, whose excellent
networking skills he owes a well equipped and financially strong Literaturhaus. Additionally, Kastberger also inherits a unique universitary literary research department that is for the most part exempt from teaching responsibilites.
“Being called a Literature Rambo is an honour”
Due to the passionate and pugnacious behaviour he showed at Bachmann Award and many other events, journalists have granted him the title of “Literature Rambo”. Klaus Kastberger doesn’t mind such attributions. On the contrary: “Being called a Literature Rambo in the fussy context of the Bachmann Award almost seemed like a distinction”, says the director of Literaturhaus Graz.
Fussiness as an antithesis to his future plans for the Graz-based Literaturhaus seems to be a keyword in Kastberger’s agenda, a word which comes up time and again during the interview. “In many houses of literature I had the feeling that authors were handled like raw eggs.”
With his work in Graz Klaus Kastberger wants to break with conventional literary events of the format: introduction – reading – two pro-forma questions. He also wants to give students the chance to collaborate in programme planning. An example for such an event would be a discussion evening designed by his students in which author Valerie Fritsch and Kastberger’s students debated and interacted as equals.
In the park that surrounds Literaturhaus Graz there is an artistic fountain that dates back to Melzer’s era. “A stream of words” is the name of this work of art which was created in 2003 by Alexander Kada and Stefan Schwar for the city’s cultural capital year. A text written by Gerd Jonke forms the basis of this work of art, which seems a bit neglected after all this time.
When asked which spontaneous thoughts come to his mind when he hears the catchphrase “Kastberger and a stream of words”, Klaus Kastberger replies that “some things are inherited”* and laughs.
*Author’s note: It is clear that Klaus Kastberger was referring to himself, not to the “Stream of words”. His reply speaks for itself.