Name: Manuel Iljitsch
Place of birth: Göttingen
Current place of residence: Berlin
To do him justice in just a few sentences is difficult. Manuel Iljitsch does a lot of things and he does them well: He makes funny videos, lends others his voice or face for money, more often he writes texts for advertising or for fun. Short stories, poetry, and most recently also a novel form part of his repertoire. In truth, this intro doesn’t really serve him well. At least we got a good picture of him. And an exclusive preview of his very first novel which will be published soon.
Literature, film, advertising, ideas and concepts – it is not easy to categorise you and your work. How do you feel about categories in general? I think they are okay and ultimately inevitable. The claim to be and to think beyond categories has become the most popular category of all nowadays. I guess many things would be much easier if I could, for a change, systematically restrict myself to one or two categories. People no longer know what they should buy me for, though I really want to be bought, but sometimes I don’t know myself what for. In any case, it would be ridiculous to associate my doing with some great pseudo-political idea of crossing borders. I simply get a kick out of many things, but not enough out of any particular thing to I want to restrict myself only to that.
Why did you leave Düsseldorf? It was useful for business and social reasons to go to Berlin. Everyone says so, but in my case, it is true. Everyone says that, too. In addition to that, I was young, and when you are young you cannot stay at a place forever.
Do you miss the city? Yes, in a way. Recently more often.
If yes – what do you miss most? The Bistro Zicke. And Carlsplatz and the Japanese quarter, a few good people, the Rhine. That you can reach many places on foot, I like walking so much. The aggressive geese around Schwanenspiegel whom I have always held in great respect. Now I would sometimes be delighted if they stalked and mobbed me again.
In former times, people would have called you a „Lebenskünstler“, a connoisseur of the art of living. Does that fit? I still hear that once in a while. I also like the expression – it somehow sounds like old-fashioned romanticism, like analogue world, like a smelly bon vivant who lives by his wits, every day, for a lukewarm cutlet and a glass of wine and a fragrant neck where he can fall asleep, and the next morning, he gets up and decides what to do next. There is also a certain undertone of confidence game – you never really know whether the guy is really a talented person or if he is simply lazy or both at the same time. Yes, to a certain degree I am, to a deplorable degree, such a guy. Clichés are, after all, there to be fulfilled. It really happens to me from time to time that I have only a hundred Euro in my bank account, and then I go out to eat and drink for a hundred Euro, and next morning I am hungry and have no cigarettes any more, and then somebody has to invite me and give me a packet of cigarettes. And when I have money, I invite people so everything is fine.
What is the mission of poetry in your view? Oh, I have no particular theoretical ideas in this regard. I think the times when poetry revolutionized entire countries are over. If they ever existed. But on a small scale, poetry can give things a value that reaches beyond materiality and usability. Therefore it is also a means of knowledge. It glorifies and exaggerates situations, circumstances, people, relationships. And the weather. That is the reason why I appreciate it so much. Is a hedge characterized by its dimensions and its chlorophyll production, or by the drunkard who pisses against the hedge in the morning, singing, after his girlfriend has left him? I don’t know exactly. Eventually (I am really a hopeless romantic) the commonplace has its own poesy. You only have to look at it from a slightly diagonal angle. For me, that is rather a private pleasure – discovering the beautiful, the interesting especially in the small stuff, that upgrades life enormously. It is certainly nice, if somebody enjoys my bizarre views. But poetry is basically self-sufficient. Poetry has no mission, that is the great thing about it.
Und the mission of literature? You always have to take care that it doesn’t sound so elitist – I think literature should still chafe, urge, irritate, in whatever respect. Literature doesn’t have to be fascinating, does not need to pander to reading habits. And it must not degenerate into a cheap instrument of a feel-good flight from everyday life. I like it when a book screws me up, when it leaves me somewhat smashed, but you may hold a different view as well, under pastel-coloured cashmere, after work, with a cup of tea and a smooching cat.
With which author, no matter of what period, would you like to have a glass of Altbier in Düsseldorf? What would you talk about? Probably I am supposed to say: with Bukowski. But I think he is too busy, has not time to write quotable words on small boards in the kitchens of flat-sharing medics. Therefore I would perhaps make do with Max Frisch, and we would smoke and deplore, exhaustingly and with a thousand detours, the agonies of man that are our own fault, or philosophize the irresistibility of the horse’s tail and sublime jeans. Or with Robert Musil, but I would simply tell him that nothing has changed and that he can also leave again. That is what he would certainly do, what does he have to do with me.
Does the world need more or fewer lunatics? Why? This is one of my favourite subjects, but it is also – let’s say difficult. What does lunacy mean in the first place? The poor guys in the closed institutions certainly have a colourful spiritual life, but they lack the literary distance to themselves which is necessary to find that fantastic. Genuine lunacy sees nothing but itself, has nothing to do with the rest of the world. Then you are quite alone, but you wouldn’t realise even that. I think nobody wants that when reflecting on romantic associations with lunacy. It is more about a drive to more individuality – a touch of lunacy or better an isolated symptom that you have seen in a film or that you adopted. It ennobles every boring existence with a flair of the extraordinary, the somewhat meaningful, misunderstood. This kind of lunacy is zeitgeisty (fits the genius of the times) and sexy, of course. This is based on the old misperception that lunacy and genius are the same. There is a connection, certainly. But it is not enough to adorn oneself frantically with the good-looking features of lunacy.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Oh, I don’t know exactly, neither do I want to know exactly. You would only get sad if it did not work out, and miss the nice diversions on the way from looking straight ahead too much. The main thing is – there must be plenty of love and good food. The rest happens by itself.
Your personal salute to Düsseldorf and to the Düsseldorfers? Hello! I will certainly come back for a trip soon. Maybe that makes you happy. If not, it doesn’t matter. I will come back for a trip anyway.