Who are you Who is your creator

"Are you ready to meet your Creator?"

The American writer Richard Ford and his new novel

By Tobias Wenzel

Ford: "The permanence phase is the phase in which there is more of life behind you than in front of you." (Stock.XCHNG / Sanja Gjenero)

Richard Ford's novel "Die Lage des Landes", the third volume in the trilogy about the American Frank Bascombe, has now been published in German. The 55-year-old Bascombe lives in what he calls a "permanent phase". Ford is currently a guest in the literary supporting program of the Salzburg Festival.

Richard Ford: "Go away, wasp, go away, bee, wherever you are!" "

Richard Ford, a slender man with a high forehead and gray hair combed back, has jumped from his seat. Fearfully he follows the flight of a wasp, waves his hands and speaks to it: It should disappear and stay away forever. Only when it is clear that the Wasp has left the so-called Chinese room at Schloss Leopoldskron does Richard Ford sit down on the green-covered baroque sofa again. Now the writer, born in 1944, is calm again. He fixes his counterpart with his light blue eyes and talks about his new novel "Die Lage des Landes".

The main character, Frank Bascombe, a real estate agent on the New Jersey coast, learns of a murder from a newspaper. According to the report, the killer had asked his victim, "Are you ready to meet your Creator?" Frank Bascombe himself doesn't feel ready to die just yet. After all, he still has some plans, such as learning German. Richard Ford tried that too, ten years ago when he started a scholarship in Berlin:

Richard Ford: "" I had a tutor. She came to my house on Uhlandstrasse in Berlin. She was very serious and very strict. She made me believe that my mind wasn't logical enough to learn German. She said German was a very logical language. I have reason to believe that is not true. But maybe my teacher was right about my brain just not being made for German. In any case, I am ashamed of not having learned enough German to be able to use it in Germany. But I just can't. "

In his native English, Richard Ford is a masterful stylist and chronicler of everyday life. And that despite the fact that he has always suffered from reading and hearing difficulties. This forced him to listen to other people with particular concentration. A gift that Richard Ford has kept to this day.

The fictional character Frank Bascombe is also a good listener. He volunteers in an association where he listens to people's everyday problems and works with them to find a solution. Bascombe has enough problems himself: his wife has left him. And then he's diagnosed with prostate cancer. All of this in a phase that the 55-year-old Bascombe himself calls the "permanent phase".

Richard Ford: "The permanence phase, which can occur at any time in life, is the phase in which there is more of life behind you than in front of you. Those who are in this phase have already made more mistakes than they will make in the future You may be better able to detach yourself from the experiences of loss and may be less concerned about the past. Instead, you are more interested in the future. It is the phase of life when you think, 'This is the stage in your life that people will remember after my death. So I'll use this section better. '"

Frank Bascombe has long used it where real estate is most expensive in America: on the New Jersey coast. But he, the real estate agent, is disgusted with the dizzying prices of houses and land. The country of New Jersey becomes a metaphor for the rules of the market, for the American dream of the perfect vacation home, for the modern age. The moral index finger is alien to Richard Ford. His father, who died when Richard was 16, also worked as a trader, a traveling sales representative:

"When I was young, I knew a lot about what my father was doing. But I had no trading instinct. I couldn't sell anyone. I didn't like selling. My father loved it. But I've long been interested in how people make a living Because that says a lot about them. Perhaps the fact that I'm writing about a man who is a trader is, in a way, an homage to my father. "

Richard Ford's mother is partly responsible for the fact that Frank Bascombe sees the move to a new house and travel itself as a liberating new beginning in the novel. Richard Ford has moved numerous times within the United States. He was almost a relocation addict:

“The idea that you have to go to one place and then stay there never convinced me. My childhood favorite TV show was' I love Lucy '. In it, Lucy's family drove from New York to Los Angeles. I saw that and thought,' Also I could go away! "My mother - God bless her - and I always wanted to take a bus trip to New York together. That was a very romantic idea for me: getting on the bus in Mississippi and getting off in New York's Times Square. That was part of my life: the romance of travel. "

Richard Ford now lives with his wife in the northeastern state of Maine without the momentary need to move or write. For Richard Ford, not writing for a while is a sign of freedom. Just like riding a motorcycle. His Harley-Davidson is at home in Maine. And in Salzburg he borrowed a BMW motorcycle and explored the landscape together with his wife, in a frenzy of speed. Richard Ford smiles happily when he talks about it. Would he now be ready, as the novel says, "to meet his Creator"? The answer comes in a flash:

"Yes, I think I am. That doesn't mean I want to die. But I've had a very happy life. I've worked hard. I've loved one person, my wife, all these years. If it's me tomorrow caught while I'm on a BMW motorcycle and crashed into a madman's truck, I'd be like, 'All right.' "

Today (August 14th, 2007) at 8 p.m. Richard Ford will meet his compatriot and fellow writer Jeffrey Eugenides at the Salzburg Festival. Michael Naumann will moderate the discussion in Schloss Leopoldskron.

Richard Ford: The State of the Country. Novel.
From the American by Frank Heibert.
Berlin Verlag 2007. 681 pages. Price: 24.90 euros.