Good Read: Talk With Fritz J. Raddatz – “Style needs nonchalance”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had a long conversation with Großfeulletonist, literature critic and dandy Fritz J. Raddatz. In the interview Raddatz drops a series of one-liners. It’s an absolute joy. We’ve collected his best statements on relevant topics and people:

Style: “Those putting a lot of effort into their styling are monkeys. They think if they wear this or that or hold their glass this way or that way, they are already cultivated people. Those are used-car salesmen that get their initials embroidered on their shirts. To actually have a lot of style one needs to have a a laid-back and laissez-faire attitude. Only when having that generosity towards life one can also have great style.”

Style abroad: “It is certain that the French have a different feel for shape, the Spanish and the Italians as well. There simply are no half-naked Italians with backpacks walking at the beach. There are also differences when it comes to interior. Most apartments of German intellectuals are decorated so horribly that it makes you go blind. At the opposite, the smallest lector at Gallimard has a beautiful Art-deco piece, a beautiful old dresser. He is not rich, he cannot style his entire apartment in art nouveau, but he will have one or two proper pieces, a small magical sculpture, something like that.”

Style in the US: “Actually there is no elegance in the States, only wealth. Look at the house of Bill Gates, for example. You immediately want to drop a bomb on it. Of course, New York City is always an exception, but that’s not the US. Somewhere I describe the apartment of Mrs. Getty, who was the wealthiest woman in the world back then. It was appalling. The most expensive paintings, but it looked like they were plastered on the wall with a shot gun. Even the apartment of Jackie Kennedy I visited: all copies, like in the furniture department of Karstadt.”

More sense of style among gays: “That’s complete nonsense. Try and go to the apartment of one of the gay hairdressers, or bakers, or whatever. All you’ll find mit be a little pink teddy bear on the couch.”

Taste:Taste in art means more or less knowing that Damien Hirst is not an artist, but Picasso, according to rumors, he was one. Or in literature of course, that Ms. Hegemann is not actually a writer.”

Wardrobe suited to the occasion: “Usually I put on clothes or change for supper. I have a strict daily routine: Breakfast after a swim, after breakfast, work, responding to letter for example, then workspace. I never have lunch, I don’t even know what that is, but I eat a lot for dinner, either in the dining room or the garden, depending on the weather. And usually that’s when I change, even if I eat by myself. I set the table with flowers, or a candle or listen to music. I don’t expect this from everyone though. If someone sits at dinner in a sweat shirt I cannot say he’s repulsive, I can only say I am an old and conservative gentleman and I hold on to my rituals.”

Thomas Mann: “He’s almost worn a corset his entire life, spanning from his wardrobe to his posture and the way he would dine. Why? Because he was profoundly disturbed and insecure on the inside, almost a person with nothing to hold on to.”

Fritz J. Raddatz: “I had a difficult life, especially a horrible childhood and I am sure that my partly goofy and ridiculous rituals have to do with that. Even my clothing. Clothing is also skin. And when skin is sensitive it requires protection. When the nerves, the soul are thin and wounded everyone seeks their own type of protection. One person takes drugs, the next drinks or whores themselves to death, which might be the most beautiful way to die.”

Helmut Schmidt: “This Back-up Hindenburg, suffering from ‘rambling diarrhea’ He’s a failed politician and the employee of a newspaper publisher.”

Peter Sloterdijk: “(…) but above all I wish he would take care more of his hair. (…) Sloterdijk apparently doesn’t know much literature.”

Günther Grass: “my former friend”

Sexuality: “(…) I have lived my entire life with both sexes, saw a wonderful boy somewhere on the beach, too bad, I didn’t get him, or that beautiful woman ran away from me, or the other way around.”

Evil in art: “Personally I believe that actually great art at least also requires toughness, if not something evil, the talent of an evil stare. That evil stare pulls you in as one knows not only from fairytales. If one always embraces, forgives everything and understands everyone, I don’t think that person could create a single good painting or write a single good story.”

Charisma/ Aura: An example: “You’re at the Four Seasons, you’ve had a candle light dinner, everyone is dressed up, then someone enters the room who isn’t. He is not naked, dirty, sweaty and may have even washed his hair, but people look at him, he’s got something. That exists and it’s hard to explain. Why did Obama have something at first, that none of his predecessors did not have, with the exception of Kennedy? What did Kennedy have= Actually him and Jackie were a little bit strange, nouveaux riches, especially her with the fake pearls. But they had character, a personality an aura that can turn outward and that you notice. It’s nothing learned, not in kinder garden, the dance lessons or bible school. Goethe did say that character forms and he is right about it. But there is something ingrained that person just had.”

French as a language: “By the way, Mitterrand was quite a bum, but he spoke fantastic French. He knew his literature almost by heart from Racine to whoever which is why he was forgiven a lot in a political context. The beauty of the language covers causal connections like icing, even when it’s about highly delicate political relationships. Generally, French is just an ‘icing- and cultivated language.”

Clarity of language: “However, when it doesn’t matter whatsoever, how one expresses themselves, that also cancels out thinking, that also dilutes the facts, they don’t matter anymore either.”

Cultivated conversations: “That doesn’t exist anymore, this: You sit together for an entire evening, discussing politics or literature. How many nights did I sit and discuss with Günter Grass, or Uwe Johnson, or Jürgen Becker, or Heinrich Böll, not on stage but at home at dinner, at their place or at mine, at a random place, in the bar. That has vanished and was replaced. It’s become a world of e-mail, complemented by the phone.”

Three-Star-Hotels: “I didn’t know hotels exist in such low categories.”

Money: “I always liked earning money and spending money, but that’s not essential for work.

 You can fin the entire interview here. Go read it now!

Image: Henning Bode

Von: Carl Jakob Haupt

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