[ISEA97] Panel: Reinhard Kaiser – Panel Statement

Panel Statement

Panel: Literature, Journalism, and the Telematic Society 3: Electrified Language

Having worked as a translator for many years, occasionally writing a book of my own, I have made reading and writing my profession. So when I heard, some two years ago, of a new accessible universe of information, of some kind of new electronic library, I became curious. I even felt it was sort of a professional duty to have a look at what the Internet was and to see if it could be put to use in the service of my writing, my translating, my permanent search for words, facts and information. My initial fears at stepping into that foreign territory which some praised as a new heaven of multiple joys, while others depicted it as a mere desert of trash, dissolved quite quickly. Of course I came upon much trash, waste, and junk, but I also found some valuable things, even treasures. And what was more, I soon felt that, as a reader, I was well prepared to handle the online-world of electronic arts, literature and information – at least better prepared than that allegedly ideally equipped net-person, the so-called surfer.
My confidence did not result from technical know-how, but from something like a little twist of imagination:What I heard and read about the virtues and vices of the Internet, I then contrasted and compared to my own reading experiences and to what I knew about the world of books, about their history and about the art of reading. I did so in order to find out if the highly praised novelty of the online-world was really as new as many maintained it to be. As far as I can see, this little trick worked and still works and often the results are somewhat reassuring: the air-filled hype and the lofty hopes, all kinds of trendy exaggerations on the marvels or the dangers which lurk behind the computer screen, become a much more manageable something if they are contrasted to the sphere of the printed page (e.g.the warnings against losing one’s own identity within a dream-world or against becoming addicted to virtual contents, were voiced in the same vein two hundred years ago by well-meaning educators and clerics speaking on the pitfalls of novel-reading.) During the panel I would like to say a bit more about this imaginative twist which perhaps is something more than a trick, certainly not a theory, but perhaps a rule of thumb for reading and book-loving people who go online, and a wholesome antidote to that curious ability of the computer and especially of the Internet to turn almost everybody who gets in touch with it into some sort of a “broadcaster,” if only for themselves.

  • Reinhard Kaiser (Germany) Born 1950 in Viersen (Rhineland, Germany). Novelist, essay­ist, translator of English and French fiction and non-fiction. Studied German language and literature, sociology and phi­losophy in Berlin, Paris, Cologne and Frankfurt. Lives in
    Frankfurt. Among the authors whose books he translated are: Richard Sennett, Barbara Tuchman, Neil Postman, Isaiah Berlin, Groucho Marx, Irene Dische, Anne Tyler, Sam
    Shepard, Georges Duby, Vivant Denon and “Walter:His first novel was Der kalte Sommer des Doktor Polidor (1991). Two rather different new books by him were published in 1996—one which took him five years (Koenigskinder. Eine wahre Liebe) and one which took him five months (Literarische Spaziergaenge im Internet. Buecher and Bibliotheken online).