Literature: Leben, schreiben, atmen & The Friend


Editor’s note: This literary commentary on “Leben, schreiben, atmen” by Doris Dörrie and “The Friend” by Sigrid Nunez submitted for LeipGlo, is by author Lito Seizani who often writes for our web magazine. Her contributions range from literary and artistic contributions to personal stories, and poetry is one of her passions. For more from Lito you can find previous publications, like 3 existential poems, in our Poetry section.

I remember the moon. I remember the big full moon of August over the small bays of Vouliagmeni and over Varkiza in Greece. I remember driving at night and seeing the moon so bright and big in the enchanted night. To see it reflected in the sea, yellow, gold, silver, orange, red. Unreal and familiar at the same time. I remember one night we were coming back from somewhere and we stopped in some fields to look at the stars. You called me a romantic fool. It was cold, emptiness all over, no one was passing by that country road. I had the feeling that we were the only people on earth. Again the absolute magic. I felt like singing. I think I did start to sing. The whole starred universe above in a Planetarium show especially for us alone.

– Lito Seizani

woman reading by window
Pulbic domain image by Joseph Redfield Nino from Pixabay

Write ten minutes in a row without thinking. This is the advice of the successful screenwriter and writer Doris Dörrie. She urges us to do it, as she does herself without avoiding failures and traumas of her personal life.

A serious wound, the loss of her young husband, and also the loss of her best friend. Write without thinking. Write about what you remember. Write about what surrounds you. Write about clothes that you loved or hated.

Of clothes that felt like an armor protecting you, that they made you feel like you were someone else, a better self, or that make you feel ridiculous. Write about a place where you were a stranger.

Write about your parents’ or your grandparents’ house. Write about loss. Write about the first kiss. Write about the moon.

I write for ten minutes by hand without thinking. I am writing a summary of her instructions. I write about her book with writing tips.

She says that even a shopping list can be poetic. She picks up papers with shopping lists she finds on the supermarket floor. She gives an example of this everyday life poetry which she has accidentally discovered:

flowers red
detergent green
peas frozen
cotton swabs

Doris Dörrie Buchmesse Frankfurt 2011
Doris Dörrie at Frankfurter Buchmesse 2011, photo by Lesekreis published under Creative Commons CC0 license in the public domain

She is certain that anyone can write. You don’t have to have gone through terrible or unusual experiences, an everyday life is enough, ordinary things are enough.
I like listening to her talk on the radio or on TV. There is something about her, simple, accessible and unpretentious. At the same time, she has a strong personality and a character that seems to consist of humor and seriousness, of optimism and realism. A self-confidence which she doesn’t try to impose on others. She has something gentle despite her somewhat eccentric outfit.

The first thing I had done when the stores opened after the lockdown was to run to the bookstore and buy her book Leben, schreiben, atmen.

And now I have been writing for ten minutes non-stop about German author Dörrie, and feel like it’s time to write a bit about another author.

As soon as I finished the book The Friend by US American Sigrid Nunez, I started wondering about how we pick the things we read, how we are led or guided towards them. My literary tastes are not adventurous, I usually prefer the classics and every time I will exclaim “of course, now I know why it became a classic, it is so good!” Often I trust friends with whom I share the same ideas about the world and lately I have started trusting a German book critic who I watch on two television shows he presents.

There are so many books published every year, a flood of books, and surely not all of them are good.

Siegrid Nunez author
Sigrid Nunez gives a presentation in the Fiction Stage at the National Book Festival, August 31, 2019. Photo by Ralph Small/Library of Congress. Public domain, Creative Commons CC0 license

But for which reason did I select The Friend, the story of a friendship between a writer and a huge dog left to her by another friend who passed away?

The idea that the protagonist was at first unwilling to take the dog to a small apartment where pets were not allowed, the fact that she did and the inevitable bond that was formed between them, were some of the attractive elements of this book. I also found the cover very beautiful.

But most of all I like the writing style of Sigrid Nunez, brief sentences and questions and quotations (some critic accused her of using too many of them). And of course I liked the fact that the story in this book is also about writing. Why we write, how we write, how indispensable writing is, how writing has changed over the years.

It was somewhat strange that I chose this book immediately after having read Doris Dörrie’s book about the art of writing. But perhaps it was no coincidence. Both of these books have impressed me because they opened up in front of my eyes the secret universe of the writers, a universe which I flatter myself that I inhabit, too…

Lito Seizani contributes giving personal insights into being an every-day tourist. She is the author of "The Ideal Bench", which is available on Amazon.

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