In the well-paged ICE on-board magazine of the Deutsche Bahn there has been a column “The literary find” for several years. In the column, writers come up with stories about real objects that have been left behind every month. According to the railways, 700 new things end up in the discovery sites every day - an almost endless treasure trove for stories. David Wagner once wrote about a Federal Cross of Merit that was left lying on the train (or was it deliberately left behind?). Eva Menasse on a toilet key (with a wooden block tag and the engraving “WC”), Jaroslav Rudis on a bag full of presents.
Up until now there has been no story to be read about Martin Walser's forgotten diary, and as far as is known it has not appeared anywhere. Almost exactly ten years ago, the German Press Agency dealt with it. "Martin Walser is looking for his diary," was the dpa report that ran on the ticker on October 3, 2012 and can still be found in many sources today, such as the ORF and the "Tiroler Tageszeitung", because Austria was involved , so to speak, the starting point of the story. At the beginning of September 2012, the then 85-year-old Walser had just published his new novel, “The Thirteenth Chapter” – doesn’t 13 bring bad luck, in such a way that there is no carriage or seat with the number 13 on any Deutsche Bahn train?
In any case, Martin Walser presented his novel at the Sprachsalz literature festival in Hall in Tirol and then on September 17th boarded the train from Innsbruck to Friedrichshafen, heading home, to Lake Constance. It's a spectacularly beautiful train ride through the Alps, you can look out the window, spread out your things in the compartment for hours and forget yourself. And then forget it, the travel diary. "Bound in red linen, no name, no address inside. I didn't intend to leave it behind," Walser told dpa - and started blustering: writers couldn't travel without writing. "And then you leave a travel diary, you leave a written life on the train," Walser continues.
He reported the incident to Deutsche Bahn on September 17 and was registered in the "loss group books, pictures, works of art" - but the diary did not appear again. He was trying to come to terms with the loss. He has been on the road a lot in the last twelve months - in Chicago, Paris, London, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Brussels, Luxembourg. "The mood in the Hancock Building in Chicago, November, at five in the afternoon. In London, once again on foot across the city where the world is at home. In Helsinki, my God, only the Finnish encounters.” He wonders whether anyone can relate to his notes: “With my novel plans written down on more than 200 pages, for example 'The Prisoner' or 'The Staging'? Or with drafting an essay on 'love without sex and sex without love'?”
The dpa writes everything down, also notes the finder's reward: The Rowohlt publishing house now offers the possible finder a reward of 3000 euros. “Why should Germany always be looking for the superstar? Perhaps Germany will find a writer's travel diary. That would be something," said Walser. "It would be a salvation for the writer."
But redemption did not come. You can't cast a find, you can only find it. Just a few weeks ago, when Martin Walser handed over his legacy to the German Literature Archive in Marbach, Lothar Müller, a reliable feuilletonist with memory, recalled the incident in 2012.
The fact that many feuilletons not only brought the bizarre report back then, but also commented on it and continued to shoot it, was not only due to the celebrity of Martin Walser, whose diaries have been published by Rowohlt since the 2000s and give wonderful insights into the mental life of a major writer in the old Federal Republic, such as his Insults by Marcel Reich-Ranicki. The news value also came from the thing itself: writer loses manuscript, has to rewrite everything: Isn't that every writer's nightmare?
The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" dedicated its page 1 "Streiflicht" to the lost Walser diary at the book fair that took place shortly afterwards, the Viennese "Presse" comforted with a quick literary history of the lost manuscripts and the "taz" made on its satirical page " The Truth”, a whole series from it, presented itself as a funny finder of the Walser diary: “The Last Waltz”. In this respect, nobody has to think up a story about Walser's lost diary - it has long since become productive.
In the past few months of the 9-euro ticket, the train's mindfulness announcements, please make sure to take all personal belongings with you and also look out for pieces of luggage above and below the seats and the mobile phone charging cables in the sockets, seem to have increased again .
It is said that all writer's life is paper. In this series, we provide evidence to the contrary.