Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. But so too is genre, as evidenced by the following email interview I did with writer Katharina Volckmer about her new novella The Appointment (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), which may or may not be transgressive, depending on your eyes.
Photo Credit: ©️Liz Seabrook
To start, what is The Appointment about, and when and where is it set?
The Appointment is a monologue by a young German woman who is talking to her Jewish doctor here in London. It’s in many ways a book about identity, in terms of gender, nationality, mother tongue, sexual desire, and orientation.
And where did you get the original idea for this story?
The idea came to me with the voice, the two are inextricably linked for me and I found the voice when I was experimenting with some short stories. In my experience, everything changes as you write it.
As you said, the narrator in The Appointment is a woman who was born and raised in German, but now lives in London. Which is true for you as well. Beyond that, though, how autobiographical — if at all — is this story?
Autobiographical is not a label I would use to describe this novel, and, if I may, I don’t think it’s a very helpful question to ask.
Now, The Appointment was brought to my attention by a review in The New Yorker, who called it “transgressive.” Do you think The Appointment is transgressive?
I think that depends on your point of view, on your own boundaries. Some people have certainly experienced it as transgressive and have felt that their boundaries had been violated, personally I’m quite familiar with my own mind and so it’s maybe not the first adjective I would have used. But I do understand that it maybe describes the experience of some of my readers.
The New Yorker also said it was “darkly funny.” Who do you see as being the biggest influences on the humor or humorous tone of The Appointment?
Thomas Bernhard, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, and Patricia Lockwood for the way she writes about the Catholic Church.
What about non-literary influences; was The Appointment influenced by any movies or TV shows?
Not that I can think of, I watch very little TV.
How about plays, was it at all influenced by any plays? Because, as you said, it is a monologue.
It is in many ways a dialogue but I can’t think of a particular play that has influenced it. Maybe Yasmina Reza’s plays for their excellent sense of escalation? I do admire her for that. I love going to the theatre and so I think it would be fair to say that I was influenced by the formal aspects and overall aesthetics of that art form. I’d love to see my novel on stage one day.
So, do you think The Appointment could work as a play?
I’d love that!
Now, given what The Appointment is about, that it’s a monologue, and that it’s novella length [144 pages], I’m inclined to think I should read it in one sitting. And I don’t think I’m the only person who might consider doing this. Do you that’s the best way to read this story?
I think that’s a great way of reading it because of the theatrical nature of the book, it’s an uninterrupted scene, spanning a few hours, so I think reading it in one sitting is perfect.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Appointment, what similar (relatively speaking) novella of someone else’s would you suggest they read and why that?
Again, so many things come to mind. Definitely I Love Dick by Chris Kraus, Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard’s novels, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, and Paul Takes The Form Of A Mortal Girl by Andrew Lawlor.