Karl-Markus Gauß im Gespräch mit Günter Kaindlstorfer
The First Thing I Set Eyes on
Seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling. Karl-Markus Gauß describes the earliest sensory experiences of a small boy in the mid-twentieth century, and at the same time paints a portrait of the author as a sheltered child.
The attention of the nameless narrator is caught by a voice from the radio: it is reciting names, a list of missing people and the places they were last seen. The next thing he hears is the words of his parents and siblings; new words, some of them in foreign languages. The boy explores the room, the apartment, the house which is inhabited by several tenants. The more mobile he becomes, the more his horizon expands; he discovers the playground and the football field. He starts to notice how differently the people around him behave. There’s often talk of where someone comes from, where they used to be before. Gradually, the outside world begins to intrude. War remains a constant presence. The war that has recently ended, with all its casualties, the injured men the boy bumps into on his daily round, and the new war that’s replaced it, the Cold War that’s beginning to overshadow the family’s life.
The tone of this memoir is wistful and ironic, celebrating the magic of new beginnings without concealing the fear they inspire. It revives memories from oblivion, invoking attitudes long gone as it describes a child who is beginning to get a feel for the power of words early in life whilst making his own sense of the world from the stories he hears.