During the last four years I have been researching the life of Grete Trakl (1891-1917), sister of the well-known Austrian 'expressionist' poet Georg Trakl (1887-1914). Although Georg has been a research topic ever since he died, the biography of his favorite sister Grete, with whom he is said to have had an incestuous relationship, has been remarkably sketchy. Until now.
My book is planned for late October 2014, to celebrate the centennial of Georg's death on November 3, 1914. I plan to issue at least one interactive version of the book on a digital publishing platform that I am building at this moment, with music and with film footage I made on my travels to hotspots in Grete’s life.
The 2013 jury president of our Dutch ‘Booker Prize’, Claire Polak, recently described the now fashionable type of book, which apparently has also filtered into literary competitions, as ‘the Ikea novel’: “a do-it-yourself kit, consisting of a handful of personages, an immense secret of the past, contrary interests and loyalties, a romance here or rather remorse or grief over a broken relationship there”. I’m afraid that Grete Trakl’s life and life’s circumstances happen to have been exactly that.
I won’t go into detail much here, because all will be in the book. But over the years I have identified, apart from all of the usual suspects in the Georg Trakl reception, a Samurai making beer bottles, the highest of Mecklenburg nobility, a tough Berlin magistrate and his secrets, well-off land ladies, some very talented pianists and many colourful personalities in art, theatre and publishing business. Ambition, frustrated ambition, greed, love, no love, secret love, lost love or refuted love is a recurring theme in many of the lives of the main figures. This all set in a class society in confusion by upward and downward social mobility, a cultural scene of refined musicality, creative avant-garde and Freudian perception of the Female. And don't forget the impact of the First World War on all persons involved. Life would probably have looked very different for all of them without this war.
The book has therefore grown into a real whodunit, in a more psychological sense. By the nature of Grete’s life history, I have been forced to immerse myself in the psychological dynamics of the Trakl family and its – as I argue extensively in the book – emotionally devastating effects on its members. Also on the duo Georg and Grete. In the context of Grete’s life it’s inevitable that I, in my turn, take a shot at the still popular assumption that the two had an incestuous relationship. After viewing the problem from many angles and after much close-reading I think I have come very close to the real possible answer. Be surprised!