We arrive in Dunedin the next day. Children in kilted school uniforms storm out of a building. I look for my camera but they’ve already disappeared around the next corner. Villas with carved wooden verandas on a hill, a small town centre with an octagonal plaza. Around it, the development soon becomes sparser again, with low-built houses and sheds.
At the first reading in the evening a touching conversation with a professor of German Studies. He asks me whether my representations of forgetting, suppressing and remembering in my latest novel "Die Kältezentrale" are aimed against Freud. I talk about recent findings on processing traumatic experiences. Hearing myself speak, I realize I’m not in that novel with these ideas at all; I’m already in the next one.
And on we go, first to the Otago Peninsula, then to the South, to the Catlins.
Gentle, grassy hills with sheep, a familiar-seeming picture, almost: the hills are planted with a type of tree that has dry grey trunks, some growing higher, some ducked down like bushes or lying prone and round on the slope, shaped like the bodies of fluffy white animals, occasionally bare, with leafless crowns that seem to have gone grey. In the middle of this hinterland a lonely, unguarded campsite with a water and waste connection for the campervan, in a diligently brightly planted garden. The assembly house with its large veranda, empty. A large, old, docile-looking dog comes to welcome us. Next to the water supply is a note to leave a dollar; life can be so simple.
Marvellous beaches. Wide, gigantic. The water a noisy, incomprehensible force. Behind it the coastal woods. Ferns, huge moss-covered trees. Birds that sing in voices I’ve never heard before. How complex the whole world of the forest is. Countless plants small and large, intertwined. The atmosphere they form is so dense that you step into it like walking beneath a giant dome.
How much devoidness of humanity can I take in here, how much strength, how long will it last for the view of the many layers of time, layers of movement of the big city where I usually live?
In Papatowai, a small village, Blair Somerville runs a gallery consisting of a converted bus and a garden full of bizarre works of art and strange bricolages. He makes small and large toy-like sculptures out of wire and other pieces of metal. The observer almost always has to do something, pull a lever, swing a wheel or turn a handle to start off each object’s mechanism. Sometimes it seems just playful and eccentric. When rusty claws sticking out from a hedge are set in motion by a crank and stroke across the leaves in large grabbing sweeps, for example. Or when a complicatedly constructed paddle wheel made of shells plunges into a basin and the water it scoops up flows into an old pair of shoes hanging next to it. I was reminded of Peter Lustig and his caravan in the German children’s TV show "Löwenzahn".
Some of the constructions, however, become more on longer reflection, turn into tangible critique of civilisation. For instance when I work up a sweat pedalling inside a corrugated barrel of metal to power a dynamo, which controls a screen showing ads for a hairstyling set. Here in this region where nature takes precedence, the achievements of civilisation are brought to a stalemate, for a brief moment at least – I have to work hard for what I’m usually constantly exposed to. The land of the long white cloud is shown ironically in a small peep box: fabric clouds float by at the touch of a button and it rains on a small map of New Zealand, plastic coated to keep off the water. And there are poetic or philosophical miniatures too: a small egg lit up from inside, that you can catch a glimpse of through a tiny peephole. Inside, only visible as shadows, are tiny bird feet gently tapping at the walls of their prison. Or, very sober: a square metal plate with four metal rods rising as pillars at each corner. In the middle, a slowly rotating post casts out a thread at regular intervals, which catches on one of the rods and unrolls again – just as you sometimes get entangled in a subject in your mind, encompass it and then drop it again.
As we leave the village the tachometer reads: 1000 kilometres.