Elke Gertz: Boldness is what makes life worth living

Elke Geurts do not have brown teeth at all. She has a big smile with natural colored teeth and bright brown eyes. The conversation begins in her cozy home with a cupboard full of perverted books in it. A candle is burning on the dining table and a bowl with large shells is placed on the windowsill. The cat is resting on the sofa, purring. It has been raining all day. Autumn has begun. “Really a day to reflect on life,” Elke Gertz laughs.

Those brown teeth are a note to her boyfriend’s son, in who is that woman?, her latest autobiographical novel, which deals with the aftermath of divorce – her divorce. He’s a successor I still love you, which appeared in 2017, is an account of a terrible heartbreak. In both books, Geurts spares nothing or no one, including himself. tension that who is that woman? Propels is the belated discovery that her ex-husband had an eight-year affair during their marriage. But really, the book is “a search for authenticity,” says Elke. “I am looking for where I am now, who I have become, and how that came to be.”

Presented in her book Form I and there “Women”. “The latter represents all aspects of ourselves that we do not wish to show, which we want to hide, which we prefer not to talk about, and which we are ashamed of. It is the side of our shadow, the ugliness, that should not be seen.”

Also read her book review who is that woman?: If it becomes clear after the divorce that another person is involved

Through her performance, Elke Geurts hopes to “liberate herself and the reader a little.” “You can be there all the time with whatever comes with it.”

Elke is a writer, and I’ve known her for a long time.

In your latest book, you look at how your childhood has molded into you. What did you discover?

“It shaped your parents’ childhood in you, and everything before that. And that you are a woman and not a man, and the history of all the women in the family. I find it interesting to decipher these patterns. We are all in control of our subconscious patterns. Only when we realize it can we free ourselves from it. Then There are more options.”

One of the patterns you break down is how you behave in bed. You describe a licking scene that you don’t seem to really feel.

I wanted to represent power structures, and what better position for that than sex? M., from the band scene, is a fiercely pro-feminist type. But he is pushy at the same time. Because he tells her to enjoy herself, he tells her not to open the door while the bell rings and the main character wants it. He is the man who decides. The woman lies down neatly. I still think that after the divorce I became a different person.”

Because you are now with a feminist man.

“No, because that’s what it should be like after a divorce. I thought you’d rise from the ashes. Like a freer person. But you just pick up where you left off. Or come across things you’ve never encountered before. Nothing has changed, I wanted to say from this The scene. And if you don’t act on it, nothing will ever change. I forced myself to write the embarrassing situations.”

I am investigating where I am now, who I have become and how it happened

The bell is ringing. “Oh that…” Elke opens the door. “How wet are you.” A full-on gray-haired man sits on an electric bike with a smooth black tire and looks inside. “Oh, the journalist is still here,” he says. He jokes: “Well, that’s it.” Elke: “But it’s not about you. Well, huh?” Today is the delivery: Their two daughters, ages 12 and 17, are with Elke this week, bringing charging cables and a laptop. “Everyone always wants to see it,” said Elk after closing the door.

“I’ve already done a million interviews about his big cheat. Then he often asks me if I can write it. Isn’t that bad for kids. I don’t think they’re going to ask guys that. Then he asks me what cheating does to you. But that’s not exactly what the book is about.” But I know it’s exciting. I also used it because it’s a sexy story.”

The day before this interview I attended a show anger optimism, Fixdit collective statement on sex discrimination in the literature. Manon Uphoff writes in it that a woman is never expected to be the architect of a home, but that it is always about the occupant in it.

Photo by Frank Reuter

It’s only been a few years since Elke has been very interested in the impact of being a woman on her life path. She also revealed this in her work, in the same research method she uses when speaking. “I’ve never shown who I really am. I’ve learned to please another. Not to be original. That’s what girls have learned. It’s what instilled in me where I come from: Girls value less, they should be kind, gentle, playful and helpful. This inferiority complex is deeply rooted.” In me, and therefore in most women as well. We want to please.”

in I still love you She writes that your mother tied you to bed to go to the café by herself.

“Yes. But she was twenty at the time. It happened once. She wanted to go out because otherwise her friends would find her boring. A very special idea. She didn’t tie me up all the time.”

How old were you then again?

“When were you tied up?” She laughs and jokes: “I’ve been tied up all my childhood, is that crazy?

“I must have been a baby, a year or two. Someone who could walk or get up.” She maintains that her parents were very young when Elke was born, and that her mother did the same: family patterns. In this scene, it was all about the image that I was strapped to under the same belts that my mother herself was on.”

A reviewer mentioned your new friend who met you on Who’s That Woman? Go ahead, idiot.

“When you have a new love, not everything is right right away. You will inevitably come across something that you don’t feel. That’s part of it, and I’m going to write that. In real life, my boyfriend and I just got it Everywhere Around. Not to fall into the same trap as before.

“My book is by no means intended to be purging. I write everything that is abrasive and difficult. The ugly thing that people prefer not to discuss. From others and from myself.” She has also done so in her previous books, two collections of short stories and two novels. „In the story ‘Lastmens’, which is about a mother who pretends to be a babysitter’s husband for her child, I focus on feeling trapped in motherhood.

“Sometimes people are amazed by my stories, someone who smiles cheerfully and very dark too. My parallel world, the world you are inspired by, is naturally quite dark, while my real world is completely light.”

When you have a new love, you will inevitably come across something you don’t feel

Elke says, “Look, the sun is shining.” We go out. When her daughters come home from school, she will be a bit crowded in the living room. First we pass small houses with green doors, walk through a wet green garden, and a little later along brown flats. In the empty market square of the gray shopping center in north Amsterdam, Elke Geurts comes to a sudden stop. She is making a ‘v’ out of her arms. “It’s about being brave. Boldness is what makes life worth living.” She smiles an infectious laugh. “I think I’ve been standing still for a while.” How long then? That smile again. “Well, pretty much the first fifty years of my life.” She is 49 years old. “I almost didn’t dare, did I.” She did not dare to be herself, she says, nor did she dare to go to the convenience stores. Then I was afraid these people would think: What are you doing here. They will talk to me.”

We walk more towards a medium sized cafe. “I’m much bolder now. That’s the point.” Things started to change after the divorce. Then I was forced to really look at myself.

Once inside the cafe, Elke Geurts first goes to the toilet. While she was still walking to the table, she started to speak. “Do you know what I think it’s about?” It means: the meaning of life. we will? With connection. It stresses every syllable. “Just to mention that ugly word. However, it has a lot to do with whether life is worth living. And whether you feel connected to yourself and to the other. It comes down to that. Gradually I feel my life a little more.

“The more you dare the show, the more other shows become and the more interesting it becomes. The less you show, the more closed off. What you hide will fester and cause trouble. I want to show that hidden side of my work.”

Shortly thereafter, she told in passing that she “naturally” took medication throughout her childhood. She was given a maximum dose of carbamazepine between the ages of 14 and 19 for epilepsy. “While these are the years when you know who you want to be and when you learn how to relate to others,” she says. “But I didn’t test that, because I was completely flat.”

Photo by Frank Reuter

As soon as I left the house, I immediately stopped. “I immediately felt as if I had been living under a gray blanket all those years.” But the seizures started again. One night she almost drowned in the shower, but she chose this risk over feeling grounded before. “I can live with that fall sometimes. But then I got pregnant, and that’s no longer an option. And you can’t get away for a while when you’re walking down the stairs with a baby.” Since then, she’s been taking a lower dose, and she doesn’t yet know exactly what the impact will be on her love life. “I have recently started decreasing again because I want to live with more feelings.” She takes a sip of her espresso. “The purpose of my life is closeness,” she says.

How do you notice that you are closer to “something”?

“Because I am in the middle of the moment. I am really experiencing reality, without making a story out of it.”

A week later, Elke sent an 868-word email. She feels that she has not fully explained what makes life worth living for her. “What makes life worth living for me is: looking, reading and writing. I want to confuse the reader. To make something uncomfortable. Writing is closest to where I need to be. I dare in my work to show and show what I do more easily than reality. By being all in my business, showing some courage, and pushing boundaries with language. Whereas in real life I often pretend to be different, braver and friendlier than I am. Just awful. But I’m already more aware of that.”

Later in the email: “What makes life worth living for me is that you immerse yourself in something, pay attention to something. Everything becomes interesting if you really look at it, if you think about it.”

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