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Parallel zu meiner wissenschaftlichen Arbeit bin ich auch literarisch tätig – oft von Themen oder Inhalten meiner akademischen Arbeit inspiriert oder sich mit diesen auseinandersetzend. Zurzeit suche ich einen geeigneten Verlag für meinen ersten Roman, Between the Strokes of Midnight (Deutsch: Zwischen den Glockenschlägen der Mitternacht - eine Inhaltsangabe samt Leseprobe kann weiter unten gelesen werden).

In der Zwischenzeit arbeite ich an meinem zweiten Roman mit dem Arbeitstitel The House of History (Das Haus der Geschichte). In einem fluchbehafteten Haus angelegt, dreht sich die Handlung um dessen eigenartige Bewohnerinnen und Bewohner, um deren sie quälenden Vergangenheiten sowie um die grauenvollen Geheimnisse, die sie zu verbergen versuchen. Auf einer allegorischen Ebene symbolisiert das Haus sowie seine Bewohnerinnen und Bewohner unterschiedliche Facetten der mitunter düstersten Perioden der jüngsten deutschen Geschichte in Mitteleuropa.

Between the Strokes of Midnight

Was wäre, wenn die Vergangenheit die Gegenwart einholte? Was wäre, wenn es einen Raum zwischen den Glockenschlägen der Mitternacht gebe, wo die schattenhaften Gestalten der Sagen und Legenden aus den Seiten der Chroniken, die sie beheimaten, herausträten und die Straßen der nächtlichen Stadt bevölkerten? 

Mein erster Roman mit dem Titel Between the Strokes of Midnight (Deutsch: Zwischen den Glockenschlägen der Mitternacht) ist eine Erzählung im Stil der angelsächsischen Gothic Novel, die im heutigen Wien zwischen Oktober und der Wintersonnenwende angesiedelt ist. Auf der Basis der Faust-Legende und inspiriert von österreichischen historischen Sagen und Überlieferungen, erkundet der Roman wie Städte ebenso wie die Menschen, die diese bewohnen, von ihrer Vergangenheit heimgesucht werden.

N, der anonymisierte „Jedermann“ dieser Geschichte, ist ein mit sich selbst kämpfender Schriftsteller, der eines Nachts in genau einen solchen Zwischenraum hineinstolpert: in ein paralleles Wien der Nacht, wo der Schleier zwischen der Welt des Diesseits und jenes des Todes gefallen ist. Vom geheimnisumhüllten M (seinem mephistophelischen Mentor) geführt, entdeckt N sehr bald, dass sein Verstand, ja sogar sein Leben, gefährdet ist, als eine kataklysmische Konfrontation mit seinem teuflischen Mentor unausweichlich wird.

Auszug (auf Englisch) von Kapitel 9, „The Horror in the Catacombs“ (Der Schrecken in den Katakomben), in dem der Protagonist, N, zum Stephansplatz, dem Domplatz im historischen Zentrum Wiens, kommt, und wo er feststellen muss, dass sich dieser monströs verändert hat:

            Gargantuan black clouds lay low and heavy over the midnight city. There was neither moonlight nor starlight to shine down upon the square where N–––– sat off to the side in quiet contemplation. Yet he could still make out the great hulk of the cathedral rising before him nonetheless: a dark behemoth silhouetted ever so faintly against the impenetrable black of the sky above.

            N–––– hadn’t been surprised to find upon his arrival at Stephansplatz that the sleek modern paving stones had disappeared and that a colossal old cemetery had arisen in their place. It encircled the cathedral on all sides, a rolling expanse of bulging mounds and sunken crevices along which old wooden crosses and marble stelae tilted at alarming angles and the stone sarcophagi lay in ruins.

            It was on account of this sepulchral landscape that had manifested around the cathedral that N–––– could make out the terrain despite the absence of moonlight. For the ground was covered with a luminous green moss that shimmered putrescently, as though the poisonous corruption of the decaying bodies below was slowly seeping up to the surface, oozing out into the open from the porous ground.

            The cemetery, the broken funerary monuments, and the walls of the cathedral beyond were moreover illuminated by the dim candescence of myriad flickering lights that burned all across the boneyard, like the jack-o’-lanterns of popular American folklore. Gravelights, N–––– thought to himself, beacons of the legion of the dead.

            He shivered, as a deep sense of foreboding settled under his skin. He couldn’t shake the acute feeling that he was being watched. Who knew what kind of spirits walked restively under the moonless sky tonight, the shades of those who’d once lived and breathed, but whose consciousness had been contorted and corrupted by an eternity spent in the Pit.

            N––––’s gaze returned to the massive stone face of the cathedral rising into the darkness above. It was titanic, grown to monstrous proportions. It looked at least half as big again as he remembered it during the daytime. This manifestation of the vaunted edifice also looked older, far more ancient than the sandblasted countenance of its modern daytime counterpart. The colossal slabs of hewn rock that constituted its thick walls were stained black with age, and its ornaments and statuettes were worn down and faded almost beyond recognition, as though the passage of time had erased the names of even the saints and angels themselves. An eerie light shone forth from within those black walls, illuminating the huge Gothic window that divided the façade vertically in half like a wicked shard.

            N–––– had been sitting motionless on a bench on the far side of the square for some time already, surveying this profound transformation of St. Stephen’s and its eponymous square. Craning his neck far back, he could just make out the Heidentürme, the so-called Heathen Towers, a pair of old octagonal bell towers that flanked the mighty façade on either side.

            They, too, were hideously enlarged, rearing up high above the nave and out of sight. His gaze wandered back down to the Riesentor, the Giant Portal, the name now applying quite literally. The tympanum and the gigantic wooden doors were lost in the shadows beneath the deep pointed archway.

            This was St. Stephen’s, and yet it wasn’t. As soon as he’d arrived, he’d noticed that the great Gothic spire of the south tower had moved, and now stood on the north side. It was as though he were looking at the cathedral’s twin, an older, greater, and sinister twin. Gone was the pristine church of modern times, with its dazzling limestone walls, artificially rejuvenated through decades of painstaking restoration works following the inferno of the Second World War. In its stead stood this imposter, this immense, nightmarish anti-church, a great charcoal-black cathedral to house the sinister shades that had arisen from the necrotic ground all around, their gravelights twinkling morbidly in the night to signal their imminent return to the material world.

            N–––– recalled the story of Hanns Buxböm narrated to him by the barkeep in the Cabinet of Wonders, about the ill-fated master builder who’d received the commission to build the accursed north tower. There were many legends connecting the Devil to this house of god. And truly, looking over the black cathedral that now rose before him from this festering graveland, N–––– couldn’t sense so much as a shadow of divinity here. There was only evil and death. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”, he thought to himself as he rubbed the scar on his left palm. It had started tingling uncomfortably over the past days.

            As though on cue, he arose and, after just a moment’s hesitation, made his way brazenly between the grave mounds and the sinister lights emanating from within, heading straight for the great arch that loomed darkly up ahead.

A dark alleyway in Vienna's old city near Schönlaterngasse
Skulls in the Paris catacombs
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