Austrian Teresa Präauer is an acclaimed visual artist, but to truly satisfy her creative and intellectual impulses she feels she has to delve deep into the world of words and texts.
Having studied both art and literature, and collected an array of awards and accolades for both, she was always confronted with options on how to approach a new creative project.
“Somehow it made me decide that writing is the main thing in my life and that visual arts are the inspiration for doing that,” she said.
She has not entirely abandoned her art, and still personally designs all her own book covers, but now she sees art more as a well to draw from rather than the finished work.
“It doesn’t make me that happy anymore to draw the world, but I want to write about the world and invent a world by writing.”
Her love for aesthetics and design also came from her father, an industrial designer, who was constantly analysing how things were created, and assessing the elements of function and form.
“And somehow that is also something I try to do in my text. To open something up, to take it apart, and to put it back together,” she said. “And by knowing handcraft techniques, or whatever, it makes me see the world through the eyes of an artist. But I always want to find words for that.”
Understanding the mechanics of how things work, and having the capacity to create, is something she finds empowering.
“You feel the power that you could build a world and that you could somehow rearrange the hierarchy of things that surround us,” she said. “And that also means you could rearrange the hierarchy in a relationship, for example, so it is a bit of a childish, playful approach to very powerful feeling of us being capable of dealing with the world.”
Präauer writes about poetry, theatre, pop culture, fashion, art, and a host of other topics, but does not see herself as a critic, but more a literary commentator of sorts.
“I’m really interested in the surfaces, and I think that by trying to describe the surface you’ll also understand something about the depths, the deep inner mechanics of things.”
A major interest of her work is to use contemporary language blended with traditional language or poetry techniques. She draws inspiration from the classics, from German literature, from world literature, while also binge-watching “trash TV” on the internet, for example, and writing about that.
“Somehow, I want to be able to make them be friends,” she said.
Präauer positions her fiction and essays to embrace universal themes that have fable-like qualities that she hopes can be readily absorbed globally.
Her latest book is Happiness is a Bean (Das Glück ist eine Bohne), a collection of short prose, essays and stories, that will be published in Europe in spring 2021.
It deals with topics such as fashion, theatre, fine arts, literature, as well as “everything I see and spot, and the trash I somehow find, and what I come across on the internet.
“It is a lot of visual things that somehow I have the aim to find words for, these visual things that I find every day.”
The collection is ultimately about seeing something, taking something, making that thing from the world your very own thing – and then maybe trying to give it away to someone else, she said.
She takes a gently ironic approach to the endeavor of pursuing happiness, which she approaches but maintains some distance.
One way for her to find contentment as writer is to deeply engage with language.
“For me it is very important to write word for word and also that my readers try to read the texts word by word,” she said. “Somehow, I think you can find some pleasure in reading like that.”
And on her path to some form of happiness, she also likes to playfully juxtapose the somber with the mirthful.
“I think I have a quite melancholic tone or melody somehow,” she said, “and the melancholy is often combined with humour. And in this combination maybe I can find happiness as a writer.”