Geschrieben am 1. Juni 2023 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag Juni 2023

John Harvey: Ein Lebenszeichen

John Harvey (© Molly Ernestine Boiling

Old Man with a Stick überschrieb der Brite John Harvey seinen Jahresrückblick auf 2022 bei uns. Er ist einer der Großen der Kriminalliteratur. Seinem Inspektor Charlie Resnick sind wir durch die 90er Jahre gefolgt, „darkness, darkness“, der letzte Resnick-Roman, der den Bergarbeiterstreik 1984/85 zum Thema hat, war das bisher letzte übersetzte Buch bei uns. Charlie Resnick hört gern Jazz, hat es etwas übrig für Poesie, ganz wie sein Autor, der mehrere Instrumente spielen und Gedichte schreiben kann. Wir haben bei John Harvey, immerhin Jahrgang 1938, nachgefragt, wie es ihm inzwischen geht.

Ah, yes … the walking. One downside of the treatment that is so effectively keeping any further spread of my prostate cancer at bay, is that it brings with it increasing fatigue. What used to be an everyday stroll is now slower, shorter, more of a physical effort – even with the aid of my trusty walking stick, trusted since my fall some little time ago which resulted in a fracture or two and the necessity of wearing a neck brace for a dozen or so weeks. 

And these limitations, I have to confess, do result in my sometimes adopting different avoidance strategies which can keep me from straying further than the local Turkish café for my morning coffee or to the nearby shops. So I’ve tried to make a pact with myself: walk every other day, even if it’s a walk round a couple of blocks. Try to do more than that if you can.

Well, yes. I knew from chatting with them that my neighbours, of a similar age, perhaps a little younger, and one of them also walking with a stick, quite frequently began a walk by taking the bus to a starting point a short way distant, just to mix things up. Golders Hill Park on the far side of Hampstead Heath, I knew from time to time they went there.

Either a 390 or 134 to Archway and then a 210, which would drop me outside the entrance to the park. Fortified by a fairly decent coffee, I set out on a vaguely circular route that would take me through the nicely tended garden of shrubs and flowers – time for a rest on a friendly bench – and round past the bird and animal sanctuary, up a short incline and into the Hill Garden, a little known haven that is beautifully looked after and leads onto the Pergola, a raised archway running above yet more flowers and shrubbery, finally turning you out close to the road by Jack Straw’s Castle, where it had been my intention to pick up a 210 for the reverse journey towards home. 

But, perhaps with the oncologist’s words echoing in my ears, I decided to press on, crossed the road into Hampstead Heath and slowly made my way, with a healthy stop or two on the way, back towards home. 9472 steps, 3.4 miles.

Walking with Geoff …

Spurred on by the positive comments in response to my previous post, I’ve logged reasonable distances over the past week: on Thursday, a couple of miles around the perimeter of Highgate Wood; close to three on Sunday, a good number of those making my way from Herne Hill station to Dulwich Picture Gallery in what, to me, was excesssive heat, and today an amble to the boating pond on Hampstead Heath, a destination since I was old enough to walk from where we lived on the far side of Tufnell Park.

In recent years, it’s been my habit to bring a book, then sit and read on one or other of the benches at the southern end of the pond, glancing up occasionally at the movement of moorhens across the water or to nod a greeting to passers-by. Today I’m reading Geoff Dyer’s ‘The Last Days of Roger Federer and Other Endings’: as the title suggests, a zigzag through the final effective years of those whose glory days are largely behind them – whether they are prepared to admit it or not. The points of reference, as one would expect from Dyer, are wide and sometimes surprising – John Berger and Nietzsche, of course (too much Nietzsche?), D. H. Lawrence, Dylan, Larkin, Amis and all those heroes out on Centre Court: Sampras, Becker, Murray and Federer himself. But Hemingway? And Larry McMurtry’s ‘Lonesome Dove’?

Throughout, the underlying questions are the same: how do you know when, as an artist, an athlete, you’re getting towards the end of your productive life? And what do you then do with that knowledge? Quietly retire or – and the dangers of this are manifold – attempt the big comeback? One last job? Where writers are concerned, Dyer seems to suggest, better to let the ink dry, leave the cover on the typewriter, let the latop run down uncharged. Better that than labour to create something a poor shadow of its former self.

In addition to the pleasures of reading Dyer’s prose and following the quicksilver way in which (even at middle age) his mind switches direction, it should be obvious why this particular book of his appeals. The Last Days of … 

I thought writers never retired, people say, when I tell them that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve had two jobs in my life: for a dozen or so years I taught English and Drama in secondary schools, and after that I earned my living writing. At this stage, this age, it’s good to be reminded of both: the occasional message from someone I taught many years ago who remembers with pleasure a particular lesson, a drama production in which they took part; someone in whose life I made a small difference. 

And the writing? One thing I’m not going to do is set out on another novel, knowing full well I no longer have the physical or mental resources. But, hopefully, I have a slender collection of new poems on its way before the end of the year, and then, just perhaps, I’ll get around to writing that short story that’s been bugging me since before Covid, the first paragraph of which remains virtually unchanged, despite the number of times it wakes me somewhere close to 4.30 with the suggestion of a small alteration, shift the adverb here, the comma there … Something to cling onto before I’m rendered down to the obituary writers and remainder book dealers …

They found the man’s body first …

Siehe auch: John Harvey: Erst Western, später Kriminalromane, bei uns September 2015
Alf Mayer über sein Buch „Body & Soul“: Oft sitzt man da und denkt nur: Meisterlich!
Alf Mayer über seinen Roman „Unter Tage. Charlie Resnicks letzter Fall“: Kohlenpott Blues, mit Interview.
John Harvey über Charlie Resnick, übersetzt von Susanna Mende, hier.
Sein Blog: „Some Days You Do. Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music – the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer’s life“
Seine Texte bei CrimeMag hier.

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