Illustrator and graphic design student Jan Buchczik has been one of our favourites since we stumbled across his work a couple a months ago, so it only made sense for us to pick his brains and find out what his five most inspirational books are. Read on to discover why Spiegelman’s Maus means so much to him, which old cassette tape he loved the most as a child and why he can’t quite bring himself to throw his Warhammer collection away.
Peter Bichsel: Kindergeschichten
This is a collection of unusual philosophical short stories for children. They’re called children’s short stories but I believe they can be enjoyed just as much by “grown ups”. Most of the stories begin with a person who is trying to systematically bring common beliefs into question. For example, one of them is asking why the table is called table and begins to change all the terms for the things around him, until he speaks his own unique language and the whole purpose of language gets lost as he is not able to communicate with anyone. In the end most of the characters somehow fail in their project, but that does not mean they were wrong in the first place or haven’t gained new insights from it. Besides of the clever stories this book contains extraordinary wordplay and sad and unveiling humour.
When I was a kid I used to own this as an audio book read by Peter Bichsel himself. Somehow the cassette got lost over the years and now only the empty cassette shell is left. I’m holding on to the cassette shell now which still serves as a good memory of the countless times I listened to this book while sitting in front of the cassette-player. Just recently I got the book and read through it with great joy, but to tell the truth it’s not the same compelling swiss accent of Peter Bichsel. Still, this will probably be one of my favourite books forever.
Max Frisch: Schwarzes Quadrat
I’m a big fan of the work by architect turned writer Max Frisch. I’m fascinated by his question catalogues, his diaries and short stories. This book contains his two lectures at the City College of New York in 1981. Mixed with quotes from his work, he talks about topics like the function of literature in society, why people write, how theories cannot be used like recipes and why his stories often involve failure, sadness and death. I was three years old when Max Frisch died, I wish I could have gone to one of his talks or readings. Funny coincidence – the epilogue in this book is by above-mentioned Peter Bichsel!
White Dwarf: Aug/Sept 1995
This is the earliest White Dwarf magazine I own, it’s the fifth release in Germany. White Dwarf is a monthly magazine dedicated to the miniature tabletop games of Games Workshop. When I was a kid I was heavily fascinated by fantasy worlds, which led my friends and I to the round-based miniature wargame Warhammer. We absorbed every book and magazine we could get our hands on. This magazine is filled with tips on how to colour the miniatures, epic fantasy drawings, actual battle reports with photographs and interviews about tactics with the players. After years of collecting and playing we eventually moved on but I still own most of the miniatures, books and magazines. Just in case.
Art Spiegelman: Maus
My father gave Maus to me before I left to Chicago in 2007 and still reminds me of a very precious time. Before starting studies in 2009 I was doing a social year abroad to work and live at a Jewish retirement home within the program of ARSP. Because she was of Jewish descent my grandmother was persecuted by the Nazis but she was able to hide in the Netherlands and Germany. She never talked about it to anyone. In the retirement home I was met Holocaust survivors and talked about their experiences in the war. Through that I was able to reconnect to my grandmother. Besides other books and films on the Holocaust this book gave me the most real and haunting insight to a survivors story. I rarely or never find something so blunt and raw, but at the same time perfectly executed, as this book. I don’t know if I like the word but this is a real lifework.
Volker Schlöndorff: Die Blechtrommel, Diary of a screen adaption
As you can see from the last four books I have presented, I really like the idea of using books as milestones, and as an objects to remember certain times from. Like personal diaries, but without writing a single word myself. This book actually is a diary (1977 – 1979) of Volker Schlöndorff during the making of the famous screen-adaption of Die Blechtrommel by Günther Grass. You can follow his every step and thoughts from planning, financing, casting, shooting, cutting and adding sounds to the film. What at first sounds like a geek-book for film students is in my opinion a very interesting glance at what working in a team, working on a long-term project and working on something which is abstract for most of the working process, means. Also, the book stresses what the most important and most human thing in every field of work is, but often (especially in the creative field) can only be viewed from behind the scenes – human interaction.