Bastian Kresser. Ciabot October 2021.
Words and photos by Bastian Kresser*
Piedmont. The word alone is enough to evoke the taste of cherries, red wine, truffles and hazelnuts on my tongue.
I remember my time there, seeing the images in my mind’s eye and thinking to myself, “Can this really be?”
Can I trust my memory? She’s a prankster, and likes to play tricks on me. She changes what has happened, romanticises it, puts a filter over the images in my head as if it were a matter of course. This time, however, she doesn’t succeed, because the magnificent colours, mild morning mist and captivating beauty of the Langhe have beaten her to it.
It’s autumn and I’m driving the winding roads for the first time, gazing in wonder at the breathtaking landscape with its rolling hills, endless vineyards and picturesque little towns, always centred on a church several hundred years old.
I steer my car along narrow roads, the traffic dissipates, at some point it’s almost non-existent. What seems like every five minutes, I stop, get out, listen to the silence, take a deep breath and try to hold on to the moment, to store it deep inside of me so I can draw on it later when it gets grey and dark again.
I let my gaze wander over the vineyards, which present themselves in all the colours of autumn, and a realisation spreads through me that is to haunt me again and again in the days to come: My vocabulary is not enough.
I am here to write, to devote myself to language, to work on a new novel, and I can’t help but smile at the irony of being in an indescribable place. The colours touch my heart and make me realise that the vocabulary I have painstakingly built up over the last 40 years is not enough to portray what surrounds me here.
It would be offensive to describe the colours of the vineyards simply as yellow, orange, red and brown. No, I need much more to adequately put the immense palette into words. I rummage around in my head and find terms like honey yellow, scarlet orange, brick red and olive brown. A good start, I think to myself; but not good enough by a long shot.
I resolve to Google the terms as soon as I arrive at my accommodation – and forget my resolution the very moment I enter the Ciabot, the place Yvonne Amann and her husband Jörg have given me for a week to devote myself entirely to writing.
It is a mixture of medieval castle and stylish loft; modern, bright architecture embedded in old stone walls. “This is a place to find myself” I think to myself, “not to waste time on the internet”.
Every day I take a trip, wander through the small towns: Monforte d’Alba, Dogliani, Mondovì, each one more charming than the last. I meet my hostess in an osteria, drink wine and enjoy the delicious appetisers. Yvonne whispers a secret in my ear about the cagey waiter whose family has run the restaurant for more than a hundred years: “He distrusts cyclists,” she says and laughs. There is not enough room in their tight trousers to keep money in them.
In a tavern I meet Mauro, a local who loves the area more than anything else and can’t help but rave about it all the time. He dreamily describes the cool, autumnal mornings when only the tops of the hills rise out of the mist. He closes his eyes for a moment, opens them, empties his wine glass in one go and says goodbye with a smile.
The week is over quickly. What remains are images, scenes, smells, tastes and the desire to return.
Back home, I had planned to Google the colours I couldn’t describe. I didn’t. In the end, it would always be an attempt to put into words what one should have seen with one’s own eyes.
*Bastian Kresser, born in Feldkirch in 1981, studied English and American Studies with a focus on American literature at the Leopold Franzens University in Innsbruck.
His debut novel, Ohnedich, was published in April 2013, for which he received the Achensee Literatour Prize in 2014. The same year he was also awarded the Wuppertal Literature Biennale recognition prize for the short story, Vergessen. In 2016, his second novel, Piet, was published.
Bastian Kresser’s third novel Die andere Seite was published by Braumüller Verlag in March 2019 and deals with the refugee crisis in seven intertwined stories.
In 2021, his fourth novel was published with the title Knocking Signs. This historical novel revolves around the lives of the three Fox sisters, who became famous in the second half of the 19th century for their activities as spiritualists and inexplicable seances. His texts have also appeared in various literary magazines and daily newspapers.
Bastian Kresser lives and writes in Vorarlberg.
- Knocking Signs, Braumüller, Vienna 2021
- Die andere Seite, Braumüller, Vienna 2019,
- Piet, Limbus, Innsbruck 2016
- Ohnedich, Limbus, Innsbruck 2013
Hellwach, am Rande des Schlafs, Hanser, Munich 2012, poems by Wallace Stevens. Translated by Joachim Sartorius, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Karin Graf, Michael Köhlmeier and Bastian Kresser.