Natalia Wörner on cats, public reading & prosthetic limbs
The 24-hour literary festival 24 Stunden Buch, debuted in Berlin recently. With sold-out readings, lively discussions and unusual special events around-the-clock, the festival was a huge success. At the Hotel Concorde Berlin, the German actress Natalia Wörner’s reading from the new anthology ‘Von Frauen and Katzen’ was everything a literary event should be: in turn engaging, funny and moving.
The book, which includes works from the likes of Virginia Woolf, Marlen Haushofer and Katja Lange-Müller, presents a complex picture of the special relationship between women and cats. The publisher, Detlef Bluhm, was also present on the evening to put the book’s subject matter into its historical and social context.
I caught up with Natalia Wörner to talk cats, public reading and the world’s first prosthetic limb.
Do you personally think that women and cats have a special relationship?
Of course I know lots of women who have a special relationship with cats, and see a lot of themselves in cats. I know men who have a close relationship with cats, but I believe a really loving relationship between a woman and a cat is different, because there are simply some characteristics that they share, such as unpredictability and intuition. Perhaps that’s why women and cats get on so well together; there is this anarchy towards one another, but also utter dependance and trust. I think that’s what I love about cats: it’s impossible to bribe them, which is true for women as well really.
Have you ever owned a cat?
I had a cat when I was a child. He was called Charlie and he lived to be 13 years old – a very dignified age for a cat. I was inconsolable when he died; it was like losing a family member. I was given Charlie when I was about four or five and that was like a sibling. I had another cat after Charlie, called Fritzi, but she was a bit crazy. We had to give her away in the end because she needed more space than we could give her in the city. Charlie was a real house cat, and it was a big loss.
So you think it’s these similarities which unite them?
I think there are just certain characteristics in cats which are really easy for women to understand, more so than in dogs, for example. It’s a big generalisation and there are lots of exceptions, but a dog is a classic man’s pet, and a cat is a classic woman’s pet, and that has a depth which I believe in.
Have you had dogs?
I had a dog too, after Charlie. I never dared to let a cat get so close to me again after Charlie, because the loss was so terrible. From a pedagogical perspective I think it’s important for children to have pets, to grow up with them and take responsibility for them. But the connection, especially when it comes to cats and dogs, is so personal. This makes the relationship quite unique, and for me, it never repeated itself.
Does your son have a pet?
He would like a dog. We’re thinking about getting one, since we have a house out in the country, where a dog belongs. But when I’m shooting a film and having to travel a lot, it can make things quite complicated.
What persuaded you to take part in the project 24 Stunden Buch?
I just find the idea that for 24 hours somebody, somewhere in this city is reading to an audience wonderful. Berlin is bursting at the seams with events and opportunities, and sometimes you have the feeling that there’s too much, and everything starts to look the same. But to be read to is such an act of love and care. Especially with small children, who love being read to, you realise how important it is, and that it brings you closer together. It’s something which cannot be easily replicated or replaced. I think in a world so full of information and communication overload, it’s so difficult to select what is important and what you can do without. Listening to somebody’s voice in this way is incredibly intimate and individual. I try to read to my son every day, and it’s funny that now I have a guilty conscience when I don’t manage it. I don’t think you can underestimate it, and I personally find it very fun.
Public readings seem to be particularly popular in Germany…
Is that right? I think it would be interesting to find out about the historical trends, and surges in popularity of public reading. Is it particularly trendy at the moment? Take audio books for example, which are hugely popular right now, whereas 10 or 15 years ago this was not the case. Where does this enthusiasm for being read to come from? Is it a childish need for care and love. I don’t know. But it’s about more than just the content of the book itself, otherwise you could simply read it.
What are you reading right now?
My tastes are quite varied. I read books for pleasure, to broaden my knowledge on a particular subject, and often to prepare me for a certain role. Sadly I am one of those people who always has about eight books on the go at once. It’s terrible!
What are you currently working on?
A film about Götz von Berlichinge, a 16th century nobleman whose hand was chopped off, and who received the world’s first prosthetic limb. It will be a relatively big production, and we’re due to start filming in the Czech Republic from the end of July. I will be playing a princess – a very evil one!
And finally, what do you think of the Hotel Concorde Berlin?
I have spent a lot of time here for press days. If I’m promoting a new film or an upcoming project, I’ll often have a suite here for interviews and so on. I always found it extremely pleasant. Since I’m a Berliner I don’t spend much time in hotels, but I have very good memories of this hotel.