What Inspired Me to Write My Book
The idea for Goodnight, Gustav Klein sewed itself into reality in Scotland. Grinding my teeth in disdain for the howling wails of a drunken girl at the back of the coach, swaying an even younger girl in her arms who had learned well the devious trick of crying for what one wants from her mother, I stared out into the tantalising mist of a northern winter. The girl screamed irately at some distant arch nemesis called ‘Mum’ on the other end of the telephone, who was supposed to meet her at the bus station in Dundee but failed to reveal what everyone on the chewing-gum seats was sure would be an astounding beauty of angelic proportions; instead, she sent her morbidly obese, bald lover, who slurped at the air as he growled misogynistic nonsense at the young girl with the baby, who consequently threw a bottle of cider at him, firing insurmountable insults in a perplexing Highland tongue, then locked herself in the yellow swamp toilet at the back of the coach. By this point, having ignored the driver’s pleas to relieve his customers of such torturous whines, she had revealed herself to the day once again, stepping out of the toilet in the pathetic veil of a teenage strop with shoes dripping piss onto the cracked wood which clenched in the cold.
I, with every other morbid, restless face melting down the plastic windowpane, stared out into the snarling ferocity of Scottish winter, wishing I could be anywhere else. I wondered how the girl at the back would survive if another passenger fulfilled his wish and threw her out of the window. After scouring the internet for a Bear Grylls app. for advice on how to produce alcopops and cigarettes in the wilderness, she would probably have to eat her own baby to survive... or vice versa.
It was then that my vision was distracted from vicious, bloody dreams of starving youths by the image of a young man on a hilltop – a distant, treeless peak littered with the nonsensical ruins of an ancient castle. The sound of accordions in jittering, high minors savagely circled my head, a double bass pounding its own rhythm in an echoed corner. I knew that the man on the hilltop, his wayward hair dancing from side to side, dressed in filthy cotton rags, shivering in dissatisfaction, was a slice of my mind who could not be ignored... I knew he was Gustav Klein.
I gazed intently at the snow-dotted peak as we drove along the monotonous country road through the Cairngorms, from Inverness to Edinburgh, until the speck in the distance, the vague ideal of escape and freedom, of hedonism and nihilistic desires, in the back of everyone’s mind, merged with the sodden mud and the grey sky. And he was gone.
But I would not soon forget him.
I suppose I have followed a journey not dissimilar to his, through many of the same countries, biding my time until release seizes me in many similar ways, but I am no Gustav Klein.
A hazy notion of Gustav Klein lives in all of us: there is not a single man or woman who has not dreamed of spitting in the boss’ faces, smashing the carriage clock, selling everything and jumping into utter wilderness at least once in the tragic banality of the working day, each and every morbid hour whose ticks and tocks chime like a bastion of possibility – in another, brighter year, when that bonus comes in, when the wife gets her investment in a quicker death back, when the husband has finished knitting his drag disguise for those tedious weekday evenings when nothing’s on telly, when a Big Brother contestant kills himself live on the box and sparks start to flicker and a grey sludge of mashed and processed Channel 4 and BBC and Radio 1 and ITV and Dave and Oh God What’s The Fucking Point? stickers spew from his headless corpse. This remote concept of freedom lingers in the dark, useless bowels of the people; they will never acknowledge him, never delve into the limitless thrill of escape, of drinking hard liquor on one’s own at the corner of miserable roads in countries one has never heard of – they will never live, but Gustav Klein, that faint fire burning, a daunting volcano of whisky and recklessness bubbling below, lives on in the people, but we’ll never notice him...
A stark dystopian world of insatiable greed and ceaseless distraction is that of young Gustav Klein, a German twenty-three-year-old who has just sold his hotel in Munich. He is looking for nothing more than escape. The modern gadgets which flash their endless advertisements are locking society inside brick houses, allowing them to be dumbed-down further by the money-hungry gremlins in the high towers. Gustav Klein, meanwhile, begins a journey over the myriad terrains of Europe, through countless bottles on the corner of morbid winter streets, coloured by the peculiar characters he encounters, some who bestow upon him their wisdom, some who fuel his disdain, some who ignite his desires, and some who merely drink with him until they hit the floor in a merry temperament.
But the hedonistic, aimless rambling must come to end, for life calls. And Gustav lands on a mountain in Scotland, searching for release, for total nature, untouched by the destructive hand of man. But, it seems, it is too late... In this harrowing tale of youthful rebellion, dark nihilism on the road, heavy drinking beatniks, political adversity and the capricious desires of the gluttonous modern man, the reader is taken by the hand firmly and hauled into a bleak world where every man lives for himself. Close your eyes if you are scared, but you cannot escape.
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Genre – Travel, Political, Dystopia, Romance
Rating – PG15
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