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Image by Hendrik Schneider
Portrait by Jose Cuevas

NOTO: A NOVEL BETWEEN DEATH AND BEAUTY BY ADRIANO SACK

In his debut novel “Noto”, Adriano Sack narrates the story of his protagonist Konrad, who just lost his partner. Set against the vibrant and contradictory landscape of Sicily—their beloved second home—Konrad undertakes a journey of farewell. Surrounded by both longstanding friends and new acquaintances, his journey through grief is intricately interwoven with the rich tapestry of Sicilian life, where the boundaries between life and death, and the old and the new, blur. For Numéro Berlin, the author talks about categories, why routine scares him and what writers don’t like to talk about.

Adriano, if you google “Noto”, the words “gay novel” pop up. Would you agree?

I am a gay man, so I guess the category is correct – if you believe in categories.

Why did you choose Sicily as the setting?

Sicily is my second home and a highly desirable place. Also, it is a spot where beauty and death clash – due to the monstrous and majestic volcano. That seemed quite fitting for the story.

The book describes the contradictory nature of the island very well. How would you define it in your own words?

Heartbreaking and devastating. The natures, as always and everywhere, is great, but for over 2000 years mankind did their best to spoil and ruin it.

Of course, your book is fiction, and yet there are some overlaps with your life. How does your book relate to reality?

There is a lot of autobiographical stuff in it, a lot of fake-autobiographical stuff and a lot of made-up stuff. So, this novel is a labyrinth, a riddle, a hall of mirrors. What is true though: I do have a house in Noto and a dog named Jack.

More specifically, what does the dead Adriano have to do with you?

Adriano the novel character is a distant relative of me that I am not terribly fond of. Like the bitter and embarrassing uncle who keeps telling stories of his almost greatness (but has a good heart).

Grief is the main motif of the book and yet it seems very lively and humorous. How do you feel about the connection between grief and allowing joy?

Most funeral services end with the guests telling jokes about the departed. I guess we can’t stand the darkness for too long.

The book is also the protagonist’s search for himself. Could the novel be seen as a belated coming of age?

There is not a proper age for coming of age. The protagonist is a grown-up man who suddenly experiences a terrible loss that shatters his entire existence. Yet, he finds out that this not only causes a great amount of pain, but it changes him. Better late than never.

On his journey, Konrad rediscovers his sexuality and encounters new experiences. Why was the aspect of sexuality important to you?

Because sex is life.

What does Gwyneth Paltrow have to do with all this?

Gwyneth Paltrow – as the one-eyed horse, the naked soldier, the killer whales in the Mediterranean, the V.I.P. guest at the big wedding party – is a hint that realism is sometimes just not enough. Plus, she is a great cameo, she is one of the major comedians of her generation, and as a businesswoman she is a con artist, obviously.

Was there a novel hero who served as inspiration for Konrad?

Of course, but I am not allowed to tell.

You are actually a journalist. How do you make the switch to writing a novel?

I just erased myself in the process.

Is routine important to you?

Routine scares me to death. But it turned out, I write early in the morning and sober. Even my dog has to wait for his morning walk.

After you finished writing your book, you left your job as an editor. What happened during the writing process?

I still work as a journalist. I just found out that my true passion is writing. I want to focus on that.

One thing about being a novel writer that no one talks about?

There is pain, doubts, dead-ends in the process. But writing a novel can also be absolutely enjoyable. On good days I believed I could fly.

One book everyone should have read?

That is an impossible question. But I give you this: I just finished “James” by Percival Everett. It tells the adventures of Huckleberry Finn on the Mississippi, but instead of Huck the narrator is his friend, the escaped slave Jim/James. The change of perspective creates an entirely new story and the novel is a wild and witty comment on racism in America. Also it is terrible, funny and tender. I guess that is what we are all trying to achieve.

ZALANDO LIGHTS THE GAME

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