How Is Astrid Fritz Doing?

Freitag, 1. Juli 2016 | 

Schlagwörter »  |  Thema: 2016-2, englisch, Newsletter, Was macht eigentlich?

Astrid Fritz studied Romance studies and German studies at the University of Freiburg from 1980–1987. Today she uses her charm, wit, and knowledge to whisk readers off to bygone days in her historical novels, many of which are set in Freiburg. The author has succeeded time and again over the years in arousing readers’ interest in history with her gripping tales. Her path to authorship began with a Freiburg city guide. Alumni’aktuell asked the well-known author about her bond with Freiburg.

alumni’aktuell: What made you decide to study in Freiburg?

Astrid Fritz: I knew the town because my older brother studied there, and I knew after visiting him for the first time that Freiburg would be the ideal alternative to the big city atmosphere of Munich, where I wasn’t particularly happy: namely, a small, lively, alternative student town in splendid natural surroundings!

alumni’aktuell: Your life’s path led you back to Freiburg again and again. What do you associate with the town you studied in? What do you remember about your studies in Freiburg?

Astrid Fritz: I came to love Freiburg very quickly, to the point where it became my second home. I first returned after my first job in Darmstadt, and then again after our three year stay in Chile. I think Freiburg has shaped me more than any other city: I made a lot of friends I still have today there, and of course I also met my life partner there. There are a lot of things I’m fond of looking back on: riding my bike through the city center, spending long evenings at the Feierling beer garden or Babeuf, going to concerts in Vorderhaus or Fabrik, studying with groups at the lake, or going on hikes through the Wutach Gorge. My memories of the university itself are also mostly positive: The humanities were marked by an alternative, left-leaning culture at the time, and that was very much to my liking. Oh, yes: Another great place to meet up with classmates was “Café Senkrecht” on the university quadrangle!

alumni’aktuell: Your literary career began in 1998 with the guidebook you wrote together with your former classmate Bernhard Thill. How did you strike on this idea?

Astrid Fritz: The first edition had already come out in 1992, by a small Frankfurt publisher. We were both out of work at the time and wanted to do something interesting. Bernhard came back from a trip to Paris with a so-called “guide noir,” which explored the secrets of the city. We decided then and there to do the same thing for Freiburg and started collecting bizarre, mysterious, or humorous stories from off the beaten tourist path.

alumni’aktuell: What are your favorite places in Freiburg – do you have any insider tips?

Astrid Fritz: What I was especially fond of in my time were the quiet, almost enchanted spots around Adelhauser Church, Annaplatz in Wiehre, the playground on Erwinstraße that used to be a cemetery, and the Old Cemetery as a whole. And as an alternative, I also liked the many good bars in Stühlinger and Wiehre. Not to forget the restaurants St. Valentin and St. Ottilien in the surrounding forest.

alumni’aktuell: What motivated you to start writing?

Astrid Fritz: What sparked it off was the city guide Unbekanntes Freiburg (“Unknown Freiburg”) with Bernhard Thill. After that I first worked as a magazine editor and technical writer, but an idea for a novel was already taking shape in the back of my mind, namely the one about Catharina Stadellmenin, who was executed in 1599 as an alleged witch and about whom I had already written in the guidebook. Then I took advantage of my maternity leave to put it down on paper. Die Hexe von Freiburg (“The Witch of Freiburg”) was eventually published in 2003. More novels followed, and I’ve made my living as a writer ever since.

alumni’aktuell: You are a very well-known author of historical novels, many of which are set in Freiburg. What fascinates you about history, and how do you research your novels?

Astrid Fritz: For me, history means understanding today’s world better and discovering our own roots. I’ve been interested in history since my school days and had a great teacher who taught us about the everyday lives of ordinary people. Even in my youth I enjoyed transporting myself back into the past and imagining what it would have been like to live in the Middle Ages or during the Thirty Years’ War, and later I positively devoured novels like The Physician and The Pillars of the Earth. I’m still fascinated by old monasteries and medieval lanes today, because I can sense how they are the visible remains of our ancestors. And so I do a lot of research on location, soak up impressions, and dig through records at local history museums. I also have tons of useful literature at home – like the marvelous three-volume Geschichte der Stadt Freiburg (“History of the City of Freiburg”), histories of everyday life on all manner of topics and from various eras, illustrated volumes, catalogs, and much more. From time to time I also do research on the Internet, but you have to be a bit careful with the sources you find there.

alumni’aktuell: Your latest novel, Unter dem Banner des Kreuzes (“Under the Standard of the Cross”), came out in July 2016 and is set in Freiburg in the year 1212. The book is narrated from the perspective of the 17-year-old Anna. What appealed to you about giving this and your other novels a bold female protagonist?

Astrid Fritz: That was a really crazy undertaking: Thousands of young and mostly poor people set off, unarmed and without provisions, to liberate Jerusalem from the clutches of the “unbelievers” with the power of their faith and thus to save Christianity. Most of them – there were of course also soldiers of fortune and thrill-seekers – saw it as their holy mission and endured unthinkable trials and tribulations and even death! Contemporary chroniclers teach us that there were a number of girls and young women among them – for them it was a particularly bold move to give up their security and h

Astrid Fritz
Astrid Fritz: author of historical novels (c) Jochen Quast

ome. The idea of putting myself in one of these young women’s shoes was very appealing, and since the religious motives of the crusaders were always accompanied by personal motives, I decided to give Anna a brutal father she wanted to escape from.

alumni’aktuell: Is Anna a fictional character or a historical figure?

Astrid Fritz: She is as fictional as the other protagonists, because we don’t know anything about the individual crusaders. There is historical documentation of their leader, however, the shepherd boy Nicholas of Cologne, and I did my best to research the background of the so-called Children’s Crusade as painstakingly as possible, as well as the young town of Freiburg under the Dukes of Zähringen.

alumni’aktuell: What about your studies in Freiburg? How did they shape your life’s path? What did you learn that was useful later on?

Astrid Fritz: As I said before, I met my future husband while studying and also met people I’m still friends with today. In addition, I learned a number of basic writing skills studying literature and Romance studies: I learned how to conduct systematic research and develop themes, I learned how to make sense of historical developments and contexts, and of course language also played an important role in my studies. Plus, as if in anticipation of my future career as a writer, I then wrote my final thesis on the new German detective novel.

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