Kosmos Wiepersdorf


Felicitas Hoppe: Castle Parachutist


Felicitas Hoppe: Castle Parachutist

Now, after almost thirty years, the whole thing of course is nothing but a vague memory; but since there are plenty of witnesses from back then, it must really be true. So, yes: once upon a time I did indeed jump out of an airplane not far from Wiepersdorf, or, to be more precise, I fell out of a rickety little Russian military plane from an altitude of almost a thousand meters, dangling from an automatically opening parachute. Incidentally, the jump wasn’t so much the problem as was folding the huge parachute together beforehand. In fact this very much resembles writing: The worse you fold, the worse you fall.

At least, that’s how the rather strict trainer explained it to me shortly before the countdown. But by then it was too late. By the way: the bigger ones jump first because they fall faster; I was the second last. To my great surprise, I landed on both legs. On a pasture. Next to me stood a baffled horse.

Extensive bicycle tours preceded the equivocal adventure on the former military airfield. Such excursions were my means of escaping the romantic baked apples of the castle for hours at a time. I discovered the small airfield while cycling together with my colleague Bernd Böhmel (who came from Dresden and had studied drama with Heiner Müller). It presented a nice contrast to our intellectual world, I thought, as we both sat with coffee in small paper cups in the wind and looked up into the high sky, from which courageous parachutists jumped constantly.

“I can do that too!” I exclaimed all of a sudden. And Bernd retorted: “You’ll never do that. Writers are not parachutists.” And he was right, of course. But I declared that I would do it all the same. Probably just out of pure defiance or boredom, or simply as a way of asserting that a counter-world existed; shortly afterwards we shook hands and made a bet. The next day we booked an introductory course, including ten jumps. Neither of us could really afford it, but our zeal for the sport of mushroom hunting had worn off in the meantime and any new challenge was more than welcome.

On the day of the legendary FIRST JUMP, all the castle residents pilgrimaged to the airfield and then placed their bets. Everyone wanted to witness our test of courage, which was as silly as it was dangerous. Perhaps one or the other even tried to dissuade us from our daring venture. But by then it was too late. Just like when writing.

And just as in writing, above all patience was required before the jump; because the wind was not favorable, much too strong for jumping for the first time, said the trainer. But at some point the wind finally died down, and we got in. We flew up to the higher altitudes. Sang some song about Wiepersdorf. Looked through the window, got scared, and stopped singing. Then I jumped, into the white air, or rather, I fell, counted to three as I fell in the direction of Wiepersdorf—and like in a fairy tale, the parachute opened.

Two minutes later I landed on both feet. Next to an indifferent horse, which didn’t even bother lifting its head. Bernd Böhmel, on the other hand, sprained his ankle; and shortly afterwards the weather turned so bad that, with a sense of relief, I too could forfeit the rest of the jumps that had been booked. In face of pouring rain, I decided, once again, to entirely devote myself to baked apples, mushrooms, and my writing in the fairy-tale castle of Wiepersdorf until the end of the year.

Felicitas Hoppe, born in Hameln in 1960, lives as a writer in Berlin and Valais (Switzerland) and writes and performs all over the world. She publishes short stories, novels, children's books, and essays; most recently, the novel Die Nibelungen – ein deutscher Stummfilm was published by S. Fischer. She is the winner of the Georg Büchner Prize 2012 and the first recipient of the Grand Prize of the German Literature Fund (2020).