As the head of the department for administration IT, technical media infrastructure, and further central services, Waltraud Brendt is a known figure on campus. It is astonishing that this agile woman, who leads projects and is responsible for hardware, software, telephones, the post office, and much more, still finds the time to read. Yet she does. Extensively. She reads during long train journeys and sometimes at night at home. Waltraud Brendt explains what a “vacuum book” is.
“I read everything,” says the current head of department. At the end of March, she is retiring. She is rejoicing already: “Then I can finally browse books during the day.” What does everything mean? “From Klaus Peter Wolf’s crime novels, to Frank Schätzing and even Gabriel Garcia Márquez.” Books are her friends, the 64-year-old emphasizes. “There are very few that I only read once.” The novel that she recommends is called “What You Can See From Here” by Mariana Leky, a writer born in Cologne in 1973. Of course, Waltraud Brendt has read this mesmerizing, whimsical story, which appears to be much like a fairytale, twice.
When the Okapi Appears
The story is set in a village in Westerwald. The hook: When an okapi appears in the dreams of one of the main characters, Selma, a village citizen dies within 24 hours. The explanation of what an okapi is can be found on page 139: “It is one of the last large mammals that humans discovered. It looks like a cross between a zebra, tapir, deer, mouse, and giraffe.” Waltraud Brendt enthusiastically explains what the characters then do. “They write letters. They wish to rid themselves of old truths and want to right wrongs.” If no one has died after 24 hours, they besiege the postbox the next day and have the postal worker return their letters to them.
Letting the World In
It is a book to slow down with in her opinion. “It is about staying and going,” she says and praises the “loving, detailed story.” For example, fat Elsbeth: When she gets into the car, she places a rug over her stomach so that the steering wheel can actually be turned. The whole story is told in a “wonderful, laconic language.” In the end, it is the story of the first person narrator, the girl Luise, which grows. Her father always tells her to let the world in. She is too enclosed in the village. How she lets in the world is extremely special.
Retraining to Become a Bookseller
Waltraud Brendt not only reads to relax, to educate herself, to develop the heart, and for the aesthetic enjoyment. No, Waltraud Brendt also reads professionally. During her economics degree in Bremen in 1980, she felt drawn in by the Heinrich Vogeler bookstore on Fedelhören street. Unfortunately, the bookstore is no longer there. “I loved the store and contributed to the book tables. I was asked if I would like to help out there after my diploma qualification,” she states. “That turned into ten years.” Waltraud Brendt retrained as a bookseller back then. Maybe she would still be doing that job if the store had not closed its doors.
What Is a “Vacuum Book”?
In 1990, the trained economist, retrained bookseller, and additionally trained IT lecturer came to the university. “Back then, the typewriter was being replaced by the computer and I trained secretaries and tried to dispel their fears of new technology,” she remembers. Step for step she climbed the career ladder and will now be leaving the campus after 30 years. But not without explaining what a “vacuum book” is. “It is quite simple,” says Waltraud Brendt, “you are sucked into a book, much like a vacuum, and then you live in that world, forget everything else, and read. Sometimes for the whole night, if needed.” We wish her all the best on her travels and hope she has fantastic books in her luggage! __
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