GERMANY. A teacher who wrote a novel about a love affair between a teacher and pupil has been suspended from his job at a Catholic secondary school and has found himself embroiled in a controversy over literary freedom.
Just days after his first book, Prostitutes Don't Kiss, was published, 37-year-old Carsten Freytag was suspended from the Bischofliche Cusanus grammar in Koblenz where he teaches English and German. His employers, the Bishopric of Trier, told him the novel's subject matter cast doubt over his suitability to be employed by the church. But his publisher, Frieling and Partner of Berlin, hit back at the school's decision, claiming it was "a grotesque modern form of witch-hunting" and "an encroachment on literary freedom". And Carsten Freytag has made media appearances defending his right to write whatever fiction he chooses.
The novel tells the story of a lonely teacher from Germany who seeks love in the arms of English prostitutes in Gravesend before finally falling for a 19-year-old pupil. "It is about loneliness, depression and finding the right person. It is not pornography, far from it. There are only three explicit sex scenes with prostitutes," said Mr Freytag, who said his publisher chose the novel's title in place of his less racy suggestion.
"The church did not even read the book before suspending me, they just looked at the title," he said. But head of the school, Heinz E Mialing, told a news agency the novel was pornographic: "It is a sentence to have to read the book . . . The teacher is even portrayed in bed with the pupil." Mr Mialing claimed the decision to suspend Carsten Freytag had nothing to do with the church. "Every state school would proceed the same way. A teacher of young people cannot write whatever he wants," he added.
In a similar controversy two years ago, author-teacher Dieter Henning was relieved of some of his teaching duties in a Bavarian state school after publishing his first novel Dolly, Dolly, about a man who formed a relationship with blow-up dolls.
Mr Freytag now says he fears he will lose his job but he is not to be put off. The controversy has attracted far greater interest from reviewers than most first novels enjoy, and plenty of publicity. One television talk show also interviewed the author's pupils, who have written a letter protesting against his suspension.
Mr Freytag says he has plenty more literary material: "I have already written my second book, My Californian Girl, about a student travelling through California. It is also erotic in places."