A profound yet witty novel about the power of art in dark times.
(Schwitters in the Lakes)
by Ulrike Draesner
Penguin Germany, August 2020
(chez Verlagsgruppe Random House – voir catalogue)
How do you begin a future that has essentially already ended, separated from your home, your language and yourself by a stretch of water? Kurt Schwitters is forty-nine years old when the Nazis force him to flee Germany. His success, work, possessions, parents, and wife Helma stay behind – and art gives way to the art of survival. Schwitters’s second life in a foreign language begins in Norway, then takes him to London and finally to the Lake District. Wantee, the new woman at his side, keeps him on course and his head above water, even when the word artist falls silent. With his Merzbau installation, Schwitters has discovered a new way to capture sky and serenity, shimmering meadows and transparent air. He is ludicrously disciplined, to the point of exhaustion. As we watch him at work, we learn that art doesn’t interpret the world: It translates it into forms that move us. In SCHWITTERS, Ulrike Draesner follows the writer and artist Kurt Schwitters into exile, giving voice to Kurt, his wife, his son and his lover. Through a virtuoso blend of fact and fiction, she has created a panorama of a time when the struggle for freedom and art was renewed in the face of a world on fire.
Ulrike Draesner, born in 1962, is a lyricist, novelist and essayist. She studied English, German and philosophy and has worked as an academic, translator and editor. She has published poetry collections, short stories, and novels, and held posts at several renowned universities such as the Swiss Literature Institute in Biel. She was a Visiting Fellow at New College, Oxford and at the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities and is professor for German Literature and Creative Writing at the Deutsche Literaturinstitut Leipzig. Ulrike Draesner has received numerous awards.