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February 24, 2015 | Lecture | Zeitgeist: DC 2015 - Contemporary German Language Literature

  • Austrian Cultural Forum 3524 International Court Northwest Washington, DC, 20008 United States (map)

Zeitgeist: DC 2015 - Contemporary German Language Literature

German author Matthias Nawrat tells the story of a young girl in his novel Entrepreneur (Unternehmer). Thirteen-year-old Lipa is employee of the month in a special kind of family business. Together with her father and brother, she combs through the industrial ruins of the Black Forest looking for scrap items they can sell. Nawrat relates her story in a naïve way while simultaneously caricaturing our current achievement-oriented society.

Matthias Nawrat (b. 1979 in Opole, Poland) lives in Berlin. He published his debut novel, Both of Us Alone (Wir zwei allein), in 2012. His second novel, Entrepreneurs (Unternehmer), received the Kelag Prize (with a 10,000 Euro endowment) at the 36th Annual Days of German Literature in 2012, and was subsequently published in 2014. In 2013, Nawrat received the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize.

Austrian author Marjana Gaponenko will present her book Who is Martha (Wer ist Martha?). It tells the story of Luka Lewadski: a Ukrainian ornithologist and author. Old age has crept up on him while he was busy with his research and now he is ninety-six. He doesn’t have much time left, his doctor tells him. And he’s going to make good use of it, Lewadski tells himself. So he buys himself the most expensive cufflinks he can find and makes his way to Vienna and checks into a posh hotel, where some interesting things begin to happen.

Marjana Gaponenko (b. 1981 in Odessa, Ukraine) took private German lessons and has been writing in German since she was sixteen. She has a degree in German studies from Odessa University. Who is Martha? (Wer ist Martha?) is her second novel. It was awarded the 2013 Adelbert von Chamisso Prize. She has also published volumes of poetry. She lives in Vienna and Mainz.

Vertigo is the title of one of Swiss author Monique Schwitter’s stories in her 2011 collection Goldfish Memory (Goldfischgedächtnis). And you might well become dizzy when you read these unusual short stories. Are they true or not? "Whether this story is true, I don't know, but I've heard it so often, I can't imagine it wouldn't be." In the fifteen stories making up this collection, the characters often find themselves on shaky ground. Things are not easy for them: on the contrary. In the end all they want is a secure place in an insecure world. These stories are above all about the struggle to survive. The characters take things to extremes, to where tragedy and comedy, hope and hopelessness, life and death, clash. A man sits in a hotel room and reads and reads, until reading takes over his life and becomes more real than reality.

A small boy is shocked when his father grants his Halloween wishes. An actress complains that she remembers all the lines of all the parts she has ever had to learn in her life: "I've forgotten the technique of forgetting my lines!" She is forced to remember everything. Remembering and forgetting are recurring themes in these intricately crafted stories.

Monique Schwitter (b. 1972 in Zurich) lives and works in Hamburg. She studied acting and directing, and performed in Zurich, Frankfurt and Graz. Her first volume of short stories, When It Snows at the Crocodile's (Wenn's schneit beim Krokodil), received the 2006 Robert Walser Prize for the best literary debut of the year. In 2008 she published her novel Ears Have No Lids (Ohren haben keine Lider).

Excerpts will be read in both German and English. The writers will introduce and discuss their work in English.

The event will conclude with a reception.

When: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 | 7:30 pm
Where: Austrian Cultural Forum | 3524 International Court NW | Washington, DC, 20008
Tickets: FREE | Please register at