Sherko Fatah  [ Germany ]


Portrait Sherko Fatah
© Ali Ghandtschi

Guest 2008, 2002.


Im Grenzland
Jung und Jung
Salzburg, 2001

Jung und Jung
Salzburg, 2002

Jung und Jung
Salzburg, 2004

Das dunkle Schiff
Jung und Jung
Salzburg; Wien, 2008

Sherko Fatah was born in East Berlin in 1964, the son of an Iraqi Kurd and a German mother. The family often returned to Iraq for lengthy visits. In 1975, after a period in Vienna, his parents moved to West Germany, where Fatah studied philosophy and art history. During this time he often visited Iraq.

In 2001 Fatah published his celebrated literary début »Im Grenzland« (Eng. »At the borderline«), which was awarded the Aspekte Literature Prize in the same year. An excerpt was also translated into English and included in the anthology »Words Without Borders« (2007). The novel is set in his father’s homeland – in the region where Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet – and tells the story of a smuggler who moves through a war-ravaged and land-mined landscape, which seems to be populated solely by guerrillas and border soldiers. The mechanisms of dictatorship become apparent in the interplay between smugglers, traders, state officials and the military, which plays out in a milieu of poverty. Fatah’s prose impresses the reader with vivid imagery, unsparing harshness and a consciously sparse, almost brittle style of storytelling, which at the same time creates a subtle tension. The bleak and strange aura of the country and its inhabitants also colours the language of the narrative. Every single sentence of the book is permeated with it. »As I see it, there are plenty of good stories that escape our focus because of society’s preoccupation with lifestyle topics. However, we should try to tell a few of them«, the author commented.

After publication of the short story »Donnie« (2002) and the novel »Onkelchen« (2004; t: Little uncle), Fatah most recently published »Das dunkle Schiff« (2008; t: The dark ship). The novel tells the story of Kerim, an Iraqi Kurd who gets caught in the clutches of Muslim jihadists after his father is killed by followers of Saddam Hussein. In order to escape the brutal life in the Iraqi border area, he undertakes a dangerous flight to Germany, where he tries in vain to shed his past and start a new life. »Das dunkle Schiff« is an adventure novel with traditional elements of the coming-of-age novel. It depicts Kerim’s experiences in an austere and realistic manner, making them seem even more appalling. Kerim appears like an Oriental Parsifal, who, as both victim and perpetrator, never becomes conscious of his guilt, and is thereby doomed to fail.

Shortly after its publication the novel was nominated for the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair in 2008. Fatah was also awarded the German Critic’s Special Prize for the most noteworthy prose début, and he has most recently won the Hilde Domin Prize for literature in exile. He received a grant from the Literary Colloquium Berlin, as well as the Alfred Döblin grant from the Berlin Academy of the Arts. The author lives in Berlin.

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