22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Urs Mannhart

Portrait Urs Mannhart
© Beat Schweizer

The Swiss writer Urs Mannhart was born in Rohrbach in 1975. He studied German, English, and philosophy for a few semesters and has worked as a bicycle courier and night watchman in an asylum centre.
Since 2004, he has published reports in »Der Neue Bund« and made his debut as a writer with his novel »Luchs« (2004; tr: Lynx). Inspiration to write this piece came after his civilian service in a lynx reintroduction project. Framed by factual accounts and descriptions of the landscape, the text, which can be classified as an environmental thriller and a modern regional novel, tells of the conflict between traditionally oriented, solitary mountain farmers and urban biologists. While the latter try to reclaim the lynx’s habitat, the hunters in the valley make a bet as to who will kill a lynx first. In his second novel, »Die Anomalie des geomagnetischen Feldes südöstlich von Domodossola« (2006; tr: The Anomaly of the Geomagnetic Field Southeast of Domodossola), which won the Book Prize of the Canton of Bern, Mannhart tells the story of an unlikely love: the narrator wants to return to his beloved in faraway Rome, but gets stuck at the train station in Domodossola because of a rail strike – or perhaps because of geomagnetic disturbances. After receiving a »Weiterschreiben« grant from Bern, which he was the first to receive together with Verena Stefan, Mannhart published »Kuriernovelle oder Der heimlich noch überbringende Schlüsselbund der Antonia Settembrini« (tr: Curiosity Novella or The Secretly Still Delivering Keychain of Antonia Settembrini«) in 2008, which depicts the everyday life of a bicycle courier. His third novel, »Bergsteigen im Flachland« (2014; tr: Mountaineering in the Lowlands), stitches together a wealth of stories ranging from Switzerland and Norway, to the Balkans and Spain, into a narrative about the relationship between love and violence. It follows a reporter who uses the experiences of individuals to describe the shocking events of 1999: war in Kosovo, NATO’s bombing of Serbia, the threat to Romania’s nature, and much more. The »NZZ« stated that »In his novel, Urs Mannhart sketches a European geography of killing, of murder, of violence – and of the desperate as well as often futile attempts to defend the dams of civilization against barbarism«. His most recent work, »Gschwind oder Das mutmaßlich zweckfreie Zirpen der Grillen« (2021; Gschwind or the Presumably Purposeless Chirping of Crickets), deals with the overexploitation of mines.
Together with Matthias Kunz, Mannhart wrote the play idiomatically titled »Ds chlinere Übel – Es Dorf schuflet a sire Zuekunft« (2016; tr: The Lesser Evil – A Village Works For Its Future). He has also published a series of photo reportages with photographer Beat Schweizer and is a member of Die Autören. He has received a number of awards, including the 2017 Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Prize, and was invited to participate in the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition. He also works in biodynamic agriculture and lives in Iffwil, Canton Bern.