Matthias Nawrat

Portrait Matthias Nawrat
© Ali Ghandtschi

Matthias Nawrat, born in Opole, Poland, in 1979, came to Bamberg with his family at the age of ten. After completing a degree in biology in Heidelberg and Freiburg im Breisgau, he enrolled at the Swiss Literature Institute in Biel/Bienne in 2009.
In 2012, he published his debut novel, »Wir zwei allein« (tr: The Two of Us Alone). A failed student turned vegetable delivery man in Freiburg falls in love with an elf-like shoe saleswoman who keeps eluding him, triggering a rollercoaster of emotions and reflections on existence for the protagonist. The »Literarische Monat« concluded that »Matthias Nawrat manages to cast banal everyday situations in metaphors so beautiful that they force the reader to pause, just to let the power of the images take effect«. In his rather dark novel »Unternehmer« (2014; tr: Entrepeneurs), the tragicomic story of the decline of a family is told from the perspective of a child and, on another level, simultaneously draws a caricature of modern competitive society. In »Die vielen Tode unseres Opas Jurek« (2015; tr: The Many Deaths of Our Grandpa Jurek), Nawrat turns his focus to the story of his own family. He chose to depict his grandfather’s survival experiences during the German occupation of Poland, his imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and life under a socialist dictatorship in the form of a picaresque novel. Nawrat’s fourth novel, »Der traurige Gast« (2019; tr: The Sad Guest), was nominated for a number of awards, including the Leipzig Book Fair Prize. The novel follows the story of a Polish-born, nameless loafer in Berlin who drifts through the wintry city, meeting various people and listening to their life stories. Nawrat does not tell the story in a linear fashion but assembles it piece by piece from individual fates that were and are marked by loss and uncertainty due to the political and social upheavals of the 20th century. Finally, the attack on the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz marks a traumatic shaking of an already fragile sense of security for the first-person narrator. Nawrat’s most recent novel, »Reise nach Maine« (2021; tr: Journey to Maine), is about a writer who wants to travel the United States with his domineering mother. When she tells him that, contrary to her original plans, she wants to spend the entire trip with him and is additionally injured in an accident, the conflict between mother and son finally comes to a head. Their relationship is revealed in meticulously crafted scenes – against the backdrop of America as a land of longing and desire.
Nawrat’s awards include the MDR Literature Prize (2011), the Kelag Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (2012), the Alfred Döblin Medal of the Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz (2016), and the Literature Prize of the European Union (2020). He lives in Berlin.