Norbert Gstrein was born in Mils near Imst, South Tirol in 1961 and now lives in Hamburg. His novels and stories have met with universal acclaim for their formal brilliance in which the design of reality becomes transparent. Close observation and precisely drawn details merge in complex yet well-balanced sentences to provide descriptions which, in an interplay with chronology and narrative perspective, increasingly become a matter of interpretation. The modes of expression available to language all seem to fall short of the existential dimensions of reality. Gstrein often makes use of a necessary yet honest failure to oppose a premature and sympathetic assimilation of reality.
In his novel »Die englischen Jahre« (1999, tr: The English Years) a writer’s ex-wife visits the former girlfriends of a Jewish immigrant who was considered a great author. In their conversations it becomes clear that the apparent Jew had adopted a fake identity towards the end of the war. This fact provides the motive for the novel, which is less to do with the uncovering of a concealed truth than to the story of its discovery and adaptation as literature..
The ease with which fiction can be mistaken for fact is clear from the critical response to Gstrein’s novel »Das Handwerk des Tötens« (2003, tr: The Craft of Killing). While the author makes use of a journalist’s murder to question war reporting, many critics were disturbed by the connections to real people and the assertions supposedly made about them. Gstrein gave his response in the essay »Wem gehört eine Geschichte?« (2004, tr: To whom does a story belong?).
His latest novel »Die Winter im Süden« (2008; tr: Winters in the South) is about a Croatian fascist who emigrates to Argentina after World War II, leaving his family behind. His daughter is crushed between the knowledge of her father’s guilt and her husband’s self-righteous anti-fascism, even before her father returns to campaign for Croatian independence in 1990.
Norbert Gstrein’s novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages and awarded many prizes, including the Alfred Döblin Prize, the Literature Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Uwe Johnson Prize.
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