Peter Kurzeck was born in 1943 in Bohemia and grew up as a refugee child in a village near Giessen. Early in his life he began writing and published texts in local newspapers and journals. He broke off his apprenticeship in a grocer’s shop repeatedly to travel to Vienna, Paris or Trieste. At the age of 28 he became head of personnel at a large department of the US-army. He gave up this job in order to live as a freelance writer and moved in 1977 to Frankfurt am Main. He has received numerous grants and awards for his novels and stories, among these prizes are the Alfred Döblin Prize, the Great Literature Prize of the Bavarian Academy of the Fine Arts, the Kranichsteiner Literature Prize and the Goethe Medal of the city of Frankfurt am Main. In 2001 Peter Kurzeck was Writer in Residency of Bergen-Enkheim.
“At quite an early age I gave in to the irresistible urge not to forget anything.” This is how Peter Kurzeck describes his approach to writing: “….because everything that we cannot remember may be lost forever. If we know nothing of yesterday, yesterday never was, neither was Bohemia, and neither were we.” From book to book he has held less and less to the present moment but rather to that remembered material which is already several years old or even decades: the time in the village, the many journeys, drops of water of the River Main or “Frankfurt in my books and Frankfurt in my life”. He naturally does not leave out the immediate moment, but allows it to be absorbed into the literary imagination.
Peter Kurzeck’s first novel, ‘Der Nussbaum gegenüber vom Laden, in dem du dein Brot kaufst’ (1979), is characterised by a feeling of loss of homeland, by break-outs, flight and repetition. In the ‘eternal time of the present’, stories from the last twenty years intertwine.
In ‘Kein Frühling’ (1979), the author attempts to describe the immediate post-war years in the village of Stauffenburg in Oberhessen, where Kurzeck grew up. It is a dialogue with the fictitious shadow of the narrator. The latter is told recollections and living conditions in the village which is bathed in a melancholy light. It is drizzling and lumps of mud stick to one’s shoes. Hopes melt like snow in the rain, but spring, which could bring new hopes is reluctant to come. Here, too, narrating means holding on to time, freezing daily events. There are no dramatic love relationships or thrilling criminal cases in Kurzeck’s universe, only measured eternity or what one thinks that is.
‘Keiner stirbt’ (1990), too, is set in the fifties. It tells the story of Crohn, a stranded business man and his four passengers on their way from Giessen to the bright lights of the city of Frankfurt am Main and back again. At the end it is also clear: “Immortality is life in a memory which itself dies – we live from one forgotten thing to the other.”
In his book, ‘Übers Eis’ (1997), part one of a novel trilogy, the text, for the first time, is held together by an “I”-narrator who is present throughout. In a kind of self-interrogation in brief, almost staccato-like sentences, the narrator describes how he leaves his family. ‘Als Gast’ (2003) and ‘Ein Kirschkern im März’ (2004) make this autobiographical and poetic chronology of the year 1984 complete. Recently he became popular for his vivid readings and audio productions of his novels, including ‘Oktober und wer wir selbst sind’ (2007) and ‘Ein Sommer, der bleibt’ (2007).
Peter Kurzeck lives in Frankfurt am Main and in the town of Uzès, South of France.
© international literature festival berlin