23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Ruth Schweikert

Ruth Schweikert was born in 1965 in Lörrach and grew up in Aarau. She trained in theater and studied German language and literature for a time.

In 1994 she published her first volume of stories »Erdnüsse. Totschlagen« (tr: Peanuts. Kill), in which Schweikert reflects on the relationships within a family and in particular between mothers and daughters. At the center of her début novel »Augen zu« (1998; tr: Close Your Eyes) is the thirty-year-old artist Aleks, who suffers from a »vague sadness«. In flashforwards and flashbacks, we learn about the lives of her and the people who surround her: of her mother, who lost her family in World War II and became addicted to alcohol; of her father, who wants to forget the past; and of the well-ordered, bourgeois life in Switzerland, which Aleks seeks to confront with her unconventionality. »Ruth Schweikert doesn’t spin tales, it’s more that she shares with the reader her allergy to premature judgements and invented conventions. In her texts, she tries to cope with the this-as-well-as-that human relationships … The fact that the space between figures remains so open when the most personal of experiences are depicted does not make it the no man’s land of literature. It is exactly this space that is her workplace, her testing ground«, says Adolf Muschg. Her début novel was followed by the romantic epic »Ohio« (2005) and the time and family novel »Wie wir älter werden« (2015; tr: How We Grow Old). In her latest, very personal book »Tage wie Hunde« (2019; tr: Days Like Dogs), Schweikert talks about her own experience with breast cancer. After she is diagnosed at the beginning of 2016, a carousel of thoughts turns in her head: What happens to one’s own body? What do we know about cancer? For her, the illness marks the beginning of a new era that is initially marked by uncertainty, loneliness, and fear of death. Schweikert mixes autobiographical and medical elements, descriptions of everyday life, memories of her father’s death and reactions from friends, and quotes literary stories of illness from Thomas Bernhard to Jörg Steiner. »Ruth Schweikert demonstrates here with great urgency that narrative sovereignty is impossible in this situation of fundamental upheaval« (»NZZ«).

For her work, Schweikert has been awarded the Bertelsmann Scholarship (1994) at the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition, the Swiss Schiller Foundation Prize (1999), was named the Writer-in-Residence of Bergen-Enkheim (2015), and received the Art Prize of the City of Zurich (2016) and the Solothurn Literature Prize (2016). In addition to her work as a writer, she has participated in various theater projects. She lives in Zurich.