Sibylle Lewitscharoff – A True, Witty and Meaning-Giving Power of Language
2011 was an excellent year for her. A rain of awards fell on our author: the Wilhelm Raabe-Literature Prize, the Ricarda Huch Prize, a nomination for the German Book Prize, the Marieluise Fleißer Prize. With her latest novel Blumenberg, a tale told in the form of a modern saint’s legend about the eponymous philosopher, Sibylle Lewitscharoff has moved seemingly effortlessly into the center of the German literary world.
Human reality broken by weighty words
Lewitscharoff’s texts are based on human reality. But they do not aspire to be copies of reality. The M.A. in Religious Studies pursues the fundamental human questions. She translates themes from the Old and New Testament into the present day. Her pop novel Consummatus shrinks neither in its title nor in its contents from allusions to Jesus’ last words on the cross (“It is finished”).
“It is well known that storytelling is a versatile, sometimes cunning capacity. […] Storytelling is about meaning”, says Lewitscharoff in “Der mörderische Kern des Erzählens” (The Murderous Core of the Narrative). In all modesty and with gratitude for her audience, she presents in this essay her poetics. The jury of the 2010 Berlin Literature Prize describes her texts thus: “uncommonly dense and original prose works […] that oppose all classifications with their own peculiar amalgam of humor and profundity. […]Lewitscharoff’s poetic gesture is a brilliant recitative, a virtuoso rhetoric”.
Pong – the discovery
It was in Austrian Klagenfurt, however, that the author from Stuttgart-Degerloch was discovered. In 1998 Lewitscharoff was awarded the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. Pong – it all started then. Yet it still took two years before Lewitscharoff could really live from writing and quit her formal profession of accountant.
The novel Pong catapulted the then just forty-something author into the public limelight. She burned everything that she had written before and has no regrets about doing so to this day. In the stream of thought of Pong’s strange protagonist, Lewitscharoff showed a new view of the world.
A childhood in Swabia
As the daughter of a Bulgarian doctor, Lewitscharoff had a difficult childhood and youth in the city of her birth. Episodes based on these experiences may appear in the drawings and descriptions of the children’s book Der höfliche Harald (Polite Harold). But bizarre and crippling childhood experiences, such as the suicide of her father, also slip into the figure of the film producer Cassini-Stahl in her novel Montgomery.
Apostoloff presented her literary reckoning with her father. “Please do without me, says the father”, one reads in the novel. “A foaming father-surge flooded the inside of the car; a tremendous hop in the mind that makes the car roof fly off, so that for a short moment we were bowling along under the open sky”. Disguised as a modern travelogue, Lewitscharoff describes the funeral urns of Bulgarians being sent to be buried in the native soil. The next of kin travel with the urns and experience the religious orthodoxy, a country wasting away after socialism, gray and wretched. Relentlessly, unsparing, she describes the patrimonial values; at the same time, she never loses her sense of humor. Lewitscharoff does not see herself as an immigrant; nevertheless, the book business labels her a “Bulgarian-Swabian author”. Since taking her degree, she has lived in Berlin, enriched by one-year stays in Paris and Buenos Aires.
Versatile talent – writing, speaking, silhouettes
In 2009 Lewitscharoff was awarded the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair for Apostoloff. The book showed her to be an artist of versatility, who even designed the novel’s cover as a collage. Superfine silhouettes and paper models, which she collects in her notebooks, are part of her way of preparing for writing. Lewitscharoff’s treatment of German grammar is also delicate and craftsman-like, as Satzbau” (Syntax), a board game that she invented, shows.
As speaker of the audio book version of Apostoloff, she brings the tonality of her language to life with an unmistakable regional accent. For this achievement the born Swabian has been honored with several awards, including the German Record Critics Prize.
One has altogether the impression that Lewitscharoff, who grew up amidst Pietism, likes preaching from a pulpit, just as did her venerated Friedrich Schiller, as she describes in her essay Der Dichter als Kind (The Poet as a Child). With joy in eloquent presentation, she entrusts her words and her message to others. She radiated this talent in 2010 as the Heiner Müller Visiting Professor in Berlin and in 2011 at the Frankfurt Poetry Lectures. Lewitscharoff is a member of the German Academy for Language and Literature and of the Berlin Academy of the Arts.
The author is a writer and cultural manager. She works for the Intercultural Division of the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
Any questions about this article? Please write to us!