Schwitters in the Lakes

"Her 'Schwitters' is intelligent, her novel a trenchant portrait of the times, her book compelling. It is an attempt at a life that also represents the 'other Germany' beyond Nazi barbarism, a portrait of the 'other German'. […] A beautiful approach to one who has been ostracized, even forgotten, in his native land." - Buchkultur

"Ulrike Draesner has written a new, great novel. […] With Schwitters in the Lakes, [she] makes the world shine – more brightly than anyone else in contemporary German literature could do." - Passauer Neue Presse

A profound yet witty novel about the power of art in dark times

How do you begin a future that has essentially already ended, separated from your home, your language and yourself by a stretch of water? Kurt Schwitters is forty-nine years old when the Nazis force him to flee Germany. His success, work, possessions, parents, and wife Helma stay behind – and art gives way to the art of survival.

Schwitters’s second life in a foreign language begins in Norway, then takes him to London and finally to the Lake District. Wantee, the new woman at his side, keeps him on course and his head above water, even when the word artist falls silent. With his Merzbau installation, Schwitters has discovered a new way to capture sky and serenity, shimmering meadows and transparent air. He is ludicrously disciplined, to the point of exhaustion. As we watch him at work, we learn that art doesn’t interpret the world: It translates it into forms that move us.

In Schwitters in the Lakes, Ulrike Draesner follows the writer and artist Kurt Schwitters into exile, giving voice to Kurt, his wife, his son and his lover. Through a virtuoso blend of fact and fiction, she has created a panorama of a time when the struggle for freedom and art was renewed in the face of a world on fire.


Selected by New Books in German