CREATIVE WRITING CRITIQUE/ Swiss Literary Prize 2009 (Satis Shroff, Freiburg-Kappel)

Basle and Vater Rhein, one of the loveliest cities in Switzerland (c) satisshroff

Creative Writing Critique Swiss Book Prize 2009(Satis Shroff, Freiburg)


A translator and essayist
Born in 1946 in Slovakia,
Grew up in Switzerland,
Living in Zürich,
Won the Swiss Buch.09 award
And 50,000 Swiss Franks.

The jury was delighted
With her ‘Mehr Meer,’
Written with a pen
Dipped in beauty
That fills the world
With poetry.

With her More Seas,
She sailed past Peter Stamm
With his novel Seven Years,
Shortlisted contemporaries:
Eleonore Frey, Jürg Laederach,
Angelika Overath and Urs Widmer.

A tale about memories
Of a daughter,
Of Hungarian
And Slovenian descent,
With sojourns in Budapest,
Ljublijana, Triest, Zürich,
Leningrad and Paris.
The poetess of this passage
Of memories
Is Ilma Rakussa,
A sincere lady with a haircut,
Akin to Prince Valiant,
With a soft voice.

The atmosphere was sticky,
The visitors stiff,
Perspiring in their garments
At the Basler Erlenmatten Street.
What a pleasant surprise:
Buch.09 is going
Buch Basel again.

* * *

Creative Writing Critique: THE SWISS BOOK PRIZE 2008 (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)

Books galore at Basle 08. An author named Wolfang Bortlik went even so far as to say,
“books have now ( after the fixed price went down) the same character as commodities like socks and toothpaste.” Thereby implying that touching a book is like touching any other ware. It’s not a sacral but a profane object of delight. Which reminds me of the publisher who started reading a manuscript, then went to change his clothes and came out wearing a dark suit and a bow-tie to show reverence towards the would-be author. The book was a classic. ‘Education,’ said Dr. John G. Hibben, a one-time President of Princeton University,‘is the ability to meet life’s situations.’ He could have added the word ‘aqequately.’

‘What’s the difference between BookBasle and Book 08?’ you might ask. BookBasle is a thing of the past and was more or less a well-organised Fair. But Book 08 has new ambients, and for the first time Switzerland has created a Swiss Book Award for established and aspiring writers of this ravishingly beautiful Alpine Republic. I went to Morschach in Central Switzerland during the Summer holidays and thought I was already in Heaven, you know. Alone in 2007, 110 organisers and 152 participating publishing houses (small and big) were interested in Book 08. Now it’s over 400 publisher-stalls and rather international. ‘International’ in the Swiss context means, of course, publishers from big German and Austrian cities like: Munich, Frankfurt upon Main (not Frankfurt upon Oder), Berlin and Vienna. Lübbe is a good name, for instance, with Dan Brown’s ‘Sacrilege’ and others. If you prefer listening rather than talking or reading, there are author forums where the authors read from their latest books.

Now the question: who’s gonna read at Basle 08? I find Friday 14,2008 rather interesting not only because Cornelia Schinzzilarz, Adam Davies, Slavenka Draklic and György Dragoman will be reading and answering questions, but also this year’s Man Booker Prize recipient Aravind Adiga with ‘The White Tiger’ (German title ‘Der Weisse Tiger’ published by C.H. Beck, 2008. Aravind works as a correspondent for the newsmag Time and The Financial Times. He was born in 1974 and the protagonist of his first novel is Balram Halwai, (I love halwa from Mumbai, you know) who tells his story in the first person singular. Halwa has a fantastic charisma and shows you how you can climb the Indian mainstream ladder as a philosopher and entrepreneur---and ends as a murderer. You’ve probably read ‘Goodbye Lenin,’ dear reader. This time it’s ‘Goodbye Lemon,’ a touching novel with dark humour about memories, mourning and forgiveness written by Adam Davies.

In this fast-living, egoistic consumer society, relationships tend to be fragile. It’s often touch and go. A series of wrong words and the partner looks for and finds another. The Swiss journalist Karin-Dietl-Wichmann knows what she’s talking writing about in her ‘Lass dich endlich scheiden,’ (published by Heyne 2008) which means ‘File a divorce for Heaven’s Sake.’ She was married thrice and knows how to go about it and admonishes women, without batting an eye-lid, to evaluate their marriages and shows that there’s no reason to uphold a partnership where there’s no fundament.

‘Leben Spenden’ published by Zsolnay, 2008, which means ‘Donate Life’ is a book by one of the most well-known Croatian authors: Slavenka Drakulic. She had to go to the USA in September 2004 to get a kidney-transplantation. It wasn’t her first, you know.

‘Der weisse König’ which means ‘The White King’ is György Dragoman’s second novel. The first one was ‘The Book of Destruction’ with the German title ‘Das Buch der Zerstörung’ which received a literary prize. The current book is being translated at the moment into fifteen languages. Dragoman was born in 1973 in the Seven-Hills of Romania (Siebenbürgen) and lives since 1988 in Budapest. His books have been published by Suhrkamp, a German publishing house.

At last year’s BuchBasel Fair you could find strange books like: Das Kifferlexikon, a compact encyclopedia on Cannabis sativa (hash) and others books like ‘Das Joint Drehbuch’ with a pun on the verb ‘drehen’ and even a cooking book with the title ‘Das Rauschkochbuch.’ Thomas Kessler, an author from Basle, has even written a book with the title ‘Hanf in der Schweiz.’ At the moment Kessler is responsible for the Integration of Migrants at the Canton-Basle City. Another interesting character at the past BookBasel was Tom Kummer, a journalist, who’d written interviews with Hollywood stars. The problem was he’d met them only in his mind. Herr Kummer had an explanation: he said he was representing Borderline-Journalism in which reality is consciously mixed with fantasy. His incredible book? ‘Blow Up: The Story of My Life’. I personally think he made a hash of the genres. I’ve heard about borderline medical cases during my medical and social science studies, but this really beats it. A wonderful example for students of Creative Writing classes how not to create and stir fiction with non-fiction. If you do, then please declare your ingredient as fiction and you’re on the safe side.

Can a book, film or PC game have the same negative effect on small readers? There have been discussions about the Grimm Brothers and their Fairy Tales which are said to be ‘too brutal at times.’ I had a talk with a bespectacled, elderly Freiburger European ethnologist, Frau Schaufelberger, who lectures on the subject and she said, “No, I think that it’s good to have bad or scary tales also, otherwise we’ll be giving a wrong picture about real life to the children.” Compared to what the kiddies watch in TV and DVDs, the Grimm and other Fairy Tales around the world are tame, not-so-scary and have educational values for they uphold values and norms of the concerned societies and their cultures.

So who’s going to win the Swiss Book Prize 2008? There are five favourites. Lukas Bärfuss, Rolf Lappert, Adolf Muschg, Peter Stamm and Anja Jardine. It’s evident that the Swiss ladies are underrepresented in the alpine literary world. The Swiss Book Prize involves a matter of 50,000 Swiss Franks (the German Book Prize offers 25,000 Euros) and the four losers will go home with 2,500 Swiss Franks in their pockets, which is indeed a great discrepancy compared to the first prize. Well loser can’t be choosers, oder? But one thing is sure: all five authors will cash in on publicity, honour, privilege and special presentations at other diverse Book Fairs.

Anja Jardine, is a newcomer and her book carries the title ‘Als der Mond vom Himmel fiel’ which in English means ‘When the Moon fell from the Sky’ published by Klein & Aber, Zürich.). Lukas Bärfuss has written an explosive political book on Ruanda ‘Hundert Tage’ published by Wallstein, Göttingen. Author Adolf Muschg is already prominent and is known for his minimal writings that have maximum effect. His book has the title ‘Kinderhochzeit,’ a love story and a portrait of a family based in the Upper Rhine, published by Suhrkamp, Frankfurt. Peter Stamm is billed as a typical Swiss author with his normal tales about everyday life and his book ‘Wir fliegen’ has been published by S. Fischer, Frankfurt. Rolf Lappert has penned a major novel based in Ireland among other places, and he combines great story-telling with experimental makings. His book ‘Nach Hause schwimmen’ has been published by Carl Hanser, Munich. Lappert was nominated for the German Book Prize but didn’t make it. He’s 50 and lives in Ireland. Perhaps he’ll swim home to win the Swiss Prize. I wish him luck. This year’s German Book Prize winner is Uwe Tellkamp, a sympathetic fellow who also lives in Freiburg, like Yours Truly, and will also read from his prize-winning book ‘Der Turm’ which means ‘The Tower.’

Unlike the jury decisions of the Man Booker Prize in UK, the Swiss Jury has a Swiss yardstick called quality. The prize will be announced on November 15,2008 at the Book 08 in Basle.

The five critic in the jury are: Martin Ebel from the Tages-Anzeiger, Sandra Leis from Der Bund, Manfred Papst from the excellent NZZ am Sonntag, Hans Probst from Radio DRSZ and the free-lance critic Martin Zingg. Switzerland is small and everyone knows the other, and whether the literary prize will be renowned or not will naturally depend on the reputation of the jury and its sense and idea of excellence, curiosity and independence in decision-making and choosing a winner. Swiss TV will carry out the entire spectacle, of course, because it has to be a big event. To borrow a line from P. B. Shelley: if November comes, can the Christmas book-business be far behind?

Grüezi! Hope to see you there.

* * * *

About the Author:

Satis Shroff is a prolific writer and teaches Creative Writing at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. He is a lecturer, poet and writer and the published author of five books: Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelogue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff), and two language books on the Nepalese language for DSE (Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst) & Horlemannverlag. He has written three feature articles in the Munich-based Nelles Verlag’s ‘Nepal’ on the Himalayan Kingdom’s Gurkhas, sacred mountains and Nepalese symbols and on Hinduism in ‘Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India) and his poem ‘Mental Molotovs’ was published in epd-Entwicklungsdienst (Frankfurt). His lyrical works have been published in literary poetry sites: Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry. He is a member of “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer.

Satis Shroff is based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) and also writes on ecological, ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Sciences in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and the United Kingdom. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Since literature is one of the most important means of cross-cultural learning, he is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Creative Writing and transcultural togetherness in his writings, and in preserving an attitude of Miteinander in this world. He lectures in Basle (Switzerland) and in Germany at the Academy for Medical Professions (HAS, GKKPS, GKPS,OTA University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Center for Key Qualifications (University of Freiburg, where he is a Lehrbeauftragter for Creative Writing at the ZfS Uni Freiburg). Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.

What others have said about the author:

Satis Shroff writes with intelligence, wit and grace. (Bruce Dobler, Associate Professor in Creative Writing MFA, University of Iowa).
‘Satis Shroff writes political poetry, about the war in Nepal, the sad fate of the Nepalese people, the emergence of neo-fascism in Germany. His bicultural perspective makes his poems rich, full of awe and at the same time heartbreakingly sad. I writing ‘home,’ he not only returns to his country of origin time and again, he also carries the fate of his people to readers in the West, and his task of writing thus is also a very important one in political terms. His true gift is to invent Nepalese metaphors and make them accessible to the West through his poetry.’ (Sandra Sigel, Writer, Germany).
'Brilliant, I enjoyed your poems thoroughly. I can hear the underlying German and Nepali thoughts within your English language. The strictness of the German form mixed with the vividness of your Nepalese mother tongue. An interesting mix. Nepal is a jewel on the Earth’s surface, her majesty and charm should be protected, and yet exposed with dignity through words. You do your country justice and I find your bicultural understanding so unique and a marvel to read.' Reviewed by Heide Poudel in 6/4/2007.
'The manner in which Satis Shroff writes takes the reader right along with him. Extremely vivid and just enough and the irony of the music. Beautiful prosaic thought and astounding writing.
'Your muscles flex, the nerves flatter, the heart gallops,
As you feel how puny you are,
Among all those incessant and powerful waves.'
“Satis Shroff's writing is refined – pure undistilled.” (Susan Marie,
“I was extremely delighted with Satis Shroff’s work. Many people write poetry for years and never obtain the level of artistry that is present in his work. He is an elite poet with an undying passion for poetry.” Nigel Hillary, Publisher, Poetry Division - Noble House U.K.

Copyright © 2009, Satis Shroff. You may republish this article online provided you keep the byline, the author's note, and the active hyperlinks.

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