The World's Best Unknown Books
21 03 2014

Heartrending Simplicity Shrewdly Calculated

Short Stories Adelheid Duvanel

Translation Patricia H. Stanley

On a night in July, at the age of sixty, Adelheid Duvanel froze to death in a forest. But it is not just the manner of her death that is reminiscent of Robert Walser. The wholehearted naiveté of her characters; language that somehow combines fragility with scintillating beauty; compositions that are heartrendingly simple yet shrewdly calculated — all this recalls the great master of twentieth-century Swiss literature.

In Duvanel’s work, abysses do not suddenly gape: they glide open, revealing (and this might only be possible with this poet) a terror that is gentle, yet unprecedented.

Monique Schwitter

Duvanel is a poet of ruptures, both sudden and gradual. Her characters are isolated, observing or coming come into contact with that which lies outside: outside society, outside reality – even outside the thinkable. In Duvanel’s work, abysses do not suddenly gape: they glide open, revealing a terror (and this is might only be possible with this poet) that is gentle, yet unprecedented. And as relentless as it is permanent. Words that could also be used to describe the incomparable prose of this writer.’ (Monique Schwitter on Adelheid Duvanel, Finnegan’s List 2014) This collection of stories translated from the original German of the Swiss writer Adelheid Duvanel (1936-1996) is preceded by an introductory biographical essay that should help the reader to understand the connections between Duvanel’s life and her subjects. The apparent lovelessness of her characters’ lives can be traced back to Duvanel’s extremely complex and chaotic background. Her protagonists, mostly women or children, include single mothers without financial or emotional support from the biological father; lonely elderly women; illegitimate children; and men and women who are afraid of relationships. Each short story deals with a single situation, presented with imagery that seems to reside in the unconscious and can verge on the surreal: yet with an undercurrent of wry Neo-Expressionism. Instead of dialogue we read the subject’s thoughts and dreams, thanks to imagery reminiscent of the art of Max Ernst. In fact, several stories are nothing but the retelling of a dream. (book description,

Translation funding:

Pro Helvetia supports artistic creation from Switzerland with an eye to diversity and taking into account its impact, both national and international. It supports projects that help to create and disseminate artistic works, or contribute to artistic exchange between Switzerland’s language regions or to arts outreach. Pro Helvetia will offer translation funding for Short Stories by Adelheid Duvanel.

Contact translation rights:

Nagel & Kimche Verlag (Imprint of Hanser)
Neptunstrasse 20, CH-8032 Zürich
+41 (0)44 366 66 80

Foreign rights: Friederike Barakat

University Press of America
Original language
Original title
Beim Hute meiner Mutter (1960)
Earlier in these languages
French, English, Dutch
Die Zeit (2004)

Available as
Paperback, English
ISBN 978-0761823377
128 pages
second hand
Paperback, German
ISBN 978-3312003327
176 pages
€ 19,90