The Crisis of the Contemporary European

An interview with Jonas Luescher, author of Frühling der Barbaren

By Ehab Elmallah

Translated by Nora Amin

The Swiss literary scene seems foggy and blurred to the Arab audience although it belongs to a rich and luxurious society that enjoys social and political stability and that is distinguished by a unique specificity in the European continent that exported globalization to the rest of the world and voiced the slogans of civilization and modernity. From that scene only two Swiss names have been known on a large scale in the Arab region: Max Frisch and Durrenmatt, two of the masters of modern theatre, yet the circles of the Swiss novel do not seem to project much presence and recognition in the Arab region.

Jonas Luescher is a young Swiss writer and novelist. He published his first novel Frühling der Barbaren (Spring of the Barbarians) in 2012, which surprised European circles by its huge success and its shocking questions, as well as by its representation of the crisis of the contemporary European conscience.

For three years the novel was on the best selling lists in Europe, it was translated to 14 languages, and the young novelist won four prestigious literary awards in Germany and Switzerland, among them the award of “the German book”, the “Birns” award for literature in Switzerland in 2013, and more recently – as announced in the last week of October 2015- the Hans Fallada award for 2016. The announcement of the award came in parallel with the launching of the Arabic translation of the novel in Cairo. The Hans Fallada prize is awarded every two years to a talented writer who focuses on political and social issues. Here is an interview with the Swiss writer Jonas Luescher on his novel, the issues it raises and the Arabic translation of it.

 

To begin with, as a Swiss writer who writes in German, how would you like to present yourself to the Arabic reader?

My name is Jonas Luescher, born in the year 1976, I studied Philosophy in Munich and obtained the post-graduate studies diploma in Philosophy in 2005. I worked as a teacher in preliminary schools in the city of Bern in Switzerland, then I spent several years in the field of filmmaking in Germany, I also worked as a freelance literary journalist in cultural newspapers. Moving to the institute of sciences and technology in Munich was a major turning point in my life, I was living in the same city and had already been teaching ethics in the school of economy there, then I was teaching comparative literature for nine months as a visiting lecturer in Stanford university in the United States in 2012 and 2013.