Matthias Nawrat was born in 1979 in Opole, Poland, and moved to Germany with his family at the age of 10. For an excerpt from his dystopian novel Unternehmer, Nawrat was awarded the KELAG Prize at the Klagenfurt Days of German-Language Literature in 2012. In his subsequent novel Die vielen Tode unseres Opa Jurek (The Many Deaths of our Grandpa Jurek), Nawrat countered the historical horror of his family history with the cheerfulness of a picaresque novel. Now Nawrat’s new novel, The Sad Guest, has been published. A quiet, melancholy book that traces the most diverse biographies in contemporary Berlin.
The first-person narrator who roams through contemporary Berlin in The Sad Guest is a flickering, elusive being. The narrator is a writer, has already published three books and comes from Poland. But this novel is not autobiographical. The main character in the first of the three parts of the novel is Dorota, a Polish architect whom the first-person narrator meets through a newspaper ad. The first-person narrator visits Dorota several times. Her monologues charged with existential philosophy are not always pleasant for her listener, but they do bring him into harmony with the fragility of his own existence. The narrator’ s precarious feeling of home and security is shaken by the attack on the Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz. The last significant encounter of the first-person narrator is with Dariusz, a former doctor who was stripped of his licence to practice medicine because of his alcohol problems, and who is struggling through his life, while the burden of memories is almost crushing him. Dariusz’s recollections of his arrival in Germany decades earlier illuminate precisely that space of possibility between loss of homeland, euphoria of departure and longing in which all the characters in the novel are located.