Martin Walser was born in 1927 in Wasserburg and now lives in Überlingen by Lake Constance. He is among Germany’s most important literary authors and has received numerous awards for his work, among them the Georg Büchner Award and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. He has also been decorated with the order Pour le Mérite and was appointed Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2015 he was awarded with the Nietzsche Prize for his life’s work.
“Old age is a micro-state, governed by young giants.” This is the point of view of a first-person narrator whose lyrics capture fleeting sparks of happiness vanishing in darkness, emptiness and failure. Brushing a dog’s coat, cutting open an apple, or every time we see the mountain peaks bathed in blue, hear wind rushing through trees, find our speech halted by the beauty of leaves...
That’s when we feel the approach of immortal questions about happiness, its nature and longevity. But already words are puncturing the serenity, hurtful words spoken by others. We can protect against them only by “clothing ourselves in verses as though they were armour, beautiful verses that form a barrier against the world, where rest is an illusion.” Here we have it, the sum, perhaps even the result, of Martin Walser’s poetry. Here, his realism becomes tangible, more than anywhere else in his oeuvre. Nothing is more than or above beauty. These are beautiful expressions of something that isn’t.
Martin Walser has taught pain how to sing and distilled thoughts of crystalline clarity from the impositions of reality. His new book Late Shift is a collection of stenographic recordings of life, including lyrical passages and essays that are always touching, heartfelt and true.