Matthias Nawrat was born in the Polish town of Opole and moved with his family to Bamberg at the age of 10. His work is critically acclaimed and has received several awards: For his debut novel (2012) he received the Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Förderpreis among others. His 2014 novel The Enterprise was nominated for the German Book Prize and also garnered Nawrat the Kelag Prize and the Bayern 2 Wordplay Prize. His following novel The many deaths of Grandfather Jurek (2015) won him the Bremen Literature Prize and the Alfred Döblin Medal. Nawrat‘s fourth novel The sad guest was published in 2019. The author lives in Berlin.
THE SAD GUEST
The events depicted here occur during the winter of the terrorist attack on the Christmas market near Berlin’s Gedächtniskriche, the German capital’s Church of Remembrance. A man with no name watches the precarity pervading his neighbourhood with an increasing sense of unease. A series of conversations with his neighbours lets him reflect on his own biography and peer into theirs, and becomes an investigation into the human spirit and the meaning of life and death.
One of his conversations is with Dariusz, formerly a surgeon and father; his son drowned in South America. He also meets with Karsten, a former fellow student, in a bar near Berlin’s Charité hospital where Karsten works as a molecular biologist. And he talks to the elderly Dorota, a former architect from Poland whose intellectual energy confuses and inspires him. The blow, when it falls, hits him all the harder. His last visit to Dorota’s flat finds him standing in an empty room; the landlord informs him that Frau Dorota has hanged herself in her bedroom.
The Sad Guest is a powerfully existential inquiry into one self and the wider world. Developing a bewitching narrative intensity, this philosophical and deeply human novel ‘knows’ about loss, about the effects of suppressing suffering and what it means to arrive somewhere new. This story of survival insists on the permanency of beauty despite the unnerving ugliness of fear and death.