The American Hospital

November 29, 2011

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Michael Kleeberg

Michael Kleeberg was born in 1959 and studied political science, modern history, and visual communication. While at university he worked as a journalist, nurse, and dockworker. He lived in Rome, Amsterdam, and Paris, where, apart from his writing activities, he was one of the partners in a small advertising agency. He has been living in Berlin again as a freelance writer and translator since 2000.

He was awarded the Anna-Seghers-Prize in 1996, the Lion-Feuchtwanger-Prize in 2000, and the Irmgard-Heilmann-Prize in 2008. His work has been translated into numerous languages and published by Other Press and Flammarion.

Michael Kleeberg's new novel presents two sharp X-ray images of two very different patients at the American Hospital in Paris. The story that those images tell however is that of war: Helène is a French woman who fights under the cruel force of her husband a war against her own, as of yet, infertile body. Cote is an American Iraq war veteran who is being manipulated into believing that he can win the war against the damages that have been inflicted on his soul.

What begins as an intimate play between the two in the narrow hospital corridors soon leads them through various Parisian gardens, which turn out to be labyrinths themselves. The book is narrated like a film noir, and has the form of a novella and the intellectual substance of a major novel. It is merges history and personal relationships, the mental anguish of war and the physical pain of reproduction, all described in harrowing, touching, and memorable scenes in a dense Parisian atmosphere. Rarely has contemporary German literature been as gentle and intimate in the drawings of its characters and yet universal in the relevance of its theme—a true "literary delicatessen."

Recorded Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at the Goethe-Institut Chicago.