Urs Mannhart [ Schweiz ]




Luchs, 2004

Die Anomalie des geomagnetischen Feldes südöstlich von Domodossola, 2006

Kuriernovelle oder Der heimlich noch zu überbringende Schlüsselbund der Antonia Settembrini, 2008

Bergsteigen im Flachland, 2014


Urs Mannhart was born in 1975 in Rohrbach, Switzerland, and studied philosophy, and German and English literature for a few semesters. His début novel »Luchs« (2004; tr: Lynx), was largely informed by his time spent as a conscientious objector serving alternative civil service with the lynx resettlement project »KORA«. The story is about a simmering conflict regarding local animals of prey, enriched with facts and pastoral descriptions. All villages are affected, with hunters and shepherds on one side, nature conservationists on the other, the central question being one of power and money. The novel became a bestseller, praised by critics for its compelling narrative style – »Die Wochenzeitung« called it an »almost alarmingly perfect début novel«. His novel »Die Anomalie des geomagnetischen Feldes südöstlich von Domodossola« (tr: The Anomaly of the Geomagnetic Field Southeast of Domodossola) followed in 2006, earning Mannhart the Buchpreis des Kantons Bern one year later. The first-person narrator, who takes the night train from Basel to Roma-Tiburtina 784 kilometers every 14 days, when his long-distance lover, Luise, is not visiting him on alternate weekends, becomes stranded in Domodossola due to an Italian railroad strike. As he recalls memories of Luise, his thoughts wander off into distant orbits, examining minute details, such as the idea that it might be a geomagnetic disturbance, and not the strike, that is keeping him there. After Mannhart received the city of Bern’s newly instated »Weiterschreiben« stipend in 2007, he published »Kuriernovelle oder Der heimlich noch zu überbringende Schlüsselbund der Antonia Settembrini« (tr: Courier Novella, or The Secretly Yet-to-be-delivered Keyring of Antonia Settembrini), on the adventurous first shift of a bicycle courier – a job Mannhart once had to make ends meet. His most recent novel »Bergsteigen im Flachland« (2014; tr: Mountaineering in the Plains), centers on the war in Kosovo from 1999. A journalist touring Europe »reports with fondness on people who – as the title already indicates – are ill equipped for the lives they lead« (SRF). In this opulent novel, based again on many historical facts, Mannhart walks his readers through strawberry fields in southern Spain, to oil rigs in northern Norway, onto a romantic lake near Zürich in the middle of the night – as well as to the Tribunal for War Crimes in Den Haag. A review in the »NZZ« pointed out that Mannhart’s experimental narrative style succeeds artistically – without being artificial – by revealing our sense of alienation or feeling out of place in today’s world, at an individual level and within broader historical configurations.

Mannhart enjoys reporting from lesser-known places in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as China, Siberia – and Switzerland. Mannhart lives mostly in rural Switzerland, on his bicycle and near cows.