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Pascale Kramer tells of ‘characters who push me’

The 2017 Swiss Grand Prize for Literature was awarded to Pascale Kramer for her body of work. AFP

Pascale Kramer, the Geneva novelist based in Paris, received the 2017 Swiss Grand Prize for Literature in Bern on Thursday. In her books, 13 so far, the 55-year-old author tells the fate of simple people who often have lost hope. The prize for her body of work gives her confidence to get through a recent period of doubt, she confides.

If she were a painter, she would be a Mannerist. Kramer proposes, in each of her novels, a language which, with a lot of specificity, identifies the slightest gestures, movements and jolts of the heart. However, her pen never uses traditional or affected accents. The Swiss Federal Office of Culture (OFC), in awarding her the Swiss Grand Prix, said of her writing that it is “precise and sumptuous (…) a song of emotion, but with a great lucidity about the humanity of simple people. “

Kramer never ceases to explore the lives of simple people in her books. It is to them that her attention and affection is directed. Her characters know only incomplete fates, or existential difficulties that have dashed their hopes. In that light, one might be forgiven for calling her a pessimist as a novelist. But no; everything in her books has a forcefulness. “Sometimes I am told: choose less bleak subjects. So I answer: I do not find it useful to talk about situations or people who are not complex or do not push me, “she says.

Deconstructions and joys

But careful; her novels are not just some sort of therapy for her. “If I put a lot of myself into it, it’s because I feel that you better understand others by observing what you have experienced yourself. I had disappointments in my life, I cried a lot, but I always very quickly recovered. You see, this Grand Prix, for example, is timely. It happens at a point in my life when I am full of doubts, and so it give me back the energy I need today. I thought I was going to be rewarded for my last novel “Autopsy of a Father”, and here it is that my entire work is being praised. “

“Ever since I became a novelist, I realized that I could not live by my pen alone.”

Pascale Kramer:

Born on 15 December 1961 in Geneva. From the age of 3, she lived in Lausanne. After obtaining her baccalaureate, she studied literature at the University of Lausanne, which she interrupted to try her hand at journalism.

After six years of working as a publicist in Zurich, she settled in Paris to pursue that as a career in parallel to her work as a novelist.

Her latest work, “Chronicle of a Shared Place”, published in early February, constitutes “a step away” from her previous work, according to her own assessment. It is not a novel, but a narrative that brings together testimonies gathered from people weakened by life.

Among her other works are “The Living”, “Return from Uruguay”, “Farewell to the North”, “Fracas”, and “Gloria”.

She has been published by Mercure de France and Flammarion, among other publishing houses, and her work translated into German, English and Italian.

She is the recipient of other prestigious Swiss literary awards including the Dentan Prize and the Schiller Prize.

Translated from French by John Heilprin

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR