Valerie Fritsch

Heart Valves by Johnson & Johnson - Novel

Valerie Fritsch
Foto: Valerie Fritsch
© Jasmin Schuller

Valerie Fritsch, born in 1989, grew up in Graz and Carinthia, Austria. After graduating in 2007, she completed her studies at the Academy of Applied Photography and has been working as a photo artist since then.

Fritsch’s texts have been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies and were broadcasted on the radio. Her first novel, Die VerkörperungEN, was published in 2011. Die Welt ist meine Innerei, a cycle of travel reports and photographs published in 2012, is based on Fritsch’s many travels, especially to Africa, South America and South East Asia.

At the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition in 2015, she was awarded the Kelag-Prize and the Audience Prize. Winter’s Garden was longlisted for the German Book Prize in 2015. She lives in Graz and Vienna.

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The Pain of the Past


Due to a genetic defect, Alma and Friedrich’s baby is unable to feel pain. In constant worry about their son Emil, it’s mainly Alma who incessantly checks that his body is unharmed. Every night she palpates Emil’s body so as not to overlook any wounds and there is nothing the young mother fears more than an invisible injury to an organ that goes unnoticed.

Alma finds support with her grandmother who, old and bedridden and after a life of staying silent, now begins to talk: about growing up during the war, about escaping, hunger and about grandfather being a prisoner of war. With the child that knows no pain on her lap, Alma sits at the bedside of the gravely ill woman who wishes for nothing more than to overcome her own pain. In her grandmother’s stories Alma finds an explanation for those seemingly unfounded feelings of guilt, of powerlessness and forlornness that have accompanied her all her life. Retracing the grandfather’s steps, Alma, Friedrich and Emil travel as far as Kazakhstan.

How does a child become a person, a compassionate social being, if it doesn’t know vulnerability? If it doesn’t understand how much something can hurt? In powerful images Valerie Fritsch talks about a trauma that continues to have an effect across generations. She explores the vulnerability of humans and asks about the nature of empathy that determines everybody’s life.


»Valerie Fritsch’s work is a triumph of language and her appearance on the stage of German-language literature is a cause for celebration. Melancholy and joy, decay and flowering, death and lively growth are all entwined within her sentences. Her prose is fearless, full of style, and dedicated to the eternal mystery of the world. This is a prize for a young master.« from the 2015 Peter-Rosegger-Literature-Award Jury Rationale, on Winters Garden

»Valerie Fritsch’s novel confronts myth and urban reality in an ecstatic language. [...] This novel strikes up a symphony of doom that is as cruel as it is of graceful beauty« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Winter’s Garden

»Valerie Fritsch’s prose is enticing as she describes people and places very sensually and with strong images.« Lesart on Winter’s Garden

Other publications

Winters Garten/Winter's Garden (2015)

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