Gertrud Leutenegger

Panicked Spring - A Novel

(German title: Panischer Frühling)
ca. 221 pages
Gertrud Leutenegger
Foto: Gertrud Leutenegger
© Isolde Ohlbaum

Gertrud Leutenegger was born in 1948 in Schwyz, Switzerland. She studied directing at the Theatre and Acting Academy in Zurich.

After living for many years in the French-speaking and then the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, she now lives in Zurich.

Sold to

France (Zoé), Japan (Edition Hanjitsukan)

Shortlisted for the German Book Prize and for the Swiss Book Prize 2014


»Sooner or later the drowned return. What the ebb takes, the tide brings back.«


A volcanic eruption in Iceland brings all European air travel to a standstill, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded at the airports. While images of the gigantic ash cloud circulate around the world, the sky above the Thames is a brilliant spring blue. The city seems cut off from the rest of the world.

On London Bridge the narrator encounters a young man with a port-wine stain on his face. Jonathan is selling the Big Issue. He has fled here from the south coast, where the sea has taken what was not its to take. The two of them feel a strange connection. They have wounds in common – the early loss of a father – as well as hopes, and little by little, with each encounter, they each share more of their forgotten secrets with the other. Then Jonathan is gone just as suddenly as the two of them had met. The aeroplanes are back. As spring turns to summer, the narrator goes in search of Jonathan, and of herself.

A deeply moving novel about the eruptive power of memory, the search for a lost time. About rediscovering one’s own story in another person.


»A delicate, dense novel about the art of storytelling and our first love, the love of our parents.« Boersenblatt, February 2014

»The poetry of Gertrud Leutenegger [...] leads to this state of uncertainty – protected, flowing, and marvelously adrift, suspended in the intensity of experience and perception.« FAZ


»Like in many of her other novels, dramatic poems, and stories, Leutenegger once again sets out to seek the perfect moment. She creates a space of narration in which time seems to stand still.« - Süddeutsche Zeitung


»Gertrud Leutenegger’s prose … is meditative and at the same time possesses incredible dynamics in each and every clause, every syntactic movement and each train of thought.« - Die Zeit


»In Panicked Spring, Leutenegger reaches a level of certainty in her prose and an elegance that needs no boastfulness. A seductive poetic charm reigns in this novel, which lacks any insincerity, and any picturesquely or artificially conjured elements.« - Neue Zürcher Zeitung


»Panicked Spring is a grandiose book of life and death that leaves no doubt about as to how to deal with the precarious finitude of all earthly things.« - Die Literarische Welt


»Atmospheric, rich in imagery, daunting and of the most beautiful sensuality.« - Deutschlandradio Kultur