Ulla Berkéwicz


(German title: Überlebnis)
ca. 138 pages
Ulla Berkéwicz
Foto: Ulla Berkéwicz
© Daniel Devecioglu

Ulla Berkéwicz was born in Gießen. She attended the Academy of Music in Frankfurt/Main and for many years acted with the Münchener Kammerspiele and Hamburg Schauspielhaus. Upon publication of her debut  Josef stirbt in 1982 she gave up acting and since has published several novels, stories and works for the stage. She lives in Berlin where she is the publisher of Suhrkamp Verlag.

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Italy (Elliot)


Survivience is a book that crosses through death, subjectively and radically. »My only fear now is the fear of forgetting.«

We know that we must die. But how do we live with this knowledge. How do we live in view of death? How do we live with the death of people close to us? If one does not evade the fear of loss and pain associated with death, then it is possible to counter things one has not got over via reflection and remembrance. That which no longer is opens up to that which continues to be and will remain.


»Ulla Berkéwicz makes a bold re-appearance as an author.« FR

»[...] the chapter alone in which the man is lying in hospital, the tragicomic death of the patient in the next bed – masterful, breathtaking.« Spiegel

»Mercilessly frank and defiantly personal this book may be, but it is not ‘private’. The language – meditative, questioning, reflecting, accusing, inventive – orbits round a wound incapable of healing. And in a gratifying manner the book is supra-personal: of general concern, pertinent to one and all. It meddles with the substance of our selfimage. And encourages our aspirations to be humane in our dealings with the dead, with the living, with one another.« Christa Wolf

»In the finest passages, those in which the writer is very close to the dying man, literally struggling along with him to draw the final breath, repeatedly having to run to the toilet in order to throw up, crawls exhausted over the hospital floor, smokes a cigarette with the black cleaning woman, lashes out in raw anger at the indifference and soullessness of the hospital staff, the tone is naked, insistent, open and pulsating. [...] The writer says it herself: her grief knows no bounds. But this unusual book is the product of such boundlessness and absoluteness.« Iris Radisch, Zeit

»There is no book more worthwhile for an author than one which forces the readers, if they want to understand it at all, to confront their own experience, their own fears, hopes and speculations about the unknowable.« Angelika Klüssendorf, Literarische Welt »One can admire her courage for writing so nakedly, so openly, about the final questions. An impressive breadth of reading is revealed by the discursive interspersions. The unsparing realism of the childhood memories and the disquieting descriptions of the modern hospital where fear, love and death have been scrubbed from the agenda is impressive. A slim volume revealing a highly sensitive, masterly storyteller.« Stephan Sattler, Focus

»Überlebnis conjures up the suffering and personal stature of a man who remains nameless, but at the same time evokes a modern literary era that dryly subjected the reality of its material to incessant questioning, suspicious of language. [...] The core of the book is the breathtaking hospital chapter, a tour de force in the spirit of Gottfried Benn’s Krebsbaracke complete with a furiously orchestrated slapstick finale.« Ingeborg Harms, FAZ

»The urgency of Überlebnis is not solely due to its theme of grief over the act of dying and death itself. It is rather the case the subject proves and verifies itself by virtue of the language: the boundlessness of the lament and the grief is translated into a torrent so excessive that eventually the narrator’s voice becomes ever more faint, ever more silent, and ends on a sustained fermata of eternity.« Roman Bucheli, NZZ

Other publications

Über die Schrift hinaus/Beyond Script (2018)

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Arabic world rights (Al-Kamel)

Vielleicht werden wir ja verrückt/Maybe We'll All Go Mad (2002)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: English world rights (Banyan Tree), Spanish world rights (Losada), Arabic world rights (Al-Kamel), Italy (Casagrande), Netherlands (Aspekt), Greece (Kastaniotis), Israel (Hakibbutz Hameuchad)


Ich weiß, daß du weißt/I Know That You Know (1999)

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English world rights (Oolichan Books); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Russia (Text)

Zimzum/Zimzum (1997)

Rights available