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Josef Winkler

The City Chronicler of Kolkata

Josef Winkler
Foto: Josef Winkler
© Jerry Bauer

Born in Austria in 1953 and an author since 1982, Josef Winkler today lives in Klagenfurt.

»Josef Winkler is somebody who negotiates the frontiers and transforms his anxiety into desire by the act of writing, and with the risky balancing act on the brink of the abyss finds a firm equilibrium in the long term. He is not glorifying the other world […] but liberating the self in grand style. To this end, however, he initiates an unsettling process evoking matters previously suppressed, and by no means does he spare the reader in the process.« Süddeutsche Zeitung

Awards (selection):
Georg Büchner Prize 2008
Grand Austrian State Prize 2007
Franz Nabl Prize 2005
Premio Lateral 2005
Alfred Döblin Prize 2001
Prix André Gide 2000
Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis 1990
Anton Wildgans Prize 1980

Rights available

Exploring Kolkata with Josef Winkler – a brilliant text

About

»On New Market two white roosters with sickle-shaped tails and red, jagged, translucent, upright combs that keep flapping to one side like rubber with every movement are standing in a basket. All around the shining light bulbs are coated in silver foil, so that the light falls focused on the piles of papayas, mangos and the fruits of the pineapples from Kerala.« This is one of the chapter headings – and right then and there we’re amidst the plethora of observations and shortest stories that Josef Winkler has noted down.

This time, the traveler of India hasn’t set out for Varanasi to the cremation sites by the holy Ganges but to Kolkata. There, he takes his readers on his tours of the city, into the electrifying, colourful hustle and bustle of a big food market.

In Kolkata, Winkler also visits the cremation site at the holy Hooghly River, a distributary of the Ganges River in Bengal, and describes the sacrifice of many small white goats. Among them the favourite animals of children who lead them to the temple with their parents so that the Goddess Kali can drink the blood of the animals.

Kolkata is a metropolis of opposites: The former capital of the British colony makes tradition within art, music and literature just as visible as the structural change within the castes and the integration of the rural population.

Praise

»Josef Winkler is somebody who negotiates the frontiers and transforms his anxiety into desire by the act of writing, and with the risky balancing act on the brink of the abyss finds a firm equilibrium in the long term. He is not glorifying the other world […] but liberating the self in grand style. To this end, however, he initiates an unsettling process evoking matters previously suppressed, and by no means does he spare the reader in the process.« Süddeutsche Zeitung

»Winkler captures India’s raving presence that oscillates between the mercantile and the spiritual: in his Indian notebooks written with blue ink [...]« Peter von Becker, Der Tagesspiegel

»Winkler remains […] in his downright ethnographical position of the observer at all times: He describes and depicts without judgement. That is an eminent strength.« Uwe Schütte, Wiener Zeitung

»With the sober gaze of the observer, with linguistic precision and repetitive depictions of always the same motifs he traces a pictorial arc between life and death. Smells, sounds, songs grow from the few pages, sensuous and colourful. Quotations from the ›Indian Diary‹ of the Romanian author Mircea Eliade harmoniously complement this rich Panopticon.« Karin Waldner-Peutschnig, Kleine Zeitung

»The City Chronicler of Kolkata forces readers to become observers themselves. The book has something suggestive about it, because you soon forget where you are actually sitting as more and more pyres flare up around you while lavations take place in the river and the humidity makes you sweat.« Tagblatt

»Winkler‘s gaze is, and how could it not be, that of a European, but he is free of any voyeurism and especially free of gestures of self-righteous moral superiority, and thus creates a poetic image that does not, however, whitewash the dark sides of the conditions in India.« SAX. Das Dresdner Stadtmagazin

»Josef Winkler‘s book on Kolkata is a well-written journey through hell into a world that must seem dirty, colourful, exotic, inscrutable, eerie and fascinating at the same time to the European with all-risks insurance. The City Chronicler of Kolkata: a disconcertingly intense and agonizingly beautiful book at the same time.« Günter Kaindlstorfer, Bayerischer Rundfunk

»Each of Josef Winkler’s stories is also a picture-book story at the same time, pleasantly free from cheap irony and squandering punchlines. Winkler’s exercises in perception generate scenes that seem simple on the face of it, but are delicately balanced at the same time.« Wolfgang Paterno, Profil 48

Other publications

Laß dich heimgeigen, Vater, oder Den Tod ins Herz mir schreibe/Take the Blame, Father or Death Be Writ into My Heart (2018)

Sold to:

Czech Republic (Archa), Bulgaria (Black Flamingo)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Der Diwan)

Roppongi/Roppongi (2007)

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France (Verdier), Czech Republic (Archa), Bulgaria (Black Flamingo), Serbia (Leykam), Slovenia (Hermagoras/Mohorjeva)

Natura morta/Natura morta (2001)

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English world rights (Contra Mundum), Spanish world rights (Galaxia Gutenberg), Russia (AST Publishers), Arabic world rights (Le Fennec), France (Verdier), Italy (Forum Editrice Universitaria Udinese), Norway (Solum), Czech Republic (Archa), Bulgaria (Black Flamingo), Lithuania (Kitos Knygos), Croatia (Leykam), Bosnia (Vrijeme), Turkey (Pan), Ukraine (Knihy XXI)

Wenn es soweit ist/Wenn es soweit ist (1998)

Sold to:

English world rights (Contra Mundum), Spanish world rights (Galaxia Gutenberg), France (Verdier), Czech Republic (Archa), Slovenia (Hermagoras)

Domra/Domra (1996)

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France (Verdier), Czech Republic (Archa), Macedonia (Ars Lamina)

Das Zöglingsheft des Jean Genet/Flowers for Jean Genet (1992)

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USA (Ariadne Press), France (Verdier), Czech Republic (Archa)

Friedhof der bitteren Orangen/The Graveyard of Bitter Oranges (1990)

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English world rights (Contra Mundum), Spanish world rights (Galaxia Gutenberg), Russia (AST Publishers), France (Verdier), Poland (Od Do), Czech Republic (Archa)

Der Leibeigene/Der Leibeigene (1987)

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USA (Ariadne), France (Verdier)

Die Verschleppung/Die Verschleppung (1983)

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France (Verdier), Japan (Dogakusha), Ukraine (Krytyka)