Erzählzeit 2023

Reading by Jan Faktor from his novel "Trottel"

Jan Faktor: Trottel. Roman. Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2022


From Prague limbo, a fateful swoon, a leap and the strange consolation of chicory. At the center: a headstrong narrator, a native Czech and a gifted "Trottel", and a life in which everything always turned out differently than expected. The story begins in Prague, after the Soviet invasion in 1968. On the advice of an aunt, the young Trottel studies computer science, but doesn't last long. Instead, he has his first grotesque experiences with love. After a memorable encounter with the Teutonic horde, he emigrates to East Berlin, immerses himself in the underground scene of Prenzlauer Berg, starts a family, wonders about the ideologically morphinized GDR, the Wende and finally discovers his passion for Rammstein.

Jan Faktor, born in Prague in 1951, moved to East Berlin in 1978, was co-founder of the New Forum newspaper in 1989/90. His novel "Trottel" was shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2022.

"Trottel" by Jan Faktor

This year's reading as part of the literature festival "Erzählzeit ohne Grenzen" took place in the atmospheric surroundings of the auditorium at the Klostergut Paradies. "World literature is our guest today," said the evening's moderator, GF Secretary General Roland Gröbli, as Jan Faktor read from his new novel "Trottel". The reading was the sixth at Klostergut since the cross-border festival was founded in 2010, and some 40 guests accepted the invitation.

Before Jan Faktor read from the book, he gave a brief insight into his professional career as a writer. He explained in a fascinating way how, after years of experimentation, he decided on an autobiographically tinged prose style, and how the character of the "Trottel" gave him the freedom to both experiment and fall back on old ideas. This allowed him to write chapter by chapter in a flow.

The "Trottel," the eponymous protagonist of the book, then narrated with wry humor and keen observation from life in Prague in 1968 to the last years of the GDR in East Berlin, delighting the audience.

Moderated by Roland Gröbli, a lively Q&A session followed. Both the similarities, but also the great differences of (experiencing) the Cold War in Switzerland and the GDR came up for discussion. The author emphasized his leitmotif of laughter in the face of the absurd and grotesque. The unflattering choice of name for the main character was also discussed, and Faktor pointed out the difficulty of translating the title into English - no word has the nuances that "Trottel" does in German. The audience's interest continued at the aperitif with intense and cheerful discussions - a sure sign of a very successful evening.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Jan Faktor and Roland Gröbli for the entertaining and informative event!