Essays in Narrative Non-Fiction
“Intersecting Histories,” our new issue of narrative non-fiction, explores the ways in which personal family narratives become interwoven with larger political histories. It begins with German journalist and novelist Michaela Maria Müller’s “The Camps of Silesia: Topographies,” in which the author immerses herself in her grandfather’s memoirs describing his five gruelling years in forced labor in the aftermath of WWII. This is followed by an excerpt from a work-in-progress by German jazz musician, composer, writer, and translator Christian von der Goltz. In April 2022, the Austrian literary magazine manuskripte featured an excerpt from von der Goltz’s “The Norwegian Girl” (issue 235*) that sifts through the family records surrounding his grandfather’s involvement with the Norwegian Nazi party during WWII. StatORec now presents the first excerpt from this work to be translated into English.
A third work using narrative non-fiction to probe the landscape of family history as it intersects with a larger political history is an excerpt from David Winner’s new novel Master Lovers. “Secrets and Discoveries: The Bank Building” inquires into the intriguing story of S. Jarmulowsky and Sons and Winner’s family’s ties to the histories of Jewish immigration, redlining, and a Lower East Side banking scandal. “Secrets and Discoveries” was recently published in German translation in issue 237* of manuskripte.
Moving from the early- and mid-twentieth century to the present day, Maxim Matusevich explores the painful loss of a common past as a brutal war rages on in Ukraine. Matusevich’s personal essay, “The War Against Nostaglia,” examines the emotional and logistical impact of the Russian “special military operation” on Sergei, an old army buddy from St. Petersburg who moved to Kyiv in the nineties to raise a family and start a business—one that’s proved too important to the war effort for him to leave.
The next essay in our ongoing issue is “Domači glasovi” by Andrea Scrima, which borrows its title from an inmate newspaper circulated in the Austrian camp at Lienz-Peggetz in the years following WWII—where its editors, like the thousands of other Slovene displaced persons trapped there—waited in fear of being repatriated to Tito’s Yugoslavia. The essay, which was previously published in Three Quarks Daily, is also about time, Renaissance sundials, lost days in the Julian calendar, compassion fatigue, and a friend who was born in the limbo of Ellis Island.
Returning to the theme Michaela Maria Müller explored in her essay, Martin Jankowski digs into the family lore of his parents’ wartime generation to contemplate the meaning of homeland in “Alfred Leaves His Heimat (the Native Land I Never Had).” In this excerpt from a novel-in-progress, Jankowski imagines the lost land of Silesia as “some unimaginable dreamtime that put everything in place, set it all in motion, long before my own reality started.”
Shifting back to the present tense and the war in Ukraine, Herb Randall’s essay “Privilege-Agony, Guilt-Grief of a Half-Distant War” addresses the disturbing effects of experiencing a faraway war in real time: “the frame rate and resolution of real-life war footage pales in comparison to the first-person shooter game my son is playing right now in the next room, yet both have that same pulsating soundtrack and endlessly spooling comment thread. Reality may increasingly seem a poorer experience than the virtual, and, I fear, the boundaries between the two no longer apparent to many who are not directly impacted by the horrors of modern conflict.”
* The works of the issue “Intersecting Histories” appearing in German translation are also part of our cooperative project with manuskripte, “Strange Bedfellows.”