Excerpt from Seven Leaps from the Edge of the World



It is rising over the

burnt-out roof trusses of Sondershausen, Sondershausen, Papa

has no house left, you put your

uniform on, you said homeland, I saw the clouds reflected in your eyes, you said homeland, I saw turbid sky in your homeland eyes, the roebuck horns above your head on the panelled wall

I missed you, Papa

they kept on

conscripting you in, so

I wished for the black, brightly

shining men from the street to come by, while mother made sure the curtain

hid me, the hunched up

figure on the perching stool

hastily hammered together, Papa

parents magic up their children’s wishes

how fine you were in the

uniform, streamlined, stately, your boots looked licked, I buckled my tongue

back and forth in my mouth to try to

tell you, Papa

but it would not come out, I

did not want to be a bad person, person unworthy of life, sub-animal life form anymore, the scum of the unified human soup

long and thin, my

right foot grew up my calf, a dumb larva with the stump feelers of the toes, you all hid

it, me, you


I was like a stone, dull in the head, you

did not

know that I

sat for hours at the kitchen table, closemouthed, or at the window, keeping a keen eye out for the next selection

***of ice-hard aces

they were gleaming

clean-shaven and, in turn, they razed to the ground, on your rug I heard gnawing in the beams, house beams, home, you said

it was the

woodboring beetle, the larvae fat and white, ringed

like my foot, the

woodboring beetle, you

said, is only loosely

fused in the head, its nerves grow together at random

like me, I thought, Papa

how I picked up the sounds and stored them inside, dust, clattering, crashing

I flew with the

midges or dropped marbles

down on the

rug next to you, dust, clattering, crashing, as you said on the telephone:

“I don’t believe it”

“they wouldn’t dare!”

I heard the name Labude, heard your anger and your fear and began to admire Labude

Labude galloped round a column of triumphal will

the SS man, Bebrastraße Clear-Up Unit, Sondershausen, said I’d get boots and a shovel, anyone who could help, I was needed

said I was good, me, the stone, who

can slog and dig, who will go

home to Oels, Papa

the nightingales from the castle park rejoiced at the window, you whispered with mother, you were unhappy

about me, the child from the

straits, the crush of the womb, I watched your bodies leaning towards one another

stood as


in the door before

your bed, Papa

if you shut one eye, shooting and striking come automatically, you

said, it need only be a

single eye at chest height, in no time at all, Papa

we’ll see each other again, the clouds are already fizzling, the dawn is rolling over the walls of Sondershausen, over the walls at home, of the family, of the bakeries, over the anemones on the platform where I played with gravel and Eustachius

all around me

people hobble or creep, I walk backwards, go unnoticed, I’m erect in comparison, walking

towards you


in my solitary fervour

mute, your son

is writing on the morning of April 9th, 1945, it is an effect of the rotating bombed-out masses that now include events

like me: I was no


only nearly, when you fetched me

from the hospital, Dr. Winsch had given me paper and pen, I knew everything, but I couldn’t always say it, you, Papa

hear me

singing when the wind whistles over the daisies, I liked it when it tickled my toes, I could feel that, I remember it, memory racing

“Emil, be good,” a


happened on the streets, it strayed around for a long time, a mass monster happened on the streets, so to speak: in panic, so many straight black feet push forwards, a selection

***of ice-hard aces


a howling

hangs in the air, no more jaws can hold it

miraculously, liverwort will sprout, and woodboring beetles will multiply, their brains not properly connected, unworthy life, loosely fused, botched by mother nature, waggons, tanks, helmets melt back into the sand, only many a wandering corpse thwarts nature

and the blueprint, you rubbed

camphor into my foot, attached splints, hoped it would get better, what was to become of it

how was I meant to


the ape

they called out after us on the

street, you were


previous lives drift by on silver soles, today’s date is April 9th 1945, the air

is full of wafer-thin people

a glorious dawn is rolling towards America, I’m going the opposite way, Papa

***ice-hard aces

climb, bawling

out of earth shafts and tunnels, gorging and gagging on life is all part of the job

I hear you on the

telephone say, “they wouldn’t dare”

you laugh, the people must hand

themselves over to their heroes, Silesia, Śląsk

Schleswiga, in the middle of the thundering, sputtering HOMELAND

collapsing in on itself

Dr. Winsch came to my bed, I was to

go with him to

another clinic, forever, you wanted this, he said, you just didn’t dare

admit it

to me

I held the pen,

ready to sign, when your rug, Papa

put itself over me, your smell of cigars, gunpowder, you had ample room in the flat, the two of you, alone, who was I in there, again

I took up the pen


to write, then you came in through

the door, Lilly had insisted on coming sooner, Papa

the cushions

are nice at home, I walk

streamlined, make it all

myself in my


while I pass through again in my thoughts, once again: a person invisible outside the flat

unworthy of life, lining up with ration cards for you at dawn so that no one sees the hobbling, hears the stuttering, suspects the talking behind the forehead


says Eustachius, tapping his own

today’s date is April 9th, it will come and go, many will follow it, it is an effect of the masses and maws rotating in the air, I weep so-called important persons: mother, Eustachius, you

dear Emil, your little windmill, your little moo, who rowed on his little cart, who beat his arms about him

who beat himself so he could feel

himself, the getaway suitcase leaning on the bad foot

good job he was so small, so

unmistakably frail

ice-hard Emil, who said to Eustachius, it won’t be easy to find your way home

you must shorten

the route until it finds you, live without frost patterns on window panes, without memory, quietly

love each other

unmistakably ice-hard Emil, a glorious dawn is breaking over the roof of the ravaged house, the Silesian provinces are rolling into a spring day heralded by fire, the light doesn’t care who we are, Papa



Eustachius had hammered the cart together, stolen the wheels for me, even beneath his jacket I could see his muscles working, he will be tall, distended by the things we lived through, Papa



I wish you all good luck

if we are ever lucky, then someday the dew will glisten from the trees we rest under, and a woodboring beetle worth everything purely by nature

will crawl over us

and away, Papa

while weeds spume over the roots.


Ulrike Draesner

Ulrike Draesner was born in Munich in 1962 and now lives in Berlin. She is a novelist, essayist, poet, and translator. Her novels include Mitgift (2002), Spiele (2005), Vorliebe (2010), and Kanalschwimmer (2019). Her poetry publications include kugelblitz (2005), berührte orte (2008), subsong (2014), and Nibelungen: Heimsuchung (2016). Her short fiction includes Hot Dogs (2004) and Richtig liegen (2011). She has won many awards, including the Solothurner Literature Prize (2010), the Joachim Ringelnatz Prize (2014), the Nicolas Born Prize (2016), and the Orphil Poetry Prize (2016). From 2015-2017 she was Visiting Fellow at New College, Oxford University and the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and from 2015-2016 she was Writer-in-Residence at the Department of Languages and Cultures at Lancaster University in the UK. She is currently Professor and Director of the Leipzig Literaturinstitut.

Marielle Sutherland

Marielle Sutherland studied German at Oxford University and completed a PhD at UCL. She taught German Studies at various universities and English at secondary level before becoming a freelance translator in 2011. She holds a Diploma in Translation from the Institute of Linguists. Her academic publications include Images of Absence: Death and the Language of Concealment in the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (Weidler Verlag, 2004) and “Globale Empfindsamkeit: Rolf Dieter Brinkmann’s Poetics of the Global” in Local/Global Encounters, edited by Renate Rechtien and Karoline von Oppen (Rodopi, 2007). Her publications as a translator include the short story Extinguished by Catrin Barnsteiner, in Comparative Critical Studies 4.1 (2007), Rainer Maria Rilke: Selected Poems, co-translated with Susan Ranson, edited by Robert Vilain (OUP, 2011), Dark Matter: Choreografien von Marco Goecke/Choreographies by Marco Goecke, edited by Nadja Kadel (Königshausen und Neumann, 2016), and Bauhaus Architecture 1919-1933, by Hans Engels (Prestel Verlag, 2018).

Sieben Sprünge vom Rand der Welt. Copyright (c) Luchterhand Literaturverlag, München, in der Verlagsgruppe Random House GmbH, 2014. English translation copyright (c) Marielle Sutherland, 2o20.