Spitzweg: Eckhart Nickel’s novel NDR.de – Culture – Book

Status: 05/18/2022 06:00 AM

In the 2017 Ingeborg Bachmann competition, Eckhart Nickel received the Kelag Prize for excerpts from his first novel, “Hysteria”. Now his second novel is out.

by Claudia Cosmo

I’ve always said it: Recording is totally overrated, back to drawing!
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Karl turned to the truth and the original and devoted himself to analog painting. It is an eccentric that Eckhart Nickel alludes to the “Hugstolz” character who can be seen in the painting of the same name by Carl Spitzweg. Just as in the picture, isolated characters appear in Nickel’s new novel “Spitzweg” who distance themselves from their environment. Karl even has an art stock with which to investigate reality. He is so devoted to the arts and presents himself as artificial, that it seems unapproachable in everything personal. However, Karl befriends the anonymous narrator, who changes frequently:

I’ve never been much interested in art. Art often attempts to be a window and a mirror, yet it cannot replace one or the other. How she fails is especially evident when she tries to portray life realistically.
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Always in touch with art

In the context of the novel, the narrator is neglected and experiences an original beauty in the almost impossible and strange, which is none other than art. Like it or not, all the heroes in Eckhart Nickel’s novel, stained with language and thought as if by magic, are always associated with art. This is due to a “heinous incident” that takes place in a classroom and gives the novel a touch of the novel:

The art teacher gave us a self-portrait as an assignment. So while everyone was hunched over the drawing board trying to get the outlines of their faces at least halfway right, Frau Hügel crept from table to table. A strand of shiny hair always fell forward when she leaned on the shoulder of a female student. And also with Kirsten, the only talent among us. She carefully examined the drawing, which was almost completed, cleared her throat and pronounced her verdict: “Very successful, respect: the courage to be ugly!” Kirsten swallowed the instant silence and ran to the back of the art room, her hands covering her eyes.
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After this incident, Karl seeks revenge. Together with the narrator, he searches for Kirsten and convinces her to just disappear, making a sketch of a dying Ophelia beforehand as a hint of a possible suicide in order to shock the teacher.

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The beauty of wonders

Just as in his first novel, “Hysteria,” Eckhart Nickel is based on a dynamic trio of heroes in “Spitzweg”: two young men and a young woman who, as in “Hysteria,” also called Kirsten. Anyway, in the new novel she meets some detractors and motifs from the first. In “Spitzweg” too, the young learn from the old. For example, when the narrator meets his mentor Dr. Vant visits at home and ends up in a secret library:

I could hardly contain my excitement because what I saw here was very different from what I expected. As if the gods had a hand in it.
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In addition to a love of unpolished books and neglected words like “excited” or sentences like “I frequently drink milk,” it’s a record that has become a discus and encounter with art theft that make Spitzweg a great reading experience. Above all else, Eckhart Nickel celebrates the beauty of wonder in his novel.


by Eckhart Nickel

page number:
256 pages
a novel
Order number:
22 EUR

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Culture NDR | New books | 05/18/2022 | 12:40 pm

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