New Book on a Jewish Refugee in Cuba: Ursula Krechel’s “Landgericht”

Ursula Krechel’s prize-winning 2012 novel Landgericht [District Court]—published by Jung und Jung Verlag—illuminates a previously little-known chapter in 20th-century history: the exile of Jewish refugees in Cuba. She won the Deutscher Buchpreis for this novel earlier this year.

Description: What fears, what hopes can anyone have who returns from his exile to Germany in 1947? After her celebrated book Shanghai fern von wo, published in 2008, Ursula Krechel’s expansive new novel Landgericht once again follows these traces. The post-war period in Germany, oscillating between depression and new beginnings, forms the backdrop of the almost parable-like, tragic story of a man who fails to arrive anywhere.

Richard Kornitzer is a judge by profession and a character of almost Kohlhaas-like dimensions. The Nazi period with its absurd and deadly rules has rent his life in two. Afterwards, nothing remains as it was: his small family has been scattered to Lake Constance, Mainz and England, and his homeland is almost stranger and more exotic to him than his exile in Havana, which is now bathed in a magical light.

Ursula Krechel’s novel interweaves documentary and fictional elements, and through this the atmospheric contours emerge of a period where the past weighs heavily upon future hopes. With linguistic tenderness and insistent affection, Landgericht accords its figures a kind of late justice. Landgericht – which can mean both ‘County Court’ and ‘judgment upon a country’ in German, thus making for an ambivalent title – is about a German family, and it also tells forcefully of the founding years of a republic.

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For more information in Spanish, see

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