writers in residence
In Residence
Zurich, Switzerland
December 2013 — May 2014

Noémi Kiss



Noémi Kiss was born in Gödöllõ, north-east of Budapest, in 1974. After studying Hungarian, Comparative Literature and Sociology at the University of Miskolc, she spent two years on literary research at the University of Constance. Her doctoral thesis, Határhelyzetek. Paul Celan költészete és magyar recepciója, on the reception of Paul Celan in Hungary, was published in 2003 as was her collection of essays Tájgyakorlatok. Noémi Kiss’s background as a literary scholar is evident in her writing, which also reveals a strong awareness of gender theories.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has described hers as a “new voice which is no longer easy to miss in the male voice choir that is contemporary Hungarian writing”. In her book What Happened While We Were Asleep (not available in English), Noémi Kiss describes crossing boundaries between countries and genders, from dream to reality. Noémi Kiss has published numerous poems, essays and stories, as well as criticism, in both Hungarian and German. She is a contributor and editor of the journal Új Holnap and a member of the Hungarian Young Writers’ Association. She lives in Budapest and is the mother of twins. /// As of November 22, 2013

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A Short Passage

“Was geschah, während wir schliefen”

“I stand there and hold on to myself, trying to stay whole. Want to hold things together, but it is getting ever harder. Sometimes my head nods off. I forget. When I came in, I thought that I do not belong, and now I am so deep in that I can no longer remember when and how exactly I got to be in here. Past and present are confused. Who are you? I ask. Someone answers and we exchange a few words, but he turns away in the middle of my sentence and goes on talking to someone else, interrupts, carries on again, no matter who with.”

“Ich stehe da, halte mich fest, versuche ganz zu bleiben. Möchte die Dinge zusammenhalten, aber es wird immer schwerer. Manchmal kippt mein Kopf weg. Ich vergesse. Als ich hereinkam, dachte ich, dass ich nicht dazugehöre, und jetzt bin ich so sehr drin, dass ich mich nicht mehr erinnere, wann und wie genau ich hier hineingeraten bin. Vergangenheit und Gegenwart verwirren sich. Wer bist du?, frage ich. Jemand reagiert, wir reden ein paar Worte, doch mitten in meinem Satz wendet er sich ab, macht mit jemand anderem weiter, unterbricht, macht wieder weiter, egal mit wem.”

— From “Was geschah, während wir schliefen” (Berlin, Matthes & Seitz 2009), unpublished translation from German to English

The Literaturhaus Zurich provides an atmospheric setting for the reading by Noémi Kiss. Photo Ralph Hut