Takis Wurger is a reporter for the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Named one of Medium's 'Top 30 Journalists under 30,' his first novel, The Club, won the lit.Cologne debut prize in Germany. Liesl Schillinger is a literary critic, writer and translator, and teaches journalism and criticism in New York City. In 2017 she was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of France
Ringing with bell-clear writing, remarkable atmosphere and emotional honesty, Takis Würger’s Stella is a hauntingly gripping story of naive young love and duplicity in wartime Berlin. Innocent soul Friedrich grew up in Switzerland, with an alcoholic mother and somewhat eccentric father. In 1942 he takes the inadvisable decision to travel to Berlin to study art, where’s he’s entranced by Kristin, the model in his life drawing class, and a character who’s partly based on a real person. Kristin is bold, intoxicating and brilliantly evoked as a “warm and soft” enigma. “Would you call me Tink? Like Tinkerbell?” she asks of him. Friedrich obliges, of course, for “there was nothing I could refuse this woman,” and she fast becomes a permanent presence in his suite at the Grand Hotel. Their life of drinking and dancing in banned jazz clubs feels worlds away from the war, but as the months pass and the Nazi grip tightens, so the couple’s merrily enclaved existence darkens. Friedrich is disturbed to discover their mutual friend is in the SS, and perplexed by Kristin’s high connections. Then, after vanishing and returning with a shaven head and “dark welts on her neck”, she reveals that she’s Jewish, with more revelations to come. “I don’t know if it’s wrong to betray one human being to save another. I don’t know if it’s right to betray one human being to save another” Friedrich muses, and herein lies the heart of this powerfully melancholic story - fundamental moral questions swell beneath its simply-told surface.
In 1942, Friedrich, an even-keeled but unworldly young man, arrives in Berlin from bucolic Switzerland with dreams of becoming an artist. At a life drawing class, he is hypnotized by the beautiful model, Kristin, who soon becomes his energetic yet enigmatic guide to the bustling and cosmopolitan city, escorting him to underground jazz clubs where they drink cognac, dance and kiss. The war feels far away to Friedrich, who falls in love with Kristin as they spend time together in his rooms at the Grand Hotel, but as the months pass, the mood in the city darkens as the Nazis tighten their hold on Berlin, terrorizing any who are deemed foes of the Reich. One day, Kristin comes back to Friedrich's rooms in tears, battered and bruised. She tells him that her real name is Stella, and that she is Jewish, passing for Aryan. More disturbing still, she has troubling connections with the Gestapo that Friedrich does not fully understand. As Friedrich confronts Stella's unimaginable choices, he finds himself woefully unprepared for the history he is living through. Based in part on a real historical character, Stella sets a tortured love story against the backdrop of wartime Berlin, and powerfully explores questions of naivete, young love, betrayal, and the horrors of history.
A blistering, timely and gripping novel set at Cambridge University, centring around an all-male dining club for the privileged and wealthy. Hans Stichler's uncomplicated German childhood ends abruptly when his aunt invites him to study at Cambridge, where she teaches. She will ensure his application is accepted, but in return he must help her investigate an elite university society, the Pitt Club, which has existed for centuries, its long legacy of tradition and privilege largely unquestioned. But there are secrets in the club's history, as well as in its present, and Hans soon finds himself in the inner sanctum of an increasingly dangerous institution, forced to grapple with the notion that sometimes one must do wrong to do right.