Carolina Schutti was born in 1976 in Innsbruck, where she still lives. She studied German philology, English and American Studies, concert guitar and classical voice. After several years of teaching and following her PhD on Elias Canetti, she taught at the University of Florence, followed by a post as a research assistant at Literaturhaus am Inn. From 2009-2013 she was a board member of Brenner Forum in Innsbruck as well as a member of the board of trustees of Brenner-Archiv. Her publications include essays on literary studies, literary reviews and other texts in literary magazines. She moderates literary events and develops interdisciplinary projects with actors and musicians. Schutti has received a number of awards for her literary work.
Einmal muss ich über weiches Gras gelaufen sein (Once I must have trodden soft grass), 2012
Carolina Schutti’s novel is dedicated to the grandmothers. We are told this early on in this slim volume which takes us into the female narrator's world – a sad and archaic world with no place for love, joy or carefree innocence.
After her mother’s death, Maja is taken in by her aunt who feeds her and gives her a place to sleep but leaves her in the dark about her past. They live in a nameless village in a remote region and in very poor circumstances. Every attempt by Maja to remember her past leads nowhere. Marek, an elderly man who speaks a strange and mysterious language and lives on his own in another remote and lonely house, is the only person who can make Maja feel at home and accepted.
In a clear and poetic style, Schutti describes the situation of people who have been displaced and she does so in an entirely non-political and clear-sighted way. The search for identity, as suggested in the title Einmal muss ich über weiches Gras gelaufen sein (Once I Must Have Walked on Soft Grass), determines the narrator’s life throughout the remainder of the story. And although we’re eventually told that she is from Belarus, and in spite of the book’s referral to the past by dedicating it to the grandmothers, the theme of this novel contains a very contemporary dimension which could apply to countless regions of the world.
Maja pushes herself away from the door frame and takes a step towards her aunt.
“Has it arrived?” asks Maja.
Her aunt dries her wet hands, takes her cardigan from the hook and puts it on, first the right arm, then the left – always the right arm first – before rolling the sleeves up and turning back to the sink. Maja stands to the side and watches her aunt take a dishcloth and start to dry the dishes. The delicate Sunday service, white porcelain with a light-blue pattern, the freshly dried plates and cups go undermost in the cupboard. Maja then stands on a chair and her aunt lifts four plates, Maja inserting two plates together underneath the stack in the cupboard so that all dishes get used in turn, as her aunt had taught her. The cups she can manage herself. Her aunt has already put the glasses away. Then come the knives and forks.
Watch out, that knife is sharp, says her aunt, as usual. Maja takes it by the handle, carefully dries the blade and, when her aunt isn’t looking, cautiously runs her finger along the knife edge before putting it in the kitchen drawer. The heavy pans are the only things she’s afraid of. She needs both hands to carry them to the table, drying first the inside and then turning them over and drying the bottoms and handles. She leaves them on the table for her aunt to hang on the hooks. The noise they make as they clang against the thick stone wall breaks the silence. Meals are eaten without talking, and when washing up care has to be taken so that nothing gets chipped. Talking is a distraction. People talk too much anyway, says her aunt. Maja hangs the dishcloth over the back of the chair to dry. Her aunt pulls down the sleeves of her cardigan and rubs her reddened hands together.
“Has it arrived?” asks Maja again, and her aunt looks at her briefly and shakes her head. It’s Sunday and there’s no post on Sundays and nothing will come now anyway. Easter was three weeks ago. Her aunt shoos Maja out of the kitchen, opens the small window and pulls the door closed behind her.