By Catherine Gammon
Read this book! and be seduced by Catherine Gammon’s stunning and complex political mystery of a martyr bearing witness in a dangerous world. Against a backdrop of America’s and Germany’s brutal histories, her lyrical yet frightening then haunted and intimate language crawls into the psyche of her characters. Gammon is an author whose books you can trust to shock and seduce. Brava for a new book—for our times.
– Margo Berdeshevsky, author of It Is Still Beautiful to Hear the Heart Beat, Beautiful Soon Enough, and Kneel Said the Night
Jutta Carroll and her lover Lukas Grimm are found in their home—one bullet each, three weeks dead.
The Martyrs, The Lovers circles the mysteries surrounding Jutta Carroll’s death—probing her origin story, the rise to personal political stardom, and the fall into anxiety and public decline—all the while exploring the forces and motivations that drive political passion and activism, and the counterforces, material and psychological, that constantly threaten progress.
The Martyrs, The Lovers is loosely based on the life and 1992 death of the German Green Party founder and activist Petra Kelly with her partner Gert Bastian. The challenges to environment, peace, justice, and feminism that informed these lives and deaths—in the world of the fiction and in reality—challenge us more than ever today.
Exquisitely written, in thoughtful and poetic language, The Martyrs, The Lovers is a book whose characters and contemplations will stay with you long after you have finished reading.
Interview with Catherine Gammon:
The Missouri Review
About Catherine Gammon: Catherine Gammon is author of the novels China Blue, Isabel Out of the Rain, and Sorrow. Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, New England Review, Cincinnati Review, and The Missouri Review, among many others, as well as online at The Blood Pudding, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and Fractured Lit. Her work has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the American Antiquarian Society, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and Djerassi. From 1992 through 2000, Catherine taught in the MFA writing program of the University of Pittsburgh, before leaving for residential Zen training at San Francisco Zen Center, where she was ordained a priest in 2005. She lives again in Pittsburgh, with her garden and her cat.
Catherine Gammon’s The Martyrs, The Lovers offers readers Gammon’s characteristically precise, beautiful prose, but there is also a thrilling new uncanniness here. With The Martyrs, The Lovers, Gammon renders humane truth out of fiction based in fact. A Sebaldian pleasure, perhaps related to Maylis de Kerangal’s practice of “weav[ing] the documentary as a poem” in its comfort with unknowableness, and without doubt a thoroughly captivating story of the cruelties of ambition disappointed.
– Gabriel Blackwell, author of Doom Town and CORRECTION
Sound Bites From The Text
It begins in the narrator’s voice:
Like medieval lovers, they ended up dead, side by side, their corpses rotting, undiscovered.
I understood it as a suicide, a shared action, shared despair—“ego despair,” I said at first and several times throughout the day. I elaborated: not despair at the state of the world they had struggled so long and so hard to remake; if that had been the motive, they would have killed themselves in public, their deaths a statement, immolations. This suicide was private, secret, hidden—ashamed—it left not even a note. This image I made of their deaths, their bodies, was wrong, but I didn’t know it yet. The first news was too slight, too incomplete.
In Jutta’s voice:
Where is Lukas? He should be here with the gun. Has he not heard me? Not understood? We have agreed to this. We have already agreed. We offer no explanations. We die from love and grief. Any single explanation will erase all others. The world is its own explanation, the far and the near. Every detail contributes. Let everyone know this guilt. Let no one off. No one is innocent. Everybody knew.
And later, still Jutta:
If we have lived by a public ideal, privately we have failed it. Some will sanctify us for the attempt. Others will vilify us for the failure. Either way, they will debate about us, two frail and fallible human beings, while the ideal vanishes in the obfuscating dust. We will be blamed for this loss also. Our friends alone will grieve.