Stolen from Heaven (Himmelsdiebe) | Peter Prange

„The art of great love”

They believe in the power of passion. They live unconditionally, in the realm of a great love. They unite against the world in their paintings and in their dreams. Until reality catches up with them. This is great entertainment from bestseller writer Peter Prange.

A When Laura Paddington meets Harry Winter for the first time, she believes herself to be standing face to face with the “great magician” – the man she has dreamt of since the days of her childhood, hoping that he would spirit her away to another world. It is the beginning of a great passion – between her, a young painter of hardly twenty, and him, the everlasting outsider of art. Against her parents’ wishes Laura follows Harry to Paris of the Thirties. When they feel that even here the whole world is hostile towards them, they escape to Sainte-Odile, a village in the Pyrenees. A paradise, where they are soon chased out, because the times are gloomy. In an odyssey through Europe they have to find out what is stronger: reality or imagination. Barbarity or love.

Reviews

With his historical novel "The Gods of Dona Gracia" (Die Gottessucherin) Peter Prange rose to join the ranks of international bestseller writers. His books have been translated into 24 languages. Also within this time, the author uses motives from the lives of real people … Not only does Prange describe an obsessive-symbiotic relationship, but he also gives us a gripping insight into the lives of two artists who with their surrealistic visions and their creative power design a world their own making.
Christiane von Korff, SPIEGELONLINE, 9 August 2010
It is about the borders between reality and imagination, about the essence of true art and last but not least about great love.
Susanna Gilbert-Sättele, dpa, 9 August 2010
Peter Prange’s new book is by far no soppy love story, even though the subject might make us fear just that. His gripping story about the courage of two outsiders who fight against a martial reality with the magic of their art is historically fascinating, intelligently reflected and simply enchanting.
focus.de, 9 August 2010
A love story, reflecting the drama of a whole century.
FinanzNachrichten.de, 9 August 2010
I lost my breath, following this love story.
Christian von Zittwitz, BuchMarkt Lesetipp, August 2010
Up to now Peter Prange was known as an author of truly exquisite historical novels. Now he sets off to become a writer who knows no more borders. With Stolen from Heaven (Himmelsdiebe) he has managed to write an absolute masterpiece. Although it does contain historical aspects, it is first and foremost a story about the great and only love in life, about the power of art and about the aberrations of war. Every dialogue and every scene shows enormous intensity and eloquence. "Stolen from Heaven" (Himmelsdiebe) is an entwined story, which intoxicates its reader. As if with a close-meshed fisherman’s net, Prange catches the life and times of his epoch. Laura and Harry as characters are so complex that it is a sheer delight to explore every corner of them. With Stolem from Heaven (Himmelsdiebe), Peter Prange spreads great literary magic. What a wonderful story!
Alex Dengler, denglers-buchkritik.de, 16 August 2010
Pure passion.
Frank Pleyer, Reutlinger General-Antzeiger, 19 August 2010
Stolen from Heaven (Himmelsdiebe) is a wonderful novel full of emotions. The dramatic events are reflective of an entire century.
Hans-Jörg Langendorf, Siegener Zeitung, 30 September 2010
The story of a fantastic, greedy, too great love.
freundin, 22/2010
Peter Prange’s opulent novel about two great fighters for great dreams grips and fascinates its readers.
Margarethe von Schwarzkopf, NDR1, Buchwelt, 19 Oktober 2010
A complex book, a masterpiece.
Radio Leipzig, 29 Oktober 2010
Peter Prange has managed to write an entertaining and thrilling novel, a novel about artists, love and lunacy. .
Ruthard Stäblein, HR2, Mosaik spezial, 20 November 2010

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„This hour we have stolen from heaven”

conversation with Peter Prange

This autumn your new novel Stolen from Heaven (Himmelsdiebe) will come out. What meaning does this book mean for you personally?

In the life of every author there are one or two books that decide everything. In my case those two books are The Amber Amulet (Das Bernstein-Amulett) and Stolen from Heaven (Himmelsdiebe).The Amber Amulett decided if I am an author at all. Stolen from Heaven will decide what kind of an author I am.

You are best known for your historical novels. The Principessa (Die Principessa), The Philosopher’s Kiss (Die Philosophin), The Rebel (Die Rebellin), The last Harem (Der letzte Harem) and last but not least The Gods of Dona Gracia (Die Gottessucherin). With Stolem from Heaven (Himmelsdiebe) has caused you to turn to a different subject matter?

After five classical historical novels, I return with Himmelsdiebe to where I started with Das Bernstein-Amulett: to the middle of the 20th century – maybe the most fascinating epoch Europe has ever seen. Insofar this novel does not represent a completely new beginning, rather some kind of rebirth as an author. Besides, I cannot choose the stories that want to be told by me. That might sound strange, but that’s how it is. Suddenly there is a subject, an anecdote, a footnote in a scientific essay, an encounter while travelling, whatsoever – it is always a story that I would like to read myself. And I always wonder why no other writer has yet written it. That probably depends if the subject manages to make something inside of me resound, if it hits a resonance in me that forces me to write. It absolutely does not matter if the story is set in the 16th century as Die Gottessucherin or in modern time such as Himmelsdiebe. What is important is only that it touches me existentially. Therefore, it is of course possible that my next project will be a historical novel again. A story in modern times, however, has one advantage: I can express myself using my own language, I don’t have to put myself back into a time past whenever I want to find a metaphor. That inspires my writing – I hope the reader will notice it.

Himmelsdiebe is more than anything the story of a great passion, an unusual love. What fascinated you about the story of Laura Paddington and Harry Winter?

The radicalism they muster to live their idea of love and life. Two people, a man and a woman, meet each other and start burning for each other in an amour fou. Everything seems to be against them – their families, their friends, the entire society. But instead of bowing to reality, they escape it – first they leave London, then they leave Paris, in order to create their own realm, their paradise of love and art in a far away corner of Europe, a remote village in the Pyrenees. For a little while, their dream of heaven on earth is fulfilled. Then, however, that monstrous war starts that will get the whole Europe in its grip. Their concept of life gets challenged: What is stronger – the passion, the world of love and passion that binds them together or the brutal, barbaric reality?

Laura as well as Harry stand up for the absoluteness of their dreams, regarding their art but also their love. They rebel against the narrow limits the conventional world puts around them. But they are also confronted by a reality they cannot escape. How do you see this conflict between dream and reality in your novel?

The conflict between dream and reality plays its part in the lives of Laura and Harry as in all our lives. We all have our dreams, longings, wishes, but most of the time reality does not agree to us fulfilling them. This conflict is often a terrible experience. But at the same time it makes up the tension of life – and the tension of every good novel as well. Only when reality challenges our dreams we can find out how serious we are about them. And only in standing up for our dreams and in trying to fulfil them can we understand our life. And we recognise ourselves – who we really want to be, who we really are.

If we want to put it that way, we live in an age of “great opportunism”. In times of crises, security seems to be more important than any form of freedom – let alone dreams and visions. Do you regard Himmelsdiebe indirectly also as a comment on what we experience today?

I am no sociologist. I can only speak about myself. While I was at university, my father, a merchant, was worried what should become of me. With my phrase: “Life is too short to waste it on making money” I drove him to despair.” Back then I was young and lived hand to mouth. But does that make my maxim wrong? When I started work on Himmelsdiebe, I went through a difficult phase. The financial crisis devoured my pension within the shortest of time, everybody urged me to write a classical historical novel in order to be on the safe side, especially now – the entire evil reality seemed to conspire against me. But what is reality against a beautiful dream? As more as my real life caused me to laugh on the other side of my face as more I felt attracted to the dancing dreamers of my novel. I immersed completely into their world, laughed with them, cried with them, suffered and won. And what shall I tell you – they did not desert me. As soon as I had written the first hundred pages, I was spoilt for choice of publishers that wanted to publish the novel. Where little me was concerned, the global financial crisis was over. Fabula docet: My novel’s subject turned into a problem solution for my real life. Could there be any better appreciation for a praise writer?

More or less at the beginning of the novel, Laura says about her fascination by Harry: “I want him to teach me to see! To see and to paint! To see and to paint and to live!” For her, the young artist, he is something like a teacher. But in the course of the novel, their relationship changes, especially Laura changes. How would you describe the process Laura goes through?

When the two of them meet for the first time, Laura knows in an instant: This is the great magician – the man she dreamt of as a child, the man who will change her. And indeed, Harry’s magical effect on her is so strong that she starts to see life in a completely new light. In his presence, sometimes even under his spell, she develops into a woman, into an artist. But Laura is no usual magician’s apprentice. Soon her master no longer knows if he is coming or going. If at the beginning Laura feels enchanted by Harry, in the end she turns into a great enchantress herself – and into an enigma that Harry has to solve.

So this novel is also about the artistic passion of an exceptional woman? About her way to find her own style, with and in spite of all love?

The artistic passion is only part of Laura’s development – what is really important is the passion she lives with and goes her own way: unconditionally, without any tricks to cover herself. This unconditional nature drives her even beyond the borders, which make Harry back away. In art as well as in life.

Where does the rather unusual title Himmelsdiebe (Stolen from Heaven) comes from?

For the title, my Turkish wife stood godmother. In Turkey people say: “This hour we have stolen from heaven”, when they have been blessed with a moment of exceptional happiness. Laura and Harry are such thieves of heaven, and my novel tells the story of their heavenly loot. As often as they fall down onto the harsh ground of reality, they still find a way to wring an hour of happiness out of heaven.

So the pair of them are a bit of a “storm in heaven”. What about the relationship between imagination and reality in your case? Where there any real life models for your novel?

Not in literature, but in reality yes, indeed. I have dedicated my novel to the love of a century – Laura and Harry did really exist, although of course they had other names. And yet, Himmelsdiebe is not a factual biography. The novel is rather a portrait of two lovers, created in artistic liberty, the story of a woman and a man who with their love and their art kept the light of humanity burning during one of the darkest epochs of European history. With their hopes and fears, with their doubts and despairs, with their longings and excuses they represent and comment the destiny of a whole continent in the middle of the 20th century.