Thursday, August 28, 2014

Daniel Kehlmann

Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and lives in Berlin and New York. His works have won the Candide Prize, the Doderer Prize, the Kleist Prize, the Welt Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. His new novel is F.

From Kehlmann's conversation with Jonathan Franzen, in Salon:

Jonathan Franzen: I want to start by saying I’m a big fan of this book. It may be my favorite thing of yours yet, although I’m also a huge fan of “Fame.” It seems like this is a novel about a genuinely serious philosophical question — why our life takes the particular path it does — and about the weirdness of being inside a life while it’s taking the turns it does. But for me the actual experience of reading the book was page after page of comedy. One of the three brothers at the center of it is this grossly overweight priest who can’t stop eating and doesn’t believe in God. Another one is an investment banker who’s trying to conceal from everyone in his life that his business is going down in flames – another classic comic situation. And then you have the third brother working as an art forger in the art world, which is a pretentious and phony place where people are doing pretentious and phony and craven things. It’s all just really, really funny. So my first question would be: Are you comfortable with being called a comic novelist?

Daniel Kehlmann: Yes, I am. I published my first novel when I was 22. It is a very serious book. I was one of these writers who feel that the funny and playful part of their personality is the part they should leave out of the books because literature is serious business. It took me a while to understand that if in life I like to laugh about things, then I should try to get that side of myself into the books. It took me a while to learn how to work with comic effects.

It seems like you’re definitely further in that direction, because this is your funniest book yet. I wonder if that creates difficulties for you in Germany. The stereotype from the U.S. is that Germans are extremely serious. Even here, if you put the word “comic” in front of the word “novelist” — it’s just what you say. Comic is the opposite of serious, and I have a feeling it’s even more that way in Germany. Correct me if I’m wrong.

“Measuring the World“ was a comic novel about classical German culture, and that’s how reviewers around the world saw it right away, but it was not considered a comic novel in Germany when it came out. Detecting humor is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue