22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Allen Kurzweil

Allen Kurzweil, the son of Austrian immigrants, was born in 1960 in New York. After studying in Yale and Rome, he worked as a journalist in Europe, Australia, and the USA. In 1992, he broke into the literary world with »A Case of Curiosities«. The novel, about an ingenious mechanic on the eve of the French Revolution, became an international bestseller and was awarded the Premio Grinzane Cavour (1991) for the best début novel worldwide. It reveals Kurzweil’s penchant for the Age of Enlightenment, mystical machines and gadgets. His passion for oddities was transferred to present-day New York in his celebrated novel »The Grand Complication« (2001). In this book, the librarian Alexander Short comes under the spell of Henry James Jesson III, who asks him to carry out a special investigation. While undertaking detective research, Short comes across a lost pocket watch once made for Queen Marie Antoinette; but, for all his fervour, he fails to realize that his client is turning his life into a literary work. Kurzweil chipped away on this book for nine years, visiting libraries all over the world, interviewing detectives, curators, and watchmakers, learning bookbinding, and using all this knowledge to construct his characters’ inventions. »The Grand Complication« is a witty story full of suspense. »Kirkus Review« commented: »This exuberantly brainly tale is further distinguished by a plethora of quaint and curious lore […] and by suggestive echoes of both ›Oliver Twist‹ and the Humbert-Quilty climatic confrontation in ›Lolita‹.«

In 2003, Allen Kurzweil released »Leon and the Spitting Image«, the first part of a trilogy for young readers. It is a funny and speedy blend of fantasy, magic, and science. The cranky teacher Miss Hagmeyer comes up with the idea of sewing stuffed animals as schoolwork. While her fourth graders spend agonizing hours learning chain and hem stich before producing their masterpiece, the lovable hero Leon Zeisel discovers something extraordinary about his »Miss Hagmeyer animile«. A bit of the teacher’s spit changes his lifeless model into a voodoo doll. With verve, charm, and humour, Kurzweil portrays the 10-year-old and his comrades Lily-Matisse and P.W. with all their childish idiosyncrasies. »Die Zeit« wrote: »This book is the stuff of heroic epics, part Fantastic Realism with a hint of magic.« The author’s fanciful ideas for educational stories continue in Leon’s second adventure »Leon and the Champion Chip« (2005). When Mr. Sparks teaches his students scientific thinking with potato chips, the three friends take revenge on the bully Lumpkin the Pumpkin with the stuffed animal »Pumpkinhead – Version 1.0«.

Allen Kurzweil has received a number of literature prizes and research grants from, among others, the Guggenheim and the Fullbright Foundation. He is currently a Fellow of the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization in Providence, Rhode Island, where he lives with his wife and son, Max.

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