22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Benedict Wells

Portrait Benedict Wells

Benedict Wells was born in 1984 in Munich, Germany, later lived in Berlin and Barcelona, and now again calls the German capital home. After finishing high school, chose writing over a university degree, and supported himself with various odd jobs, including a stint as a television editor.

Discouraged by countless rejections from publishers, Wells was on the verge of leaving Germany behind when, unexpectedly, the publisher and Diogenes founder, Daniel Keel, who passed away in 2011 and was famous for being very selective when taking on new authors, called him to express interest in Wells’ novel »Becks letzter Sommer« (tr. Beck’s last summer), which was ultimately published in 2008, one year before »Spinner« (2009; rev. edition 2016; tr. Weirdo), the very first book he wrote. In a 2013 interview with the newsmagazine »Der Spiegel«, Wells remarked that he put everything he had into this story – the totality of his despair, fear and hope – and thus, in the truest sense of the word, he was writing for his life. »Becks letzter Sommer« is about a bored teacher at a state school who discovers a child guitar prodigy, whose career he wants to support in order to revisit his earlier life as a successful musician. Thus, their journey through Eastern Europe to Istanbul becomes a »quest for meaning in the inner lives of the protagonists« (»Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«). According to »Die Zeit«, the novel was the »most interesting debut of the year«, which »succeeds in depicting highly nuanced characters and atmospheres with unpretentious, seemingly incidental language and a paucity of words«. The book won the 2009 Bayerischer Kunstförderpreis and in 2015 was made into a film with Christian Ulmen in the lead role. In »Fast genial« (tr. Almost brilliant), Wells’ bestseller published in 2011, the protagonist is also searching for his identity: a penniless youth, Francis, learns that his origins stem from a sperm bank that only offers the semen of highly gifted men, which triggers his quest to find his unknown father. In his latest work, »Vom Ende der Einsamkeit« (2016; tr. From the end of solitude), the author tells the story of Jules, who, after awakening from a coma caused by a motorcycle accident, remembers how he and his siblings struggled to rebuild their lives after their parents were killed in a car accident. While in 2011the national television network ZDF had called Wells an »exceptional talent in the world of young German literature«, a later review by the ZDF declared »Vom Ende der Einsamkeit« to be the author’s masterpiece. The »Tagesspiegel« praised the diligence with which Wells construes his family constellation so effortlessly across three decades, creating unforgettable images and believable characters with psychologically fascinating love histories. In 2016 the repeat bestseller was finally awarded the European Union Prize for Literature.