Burkhard Spinnen

Portrait Burkhard Spinnen
© Peter Stiens

Burkhard Spinnen was born in Mönchengladbach, Germany, in 1956. He studied German Language and Literature, Journalism and Sociology at the University of Münster.  After completing his Ph.D., he worked until 1995 as an academic assistant at the Institute of German Studies.  His dissertation on the history of emblematic short prose with studies of Peter Altenberg and Karl Kraus was published in 1991 under the title ‘Schriftbilder’ (Engl: Written Images). His interest in short prose, however, extends beyond the purely scholarly. In the same year he made his literary debut with the publication of ‘Dicker Mann am Meer’ (Engl: Fat Man at Sea).  This volume of twelve short stories, about the abysms that lurk within seemingly normal everyday life, was awarded the aspekte-Literature Prize from ZDF in 1991.  Alongside his academic, essayistic and literary texts, published in magazines such as ‘Freibeuter’ and ‘Sprache im technischen Zeitalter’, Burkhard Spinnen writes reviews, for example for the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’. He was visiting professor for Literary Aesthetics at the German Literary Institute in Leipzig from 1997 to 2000, and was on the jury of the Klagenfurt Ingeborg Bachmann competition from 2000 to 2006.  Eight years before, Spinnen read his own story, ‘Der Pfeiler’ (Engl: The Pillar), to the jury and won the Kärtner Industrie prize.  His stories show images of everyday life in the German provinces. He exposes his protagonists to small irritations through which the void of their lives of controlled torpor becomes visible.  The author maintains an objective distance between himself and his characters.  He describes their relation to their environment in detail and in a distinctively precise language, and as a result foregoes characterisation through psychological digressions of any kind.  The second volume of stories, ‘Kalte Ente’ (1994; Engl: Cold Duck), followed the novel ‘Langer Samstag’ (Engl: Long Saturday), in which the depiction of a failed relationship between a administrative lawyers and a business advisor allows, again and again, for small, quirky mind games and far flung anecdotes.  Burkhard Spinnen’s fascination with the short story form is also manifested in the sixty short stories of ‘Trost und Reserve’ (1996; Engl: Comfort and Reserve) and in his autobiographical prose miniatures, ‘Lego-Steine’ (2004; Engl: Lego Blocks).  Alongside the distinction of having received the Konrad Adenauer grant in 1999, he has been awarded the Oldenburg Children and Youth’s Literature Prize for the children’s novel ‘Belgische Riesen’ (2000), the Herbert Quandt Media Prize for the exceptional biography of the Swabian enterpreneur Walter Lindenmaier, entitled ‘Der schwarze Grat’ (2003; Engl: The Black Ridge) and the German Niederrheinischer Literaturpreis of the city of Krefeld (2004).  His most recent publication is the collection of apostils ‘Kram und Würde’ (2006; Engl: Stuff and Dignity). Burkhard Spinnen lives in Münster.

© international literature festival berlin