Christoph Hein

Christoph Hein was born in Heinzendorf, Silesa, in 1944.  After the war he moved with his family to Bad Düben, near Leipzig.  There, as son of an evangelical pastor, he was refused entrance to high school; he went to West Berlin in 1958, where he enrolled as a boarder at a humanistic comprehensive secondary school.  Due to the construction of the Wall he had to leave school in 1961 without a diploma, but was able to complete his studies three years later at night school.  Following that, he studied Philosophy and Logic from 1967-71. Among the numerous odd jobs that Hein undertook during this period were small acting roles and work as director’s assistant.  After completing his studies he worked as dramatic advisor under the guidance of Benno Besson at the Berlin Volksbühne, where he was house author from 1974.  That year his play ‘Schlötel oder Was solls’ (Engl: Schlötel or So what) debuted. In 1979 he left the theatre along with Besson and since then has been active as a freelance writer.  One of Hein’s first big successes in both German states was the novella ‘Der fremde Freund’ (1982; Engl: The Alien Friend), which came out in West Germany a year later under the title ‘Drachenblut’ (Engl: Dragon Blood).  Written from the perspective of an East Berlin doctor, this life’s confession – though lacking in true confessional nature – pitilessly balances coolness and alienation.  In 1986 Hein managed to create a parable of the sinking GDR with his play ‘Die Ritter der Tafelrunde’ (Engl: ‘Knights of the Round Table’).  Its short-term approved debut in Dresden in 1989 and its publication in ‘Sinn und Form’ represented a triumph over omnipresent censorship, against which Hein took a concrete stand.  After the Cold War he issued numerous statements and essays in which he reflected on his role as an intellectual.  The author, who often describes himself as a “chronicler without a message”, succeeds in his novels to chart social analyses of overwhelming concentration.  By means of pithy dialogue and virtuoso use of character’s speech, exemplary biographies are recounted in an almost restrained tone.  Meanwhile, his characters shift between universality and determination through concrete historical circumstances.  Christoph Hein’s novel, ‘Landnahme’ (2004), praised by critics, redresses figures, setting and motifs from the novel ‘Horns Ende’ (1985) and offers a chronicle covering over fifty years of German history. Hein has received many literary awards, among them the Erich Fried Prize (1990), and the Schiller Gedächtnis Prize (2004), and is amongst the most widely read contemporary German authors.  His work is translated into 35 languages. Hein lives in Berlin.

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