Chuck Palahniuk

Portrait Chuck Palahniuk
© Ali Ghandtschi

Chuck Palahniuk was born in Pasco, Washington in 1962. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon and graduated in 1986. After writing briefly for a local newspaper in Portland, Oregon, he worked as a car mechanic and on the side wrote handbooks for lorry repairs. In addition, he volunteered for homeless shelters and hospices. His earliest novel manuscript, »Invisible Monsters«, remained unpublished until 1999. At that point Palahniuk had become a bestselling author with his first publication, »Fight Club« (1996), and achieved international cult status. The eponymous film version, with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, enjoyed similar international success.

At the centre of the plot lies a boxing club of a special sort, in which dissatisfied individuals can free themselves from the frustrations of their middle-class existence through extremely brutal fights. The story, which initially takes on the form of a study of a milieu that glorifies violence, emerges as an intoxicating puzzle that enchains and disturbs thanks to its manifold layers of interpretation and proximity to reality. The subsequent novel »Survivor« (1999) tells the story of Tender Brenson, the last survivor of a devout sect, who works by day as a butler and nights for a counselling hotline service which encourages suicides to take the final step. A plane that crashes serves as the narrative engine; the chapters and page numbers proceed in a reverse countdown.

Palahniuk’s novels are characterized by grotesque excesses, black humour, latent social criticism and a love of marginalized people. The author has explained his laconic style by saying in an interview that he prefers verbs to adjectives. After somewhat less drastic – but not any less shocking – novels such as »Lullaby« (2002), »Diary« (2003) and »Haunted« (2005), Palahniuk recently published »Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey« (2007). From the point of view of numerous characters, the novel traces the short life of the young rebel Rant, who dies in a spectacular automobile collision during a so-called »party crashing« and on account of this becomes a cult figure.

Palahniuk, whose readings, it has been reported, are often accompanied by fainting spells in the audience, has received the Oregon Book Award and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award twice. »The New York Times« lists Palahniuk among the ten best writers on the US literary scene. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington.

© international literature festival berlin