23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Georg Stefan Troller

Portrait Georg Stefan Troller
© Norbert Schmidt

Georg Stefan Troller was born in Vienna in 1921 and served an apprenticeship as a bookbinder. At sixteen, shortly after the November pogroms, he fled Nazi persecution via Czechoslovakia to France, carrying Karl Kraus’ »The Last Days of Mankind« in his luggage. He obtained an American visa in Marseille in 1941. In the U.S., he was drafted into military service in 1943 and arrived in Germany as a young GI in a team of German-speaking prisoner interrogators. He then studied English and drama at the University of California in Los Angeles, among other institutions, and began working as a reporter for newspapers and radio.

Troller became famous with the WDR television magazine »Pariser Journal«, which he hosted and produced over fifty episodes between 1962 and 1971, often going against the station’s conventions. He later reflected on his involvement, stating that »This program is what made me a human being in the first place«. Among those interviewed were countless celebrities as well as »eccentrics, strays, womanizers«. According to Troller’s autobiography » Selbstbeschreibung« (1988/2009; tr: Self Description), which he later filmed himself, he focused on »the wild, bourgeois Paris, the living city«. He approached them in a uniquely determined way. With biographically based urgency and direct, often existential questions, he elicited from them their respective truths. Equally characteristic are his polished comments, often imbued with ironic humour, which also characterized his later portrait series »Personenbeschreibung« (tr: Description of People). The tireless investigator described himself as a »human admirer, human capturer, human explorer« and, has been often described as a »man-eater«, who views his work as connected with the existential fear of persecution. As he writes in the portrait volume »Lebensgeschichten« (2007): »This passionate handling of language, where else does it come from but from the painful youthful experience of expulsion, not only from the homeland, but also from its linguistic space. And from the almost grotesque longing for German words, over years of emigration«.

In addition to several documentary films, he has written numerous screenplays, including Axel Corti’s trilogy »Wohin und zurück« (Eng. »Welcome in Vienna«) and Robert Schindel’s adaptation of the novel »Gebürtig« (tr: By Birth), as well as several volumes about Paris and his encounters with celebrities and artists. He has repeatedly received the Grimme Prize and the Golden Nymph of the Monte Carlo Television Festival and has also been honoured with the Erich Salomon Prize (1975), the Television Film Prize of the German Academy of Performing Arts (1986), the Federal Cross of Merit (2002), the Schiller Prize of the City of Mannheim (2012), and the Honourary Prize of the German Documentary Film Award (2021), among others. Troller has lived in Paris since 1949.