Hans Joachim Schädlich was born in 1935 in Riechenbach in Vogtland. He studied German Language and Literature in Berlin and Leipzig, graduating in 1966. After studying he worked in the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin and, during this time, began to write his first literary texts.
In his short fiction, which was published before the fall of the Wall and which documents daily life in the GDR, Schädlich openly criticises the social conditions in his country. His first prose work, »Versuchte Nähe« (1977, tr: Attempted Closeness), could only be released in West Germany, where it was very well-received. The regime-critical attitude of the author, who was also involved in the demonstrations against the expatriation of Wolf Biermann, increasingly led to conflicts with the state. At the end of 1977 Schädlich’s travel permit application was granted: he first moved to Hamburg, and later to West Berlin. In the novels, stories and essays he has written since then, Schädlich examines the various ways in which a person can react to the social pressures of the time. For example, the author describes with the eponymous main character of his novel »Tallhover« (1986) someone who is committed to the obedient surveillance of his fellows. During the 19th and 20th centuries the informer Tallhover spies on a number of assistants to historical figures like Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin, and at the end is still not satisfied with his commitment to the state. Weighing the options of how an individual can position himself within his political surroundings is a continuous thread running through Schädlich’s work, which is characterised by a sober and concise prose style, and is still present twenty years after »Tallhover«. In his 2003 novel »Anders« (tr: Different) two elderly meteorologists reconstruct the lives of various famous people whose roles abruptly changed when the political situations around them altered. Schädlich’s latest novel, »Kokoschkins Reise« (2010, tr: Kokoschkin’s Journey) tells the story of a 95-year-old Russian exile throughout the political events of the 20th century.
Hans Joachim Schädlich has won many prizes for his literary work. Amongst the most prestigious awards are the Johannes-Bobrowski-Medallion and the Heinrich-Böll-Prize, the Kleist-Prize and the Schiller-Memorial-Prize. The author lives in Berlin.