Hermann Schulz

Hermann Schulz, writer, traveller and publisher, was born in Nkalinzi, Tanzania in 1938 to a German missionary and grew up in the Wendland and the Lower Rhine regions of Germany. After training as a bookseller, Schulz initially worked in mining before travelling through more than sixty countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Near East. Since 1960 he has lived in Wuppertal and between 1967 and 2001 he headed the Peter Hammer Publishing House which, during his tenure there, went on to distinguish itself in the fields of political literature, Latin American and African fiction as well as select children’s and young people’s literature. Amongst Schulz’s literary discoveries are authors such as Ernesto Cardenal and illustrators like Wolf Erlbruch. In honour of his work as a publisher, Hermann Schulz was awarded the Hermann Kesten Medal by the German PEN Centre in 1998.

For some years now, Schulz has been writing highly acclaimed novels, stories and picture books for children, young people and adults. He describes the every day life of foreign cultures through a poetic tone, making use of rich imagery, and describes expeditions into unknown territory. His writings are supported by dense ethnographic information; the stories are marked by interior drama, existential experiences and by a cheerful calm. The weekly journal »Die Zeit« celebrated Schulz’s first novel »Auf dem Strom« (1998; t: On the river) as a »narrative treasure«. In sparse and intensive prose the novel reports the missionary Friedrich Ganse’s dramatic journey through colonial Africa: Travelling downriver, his young, terminally ill daughter Gertrud on the boat with him, five days of travel separate the missionary from the hospital that can save her life and he is left dependent on the natives whose language and behaviour the missionary must learn to understand. »In young people’s literature, it is only very seldom that one finds such a balanced portrait of Africans from the pen of a European author«, the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung« wrote in appreciation of Schulz’s work. With likewise insightful empathy Hermann Schulz portrays national, cultural and religious differences in his most successful children’s book, »Wenn dich der Löwe nach ein Uhrzeit fragt« (2002; t: When a lion asks you for the time). In this novel, the twelve year old Temeo Kirschstein, son of an African mother and a German geologist, cheekily describes his Tanzanian way of life to the »Wazungu«, the Europeans. This witty story was nominated for the German Youth Literature Prize in 2003.

Next to East Africa and Tanzania, Hermann Schulze often returns to the Ruhr and the Wendland as settings for his work. His book for young adults, »Iskender« (1999), delineates a multilayered analysis of society as it has been affected by the immigration of foreign workers in the seventies and eighties. The novel was awarded the Turkish Art and Culture Award. »Sonnennebel« (2000; t: The sun fog) tells the story of the orphaned Freddy who breeds pigeons and tries to master the difficult phase of growing up in the post-war Ruhr Area. Schulz’s most recent novel, »Leg nieder dein Herz« (2005; t: Lay down your heart), is a portrait of the missionary in training Friederike Ganse who – erotic and bigoted – flees the Wendland and falls in love with an Englishman on her journey to Africa.
Hermann Schulz’s works have been honoured internationally, produced as audio-books and translated into Japanese, French, Norwegian and Dutch.

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