22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Katharina Hacker

Katharina Hacker was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1967. Her interest in modern Jewish thinkers such as Gershom Scholem and Theodor W. Adorno led her to study Judaism, philosophy and history. She studied at the University of Freiburg and continued at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She spent six years in Israel, as a tutor in German and teaching at the School for Cultural Studies in Tel Aviv. Her first literary work was »Tel Aviv« (1997), a description of the city in prose sketches which she started writing there. It was published one year after Hacker moved back to Berlin, establishing herself as a freelance writer and translator from Hebrew.

After two further collections of short stories and two novels, Hacker reached a larger audience with the publication of »Die Habenichtse« (2006; t: The have-nots), which won the German Book Prize. The novel tells of a young married couple that lead a tepid, dissatisfying life despite being free of financial concerns. While they both feel threatened by the abstract danger of Islamic terrorism after 9/11 and at the same time become enmeshed in their own personal obsessions, they are not able, out of their own inept helplessness, to deal with the misery of their neighbours, a socially week family. Not until their actual living conditions spiral into disaster does the new order of a life together seem possible.

As the plot unfolds from a certain authoritative distance, Hacker’s meticulously chosen language builds up a tension saturated with fear of threatening catastrophes and overwhelming feelings which is maintained, unabated, throughout the narrative. The jury of the German Book Prize commented: »In frenetic, atmospherically dense language Katharina Hacker leads her heroes through the spaces of history and the main problem areas of the immediate present.« The presentation of history and a contemporary update pervade the author’s work. The stories in »Morpheus oder Der Schnabelschuh« (1998; t: Morpheus or The beaked shoe) depict mythical figures from Greek antiquity in contemporary surroundings. The novel »Der Bademeister« (2000; t: The pool attendant) depicts, using explosive monologue, a character who lives under two dictatorships and gradually becomes numb before finally cracking. In »Eine Art Liebe« (2003; t: A kind of love) Hacker develops a story inspired by Saul Friedländer’s memories. The novel tells of an unbreakable friendship burdened by feelings of guilt between a Jew who survived the Holocaust by hiding in a French convent and a fellow student. Hacker’s most recent publication was the collection of prose poems »Überlandleitung« (2007; t: Land line).

The author was Writer in Residence in Bergen-Enkheim in 2005 and in 2006 was awarded the d.lit Literature Prize. The mother of a daughter she lives in Berlin.

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