Ludwig Fels was born into a poor family in the Central Franconian town of Treuchtlingen in 1946. He quit his apprenticeship as a painter and decorator in 1964, and started to work as an unskilled labourer in different industries. Finally, »Werkkreis Literatur der Arbeitswelt«, the Literature of the Workplace Writers’ Group, helped him find a way into literary writing, a profession he has been dedicating his life to since 1973, when he published his first anthology of poems »Anläufe« (1973; tr: Approaches). Quite soon he presented a collection of stories and wrote another collection of poems. His first novel »Die Sünden der Armut« (tr: The Vices of Poverty) appeared in 1975.
In his early works, Fels speaks a clear, everyday language, which is, however, accentuated by rather aggressive words. His plots are set in a brutalised, sub-proletarian environment; his protagonists try to escape the spiral of violence, alcoholism, hard-core sex, and exploitation. Hope, if there is hope at all, lies in the fulfilment of love, which, alas, is often nothing but an illusion. As is the case in his successful novel »Ein Unding der Liebe« (1981; tr: The Absurdity of Love). The author conveys an accurate picture of reality on the margins of society in texts which can be read as a dramatic version of realism. The words, language and style he chooses remind us of Rolf Dieter Brinkmann as well as American Beat Poetry, Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller. His autobiographic novel »Der Himmel war eine große Gegenwart« (1990; tr: Heaven was a Major Presence) about a boy whose mother dies from cancer, marks a shift from his main themes so far − violence and the experience of violence − and moves towards an attempt to cope with the feeling of grief. The author’s more recent works, including his novels »Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Herzens« (2006, tr: A Voyage to the Center of the Heart), »Die Parks von Palilula« (2009; tr: The Parks of Palilula) and his anthology of poetry »Egal wo das Ende der Welt liegt« (2010; tr: No Matter where the End of the World lies), are characterized by much less violence than his earlier oeuvre. His language is still realistic and concise, while the setting and circumstances are still precarious. Yet, he increasingly admits minor and greater emotions, sometimes even a somewhat ironical, almost satisfying amazement. »Mein erstes Gedicht / handelte von einem Penner im Paradies. / Ich hab’s weggeschmissen / weil ich nicht wußte / daß es ein Gedicht war«, (tr: My first poem / was about a tramp in Paradise. / I threw it away / because I did not know / that it was a poem.), says Fels in the anthology mentioned above. The poet, narrator and novelist is also a playwright.
Fels has received numerous literary awards including the Leonce and Lena Prize, the Literary Award of the German Literary Fund, the Wolfgang Koeppen Award, the Literary Award of Wilhelm and Christine Hirschmann Foundation and the Elias Canetti Scholarship of the City of Vienna. Ludwig Fels lives in Regensburg and Vienna.
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