Lukas Bärfuss was born in Thun in the canton of Bern, Switzerland, in 1971. After finishing school, he worked as a bookseller, among other things. Since 1991 he has worked as a freelance writer and dramatic adviser.
In 1998 he and director Samuel Schwarz formed the still-active artists’ group 400asa, which operates on the stage as well as in film and radio. As part of that collective he wrote multiple radio plays, including »Medeää« (2000), which won the ZKB Patronage Prize from the Zürcher Kantonalbank. Meanwhile he was also active for other theatres as an author and wrote »Die Reise von Klaus und Edith durch den Schacht zum Mittelpunkt der Erde« (2001; tr. Klaus and Edith’s Journey through the Shaft to the Middle of the Earth) and »Vier Bilder der Liebe« (2002; tr. Four Pictures of Love), both of which premièred in Bochum.
Bärfuss made his prose début with the novella »Die toten Männer« (2002; tr. The Dead Men), which describes the retreat from life of a bookseller driven by a desire for autonomy, ego-centrism and over-stimulation. In it we find echoes of the existentialist self-abnegation familiar from Georges Perec’s »A Man Asleep«. At the same time, the sober narration is infused with critical undertones about the state of the nation. The play »Meienbergs Tod« (2001) transforms itself through a variety of alienating devices to express the prickliness of the investigative journalist Meienberg whose death lends the work its title, reflecting not only his life, work and suicide, but also taking aim at the hypocrisies of the cultural milieu. After numerous international stagings, the widely translated work »Die sexuellen Neurosen unserer Eltern« (2003; The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents) is made into a film by Stina Werenfels. In his celebrated novel »Hundert Tage« (2008; tr. A Hundred Days), Bärfuss depicts the shattering of the naive optimism of a young development worker in the face of the barbarism of the Rwandan genocide. In an inner perspective composed of dense aphorisms, political deceptions are uncovered and ostensibly dependable moral systems are shattered. In »Öl« (2009; tr. Oil), which premièred with Nina Hoss in the lead at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, characters running the gamut between greed and tedium meet in a nameless no-man’s land. Along the fine line between meaning and self-destruction, his latest novel, »Koala« (2014), begins with a suicide and examines the milestones in the biography of the deceased, ultimately ranging from the nickname in the title to the evolution of that species.
Bärfuss has received numerous honours for his work, including the Mülheim Dramatists’ Prize (2005), the Mara Cassens Prize (2008), the Anna Seghers Prize (2008), the Hans Fallada Prize (2010) and the Kulturpreis Berner Oberland (2011). In 2005, he was named dramatist of the year at the Mülheim Theatre Days. Most recently, he was awarded the Berlin Literature Prize and appointed to the Heiner Müller guest professorship at the Peter Szondi Institute at Berlin’s Free University. Bärfuss lives in Zurich.