Michael Maar

Michael Maar © Hartwig Klappert

Michael Maar was born in Stuttgart in 1960. He studied German and psychology at the Otto-Friedrich-University in Bamberg and wrote his dissertation on Thomas Mann, which he published in 1996 as »Geister und Kunst. Nachrichten aus dem Zauberberg« (tr: Spirits and Art: News from the Magic Mountain) and for which he was awarded the Johann Heinrich Merck Award by the German Academy for Language and Poetry in 1995. As a literary critic, he has been publishing his texts in newspapers and magazines since the 1990s. His essays on authors such as H. C. Andersen, Elias Canetti, G. K. Chesterton, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, Vladimir Nabokov, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf have appeared in a number of books. »Das Blaubartzimmer. Thomas Mann und die Schuld« (2000; tr: The Bluebeard Room: Thomas Mann and Guilt (2000) investigates why Thomas Mann burned a suitcase containing his diaries written before 1933. »Warum Nabokov Harry Potter gemocht hätte« (2002; tr: Why Nabokov Would Have Liked Harry Potter), examines J. K. Rowling’s books as high-ranking literary works of art. »Lolita und der deutsche Leutnant« (2005; tr: Lolita and the German Lieutenant) explores the parallels between Heinz von Lichberg’s 1916 novella »Lolita« and Nabokov’s 1955 masterpiece of the same name. Maar’s study »Solus Rex. Die schöne böse Welt des Vladimir Nabokov« (2007; tr: Solus Rex: The Beautiful Evil World of Vladimir Nabokov) was shortlisted for the Leipzig Book Award in 2008. In »Proust Pharao« (2009), Maar utilizes unknown biographical details to shed light on key passages of Proust’s epic »Recherche du temps perdu«.

Maar’s first novel was »Die Betrogenen« (2012; tr: The Betrayed). The plot is set in the literary scene of post-reunification Germany and is less of a milieu study that uncovers lies and vanities and more of a general study of human passion. In »Heute bedeckt und kühl. Große Tagebücher von Samuel Pepys bis Virginia Woolf« (2013; tr: Today is Overcast and Cool: Large Diaries from Samuel Pepys to Virginia Woolf), Maar assembles astonishing findings into a broad temporal arc. Authors include Thomas Mann, Friedrich Hebbel, John Cheever, Hermito von Doderer, Christa Wolf, Peter Sloterdijk, Rainald Goetz, and Wolfgang Herrndorf. In his most recent work, »Die Schlange im Wolfspelz: Das Geheimnis großer Literatur« (tr: The Snake in Wolf’s Clothing: The Secret to Great Literature), Maar uses fifty author portraits to describe his reflections on the history of German literature, bringing up questions of style, jargon, sentence structure, and the art of dialogue.

Maar has been a member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry since 2002 and of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts since 2008. He has received numerous awards including the Lessing Prize for Criticism (2000) and the Heinrich Mann Prize (2010). He taught at Stanford University and lives in Berlin.