Maxim Biller

Portrait Maxim Biller
© Ali Ghandtschi

Maxim Biller was born in Prague in 1960. After the violent end of the »Prague Spring«, his family moved to Germany in 1970. Biller studied literature in Hamburg and Munich. After graduating from the German School of Journalism he wrote his first articles for »DIE ZEIT«, »Der Spiegel«, and »Tempo«, where he became famous and infamous for his column »100 Zeilen Hass«. His collection »Die Tempojahre« (1991; tr: The Tempo Years) shows his biting critique of pop literature, scholarly texts, and the cushiness of post-‘68 »common sense«. More provocative observations followed with »Land der Väter und Verräter« (1994; tr: Country of Fathers and Traitors) and »Deutschbuch« (2001), in which Biller polemizes e. g. the ritualization of current Holocaust memorials.

In the »Süddeutsche Zeitung«, Peter von Becker praised Biller’s first short story collection »Wenn ich einmal reich und tot bin« (1990; tr: Someday When I’m Rich and Dead): »Since the post-war novels by Wolfgang Koeppen, since Böll’s early prose, since essays by Hannah Arendt, Adorno, Mitscherlich, and Hans Magnus Enzensberger, I have hardly read anything that would have struck the nerve of the time in such a true and funny way …« The novel »Die Tochter« (2000; tr: The Daughter), a tale with flashbacks to a day spent in Munich, shows Biller as a novelist following in the tracks of Joyce, Döblin, and Koeppen. In »Die Tochter« the stream of consciousness of a father who thinks he recognizes his daughter in a sex film is narrated with a leitmotif of incest. The novel »Esra« (2003) was a scandal when the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany prohibited its sale due to alleged personality rights violations. With »Bernsteintage« (2004; tr: Amber Days) and »Liebe heute« (2007; tr: Love Today) Biller returned to short literary texts in his playful, biographical style fusing fiction and reality. Most recently, he published »Der gebrauchte Jude« (2009; tr: The Used Jew), the novella Im Kopf von Bruno Schulz« (2013; tr: In Bruno Schulz’s Head), »Biografie« (2016), and the family novel »Sechs Koffer« (2018; tr: Six Suitcases), which was nominated for the German Book Prize: »Hardly ever in the past thirty years was there a work in German language that was so light and playful, and at the same time so strict, gripping, and concise about what it means to be a family« (»Spiegel Online«).

In addition, Biller has published children’s books and plays as well as »Maxim Biller Tapes« (2004), a CD of songs and poems. Biller spent 18 years writing the column »Moralische Geschichten« for the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung«; today, he writes the column »Über der Linden« for »DIE ZEIT«. His works have been translated into 16 languages and won many awards. In 2015/2016 he participated in the »Literarische Quartett« at ZDF, and in 2018 he was the Heidelberg lecturer in poetry (Poetikdozentur). Biller lives in Berlin.

© international literature festival berlin