Michael Wildenhain was born in West Berlin in 1958. He began studying industrial engineering in 1977, switched to philosophy in 1981, and then decided to pursue a degree in computer science in 1985. He has been a freelancer since his 1987 internship at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg. His wide-ranging works include novels, short stories, poems, plays, and young adult books.
His experiences in the squatters’ scene, which he was briefly a part of in the early 1980s, became the material for his initial literary publications: »Zum Beispiel K.« (1983; tr: For Example K.), »Prinzenbad« (1987; tr: Prince Bath), and »Die kalte Haut der Stadt« (1991; tr: The Cold Skin of the City). The protagonist in »Erste Liebe Deutscher Herbst« (1997; tr: The First Love German Autumn) has just graduated from high school and stands at a turning point. He experiences the turmoil of his first love in autumn 1977, a politically heated phase of German history characterized by the kidnapping of Hanns Martin Schleyer, the attacks of the RAF, and demonstrations against nuclear power plants. Wildenhain’s generational novel »Träumer des Absoluten« (2008; tr: Dreamers of the Absolute) details forty years of German history through the growth of three friends who move between political radicalism and romantic dreams. His book »Das Lächeln der Alligatoren« (2015; tr: The Smile of the Alligators), nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize, also focuses on the era of West German terrorism and the intersection between political and private by exploring the question of the legitimation of violence. The novel »Das Singen der Sirenen« (2017; tr: The Song of the Sirens), nominated for the German Book Prize, tells the love story between an Indian stem cell researcher and a German literary scholar teaching in London, whose left-wing past is catching up with him. »Wildenhain is a precise observer who knows how to capture external images just as precisely as internal emotions« (»SZ«). In his latest, suspenseful novel »Die Erfindung der Null« (2020; tr: The Invention of Zero), Wildenhain details the encounter between a mathematical genius suspected of murder and a prosecutor. As the latter attempts to prove the murder, the suspect is increasingly gains control over the situation.
In 2012, Wildenhain published a selection of plays that deal primarily with violence and right-wing radicalism among young people. He has led various prose-writing courses, was a visiting professor at the German Literature Institute in Leipzig, and was a guest lecturer at the University of Tübingen. In 2018, he was one of the first to sign the petition by writers and other cultural figures against the exclusion of foreigners and the protection of people »who seek refuge from war, persecution and poverty in our country«. Selections of his literary awards include the Alfred Döblin Prize, the Ernst Willner Prize, the Villa Massimo grant, and the London grant from the German Literature Fund. He lives in Berlin.