Nicolas Mahler

Portrait Nicolas Mahler
© Ali Ghandtschi

Nicolas Mahler was born in Vienna in 1969 and has made a name for himself as teh creator of satirical comics and cartoons, and as an illustrator. Since the late 1990s he has produced around 30 books in German, which have also been published in France, North America, among other countries. His comic strips appear in daily newspapers such as the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He has also created a number of animations partly based on his comic figures. Mahler’s style, at times referred to as »Minimahlismus« (tr. Minimal-painting-ism; which is also a play on his name, which translates as »painter«), is characterized by graphic reduction, caricaturing penmanship and dark, often self-ironic humor with a hint of melancholy. The subtle wit in Mahler’s work often arises from combining eccentric characters and absurd situations; his comics strips can be seen as both elevated nonsense and philosophically influenced meditations on human existence. »Like all true humorists, Nicolas Mahler is, in fact, also a tragedian busily engaged with nothing less than the ›conditio humana‹«, wrote Christian Gasser in the »NZZ«. »The thing is – his pessimism would be almost unbearable if it weren’t masked by humor.«

Among his most important works is the comic strip »Flaschko. Der Mann in der Heizdecke« (2002, tr. Flaschko. The man in the electric blanket) in which Mahler develops strikingly profound mini-dramas based on the relationship between a man – vegetating in his electric blanket – and his mother. »Flaschko« was adapted for the radio and for the puppet theater, as was »Kratchovil« (2002). For the short story collection »Dick Boss« (2010), Mahler collaborated with a dozen authors who worked his images into various stories, which they developed further. »Spam« (2009) was inspired by absurd marketing emails, »Engelmann« (2010) is a pastiche of superhero comics. »Alte Meister« (2012; tr. »Old Masters«) is based on the eponymous novel of the same by Thomas Bernhard, and »Alice in Sussex« (2013) is informed by the stories of Lewis Carroll and H. C. Artmann. In 2013 he reworked Robert Musil’s modernist novel »Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften« (Eng. »The Man without Qualities«), in 2014, Frank Wedekind’s »Lulu«, and in 2017 Marcel Proust’s »Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Zeit« (Eng. »In Search of Lost Time«) into graphic novels. In »Dachbodenfund« (2015; tr. Attic finds) he combines small illustrations with fragments of text found in auction catalogues. In his most recent work titled »In der Isolierzelle« (2017; tr. In the isolation cell) he employs design principles used in hobby and trade magazines published between 1920 and 1960.

Nicolas Mahler is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Max-und Moritz-Preis in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and the Preis der Literaturhäuser in 2015. He lives in Vienna.