Richard Wagner was born Lowrin, in the Banat region, in 1952. He studied Romanian and German language and literature in Temeswar and worked as a German teacher and later as a journalist, in Transylvania – for the weekly »Karpatenrundschau« among others. He was a founding member of the »Aktionsgruppe Banat«, a literary and political group of authors that was broken up by the Romanian secret police in 1975. After he was banned from working and publishing, he moved to West Berlin.
Wagner made his literary début with the book of poems »Klartext« (1973; t: Clear text), which has been followed by six more volumes of poetry. In his stories, novels and increasingly with essays, he deals with the dictatorship in his native country, the fate of the Germans of Romania, the Balkans, reunified and its role in the European context. He proves himself an attentive and clearsighted observer who combines melancholic, polemical and ironic tones. He illuminates the connections between the private and the political with passion, empathy and a laconic wit.
The short story »Ausreiseantrag« (1988; t: Exit visa application), tinged with autobiographical elements, refers in its title to the effects of everyday life in Communist Romania, under a dictatorship which penetrates deep into the psyche, even occupying and abusing language. The past and the present come together in the novel »Habseligkeiten« (2004; t: Belongings). It tells the saga of a Romanian-German family that has been impacted by two hundred years of wandering – »a homeland novel without a homeland«, wrote Ralf Berhorst. After writing a series of Berlin novels, showing people from the modern metropolis in their restlessness as well as in their inability and reluctance to build relationships, Wagner’s most recently published novel is »Das reiche Mädchen (2007; t: The rich girl). In it he describes the collapse of the relationship between a German academic and a Serbian refugee due to the woman’s feelings of guilt at her family having taken financial advantage of the Nazi régime, as well as to unbridgeable cultural differences.
Wagner took up this theme from his latest volume of essays, »Der deutsche Horizont« (2006; t: The German horizon), in which he argues that overcoming the past represents a constructive necessity: »The danger for Germany is not in the return to its past, but in the neglect of the present …We must learn anew to see ourselves as a part of the European cultural sphere.«
Among the author’s numerous awards are the Leonce and Lena Prize, the Andreas Gryphius Award, the German Language Prize, the Rome Prize of the German Academy Villa Massimo and the ndl Literature Award. In 2008 Wagner was awarded the Georg Dehio Book Award, the ceremony of which will be held during the 8th international literature festival berlin. The author lives in Berlin.
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