Thomas Hettche was born in Treis, near Giessen, Germany, in 1964. He studied philosophy and German in Frankfurt. While still a student, he published his first novel, earning himself an invitation to compete for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in Klagenfurt. He became a member of the jury for the said prize from 1995 to 1999. He completed his doctorate in 1999, has written articles for the »FAZ« and the »NZZ«, has taken contracts at various higher education institutions, and since 2005, is the publisher of Edition Spycher.
His debut novel, »Ludwig muß sterben« (1989; tr: Ludwig Must Die) examines the relationship between reality and fantasy: a narrator recently released from a psychiatric institution spends a weekend in the apartment of his terminally ill brother who is in Venice at the time. While there, he has an involuntary encounter with death, which has taken the form of a woman straight out of an anatomy book, and her assistant, a Renaissance doctor. The subsequent experimental piece »Inkubation« (1992; tr: Incubation) earned the author a place within the literary avant-garde. Hettche’s crime novel »Der Fall Arbogast« (2001; Eng. »The Arbogast Case«, 2003), based on a miscarriage of justice in post-war Germany, became a bestseller and has been translated into ten languages. His slightly existentialist thriller »Woraus wir gemacht sind« (2006; Eng. »What we are made of«, 2008) was equally successful. The novel »Die Liebe der Väter« (2010; tr: The Love of Fathers) and the very personal essay volume »Totenberg« (2012) were followed by the well-received novel »Pfaueninsel« (2014). In the novel, Hettche resurrects the forgotten world of the island near Potsdam, which was transformed into an artificial paradise by Lenné and Schinkel in the 19th century. The story tells of a fictional castle maiden and her tragic love for a garden artist, of human interference in nature, contemporary history, art, and science. With his multilayered text, Hettche was able to »seamlessly combine the cultural-historical essay with the historical novel and a passionate love story« (»Die Zeit«). His most recent work »Herzfaden: Roman der Augsburger Puppenkiste «(2020; tr: Heartstrings) tells the story of the unique Augsburg puppet theater and the family that founded it and made it famous.
In 2000, Hettche collaborated with Jana Hensel to publish the online anthology »Null« (tr: Zero), which invites thirty-five young writers to submit contributions for one year’s time – one of the first German literary projects on the internet. Thomas Hettche has received many fellowships and literary awards, including the Robert Walser Prize, the Rome Prize from Villa Massimo, the Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize, and the Joseph Breitbach Prize for his collective work. He has been nominated for the German Book Prize on many occasions. The author lives in Berlin and Erschmatt, Switzerland.