22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Thorsten Becker

Portrait Thorsten Becker
© Ali Ghandtschi

Thorsten Becker was born in Oberlahnstein and grew up in Cologne. Following an acting course at the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar in Vienna, he worked as an actor and director’s assistant. He studied philosophy, history, sociology and theatre studies at the Free University in Berlin until 1984. His writing début came in 1985 with “Die Bürgschaft” (t: The guarantee). This parody of the classical Schiller ballad, in which a West Berlin author acts as guarantor for a colleague from East Berlin by staying behind in his place, was enthusiastically received by the eminent German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki.

Becker is “one of the nimblest and most imaginative German writers”, wrote Martin Kämpchen in the”Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. The author has written poems, essays, autobiographical texts, dramatic sketches and also translates from French into German. He is best known for his eight novels, which revitalise the genre of historical fiction through their entertaining and brilliant blending and cross-pollination of various historical contexts. He also assimilates impressions from his travels, including journeys to the Middle East and North Africa. Following novels which are set in Arabia and India, Becker established himself as an expert on Turkey through “Sieger nach Punkten” (2004; t: Winner on points). In this novel he orchestrates the life story of an Anatolian “migr”, his son’s super featherweight world title boxing match and a comprehensive depiction of Turkish history.

Becker proves himself a master of historical pastiche with his “Der Untertan steigt auf den Zauberberg” (2001; t: The Man of Straw ascends the Magic Mountain), which focuses on the Mann family, who are fused with a fictional artists’ colony, Orbeswenden (which was of course inspired by Worpswede). The pathological identification of a patient in a psychiatric clinic with Erika Mann gradually spreads to her doctor. Heinrich and Thomas Mann are also the protagonists in Becker’s latest novel “Fritz” (2006). Their correspondence ï- refreshingly imitated by Becker – and a supposed collaborative novel project paint a vivid portrait of a monolithic figure in German history, Frederick the Great. The fictional verse drama “Katteï”, which the Manns set in the era of Frederick the Great, is actually, according to Becker, the work of a peer of the Mann brothers. Becker breathed real literary life into this work, which had its premiere in 2006 at the opening of the newly constructed Hans-Otto-Theater in Potsdam.

Becker’s achievements include numerous scholarships as well as the literary prize of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and the Premio Grinzane Cavour of Turin. The author was Writer in Residence in Rheinsberg in 2005, and for 2008 he has received a scholarship from the Villa Massimo in Rome. When not travelling, he lives in Berlin.

© international literature festival berlin