22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Tilman Spengler

Portrait Tilman Spengler
© Katharina Kreye

Tilman Spengler was born in Oberhausen in 1947. He studied Sinology, Political Science and Modern History in Heidelberg, Taipeh, and Munich. After completing his doctoral studies he initially worked as a research assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Social Sciences in Starnberg. In the early 80s he taught and did research at the Academy of Sciences in Peking and at the Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) in Berlin. In addition to his academic work, he has written reports and essays for »Die Zeit«, »Geo«, and »Die Woche«. He has been co-publisher of the »Kursbuch« since 1980.
In 1991 he published his first novel »Lenins Hirn« (Eng. »Lenin’s Brain«, 1995), which was very well received and has to date been translated into over twenty languages. The novel is based on historical facts and focuses on the Berliner neurologist Prof. Dr. Oskar Vogt (1870–1959), who with Lenin’s brain, wants to produce physical proof of genius. China, photos, and snapshots of China are the basic elements that make up »Der Maler von Peking« (1996; tr: The Painter from Beijing) and »Die Stirn, die Augen, der Mund« (1999; tr: The Forehead, the Eyes, the Mouth). Here Spengler combines his knowledge of Sinology with a joy for telling stories, thereby bringing to life two different epochs in China. He has a knack for irony and for mixing facts with fiction, which is also what makes his book »Meine Gesellschaft. Kursbuch eines Unfertigen« (2001; tr: My Society: Coursebook of a Work in Progress) an exceptional reading experience. It is a type of autobiographical kaleidoscope, which in 62 sections juxtaposes anecdotes and facts, true and made-up experiences. Tilman Spengler takes the reader on a trip through his world – according to the motto that »certain facts are true, because one can only tell them like that and not differently.« In his book »Sind sie öfter hier?: Von der Kunst, ein kluges Gespräch zu führen« (tr: Do You Come Here Often?: On the Art of Having an Intelligent Conversation), published in 2009, he deciphers the secrets of intelligent conversation based on literary, historical and political examples. »Wahr muss es sein, sonst könnte ich es nicht erzählen« (tr: It Must Be True, Otherwise I Could Not Tell It) was published in 2011, in which he pays tribute to major authors and chef d’oeuvres of world literature. The novel »Waghalsiger Versuch, in der Luft zu kleben« (2015; tr: Daredevilish Attempt to Stay in the Air) offers a new approach to the painter Jörg Immendorf. His most recent publication, »Made in China« (2021) is a novel about the Chinese Cultural Revolution that reveals the varieties of a system that continues to this day.
Spengler also works as a screenwriter and documentary filmmaker (»Bitter Balkan«, 1999) and as a speechwriter (including for former Culture Minister Michael Naumann and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder). Spengler was the town writer of Mainz in 1999 and was awarded the Ernst Hoferichter Prize for his work in 2003. He lives in Ambach on Lake Starnberg and in Berlin.