Wilhelm Genazino was born in Mannheim in 1943. After a period of voluntary training with ‘Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung’ in Heidelberg and Mannheim, he studied German, Philosophy and Sociology in Frankfurt am Main. He worked as a freelance journalist for different newspapers and magazines, including the satirical monthly, ‘pardon’, before settling in Frankfurt am Main as a freelance writer in 1971. Following his unsung debut with the novel ‘Laslinstraße’ in 1965, Genazino became known as a writer of radio plays and sketches. He collaborated on some of these with the comedy writer Peter Knorr. The two authors founded the Literatur-Coop literary agency in 1971. Genazino achieved a breakthrough as a serious writer with his trilogy ‘Abschaffel’ (1977), ‘Die Vernichtung der Sorgen’ (1978) and ‘Falsche Jahre’ (1979), which has been followed by numerous other novels as well as prose and essay volumes.
From 1980 to 1986 Genazino was also publisher and editor of the literary magazine ‘Lesezeichen’. He is a member of the Academy for Language and Poetry in Darmstadt, and in 1996 he served symbolically as Bergen-Enkheim chronicler. He won the Großer Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste in 1998, and other awards. In 2004 he received the prestigious Georg-Büchner-Preis. In 2005/06 he was Writer in Residence of Frankfurt University.
His so-called white-collar novels of the 1970s adhered to the tradition of critical realism. His ‘Phenomenology of Everyday Life’ focuses on alienation, identity crises and the loss of reality from the perspective of those who work in an open-plan office. These themes also dominate his novels after the ‘Abschaffel’ trilogy, ‘Ausschweifung’ (1981) and ‘Fremde Kämpfe’ (1984). It is not until ‘Der Fleck, die Jacke, die Zimmer, der Schmerz’ in 1989 that Genazino starts to reject the sociological deterministic standpoint and accept a more individualistic version of everyday life and writing style. According to the author, the protagonists of his recent novels “know how difficult it is to be independent, which also means to feel and think independently”, but they try “with some success”. In search of an adequate expression for emotional processes, of the speechlessness which we experience in everyday life, the poet offers us countless reflections and contemplations on seemingly inconspicuous ‘events’, on encounters with words, objects and people without names.
In his novel, ‘Die Kassiererinnen’ (1998), Genazino follows the trail of an ageing big-city stroller, who tries to come to terms with his relationship to the world by analyzing ‘ridiculous’ situations and by developing strategies to avoid them. Genazino illustrates the close link between narrative and memory in his 2000 ‘Album’ ‘Auf der Kippe’. Each photo introduced here – the author claims to have acquired them “at flea markets, from second-hand dealers and in antique shops” – relates to a contemplation, a possible memory of a forgotten event. According to Genazino, telling a story puts an end to the “fate of oblivion” and gives the “dignity of documents” back to pictures. He recently published the novel “Mittelmäßiges Heimweh” (2007) and “Lieber Gott mach mich blind” and “Der Hausschrat” (2006), two plays in one volume.
The author lives in Heidelberg.
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