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Marcel Beyer - Biography

Marcel Beyer, is a German poet and novelist. Marcel Beyer has been named one of the best young European novelists by the New Yorker. Marcel Beyer was born on the 23rd of November, 1965 in Tailfingen, Württemberg. Two of his books, Spies (2000) and The Karnau Tapes (1997), have been translated into English. He has published many books in German including a translation of Gertrude Stein's work. Marcel Beyer is one of the most famous and most commonly read young German authors of today.

Marcel Beyer was born in Tailfingen and grew up in Kiel and Neuss (Germany). Marcel studied German language and literature along with English literary studies at the University of Siegen from 1987 - 1991. Marcel graduated with a Magister degree from the University of Siegen in 1992; his thesis was on the work of Friederike Mayröcker. Marcel Beyer's favorite poets include James Tate, Charles Simic, Inger Christensen, Allen Ginsberg, César Vallejo, Jeffrey McDaniel and Tomas Tranströmer.

From early on Marcel Beyer, strongly influenced by Friederike MayröckerFriederike Mayröcker and the authors of the French Nouveau Roman, was a writer of lyric poetry and novels. He is well known for his 'idiosyncratic' perspective on the German National Socialist period. This can be seen in his works The Karnau Tapes (1995) and Falsches Futterare. The Karnau Tapes was originally titled Flughunde in German which translates into English as Flying Foxes. When reading these books one can find traces of the mid 30’s through 45 in his contemporary writing. The Karnau Tapes covers the time period through the eyes of Goebbels' six little children. Providing a unique and terrifyingly amiable portrait of the realities of living with the war through childrens eyes provides a new perspective to the thousands of books written on Hitler and WW2 Germany.

As Andrew Riemer of Sydney University writes:

Beyer’s perspective – his approach to his subject might be a better way of putting it – is significantly different from that of an earlier generation of postwar writers, notably Wolfgang Koeppen and Günter Grass. Little outrage is evident in The Karnau Tapes and none of the fierce satiric fury that marks several of Koeppen’s and Grass’s books. Instead – rather as in the work of the late W.G. Sebald (who was born in 1944), though in a very different mode – Beyer’s novel is distinguished by a restrained melancholy that stands as an emblem, I think, of the weariness, the spiritual fatigue so to speak, of having to bear the weight of a terrible past for which none of his generation could be held personally responsible.

Marcel Beyer is also an accomplished poet with several published volumes to his name. Upon the publicaiton of Falsches Futter (1997), Marcel has been acclaimed as one of the most innovative and influential poets of his generation. In Erdkunde (2002), Marcel Beyer looks through a linguistic lens towards eastern Europe. As is true of all Beyer’s work one finds his distinctive talent for linguistic movement. Marcel Beyer comments in an interview with Ron Winkler about his views on poetry:

Poetry is probably the appropriate species for the interplay between intimacy and intellectual experiment, between the philosopheme and stubbornness, between magic spells and danger. Risk, because poetry is alloted a stronger resonance for its recipient than prose.

Since 1987 Marcel Beyer has worked on the development of performance art. From 1989 he published with Karl Riha the series Vergessene Autoren der Moderne (Forgotten Authors of the Modern Style) at the University of Siegen. From 1990 to 1993 he worked as editor on the literary magazine Konzepte; from 1992 to 1998 he was a contributor to the music magazine Spex. In 1996 and 1998 he was writer in residence at University College London and the University of Warwick in Coventry. Marcel Beyer lived in Cologne until 1996, and since then in Dresden.

The work of Marcel Beyer has been honored several times with awards, including: Rolf Dieter Brinkmann scholarship (1991), Ernst Willner Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann competition in Klagenfurt (1991), North Rhine Westphalia promotional prize (1992), Berlin Literature Prize (1996), Johannes Bobrowski medal (1996), German Critics Federation prize (1996), Uwe Johnson prize (1997), Lessing prize of Saxony (1999), Heinrich Böll prize (2001), Friedrich Hölderlin prize of the city of Tübingen (2003), Spycher literary award (2004), and Erich Fried Prize (2006).

Marcel Beyer is the author of: Walkmännin (1990), Das Menschenfleisch (1991), Friederike Mayröcker (1992), Brauwolke (1994) (together with Klaus Zylla), Flughunde (1995), HNO-Theater im Unterhemd (1995), Falsches Futter (1997), Spione (2000), Zur See (2001), Erdkunde (2002), Nonfiction (2003), Vergeßt mich (2006), and Kaltenburg (2008).

Marcel Beyer was a professor of poetry and literature at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he taught an Intensive Summer Workshop.