Wolfram Fleischhauer

Biography

 

Wolfram Flaischhauer

I was born on June 9th 1961 in Karlsruhe, a city of roughly 300.000, in Southern Germany. It is a not a very well known place. Trains from Frankfurt to Basel stop there. And we have the Constitutional Court, so you may have heard about it because of that.

Nothing much worth reporting happened until I was sixteen and got the chance to spend a year at an American high-school. It was a very good experience for me. Especially because everybody there thought that I must be really smart since I had received this scholarship. Being thought of as smart felt so good that I decided to do what it takes to keep up the image. So I started doing homework and my school-troubles suddenly vanished.

After graduating from High-School I spent a year in Salamanca and Madrid in order to learn Spanish. I was really into Cortàzar and Borges at the time, so I decided to major in Latin American Studies at the Free University of Berlin.

Money was a problem, so during my first winter in Berlin I drove snowploughs. I must say, I didn´t like Berlin all that much back then. The wall was still up. Whenever you crossed the border, some East German official would bark at you: Children? Weapons? Ammunition? Their priorities where kind of funny, but the whole situation was not. So after a few months I called it quits, sold my stuff and left for South East Asia with a friend.

I wrote a strange novel during that trip. Nothing of it survived, except my determination to one day become a writer.

From 1984-1986 I studied History, German literature, English literature, Romance literatures and American literature. At one point I realized that what I was actually doing was studying comparative literature. Since Berlin didn´t have much to offer in that field, I applied for a scholarship to UC-Irvine, back then the hot-bath of literary theory. Since you don´t get very far in lit-crit circles without French, I decided to brush up on my French and spent a month in Paris. There, on a Sunday morning of 1986, I suddenly found myself before a very strange 16th century painting in the Louvre: two naked women in a bathtub, one touching the other´s nipple. The weird scene put a spell on me which led to seven years of research and, ten years later, to my first novel, The Purple Line.

In the summer of 1987, I went to UC-Irvine to study the theories of Paul de Man. Some of his disciples were teaching there and deconstruction was at its peak. My stay coincided with the discovery of de Man´s wartime writings, which caused a great deal of scandal and controversy in early 1988. It caused me to abandon academia. I lost faith in science and gained faith in art. My last published novel, "The stolen evening", tells that story, but it has not yet been translated.

Back in Europe, I passed an exam to be able to work as a court interpreter in 1988. Two years later I finished my MA thesis on Don Delillo, worked all kinds of odd jobs, tried to write my novel about the Louvre painting, started dancing tango and realized that I would have to continue my research in Paris if I really wanted to get anywhere with The Purple Line.

Paris was hell. It was great for Tango and archives on 16th century history, but very bad for making a living. Paris doesn´t treat budding artists very kindly. It got to the point where I was doing marketing research about French dog shampoo for a company who wanted to get into the US pet market. Luckily, the EU was looking for interpreters at the time, so after an intense year in Paris I went to sleepy Brussels in 1992.

I was trained as a conference interpreter. The job was very demanding in the beginning, but with time it gave me enough time to write. Four years later, The Purple Line was finally finished. Roman Hocke, then editor of Weitbrecht Verlag, accepted it for publication. After an extensive rewrite under his guidance, the novel was published in 1996.

I was very happy since not only had I written and published a novel, but I had also found an excellent editor and future agent. Roman Hocke soon afterwards started his agency and we have been working together ever since, a priceless privilege in a world where editors of publishing houses come and go all the time.

The Purple Line caught the attention of Hans-Peter Uebleis of Droemer Knaur. He asked me if I had any other stories. I pitched three story-ideas I had at the time and he offered me a contract for all three of them.

I had nothing on paper except for a few paragraphs summarizing the plot and the dramatic question. But two of the three stories had been haunting me for years. So in 1997 I started gathering material for what was to become "Somewhere I Have Never Travelled" and "Fatal Tango". I spent a whole summer in Paris for the first, and travelled three times to Buenos Aires for the latter. For about four years I did little else but work as an interpreter during the day, write in the evenings and on weekends, and travel to do research in archives or interview people.

"Somewhere I Have Never Travelled" was published in 1999.

The last chapters of "Fatal Tango" were written in Buenos Aires in the winter of 2000 during my third trip to Argentina.

By then Sabine, my future wife was with me.

We got engaged in the blistering heat of Buenos Aires and got married in Rome half a year later, at just about the same time "Fatal Tango" hit the shelves in Germany.

We had planned to spend a whole year in Italy, but then decided to move to Berlin instead. I needed good libraries and special archives for the research of my next novel, a philosophical thriller set in the 18th century. And Sabine, who is half French and half Italian, wanted to learn German.

So we set up house in the new, post-wall Berlin in 2002.

I wrote The Book Assassins (2003) and, as our first child was on the way, accepted to write a fantasy story about angels (The Angels´Conspiracy - 2004) for a project honouring the legacy of Michael Ende´s immortal Never-ending Story.

My next project took me to India. Esoteric movements and the question of free will had for years intrigued me. The School of Lies (engl: Vipassana), set in the 1920´s Weimar Republic and in colonial India, was published in 2005. It is for the time being my last historical novel.

After "Vipassana" I wanted to do something different. Not another symphony, but chamber music.

Having written six books, I started to have doubts about what I was actually doing. The famous question one always gets after readings: "Why do you write novels?", kept coming up in my mind.

I knew it had something to with what I had experienced at Irvine. So I decided to go back and relive the experience.

I wrote "The Stolen Evening" (2008) for two reasons: to come to terms with the issue the event poses, and to trace a crucial development in my life. I would never have written a book just about the latter. I don´t think the world needs or cares to know why I turned to fiction writing. But I hope people will care about the issues the De-Man-case raises. Especially those people I care about: readers.

Our children made our life infinitely richer and fuller. But also infinitely more complicated. My wife and I are both still working as interpreters. Anyone familiar with the profession knows what kind of nomadic life that is.

In 2009 we bit the bullet and moved to Brussels, the only place on Earth where interpreters can live a more or less sedentary life.

We have been back in Brussels for a little more than a year. Too early for any predictions about the future. I´ve written my first three novels here, the other four in Berlin. The next one, planned for 2011, will set the balance straight because it will definitely come out of Brussels.

My next projects?

I believe it brings bad luck to talk about unfinished things. So all I want to say is: I am working on three stories again…

… and I still owe my daughter a fantasy story … and my wife a novella..