Thomas Hettche

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Thomas Hettche (2010)

Thomas Hettche (born November 30, 1964 in Treis , Gießen district ) is a German writer and essayist .


Thomas Hettche grew up in the village of Treis on the outskirts of the Vogelsberg , where the father's family has lived as farmers and craftsmen for generations. Hettche's mother came to Hessen in the course of the expulsion of the Germans from Czechoslovakia in 1947 . He attended the Liebig School in Giessen and graduated from high school in 1984. From 1984 to 1991 studied Hettche German studies, film studies and philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main , he at the Master of Arts with a thesis on the moment aesthetic category sentiment in Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities graduated and where he 1999 received her doctorate with the media-theoretical work Animationen on the "History of anatomy and pornography on the foil of Venice".

After stays in Venice , Krakow , Stuttgart , Rome and Los Angeles, Hettche now lives as a freelance writer in Berlin and Switzerland . He has two daughters. In addition to his literary work, Hettche also worked as a journalist for a long time, especially for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung . From 1995 to 1999 he was a juror at the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition .

In 2002 he held the poetics professorship at the Academy of Sciences and Literature at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (together with Malin Schwerdtfeger ), and in 2003 he was teaching at the Philipps University in Marburg . In the same year, Hettche was an artistic guest at the Collegium Helveticum at ETH Zurich . From 2018 to 2020 he was an honorary professor at the TU Berlin .

Hettche is a member of the PEN Center Germany and the German Academy for Language and Poetry .


Ludwig must die. Novel.

"Rarely has indeed recorded a debut with such a broad and deep admiration, with such a sighing relief, as if with this virtuosic bold text structure the future of a young German literature Once secured," the critic wrote Reinhard Baumgart in the weekly Die Zeit on Thomas Hettche's first novel.

In Ludwig must die , a person released from psychiatry tells of the death of his brother with heart disease in Italy, of whose existence he actually cannot know anything. In a fantastic manner, a young woman, disfigured by interventions on the head and face, emerges from an anatomy atlas, followed by the doctor Johannes Tichtel , a historical figure of the 16th century, whose diaries Hettche had translated from Latin for the novel and which he had partially translated built into the novel. In a breathless language full of images and quotations, the novel unfolds all the themes that shaped Hettche's early work: the power and impotence of invention, the telling of love and death, the skin as the vulnerable boundary of our self.

"With this young Frankfurt author, a prose writer has entered the literary scene who knows how to play like a master using the technical means of modern storytelling," summarizes Gunhild Kübler in the NZZ .

“As with some of his younger generation colleagues, Durs Grünbein, Marcel Beyer and Rainald Goetz, Dr. Benn heavily involved in the game. The anatomy atlas seems to be the most distinguished poetry album for today's thirty-year-olds; They apparently learned their 'skull base lesson' (Grünbein) in the cradle. The 'human flesh' (Beyer) as the final substance of experience ”(Bernard Imhasly in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung ).

Frank Mühlich celebrates the novel in the taz as a “stroke of genius”. And for Friedhelm Rathjen , the novel identifies Hettche as a “first-rate young novelist” who “goes all out with furor” and is “a relative of Beckett's narrator”. Hettche is “about language, no question about its omnipotence and powerlessness. Language is the measure of all things, because all bodies, all objects of Thomas Hettche's very objective and very physical prose are expressly formed from words, which is not in the least as abstract as any attempt at its description that is only halfway appropriate must be ", he writes in his review in the Frankfurter Rundschau .


In incubation (1992) is a kind of literary Score: Twenty prose pieces in the manner of five-voice polyphonic pushed into each other inventions. The interweaving of stories is implemented in a typographically demanding manner, which extends over the entire double pages of the book, structured by a coordinate system instead of page numbers. The stories of “Incubation” all tell in a fantastic way about the relationships between an I and a you: “The cartilages in your shoulders bulge out, you grow, I suddenly know, wings, mustn't, every angel is terrible, I bite into it ”. The volume “gathered (...) narratives that, like a generative system, produce the actual story - far removed from the narrator and confidently flirting with the limits of how the world can be told”.

Hettche “did not allow himself to be seduced by early fame, hysteria and the pressure of expectation to promptly and pompously redeem an early promise with a grand gesture in his second book,” says Reinhard Baumgart in ZEIT . Rather, the band “labored” “in a strangely daring embryonic state, as if there were this span between the creation of the text and the birth of the text”. It "here the narration continually tests itself, its prerequisites and conditions, again and again groping in the possibilities of fiction and again and again, almost emphatically retreating into a beautiful prison of nothing but language, a glass, but tight housing". The density of references with which Hettche enriches his text leads to "that the language games run through a nicely co-mingling resonance space". "Incubations" is a "feat of cool linguistic sensuality and in it the impressive embodiment, even incarnation of that misery about the end of fictions".

NOX. Novel.

Hettche's second novel, NOX , was published in 1995 and received extremely controversial. "Thomas Hettche risks what no other West German author has dared to do with such seriousness: to make the night of November 9, 1989, which suddenly struck millions of people in East and West, the subject of a novel" ( Michael Basse in the SZ ).

NOX , the rare example of a novel from a West German perspective, tells the night of the fall of the Berlin Wall as a pornographic grotesque. A nameless murderess, who cuts the narrator's throat on the first page of the novel, wanders through the nocturnal Berlin celebrating reunification. The dead, slowly decaying narrator, elements of the big city novel in the tradition of Döblin (weather reports, newspaper reports), SM scenes of great pathos - all of this undermined the expectations of literary criticism of a novel about German unity.

On the reissue of the novel in 2003, Tom Kraushaar wrote in Edit : “Thomas Hettches NOX has been the cause of polemics and generalizations like hardly any other novel of the 90s. He brought about the creation of categories that have shaped the perception and production of literature for almost ten years. If NOX appears today as a new edition, then another text will appear, a novel that has been written on in countless reviews and essays. If you look at the novel today, it is inextricably linked with the many literary-critical debates of the 1990s on postmodern theory, new realism, pop literature, etc. Rather, the significance of the reception of NOX lies in its networking with certain debates in literary criticism of the 1990s . In 1995 Thomas Hettche was what we now understand as a young author, but at the same time he represented the literary establishment of the early 1990s. When dealing with him, it is about the confrontation with an entire line of literary tradition. Finally, the dominance of a theoretical-intellectual, a self-referential and internal literature should be broken. And literary criticism succeeded in breaking up traditional categories, particularly through the radicalism and sharpness of the polemics against texts like NOX ”.


In 1999, Hettche published Animationen , a "novel essay", as it says in the blurb, with which the author received his doctorate in literary studies under Christa Bürger at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main . Animations develops narrative-reflective elements of a media theory from the history of anatomy and pornography on the foil of Venice , whereby Hettche deals extensively with Goethe and Flaubert , Tizian , Montaigne and Casanova , the anatomist Andreas Vesalius and above all Pietro Aretino and thereby a “fireworks the references burn down ”( Hubert Winkels in Die ZEIT ).

Dietmar Dath wrote in SPEX about the “balsamic effect of an intellectual experience composed out of the text, which truly commands breath and patience, love and care to work towards one's own linguistic objectivation with all aspects of its shape, however heteronomous the limited means that I could still summon from my stock of words and categories at this historically truly late hour to describe their comforting. (...) The clarity with which numerous source text moments called up, the "smiling girl" in Goethe, for example, Flaubert's travel effects, cultural-historical chronicles, etc., are left farsighted in their ultimately irreversible blurriness, mutual dependency, etc. is exemplary and touching. No idea in this book has sprung from the gushing excitement of a clever guy, each one legitimizes itself rather by the fact that others can still follow it, that this is not the end yet, one does not want an end, no better knowledge. (...) What is told in »Animations«, on the other hand, is a path of thought, a knowledge in the making, almost like Ernst Bloch's »Traces« actually (...). And that, this subtle, so to speak, in so suggestive and explicit language, which on the other hand is held by a not at all subtle curiosity, the exemplary, finely adjusted scales, is the secret basic melody that gives the written score "Animations" its beauty ".

The Arbogast case. Detective novel.

The Arbogast case , published in 2001, is based on the historical criminal case around Hans Hetzel and tells the story of a sensational miscarriage of justice in the 1950s. The novel, which was translated into twelve languages, was considered by literary criticism because of the dramaturgically composed and cinematic narrative style, in which Hettche for the first time worked heavily with dialogues and designed a piece of West German post-war history with a wide variety of figures, as a turning point in the author's work, as a move to new topics and a more realistic storytelling.

Felicitas von Lovenberg sees the “depiction of oppressive intensity (...) as a writer who has learned to deal with his art with confidence. Every sentence looks like it is chiseled, ”she writes in her review in the FAZ . The author has chosen "an unusual material to continue his central theme of body and violence"; The novel shows, however, "that the linguistic virtuoso Hettche no longer just stages and dissects his subjects in cold blood, but allows people to feel as well as obsessions". Whereby he “cleverly (avoid) bringing us Arbogast so close that one would feel at ease” - there remains a distance between the “mighty figure” “Arbogast and his environment, between Hettche and his protagonist and ultimately also between the novel and the reader like a predator in the zoo that you admire through the wands ”.

For Ijoma Mangold , the “artistic coup of this great book” consists in the installation of an omniscient narrator, “who sees and knows everything and at the same time no more than any other awake person”. This “trans-empirical author's perspective” creates a “dazzling and fascinating realism that encompasses far more than is accessible to mere documentation,” he writes in the Berliner Zeitung . With the “wealth of observations that Hettche brings together in his masterpiece”, he closes the novel “against the interpretive presumptions of our reading habit”: “By sealing his detective novel so completely from symbolization, the entire reality, which is so realistically presented, becomes buzzing to a new status and becomes more tangible and powerful than any symbol could ever do ”. This leaves an “unreachable remainder”, “for (for whom) there is no place in the terms of our reality”.

Heinrich Detering is also full of praise for Hettche's “perspective (n) realism” in his review of literatures . His “serious, attentive, always concentrated observing and never to be fixed” narrator directs “sovereign time direction” and communicates “those nuances of what is felt and thought that are reluctant to submit to language , at times so urgent that one forgets in parts their own language-relatedness through these descriptions ”. Hettche's will to style is only "very seldom (...) overexerted or anachronistic", "the narrative perfection of this book (...) is so striking that one sometimes fears to see it presented on the next page as mere artistry - and every time he holds it Narrator relaxed the balance ”. "In the pure suggestive power of this prose" lies "the deepest cause of all tension": "What can be said here is said as openly as possible - and thus marks the limits to that mysterious expanse that is hardly reached by language". Hettches "story without resolution (is) a perfect detective novel: a genre surpassing". "Nothing better than this author could have happened to the material."

What we are made of. Novel.

What We Are Made Of (2006), Thomas Hettche's fourth novel, tells the story of a biographer whose wife is kidnapped on a research trip to the USA. In this, Hettche again draws on elements of a crime plot, but above all paints a picture of the USA on the eve of the Iraq war. New York, Texas, Los Angeles are stations of a road movie, in the course of which the hero first has to lose himself to find his wife again. What we're made of was on the short list for the German Book Prize in 2006 .

Ulrich Greiner is enthusiastic about Hettche's “suggestive, highly flexible language”, which, even when it “goes to the edge of what is beneficial and sometimes beyond”, “is ten times better than this school-style balanced prose, that you can find everywhere now ”. Hettche leads his readers "to a borderline experience, namely to the disturbing fact that we can never be entirely sure of ourselves, that we sometimes lose ourselves and do not know exactly what we are made of," and that is all that matters. Greiner formulates in the ZEIT : “The beautiful, also unsettling thing about Hettche's book is this phantasmagoric series of images that stay in the reader's mind. They have to do with what we all see and have seen without our being able to always be aware of it: the images of September 11th that seeped into our dreams; the ideas of the American myth, as it is conveyed to us by the cinema, advertising and our own perception. Niklas Kalf is someone whom chance throws down into this abyss of images until he hardly knows what love is, who he is - and the happy return home is more like a dream than reality. Although we could actually know that we can least expect reality from a novel when it appears to be realistic. This novel is an experimental arrangement, an intelligent, instructive game. Hettche can do something ”.

For Heinrich Wefing , who is reviewing the novel in the FAZ , the novel is "a delicate, disturbing attempt at what we call love, and an intelligent game with all the images of America that each of us carries around with us" and " one of the most fascinating books about America (...) that has been written in Germany for a long time ”.

Elmar Krekeler also sees it this way around the world : Hettche lets his protagonist go through a "tidying up in the intellectual children's room", he learns on all levels, and the reader learns with him. Kalf is the representative of the generation of forty-year-olds at the time who “found (their) author in Thomas Hettche”. Hettche wrote a novel that contained “a lot of novels” (“a road novel, an American novel, a fear book, an emigration book, a homecoming novel, a haunted story, a conspiracy story, a science thriller, a Faust variation, an educational novel”). What we are made of , however, is above all "the story of growing up (...) at forty". To this end, Hettche uses a narrative network in which "every sentence, every motif, every thread" is deliberately set, and a "post-Austerian conspiracy plot (s)". “What Hettche, one of the brightest writers not only of his generation, had barely succeeded in doing, namely finding the balance between poetology and prose, between thinking and storytelling, he succeeds here. His novel can be peeled like an onion. Under each layer there is a new one, each one is related to each other, each is an adventure ”.

Driver's log 1993–2007. Essays.

The driver's log 1993–2007 brings together a selection of essays, reports, film and book reviews by Hettches that had previously appeared in various newspapers and magazines (including the FAZ , NZZ and DU ), but for book publication, as stated in the epilogue means have been revised. What is particularly striking about this volume is the range of topics that Hettche has dealt with over the years. In addition to essays about the new media, there are travel reports from St. Moritz, Bosnia and Los Angeles, texts about Dracula , Patricia Cornwell, Meister Eckhart and Piero della Francesca .

Samuel Moser praised in the NZZ , “the coexistence of calm narration and razor-sharp analysis. One necessarily translates into the other - and back. Brief accelerations of the flow of thought or, conversely, the slowing down of perceptions mark the transitions. The narrator Hettche has a great deal of the skills of a first-class journalist: a sense of context and "subtexts", a universal education that is never an end in itself, a creative language and a desire to intervene that has unfortunately become rare. He translates his incorruptible private perceptions into general terms with the elegance of conviction ”.

“Most of them are travel reports to almost museum-like places such as Sils Maria, Venice and the Berlin Peacock Island, where the past is layered up and peeled off before the author's educated gaze. In such historical sites, Hettche is interested in the way in which culture was organized and overwritten: the collective memory that is hidden in them. The author does not travel there like his contemporaries, feverish, fleeting and restless, but rather like a detective to the crime scene, monosyllabic, but highly receptive, well aware that every little detail is possibly indispensable for the reconstruction of what happened, ”summarizes Ingeborg Harms in their review in the FAZ Hettches methodology and topic together. She praises the "original short circuits like the one between the worldwide network and Bram Stoker's spider web thriller" Dracula "or between the scientific investigation of the alleged UFO crash at Roswell and the process of canonization in the Catholic Church", which "the booms [of Hettches] imagination, the echo chamber of his knowledge and the milestone steps of his melancholy thoughts ”.

The love of the fathers. Novel.

In The Love of Fathers , published in 2010, Hettche tells of a father who spends a holiday week with friends on Sylt with his daughter over New Year's Eve. Thirteen-year-old Annika's parents have been separated for a long time, and the father has no custody of the child who lives with his mother. In his fifth novel, Hettche describes the feelings of guilt and the impotence of his father, who tries to get closer to his daughter against the background of the impressively described atmosphere of the stormy, wintry island.

“In his novel, Thomas Hettche draws with great suggestive power the silent drama of a perhaps unsolvable conflict which, even with a revision of custody, cannot be eliminated and at most defused. (…) And besides all of this, the novel tells in a tender, sometimes grim tone, with touching images and sometimes almost wordless dialogues about the love of fathers , which is different from that of mothers, ”says Roman Bucheli in the NZZ .

Sandra Kegel sees "an old poetological trick" at work in the FAZ , "so that the familiar, experienced and heard can become great literature": The only one from the "distant, deeply partisan view" of the father, "unreliable narrator in the classic sense" The description that takes place awakens “with our pity at the same time our alienation”, so that “we know with the author that this story could also be told quite differently”. Hettche's approach is a psychological one, the novel is "not an argumentative plea for more justice (...), but a fascinating portrait of an increasingly disturbed man who has been thrown off course". She sums up: "Hettche's novel is a stroke of luck, complex, multi-layered and written in an artificial language that meets the emotionality of the event with a pleasantly sober coolness".

For Jens Jessen in the ZEIT , “The Love of Fathers” is “not a novel at all (...), it is a classic, perfectly concise and controlled narrated novel (...). (...) also in the limitation of time and place - but it is a great work in depth and breadth of thoughts ”.

Thomas Hettche said in interviews that the sentence preceding the novel, “Literature begins beyond what is”, has come true for him “in an unexpected way, namely to the extent that the starting point of the biographical experience actually changed while writing. It was a writing process the likes of which I had never known before, which was really cathartic and in which all the aggressions, injuries and frustrations that drove it at the beginning were transformed. As if by the end of the novel I had also finished with the world of this experience ”. He writes novels “because, first and foremost for myself, I want to formulate something unspoken or come to terms with something. And because I also believe that readers can benefit from the complex world that every good novel is ”.

Totenberg. Essays.

Totenberg , published by the publisher as a volume of essays and "Autobiography in ten encounters". announced, composes ten texts, all of which are conversations and essays at the same time (Hettche himself calls them “encounters” or “journeys”), to create a personal (life) panorama of the author. Each autobiographical communication also represents a topic in his writing. The name is given to the third text in which Hettche returns to the place of his childhood, which is on the Totenberg.

The reviewers were enthusiastic about this volume, which was “anything but a conventional retelling of Mr. Hettche's private life”, namely “a socialization study in ten chapters” in which Hettche describes “how, intellectually and literarily, he became who he was is ”and“ in vivid portraits the people who accompanied him in his career - in a concrete and figurative sense ”, as Ursula März put it in her review for Deutschlandradio . The “charm of the book” lies “at first sight (...) in the divergence of these people”; “At second glance” captivates Hettche's “concentrated, economic gesture. Every self-communication by the author is in the interest of a cultural-historical self-knowledge, every self-reflection opens up as if by itself to an exemplary contemporary history of the Federal Republic. 'Totenberg' shows Thomas Hettche at the height of his stylistic and essayistic ability. And by the way, this book gives the worn-out genre of autobiography a new shine ”.

Even Nico Bleutge praises in the SZ , "as Thomas Hettche to be always related with his dialogic principle, the basic thesis of the book to something in the process and in the form of his texts catches up": Hettche encamped "in these portraits own biography a ", He senses" rooms and interiors (...) literally, he scans them for their atmospheres in order to find out something about the people who live in them, "and also sit in the" reflective layer " of his texts "deals with the thoughts of authors (...) and tries to analyze and interpret our social present". Hettche had “succeeded in creating a very readable book about the media change at that time. In his ten essays one finds great reflections on literature, on writing, or on what childhood could be. Small motifs and variations hold the individual pieces together beyond the theses ”.

With Totenberg, Hettche, “who can rightly be called one of the most impressive linguistic acrobats of his generation”, according to André Schinkel on “possibly the completion of a triple jump” in his essay: “after the bundled view of the“ animations ”(1997 ), the scattering and the staking out of the external claims in the “Logbook” (2007), in the latest opus she explores the dimensions of one's own, the development, formation and deformation of inner circumstances, to become who one is ”. In a “revealing, crystalline language”, Hettche demonstrated these “formative elements”, “most impressively in the texts that leave the protection of conversations and are exposed to self-examination”.

For Michael Preidel, who reviewed the book for the Critical Edition , Totenberg is “a work that leads the author back to people or places of his past and provokes a confrontation with his own identity in the encounters”: “Thomas Hettche makes it clear that it is his literature is about a sense of time. He sees himself as a wanderer between worlds, whose literary work and theoretical reasoning is always based on a curiosity that is linked on the one hand to the discovery of the mother's empty chest, on the other hand to the timeless experience that the origin of writing and Thinking lies in the struggle with one's own identity ”. Hettche used “the creative freedom that autobiographical writing opens up for him, and at the same time proves that the demands of his storytelling are high. In his essays, he is concerned with the real afterthought of memories ”.

And Denis Scheck said in a conversation about the book in Kulturzeit on 3sat: “All the qualities that are said of Peter Handke's prose, that poetry and knowledge are reconciled here, I find that much, much more and much more modern in“ Totenberg “By Hettche“.

Peacock Island. Novel.

In his novel of the same name (2014), Thomas Hettche lets the forgotten world of the Pfaueninsel in the Havel near Potsdam come back to life. This island, which was transformed into an artificial paradise by Lenné and Schinkel in the 19th century , was a retreat for the Prussian kings and was populated by numerous exotic animals as well as dwarfs, a South Sea islander, a giant and a moor. The novel tells the life imagined by Hettche of the historically vouched for the short-lived castle maiden Marie, who spent almost her entire life on the island, and the tragic story of his love for the horticultural artist Gustav Fintelmann . At a higher level, Pfaueninsel deals with the preparation of nature and our ideas of beauty, the longing for the exotic, human dignity, the essence of time and the relationship between art, science and nature.

Reviewers also read the novel as a "decay story of an idyll in the flow of time" (Michael Kluger in the Frankfurter Neue Presse ); as an “exemplary portrayal of a turning point” and “condensed history of technical and mental progress in the 19th century” (Sebastian Hammelehle in SPIEGEL ), as a novel about “the essence of time and the mystery of mortality, the fragility of beauty and the depths of Desire ”(Andrea Köhler in the NZZ ); or as a “literary reflection on the obscenity of human nature” (Johannes Balle in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger ).

In Pfaueninsel , Thomas Hettche processed a material that had occupied him for almost twenty-five years: Even before his debut was published, he came across the island and the lady of the castle Maria Dorothea Strakon while on a scholarship in Berlin in 1989. In 1993 he published a report in the FAZ , in which he told of his visit to the Pfaueninsel. In an interview, Hettche stated: "I was only able to write the novel when I admitted to myself that I wanted to tell nothing but the life of my character Maria Dorothea Strakon and that I no longer had to struggle with concepts".

In her review in the NZZ , Andrea Köhler was enthusiastic about Hettche's “lively, carefully researched and brilliantly told novel”, which “identifies the writer, born in 1964, as one of the best stylists in contemporary German literature”. Hettches "real strength" is "his captivating ability to illuminate the complexity of the world in a nuanced and resilient language"; It is “fascinating”, “how Hettche confronts the triumphant advance of technical rationality with the otherworld of reason and intertwines the timeless realm of myths with the unswerving home straight of progress”. “The liberating breath of literature blows in his philosophical reflections”.

Michael Braun praises in the Badische Zeitung that “how (Hettche) deals with the cultural-historical patina of the material is the masterpiece of an author who has always known how to change his genre and stylistic register with each new book and get us into to deal with a completely different world and new existential ordeal ”. The fact that he focuses on his “literary invention” of the love story between Marie and the gardener Gustav Fintelmann enables Hettche “to leave the purely historicizing narration behind” and “to develop all of his cultural-philosophical, anthropological and love-theoretical excursions with which he made his own Roman richly endowed ”.

Also Hubert Winkels is impressed with how Hettche "the cultural-historical essay seamlessly with the historical novel and a passionate love story to connect white". Hettche put "the strange and monstrous" and our handling of them in the "increasingly sensible (...) beginning machine age" at the center of the novel, and "how Hettche threads and persists this and distributes it to all layers of the novel, on the sexual, the architecture, the horticulture, that is what defines his art of amalgamation, the inner fusion of all parts ”. It is a "stroke of luck that this is so well balanced, stylistically at a high level, at a good temperature and above all: knowledge and understanding mixed with compassion and passion,".

The author himself said in interviews that “the real nucleus of the book” was the question, “How did a person feel at the time who did not correspond to the norm but lived in a place of longing and beauty?”. The material found him, not the other way around: "It is more like walking around the world with a kind of trawl, deliberately aimlessly, in which all sorts of things get stuck". “At first you don't really know what makes a story so fascinating. "But then she begins to live and won't let you go" ".

The island, said Hettche, was “an artificial place that one after the other housed the longing designs of many times”; "Today we can read the genesis of our modernity on this island" (in conversation with Andreas Platthaus in the FAZ ). He wanted to tell "the passing of time and also the indifference to the passing of time (...)"; “Above all, it was about the feeling that you cannot overlook change. I think you are always half in a past, half in a future epoch. And that's what's current in the book. We suspect more that something will pass and something will come ”. Today more than ever it is the task of literature to counter the threat of reducing "all phenomena of the real world to their manageable media surrogates". “The nice thing about art is that if it succeeds, it has mastered the magic trick of transforming complexity into simplicity”.

The story emerged “from the sound of language”: “When I start to write, the crucial thing is to find this very own tone, because only the tone makes the story possible, conjures it up”. To do this, he has to go on “a journey into a strange world”, on “an (...) expedition whose result cannot be foreseen”.

Since the publication of Pfaueninsel “Berlin has a new literary place of pilgrimage”: tourists walk in the footsteps of the novel across the island and visit the grave of the historical Marie Strakow.

A topographical map of the island on an interactive website set up by the publisher contains 24 passages from the novel read by Dagmar Manzel .

Our empty hearts. About literature. Essays.

“What consolation can literature still be for our empty hearts today?” Asks the blurb of Our Empty Hearts , the volume of essays published in 2017. In 21 texts, Hettche deals with a wide variety of authors and genres, including a. with Thomas Mann, Louis Stevenson, Ernst Jünger, Paulus Böhmer, Wolfgang Koeppen and Karl Ove Knausgård.

For Nico Bleutge (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), Hettche is a “brilliant essayist” who is very empathetic in countering the internet's promises of freedom and equality, which would have long been proven to be wrong. He advocates a realism as a “literary attitude to the world” that takes the factual into view and at the same time interprets it. “In close contact with his reading experiences”, Hettche develops his theses, which he reproduces from a wide variety of perspectives - whether that of the analyst, the narrator or the remembering self.

In his essays, Hettche goes “on the search for the contradictions and the contradictory in our time, which is shaken by terror and haunted by digitization,” writes Karin Janker in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The author has high expectations of the subject of his reflections. Karin Janker rightly believes: "The narrow book itself proves that literature can keep these promises."

According to Wiebke Porombka (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Hettche successfully refuses “against disgraceful cultural pessimism and conjures up the power of literature”. Instead of falling into alarmism, he succeeded in “opening up spaces of thought in which decline is not subsumed, but the possibilities of literature are negotiated”. His essays are well-founded, material-rich, but at the same time deliberately literary reflections that maintain a limbo, "which protects them from giving up programmatic schoolwork for literature, be it as a commitment to political commitment or artistic virtuosity". With these essays, Hettche initiated a multitude of thought movements.


Pietro Aretino: I Modes / Positions - From the beginning and the end of pornography

In 1997 Hettche published the first German-language edition of I Modi , the erotic sonnets by the Renaissance writer Pietro Aretino , which also contained the copperplate engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi , for which the poems were written in the 16th century. In 2003 a large-format bibliophile new edition was published, supplemented by an essay in which Hettche classified this “original text of modern pornography” in a history of this literary genre based on books by Michel Houellebecq and Catherine Millet, for example .

In an interview, Hettche said that he discovered Aretino for himself during his stay at the Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani in the mid-1990s, when he was studying manuscripts and prints from the 16th century in the Biblioteca Marciana on St. Mark's Square.

Literature projects / editions


In 1999, Hettche published the online anthology NULL in the newly founded DuMont literary publishing house , “Message in a bottle or Advent calendar of the last millennium” and “an anthology of young German literature that slowly grew over the last year of the millennium”. In addition to Rainald Goetz's rubbish for everyone and the author forums Am Pool and Forum der 13 , NULL was one of the first literary projects on the Internet to attract greater public attention: “a well-designed and well-visited virtual place”.

Harald Taglinger was responsible for network conception and support, Jana Hensel worked on the editorial team and also edited the printed edition of NULL , which appeared on December 31, 1999 after the project was completed. 37 authors wrote and discussed for a year to zero , their short texts and drawings were put through links and a text card related. Thomas Hettche contributed monthly editorials and acted as “headhunter, editor and moderator”.

In an e-mail interview with ZEIT Thomas Hettche wrote about the aim and character of the anthology: “Unter der Hand, for the first time in my estimation, actually appears the shy animal literature in its new Internet enclosure and can be watched and petted. The NULL authors apparently understand the network as a semi-public. Your texts are often more personal, unfinished, more focused on dialogue than usual ”.

NULL offers a lot. Poems, postcards, collages, short stories and their sequels; a bit like silent mail or the pattern of a quilt that takes that motif and then brings in a completely new one and yet tells a story - that of a family or that of a millennium that is terminating ”.

The following authors were involved in NULL : Matthias Altenburg , Stefan Beuse , Marcel Beyer , Mirko Bonné , Jan Peter Bremer , Ulrike Draesner , John von Düffel , Aris Fioretos , Julia Franck , Arno Geiger , Katharina Hacker , Ingeborg Harms , Joachim Helfer , Alban Nicolai Herbst , Ulrich Holbein , Johannes Jansen , Zoë Jenny , Birgit Kempker , Angelika Klüssendorf , Steffen Kopetzky , Helmut Krausser , Judith Kuckart , Jo Lendle , Dagmar Leupold , Thomas Meinecke , Perikles Monioudis , Terézia Mora , Andreas Neumeister , Brigitte Oleschinski , Georg M. Oswald , Urs Richle , Kathrin Schmidt , Sabine Scholl , Leander Scholz , Burkhard Spinnen and Ilija Trojanow .

Book machines. Old memories and their new memories.

From November 3 to 5, 2000, Thomas Hettche organized a symposium with an accompanying exhibition on the subject of storage media in the Frankfurt Literaturhaus . a. Friedrich Kittler , Rainald Goetz , Brigitte Oleschinski and Manfred Faßler took part.

Spycher: Leuk Literature Prize

In 2001 Thomas Hettche received the Spycher: Leuk Literature Prize from the Leuk Foundation , for which he was jointly responsible for the conception from 2002 to 2015 and for which he chaired the jury during this time. The prize is awarded annually to writers whose literary work corresponds to the bilingualism of the Swiss canton of Valais , in which it is awarded. The award consists of a five-year guest right for the award winners in the medieval town of Leuk on the upper reaches of the Rhone .

Edition Spycher

From 2005 to 2015 Thomas Hettche published the Spycher Edition, initially with Urs Engeler Editor , and since 2009 with the Sabine Dörlemann publishing house in Zurich. The edition brings together texts by the Spycher Prize Winners : Leuk Literature Prize .

Two ravens: literature in Upper Hesse

In 2019 he initiated together with Dr. Erika Schellenberger-Diederich founded the association Zwei Raben: Literatur in Oberhessen , which has been awarding scholarships to writers in the studio of the Upper Hessian painter Otto Ubbelohde in Goßfelden near Marburg since 2019 .

Empathic reading

From 2018 to 2020 he was honorary professor at the TU Berlin and in cooperation with the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, he carried out the series of events Emphatik Lektüre , in which Heinrich von Kleist's "Earthquake of Chili" (2018), Wilhelm Raabe's "Zum wilden Mann" (2019) and Gottfried Benn's “Gehirne” (2020) were discussed with contemporary writers. Lukas Bärfuss , Aris Fioretos , Durs Grünbein , Felicitas Hoppe , Daniel Kehlmann , Sibylle Lewitscharoff , Olga Martynova , Jakob Nolte , Ulrich Peltzer , Monika Rinck , Sabine Scholl , Katharina Schultens and Ingo Schulze were invited .




  • Ludwigs Tod , Paria Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1988. ISBN 978-3-922952-11-4
  • Ludwig must die , Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1989. New edition: Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2008. ISBN 978-3-8321-6012-8
  • Incubation , Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1992. ISBN 978-3-462-04424-9
  • Nox , Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1995. New edition: Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2008. ISBN 978-3-462-04422-5
  • I Modi , Gatza bei Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 1995. ISBN 978-3-8218-0654-9
  • Seeing belongs to the shiny and colored things , Droschl, Graz 1997. ISBN 978-3-85420-455-8
  • Animationen , DuMont literature and art publishing house, Cologne 1999. New edition: Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2008. ISBN 978-3-462-04421-8
  • The case of Arbogast , DuMont literature and art publishing house, Cologne 2001. ISBN 978-3-8321-5621-3
  • Pietro Aretino: Positions - From the beginning and end of pornography , bilingual edition Italian / German, retouched and provided with an essay by Thomas Hettche, DuMont Literature and Art Publishing, Cologne 2003. ISBN 978-3-8321-7836-9
  • BRAENTSCHU. Tre racconti inediti di Thomas Hettche. Otto incisioni all'acquaforte e all'acquatinta di Saskia Niehaus . Hardcover, 16 pages. Numbered and signed edition of 50 copies, Canopo Edizione. Prato 2005.
  • What we are made of , Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2006. ISBN 978-3-462-03711-1
  • Driver's log 1993–2007 , Kiepenheuer & Witsch Verlag, Cologne 2007. ISBN 978-3-462-03916-0
  • The love of the fathers , Kiepenheuer & Witsch publishing house, Cologne 2010. ISBN 978-3-462-04187-3
  • Totenberg , Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2012. ISBN 978-3-462-04463-8
  • Pfaueninsel , Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2014. ISBN 978-3-462-04599-4
  • Our empty hearts. About literature , Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2017. ISBN 978-3-462-05068-4


  • Null (together with Jana Hensel), DuMont Literatur- und Kunstverlag, Cologne 2000. ISBN 978-3-7701-5308-4
  • Lavinia Greenlaw, Durs Grünbein, Martin Mosebach, Felicitas Hoppe, Thomas Hettche, Daniel de Roulet, Marcel Beyer: "The mountains are alien to me. Texts by the Spycher award winners." Edited by Thomas Hettche. Edition Spycher 1 published by Urs Engeler, Basel / Weil am Rhein, 2005. ISBN 978-3-938767-00-9
  • Andrea Köhler, Christian Döring, Michael Maar, Marion Graf, Roman Bucheli, Hubert Spiegel, Iso Camartin, Dieter Bingen: "Laudationes 2001–2005." Edited by Thomas Hettche. Edition Spycher 2 published by Urs Engeler, Basel / Weil am Rhein, 2006. ISBN 978-3-938767-16-0
  • Barbara Honigmann: "The view over the valley. To photos by Arnold Zwahlen." Edited by Thomas Hettche. Edition Spycher 3 published by Urs Engeler, Basel / Weil am Rhein, 2007. ISBN 978-3-938767-38-2
  • Felicitas Hoppe: "The best place in the world". Narrative. Edited by Thomas Hettche. Edition Spycher published by Dörlemann Verlag 2009. ISBN 978-3-908777-51-9
  • Barbara Köhler: "36 Views of the Gorwetsch Mountain". Edited by Thomas Hettche. Edition Spycher in Dörlemann Verlag 2013. ISBN 978-3-908777-88-5

Audio books

  • The Arbogast case . 2 audio CDs. Speaker u. a .: Christian Berkel and Andrea Sawatzki. Universal Music 2004. ISBN 978-3-8291-1451-6
  • What we are made of . 6 audio CDs. Speaker: Ulrich Matthes. The Hörverlag 2006. ISBN 978-3-8445-0453-8
  • Peacock Island . 7 audio CDs. Speaker: Dagmar Manzel. Argon Verlag 2014. ISBN 978-3-8398-1361-4

Foreign language editions

  • Nox . Translated into Spanish by Teófilo de Lozoya, Tusquets Editores, Barcelona 1996.
  • Nox . Translated into French by Bernard Banoun, Grasset, Paris 1997.
  • Nox . Japan 1997 ISBN 4-560-04627-1
  • Nox . Translated into Portuguese by Maria Augusta Júdice, ASA Editores, Lisbon 1998.
  • El Caso Arbogast . Translated into Spanish by Carlos Fortea. Tusquets Edito-res, Barcelona 2002.
  • Say Arbogast . Translated into Danish by Adam Paulson. Gyldendal, Copenhagen 2002.
  • NOX . Translated into Dutch by Wilfred Oranje. Gianotten, Amsterdam 2003.
  • Le cas Arbogast . Translated into French by Nicola Casanova. Editions Grasset & Fasquelle, Paris 2003.
  • De zaak Arbogast . Translated into Dutch by Wilfred Oranje. Gianot-ten, Amsterdam 2003.
  • Fall Arbogast . Translated into Swedish by Katrin Ahlström Koch. Albert Bonniers Förlag, Copenhagen 2003.
  • The Arbogast Case . Transferred to the US by Elizabeth Gaffney. Farrar Straus & Giroux, New York 2003.
  • The Arbogast case . Limbus Press, St. Petersburg and Moscow 2004.
  • Arbogast saks . Detective novel. Translated into Norwegian by Sverre Dahl. Gyldendal Norsk template AS 2004.
  • Il caso Arbogast . Translated into Italian by Palma Severi, Einaudi, Milan 2005.
  • Sprawa Arbogasta . Translated into Polish by Marian Leon Kalinowski. Muza SA, Warsaw 2006.
  • What We Are Made Of . Translated into English by MacMillan UK, London 2008.
  • De quoi nous sommes faits . Translated into French by Armand Beaume. Grasset & Fasquelle, Paris 2009.
  • Isade armastus . Romaan. Transferred to Estonian by Piret Pääsuke . Eesti Raamat, Tallinn 2013.
  • Påfugleøen . Translated into Danish by Maj Westerfeld. Batzer & Co, Roskilde 2017.
  • L'Isola dei Pavoni . Translated into Italian by Francesca Gabelli. Bombiani, Milano 2017.
  • Ile aux paones . Translated into French by Barbara Fontaine. Grasset, Paris 2017.

Web links

Commons : Thomas Hettche  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. [1]
  2. The artist in the eyeball - at a loss in: Die ZEIT . November 6, 1992.
  3. Deadly vortex in the head In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . December 8, 1989.
  4. The breathing of things, the roar of dying. Thomas Hettche's novel "Nox" In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . March 23, 1995.
  5. [2]
  6. A stroke of genius In: the daily newspaper . October 14, 1989.
  7. ^ [ Words-Wounds ] In: Frankfurter Rundschau . October 10, 1989.
  8. The splendor of the night In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . April 11, 1995.
  9. The artist in the eyeball - at a loss in: Die ZEIT . November 6, 1992.
  10. [ Deep cut into German meat. Thomas Hettche's novel from the night the wall fell ] In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . April 5, 1995.
  11. [3]
  12. [ The night after the morning after: Thomas Hettche's controversial novel “Nox” returns from exile. ] In: Edit . 30, 2002.
  13. [4]
  14. ↑ Portrait of the author on the website of DuMont Verlag ( Memento from April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  15. [ To indeterminate sources. THOMAS HETTCHE's novel essay »Animations« is both the late bloom of an »old« literature and the bud of a new one that is still looking for its name ] In: Spex . 3/2000.
  16. Everyone kills what he loves. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . October 9, 2001.
  17. There is a secret deep in the body. In: Berliner Zeitung . September 15, 2001.
  18. [5]
  19. [ The liver is on the costal arch. Thomas Hettches The Arbogast case ] In: Literatures . 9/2001
  20. In the Abyss of Images In: Die ZEIT . October 5, 2006.
  21. Inside the Empire In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . August 19, 2006.
  22. [6]
  23. German in the Foreign In: Die Welt . September 30, 2006.
  24. [7]
  25. A master of arrival In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . February 26, 2008.
  26. Colonial goods of the soul In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . August 1, 2008.
  27. ↑ Borderline experiences In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . September 14, 2010.
  28. [8]
  29. [9]
  30. ^ Vampires in the Wadden Sea In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . August 13, 2010.
  31. The pardoned father In: Die ZEIT . 17th August 2010.
  32. Christoph Schröder: "It's like the gun on the wall". In: Die ZEIT . 17th August 2010.
  33. The impossibility of an island In: Die Welt . August 18, 2010.
  34. Düsseldorf honors author Thomas Hettche In: Rheinische Post . June 12th, 2013.
  35. Socialization study in ten chapters In: Deutschlandradio Kultur . October 29, 2012.
  36. [ The black snow ] In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . January 8, 2013.
  37. The knocking of the beetles in the entablature In: . No. 8, August 2013.
  38. [10]
  39. [ The retrospective of self-encounter ] In: Critical edition . No. 23/2012.
  40. The artist in the eyeball - perplexed In: Kulturzeit . November 8, 2012.
  41. ^ Writer Thomas Hettche: Brittle fairy tale world ( memento from March 13, 2015 in the web archive ) In: Frankfurter Neue Presse . October 14, 2014.
  42. Archived copy ( Memento from April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  43. Prussian debauchery: Die Sexzwergin des König In: Der Spiegel . 18th September 2014.
  44. [11]
  45. Views from Pfauenaugen In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 3rd October 2014.
  46. - ( Memento from August 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  47. [ Marie's emancipation ] In: Kölner Stadtanzeiger . October 1, 2014.
  48. [12]
  49. The dignity of the dwarf In: Der Tagesspiegel . September 13, 2014.
  50. Thomas Hettche: Pfaueninsel In: WDR3 . 29th September 2014.
  51. Enigmatic island in the Havel In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . November 20, 1993.
  52. “It's about emphasis” - A conversation with Thomas Hettche about the timelessness of his new novel In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . September 27, 2014.
  53. Imprint NZZ
  54. Views from Pfauenaugen In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 3rd October 2014.
  55. "Pfaueninsel" by Thomas Hettche: Vergehnisvolles Paradies In: Badische Zeitung . August 30, 2014.
  56. In paradise the monsters In: Die ZEIT . September 13, 2014.
  57. Hettche: “The Pfaueninsel has found me” In: Deutsche Welle . 19th December 2014.
  58. Thomas Hettche - With the trawl through the world In: Focus . September 30, 2014.
  59. “It's about emphasis” - A conversation with Thomas Hettche about the timelessness of his new novel In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . September 27, 2014.
  60. Thomas Hettche: Pfaueninsel In: WDR3 . 29th September 2014.
  61. “It's about emphasis” - A conversation with Thomas Hettche about the timelessness of his new novel In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . September 27, 2014.
  62. Hettche: “The Pfaueninsel has found me” In: Deutsche Welle . 19th December 2014.
  63. “It's about emphasis” - A conversation with Thomas Hettche about the timelessness of his new novel In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . September 27, 2014.
  64. Hettche: “The Pfaueninsel has found me” In: Deutsche Welle . 19th December 2014.
  65. ^ [ Schauplatz Berlin - On real and imaginary graves ] In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . 17th October 2014.
  66. - ( Memento from March 25, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  67. Pulsating liveliness in Thomas Hettche's essays In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 1st January 2018.
  68. Promise of Consolation In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. November 28, 2017.
  69. An ethical heart in: Frankfurter Allgemeine. March 22, 2018.
  70. Positions or from the beginning and end of pornography In: Deutschlandfunk . April 23, 2003.
  71. January - Advent calendar and message in a bottle . January 1, 1999.
  72. [13]
  73. At the pool . In: The time . No. 28/1999 ( online ).
  74. [14]
  75. Literature on the Internet: Printed "zero" number In: Der Spiegel . June 6, 2000.
  77. [ The Noughties economy ] In: Frankfurter Rundschau . May 6, 2000.
  78. [ The Noughties economy ] In: Frankfurter Rundschau . May 6, 2000.
  79. ↑ Portrait of the author on the website of DuMont Verlag ( Memento from April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  80. ^ Null - A literature hypertext experiment goes conventional ways In: . No. 7, July 2001.
  81. To the association's website , accessed on July 23, 2020
  82. Empathic readings: Benn on the website of the LCB Berlin , accessed on July 23, 2020
  83. [15]
  84. ( Memento from April 12, 2013 in the web archive )
  85. ^ Page of the Aargauer Literaturhaus Lenzburg ,, accessed on July 23, 2020.
  86. Thomas Hettche receives the Joseph Breitbach Prize 2019 ,, published and accessed on May 3, 2019.
  87. Joseph Breitbach Prize for Thomas Hettche ,, published and accessed on May 3, 2019.