Altenburg, Matthias 1958-
ALTENBURG, Matthias 1958-
PERSONAL: Born 1958, in Fulda, West Germany (now Germany). Education: Attended University of Göttingen.
ADDRESSES: Home—Frankfurt, Germany. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Verlag Kiepenheuer und Witsch, Rondorfer Str. 5, 50968 Cologne, Germany.
CAREER: Freelance writer, journalist, critic, and essayist; formerly worked as kitchen help, a representative for a vacuum cleaner company, and a waiter. With guitarist Atilla Korap, creator and performer of "Ein kleiner Abend Glück," a musical performance of works by Martin Luther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Friedrich Hebbel, Heinrich Heine, Rosa Luxembourg, Bertolt Brecht, and Rolf Dieter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Marburger Literary Award, 1998.
(Editor) Fremde Mütter, fremde Väter, fremdes Land: Gespräche mit Franz Josef Degenhardt, Gisela Elsner, Gerd Fuchs, Josef Haslinger, Hermann Peter Piwitt, E. A. Rauter, Michael Schneider, Guntram Vesper, Konkret Literatur Verlag (Hamburg, Germany), 1985.
Die Liebe der Menschenfresser (novel), Piper (Munich, Germany), 1992.
Die Toten von Laroque (novella), Eichborn (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1994.
Alles wird gut (play; produced at Bremer Theater, 1997), Verlag der Autoren (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1995.
Landschaft mit Wölfen (novel), Kiepenheuer und Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1997.
Zwei Entwürfe zum Holocaust-Denkmal in Berlin, Verlag für Moderne Kunst (Nurenburg, Germany), 2001.
Partisanen der Schönheit, Oktober-Verlag (Munster in Westfalen, Germany), 2002.
Irgendwie alles Sex, Kiepenheuer und Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 2002.
(As Jan Seghers) Ein allzu schönes Mädchen (crime novel), Wunderlich (Hamburg, Germany), 2004.
Also author of film scripts Das Geheimnis von Wolfshagen and (with Rolf-Bernhard Essig) Tage und Nächte.
Contributor to periodicals, including Konkret, Spiegel, Die Zeit, Max, Financial Times Deutschland, Stern, SZ-Magazin, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Hörfunk, and Fernsehen.
SIDELIGHTS: Matthias Altenburg has written several books, as well as a play, under his own name. However, it is as Jan Seghers, the pseudonym under which he published the crime novel Ein allzu schönes Mädchen, that Altenburg has won the most fame.
Ein allzu schönes Mädchen pays homage to the typical detective novel: it begins with a hard-boiled policeman, Robert Marthaler, examining the case of a man who was brutally murdered, and follows this rather average detective as he gets sucked deeper and deeper into the intrigue surrounding his current investigation, the new murders that follow it, and the related suicide of another person. The "all too beautiful girl" of the title is the prime suspect: she was seen in a car with the men who were murdered. The girl also has amnesia and other mental issues, the true nature of which are not revealed until the end of the book, which makes it challenging to figure out what her connection to the crimes could be.
Altenburg reads detective novels avidly and was inspired by the work of several classic American crime novelists, including Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, as well as that of Swedish writer Henning Mankell. As he explained in an interview on the Jan Seghers Web site, he did not attempt to mimic their stories directly, but instead to adapt the plots to German society and procedures. He did, however, consciously stick closely to the typical, straightforward language generally used in detective tales, and his fast-moving dialogue and sharp atmospheric descriptions were praised by Zeit reviewer Greiner Von Ulrich and others.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Allgemeine Zeitung, November 10, 2004, Inka Müller, "Die Melancholie des Eigenbrötlers: Lesung von Jan Seghers beim Krimiherbst."
Berliner Morgenpost, May 16, 2004, "Fünfundzwanzig Sonntagsfragen an Jan Seghers, Schriftsteller."
Frankenpost, March 22, 2004, review of Ein allzu schönes Mädchen.
Rheinischer Merkur, August 5, 2004, review of Ein allzu schönes Mädchen.
Times Literary Supplement, May 29, 1998, review of Landschaft mit Wölfen, p. 29.
Zeit, March 25, 2004, Greiner Von Ulrich, review of Ein allzu schönes Mädchen.
Bookinist,http://www.leser-service.de/ (November 20, 2004), Manuela Haselberger, review of Ein allzu schönes Mädchen.
Buchhandel.de,http://www.buchhandel.de/ (November 20, 2004), review of Ein allzu schönes Mädchen.
Crime Corner Web site,http://www.crime-corner.de/ (November 20, 2004), Ekkehard Knörer, review of Ein allzu schönes Mädchen.
Familie Contra Singles,http://www.single-generation.de/ (November 4, 2004), "Matthias Altenburg."
HR-online.de,http://www.hr-online.de/ (November 4, 2004), "Matthias Altenburg."
Jan Seghers Web site,http://www.janseghers.de (November 4, 2004).
Krimi-Couch,http://www.krimi-couch.de/ (November 4, 2004), "Jan Seghers (Matthias Altenburg)."
Krimi-Report 20,http://www.alligatorpapiere.de/ (August 10, 2004), Stefan Lichblau, review of Ein allzu schönes Mädchen.*