Beyer, Marcel 1965–
Beyer, Marcel 1965–
PERSONAL: Born November 23, 1965, in Tailfingen, Germany. Education: Studied German and English literature in Siegen, Germany.
ADDRESSES: Home—Dresden, Germany. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Harcourt, 15 E. 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Writer, editor, and translator.
Das Menschenfleisch (novel), Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1991.
Friederike Mayröcker: eine Bibliographie, 1946–1990, P. Lang (New York, NY), 1992.
(Editor, with Karl Riha) Rudolf Blümner, Ango Laïna und andere Texte, Edition Text + Kritik (Munich, Germany), 1993.
(Editor, with Karl Riha) Johannes Baader, Ich segne die Hölle!: Gedichte 1915–1933, Universität-Gesamthochschule Siegen (Siegen, Germany), 1995.
Flughunde (novel), Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1995, translation by John Brownjohn published as The Karnau Tapes, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1997.
Falsches Futter (poems), Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1997.
Spione (novel), DuMont (Cologne, Germany), 2000, translation by Breon Mitchell published as Spies, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2005.
(Editor, with Klaus Reichert and Klaus Kastberger) Friederike Mayröcker, Gesammelte Prosa, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 2001.
Erdkunde (poems), DuMont (Cologne, Germany), 2002.
Nonfiction (essays), DuMont (Cologne, Germany), 2003.
Vergesst mich (fiction), DuMont (Cologne, Germany), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: German author Marcel Beyer has garnered critical acclaim for both his novels and poems. Writing for the Germany-Poetry International Web site, Alexander Gumz called Beyer "one of the most talked about—and actually read—young authors in Germany today" and "one of the most important poets of his generation."
Set mostly during the last five years of World War II, Beyer's 1995 novel, Flughunde (published in English as The Karnau Tapes), alternates between fact and fiction and different points of view. One of the book's narrators is Hermann Karnau, an engineer obsessed with recording and analyzing the full range of human sounds—from the playful chatter of children to the painful cries of dying soldiers. Flughunde is also told from the point of view of eight-year-old Helga Goebbels, the daughter of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. Hermann and Helga find themselves together in Adolf Hitler's bunker in the days before Hitler's suicide. During this time, Hermann makes the last recording of Hitler's voice and witnesses the grim fate of Helga and her siblings at the hands of their mother. "What distinguishes this text from all others is the attempt to reconstruct the Third Reich from the perspective of the history of voice and ear and their technological reproducibility, amplification, and transmission by phonograph, tape recorder, microphone, and loudspeaker," noted Ulrich Schonherr of the English translation in the Germanic Review. Schonherr described Hermann as "an eerie figure because he turns out to be an extremely sensitive observer and critic of totalitarian culture, despite numerous correspondences between his voice project and the evolution of fascist power politics." Schonherr also felt that young Helga "undoubtedly embodies the strongest narrative counterweight to the barbarism of the male-dominated National Socialist culture, despite her age…. Helga's narrative voice evolves as the strongest moral authority in the text."
Reviews of Flughunde were mostly positive. As World Literature Today contributor Robert Schwarz commented, "Large parts of Flughunde are superbly done and show a master hand of creative writing. It is a relentless book, maintaining a fine balance between external events and interior voice." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted of the English translation that "the plot meanders during the book's early stages," but concluded that, overall, "the narrative finds its true tone."
Beyer's next novel, Spione (published in English as Spies), features an unnamed narrator and his cousins who search for information about their grandfather's mysterious past. The story switches viewpoints and moves backward and forward in time as the four "spies" try to uncover their family's hidden secrets. A critic for Publishers Weekly called the English translation a "love story wrapped in a drama wrapped in a mystery," and a contributor to Kirkus Reviews remarked that Spies is "a bit labored and opaque, but atmospheric, increasingly engrossing and ultimately very rewarding."
Among Beyer's other writings are the novel Das Menschenfleisch and a volume of poetry titled Erdkunde. In addition, Beyer has also edited and translated the works of many renowned authors.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Germanic Review, fall, 1998, Ulrich Schonherr, "Topophony of Fascism: On Marcel Beyer's The Karnau Tapes," p. 328.
Journal of European Studies, June, 1994, Richard Sheppard, review of Rudolf Blümner, Ango Laïna und andere Texte, p. 197.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2005, review of Spies, p. 555.
Library Journal, November 15, 1997, Robert E. Brown, review of The Karnau Tapes, p. 75.
Publishers Weekly, September 22, 1997, review of The Karnau Tapes, p. 67; June 6, 2005, review of Spies, p. 37.
World Literature Today, fall, 1996, Robert Schwarz, review of Flughunde, p. 945.
Germany-Poetry International Web site, http://www.germany.poetryinternational.org/ (July 1, 2005), Alexander Gumz, biography of Marcel Beyer.