Boëtius, Henning 1939-

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BOËTIUS, Henning 1939-

PERSONAL: Born 1939, in Germany; son of Eduard (a zeppelin elevator operator) Boëtius.

ADDRESSES: Home—Lives near Frankfurt, Germany. Agent—c/o Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 1540 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

CAREER: Novelist.


Utopie und Verwesung: zur Struktur von Hans Henny Jahnns Roman "Fluss ohne Ufer," Lang (Bern, Switzerland), 1967.

(Editor) Dichtungstheorien der Aufklärung, Niemeyer (Tübingen, Germany), 1971.

Der andere Brentano: 130 Jahre Literatur-Skandal, Eichborn (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1985.

Der verlorene Lenz: Auf der Suche nach dem inneren Kontinent, Eichborn (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1985.

Selbstgedichte, Eichborn (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1986.

Der Gnom (novel), Eichborn (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1989.

Blendwerk (novel), Eichborn (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1994.

Ich ist ein anderer: Das Leben des Arthur Rimbaud (novel), Eichborn-Verlag (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1995.

Der Walmann (novel), Eichborn (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1996.

(With others) Henning Larson: The Architect's Studio, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark), 1996.

Undines Tod (novel), Btb (Munich, Germany), 1997.

Das Rubinhalsband: Ein Piet-Hieronymus (novel), Wilhelm Goldmann (Munich, Germany), 1998.

Tod in Weimar: Eine Novelle, Merlin (Gifkendorf, Germany), 1999.

Phönix aus Asche (novel) Wilhelm Goldmann (Munich, Germany), 2000, translated by John Cullen as The Phoenix: A Novel about the Hindenburg, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2001.

Schönheit der Verwilderung (novel), Wilhelm Goldmann (Munich, Germany), 2002.

ADAPTATIONS: Phönix aus Asche, read by Philipp Schepmann, was released by Random House Audio in CD and cassette formats in 2000.

SIDELIGHTS: Henning Boëtius is a German novelist who gained international attention when his novel The Phoenix, a fictional account of the Hindenburg zeppelin disaster, was translated into English in 2001. The author of numerous books in German since the 1970s, Boëtius has worked primarily in the mystery and suspense genres.

Boëtius began his literary career with academic studies, including analysis of works by Hans Henny Jahnns and Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz. His 1971 volume Dichtungstheorien der Aufklärung, a collection of essays on critical theory written by Germans between the years 1720 and 1760, received compliments from Ida M. Kimber in Modern Language Review. The pieces in Boëtius's collection discuss such topics as taste and the imitation of nature. Kimber stated that "besides rendering us a service by making these inaccessible texts accessible, the editor provides very useful notes."

While Boëtius is the author of several volumes of fiction, he is best known for The Phoenix: A Novel about the Hindenburg. He is the son of one of the survivors; his father, Eduard Boëtius, served as the elevator operator on the famous airship. In an interview with publisher Nan A. Talese, Boëtius noted, "I grew up with stories of the Hindenburg and the catastrophe, and drank from Hindenburg teacups all my life." In the novel he does not merely retell his father's story. Boëtius uses the protagonist Birger Lund, a Swedish journalist who survives the crash but is presumed dead when the remains of a stowaway are identified as his, to explore what might have actually caused the zeppelin's destruction. Lund's face, burned in the crash, is reconstructed. He never returns to his wife and family. In the course of his investigations, he meets Edmund Boysen, a fictional character based on Boëtius's father. Although the destruction of the Hindenburg was ruled an accident, Boëtius speculates about ominous plots as possible reasons for the tragedy.

The Phoenix received several favorable reviews from critics. Although Ron Charles in the Christian Science Monitor had some reservations about the novel, he praised the plot thread in which "Lund travels to a North Sea island" and "enters a strange world as isolated from time as he is from humanity." Charles added, "It's the perfect setting for his brooding personality. He's befriended by a hunchback dwarf, an amorous barmaid, and a group of thugs who eventually try to kill him." Anthony Day in Los Angeles Times noted that The Phoenix "is also a delicately erotic love story." He called the novel "a meditation on appearance and reality" and "a subtle and convincing picture of the Germany from which Hitler sprang and the country he left in ashes." A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that "Boëtius has created an original plot peopled with intensely realized characters," while Gavin Quinn in Booklist predicted that "the mystery surrounding the infamous disaster will compel readers to keep turning the pages."



Boëtius, Henning, The Phoenix: A Novel about the Hindenburg, translated by John Cullen, Doubleday, 2001.


Booklist, November 15, 2001, Gavin Quinn, review of The Phoenix, p. 550.

Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 2001, Ron Charles, "A Zeppelin Story Full of Hot Air: A Popular German Author Brings the Hindenburg to America, Again," p. 15.

Library Journal, November 1, 2001, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of The Phoenix, p. 131.

Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2002, Anthony Day, "Novel Offers a Bird's-Eye View of History from the Hindenburg,"p.E3.

Modern Language Review, April, 1973, Ida M. Kimber, review of Dichtungstheorien der Aufklärung, p. 455.

New Yorker, April 22, 2002, Mark Rozzo, review of The Phoenix, p. 42.

New York Times Book Review, Tom Ferrell, review of The Phoenix, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, October 8, 2001, review of The Phoenix, p. 40.

San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 2001, David Lazarus, "Spies' Romance Echoes Rick and Ilsa," p. 5.


Nan A. Talese Web site, (June 11, 2002), interview with Henning Boëtius.*