Jungk, Peter Stephan 1952-
Jungk, Peter Stephan 1952-
PERSONAL: Born December 19, 1952, in Santa Monica, CA; son of Robert Jungk (a futurologist). Education: Attended American Film Institute, 1974-76.
ADDRESSES: Home—Paris, France. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Handsel Press, 62 Toll Rd., Kincardine, by Alloa, FK10 4QZ Scotland.
CAREER: Writer; director of documentary films.
AWARDS, HONORS: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, 2003, for The Snowflake Constant.
Stechpalmenwald, S. Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1978.
Rundgang, S. Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1981.
Shabbat: A Rite of Passage in Jerusalem, Times Books (New York, NY) 1985.
(Editor) Das Franz Werfel Buch, S. Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1986.
Franz Werfel: Eine Lebensgeschichte, S. Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1987, translation by Anselm Hollo published as Franz Werfel: A Life in Prague, Vienna, and Hollywood, Grove Weidenfeld (New York, NY), 1990, published with new introduction, Fromm International (New York, NY), 1991.
Tigor (novel), S. Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1991, translation by Michael Hofmann published as The Snowflake Constant, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2002, translation published as Tigor, Handsel Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Die Unruhe der Stella Federspiel (novel), List (Munich, Germany), 1996.
Die Erbschaft (novel), List (Munich, Germany), 1999.
Der König von Amerika (novel), Klett-Cotta (Stuttgart, Germany), 2001.
Georg Schuchter: Ganz Träumer, Ganz Draufganger, Czernin (Vienna, Austria), 2002.
The Perfect American, translated by Michael Hofmann, Handsel Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author of text for Vier Frauen: Porträts, Edition Braus (Heidelberg, Germany).
SIDELIGHTS: Peter Stephan Jungk's biography Franz Werfel: A Life in Prague, Vienna, and Hollywood tells the story of the Czechoslovakian playwright, novelist, and poet who fled the Nazis during World War II and found success in Hollywood. Though he was Jewish, Franz Werfel had a lifelong fascination with Roman Catholicism, and one of his best-known works is Song of Bernadette, a novel (later adapted into a popular film) that depicts the life of a young girl in Lourdes, France, who had visions of the Virgin Mary.
Werfel enjoyed a pleasant early life. He was born to prosperous parents whose attitude about religion was relaxed; they sent their son to a Catholic school, though Jewish theology classes were also offered there. Werfel is said to have been deeply conflicted about his Jewish heritage. Once out of school, he plunged into the bohemian life of Vienna and soon attracted attention for his poetry. He became involved in an affair with Alma Mahler-Gropius, widow of famous composer Gustav Mahler and wife of Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius. Mahler-Gropius conceived a child by Werfel, but the child was born hydrocephalic and later died. Mahler-Gropius and Werfel eventually wed, but before the marriage the bride insisted that Werfel sign a renunciation of his Judaism; she later spoke out in support of Hitler. They eventually had to flee the Nazis, nonetheless, and ended up in Los Angeles along with many other refugees. Here, Werfel remained busy and successful until his death.
Reviewing Jungk's biography in Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams commended his skill in dealing with the various cultures and numerous famous people involved in Franz Werfel, while also praising the biographer's sympathy for his complex subject. Adams concluded that Jungk has produced "a book that portrays a living man rather than that assemblage of facts that too often passes for biography."
Also the author of several novels, Jungk blends fact and fiction in his story The Perfect American, which reflects on the dark side of animator Walt Disney. The central character in the book is Withem Dantine, an actual Austrian-born cartoonist who worked as an animator for Disney. In the novel, Dantine feels that being hired by Disney is the answer to all his prayers, but he comes to find out that the man's artistic genius is largely a myth, and that Disney's sunny fantasy worlds are a far cry from the dark and driven psyche of their creator.
Disney came from a poor, abusive home and as a result was determined to control everything and everyone around him. He routinely took credit for work he did not do and rarely praised even the best efforts of those he employed. In real life, Dantine did a great deal of work for Disney, only to be summarily fired.
In Jungk's novel, Dantine spends the last part of his life trying to confront Disney. According to Booklist reviewer Carl Hays, the scene where Dantine finally does come face to face with Walt Disney is "worth the book's price." A Kirkus Reviews writer deemed The Perfect American "a fine achievement, making such a remote, brilliant, and rather hateful Walt Disney a flawed and painfully human creation."
In contrast to the fact-based The Perfect American, Tigor is a completely fictional novel about an Italian mathematics professor named Giacopo Tigor, who lives and teaches in Philadelphia. While at a professional conference, Tigor watches as the mathematical theory he has cherished falls apart under the challenge of rival theorists. His professional reputation badly tarnished and his self-esteem in ruins, the mathematician sets out on a wandering journey to find new meaning in his life. He lives for a time in the forest, then works as a stagehand in Paris, and finally has a vision that sends him in search of Noah's Ark. Janet Evans, reviewing the book for Library Journal, found it uneven yet "inventive." Booklist contributor Hays also found the narrative "meandering" at times, but recommended Jungk's novel on the strength of the "addled, restless professor," who is "a vivid, original creation."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, April, 1990, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Franz Werfel: A Life in Prague, Vienna, and Hollywood, p. 108.
Booklist, May 15, 2004, Carl Hays, review of The Perfect American, p. 1609; September 15, 2004, Carl Hays, review of Tigor, p. 208.
Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 2004, Ron Charles, review of The Perfect American, p. 16.
Commentary, July, 1990, Steven Beller, review of Franz Werfel, p. 58.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of The Perfect American, p. 244; August 1, 2004, review of Tigor, p. 706.
Library Journal, August, 2004, Janet Evans, review of Tigor, p. 68.
Literature/Film Quarterly, Volume 32, 2004, Jim Welsh, review of The Perfect American, p. 206.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 11, 1990, Mary Gordon, review of Franz Werfel, p. 1; June 13, 2004, Richard Schickel, review of The Perfect American, p. R2.
New Republic, July 5, 1993, Katharine Washburn, review of Franz Werfel, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, January 19, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Franz Werfel, p. 93.
Washington Post, April 22, 1990, Robert Louis Benson, review of Franz Werfel, p. 9.