Krüger, Michael 1943-
KRÜGER, Michael 1943-
PERSONAL: Born December 9, 1943, in Wittgendorf, Kreis Zeitz, Germany. Education: Attended Free University of Berlin.
ADDRESSES: Home—Munich, Germany. Offıce—c/o Author Mail, Harcourt, 6277 Sea Harbor Dr., Orlando, FL 32887. Agent—c/o Carl Hanser Verlag, Postfach 86 04 20, D-81631 Munich, Germany.
CAREER: Editor, publisher, poet, and essayist. Tintenfisch, editor, 1968—; Akzente, Munich, Germany, editor, 1976—.
MEMBER: German PEN Club, German Association of Writers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Peter Hirschel Preis, 1986; Ernst Meisker Preis, 1994; Prix Medias Étranger, 1996; Jan Smrek prize (Bratislava, Slovakia), second prize, 1998; City of Munich literary prize.
Reginapoly, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1976.
Diderots Katze, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1978, translated by Richard Dove as Diderot's Cat, George Braziller (New York, NY), 1994.
(And illustrator) Lidas Taschenmuseum, Pfaffenweiler Presse (Pafaffenweiler, Germany), 1981.
Aus der Ebene, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1982.
Wiederholungen, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin/Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD (Berlin, Germany), 1983.
Die Dronte, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1985.
Idyllen und Illusionen: Tagebuchgedichte, Wagenbach Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1989.
Brief nach Hause, Residenz Verlag (Salzburg, Austria), 1993.
Nachts, unter Bäumen, Residenz Verlag (Salzburg, Austria), 1996, translated by Richard Dove as At Night, beneath Trees: Selected Poems, George Braziller (New York, NY), 1998.
Wettervorhersage, Residenz Verlag (Salzburg, Austria), 1998.
(With Quint Buchholz) Wer das Mondlicht fängt:Bilder und Gedichte (poems and photographs), Sanssouci (Zurich, Switzerland), 2001.
Kurz vor dem Gewitter, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 2003.
Das Ende des Romans, Residenz Verlag (Salzburg, Austria), 1990, translated by Ewald Osers as The End of the Novel, George Braziller (New York, NY), 1992.
Der Mann im Turm, Residenz Verlag (Salzburg, Austria), 1991, translated by Amos Leslie Willson as The Man in the Tower, George Braziller (New York, NY), 1993.
Himmelfarb, Residenz Verlag (Salzburg, Austria), 1993, translated by Amos Leslie Willson, George Braziller (New York, NY), 1994.
Die Cellospielerin, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 2000, translated by Andrew Shields as The Cello Player, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Das falsche Haus, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 2002.
(With Hans Bender) Was alles hat Platz in einem Gedicht?, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1977.
Kunert lesen, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1979.
Bienek lesen, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1980.
(With Norbert Miller and Volker Klotz) Bausteine zu einer Poetik der Moderne: Festschrift für Walter Höllerer, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1987.
(With Fred Jahn) Henri Michaux: Bilder, Aquarelle,Zeichnungen, Gedichte, Aphorismen, 1942-1984, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1987.
(With Herbert Heckmann) Kommt, Kinder, wischt dieAugen aus, es gibt hier was zu sehen: Die schönsten deutschen Kindergedichte, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1974.
(With Klaus Wagenbach and Winfried Stephan) Vaterland, Muttersprache: Deutsche Schriftsteller und ihr Stät seit 1945: Ein Nachlesebuch für die Oberstufe, foreword by Peter Rümkorf, Wagenbach Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1979.
Günter Bruno Fuchs, Gemütlich summt das Vaterland, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1984.
Fritz Arnold, Welt im Wort: Aufsätze und Rezensionen, Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1987.
Was tun?: Eine altmodische Geschichte, Wagenbach Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1984.
Warum Peking?: Eine chinesische Geschichte, Wagenbach Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1986.
Wieso ich?: Eine deutsche Geschichte, Wagenbach Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1987.
Aus dem Leben eines Erfolgsschrifstellers (stories), Sanssouci (Zurich, Switzerland), 1998.
Das Schaf im Schafspelz und andere Satiren aus derBücherwelt, Sanssouci (Zurich, Switzerland), 2000.
(Author of introduction) Candida Höfer: Monographie, Shirmer/Mosel (Munich, Germany), 2003, translated by Jeremy Gaines as Candida Höfer: A Monograph,Monacelli Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to Schwarze Augen suchen das Licht: Chinesische Schriftsteller der achtziger Jahre, selected by Helmut Martin and Karl-Heinz Pohl, Brockmeyer Verlag (Bochum, Germany), 1991; contributor to periodicals, including Die Zeit and Frankfurter Rundschau.
ADAPTATIONS: Several of Krüger's poems have been set to music.
SIDELIGHTS: Though in his native Germany Michael Krüger is best known as a poet, he is also an accomplished novelist and essayist, and for over two decades he has been an editor and publisher at a major German publishing house. In addition to serving as editor of both the respected German literary magazine Akzente and the annual German literary anthology Tintenfisch, the prolific Krüger has contributed to the German daily newspapers Die Zeit and Frankfurter Rundschau. To English-reading audiences, however, Krüger is best known through the translations of his novels The End of the Novel, The Man in the Tower, Himmelfarb, and The Cello Player.
Krüger's first novel to appear in English translation is ironically titled The End of the Novel. This "satiric look at the writing process," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer described it, centers on a writer who has been working on a novel for almost two decades. While editing the book, the author discovers that his opinions have changed over the course of time and he must make major cuts. Ultimately—afraid he may have written a work of fiction simply to earn money, fame, and power—he chooses not to publish it. He appears to give up writing entirely, as Harvey Pekar explained in Review of Contemporary Fiction, because "he no longer needs the book to justify his existence." New York Times Book Review critic Amy Hempel observed that Krüger has "with exceeding cleverness" written about "the un making of a novel." Pekar also praised Krüger's wit, noting that the novel is "cleverly constructed" and "technically impressive" as it "pokes fun at authors, publishers, and, in one of the book's funniest sections, hippies." Writing in World Literature Today, Thomas H. Falk concluded that The End of the Novel is "a marvelous antidote for those who have become too serious about reading and writing."
Krüger's 1991 novel, The Man in the Tower, also explores the workings of a creative mind, this time in the form of a nameless German painter who has secluded himself in a tower in the French countryside. In what Library Journal contributor Ingrid Schierling called an "absorbing novel," Krüger blends his perceptions of the creative process with the suspense of a mystery when the artist is implicated in the murder of a French policeman. Krüger is known for his elegant writing style in his native German, and this style comes across in translation, according to Booklist writer Alice Joyce, as "spare" and "elegant without being fussy." This view was also held by a contributor to Publishers Weekly, who praised Krüger's use of "simple language, especially the haunting repetition of ordinary words and phrases." The Man in the Tower, concluded Patrick McGrath in the New York Times Book Review, is a "brooding, mordant and very funny novel" that deals with "the absurdities of contemporary Europe, and in particular the world of art."
The protagonist of Krüger's novel Himmelfarb is an eighty-year-old man named Richard whose professional reputation rests on a manuscript he published fifty years earlier. However, the manuscript was not Richard's work; instead, it was dictated to him by his assistant, Himmelfarb, who was ill in the Brazilian jungle, and whom Richard abandoned for dead. Now, a half-century later, Himmelfarb appears—not to confront Richard, but to tame the dying man's pride as he helps him assess his life of lies. "Krüger manages without a trace of sentimentality, to show a dying man take inventory of a failed life," observed a Kirkus Reviews contributor. As the novel's title suggests, it is character-driven; as William Boyd pointed out in the New York Times Book Review, "The novel's real axis turns not so much on the act of plagiarism as on the stark contrast in character between the narrator [Richard] and Himmelfarb," whose name means color of the sky.
Like his previous novels, Krüger's "wry midlife story" The Cello Player, as Janet Evans described it in Library Journal, is told in the first person. Composer Gyorgy, who has become well-off by writing music for German television shows but who aspires to compose an opera, recounts how a former lover asks him to teach her cellist daughter, Judit. When Judit arrives, however, it is Gyorgy who learns lessons, including that he does not really want to write the opera. Reviewers found much to like in The Cello Player, including the evocation of postwar Europe, well-developed characters, dark humor, fluid style, and a good translation by Andrew Shields. Noting that Krüger grew up during the 1960s, Noah Isenberg praised the author in a New York Times Book Review assessment: Krüger "is especially adept at depicting the narrator's memories of his student days and the uneven path his life took in" the 1960s.
Writers set themselves a difficult task when they make the protagonist an unlikable character, and critics disagreed on whether or not Gyorgy is an appealing figure. While Boston Globe reviewer Judith Maas called the protagonist "sympathetic," Washington Post Book World reviewer Eugenia Zukerman described him as "monolithic" and continued: "The composer's anhedonia and self-denigration. . ., his passivity and weakness become cumulatively repellant, and none of the other characters is particularly appealing either." It did not matter to Robert Schwarz in World Literature Today whether or not Krüger's characters are likeable, however; in any event they form "a dazzling array of well-chiseled, colorful" personalities. Schwarz added, "Krüger is a lucid stylist. He needs every bit of that lucidity in order to portray an artist torn between a deeply felt inner mandate to become . . . what his nature dictates, and the siren call of material success."
Many reviewers commented on the success of Krüger's writing style, which according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, combines "comedy" and "an intelligent tumble of words." Booklist critic Michael Spinella, noting that the writer's humor is dark, called The Cello Player "an acerbic and witty fable," and Isenberg also cited Krüger's propensity for "offering up caustic observations and many hilarious episodes." Other fans of the novel include Entertainment Weekly critic Michelle Kung, who praised Krüger's "elegant story-telling," and Evans, who highly recommended "this witty, skillfully written book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Segebrecht, Wulf, Auskünfte von und über MichaelKrüger, Otto-Friedrich-Universita¨t (Bamberg, Germany), 1998.
Bloomsbury Review, April-May, 1992, review of TheEnd of the Novel, pp. 7, 17.
Booklist, April 1, 1993, Alice Joyce, review of TheMan in the Tower, p. 1410; December 15, 2003, Michael Spinella, review of The Cello Player, p. 727.
Boston Globe, April 27, 2004, Judith Maas, "Composer's Tale Is an Incomplete Arrangement," p. E3.
Choice, June, 1992, R. C. Conrad, review of The End of the Novel, p. 1549.
Entertainment Weekly, January 23, 2004, Michelle Kung, review of The Cello Player, p. 103.
Forward, November 4, 1994, Laurel Berger, "A Tale of German Betrayal in the Rain Forest," p. 24.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1993, review of The Man in the Tower, p. 86; August 1, 1994, review of Himmelfarb, pp. 1013-1014; November 15, 2003, review of The Cello Player, p. 1331.
Library Journal, March 1, 1993, Ingrid Schierling, review of The Man in the Tower, p. 108; June 15, 1994, Michael T. O'Pecko, review of Himmelfarb, p. 95; March 1, 1998, Michael T. O'Pecko, review of At Night, beneath Trees: Selected Poems, p. 92; January, 2004, Janet Evans, review of The Cello Player, p. 157.
New York Times Book Review, March 8, 1992, Amy Hempel, "The Suicide Covers His Tracks," p. 7; April 4, 1993, Patrick McGrath, "In Thrall to a Beaky Muse," p. 12; August 21, 1994, Stephen Dobyns, "Love and Other Tricky Subjects," pp. 22-23; October 30, 1994, William Boyd, "Memoir of a Plagiarist," p. 8; May 16, 2004, Noah Isenberg, "Elevator Musician," p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, January 13, 1992, review of TheEnd of the Novel, p. 46; February 22, 1993, review of The Man in the Tower, p. 84; July 11, 1994, review of Himmelfarb, p. 62; December 1, 2003, review of The Cello Player, p. 41.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 1992, Harvey Pekar, review of The End of the Novel, pp. 204-205.
Times Literary Supplement, September 5, 1968, "Year's Writing," p. 940.
Washington Post Book World, February 22, 2004, Eugenia Zukerman, "Guest Conductor," p. 10.
World Literature Today, winter, 1992, Thomas H. Falk, review of Das Ende des Romans, p. 120; winter, 2001, Robert Schwarz, review of Die Cellospielerin, p. 146; July-September, 2003, Gregory H. Wolf, review of Das falsche Haus, pp. 125-126.
Carcanet Web site,http://www.carcanet.co.uk/ (February 4, 2002), "Diderot's Cat."
Eighteenth World Congress of Poets Web site, http://www.wcp.sk/ (August, 1998), "A Small Step Ahead of the Giants."
Forum-buchkritik Web site,http://www.forum-buchkritik.de/ (February 7, 2002), Jan van den Beld, review of Das Schaf im Schafspelz und andere Satiren der Bücherwelt.*