Behrens, Peter

views updated May 17 2018

Behrens, Peter

PERSONAL: Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Education: Attended Lower Canada College, Concordia University, and McGill University.

ADDRESSES: Home— Brooklin, ME, and Los Angeles, CA. Agent— Sarah Burnes, The Gernert Company, 136 E. 57th St., New York, NY 10022; Lynn Pleshette, The Lynn Pleshette Agency, 2700 N. Beachwood, Los Angeles, CA 90068. E-mail— [email protected].

CAREER: Writer, novelist, screenwriter, and short-story writer.

MEMBER: Writers Guild of America (West), Writers Guild of Canada.

AWARDS, HONORS: Governor-General’s Award for fiction, Canada, 2006, for The Law of Dreams; Wallace Stegner fellow in creative writing, Stanford University; Fine Arts Work Center fellow, Provincetown, MA.


Night Driving (short stories), Macmillan of Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.

The Law of Dreams (novel), Steerforth Press (Hanover, NH), 2006.

Contributor to anthologies, including Second Impressions, compiled by John Metcalf, Oberon (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1981;Best Canadian Stories 1978, edited by John Metcalf and Clark Blaise, 1978;Best Canadian Stories 1979, edited by John Metcalf and Clark Blaise, 1979; and Stories of Quebec, Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1980. Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, National Post, Globe and Mail, Walrus, Tin House, and Maisonneuve.

SIDELIGHTS: In his debut novel, The Law of Dreams, screenwriter and author Peter Behrens presents “a fearsome story of such prolonged agony and unquenchable spirit that you can’t escape till the final page abandons you to astonished silence,” remarked Washington Post Book World reviewer Ron Charles. The protagonist of the novel, Fergus O’Brien, “endures abuses and deprivations that would make a lesser man feral, but there’s a native decency in him, a natural grace that renders his decision to survive all the more agonizing,” Charles commented. O’Brien is the teenage son of a tenant farmer family in Ireland during the Great Famine of 1847, when a blight wiped out the majority of the potato crop that the Irish tenant farmers subsisted on. Hunger and disease swept through the country. The O’Brien family resists eviction from their farm, even though they have been hit hard by the blight. Typhus has killed Fergus’s younger sisters and, as his parents lie ill from the disease, their cabin is set afire with them still inside it. In what is seen as an act of generosity, Fergus’s landlord arranges for him to be sent to a workhouse, where the boy joins a gang of violent juvenile outlaws, the Bog Boys, led by the tough and tenacious female, Luke, with whom Fergus falls in love. He joins the group for a deadly raid on his former landlord’s farm, then heads to Dublin and Liverpool, where he nearly settles into a luxurious life as a male prostitute. Working as a laborer on the railroad, Fergus falls for Molly, the innkeeper’s wife, and heads out with her for Canada and America, where he intends to become a horse trader. Their plans for a new life in the new world are thwarted by fate and by betrayal as Fergus’s tenacity and will to survive is tested anew. With his book, Behrens has “fashioned a paean to the strength of the human spirit that illuminates a piece of history,” stated Michele Leber in Booklist.“If the novel were judged solely on the language, precise and poetic in a way that cuts into the heart like a razor, no one could deny Behrens’ brilliance,” commented Juliet Walters in the Montreal Mirror. The novel must also be judged on the quality of the story, Walters noted, adding that “it’s worth pointing out that Behrens can also spin a wild yarn. The Law of Dreams is a novel with as much craft as art, an adventure tale as epic and gripping as a modern Dickens.”



America’s Intelligence Wire, November 21, 2006, Jeanine Aversa, “Peter Behrens Grabs Top Literature Award in Canada for The Law of Dreams.

Booklist, August 1, 2006, Michele Leber, review of The Law of Dreams, p. 36.

Bookseller, July 28, 2006, “Canongate’s Law of Dreams Garners International Interest,” p. 13.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2006, review of The Law of Dreams, p. 587.

Library Journal, June 1, 2006, Maureen Neville, review of The Law of Dreams, p. 104.

Montreal Mirror, August 31-September 6, 2006, Juliet Waters, “Feast of Famine,” review of The Law of Dreams.

New York Times Book Review, December 10, 2006, Kevin Baker, “The Coffin Ships,” review of The Law of Dreams.

Publishers Weekly, May 22, 2006, review of The Law of Dreams, p. 27.

Washington Post Book World, September 1, 2006, Ron Charles, “The Famished Road,” review of The Law of Dreams.


Peter Behrens’ Home Page, (January 22, 2007).

Resource News International, November 21, 2006, “Canadian Entertainment at a Glance,” review of The Law of Dreams.

The Law of Dreams Web site, (January 22, 2007).

Behrens, Peter

views updated Jun 11 2018

Behrens, Peter (1868–1940). Hamburg-born artist, who became an architect under the influence of the teachings of William Morris. A founder-member of the Munich Sezession in 1893, his early graphic work was heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. From 1898 he became interested in the problems of designing mass-produced artefacts. In 1899 he was invited to Darmstadt by Ernst Ludwig II, reigning Grand Duke of Hesse (1892–1918), where he designed his own house for the artists' colony of Mathildenhöhe: incorporating a severe geometry with Gothic ogee gable and dormer-windows, it was designed as a whole, inside and out, drawing on the ideas of van de Velde and Mackintosh. From 1907 his work became more Neo-Classical: the crematorium at Delstern, near Hagen, in Westphalia (1906–7), is a good example. He became a founder of the Deutscher Werkbund and was appointed architect to the first electrical company in Berlin, the AEG, for which he designed the turbine-hall (1908–10), factories, offices, shops, workers' housing, and all manner of artefacts until 1914.

His Berlin office gained an international reputation for progressive design, and in c.1910 Le Corbusier, W. Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe all worked there. There was much that was Neo-Classical in his AEG work, and the influence of Schinkel was strong in his Haus Schröder, Hagen-Eppenhausen, Westphalia (1908), and Haus Wiegand, Berlin (1911–13). The Imperial German Embassy in St Petersburg (1911–12), a powerful essay in stripped Classicism, influenced many architects, including the Scandinavian Neo-Classicists of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1920–4 he built the offices of the I. G. Farben (now Höchst) Dyeworks in Frankfurt-am-Main, an Expressionist essay with touches of proto-Art Deco.

From 1922 Behrens was Director of the School of Architecture in the Vienna Academy of Arts, a post he held until 1936, when he became Head of the Department of Architecture of the Prussian Academy of Arts, Berlin. He designed one house in England: ‘New Ways’, 508 Wellingborough Road, Northampton (1923–5), for Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke (1877–1953), which incorporated an earlier room from 78 Derngate designed by Mackintosh in 1907. He designed the Werkbund's exhibition-house at the Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart (1927), the Villa Lewin, Schlachtsee, Berlin (1929–30), an apartment-house at Westend, Berlin (1930), and the Villa Ganz, Kronberg-in-Taunus (1931–4), all with influences from the International Modern style, which he also employed in the Austrian State Tobacco Administration block, Linz (1936—with Alexander Popp (1891–1945) ). In 1937–9 he prepared a design for Speer's north-south axis in Berlin: it was to be for a new AEG administra-tion-building in a stripped Classical style.


S. Anderson (2000);
Behrens (1901);
Buddensieg & and Rogge (1984);
Weber (1966);
Windsor (1981)

Peter Behrens

views updated May 29 2018

Peter Behrens

Peter Behrens (1868-1940) was Germany's foremost architect in the early 20th century, as well as a painter and designer. His buildings greatly influenced the architecture of the next generation in Europe.

Peter Behrens was born in Hamburg on April 14, 1868. He studied painting at the School of Art in Karlsruhe (1886-1889). He spent the 1890s in Munich as a painter and designer in the current Jugendstil, or German Art Nouveau style, and cofounded the Sezession group of artists, architects, and designers in 1893. In 1899 he joined the artists' colony on the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, where, under the influence of J. M. Olbrich, he turned to architecture. Behrens's house at Darmstadt (1900-1901) was a characteristic Art Nouveau work.

During his tenure as director of the School of Applied Arts in Düsseldorf (1903-1907), Behrens designed a series of buildings, including the exhibition hall for the Northwestern German Art Exhibition at Oldenburg (1905). In this design, simple rectilinear geometry, plane surfaces, and incised linear decoration replaced the curvilinear forms of his residence.

In 1907 Behrens succeeded Alfred Messel as architect and designer for the German General Electric Company in Berlin. In this capacity he designed everything from company brochures, light fixtures, and electric teakettles to factory complexes. Of major importance were his industrial buildings, such as the Turbine Factory (1909), the High Tension Factory (1910), the Small Motors Factory (1910-1911), and the Large Machine Assembly Hall (1911-1912), all in Berlin, which have come to be considered as a point of departure for much of the architecture of the first half of the 20th century. The Turbine Factory, of exposed steel, concrete, and large areas of glass, was especially admired by the next generation of architects.

Some of Behrens's other works of this period, however, were firmly within the German neoclassic tradition. The best of them, such as the houses at Eppenhausen near Hagen, including the Schröder House (1908-1909) and the Cuno House (1909-1910), continued the simplicity of the Düsseldorf period. But in other buildings, such as the German Embassy in Leningrad (1911-1912), the classical style became inert and pompous. Behrens's classicism was to have its influence upon the next generation, especially upon the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

In the years following World War I, Behrens's work became expressionistic, as did, briefly, that of many German architects of the time. An example is his I. G. Farben Company Building at Höchst (1920-1924). In 1922 Behrens became professor of architecture at the Academy in Vienna; he built little of consequence after the mid-1920s. He died on Feb. 27, 1940, in Berlin.

Further Reading

The basic monographs on Behrens are old and in German. There is a chapter devoted to Behrens and his German contemporaries in Henry-Russel Hitchcock, Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1958; 2d ed. 1963).

Additional Sources

Windsor, Alan, Peter Behrens, architect and designer, New York, N.Y.: Whitney Library of Design, 1981. □