Stephan Thome  [ Germany ]

Biography

Guest 2018.

Bibliography

Grenzgang
Suhrkamp
Berlin, 2009
Fliehkräfte
Suhrkamp
Berlin, 2012
Gegenspiel
Suhrkamp
Berlin, 2015
Gott der Barbaren
Suhrkamp
Berlin, 2018

Stephan Thome was born in 1972 in Biedenkopf in Hesse. He studied philosophy and Chinese studies at the FU Berlin and wrote his dissertation on Confucian thought. He spent extensive time conducting research in East Asia, in particular Taipei, where he taught and translated until 2011.

In his début novel »Grenzgang« (2009; tr: Borderwalk), the folk festival local to Thome’s hometown that lends the novel its title becomes a narrative landmark where two people stuck in the provincial town compare their past ambitions with their current frustration. His next novel »Fliehkräfte« (2012; tr: Centrifugal Forces) employs a similarly realistic and often introspective style to explore the manifestation of a middle-class mid-life crisis. For an ambivalent professor of the philosophy of language, the terms he uses have come to feel just as alien as his mediocre and ineffective academic existence, and a road trip promises to bring clarity to his situation. The encounters along the improvised journey inspire episodic flashbacks and pinpoint the causes for his hard-earned stasis in his attempt to break free. The subsequent novel »Gegenspiel« (2015; tr: Counterplay), which reaches much deeper into the story’s chronology, represents a direct counterpart from the perspective of his wife, who is equally affected by self-doubt that has accumulated. The protagonist’s desired transformation is not an escape from the familial and political situations that shape her biography, but is rather a confrontation with her Portuguese roots and the link to a turbulent previous relationship. In these close-up examinations of his characters, Thome’s acclaimed finesse in writing dialogue is strongly apparent, with the author skillfully moving between leaving things out and clarifying them. In his new and sweeping novel »Gott der Barbaren« (2018; tr: God of the Barbarians), Thome dares to switch to historical fiction without falling prey to the exotic nature of his chosen setting: In the era of the opium wars, a German missionary travels to China and falls into a version of »Heart of Darkness«. The ensemble of international characters from colonial powers and native rebels appear caught between individual and geopolitical power struggles. Thome not only applies his extensive knowledge of Far East culture to the text, but also invites the reader to make connections to the modern world and to question the ideas of inherited responsibility and the influence of the individual.

Thome has been awarded the aspekte-Literaturpreis (2009), the Berlin Art Prize, and the George Konell Prize (both in 2014). He was twice a finalist for the German Book Prize (2009 and 2012). The 2014 film adaptation with Lars Eidinger of his début novel won the Grimme Prize. Thome lives in Taipei.

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