Jochen Schmidt [ Germany ]
Jochen Schmidt was born in 1970 in East Berlin. After taking part in numerous language learning trips during his studies, he later worked at the university, and as a translator for, among others, the graphic novels »Shenzhen« and »Pyongyang« by the Franco-Canadian Guy Delisle. As the industrious co-founder of the weekly stage readings »Chaussee der Enthusiasten« in Berlin, his repertoire of texts ranges from short stories, newspaper columns and comic scripts via novels to travel writing and absurd sketches and notes.
»Triumphgemüse« (2000, tr: Triumphant Vegetables), Schmidt's first publication, impresses with its endless parade of bizarre characters depicted in all their brittle dignity. The hyper-realist look at numerous episodes from the era following the fall of the Berlin Wall, embedded in a mild melancholia, draws from the characters – as for example in the prize-winning story »Harnusch mäht als wärs ein Tanz« (tr: Harnusch Mows Like It's a Dance) – a laconic power, masterfully giving rhythm to every text. That this début is also an unscrupulous journey through literature and a private story of acquisitions can be seen for example in the narrator, Jürgen Reip, when he incessantly and off-handedly admits: »I was of course, as before, not Hemingway. And if I was, then it was pretty hard for outsiders to tell.« Schmidt’s emphatic relationship to language is expressed in his »apparently endless joy in storytelling« (FAZ), which led in his next book, »Müller haut uns raus« (2002, tr. Müller throws us out), a kind of biographical coming-of-age novel, and was further culminated in 2004 in »Gebrauchsanweisung für die Bretagne« (tr. Instructions for the Use of Brittany). On the one hand, this is travel writing reinvented as a strictly subjective literary form in which the reader observes the author in the act of observing, and on the other hand it is a stylized portrait of Brittany in bleak landscapes and wild coastal regions, where bizarre outsiders constitute a sort of East in the West. His extraordinary feel for improbable yet everyday characters and stories allows Schmidt a symbiotic sympathy with the Other, the presence of which is all too often forgotten. Most recently, in a veritable tour de force, he has embarked on a search for lost times (»Schmidt liest Proust«, 2008: tr. Schmidt Reads Proust), revealing the many facets of his daily readings of this towering classic. Again and again, the commentary shifts into a text on the subjective conditions of reading as well as on the transformations triggered by this very text, signalling once again Schmidt's capacity for constant inspiration.
Schmidt won the audience prize at the Sieirischen Herbst in 2002. The author lives in Berlin.