Guest 2013, 2017.

Franz Hohler [ Switzerland ]

Franz Hohler was born in 1943 in Biel and grew up in Olten in the Swiss canton of Solothurn. After finishing school in 1963, he studied German and Romance philology at the University of Zurich. During that time, he put together his first cabaret programme »Pizzicato« (1965). Following its success, he decided to discontinue his studies and concentrate fully on his artistic work.

Two years later saw his literary debut with »Das verlorene Gähnen und andere nutzlose Geschichten« (1967; tr. The Lost Yawn and other Useless Stories). More than thirty literary publications (including a dozen collections of short stories and novels and volumes of poetry), more than twenty children’s books, sixteen plays, almost as many cabaret programmes as well as numerous records and works for radio, film and television are testimony to Hohler’s enormous productivity. His seventieth birthday was accompanied by the release of »Der Geisterfahrer« (2013; tr. Wrong-way Driver), an anthology of several volumes of short stories, from »Der Rand von Ostermundigen« (1973; tr. The Edge of Ostermundigen) and »Die Rückeroberung« (1982; tr. Recapture) to the serial »Das verspeiste Buch« (1996; tr. The Consumed Book) and the decidedly grotesque collection of stories »Die Karawane am Boden des Milchkrugs« (2003; tr. The Caravan at the Bottom of the Milk Jug) right up to »Die Torte« (2004; tr. The Gateau) and »Der Stein« (2011; tr. The Stone). The collection presents Hohler’s characteristic narrative style over a period of four decades, which meanders with skill between everyday life and the fantastic, discovering the bizarre in the commonplace. Always driven by what he calls a childish curiosity, Hohler considers it »one of the author’s basic tasks to see the unfamiliar in the familiar and to be astounded by the normal«. In pursuit of this credo, a series of texts emerged from many walking trips that evidence his special sensitivity towards fleeting details. These writings stand out in the immediacy of what is experienced and what is narrated. The collection »52 Wanderungen« (2007; tr. 52 Hikes) was followed by 52 »Spaziergänge« (2012; tr. Strolls). In his essayistic »Gedankenbuch« (Book of Thoughts) titled »Das Kurze. Das Einfache. Das Kindliche« (2010; tr. The Brief. The Simple. The Childish) Hohler turns his attention to texts by others and by himself, using these to present his literary affinities in a way that is both clear and subtle. His novel »Gleis 4« (2013; tr. Platform 4) was recently published and in it he tells the story of a woman whose holiday plans are interrupted by the sudden death of a chance acquaintance while she is already on the platform waiting for a train.

Hohler has received a number of prizes for his extensive range of works, among these the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Swiss Schiller Foundation (1991), the Liederpreis (Song Prize) of German television broadcaster SWF (1997), the Art Award of the City of Zurich (2005), then Salzburg Stier for his Life’s Work (2008), an honorary doctorate from the University of Fribourg (2009) as well as, most recently, the Prize of the Swiss ktv (2013) and the Solothurn Literature Prize (2013). Hohler lives in Zurich.