Matthias Politycki

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Matthias Politycki
Matthias Politycki.jpg
Matthias Politycki
Born (1955-05-20) May 20, 1955 (age 59)
Occupation Novelist, Poet, Essayist
Nationality German
Notable works Weiberroman, Next World Novella

Matthias Politycki (* 20 May 1955 in Karlsruhe, Germany) is a German writer. He has published novels, stories, poems, essays and audio books and is known as the globetrotting German author. His rise to fame was primarily due to his novel Weiberroman and his cruise ship satire In 180 Tagen um die Welt. Some of his articles, in which he entered into or provoked debates in the newspaper feature pages, similarly attracted a great deal of attention.


Matthias Politycki grew up in Munich, Bavaria, where he attended the Maria-Theresia-Gymnasium grammar school. After attaining his school-leaving qualification, the Abitur, in 1974, he was conscripted into national service in the Jägerbataillon 541 in Neuburg/Donau. After his first military exercise, however, he decided to object retroactively and was recognised as a conscientious objector on 21 December 1977. He studied modern German literature, philosophy, theatre studies and communications at the Universities of Munich and Vienna from 1975 to 1987. He obtained his master's degree in 1981 and was awarded his PhD in 1987 under Walter Müller-Seidel in Munich for a thesis entitled Umwertung aller Werte? Deutsche Literatur im Urteil Nietzsches. After three semesters as an assistant professor (Akademischer Rat) at the Münchner Institut für Deutsche Philologie (Munich Institute of German Philology), he began his career as a freelance writer in 1990, although he continued to work as a regular freelance editor for the Munich publishing house Verlag C.H. Beck until 1999. Matthias Politycki is a member of the P.E.N. (the German P.E.N. Centre). He lives in Hamburg and Munich.

Literary work[edit]

Politycki's widely noticed debut novel AusFälle / Zerlegung des Regenbogens'. Ein Entwickelungsroman published in 1987 earned critical acclaim as a highly reflective prose work in the tradition of Arno Schmidt and James Joyce. As early at the start of the 1990s, the "form-fixated avantgardist" (Killy-Literaturlexikon) repeatedly and vehemently protested against this ascription, demanding that "literature should be like rock music", advocating a "new readability" in German literature and igniting a broad debate in the feature pages. Weiberroman published in 1997 ultimately became a best seller and a "cult novel" (Munzinger) and is considered a central text in Germany's literary postmodern movement. It was this novel which established Politycki's reputation as an "eminent humorist" (Reinhard Baumgart, Die Zeit, 5 September 1997) and "memory acrobat" (Verena Auffermann, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 19 and 20 July 1997). At the same time, Weiberroman sparked a debate about the so-called "Generation 78" (Reinhard Mohr), which Politycki sees as the successor to Generation 68 and at strict variance with the latter's ethos-laden culture. With his Cuban novel Herr der Hörner published in 2005, Politycki then produced an "exuberant Dionysian mammoth novel" (Wolfgang Schneider, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 21 February 2008), which told of an enlightened European's struggle for survival in a culture steeped in archaic rituals. But he was unable to match the popular success of his Weiberroman until his picaresque novel In 180 Tagen um die Welt came out in 2008. In this work, he describes "the rituals of the rich and the super-rich to a contemporary Simplicius Simplicissimus" (Uwe Wittstock, Die Welt, 21 June 2008). Politycki counts Laurence Sterne, Diderot, Gottfried Benn and Vladimir Nabokov and, in recent years, Ernest Hemingway among his literary influences. He has produced extensive body of lyrical work and frequently presented it on stage: in 1996/97, he teamed up with Robert Gernhardt in the lyrical programme Wein, Weib und Gesang, in 2004/05, he joined Hellmuth Opitz and Steffen Jacobs in the programme Frauen. Naja. Schwierig. Between 2000 and 2005, Politycki, who continually seeks an aesthetic and poetic dialogue with contemporaries, also organised the Ohne-Titel conferences for authors, editors and critics at Schloss Elmau. In 2011, he was curating the Literaturfest München (Munich literature festival).

Politycki, having been appointed writer-in-residence at Queen Mary, London, in 2009, fell in love with the city immediately. After having returned to the East End for several times in 2010 and 2011, he issued “London, Signale aus der Weltmaschine” (London, Signals from the World-Machine), a highly acclaimed compilation of texts and photographs on the contemporary London, and above all a bestselling epos on English beer, “London für Helden. The Ale Trail – Expedition ins Bierreich” (London for Heroes. The Ale Trail – an Ale Tale). The story is about two Germans trying to test all the real ales they can face during one long London night, always in desperate search of the first sip to taste like proper stuff.


Among other awards, Matthias Politycki received the Civitas-Literaturpreis in 1987, for his first novel AusFälle / Zerlegung des Regenbogens. Ein Entwickelungsroman and the Bayerischen Staatsförderpreis für Literatur in 1988. He has been awarded numerous grants in Germany and abroad, for instance in Denmark, Austria and the US. The shipping company Hapag-Lloyd appointed Matthias Politycki as the very first ship's writer on its cruise ship MS Europa in 2006, giving him the opportunity to take a six-month world tour as a writer-in-non-residence. In 2009, he won the Ernst-Hoferichter-Preis, becoming the Writer in Residence at Queen Mary, University of London. In 2010, he was awarded the Preis der LiteraTour Nord. 2012 Next World Novella was listed for the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Twice he received a grant of Deutscher Literaturfonds for his novels Herr der Hörner (2005) and Samarkand Samarkand (2012/13).


Politycki's books have been translated into English, French and Italian. Available in English:

  • Next World Novella (= Jenseitsnovelle). Translator: Anthea Bell, Peirene Press Ltd, London 2011, ISBN 978-0-9562840-3-7
  • Sphärenmusik - Music of the Spheres - Ceol na Sféar. Ausgewählte Gedichte - Selected Poems - Rogha Dánta. Translator: Hans-Christian Oeser (English) agus Gabriel Rosenstock (Gaeilge/Irish). Coiscéim, Dublin 2011

In German

  • Samarkand Samarkand. Roman, 2013
  • DAS GEDICHT No. 20 (ed. together with A. Leitner), lyrics, 2011
  • Freischwimmer. Drei Erzählungen. With 11 coloured Linocuts by Svato Zapletal, Svato Verlag, 2011
  • London, Signale aus der Weltmaschine, Gastgeber: Matthias Politycki (ed.), 2011
  • London für Helden. The Ale Trail - Expedition ins Bierreich, 2011
  • Jenseitsnovelle, 2009
  • Die Sekunden danach. 88 Gedichte, 2009
  • In 180 Tagen um die Welt. Das Logbuch des Herrn Johann Gottlieb Fichtl, 2008
  • Vom Verschwinden der Dinge in der Zukunft. Bestimmte Artikel 2006-1998. Essays, 2007
  • Herr der Hörner. Roman, 2005
  • Ratschlag zum Verzehr der Seidenraupe. 66 Gedichte, 2003
  • Das Schweigen am andern Ende des Rüssels, 2001
  • Ein Mann von vierzig Jahren, 2000
  • Die Farbe der Vokale. Von der Literatur, den 78ern und dem Gequake satter Frösche, 1998
  • Weiberroman, 1997
  • Jenseits von Wurst und Käse. 44 Gedichte, 1995
  • Taifun über Kyoto, Luchterhand Literaturverlag, 1993
  • Hundert notwendige Gedichte. Und ein überflüssiges (ed.), 1992
  • Im Schatten der Schrift hier. 22 Gedichte, 1988
  • Aus Fälle / Zerlegung des Regenbogens. Ein Entwickelungsroman, 1987

External links[edit]