Daniel Kehlmann to deliver speech honouring Salman Rushdie

© Heike Steinweg

The German-Austrian author, screenwriter, essayist, literary critic and lecturer Daniel Kehlmann will deliver the speech honouring Salman Rushdie, recipient of this year’s Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. The award ceremony will take place at 11 am on Sunday 22 October 2023 in the framework of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The event will be broadcast live on German television (ZDF) from the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt.

Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 to director Michael Kehlmann and actress Dagmar Mettler. He grew up in Vienna and studied Philosophy and German at university there. Today, he lives with his family in Berlin and occasionally also in New York. He has been a friend of Salman Rushdie for many years.

Kehlmann is one of the most important German-language writers of the present day, and with popular novels, plays and screenplays, has brought an extensive and much-discussed body of work into the world. Novels such as »Beerholms Vorstellung« (1997) and »Mahlers Zeit« (1999) made him popular in Germany; Kehlmann's international breakthrough came with the novel »Me and Kaminski« (2003). A sensational success was his novel about the history of science »Measuring the World«, published in 2005, which has been translated into more than 40 languages and, with six million copies sold worldwide, is one of the most successful books in post-war German literature. Kehlmann's other well-known novels include »Fame« (2009), »F. A novel« (2013), and »Tyll« (2017).

A special feature of Kehlmann's works, which are often historical adventure novels, is the fusion of reality and illusion. His writing is influenced by authors from the Anglo-American world, such as Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen, Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, and Vladimir Nabokov, as well as from Latin America, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Jorge Luis Borges. Like some of these writers, Kehlmann as an author is often assigned to the style of Magical Realism - but since this term refers to the belief of indigenous Central American peoples in magic in everyday life, Kehlmann's style is also referred to as "fractured realism": as a refraction of European rationalism with Latin American imagination and fabulist joy.

His complex narrative arrangements reveal a delight in provocation, while his works deal with themes such as a critique of reason and the question of the narratability of history. Kehlmann's oeuvre is characterized by numerous references to well-known pre-texts and by a critical examination of post-war German literature as well as a postmodern play with signs that readers must decipher. His works contain intermedial references to other art forms such as painting or film, but also to the natural sciences, philosophy, theology, and German studies.

In addition to novels, Kehlmann is known for numerous plays, screenplays, reviews, essays and columns written for diverse media, including Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Literaturen and Volltext.

Among the awards Kehlmann has received for his work are the Candide Preis, the WELT-Literaturpreis, the Per Olov Enquist Prize, the Kleist Prize, the Thomas Mann Prize, the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize, the Frank Schirrmacher Prize, the Schubart-Literaturpreis and the Anton Wildgans Prize.

Kehlmann has held lectureships in poetics at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, University of Applied Sciences Wiesbaden and Göttingen University as well as at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main in 2014. In 2010, he joined Jonathan Franzen and Adam Haslett for the Tübingen Poetics Lectureship. He has also been a guest professor in the German Department at New York University.

Kehlmann is a member of the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature, the Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg and the German Academy for Language and Literature. He is a founding member of PEN Berlin.