Fan of the “beautiful Angela Merkel”: 95 – and Martin Walser keeps writing

Fan of the “beautiful Angela Merkel”
95 – and Martin Walser keeps writing

Although it has become quiet around him and Martin Walser avoids conversations almost completely – but that is due to Corona. The pen in his hand does not rest; the writer once said that he would not exist without words. Now Walser is 95 – shortly before his birthday his new book will be published and he is already sitting next to it.

It has recently become quiet around Martin Walser – at least in relation to the spoken word. With the beginning of the corona pandemic, he withdrew, said the writer of the “Rheinische Post” last year. “I have no contact with the dangerous Corona world.” Walser has largely remained true to this course. “He would have a conversation, but only personally,” says a spokeswoman for Rowohlt Verlag before his 95th birthday on March 24. “But because of the Covid 19 situation, he doesn’t want to receive any visitors at the moment.”

Congratulations will still reach him from afar. Perhaps the most famous living German writer is celebrating his birthday with Walser. For his dozens of novels and stories, which he has written in 67 years of literary work, he has been awarded almost all major prizes (only the Nobel Prize, for which he is traded again and again, is missing). Over the decades, his texts and public speeches have drawn admiration, but also fierce criticism.

New book published two days before birthday


Martin Walser, here 2015, is one of the best-known German writers.

(Photo: picture alliance / dpa)

And although, as he told a journalist from Der Spiegel last year, his memory is slowly fading, he remains active in what he says is most important: writing. Two days before his birthday, Rowohlt Verlag publishes the next work, “The Dream Book – Postcards from Sleep” – just over a year after the publication of “Language Leave”. The publisher also confirms that Walser is already working on his next book.

Martin Walser was born in 1927 as the son of a Catholic innkeeper in Wasserburg, Bavaria. He is said to have written his first poems at the age of twelve, and after the Second World War he studied literature, among other things. He published his first collection of short stories, “Ein Flugzeug über dem Haus” (“An Airplane Above the House”) in 1955, and his first novel “Ehen in Philippsburg” in 1957 – countless works followed in the years that followed.

“A Titanic Work”

Walser’s material now includes two dozen novels, numerous novellas and collections of stories, a large number of plays, radio plays and translations as well as essays, speeches and lectures. “A titanic work,” said literary critic Denis Scheck last year about Walser’s work as an author.

The place where all of Walser’s material has been kept since the beginning of March also fits in with this. The German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar contains around 75,000 handwritten pages along with manuscripts by Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Hölderlin, Franz Kafka and Hermann Hesse.

Attested Angela Merkel’s beauty

Even if Walser expressed himself in writing or orally, his words often met with a great response – for example when he repeatedly attested to the beauty of the then Chancellor Angela Merkel: “With Ms. Merkel, we witness how spirit and nature come together, and that is why she is Nice.”

There are always issues, “I can’t sleep if I haven’t acted on them,” Walser once said. “I also studied literature and philosophy. And yet I was exposed to current events and forced to react. Although I should have said to myself with Franz Kafka: It’s all unimportant. But it was no use.”

Controversial speech 1998

One of the biggest controversies was his controversial speech at the presentation of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1998 in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche. At the time, Walser spoke of the “instrumentalization of our shame for current purposes”. “Auschwitz is not suitable for becoming a routine threat, a means of intimidation that can be used at any time, or a moral cudgel, or even just a compulsory exercise.” The writer received severe criticism for his words – it ignited a month-long discussion about how to deal with the Nazi past in Germany.

Walser himself was repeatedly confronted with allegations of anti-Semitism. In the anthology “Unser Auschwitz” (2015) Walser documented his lifelong confrontation with German guilt. Many critics saw the book as a rethinking of an aging writer or even as an attempt at rehabilitation. “I find that absurd,” he said after the book was published. “Excuse me, rehabilitation, what does that mean? That means some criminal has to be rehabilitated. That shows the careless use of foreign words.”

Walser is holding back with spoken words in public these days. So far, he has mainly experienced the corona pandemic in his house in Überlingen on Lake Constance. “I’m always on my own. And so I only find out everything from the news, but nothing on my own body,” Walser told the “Rheinische Post” after the first year of the pandemic. “I see no reason to have contact.” Walser still has a pen and notepad with him