Christoph Hein was born in Heinzendorf, Silesia (now Poland), in 1944. After the war his family moved to Bad Düben, near Leipzig. After being refused entrance to high school because his father was a Protestant pastor, in 1958 he enrolled in a boarding school in West Berlin. After the Wall was built in August 1961, however, this was no longer an option, and he took nightschool classes for three years to earn his high school diploma. Hein then undertook university studies in philosophy and logic in Leipzig and Berlin from 1967 to 1971. After completing his studies, he worked as dramatic advisor under the guidance of Benno Besson at Berlin’s Volksbühne, where he was the in-house playwright from 1974 to 1979, when he left the theater to begin his career as a literary author.
One of Hein’s first big successes, in both East and West Germany, was his 1982 novella Der fremde Freund, and, over the course of the 1980s, he emerged as one of East Germany’s most important and prolific writers. He was one of the speakers at the historic demonstration for democracy and reforms on November 4, 1989 in East Berlin. After the Wall came down, he wrote numerous essays reflecting on his role as an intellectual in society and, from 1998 to 2000, he served as the first president of the pan-German PEN Center.
Hein, one of the most widely read contemporary German authors, has received many literary awards, including the international Stefan Heym Award (2013), the Uwe Johnson Prize (2012) and the Erich Fried Prize (1990). His work has been translated into 35 languages, and several of his books have been published in the USA: Landnahme (Settlement, 2008, Metropolitan Books), Willenbrock (2003, Metropolitan Books), Der Tangospieler (The Tango Player, 1992, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Der fremde Freund (The Distant Lover, Pantheon, 1989).
Both Der Tangospieler and Willenbrock were made into films, and Christoph Hein has a short cameo appearance in the 1990 film featuring the cabaret of Mensching and Wenzel, Letztes aus der DaDaeR (dir. Jörg Foth). Since 2009, he has collaborated with singer and songwriter Hans-Eckardt Wenzel on two recordings: Das erste Buch Homers–Korrekturen (The First Book of Homer: Corrections, audio book, 2013) and Masken–Wenzel singt Christoph Hein (Masks–Wenzel Sings Christoph Hein, CD, 2009). Hein lives in Berlin.
Bibliography & More:
2013 Vor der Zeit – Korrekturen (Before the Time: Corrections)
2011 Weiskerns Nachlass (Weiskern’s Estate)
2008 Frau Paula Trousseau (Mrs. Paula Trousseau)
2005 Mama ist gegangen (Mom Left Us)
2005 In seiner frühen Kindheit ein Garten (In His Early Childhood, a Garden)
2004 Landnahme (Settlement: A Novel)
2000 Willenbrock (Willenbrock: A Novel)
1997 Von allem Anfang an (Right from the Beginning)
1993 Das Napoleon-Spiel (Napoleon Game)
1989 Der Tangospieler (The Tango Player)
1985 Horns Ende (Horn’s Final Day)
1982 Der fremde Freund (The Distant Lover)