Born 1943 in Vienna; post-war childhood followed by reconstruction-era puberty; studied philosophy and psychology; co-founded “Wespennest” literary magazine with Helmut Zenker in 1969; a footloose author since the 1970s.
Henisch's debut novel “Die kleine Figur meines Vaters” was first published in 1975 (English translation “Negatives Of My Father” published in 1990). Many novels followed, including “Die schwangere Madonna” (2005), “Eine sehr kleine Frau” (2007), “Mortimer und Miss Molly” (2013), and “Suchbild mit Katze” (2016). He has received numerous awards, including the Austria Kunstpreis. Most recently published by Residenz Verlag: “Der Jahrhundertroman” (2021).
As a bookseller, elderly Mr Roch has always been surrounded by books. Now he's written his own "novel of the century". It's all about literature, from Musil and Roth through to Bachmann and Handke – stories in which the notion of possibility often overrides reality. Mr Roch asks Lisa, a student and waitress in his favourite café, to type up the manuscript for him. As she can't read his writing, he decides to read it out to her, but his papers are in a dreadful mess. An ambivalent relationship develops between the old man who's brimming with stories and the young woman who doesn't believe everything he says. But Lisa has other worries too – her friend Semira is due to be deported. Can Roch's storehouse provide a refuge for her?
How Franz Kafka met Karl May but still didn’t end up in America
Karl May met Franz Kafka on a ship to the United States. Fact or a brilliant piece of fiction?
In his mind, the adventure author Karl May visited the United States a million times. But it is not until September 1908 that the 66 year-old, accompanied by his second wife, Klara, actually boards ship to New York in Bremerhaven. As fate will have it, Karl May meets the famous Franz Kafka on board. The very gaunt and very pale young man is standing at the railing. God forbid, is he about to throw himself into the sea? Who else but Karl May and his much younger wife could save him for the sake of life and literature? The ensuing love triangle completes the ingredients to this great story.
Peter Henisch’s novel is a hilarious fantasy, an intimate novel settled somewhere between fact and fiction. With lightness, yet lots of sensitivity he succeeds in joining what we were drilled to keep apart from an early age: Franz Kafka vs. Karl May, high vs. low culture, living a lie vs. living in fear. It comes as no surprise that this book sends sparks flying!
Novak is a late bloomer when it comes to the wide world of emotions, which he discovers in a hospital, of all places. Because his hospital roommate keeps him from sleeping, the Indonesian nurse Manuela lends him her walkman and tapes, thus infecting him with her love of opera. After being discharged Novak somehow can’t get back into the routine of his regular, ordinary life.
Manuela has opened his ears – not only to opera, but also to the annoying racket of everyday life: noise from lawn mowers, jackhammers and his wife Herta. While he continues his new of listening to opera, Herta suspects another woman behind his new passion. She’s not that far off the mark. But Manuela suddenly disappears. Was she merely an illusion on the stage of Novak’s middle-aged dreams? Or could his wife somehow be involved in her quiet disappearance? Even without her, the grand finale is a striking as an opera: cruelly dramatic.
Josef Urban's one thought is to get away – so a car with the key left in the ignition offers the very chance. It is not his car, but this matters to him just as little as the fact that he has no driver's licence. He soon realises, however, that there is a girl asleep on the back seat. When she wakes up he tells her to get out, but she refuses.
Maria, a schoolgirl, is the lover of the RI teacher to whom the car belongs. She is pregnant, and has little sympathy with the victim of the theft. She can understand Urban's escape attempt, however. The border is closer that they realise, and they suddenly find themselves in Italy. Josef is enjoying the trip and the company; but he cannot avoid feeling responsible for the girl – a thankless role, especially as it is hardly consistent with his love for the absurd.
Nominated for the German Book Prize 2005 (Longlist)
Drei Vagabunden treffen sich auf der Landstraße. Bei Nestroy hießen sie Leim, Knieriem und Zwirn, hier sind es Scheck, Glasl und Kuli. Ein ausgestiegener Bankangestellter, ein ewiger Student und ein verhinderter Schriftsteller. Und natürlich spielt auch der Komet eine Rolle, der - geht es nach Knieriem bzw. Glasl - unweigerlich mit der Erde zusammenstößt.
Die Szenen spielen in Ulm, Paris und Wien, aber auch, nicht zuletzt, in den Köpfen der drei Protagonisten. Von denen hat jeder seine aparte Passion. Scheck leibt seine Peppi, Kuli produziert sich als Reserve-Don Juan, Glasl trinkt und wartet auf den Kometen.
Leim, Knieriem und Zwirn waren Handwerksgesellen auf der Wanderschaft - ihre Welt war nicht heil, aber intakt. Scheck, Glasl und Kuli sind Ausbrecher, jeder auf seine Weise geflohen aus der Wirklichkeit, die sowohl kaputt ist als auch kaputt macht. Bei aller Ironie, bei aller Freude an dem vom großen Vorbild inspirierten Sprachspiel, hat Henischs Text seinen bitteren Ernst. Genau die Anpassung an gutbürgerliche Biederkeit, die bei Nestroy zum Happy-End führt, leitet hier die Katastrophe ein.
Peter Henisch’s novel follows the title’s hero over the course of half a century on his search for his father and happiness. It’s the story of the son of an Austrian tram conductress and a black American serviceman, born 1946 in Vienna. At this time, and indeed up to the 1970s, there were hardly any coloured people in Vienna and they were not regarded as a threat. By the 1990s, when Peter Jarosch briefly and unsuccessfully returns there after a spell in New Orleans, the issue of “foreigners” has become one of the most politically explosive in Austria. Peter’s colour, however, is not the essence of what makes him different. The real point is that he simply feels different. This is brought home to him in childhood when, cast as one of the Three Kings in the Nativity play, he, for obvious reasons, is the only one who does not have to make up.
Henisch gives us in fact a substantial character study in which the fortunes of the hero-narrator subtly but sweepingly follow those of post-war Austria itself. A plus, moreover, for the Anglo-Saxon reader is the device of moving part of the action to the USA, to which Peter emigrates and where, one is led to surmise, he ends as an alcoholic bar pianist.
In this book Peter Henisch, taking the example of the special relationship between himself and his father (a well-known press photographer in his days), reflects on the general background to the generation conflict that was aggravated by World War II. Here is a son who asks, and a father who answers. The narration is overshadowed by a terminal illness, but it is a vivid discussion, as well as the record - however conflicting the attitudes of mind - of a mutual Paperbackroach. The result is largely an examination of problematic attitudes towards reality: both the press reporter and the writer take reality as their raw material. First published 1975, this book has lost nothing through the lapse in time, but has rather gained in relevance. Residenz now presents this version, revised and (mostly in the final section) expanded by the author.
In einem dramatischen Monolog läßt Franz Innerhofer Hanni R. ihr Leben erzählen: Schon der Vater war Knecht, in einem Sautrog hat er geschlafen, und das hat ihn hart gemacht, auch der eigenen Tochter gegenüber. Er schickt sie als Magd zu einem Bauern und läßt sie seine eigenen Erfahrungen wiederholen: Um zwei Uhr morgens muß sie aufs Feld, eggen, ackern, Futter heimführen; Essen gibt es erst, wenn die Tiere versorgt sind. Für „unerlaubte Liebschaften“ bleibt kaum Zeit. Dann kommt der Krieg, Hanni wird einem Wirt zugeteilt, für eine Weile kommt Abwechslung in ihr Leben. Doch kurz darauf setzt man sie wieder bei einem Bauern ein, dessen Felder an das Lager Gusen grenzen: „Jeden Tag haben wir vom Lager gewußt/ jeden Tag haben wir nicht über das Lager geredet/ haben uns nicht mehr zu reden getraut/ haben einfach mit dem Schrecken in uns/ dem Schrecken zugeschaut.“
Sprachlos wird Hanni im Laufe der Geschichte gemacht, die eine Geschichte der Angst ist: zuerst fürchtet sie den Vater, dann die Bäurin, die Gestapo und schließlich sogar den eigenen Mann.
Mit dieser Darstellung eines Lebens, das gerade deshalb so bedrückend wirkt, weil es – in dieser Gegend – nicht außergewöhnlich ist, kehrt Innerhofer zu dem Thema seiner frühen Romane zurück.