Cologne by the Sea
2004 was a particularly good year for Frank Schätzing. His novel Der Schwarm (The Swarm) was published and soon became a worldwide success. It took five years of research and two years of writing before the author finally finished his 1,000 page scientific thriller dealing with the unexplored depths of the seas.
The Swarm won four prizes in total: it won the Kurd-Laßwitz-Prize for best science-fiction story, the German Science-Fiction-Prize, the German Krimi-Prize and the Goldene Feder (Golden Quill). Not only did The Swarm sell 920,000 copies and become a bestseller in Germany, but even Hollywood knocked at Schätzing’s door and secured the film rights in 2006. Ted Tally, screenwriter of The Silence of the Lambs, has been commissioned to turn the book into a screenplay. The private television network RTL commissioned the first film adaptation of one of Schätzing’s books in 2008 – Mordshunger. A television film of the book Die dunkle Seite was also commissioned by RTL.
The Swarm was already making good headway in the world before Hollywood came knocking. Licenses were sold worldwide and the novel was published in 20 languages, including Russian, Arabic, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese and Hindi. In Italy and in Spain the book was at the top of the bestseller lists for several weeks. Frank Schätzing is often compared to the successful American author Michael Crichton.
Intelligence from the ocean bed
What is it that makes this such a successful novel? On reading The Swarm, the reader is bound by fear and fascination at the same time. The theme of the book not only awakens the reader’s interest but also the reader’s emotions. All over the world the inhabitants of the sea are rising up against mankind. This unusual behaviour creates environmental incidents that culminate in a catastrophic tsunami. The international scientists who are trying to counteract this global threat to mankind come to the conclusion that the catalyst is a previously unknown intelligent creature from the ocean bed that appears to be defending itself against the destruction of the sea by mankind.
The fascination of unknown worlds such as the deep sea has fascinated people since the beginning of time. Schätzing’s novel offers a surprising and instructive look into this unexplored world and at the same time captures the zeigeist of globalisation and digitalisation in the frightening yet fascinating idea of "swarm intelligence".
Tension and linguistic finesse
After composing several satires and novellas, Frank Schätzing published his first novel in 1995. Tod und Teufel might not have been a bestseller, nevertheless it is considered a very successful debut novel. A historical crime thriller, it tells the story of Jacop, a dodger and thief, who unwittingly witnesses a murder. This was followed in 1996 by the crime novel Mordshunger, in which the Commissar from Cologne, Romanus Cüpper, has to clear up the murder of the wife of a rich entrepreneur. One year later Die dunkle Seite was published. Die dunkle Seite also has a corpse and the detective Vera Gemini, who is on the trail of a long-gone bank robber. Gradually this is adding up to a great body of work. A volume of stories entitled Keine Angst was also published in 1997. This was followed by a political thriller in 2000, Lautlos, the story of an assassination attempt on the US President that is equal to his previous novels in both tension and linguistic finesse.
Frank Schätzing moved away from fiction in 2006 when he put together the factual book Nachrichten aus einem unbekannten Universum. Eine Zeitreise durch die Meere. This book was also an international success. It was published in twelve countries and a translation is presently being prepared for the American market. Frank Schätzing uses his private interests as material for his books: he is a passionate diver and on the advisory board for an initiative to protect the oceans, and so he is the right person to talk to when it comes to matters of the deep.
Schätzing’s expertise is not only to be found in this book. The scientific explanations – along with his linguistic dexterity and attention to detail – ensure that the plots in his novels are particularly authentic and, consequently, exciting. Schätzing’s multi-facetted works have received many prizes – not only literary prizes but also scientific prizes such as the “Stein-im-Brett-Prize”, which he received from the professional organisation of German geo-scientists.
Home town of Cologne
His love of Cologne, his hometown, is one of the author’s personal references to be found in his work. Particularly in the crime thriller Tod und Teufel, where the reader is led through Cologne of the Middle Ages; in Mordhunger, Romanus Cüpper’s gastronomic preferences serve as an introduction to Cologne’s restaurant scene; and the greengrocer Mehmet Üsker is found dead in his Cologne apartment in the book Die dunkle Seite. Even the assassination attempt on the US President in Lautlos is made during an economic summit that is taking place in Cologne.
Frank Schätzing was born on 28 May 1957 in Cologne, which is where he still lives today, together with his wife. He studied Communication Sciences and started off working in the advertising industry. He has also worked in the music business. He expanded his creativity at the beginning of the nineties when he started writing – a decision that he will not have regretted.
teaches literary studies and is assistant professor at the
Heinrich-Heine-Universität in Düsseldorf.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
Any questions about this article? Please write to us!