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Clemens Meyer
A master of brevity

Clemens Meyer at a reading.
Clemens Meyer at a reading. | Photo (detail): © picture alliance/ dpa-Zentralbild/ZB/Rainer Justen

From forklift drivers to sex workers: writer Clemens Meyer is best known for his short stories, which focus on people who often inhabit the “edge of society”. He has also made a name for himself as a novelist and screenwriter.

By Romy König

The people Clemens Meyer finds most interesting could be called outsiders. He gives a voice, a face, a story to the brothel owners and sex workers, the fairground carnies in Leipzig, big-box store employees who drive a forklift through the aisles of a supermarket on the night shift under cold neon lights. Yet the award-winning author also highlights the fact that these characters are central to our society and an integral “part of our world”. 

Literary talent from Leipzig

Clemens Meyer grew up in the 1980s in a working-class district in Leipzig, where he went through reunification. He attended the German Literature Institute and says he worked his way through university as a security guard, removal man and forklift driver. 
His 2006 debut novel Als wir träumten (As we were dreaming), features his own experience of post-reunification Germany. It was followed two years later by the volume of short stories Die Nacht, die Lichter (All the Lights), which won the Leipzig Book Fair Prize. His 2013 novel Im Stein (Bricks and Mortar), which focuses on sex work, was shortlisted for the German Book Prize and won the Bremen Literature Prize.

Short and sweet

Meyer, who also works as a translator, has won critics acclaim for his ability to reflect his characters’ dreams and longings in “wonderfully brief” summations, “cleverly composed” and without a single “extraneous word” (MDR). His most recent work, Die stillen Trabanten (The Silent Satellites, 2017) marks a return to the short story and also contains narratives of “lost battles” and “overwhelming desires”, according to the publisher’s blurb. In 2019, Meyer will be reading a selection of his pieces in a number of Italian cities over the course of ten days. 

On the silver screen

Meyer’s work has repeatedly made it onto the silver screen: director Andreas Dresen filmed As We Were Dreaming in 2015, and In den Gängen (In the Aisles), a short story from All the Lights, premiered in cinemas in 2018. Meyer has already racked up some film experience has writing the screenplay for the boxing film Herbert, which was released in the cinemas in 2016. More recently he wrote the screenplay for Hessische Rundfunk broadcaster Tatort (Crime Scene) television series Angriff auf Wache 08 (Attack on Police Station 08), which was broadcast on 20 October 2019 with Ulrich Tukur in the leading role.

In his own words

“There is no such thing as authentic literature. You can only take your experience and smash it with a sledgehammer.” (ZEIT Online)
Rehearsing in Leipzig’s Central Theatre in 2010: a scene from „The Night, the Lights“, a love story set in the cold neon light of a big-box store. Rehearsing in Leipzig’s Central Theatre in 2010: a scene from „The Night, the Lights“, a love story set in the cold neon light of a big-box store. | Photo (detail): © picture alliance/dpa/Peter Ending