Since its launch at the University of Leipzig in early 2007, The Picador professorship has proven a big hit with both sponsors and participants.
Each fast-paced semester brings scores of dazzling, new-generation writers to Mitteldeutschland to serve as professors and mentors –
exciting learning and insight into the diverse cultures that employ and enrich the English language.
Picador readings by guest professor-writers are free of charge and open to the public.
That's because the program's creators intentionally wish to foster a community-wide experience.
The program owes its existence and enthusiastic reception largely to the American Studies Institute – namely, Prof. Dr.
Crister Garrett, PhD and Sebastian M. Herrmann, MA, along with colleagues like Prof. Dr. Anne Koenen (American Literature).
Picador's continuation is made possible by sponsors Holtzbrinck publishing and the DAAD German academic exchange service.
Not long ago, DAAD renewed its funding into 2014 – with the potential to extend beyond then – to demonstrate its appreciation of the program's quality and outreach.
Read on to learn just who these Picador Professors are – or explore in detail on the American Studies site: http://americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/picador_chair
Picador pioneers and path breakers
As the first holder of this post, Winter 2006-07, Tristan Hughes, writes, " it hasn't escaped my notice that Leipzig produced its first book in 1480,
and I'm obviously delighted to be in a city with such a venerable history of the printed word."
A novelist, short story-writer and scholar of American literature – born in Canada, raised in Wales and educated in England – Hughes works, while set in Wales,
are a prime example of 'multi-culti' hybridization. No surprise that his talks to Leipzig audiences strike the theme of crossing both societal and linguistic borders.
Winner of the Rhys Davies Short Story Award, he's authored three novels: The Tower (2003), Send My Cold Bones Home (2006) and Revenant (2008).
Summer 2007 features British novelist/story-writer, James Hopkin (PhD in Modern Fiction, Universities of York and East Anglia). Before landing in Leipzig,
Hopkin has lived in Manchester, Krakow, Berlin, and elsewhere in Europe. His first novel, Winter Under Water (2007), set largely in Poland, garners him the
Norwich Prize for Literature. According to The Independent, "few first-time novelists . . . have an ability to conjure language to such magical effects."
His "Georgian Trilogy" is subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio.
An innovative sort, Hopkin cleverly arranges a visit by Anglo-Indian-Kenyan writer Priya Basil. She reads with him from her comic novel Ishq and Mushq,
then both join in a lively discussion – eruditely led by frequent Picador moderator, MDR journalist Julia Kastein.
Winter 2007-08. New York-based writer John Haskell brings urban finesse to the Picador chair. His credits include a short story collection,
I Am Not Jackson Pollock (2003) two novels, and a third mask as a performance artist who once worked with legendary playwright David Mamet.
Haskell holds an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing from Columbia University and studied playwriting at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).
His work appears in Granta, The Paris Review and Conjunctions. His debut novel, American Purgatorio (2005), is deemed an enthralling pastiche of road movie,
detective novel, psycho-thriller and metaphysical quest, followed by his second novel, Out of My Skin (2009).
Summer 2008 brings a lively upbeat of tempo – American pop art chronicler Chuck Klosterman, author of: Fargo Rock City (2001); Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (2004);
Killing yourself to Live (2006); Chuck Klosterman IV (2007); Downtown Owl: A Novel (2008); and Eating the Dinosaur (2009). His work as a journalist, blogger and cultural critic nets wide praise.
As novelist-horror icon Stephen King notes, "Writing about pop culture doesn't get any better than this, or any funnier." Klosterman enchants Leipzig listeners with
his incisive observations and personal ease – making it a three-beer night at the Leipzig podium as discussion flows.
Prolific sci-fi author Nancy Kress transports sizzle and suspense to a chilly Winter 2008. Her output – over a dozen science fiction/fantasy novels, 60-plus short
stories and three books about writing – has won her major awards in her genre and translation into 15 languages. Her 2008 Dogs fictionalizes the dangers of terrorism
and biological weapons. Her most recent novel is Steal Across the Sky (2009). Called "devilishly inventive," by CNN, "her characters are more than cardboard cut-outs,
and they wrestle with important issues – medical and ethical – every step of the way."
Summer 2009. Up-and coming author Catherine Chung brings international élan to the Picador post. A mathematics undergraduate with an MFA from Cornell University (USA),
she's taught creative writing in Germany and the United States. Her many fellowships include a stint at the MacDowell Colony (National Endowment for the Arts), as well
as a "waiter scholarship" from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference – yep, she waited on tables for the lunching literati.
Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she's been published in Quarterly West, Guernica Magazine and The Journal. Her work often centers on themes of resettlement and assimilation,
as in her first novel, Forgotten Country, about a Korean family emigrating to America, or her novel-in-progress, Burial. Here in the former East Germany,
Chung loves being "where people retained a cultural memory which resonated so well with everything I was thinking about" (Granta, "New Voices" emerging writers series, April 2010).
Winter 2009-10. Not letting up on the intrigue, Picador welcomes American spy novelist Olen Steinhauer. Cited by the New York Times as one of best modern writers
in his genre, Steinhauer has seven novels and numerous short stories to his credit. His Liberation Movements (2006) and Victory Square (2007)
were short-listed for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award (UK).
While he's in Leipzig, Warner Brothers along with actor George Clooney buy the option to film and star in Steinhauer's 2009 bestseller, The Tourist.
The book, published in 20 languages, is part of an espionage-thriller trilogy that touches upon events in a country not unlike post-Cold War Romania
(not to be confused with a 2010 film set in Venice and bearing the same title). Quite the feather in Steinhauer's cap and a warm glow for Leipzig students,
faculty and Picador audiences who "knew him when," that is, before he achieves international cinematic acclaim.
Background: Holder of a BA in English from the University of Texas/Austin, an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from Emerson College/Boston, and a Fulbright Fellowship,
the Virginia-born Steinhauer has lived in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Romania, Italy and Hungary (Budapest, along with his Rumanian-born wife and daughter).
Despite being a dynamite writer, Steinhauer discovers at the Uni Leipzig that his teaching skills need some brushing up. He gladly takes input from his
students on how to make great spy novelists like John le Carré and Graham Greene spring to life, and borrows a "group spy novel" classroom exercise from a sage colleague.
Christian Hawkey, Summer 2010, becomes the first poet to hold the Picador chair in Leipzig. A professor of Creative Writing at the fine arts-oriented Pratt
Institute of Brooklyn, NY since 2004, Hawkey is widely published in Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Best American Poetry, Die Zeit, et al. noted for his
fascinating blogosphere dialogues with fellow international artists.
Hawkey tops off his visit with a public reading at the Deutsches Literaturinstitut (sponsored in part by the US Consulate), along with his poet-spouse and
frequent translator, Uljana Wolf, whose name means 'liebling' or dearest in Polish. The two of them engage in collaborative wordplay, exposing the hidden time bombs of language,
especially when it leaps from the Germanic to full-blast modern English. His passion for mining words for pure sound and feel, as well as meaning, has gained Hawkey a following
for his "funny and eerie ... surreal landscapes ... and necessary obliteration of how we expect language to work" (to blend critiques from Boston Review and Publishers Weekly).
... and now, back to the future
Stay tuned to both upcoming issues of "Leipzig Zeitgeist" and the American Studies website for the latest Picador Professorship and readings of those authors' works.
Lined up for Late Fall 2010-11 is international poet-playwright, writer-editor, Nathalie Handal.
Picador Guest Professor for Literature
Room 3 5.14 | Phone: (0341) 973 7333
Remember, there'll be more
Do yourself a big favor by attending a Picador reading. Check out the American Studies site to learn about the latest
"word magician" and explore the program in detail at: http://americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/picador_chair
See also individual sites for the Picador lineup:
Tristan Hughes (Winter 06/07): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/hughes
James Hopkin (Summer 07): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/hopkin
John Haskell (Winter 07/08): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/haskell
Chuck Klosterman (Summer 08): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/klosterman
Nancy Kress (Winter 08/09): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/kress
Catherine Chung (Summer 09): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/chung
Olen Steinhauer (Winter 09/10): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/steinhauer
Christian Hawkey (Summer 10): americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/hawkey
Nathalie Handal: americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/handal
Barbara Hobbie, staff writer