The vast emptiness in contemporary german literature
could be explained that one of
its most lively elements – Thor Kunkel –
has been removed by political-correctness.
– EBERHARD LÄMMERT, Literary scholar
THOR KUNKEL, born in 1963, is a modern german writer, who had an extraordinary course of life. Besides his native language he also speaks fluently English and Dutch.
Kunkel studied Fine Arts and Film at Germany’s prestigious Städel-Academy, where his great grandfather Albert Verchau, a dyed-in-the wool social-democrat, taught graphic arts (lithography) from 1922 to 1936.
After a fellowship at San Francisco Art Institute, where he participated in an extracurricular course of creative script writing, he returned to Germany only to leave (in 1988) for Great Britain again. From there he went to the Netherlands to rebuild McCann-Erickson’s dutch branch in Amsterdam.
The first 15 years of Mr. Kunkel’s career were spent in international advertising, culminating with his tenure as creative director of the dutch subsidiary of Wunderman Cato Johnson’s Digital Peppers, where he led webvertising campaigns, while writing fiction on the side.
Over the years – like Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann – he became a typical “Auslandsdeutscher” („a german living abroad“ ) or how Kunkel put it : “I didn’t miss my own culture, because I knew the Germany of Gottfried Benn and Novalis had ceased to exist. So, along the way I became an unhoused soul left to my own devices, a drifter, who watched the world from a darkened inner room through rain-wet windows panes. If they’d ask me to put a credo on my tombstone it would be: This eternal settling of outstanding scores ends here. (“Dieses ewige Begleichen von offenen Rechnungen endet hier.“)I guess most people with an average job can relate to my point of view.“
For someone who says he „never cared for the ad game”, Kunkel was – straight from the start – awfully good at it and quickly gained himself the reputation of a one-man creative strike force.
In 2011, with many awards to his credits, he had created advertising between London, Hamburg and Amsterdam for more than twenty five years. „I was never a bohemian, always a salary man“, Kunkel confessed once in an interview (Falter-Magazine, 3.7.2002), „for me the liaison with art was over before it began.”
It never was easy for Mr. Kunkel: His first novel, The Blacklight Terrarium, – about a young misantrophic killer, who regards life as a „biological film“ –, was rejected by 20 publishing houses before Rowohlt took it on in 2000. In the end the book won Kunkel the prestigious Ernst Willner-Award at Klagenfurt’s Ingeborg Bachmann Competition, but only sold around 9 000 copies.
Since then Kunkel has produced a slew of books —historical novels, dystopic stories, nonfictional books —across a sea of genres. Titles like The Blacklight-Terrarium, A letter to Hanny Porter, Final Stage, Kuhls Cosm, Foam Sister and Subs are widely known throughout Germany.
In 2009 Mr. Kunkel experienced a burn-out and was hospitalized, while his Bern-based agency KunkelBakker CC. remained open for business.
After an enjoyable sabbatical in in the Swiss mountains, resulting in his philosophical hiking guide Wanderful – Peak Meditations, Mr. Kunkel today is busier than ever, re-inventing political advertising with his outstanding ideas. His brilliant and widely praised European election billboard featuring the painting „The Slave Market“ (1866) by French painter Jean-Leon Gerome, went from Berlin around the globe, resulting for his client into earned media worth a fortune.
Kunkel explained: „I wanted to express the consequences of the insidious muslim invasion of Europe. Most liberal, western women have no clue that they will end up in medieval times. We all have heard the warning signals from France and Great Britain. Enough is enough. The islamists should go home.“
Kunkel also started writing a screen play („Trespasser“) for shooting star director Christian Alvart („Dogs of Berlin“) and Oskar Röhler, who has put Mr. Kunkels latest novel Subs (2011) as Outmastered (2018) on the screen. He also works with his close friend Specter, the master mind behind Aggro-Berlin, on several ground-breaking fictional theme-parks aimed at streaming and television audiences.
– Where do all the stories come from? In Kunkel’s case, they reflect his own melancholic blend of light and dark. His protagonists are all a bit wounded and vulnerable like himself —: Take for instance his alter ego Anton Kuhlmann, the „Kamerun-kid“ from Blacklight-Terrarium. Or scientist-turned-pornographer Karl Fußmann (Final Stage) who regards sex as “the ultimate antiseptic ointment for his own soul rotting away.” Or take a look at Kolther, the hapless and disillusioned crypto-detective, who is the hero of Kunkels dystopic novel Foam Sister or Bartos, a psychotic academic, who regards voluntary slavery as the ultimate answer to his own social decline: They are all in their essence victims who turn on their tormentors or the system itself, which they have identified as the reason why they can’t have a real life. Even Kunkel’s most disturbing anti-heroes tend to have had a painful and psychic meltdown along the way.
No doubt, Mr. Kunkel’s fiction is solitaire in contemporary german literature with its political-correct proposition and cencored narratives.
While his bestselling novel Final Stage (“Endstufe”, 2004) has been translated into several languages, it’s a small wonder why the anglo-american world showed so far little interest in Kunkels remarkable work. Is it really the fact that he and his work – like Eberhart Lämmert once put it – “has been removed (from the literary map) by political-correctness”?
After scandalizing Kunkel’s novel Endstufe in 2004 – and a new calumny campaign launched by leftist magazine Der Spiegel in June 2017, it is not exaggerated to say Mr. Kunkel holds for sure one of the top-notches among brave new Germany’s sad new ranks of degenerated artists ( “entartete Künstler”). It seems little has changed since 1939, where independent writers were sorted out by NS-culturists and consequently were exiled. Mr. Kunkel wouldn’t wait and had already moved to Switzerland in 2009. “I could live with the fact that the press hates my guts”, Mr Kunkel says, “if there would be a minimum of respect for my work. But there is none. That’s the reason why I see my future as an independent writer in the anglo-american world. Dear reader: If you’re an american or british publisher or producer and you’re open-minded for bleeding-edge german literature, don’t hesistate to give us a call. My agency will provide you with sample translations of my work. I receive monthly letters from readers asking when there will be finally an english edition. So far, they have to wait.”
Please contact Mr. Kunkels personal assistance: G. Guugeli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Frankfurt a. Main /Germany