German author tackles identity, celebrity in "Fame"

Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:41pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Authors may not enjoy the level of celebrity as other artists, but that hasn't stopped German literary sensation Daniel Kehlmann from wryly reflecting on fame and how it changes people in his new novel.

Kehlmann, who has been praised by critics and literary titans such as Jonathan Franzen, humorously reflects on the perils and quirks of fame and those who mix with celebrities in his book, "Fame," just been published in the United States.

Credited with infusing humor and vigor into contemporary German literature, his new book was partly derived from his early brush with success stemming from his 2005 book, "Measuring The World," about the 19th-century scientists Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss.

Translated into more than 40 languages, it sold more than a million copies in Germany alone and made him a fresh faced, literary star in Germany and parts of Europe.

"It did concern me at that moment because the book was such a success," the youthful 35-year-old told Reuters in an interview, about how he dealt with his own recognition.

But while he might have become a literary star, he said, "Thank god, you never reach the level of fame and success that even a modestly successful actor does."

In "Fame", a short novel of nine intersecting stories and with numerous connected characters, the Munich-born author admitted one character -- a neurotic author who is constantly asked where his ideas come from -- is "half-autobiographical."

But rather than snub fame -- growing up he was used to it after his father, a television director, knew many well-known German actors -- he was more burdened by expectation.   Continued...