Christoph Meckel Biography

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Christoph Meckel was born in Berlin on June 12, 1935, son of the German poet Eberhard Meckel. His early years were spent in the warmth of a loving and well-to-do family, but within ten years he had experienced the collapse of the Third Reich, and with it that of his stable family life. While waiting for his father’s return from a French prisoner-of-war camp in North Africa, the family became refugees, frequently moving between Berlin, Erfurt, and Freiburg. Despite poverty and a contentious father, Meckel survived the tumultuous early postwar years.

Though standard biographies report that he studied painting and graphics at the art academies in Freiburg (1954-1955) and in Munich (1956), he admits in Bericht zur Entstehung einer Weltkomödie (1985) that he was duly unimpressed with the quality of instruction and thus taught himself the intricacies of his craft through patience and experience. With the exception of the Near East, he has traveled extensively throughout the world: Besides Munich, Paris, and Rome (and his alternating residences in Berlin and southeastern France), he has lived for brief intervals in the United States, Mexico, Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia. These travels are mirrored in the majority of his works as—in his own term—“vagabondage,” the wandering from one landscape or climate to another.

Although Meckel has not written an autobiography as such, several of his works seem to be based on events or experiences from his life. Suchbild, for example, relates his childhood, his experiences as a youth at the end of World War II, his relationship with a distraught father, and the eventual literary successes which overshadowed the father’s earlier poetry. If the biological father is here rejected, Meckel discovers a more suitable progenitor in Nachricht für Baratynski (1981); the forgotten nineteenth century Russian poet is resurrected through biography and fiction as literary kin to Meckel to clarify the latter’s aesthetics and support him in his undertaking. (Incidentally, Nachricht für Baratynski, while composed of fictional elements, can best be understood as an essay, rather than as a “story” or literary prose fiction.)

Further biographical information can be gathered in the Bericht zur Entstehung einer Weltkomödie . Like other works by Meckel, this so-called report on the origins of a world comedy is not easily categorized in literary terms. While it purports to be a biography of Meckel the graphic artist (and pointedly not that of Meckel the writer), it is scarcely the objective work that a “report” would insinuate, and it is woefully incomplete as a biography: Names and dates are...

(The entire section is 634 words.)