Wilhelm Genazino

Contemporary German freelance writer

Portrait of Wilhelm GenazinoWilhelm Genazino

Wilhelm Genazino

Wilhelm Genazino (1943–2018) studied German, philosophy and sociology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. He worked as a newspaper reporter until 1965, for the satirical magazine Pardon, and co-edited the magazine Lesezeichen. Since 1970, he has been working as a freelance writer and achieved a breakthrough with his trilogy Abschaffel. His many literary honors include the Bremer Literaturpreis (1989), the Hans-Fallada Preis (2003), and Germany’s many prestigious award, the Georg-Büchner Preis (2004). In 1990, Genazino became a member of the Academy for Language and Poetry in Darmstadt, Germany.

cover image of the book The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt

The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt

The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt by Wilhelm Genazino, 2004 recipient of the Georg-Büchner-Preis, Germany’s highest literary honor, is finally available to English-speaking readers in a pitch-perfect translation by Philip Boehm. Employed by a high-end shoe manufacturer to test new products, the narrator spends his days wandering through his native city, encountering faces from his past (primarily female) and experiencing anew the many manifestations of the mystery of life. In the grand tradition of literary flâneurs, he takes note of his surroundings, from the significant to the mundane, and assembles them into a sort of mental collage that is at once self-portrait and cityscape. Most remarkable in Genazino’s work is the humor with which he invests this melancholic character. Though at times he fears that he teeters on the brink of insanity, he good-naturedly pursues the strange twists of fate that land him variously behind a table at the flea market, in a newspaper office, by the banks of a flooded river, or in a friend’s bed. As Peter von Matt wrote in Der Spiegel, “Indeed, there is hardly a subtler humorist among today’s writers than Genazino.”

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